The following responses were contributed by Nolita Proctor of the Prince George's County Fire Department. The material is intended to provide students with an idea of what working as a firefighter might be like, and some steps the student can take to prepare now for a career in that field.

Ms. Proctor, who is completing her first year with the fire department, is a 1982 graduate of Surrattsville High School. NATURE OF THE WORK

"When we go on a call, the firefighters have different roles. My main job on a call is 'outside ventilation.' {This entails tasks like} turning off the gas outside the house; opening windows and doors; and whatever else is necessary to allow the smoke to escape. If the fire is severe enough, I go in, too.

The training you get goes on all the time. We constantly do drills to sharpen our skills and familiarize ourselves with the equipment. It's important that we work together at all times. We have ongoing drills on the uses of the different apparatus, like aerial ladders, hoses, ropes, pumpers, and rescue equipment. We also drill on {physical fitness}; running sprints, and doing push-ups. Upper body strength is important.

I find it rewarding. Every day is a new challenge. It's not like a desk job. You never know what to expect. It keeps your mind and body moving." EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS

"You have to have at least a high school education, but there are college graduates. After applying for the department, you take the written exam. If you pass, you are called to have a hearing (private interview); then an agility test, and {later} a physical. If picked, you are notified when to report for "Rookie School" {which lasts for} 16 weeks. You are still considered a rookie {and on probation} for a year.

At rookie school, all candidates start off equally, which means that we don't know anything. We receive EMT {Emergency Medical Training}; training in how to rescue victims, safety rules and procedure. After the training ends, you must pass written and practical exams. When you pass, the department assigns you where you are needed."

The Prince George's Fire Department, through the public schools, sponsors a one-year, half-day cadet program at the Cheltenham Academy in Takoma Park. MATCHING YOURSELF WITH THE WORK

"You've got to be pretty active for this job. You can't go halfway, and you should never say you can't do something. I'm a five-foot-five, 120 pounds and people tell me all the time that they can't believe I go into burning buildings. I tell them the job is not for everybody.

Everyone has some fear. But we never go anyplace by ourselves, and safety is always the first concern, so you don't worry about the danger aspect as much. If you're scared, you shouldn't be in this; but on the other hand, if you're not a little scared you shouldn't be in it either."