No longer are the days when you need to be an experienced smoke jumper or join a hot shot crew to have a career that includes wildland fire. Skills and training in wildland fire are now highly desired among private, local, state, federal, and NGO natural resource agencies across the country. More and more employers are seeking to hire people with these skills to fill roles such as preserve manager, park ranger, wildlife biologist, forester, consultant, and technician, just to name a few. In addition, many structural fire departments in rural and suburban areas are increasing their role in wildland firefighting due to the increasing wildland/urban interface continuing to grow in areas dominated by wildland fuels.
However, finding a job in wildland fire can be challenging if you don’t have the proper experience or training. Luckily, most agencies are willing to provide this training as part of your job. But, for those who are job searching and want to add these skills to your resume before you apply, there are several ways that you can go about gaining proper training.
They type of training that you need will depend on which aspect of wildland fire you would like to focus (such as prescribed fire or wildfire suppression) and for which type of agency or organization you would like to work. Or, perhaps you don’t want to work for any agency and would like to go into business for yourself!
Step 1: The first step in determining the training you will need is to decide if you would like to work (or volunteer):
- For a state agency
- For a federal agency
- For an NGO or non-profit
- As a private consultant (skip to Step 3)
Step 2: Know the minimum requirements for the Agency in which you are applying.
- The minimum requirements for state, federal, and NGO wildland fire jobs vary not only by state, but also by agencies within each state. For example, in order to participate on a prescribed fire for the Florida Forest Service, fire crew training requirements include National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) S-130 Firefighter Training and S-190 Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior. Other states may require that you are a state Certified burner.
- Contact the agency for which you wish to apply and ask them what skills they desire or require.
- Keep your eyes open for a post in the near future on this very topic which will provide an outline of state and federal agency requirements in the Southeast by state!
Step 3: Know your state’s laws and regulations.
- Most states in the Southeast require you to become a Certified Burner/Prescribed Fire Manager to enjoy liability coverage from smoke and/or escaped fire. This usually entails attending a classroom course, possibly in combination with a live burn(s). Check out my January 2014 post on Certified Burner Courses held in 2014 or view the training opportunities in your state to see when the next training course will be held.
Step 4: Become qualified for the job in which you intend to apply. If the job you will be applying for requires you to:
- Be a state Certified Burner, then follow the links provided in Step 3 to see when the next training course will be held in your state.
- Be NWCG qualified, then you will need to take S-130 Firefighter Training and S-190 Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior at a minimum. These training courses can be accessed through the National Fire Academy Online at:
www.nfaonline.dhs.gov. However, you will need a sponsoring agency and will still have to complete the field portion of S-130 before receiving course certificates and becoming qualified as a wildland firefighter.
- Have field experience, then you may consider an apprenticeship or joining a burn crew to gain some hands-on experience. A few options are listed below, but this list is not all inclusive so be sure to check around to see what else might be available in your region!
- Wildland Fire Apprenticeship Program (The program is an accredited, educational program designed to enhance and develop future Fire and Aviation Managers. The intent of the Program is to take a career entry firefighter and provide education, training and paid work experience over a 12 to 48 month period, depending on experience.)
- Veterans Fire Corps (Hosted by the Student Conservation Association (SCA) and created in 2010 with the USFS for veterans to gain wildland fire training)
Step 4: Start applying!
- Private Consultant
- Watch this webinar to learn why you should consider offering prescribed burning as a service to your clients.
- State Job Opportunities:
- Texas A& M Forest Service
- Check your state forestry, wildlife, or wildland fire websites
- Federal Job opportunites:
- NGO/ Non-Profit Job Opportunities:
- The Nature Conservancy
- Check with an NGO near you!
- Miscellaneous websites and job opportunities:
- Wildfire X (WildfireX is a unique wildland fire interest-based digital community where firefighters, job candidates, employers and suppliers connect, get hired, and meet individual or business objectives)
- WildfireJobs.com (Wildfire jobs is a simple, easy to use job board for those posting jobs or interested in a career in wildland firefighting)
- Get your wildland fire safety refreshers here: http://www.nifc.gov/wfstar/.
Check these websites continuously as new jobs are posted often. There are likely more websites available with wildland fire jobs posted than what we have listed here, but hopefully his will give you a good start! In addition, each state has governmental agencies such as the Texas A&M Forest Service we listed above. We recommend checking the state government forest, parks, and wildlife agencies website in the desired state you would like to work for wildland firefighting positions in addition the websites listed above. Happy hunting!
By: Jennifer Evans