Ladies and Gents,
As a university student I am looking to inquire about possibly putting in my application for the 2014 season. I see a few things on USAJobs, but I am not sure if those are for next year or this year, or what; when do applications generally go in for next year's season?
I assume that since most of these jobs are out west, and considering that I live in the East where commuting won't be possible, that there are provisions for accommodation?
Additionally I noted that the qualifications on many of them include general and specialised experience: does structural firefighting (along with regular EMS/MVA/Brushfire calls) count towards this?
Lastly the types of jobs are making my head spin: as a first year prospective what should I aim to apply to? Obviously not smokejumping/hotshot crews; but rather engine, handcrew, helitak, fuels.
Okay well lastly, lastly (:D) what kind of competition is there for these jobs, and what can I do to make myself look, as we'd say, wicked awesome to the recruiters?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
The application process is usually from November through Janurary. My advice would be: start applying as soon as the jobs get posted. As a first year, you will probably only qualify as a GS-3, so apply to all of those. As for applying: apply for everything you qualify for. It just gives you more choices.
As for accommodations: government housing is available, but you do have to pay rent. Its actually very reasonable. I've heard some guys pay $6 a day.
The competition for these jobs is very tough. I've heard/talked to people who have been trying to get on for years and just finally got on this year.
My advice to you is: starting talking to people and apply EVERYWHERE!
This is going to be my second season trying to get on, so I'm in the same boat as you. Everything I have written is advice I was given last year and I'm willing to pass it on to anyone else. Please message me if you have any questions about anything and I will do my best to help you out.
Like 14 said, some areas have barracks style housing for crews. Not free but a lot cheaper than renting or hotels. Apply often and early. Your sights seem right for your experience level, except for the helitack crew. The helitacks I have worked with seem like a pretty advanced bunch! Good luck for next year!
I agree, Helitack crews are usually the best of the best of that department. To start off with, I would recommend hand crew or possibly engine. Anywhere that will hire pretty much. As long as you get experience, it doesn't really matter. I work for CAL FIRE which most people think we do just wild land fires, when we are now a all risk department so we respond to medical aids, vehicle accidents, rescues, structure fires, etc. And within our department, we have helitack, heavy equipment ( such as dozers), handcrews, etc. We hire seasonals, you work anywhere from 4-6 months, some units in Southern California will work 11 out of 12 months. But its great experience and you can transfer anywhere in california within the 21 units we have from the oregon border to the mexican border.
Well the helitack bit was pretty much just 'I haven't heard this is uber-elite so I will list it along with the other stuff!' So forgetaboutit! :o
Could someone provide for me the differences in duties between Handcrew and Engine? I mean I understand that the former 'rides' their feet to the fire and is involved with initial operations whereas the latter has a 'horse' but is involved primarily in Mop-Up operations. Any real pros/cons to each? Obviously a job is a job but when the time comes I'd be keen to know incase I have to choose.
Any idea where I could get the requisite training for the positions both in general and for Cal-Fire? I hope to get my structural certs this year-- but where in the North-East can I pursue these Wildland ones? Or will there be avenues to get the training once hired?
Thanks for the assistance!
Most of the fire jobs I know of require the basic wildland course. The class is actually three different courses dealing with fire suppression, fire behavior and some human factors. I apologize for not knowing the course numbers off-hand but a good place to look is the NWCG, or National wild fire coordination group, which puts together all the training courses for wild land. I would recommend getting the basic class and the pack test under your belt early next year as competition is fierce for these jobs, and in my area you cant get hired without them. As far as differences between handcrew and engine, it all depends on where you work and who you work for. Some agencies provide direct protection for lands that they are responsible for, meaning that you would be involved in initial attack no matter if on an engine or hand crew. Agencies can also assist in a support role even if they own the land. Lots of digging and walking on a hand crew once you drive to a fire. Can be lots of digging and walking on an engine too! Generally an engine crewman would expect to stay within the length of the hose from the engine, however, a progressive hose lay can stretch for thousands of feet, something our brother from CAL FIRE can surely attest to! Typically hand crews and engine crews work together on a fire providing support for one another, such as hose lays, water supply, supplies, transportation, and EVERYBODY does mop up.
I went to NWCG and looked in the Field Managers Course Guide and found the numbers for the classes you need to get FF2 (fire fighter 2 is the entry level in wildland whereas fire fighter 1 is entry level in structure)
I-100 (which is ICS 100 training, or incident command)
L-180 ( human factors on the fireline) L stands for leadership
S-130 ( basic wild land class about tactics, operations and whatnot) S stands for suppression.
S-190 ( introduction to fire behavior) talks about weather factors, and fire behavior such as fire moves faster uphill than down.
I would suggest going to NWCG and looking around. Ask some people at your firehouse or ask someone at your state forestry department where you can get these classes. Usually they are taught all at once over the course of a few days.
One place to look for training in your area is the EACC or the Eastern Area Coordination Center website.
Thanks, I will certainly have to start my inquiries...
One thing you said that has me a little confused; so FF2 is actually a wildland course? Here I thought I heard it was more of an advanced supplement to FF1... all structural, MVA, etc
The wild land world has their own set of qualifications just like the structure world.
Being certified to the FF2 level in wildland is completely separate from the structure side.
FF2 is the entry level in wildland.
You start as a FF2, move up to FF1 or advanced firefighter. From there you move on to single resource boss such as engine boss or crew boss. This position is also called engine captain in some fed agencies.
Yes the structure side has FF2 which is an advanced supplement to FF1.
In the wildland side, you take the classes, fill out a position task book, pass the pack test and then you achieve the rank of FF2.
Much depends on where you end up working, but at least with the US Forest Service (and to a large degree the other Federal wildland agencies) engine crews are expected to tool up and work as crews as needed.
As of this moment due to the many fires burning in the west, hotshot crews are in short supply and the last two engine strike teams I was on spent nearly 1/2 their time running saws and cutting handline to free up the limited number of hotshot crews for those assignment best suited to them.
A good engine strike team can outperform Type 2 crews simply due to having a greater number of experienced sawyers (1 or 2 saws per engine x 5 engines vs generally 2 - 4 on a crew) and workers (25 people vs 18-20). Additionally while it is somewhat true that engines stay close to the hoses, I've been on many hoselays that extended more than a mile. On my last assignment the strike team put in more than 2 miles of hose just on one piece of line.
Don't sell the engines short, Smoke Jumpers, Helitack and Hotshot crews get a lot of attention, but the engine crews are still the resource that attacks and contains the vast majority of fires during the initial attack phase.
As to where to find the training I'd check with your states forestry agency or your local US Forest Service. With the exception of California most states follow NWCG and offer the same classes used by the Federal agencies.
Alright thanks, yea sorry about the confusion this whole thing is a bit foreign to me.
As for the term sawyer, is that a job you apply for, or simply additional certification? I imagine they don't just hand Greenhorn Joe a saw and expect him to fell redwoods....
Sorry about the delay on the responses, been busy with work!
No problem, big wildland fire is a creature unique to itself that shares little with a 20 acre grassfire that many primarily structure firefighters are exposed to.
Running saws is a qualification, the only people who get hired specifically to run saws are professional fallers, usually straight from the logging industry.
For fire crews the Feds use a three level qualification under the Redcard system, A, B and C faller. A is essentially a training level, simple bucking, limbing, brushing and falling of very small trees. B is a competent sawyer that can handle most common saw tasks. C fallers are expert sawyers capable of cutting complicated (very large, badly burned, falling against the lean etc) trees.
A is fairly easy to obtain and most 1st year firefighters will be signed off as an A faller during their first season. B fallers can certify A fallers. B requires good experience / knowledge, unless you come in with a solid background of running a saw it will usually take 2-3 seasons to get signed off as a B faller. C fallers sign off B fallers.
C is a complex process requiring documentation of multiple large / complex trees that have been felled under the supervision of a C faller. It also requires a separate training class and certification is usually done by a professional faller.
The DOI agencies (BLM, NPS, BIA, USFWS) use the redcard system for their saw certification, the USFS uses a separate saw card for certification.
I don't know which state you are in, but there are national forests in nearly every state. The USFS website allows you to search for forests by state which would allow you to find contact info. The basic wildland class (S130, S190, I100, L180) is 32-40 hours long and is often offered in a 4-5 day or 2 weekend session for a nominal cost (often free). S211 portable pumps, and S212 Wildland power saws may also be offered.
EMT and actual medical experience can also be a plus. Many crews will try to hire an experienced EMT if they can. The work can be very remote so having your own medical person onboard is seen as a plus.
Alright thanks. I am going to try and get my EMT-B this year, amongst other things (could fill a semester with the stuff I wanna get done lol...)
Originally Posted by Here and there
You were born on the wrong coast!
Are you also trying to get on city departments in your state ???
Not really no-- I am more looking for a seasonal gig as opposed to a career. I love volunteering, and I am currently going to university, so a cross-breed is what I am looking for; a paid position that fills the gap between school years.
With that said at some point down the line I may indeed decide to pursue a career in the fire service, but currently I am considering other options.
Hehe about the coast thing, maybe for wildland yeah, but nothing beats New England for the tradition...