I was wondering if you applied for CAL Fire this year? I have applied to the Santa Clara unit and the San Mateo-San Cruz unit. What was the process like last year? This is my first time applying and I would appreciate any help I can get.
I have been trying to get picked up with Cal Fire for a number of years. Cal Fire hasn't really interviewed in the last 3 years due to staffing, although this year issupposedd to be different. I'm going to guess your letter youreceivedd was from Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit, they tend to be the only unit to send a rejection letter (Ive got three).
From what I have been told is they will throw your application away if you don't have a Cal Fire 67 hr, EMT, and Hazmat Awareness. This being said it doesn't hurt to apply, but those would be my three main goals. I would politic at the stations on my days off and also apply with the Forest Service. The job is very hard to obtain and there is very stiff competition.
Originally Posted by CDNash
TO FF14, The process I've experienced is pretty straight forward. The Northern Units take mail-in applications and don't tell you anything unless you're rejected (one unit, see above post, the one letter I recieved). Central and Southern Units require apps be delivered in person.
The certs goffaj is talking about are necessary. I've had other people mention these as well. I understand they're bench marks for hiring, but 67 and FRO take a weekend each to obtain. I get frustrated that I'm not considered with seasons in, feller rating etc...
I'm chalking this season up as a wash and planning for the next. This time next year, I'll have attended academy, have HazMat done and grab a 67-hour academy. These should help. My trump card (and I'll be really pushed out of shape if I can't even get a seasonal position) is my paramedic license. It all depends...
This year some friends from medic school and I are driving apps to Monterey and San Luis CALFire units. They're both large county contracts. SLO is a large county and CF has duties far exceeding the usuaul SRA level of my home county (San Mateo) as well as the other Bay Area CF juristictions.
goffaj, can you shine some light on the interview process post consideration letter??? Any and all help is Much appreciated.
In addition, what do seasonals make?
@CDNash, Thank you! I was wondering where you will be doing an academy and do they offer the 67-hour? If not where can I get the 67-hour cert? Also, what does FRO mean?
@goffaj, I was wondering where I can get the HazMat cert? Should I applied with the Forest Service? Do they require the same things as CDF?
In years past CDF and USFS accepted each others wildland fire certs. In recent years this has changed. In my opinion this is stupid as they are based on the same standards, but I don't make the rules.
In the case of the Feds we require L-180 (human factors) as part of the basic firefighter training which is not included in the state training. This can be taught at the station in a few hours so some captains will go ahead and hire someone with a 67 hour academy and just spend a few hours to teach the extra segment.
If you want to work for the feds take the basic 32 (or basic 40, same class but people call it different things). This includes S130 basic firefighter, S190 intro to wildland fire behavior, L-180 human factors on the fireline and I-100 intro to ICS. This is a 40 hour (give or take) training generally taught in 4-5 days or 2 weekends.
Same goes for the state, if you want to work for them take their class.
If you are willing to work for either bite the bullet and take both classes.
I honestly do not see any difference in the level of training received from one or the other and despite the difference in name (basic 32 or 67 hour) oddly both seem to be taught in about 40 hours. Like I said stupid, but it is part of the game.
In general the USFS hires more seasonal firefighters, a lot more because we have larger engine crews (5 vs 3-4) and we don't use inmates, which means lots more jobs for seasonals. We also have more turn over as people move on to other things or go to work for calfire or other fire departments. A seasonal with calfire can begin to receive benefits and retirement credit after a season or two. The Feds provide no benefits beyond annual / sick leave to seasonal employees so most people will not work more than a few seasons before becoming a career employee or finding a job that will provide these things. Calfire also pays quite a bit more.
While we do similar work, the working conditions are different. USFS crews do a lot more forestry work, building trails, brushing roads, replacing signs etc where Calfire is more focused on station work. They have inmate crews to go out and labor in the woods. Calfire works 24 hour shifts vs a 40 hour week (5x8) for the feds and they usually get motels at fires. Fed crews sleep on the ground more often than not. Calfire is more uptight, uniform shirts are worn just about everywhere except the fireline. USFS crews are typically way more laid back and informal. The Fed offer a little more career diversity with helicopters, dozers, fire lookouts, hotshot crews, RX fire crews and engines, where Calfire seasonals are pretty much limited to engines and helicopters. The Feds also go out of state more often.
Both agencies are good places to work, and excellent places to learn wildland firefighting but they fit different people.
FRO = First Responder Operational level, the 24 hour hazmat class.
Thank you! That was very helpful and interesting. Do you have any suggestions on an academy that will teach everything you mentioned?
If your location is correct (San Jose) then you are probably closest to the Mendocino, Stanislaus and Eldorado National Forests.
You also might try the Bureau of Land Management in Hollister
Or US Fish & Wildlife in Los Banos
Call the main number and tell them you are trying to find a basic wildland firefighting class, they should be able to point you to the right person for more info.
As far as Calfire I'd check with the HQ in Morgan Hill, they should be able to find out where to go for their training.
Be careful about community colleges that offer a wildland class, many are focused on city firefighters and only offer the minimum required for the state firefighter 1 cert. Some do offer the full class for either or both Calfire and the Feds so make sure you know what they are providing.
Thanks "Here and There". I'm curious as to where I can fit in with my current certifications. I would love to go work for the FS.
I lived with a lot of hand crew guys in school Los Padres NF Santa Lucia crew 7. They love their jobs and I believe it's the right choice for me.
Does the FS care about being a Medic or am I limited to and EMT-B scope out on the fire line???
In addition, feller rating (s-212) etc... get me higher in the hopper?
I'd enjoy a type II direct attack crew and moving to type I/ Shots down the line a few years. Thoughts on a good route to go? Advice welcome :)
It seems like everything fire has become so competitive.
The hazmat class can typically be found on line (CA State Fire Marshal) or through most academies. I have only interviewed once with USFS, but "Here and There" seems to have pinpointed what I have been told about the two agencies (USFS and Cal Fire).
Ill stick to explaining Cal Fire because thats whI'veve talked to the most. Iyou're'r chosen for an interview there arusuallyly around 1,000 people interviewing at each unit for a very limited number of jobs. There are 5 questions that are either scenarioio based questions or what you have done in the past to prepare yourself for a position. You are given a score 1-4 with 1 being the highest. Prepare yourself for the interview and politic stations so you can meet the crews.
I'm not certain on pay becauseuase there are many variables. The work schedule is 3-24s on and 4-24s off, you make your real money on strike teams (this is why the pay's hard to explain). If you don't get sent out on strike teams I believe you make around 3500 a month give or take, this can change drastically if your sent out for a few weeks.
I would highly recommend applying to both agencies and obtaining the certs mentioned above. Im not trying to scare you when I say be prepared to go against people with a lot of training and experience, but take it as motivation to outwork these people and show your determined and will do what it takes to succeed. I wish I had spent more time visiting stations a few years ago when agencies were hiring seasonal employees, don't make the same mistakes I did!
Yeah, these things go in cycles. We will go through periods where we have trouble even getting enough warm bodies to fill the seats and other years where we turn away dozens of highly qualified people. In 2008 I had to run my engine with only 4 people (3 unfilled positions). Everytime we went off forest we had to borrow a firefighter from another engine. This year I've already got 5 or 6 experienced people with solid references looking for work and I probably won't have any openings this year.
Beyond whatever additional medical experience that EMT-P provided you, no we really don't care beyond EMT. The agency standard is First Responder, so we are strictly BLS at this point. Real hands on EMS experience is a plus though as classroom only EMTs are really hit and miss when you need them. Engine crews like good EMTs because most do respond to medical aids and crews like them because when their guys get hurt they may be a long way from help.
Chainsaw experience will come down to the quality. If you worked as a commercial logger and are a C faller (the highest rating) then you have a skill someone might really take notice of. Even a B faller with documented experience could be a plus.
If you took S-212 and got your A card, that is a help but probably more in the sense of showing interest in the job, than a highly marketable skill. It also depends on the crew looking at hiring you. If I am picking up a couple of rookie firefighters that year, then I will most likely be putting on an S-212 class anyway so the fact you have it doesn't mean much. On the otherhand if you are the only new firefighter I'm hiring, it could be a plus because it is one less thing I have to worry about in that hectic first month.
If you haven't already start visiting stations, the forest service is far more personal in the hiring. Going down to talk to the captains can really help get your foot in the door. Bug your friends and see who they can get you in contact with.
From San Mateo if you could work on call, the Mendocino NF sponsors several on call crews out of Davis and Willits which should just barely be within your reach depending one where exactly you are located. You are supposed to be able to reach the mobilization point within 2 hours, but I think there is a little leeway since realistically you will probably get 12-24 hours notice.
These crews get called out for large fires, and occasionally for standby to fill in behind forest service crews in particularly busy fire seasons, but there is no minimum guaruntee of work. The work these crews do isn't that exciting, since these are usually very green crews they get the coldest parts of the fire and frequently are assigned to mop up and rehab / repair after the main fire freeing up fulltime crews and hotshot crews for other more active fires.
They are good experience though, decent money and a great way to make contacts because the crew supervision is made up of fulltime forest service firefighters (generally engine captains, engineers, crew captains and squad bosses).
Unfortunately how much work you will get is very hit or miss. I've seen years where anybody that wants to work will work 60-80 hours a week doing project work all summer, and other years where they get one 5 day fire assignment or maybe not even get one roll all summer.
When does Cal Fire usually contact regarding interviews? I applied to northern units since I live up here. I just completed my EMT in December. I already have my 69hr Cal Fire cert along with Fro and CSA. I also have my bachelors degree. Thanks
Edit: I have also been volunteering at a county station for the past 8 months
I have heard that they usually do interviews in Feburary. Did you apply this year and if so what units? I have applied to 5 northern units this year.
Cal Fire usually interviews in February and early March to my knowledge. Check your mail frequently because they all tend to send out invites around the same time. I think I applied to 10 or so units (mostly Nor Cal). Hoping to get a few interviews this year, and catch on.
Yes for the 2013 season. I applied to all the northern units since I live in Redding which is right in the middle of them all. I also wanted to have flexibility on having some "practice" interviews.
I wasn't going to go politic my name but from the sound of everyone else on these forums its necessary. I guess I'll go do that after I know what units I have interviews for.
Do they mail or call you with interview times?
I'm planning on attending the College of San Mateo's academy come this fall. I'm anticipating having my P-Card by then and getting a cadetship out of academy to finish my FF1 and/or get offered a job for being an awesome cadet (i can dream can't i...).
I haven't nailed down the 67-hour yet. I'll have to get back to you on that one. The FRO is First-Responder Operational. Its an easy cert to get and it's required for many different employers (EMS, Fire etc... I believe this cert will be part of my basic academy. I'll let know as I encounter these. For the time being I'm purely focussed on my medic in ternship in Oakland which is kicking my ***.
I have heard the internship for medic in Oakland is rough. But definitely worth it after when you reach the end and get your P-card.I did mine through Sacramento Metro and City. Most academies should have the 69 hour basic wildland firefighter course integrated in the academy but I recommend looking through academy details or contacting the person in charge of the academy. In able for that to be a certified CAL FIRE 69 hr basic wildland firefighter cert it has to be taught by a CAL FIRE employee or a CAL FIRE certified instructor. If the instructor teaching your course is neither of these, then it doesnt qualify as a CAL FIRE cert, and is tossed to the side during interviews for CAL FIRE. HAZMAT FRO is a part of all academies that I know of. Im pretty sure your academy in San Mateo has both due to CAL FIRE being located near San Mateo. Now finishing the academy, and getting a volunteer/ intership/ or resident position right out of the academy is sometimes hard. But look everywhere you possibly can. I looked and looked, found nothing, and one day I talked to a couple guys and found out about 5 different programs near me. So look and ask around.
Thanks Gino, I appreciate the info. Just keep grinding along. I'm working Strike's in Oakland 2000-0800 or some pervertion of. That plus the regular 9-5 is burning the candle at both ends (plus I have no life). This is why we love the job we may never get...
With regard to internship, we'll see. I have some friends in moderate places around heer Lt etc... who may help me on that one if it goes dry.
Shifting gears a little bit here, can someone give me a good source to learn how to do Oral Boards? I know there are other forums for that, I just need some direction (preferably not something like Capt Bob, maybe that works, don't know). I've been doing some serious canvassing of recent tests and expect to see at least one board ( once again wishful thinking).
Any and all Apprec'd.
In the words of Steven Tyler "Dream On"
CAL FIRE boards are a little different then regular department interviews. I did Richmond City interview and they asked me who the Chief of the department was and who the Mayor of Richmond also. It was weird, and threw me off. But besides that, some websites work, but mainly asking firefighters you know. They went through it multiple times, and obviously did well if they got hired. So ask them, it has helped me by asking paid guys around my station.
I apologize if this is repetitive but I am a college student from Minnesota who is planning to move out to California when I graduate and hopefully join Cal Fire. I was just wondering what my chances were of getting hired by Cal Fire? I am currently on a Volunteer fire department in a city of about 40,000. I am Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 certified, HAZ MAT operations certified, EMT certified and NIMS certified. I'm a little worried about moving out there and not being able to find a wild-land firefighting position. Thanks!