Does Color Blindness Disqualify from being a Firefighter?

It is quite well known that a lot of police officer applicants are disqualified by their color blindness. But what about if you would like to become a firefighter and you have a color vision deficiency? Do the same rules apply?

I’ll share my thoughts with you after the following personal story I received by a reader of Colblindor.

I’ll give you a bit of history on myself. I have recently taken schooling to become a firefighter, and seem to have run into a wall due to a color deficiency which I have. Funny things is I went to an ophthalmologist about 2 years ago and was cleared for the D-15 test with 0 errors.

But the next time I took it I convinced myself that it was suppose start with blue and end in green as the doctor did not say it was to fade into red. For some reason thats what I thought it was the last time I took, while I was doing it though I knew it was incorrect. When the doctor pulled it from me obviously it was horribly wrong. So he sent me for further testing during which i did D-100 plus lantern. The D-100 I used one eye at a time and it was difficult. End result I have been diagnosed with severe color blindness. And yet I can do the D-15 online with 0 errors and the confusion test with decent results as well as 1 wrong in ten.

Wondering where you might recommend getting some solid answers as there seems to be a lot of ignorance in the medical field and the fire department. I went through fire school with no problem, as well as the rest of the courses I took with no problems what so ever, and now they tell me that my colorblindness is a hazard. Anyway, right now I am quite frustrated and looking for answers as this is what I want to do—yet I feel that I being discriminated based on ignorance of color blindness.

Now this sounds pretty unfair. You accomplish everything just perfectly and only your color blindness should disqualify you to become a firefighter?

Has color any importance for firefighters?

As you know every fire has its color or better said consists of a whole range of colors. The colors not only tell us something about the burning substance but also are very closely related to the heat of a fire. For example a red fire can have a temperature between 977°F (525 °C) with a just visible red and 1830 °F (1000 °C), a cherry, clear red.


Also smoke has a color which can tell you a lot about the elements making up the smoke you see. And as any smoke can be very heavily toxic it is important to be able to distinguish different shades of color. At different stages of a fire the smoke color changes and therefore it is important for a firefighter to be able to interpret colors appropriately.

This are only two reasons why good color vision can help you to be a professional firefighter.

How firefighter applicants are tested for color blindness.

Often a standard test will be used to test if you have good color vision or not. Some type of Ishihara plates are very well known and often used. But you could also come across any type of arrangement test or a simple lantern test.

If you look at the following recruitment information of three different Fire and Rescue Services, you will see that it is very common to ask for good color vision. But the rules for color blindness can differ between the recruitment centers.

  • Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service
    The minimum standard accepted by HFRS is the Farnsworth D-15 standard test.
  • Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service
    You must have an appropriate level of colour perception, if you are found to be colour blind, we will send you for more tests to determine if you can work safely in a safety critical environment.
  • Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service
    Potential firefighters are subject to certain entry requirements specified by law. Applicants should be aged 18 and over; have good eyesight, not suffer from colour blindness.

NFPA: color vision deficiency doesn’t disqualify you


In the latest edition of the Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments (2007 Edition) published by the National Fire Protection Association the rules concerning color blindness have changed. The following Report on Proposals makes it clear, that a color vision deficiency doesn’t disqualify you anymore from being a firefighter.

Formerly, color vision deficiency was listed as a Category B* medical condition. However, it is felt that within most cases this condition will not affect the ability of a member to safely perform the essential functions of his or her job. The fire service physician should consider the color vision deficiency of the individual and consider the color vision requirements of the member’s job and reach an individual determination.

*Category B: A medical condition that, based on its severity or degree, could preclude a person from performing as a member in training or emergency operation environment by presenting a significant risk to the safety and health of the person or others.


How to apply as colorblind firefighter

First of all you shouldn’t just forget about becoming a firefighter just because you have any kind of color blindness. As written above there are many different rules used and views are changing for the benefit of colorblind applicants.

So if you apply just be honest and tell them the truth about your vision. It won’t help you if you try to hide it or cheat on certain tests, because most often it will strike back and you will be looked at as an unreliable person. I would tell them about your color vision deficiency from the first moment on.

Then you can take the test and see what happens. If you pass, that’s perfect. And if you fail and they won’t let you go one step further just because of your color blindness, you should ask for precise explanations and try to describe them, how you see the world and how this could handicap your work as a firefighter.

Of course it could help you if you tell them about the most recent NFPA Report 1582 (see above) and their changed view on color blindness.

Maybe discussing color blindness at, or other places, could also help to get the topic of color vision deficiency more recognized at recruitment offices, which will help all colorblind colleagues which would like to become a firefighter.

Fire! Picture taken by Wili Hybrid.

12 responses on “Does Color Blindness Disqualify from being a Firefighter?

  1. Color Deficient Firefighter

    Hey Daniel. Thank you so much for posting the information about color deficiency and applying to become a firefighter. This month I was accepted by a fire dept. on the condition that I pass the medical and polygraph. I failed the Ishihara test and I was told that I was disqualified for “being colorblind”. I found the 2007 NFPA info on your website that said color deficiency could not disqualify you. I copied the info and the only disqualifier was monochromatic vision (black and white). I got an opthalmalogist to document that I am color deficient and not monochromatic. As a result they allowed me to continue as a candidate. I urge anyone who is color deficient to not give up. It took courageous women to forge their presence in fire departments and as a result, they bring things and ways of dealing with people to depts that men generally do not. The Ishihara test is not the real world and people with normal color vision struggle with some of the color plates. I knew in my mind that I was no more of a liability than the 20-year-veteran with an enormous belly. Again thanks.

  2. Dan


    Thanks for this information, it is what I have been looking for. I want to become a career fire fighter but I was in doubt due to being color deficient. I asked a lot of people and never got a conrete answer. Now I know!


  3. dust

    thank you so much this is what i need as well, i have been going to school to be career firefighter for about two years and this has always been in the back of my mind. thank you so much.

  4. sops

    Thanks Color Deficient Firefighter for the encouragement. I applied to be a firefighter and went through the physical tests and passed. Upon knowing that I am colourblind (I passed the lantern test but failed the Ishihara), they wouldn’t let me through. I then applied with the airport fire service and got the same treatment during the medical phase. Thing is in Asia, they’re really ignorant and keep giving excuses that “it’s the basic pre-requisite” even though my condition is not serious (mild deutronopia) and I requested to do rescue work which doesn’t require much colour distinguishing. I was disheartened and even as I am stuck in a deskbound job now, I am planning to give it a go again after my contract ends in 2 years time. Hope I can gather enough evidence to warrant a stronger application this time round. Will appreciate greatly any advice and help.

  5. Nicky

    Does this colour deficieny proposal from NPFA apply in the uk and Northern Ireland?? Any help would be much appreciated.

  6. dodi

    is it an automatic fail if u get any of them wrong and does anyone know what the requirements are for this in northern ireland

  7. Jeff the Perthian


    I posted a question in relation to colour blindness and firefighting duties about 18 months ago or so. I got a response, thank you.

    I represented a gentleman who wanted to be a firefighter, passed his initial tests, but discovered during the medical test that he was a deutan.

    I assisted him in a complaint of impairment discrimination in the area of employment under the Equal Opportunity Act in Western Australia.

    The case was dismissed.

    The newslink for this case is this:

    (hopefully it’ll still be there by the time anyone reads this post).

    The actual decision (which is more interesting, from a legal point of view) can be found at:



    Jeff the Perthian

  8. Brett Mather

    I have been diagnosed with mild deuteranomaly and have been disqualified from USAF pilot training. I am currently working to get an exception to policy that would allow me to still go to pilot training, and I know how difficult this will be. But I need help with research for my exception to policy package. Today I came up with a simple but interesting idea and tried researching but was unable to find the information I need.

    The idea is that since I have mild deuteranomaly, my M (green) cones are shifted a few nanometers towards the L (red) cones. I also know that many other factors can affect the color perception of people with normal color vision, such as the position of the sun in the sky, weather, hazy, cloudy, etc… So what I’m looking for is a measure of how much the position of the sun would affect the color of an object. I’d bet the bank on the sun shifting light wavelength more than my condition.

    I’ve looked into color temperature a bit and found at dusk or dawn sunlight has a color temp of approx. 3200 K and at noon its around 6500 K. My problem is I’ve been unable to relate this change of 3200 K to 6500 K to a change in wavelength (nanometers).

    Any information on how much the sun would affect color perception, or how many nanometers a person with mild deuteranomaly would be shifted would be greatly appreciated.

    I can be contacted at:

  9. Sarah

    this is not necessarily true for all fire departments.

    my dad has been a fireman and paramedic for LAFD for 25+ years and hes red-green colorblind

  10. Jay

    Sarah I hope you checked that notify me with follow up coments because I have a few questions as I have the same condition and have an oppurtunity in LA