Firefighters work all types of different schedules. Some work every third day, for 24 hours. Some work what is called a 3's and 4's schedule. They work every other day for 5 days (3 days working) and then have 4 days off in a row. I did this for a while. Other departments work 3 days straight but then get 4 days off. I think I have it the best. I work for 48 hours then get 4 days off. The down side to my schedule is that 48 hours is a long time to be awake if you happened to get slammed with calls.
My shift officially starts at 0800. Although the crews try to get there a little early, that way the off going crew can bail right at 0800. The oncoming crew talks with the guys getting off duty. They find out if there were any issues, rumors, good calls, stories, etc. Quite often this is done over a cup of coffee or while setting up your turnouts and other personal equipment. It really depends on how fast the guy getting off needs to get out of there.
The first order of business in the morning is to check out our equipment. We make sure that everything is there and in order. The engineer will do a complete check on the apparatus. The medic will check all of the EMS gear. The captain does......captain stuff (I think he just drinks coffee and checks eBay.....kidding). The crew then gets together, eat breakfast and talk about the day (and drink still more coffee).
Topics normally covered in the morning include any training scheduled for that day, tasks that need to be accomplished that day and most importantly....dinner.
In the morning we get in a workout. the number on cause of firefighter fatalities is heart attacks. Most departments (including mine) encourage us to work out every shift. Sometimes we have training that the department schedules in the morning hours so we have to work out later.
The morning time is when we do most of our training. Sometimes it's set up by the department and several companies will get together at one time to do it (such as an EMS class). Other times, it's just the crew getting together and working on something that they haven't done in a while. Recently my crew decided to contact one of the local towing companies to see if they had any 'spare' vehicles laying around. We ended up tearing apart a 1994 Ford Explorer for practice.
After lunch we take care of any business that's left. Sometimes we go out and do company level business inspections. Most of the time we do company level training. In the afternoon we also take care of our grocery shopping. Let me just take a moment to set something straight. We pay for our own food. It's not payed for by you, the tax paying public. So if we want to have steak and lobster, don't freak out. We're buying it with out own money.
Sometime around 4 in the afternoon we start cooking. Who cooks depends on each crew. At the double houses (one with an engine company and another company like a truck or rescue) dice are rolled to assign jobs. Dishes are usually the last to get picked. Most stations have at least one 'skate' spot where you don't have to do anything. We try to have dinner sometime around 1730.
After dinner a lot of crews watch TV. Either sports or a movie. Then, usually around 2300, everyone goes to bed. In theory, we sleep until about 0700 and then do it all over again.
Now at any point during the day we can be interrupted by the tones. Usually this happens at meal times, at a critical moment in a ball game, just after stepping into the shower or when we just fell asleep. At least that's how it seems. Sower station may only get one or two calls a day. At the busier stations the tones can go off more than a couple dozen times in 24 hours.
Eventually, your shift ends, the talk to the guys coming in to relieve you and you get to go home. One of the reasons why I love my schedule so much is that my 'weekend' is always 4 days long.