Wildland Fire Training & Job Opportunities for Veterans

You’ve met important challenges during your service in the U.S. military. As a Veteran, you understand the importance of teamwork, safety, cohesion, hard work, accomplishing your mission, and protecting the American public. There are opportunities to apply these same skills in the field of wildland fire.

The video below, created by the U.S. Department of the Interior and others, highlights military veterans in wildland firefighting careers talking about the esprit de corps and the important job they have as wildland firefighters.

Wildland fire management (including both prescribed fire and fire suppression) is an important part of the mission of the bureaus within the Department of the Interior. It is also important for bureaus within the Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, state forestry and wildlife agencies, natural resource non-governmental agencies, and the forestry and wildlife private sector.

The majority of the duties performed by a wildland firefighters are outdoors. Most duties are related to prescribed burning, wildfire suppression, and fire preparedness. These duties can include serving as a firefighter or engine operator during prescribed burning and wildfire suppression activities; conducting regular maintenance and repairs on various equipment; and serving as a crew member during firebreak preparation. When not involved with fire related activities, you may provide assistance in conducting natural resources related project work. You may have the potential to assist federal or state agencies throughout the nation.

There are wildland firefighter opportunities that are unique to Veterans. If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a wildland firefighter or gain training experience with fellow Veterans, visit the following sites:

Department of Interior – information and career transition advice is provided for Veterans to help improve your understanding of the types of jobs that could lead to finding a job or career in wildland fire management. Many veterans are already working in wildland fire.  Visit the DOI’s Success Stories page to read about some of their experiences.

U.S. Forest Service, Veteran Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program – The USFS provides an opportunity for Veterans to get paid for wildland fire training and offers the potential for employment afterwards. Check out a recent blog post on this topic and note that applications are due by November 28, 2014 for opportunities in 2015.

New Mexico State Forestry, AD and Returning Heroes Wildland Firefighter Program – The first program of its kind in the U.S., NM State Forestry began the program in 2013 as a way to increase capacity for wildland firefighting in New Mexico and surrounding states. New legislation allows for a team of military veterans to serve as regular, year-round employees within the program.  When not engaged in fire suppression activities, the crew helps with forest and watershed restoration projects.

Veteran Ecological Restoration Team (VERT)– The VERT is a Veteran-created program designed to help Veterans find employment in the U.S Forest Service. This program allows veterans who are enrolled in the Department of Veteran Affairs non-paid work experience program to work with the U.S. Forest Service to gain on-the-job work experience and allows them to find a suitable position in the agency. Veterans will be exposed to a variety of work and will build a well-rounded resume, while at the same time helping the U.S Forest Service achieve its goal of restoring our forests. As of today, the VERT program has been picked up in California by the Modoc National Forest, Las Padre National Forest, Angeles National Forest, Wildland Fire Training and Conference Center Sacramento, Vandenberg Training Center, and the Northern California Operations Training Center.

Veterans who are interested in this program should consult their local Department of Veteran Affairs office and ask how to join the non-paid work experience program or contact Mike Hinton (Modoc N.F.  V.E.R.T. Coordinator) at (530) 233-8794 or e-mail him at mhinton@fs.fed.us.

California Conservation Corps, Veterans Forestry Crew – Helps returning young veterans transition from military service to civilian life. Watch this video to learn more:

Montana Conservation Corps, Veterans Green Corps – focuses on conservation skills and career development for current era Veterans interested in pursuing employment opportunities with land management agencies.

VetsWork GreenCorps – a 20-24 week long wildland firefighter training program for veterans ages 19-35 that combines hands-on work experience and skills training in partnership with the Umatilla National Forest, Mt Adams Institute, and AmeriCorps.

Veterans Fire Corps (VFC) – The VFC is a collaboration between the US Forest Service,  the Student Conservation Association (SCA), the California Conservation Corps (CCC)  and Conservation Legacy.  Conservation Legacy includes the Southwest Conservation Corps and the Arizona Conservation Corps. Watch news stories on the Veterans Fire Corps from CNN and CBS Evening News.

Read more about the various Veterans Fire Corps below.

Southwest Conservation Corps, Veterans Fire Corps – offers training and on-the-job experience in Colorado for post 9-11 era Veterans interested in entering into careers and gaining experience in natural resource management and wildland fire.

Arizona Conservation Corps, Veterans Fire Corps – provides training and on-the-job experience in Arizona for post 9-11 era veterans interested in entering into careers and gaining experience in natural resource management and wildland fire.

The Student Conservation Association (SCA), Veterans Fire Corps – Created in 2010 with the USFS for post 9-11 era Veterans to gain wildland fire training and on-the-job experience. Share this flyer containing more information and 2015 program dates with others!

You can read about The SCA’s Veterans Fire Corps in these September-October 2013 Wildfire Magazine articles entitled, “From Soldier to Wildand Firefighter – Building A Veterans Fire Corps” and “Speaking Out on the Veterans Fire Corps.” Watch this video to learn more:

Do you know of an opportunity not shown here or have questions about wildland fire? Please contact me at jlevans3@ncsu.edu.

By Jennifer Evans, North Carolina State University, Extension Forestry

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