Firefighting is the act of extinguishing fires. A firefighter fights fires to prevent loss of life, and/or destruction of property and the environment. Firefighting is a highly technical skill that requires professionals who have spent years training in both general firefighting techniques and specialized areas of expertise.
Firefighters are rescuers extensively trained in firefighting, primarily to extinguish hazardous fires that threaten property and civilian or natural populations and to rescue people from dangerous situations, like collapsed or burning buildings
The complexity of modern industrialized life with a greater prominence of hazards has created an increase in the skills needed in firefighting technology and a broadening of the firefighter-rescuer's remit. They sometimes provide emergency medical services, for example. The fire service, or fire and rescue service, also known in some countries as the fire brigade or fire department, is one of the main emergency services. Firefighting and firefighters have become ubiquitous around the world, from wildland areas to urban areas, and aboard ships.
According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, the English word "firefighter" has been used since 1903. In recent decades it has become the preferred term, replacing the older "fireman", since many women serve as firefighters, and also because the term "fireman" can have other meanings, including someone who sets or stokes fires – the opposite of the firefighting role.
In many countries, firefighters may be employed as full-time workers and paid a salary. Additionally, there are volunteer firefighters (who are theoretically unpaid) and retained firefighters (or auxiliary firefighters, who are paid for the specific time they are on duty, i.e. permanent part-time career firefighters) on call as required. In such countries as the United Kingdom, the use of additional retained firefighters is standard. In Portugal, for example, the use of volunteer firefighters is standard, along with career firefighters. In Australia there are volunteer brigades which are mostly unpaid rural services, although traditionally they are paid by their employers if called out during usual working hours.