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How to Find Work as a Wildland Firefighter


Livin' the Dream: a wood stove in a travel trailer provides the comfort of “home” for a Boise smokejumper. Like all of Colorado Firecamp's classes, the S-230/231 Crew Boss/Engine Boss actually does include lodging and meals at the Ponderosa Lodge.
Livin' the Dream: a wood stove in a travel trailer provides the comfort of “home” for a Boise smokejumper. Like all of Colorado Firecamp's classes, the S-230/231 Crew Boss/Engine Boss actually does include lodging and meals at the Ponderosa Lodge.


Step #1. Decide how much you really want this.

Be prepared to make that decision again, from time to time. There are sacrifices that accompany the rewards of being a wildland firefighter. You could have to move clear across the country. You might have to take a job that's less than what you really want, like starting on a trail-building or timber crew, just to get a foot in the door. For most people, just working through the on-line federal application process is a job in itself.

If you're trying to make a career of wildland fire, prepare yourself for 3 to 5 years of seasonal employment, before you can really compete for a permanent, year-round position. Generally the first opportunity for permanent position comes at the GS-5 level, fully qualified as Firefighter Type 1 (FFT1) and completion of S-290 Intermediate Wildland Fire Behavior class.

Only you can say if it's all worth it.

Step #2. Be a good worker.

Just about any employer can tell you the same line: “Everybody is looking for a job these days, but nobody's looking for work.”

There are a couple ways to prove to a fire supervisor that you are a good worker. One is by joining a volunteer fire department (and, of course, be a contributing member.) Or, if you're between the ages of 16-25, consider joining a youth/conservation corps program. Here's a map of Colorado Youth Corps Association programs. We have provided wildfire training for the following programs:

Step #3. Be a good learner.

Ask questions. Admit readily when you don't know something. Read Nozzlehead's “Shut Up and Train More” article from Fire Rescue Magazine.

Step #4. Make contact.

For every application you submit on-line, you should make contact with each supervisor. Visit in person, if possible, or at least by phone. Make sure they can contact you with minimal effort when they make a decision in a couple weeks.

Step #5. Be persistant.

The best way to explain persistence is with this story from an unknown author:

The Farmer and the Donkey

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway. He reckoned it just wasn't worth the effort to retrieve the donkey.

So, he invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well.

At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.

Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping-stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up!

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

    1. Free your heart from hatred.
    2. Free your mind from worries.
    3. Live simply.
    4. Give more.
    5. Expect less.

Oh, and one other thing....

The donkey later came back kicked the crap out of the farmer who had tried to bury him. Which brings me to another moral of this story: If you try to cover your ass, it always comes back get you.

 


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