7 Knots Every Firefighter Must Master

Knots are really handy things to know. 

They can come in use in a bunch of different scenarios from pitching up tents while camping to tying things down so they don’t fall apart.

Knowing how to tie a lot of different knots is such a practical skill to have that a lot of careers require you to know how to tie one off by heart. This is true for sailors, stage technicians, some construction workers - and firefighters. 

If you have your heart set on becoming a firefighter, you are going to have to know a few knots to be able to qualify and begin your dream job.

7 Knots Every Firefighter Must Master

So if you want to get a head start on your firefighter training, here are seven knots that you definitely need to master to be able to become a real firefighter. 

Why Do Firefighters Have To Learn Knots?

As we said before, knots are insanely useful. 

In an emergency situation, knowing how to tie knots means that a firefighter can perform your duties without hesitation. Some of these knots are known as ‘search and rescue knots’ as they are necessary to manipulate ropes into different positions so firefighters can rescue civilians.

Knowing how to tie knots allows a firefighter to utilize their ropes fully, and this makes doing their job a lot quicker and easier. 

And it’s not just a recommendation - it is a requirement. 

To pass their training, firefighters need to prove that they know how to tie seven certain knots in a test. If they fail to do so, they cannot qualify as firefighters.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires firefighters to tie seven knots as part of the minimum job performance requirements to become a firefighter, as outlined in the NFPA 1001: Standard for FireFighter Professional Qualifications document. Without the NFPA’s approval, you cannot become a certified firefighter. 

So - learning how to tie knots is not an optional choice for firefighters. It is a legal standard  that is a vital part of their training. If you want to become a firefighter, you need to learn the seven following knots: 

  • The Overhand Safety Knot
  • The Clove Hitch
  • The Half Hitch
  • The Bowline Knot
  • The Figure 8 Knot On A Bight
  • The Becket Bend 
  • The Water Knot

These seven knots are what is mandatory for a firefighter to learn as they all have very unique uses that are essential to saving lives. Continue reading on to find out their uses and how to tie each individual knot to get a head start on your firefighter training. 

Knot Number One: The Overhand Safety Knot

The first knot to learn is the overhand safety knot. 

It is a very easy knot to tie and one you have probably already tied before, but it is important to know the steps and its name so you meet NFPA regulations. Despite being the easiest knot to tie, it is also probably the most important one too.

It is used as a safety knot, to tie an end to your rope so it does not slip and cause another knot to unravel. This is why it is so important - without it, all your hard work can come undone and fall apart. 

To tie an overhand safety knot, simply make a loop with your rope, then push the end of the rope through the loop and pull. It’s just like tying your shoes - quick and easy, but yet so important and mandatory to know for your training. 

Knot Number Two: The Clove Hitch

The second knot to know about is the clove hitch. 

The clove hitch is used to attach a rope to another object, for example a tree or a post. It remains tight when tension is applied to either end of the rope. Firefighters will use this knot to temporarily fasten a rope around an object. 

There are two ways to form a clove hitch, but the method most firefighters end up using is the ‘in the open’ method. This clove hitch can only be used if the object the rope is being tied to has a free or open end, otherwise this method will not work. 

To form a clove hitch using the ‘in the open’ method, you will need to take your rope and hold it using two hands apart from one another. You need to turn one end of the rope away from you to create a loop, and then turn the other end towards you to create another loop.

You will then have two loops with a side of a small stretch of rope in between. Then, you cross the loop facing towards you over the loop facing away to bring them together.

This should create one large loop that you will place over the free or open end of the object. Pull on either end and you will have a secure clove hitch around your object. 

Of course, this method will not work if you do not have a free or open end of the object to place the large loop of your clove hitch over. The other method is the ‘around an object’ method, which is primarily used to tie a clove hitch around the bottom rung of a raised ladder. 

To start, take the working end (the end you use to form the knot) of the rope and encircle the object to create a loop around it, passing the working end over the running end of the rope. Then once you have your loop, pass the end of the rope underneath the object again.

Push the running end of the look down and lift the loop. Bring the working end through and pull the rope taut. Pulling on either end will lock the clove hitch around the object. 

Now, you know how to tie both versions of the clove hitch successfully. 

Knot Number Three: The Half Hitch

Although the half hitch is not a true knot, it is something you need to understand to pass your 1001 and become a firefighter. Luckily, this is probably the easiest of the seven ‘knots’ you will learn. 

A half hitch is used for hoisting objects like axes or poles in conjunction with a number of other knots for safety. 

To form a half hitch, you will want to start by creating a loop similar to how you begin the overhand safety knot. Then, you pass the shaft of your object through the loop and pull either end of  the rope taut.

This way, if you are hoisting the rope from above, the rope would resist and pull the object upwards. To tie a knot in the half hitch, you can push the end of the rope through the loop too for maximum security. 

So even though there is not always tying involved, the half hitch is still handy to know and is required for you to pass your 1001. This makes it the easiest knot on the list to learn and will only take you seconds to master.

Knot Number Four: The Bowline Knot

If you have ever been fishing, then you might already know how to tie a bowline knot. 

It has a rich history dating back to the age of sail, when ships used rope rigging to hoist and shroud sails. The bowline is a rope on a square rigged ship that holds the edge of the sail towards the bow of the ship, and so the bowline knot has been used by sailors for centuries to rig a sailboat. 

The bowline knot is also useful to firefighters as it creates a secure loop at the end of a rope, and is important for rescue operations and fire suppression. This utility knot helps to create anchor points and raise items - or sometimes, people - out of danger. 

But tying a bowline is a little bit trickier than tying other knots. 

To start, you will need to make a loop in your rope. Twist the rope with your fingers until a loop naturally forms, then take the working end of your rope and place it through the loop, coming from the underside.

Leave enough loop at the top to secure your rope to your anchor. Take your working end and place it underneath the running end of the rope before the knot.

Pull enough of your working end through to come around the running end and then place it back over the top and through the first loop you created. Once you pull the ropes taut, you are left with a bowline - a large loop in the rope that is securely fixed. 

If you choose to, you can use the leftover working end of your rope to tie an overhand safety knot to secure your bowline even further.

Tie your overhand safety knot as close to your bowline as possible. This is a safe and wise option to choose as it ensures your bowline won’t come undone if you are using a bowline to lift someone out of danger.

Knot Number Five: The Figure 8 Knot On A Bight

It may sound complicated, but trust us - a figure 8 knot is easy to tie, and when you add a bight, the process stays pretty much the same. 

A figure of 8 knot is the basis of tying a whole lot of knots, including the figure of 8 on a bight. It is a useful knot for climbing and for lifting up items and people on inclines. To tie a figure of 8 knot, there are two easy ways to do so. 

The first way is known as the open method, and you start by taking your rope short in the palm of your hand, about mid span. You take one end of the rope and wrap it around the other, all the way to the other side to make a large 8.

You then pass the working end of the top up into the open palm of your hand and pull it through the top loop of the 8. Then as you pull the rope, a knot that resembles the number 8 will form in your rope. 

The other way to tie this knot is called ‘in the hand’ or ‘in the palm’ method. To tie using this method, you hold the rope with an open palm mid span and wrap the rope one time around towards the inside of your thumb.

Then you take the working end and pass it through the first loop on the palm of your hand. This method makes a figure of 8 knot much quicker but some may find it confusing where you pass the working end through the lengths.

Also, you won’t be assessed on how fast you tie your knots in training. What is most important is that you know the knots and tie them properly. Speed will come to you with more practice.

To pass your firefighting training, you will also have to know how to tie a figure of 8 knot on a bight. A bight is a bend in a rope that you can use to attach another rope or an object. To make one, simply fold your rope to make a bend shaped like an upside U.

Then, you just need to follow through the same figure of 8 process, this time with two lengths of rope instead of just one. This is how you tie a figure of 8 on a bight - it looks exactly the same as a normal figure of 8 knot, it just has two lengths of rope running through it instead of one. 

Knot Number Six: The Becket Bend

The becket bend, or the sheet bend, is a bend used to join two ropes of unequal diameter together - a handy bend to know when you work with so many ropes. This is why firefighters must learn this bend, so they can join ropes together if they need to. 

To make a becket bend, you first have to form a bight ini one of your ropes. A bight, as we said before, is a bend in a rope created by folding your rope to make a U shape.

Taking your other working rope, you pass the working end through the bight and over the top length. Then, pass it underneath both lengths of the bight and feed yourself enough slack to tie a safety.

Lift the working rope inside the bight to pass the working end back through. Once it is through, pull both ropes taut to form the bend. 

As the working end comes under itself, it locks itself closed around the other rope. Now, take the working end of the rope and tie an overhand safety knot around the working rope as tight towards the becket bendas possible  to prevent slipping. See how useful those overhand safety knots are?

Knot Number Seven: The Water Knot

Finally, you have the water knot. 

It is similar to the becket bend as it is also used to join two ropes together. It is also used to secure a seat or harness onto an individual, so a firefighter may use this knot to help remove someone from danger or to secure themselves as they head into it. 

A water knot is very simple to tie. You start by making a basic overhand knot in one length of rope, and then you take the end of another rope and follow the overhand knot with the second rope.

You push the working end through and right around to where you formed the overhand knot, and pass it through the opposite direction. Pull the ropes taut to tighten the knot, joining two ropes or webbing together securely. You can then always add another overhand safety knot as a precaution. 


And there you have it! 

The seven knots you must know and master to become a firefighter. Without them, you will fail your training and be unable to progress. The best way to learn these knots is through practice - tie them again and again until you could do them in your sleep.

Some firefighters even recommend practicing in a dark room so you get used to tying knots in the dark. That way, if you’re forced to tie one at night or somewhere with very limited visible light, you do not have to rely on sight to ensure you know you have tied your knot correctly. 

And these are seven knots just the start. Once you have mastered these seven knots, why don’t you start learning some more? You are bound to use them as a firefighter and it may just be in a very challenging situation. 

At the end of the day, these knots have been in use for centuries and have been instrumental in saving a lot of lives.

This is the reason why the NFPA requires all firefighters to be able to use at least these seven knots - they are incredibly useful, and knot-tying is an invaluable skill that could mean the difference between life and death.