Firefighting ranks high on list of stressful jobs

PARKERSBURG – A career as a firefighter was recently ranked to be the third most stressful job for the upcoming year., a job search website, recently released the list of the top 10 most stressful jobs for 2013. Top two jobs listed in the study were military personnel. The most stressful job was found to be enlisted military members while the second most stressful was military generals.

Firefighters weighed in as the third most stressful job for a person to have, the study showed.

Firefighter surpassed military general, as did airline pilot, in the 2012 study done by the website. In 2012, police officer was ranked number five. This year police officer received a ranking of number 10.

Parkersburg Fire Chief Eric Taylor said he understands why firefighting is the most stressful civilian career.

“They encounter extreme physical and mental stressors,” Taylor said of his men. “It is not a job for everyone.”

Taylor said the worse consequences of the job can be the loss of life.

“I’m certain that no one would disagree that the death of a child is the worst,” he said of the career path. “Those things live with (firefighters) for the rest of (their) life.”

In an effort to deal with the stressors, Taylor said the fire department offers in-house physical fitness programs. In his experience, the best way to cope with the stressful parts of the job are to talk about it with others who understand.

“(Their peers) have walked in (their) shoes,” he said. “And can relate to what (they’re) going through.”

Taylor said the stresses of the job do no leave when they get home.

“You encounter things that follow you and change your life forever,” he added.

The U.S. Fire Administration reported 77 on-duty fatalities in 2012 and 81 in 2011.

According to the Officer Down Memorial page (, 126 police officers were killed in the line of duty in 2012. Three of those officers were killed in West Virginia.

Vienna Police Chief George Young said the hours a police officer faces are one of the many reasons it is a stressful job.

“We work four 10-hour shifts,” he said. “And you may be looking forward to getting off at 5, but if a call comes in you have to deal with it; you don’t have a choice.”

Young said not knowing what to expect is also a major stressor.

“It’s the unknown, having to deal with so many different calls,” he said. “By dealing with a wide scope of situations and people.”

Young said having experience helps in dealing with the people “nobody else wants to deal with.”

Finding a common ground between home life and work comes with the job, officers agreed.

Sgt. Greg Collins with the Parkersburg Police Department said the results of the study came at no shock to him.

“Police work is often listed as the most stressful job,” he said. “There are constant threats to health and safety (of officers).”

Collins and Young agreed about the importance of making split-second decisions on the job.

“The wrong decision could end a life or lives, including your own,” said Collins.

Vacations and days off can be canceled, they said. Collins said the moderate pay on top of other issues can cause problems at home.

Young said often times officers don’t know their friends or enemies – much like military personnel.

“You just don’t know what’s on the other side of that door,” he said. “You have to be ready for anything and everything.”

The ability to “turn it on” and “turn it off” is what officers said can get them through the struggles the job can have on their lives at work and home.

Firefighters generally work 24-hour shifts and often times those shifts include helping people during some of the worst days of their lives, Taylor said.

“There can be a day with a lot of idle time or they can stay busy most of the shift,” he said. “You never know what the next alarm will bring.”