Victor Montecerin is a rookie in the eyes of the North Las Vegas Fire Department, but he has nearly 20 years of experience aiding people in their time of need.
The 39-year-old Henderson man had been an emergency medical technician and a paramedic for a private ambulance company for 18 years. He estimated that he applied for a job with the Fire Department 10 times in 15 years before finding success last year, and he graduated from the 16-week fire academy in March.
Montecerin and 18 other recruits joined the department in mid-March. Now the department is one of several in the Las Vegas Valley seeking more firefighters as part of the Southern Nevada regional recruitment effort that began April 18 and was set to close after 3,000 applications were received. North Las Vegas Assistant Fire Chief Travis Anderson said the departments had received about 2,000 applications as of April 25.
Anderson said his department is looking to hire about 12 people — a mix of EMTs and paramedics — by fall.
Candidates who meet the minimum qualifications, such as having a high school diploma, will receive an email no later than May 10 to register for the firefighter written exam set for the end of May, according to Clark County’s website. The exam, which costs $20-$30, will be written and administered by Greg Gammon, the director of fire science at the College of Southern Nevada. Gammon is a retired City of Las Vegas fire chief and former deputy chief.
The 100-question exam requires basic knowledge that is taught in high school and could be applied to several occupations, not just firefighting, Gammon said.
“The higher you score, the higher chance you have at getting an interview,” he said.
Candidates who score 70 percent or higher on the written test are required to submit a Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) card/notice that confirms they have passed the physical exam, which is the second phase of the recruitment process. Gammon also runs the facility where the CPAT is held. The CPAT is facilitated by off-duty firefighters, who are referred to as proctors, and includes a course of eight events that the candidate has to complete within 10 minutes and 20 seconds, Gammon said. The events simulate what a firefighter would do at a working fire, he said.
Candidates get three tries for $150 to take the CPAT. Gammon said candidates who are in “pretty good shape” don’t pass on their first attempt, but many do on their second try. He said about 25 percent of candidates don’t pass in their first three attempts.
“People who fail, it’s mostly due to not being in shape and they often tire out,” Gammon said. “If you’re barely passing, you got a lot of work to do to go get ready for the physical demands of the fire academy.”
Montecerin went through the rookie academy for 16 weeks and said “you could tell who prepared for the academy and who didn’t.”
Montecerin said that during the academy, recruits worked four 12-hour days that began at 6 a.m. with workouts. Recruits are paid during the academy.
Anderson said the most recent academy started with 24 recruits, and 19 were hired.
Recruits who complete the academy go through three interviews by panels and a fire chief, which Anderson said is the toughest part of the journey.
“It’s an awesome job,” he said. “It’s a very fun environment; obviously, we see some very terrible things and very stressful, but you also have basically a family away from your family. It’s very rewarding as far as the ability to be able to help people.”
How to apply
To apply for the fire department jobs, visit redrock.clarkcountynv.gov/snfirerecruitment.
The firefighter positions pay $50,511.55 to $78,481.31 annually in North Las Vegas, $47,964.80 for Clark County and $33,730.88 to $48,077.12 for Mount Charleston Fire & Rescue. Pahrump Valley Fire pays $16.47 to $23.45 hourly for an EMT/firefighter, according to the recruitment website.
During the Candidate Physical Ability Test Program (CPAT), the candidate must wear a 50-pound weighted vest. The eight events in the course are:
- Stair climb (climbing stairs while carrying an additional 25-pound simulated hose pack)
- Ladder raise and extension (placing a ground ladder and extending the ladder to the roof or a window)
- Hose drag (stretching uncharged hose lines, advancing lines)
- Equipment carry (removing and carrying equipment from fire apparatus to fire ground)
- Forcible entry (penetrating a locked door or breaching a wall)
- Search (crawling through dark, unpredictable areas to search for victims)
- Rescue drag (removing victim or partner from a fire building)
- Ceiling pull (locating a fire and checking for a fire extension)