Frequently Asked Questions
“How do I get a wildland firefighter job?”
Answering this question takes more explanation than we can give in a simple FAQs page, but we'll do our best to give you the gist for now. To go in depth on the subject matter feel free to call the office and chat with Hilary or Kent. Or, even better, come take a class with us!
Colorado Firecamp offers a Jobs/Resume Workshop with all of our S-130/190 classes scheduled at no extra cost. That is your time to get one-on-one advice from our knowledgeable instructors and fellow students about navigating the complicated world of wildland firefighting job hunting. Included in this workshop is a handout that all students are encouraged to review. For a copy of this handout click here.
“How do I get my foot in the door?”
All wildland firefighters start out as a Firefighter Type 2 (FFT2), the entry level position. As you gain more experience in the field you will be able to take more training courses to move up the ranks. Training and experience is recorded on your Red Card whichs shows your progression through your wildland career.
“Do I need to have the initial training (S-130/190) to start applying for jobs?”
No. You can apply for wildland firefighter positions without any training. Agencies that hire rookie firefighters will often host their own training sessions to get you your qualifications.
That being said, you're looking at a "chicken-egg" scenario. Getting a job is very competitive so while an agency will provide training if you need it, they are more likely to hire someone coming in with training than not. See below for more.
“What is the benefit of receiving training before applying for jobs?”
Wildland firefighting is a very competitive career, thousands of applications are submitted for the same jobs every year. Having your training already completed makes your resume much more competitive over applicants that have zero training.
Another benefit of having your training completed when hired is you can go out on fires almost immediately, once the agency issues your Red Card. If you get hired on without any training and a fire call comes in before your agency has trained you, you miss out on the call. Some agencies take this into consideration when looking at applicatns, especially if you're applying in the middle of fire season.
“How do I make my resume more competitive?”
In addition to having the required entry level training we also highly recommend taking the S-212 Wildland Chain Saws class. Colorado Firecamp offers this course on a regular basis, but many agencies also provide their own workshop.
Any medical training you bring to the table is also helpful. You will be required to have Basic First Aid/CPR training, but any medical training above that helps. If you can get Wildernes First Aid that's a great place to start. While EMR/EMT/Paramedic training is not required for wildland firefighters if you already have those in progress or appreciate the medical side of life go for it. Agencies like knowing that some crew members have medical training in the event an emergency happens out in the field.
“What agencies offer wildland firefighting jobs?”
Let's break it down into 4 categories: federal, state, private contracting, and conservation corps. This is the tip of the iceberg, but a good place to at least get started.
Federal - Jobs offered through the US government, this is primarily organizations like the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, tribal agencies, etc. You'll find the majority of applications for these jobs through the USAjobs website. Another way to find more info is enter "Forest Service Fire Outreach Notice" and the year into a search engine for current and upcoming application periods. Another great site is the Department of the Interior.
State - Jobs offered through local state government, organizations like Colorado Division of Fire Prevent and Control, county departments, etc. Applications for these jobs are typically found on the website and social media pages of your local agencies.
Private - Jobs offered through private contracting firms. A couple of private contractors in Colorado that have hired Firecamp graduates in the past include: Mountain View Fire Rescue, Grayback Forestry, Wildfire Defense Systems, Firetrax, National Wildland Fire & Chloeta. The best way to find private contractors in your area is to ask around and do some online research. Job applications are advertised through websites, social media, and job bulletin boards.
Conservation Corps - This is a great way to get into wildland firefighting and have your training covered by the agency. Many corps that work with Colorado Firecamp specifically hire veterans crews and do seasonal work. Applications are typically found on their websites and social media. Some great corps to look at are Southwest Conservation Corps & Student Conservation Association, among many others. Cool Works often lists a lot of these conservation corps jobs.
There is another great website with lots of information and comprehensive agency lists here. Check it out!
“Is wildland firefighting a full time job?”
Yes and no, it depends on your agency. Many federal or state agencies hire wildland firefighters for the entire fire season, roughly May through September. Timeline is dependent on your hiring agency.
Other agencies hire firefighters on an "on call" basis. Meaning you only work fires when there is work to be done by your agency. Depending on your life style this is either good or bad. Usually an "on call" firefighter works a regular job throughout the fire season. When a fire call comes in they need to be ready to go within a couple hours of the call and be gone for up to 3 weeks.
Every agency has different policies. The best way to find out about hours is to call and ask. Or even better, visit the local office in person and have a chat.
“It's the middle of summer, can I still get a job for this fire season?”
Yes! While many application deadlines for the current fire season may have passed there is still a chance. During the fire season agencies often need to fill openings but will not post applications through big websites. A good way to get on board is to take a job that is similar to wildland firefighting within the agency. For example, trail building jobs through the USFS require a similar skill set as wildland firefighting. When a USFS fire crew has an opening they typically hire "in house" first from qualified USFS workers in other departments.
Private contractors also often hire throughout the fire season. While they may not always be a full time postion, it's a great way to at least get some field time that season.
Firecamp has had numerous students come through the S-130/190 class in the middle of summer and get hired within a couple weeks of completeing their course. Finding a job mid-season does take more leg-work on your end. Since jobs are not usually posted this is where a phone call can make all the difference. We go over many tactics of finding a job mid-season during our in-person workshops with all S-130/190 classes.
“Where do I learn about all the different positions as a wildland firefighter?”
The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) is the leading organization when it comes to the world of wildland firefighting. They are responsible for providing curriculum for all training, write the main guidelines about the differnt wildland positions and qualifications, report lessons learned on wildfire fatalities, and much more.
One of the best tools they offer the public is the NWCG Position Catalog. This is an amazing place to start and just see all of the different varities of jobs available as a wildland firefighter. If you plan on making a career out of wildland firefighting we reccommend students consider what type of branch they want to work in. A few differnt branches are listed below, with very brief description of what to expect. Please keep in mind these are very general descriptions to get you thinking about your options.
• Hand Crews - lots of hiking & digging fireline
• Engine Crews - water carriers (less hiking, more driving)
• Hotshots - initial attack, elite hand crews (peak fitness required)
• Smoke Jumpers - initial attack elite crews, often parachute to remote fires (peak fitness required)
• Air Operations - helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, etc.
• Heavy Equipment - dozer operators
• Medical - Fireline medics/paramedics
Another great resourse for wildland firefighting information is the US Forest Service.
“I want to be a hosthot! How do I get there?”
Hotshots are specialized crews that are expected to provide "safe, professional, mobile and highly skilled hand crew for all phases of fire management and incident operations" - USFS Interagency Hotshot Page. The link to the left is a good place to get started about what hotshot crews do and the physical requirements for the job. It also provides links to other useful pages for your reveiw.
One page we like to recommend to Firecamp students is the Pike Hotshot Employment Page. This is a good spot to see guidelines to take for working up to a hotshot position. While most agencies will say experience is required before becoming a hotshot it is possible to get hired on your rookie year.