How to Become a Wildland Firefighter

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HOW TO BECOME A WILDLAND FIREFIGHTER – WHAT DO WILDLAND FIREFIGHTERS DO?

Simply put, wildland firefighters are responsible for suppressing and putting out wildland and forest fires. Generally, these firefighters work with crews of people, such as the engine crew, helicopter crew, smokejumper crew, or hotshot crew. Those in the hotshot crew often make more and are responsible for cleaning up after a fire and widening fire lines with 20 other crew members. Some wildland firefighters work all-year round, while others work exclusively during fire season only. When they are not fighting fires, wildland firefighters work together to respond to public emergencies and take prevention measures to minimize the chances of fires taking place in the wilderness. Like any firefighter role, the profession involves strenuous work in stressful situations, requiring them to respond quickly and calmly in emergencies.

HOW MUCH DO WILDLAND FIREFIGHTERS MAKE?

While the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have an exact number, it assumes that wildland firefighters employed by the federal government earn an average of around $50,000 a year. Earnings also vary from state-to-state.

A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO BECOMING A WILDLAND FIREFIGHTER

Step 1: Know the basic requirements. Aspiring wildland firefighters in the United States should consider the following job requirements:

Step 2: Train early. As for training, there are two things to keep in mind: fitness and education.

Step 3: Get qualified.

To be qualified as a wildland firefighter candidate, one must pass written and physical exams. The written exam will cover general subjects including logic and mechanical reasoning, essential skills, and spatial awareness. The physical test will test an individual’s endurance and physical strength & health. Part of the test may involve completing a three-mile hike within 45 minutes in a forest area carrying approximately fifty pounds of equipment. These exams are designed to weed out candidates that are not prepared or qualified. After passing the required tests, applicants are able to move forward and complete fire academy training.

Step 4: Advance your career.

While this step is not mandatory, it is highly recommended. Generally speaking, with professions changing all the time, it is important to stay up to date on new information and protocol. Wildland firefighters can stay educated by enrolling in additional training or education. A plethora of degree programs are available in advanced subjects like public affairs, rangeland ecology, and fire management, to name a few. Higher education will open the doors to many leadership positions within the industry. In fact, upper-level promotions require firefighters to at least have a Bachelor’s degree in fire science.

GOOD TO KNOW: WILDLAND FIREFIGHTER PROS & CONS

Before making it your career, it’s smart to be aware of the pros and cons associated to being a wildland firefighter. Here are a few to keep in mind as you conduct your research and come to a final decision.

PROS:

CONS: