The Continuous Duty System

A century ago, almost all paid firefighters worked in what is known as the continuous duty system.  This meant that firefighters practically lived at the firehouse.  The modern 40- or 56-hour workweek did not exist for any paid firefighters.  There were no platoons, groups or shifts as there are today.

In 1918, it was reported that 95 percent of career firefighters worked under a continuous duty system.  The continuous duty system involved all the firefighters in a department being on duty continuously with a scheduled day off periodically was well as daily off-duty time for meals.  The most common schedule was every sixth day off and three hours off each day for meals.  This equaled 48 hours off and 120 hours on duty each week.   Firefighters worked the most hours per week of any occupation.  At that time the average worker worked around 60 hours per week.

Most firefighters usually had a full day off about once per week.  Sometimes they only had a full day off every two weeks or only once per month.  Some departments were more generous