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What Is a Marine Firefighter?

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  • Written By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2014
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The term “marine firefighter” can mean one of two things, depending on context: it is either a firefighter who works primarily aboard boats and other sea vessels, or it is a soldier assigned to a country’s Marine unit who is tasked with fire safety and prevention. Both are similar in terms of context, but different when it comes to job training and duty specifications. The job is generally considered prestigious in either setting and always requires a lot of expertise.

In the civilian world, a marine firefighter is a fire professional who has specialized training in responding to and preventing ship-based calamities. These individuals usually begin their careers as land-based firefighters, then progress and certify to work at sea. Maritime fires are usually more complex to fight and contain than those based on land, as they nearly always involve highly combustible material like fuel and oil, and the options for rescuing and evacuating victims are often very limited.

Civilian fire service personnel are generally land-based. They are emergency responders like any other firefighter, which usually means that they are not called until there is a problem. Maritime firefighters are often based out of shore-based stations, and are usually able to respond to calls in boats that are docked at the coastline. Ships far out at sea are often too remote for land crews to reach.

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The danger of fires out in the deepest parts of the ocean are one of the main reasons that shipping companies and boat owners engage in routine fire safety inspections. A marine firefighter or team of firefighters is often called in to do this task. The shipping laws of most countries require comprehensive safety inspections before any ship is licensed to enter or leave a port, but most owners also seek out training, best practices, and fire preparation before departing. Marine firemen are often hired to help crewmasters both plan for and train their crews for the possibility of an on-board fire.

In the case of active-duty military, the term “marine firefighter” has a totally different meaning. Many countries, including the United States and Great Britain, have an active Marine Corps that works alongside the Navy in maritime defense. A Marine — that is, a soldier affiliated with a Marine Corps — is known as a Marine firefighter if he or she undertakes fire safety obligations.

Marines spend a significant amount of time on ships. Fire safety and prevention is usually tasked to a percentage of the soldiers as an additional responsibility or expertise. Fighting fires is rarely a Marine's only calling. A military firefighter is trained in fire safety in case an emergency should break out, but this training does not usually define a career or even the shape of a soldier's day-to-day activities the way it would in the civilian world.

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