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Thread: Benefits of wildland firefighting? How much can one expect to make their 1st season?

  1. #1
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    Default Benefits of wildland firefighting? How much can one expect to make their 1st season?

    I'm 18 and currently a Colorado Springs Fire Explorer. I'm considering trying to get on a handcrew next summer. What are the pros and cons of wildland? How much would one make in their first season? Are there things that you do when not on a fire? Best places to apply?

    Thanks.
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    I have heard Idaho is a great place to apply to, especially if you are a student. California and Oregon are also good places too. My best advice though would be: apply everywhere!!! It gives you a lot more options. I'm not trying to discourage you, but it's pretty hard to get on as a seasonal. I'm only a year older than you, so I don't really have any experience, but from what I saw this year, it's kind of tough getting hired. This is going to my second season trying to get on. A good word of advice someone gave me is: start getting you name out there. Talk to your local fire department. Let them know you are trying to get on as a seasonal. That's the best place to start.
    Sorry about the long response. PM if you have any question or need someone to bounce ideas off of.

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    Well I never did the handcrew route, but I would apply to US Forest Service or BLM. My buddy is on a BLM handcrew out of Las Vegas. He has barely been home all summer, he has been on fires in utah, nevada, arizona, and now oregon. Which that is nice because its a lot of overtime pay. I work in California for CAL FIRE ( formerly California Dept of Forestry and Fire Protection). We are like any other city department ( we run medical aids, vehicle accidents, structure/car/vegetation fires, cliff rescues, etc. It is fun. I just got back from Riverside and may be heading to siskiyou county for a fire ripping up there. So it depends if you want a hose in your hand or a handtool. I have been trying for 5 years to get hired as a seasonal ( just to start my career) and I finally got picked up this year. 925 interviewed and they hired 30. But thats rare. If you really want a job, go POLITIC NOW! Right now is the best time, because A) all stations are open so you will meet all the Captains, and Chiefs and B) it gives you time to get your face out there before the interviews come up again in march.If you have any question, dont hesitate to ask, and I will do my best to help you find what your looking for.
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    The Federal agencies (US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish & Wildlife, National Park Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs) base salary on a 15 grade system. As a first year seasonal you will probably be a GS-3 and make $11.95 / hr working 40 hours a week ($1912 / mo). After a season or two you will usually be promoted to a GS-4 making $13.41 / hr.

    There is no guarantee of overtime, and available overtime varies wildly based on location, type of crew and agency. I would say it is not unusual to get 200-300 hours of overtime over a fire season, and many hotshot crews can get 600-1000 fairly regularly. Again though there is no guarantee of overtime and I have heard of places that get almost no overtime some years.

    Most state forestry agencies are modeled on the US Forest Service in pay and work schedule, so will be similar. Calfire is an exception having developed into a mix of wildland and structure fire department that is kind of unique.

    As far as what you will do when not on fires or other incidents, patrol and project work most likely Trail work, fuel breaks, thinning projects, buildings and grounds maintenance etc. Also hopefully a lot of training, but that also varies widely.


    As far as where to apply? Everywhere. At least with the Feds most locations offer low cost barracks (my guys pay $6 / day) so you do not have to limit yourself to your local commute area unless you are not willing to move for the season.

    My personal preference is for the US Forest Service, but the Bureau of Land Management also has a large fire organization offering a lot of opportunities. The other agencies are much smaller and less focused on fire leading to less opportunity but they are still worth looking into.

    Being in Colorado you do have one of the two National Park Service Hotshot crews nearby (Alpine Hotshots located in Rocky Mountain National Park).

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