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Thread: New hopeful and gear questions

  1. #1
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    Default New hopeful and gear questions

    Hello!

    I'm trying to get a job for the 2014 year fire season. I originally did the wildland fire training in January 2010, but a foot injury kept me from applying to jobs that year, and I was never able to take the pack test and get my red card. I worked as a fisheries observer in Alaska on the commercial fishing boats from 2011 through this year. I'm hoping to get back into land based work. How are new applicants with biology experience viewed? Is it something I should promote, or play down? I do have prescribed fire experience from back in college. Does age ever play a role in hiring? I'm 27, and worried the hiring agency is looking for younger people as new recruits!

    My other question is, what gear do firefighters usually have to provide for themselves, and what would everybody recommend? I remember boots being one of them, and I'm looking to get a pair to start breaking in. I'd appreciate recommendations! I'm hoping to get a list together and ask for some of the gear for Christmas to help cover some of the costs.

    Thank you!!

    Rachel
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    Hi Rachel,

    I would recommend getting your red card first. Without that, most departments ( primarily federal government) will not even give you a chance. If you want to work for any federal government like US Forest Service, then I would totally promote biology experience. These big federal department have little departments within that deal with biology,etc.

    Next, age does not matter. I met guys and gals this year that just got hired and were mid 30s. The average age for most departments to hire are 27-35. So you will be just fine. I would try and gain more experience with local volunteer departments as well. It also looks better on the resume.

    Lastly, gear. The gear I had to provide for myself were boots ( I have White's Smokejumpers), belt, socks. The rest was part of our PPE ( Personal Protective Equipment). The biggest thing you want to really worry about now are the boots. The rest wont need breaking in, and can get the day before if need be. Boots are very important for wildland firefighting. Some are great quality, others are cheap right off the shelf type boots that are cheap. I originally had Hathorne Explorer Smokejumpers ( Same person who started White's but went off to his own brand) and they were a cheap, off the shelf boot with cheap leather. The problem with these are they started to strecth out on the sides and I consistently rolled my ankles. So I then got White's ( $500 later) and WOW what a difference. I had the people at the boot store actually custom fit me. And they feel like socks on me. Perfectly fit. Ive had these for almost 5 years and not one problem since. But it really comes down to you. People fit differently and I would recommend actually going to a boot store to try on different ones and get a expert opinion not just got to a random store try on one pair and get them. They should last, and your feet are very important on this job so you want them to last, especially with a previous foot injury.

    Any other questions, feel free to contact me.

    Gino
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    Quote Originally Posted by rgugs View Post
    Hello!

    I'm trying to get a job for the 2014 year fire season. I originally did the wildland fire training in January 2010, but a foot injury kept me from applying to jobs that year, and I was never able to take the pack test and get my red card. I worked as a fisheries observer in Alaska on the commercial fishing boats from 2011 through this year. I'm hoping to get back into land based work. How are new applicants with biology experience viewed? Is it something I should promote, or play down? I do have prescribed fire experience from back in college. Does age ever play a role in hiring? I'm 27, and worried the hiring agency is looking for younger people as new recruits!

    My other question is, what gear do firefighters usually have to provide for themselves, and what would everybody recommend? I remember boots being one of them, and I'm looking to get a pair to start breaking in. I'd appreciate recommendations! I'm hoping to get a list together and ask for some of the gear for Christmas to help cover some of the costs.

    Thank you!!

    Rachel
    What state are you looking to work in

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    Rgugs,

    I have worked for the Federal government for the last two seasons. My advice would be to start filling out your USAJOBs.gov resume with every bit of work and volunteer experience you have. Also list any training certificates. While having fire experience is very helpful, it is not a deal breaker by any means at the lower GS-3 level (which is entry level pay grade).

    There are usually at least 1-2 brand new hires with absolutely no fire background or fire work experience. With exception of Smokejumper or Hotshot crews. (These are more elite crews that only take seasoned individuals with more advanced training)

    You are going to need to have S-130, S-190, ICS100, NIMS-700 and Healthcare level CPR to have any chance at getting an interview.

    Make sure that you attach all of these certificates to your profile on USAJOBS.

    Once you are given your conditional offer, the respective agency will give you a pack test and then you will be issued your Red Card.

    You can get all of the "S" courses online at this NWCG website : http://training.nwcg.gov/courses.html

    and NIMS 700 at this site : http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/IS/c...?code=is-700.a


    One more piece of advice. If you really want a greater chance of a job, apply everywhere and in more than one state. Maybe choose two other states along with the primary area you are already applying in.

    Also, I prefer White's Smokejumpers. Your feet are your money makers, and you don't want to cheap out on boots. A good pair of boots are pricey, however if you take care of them they last for many years.

    Good luck with everything and be persistent.
    Last edited by StrengthBuilder; 11-20-2013 at 05:51 PM.
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    Thanks for the replies!

    I'd really love to work in the Pacific Northwest, specifically Oregon, but at this point I am applying to any job, fire or biology related I find west of Kansas, and a few on the east coast as well. I am looking to retake S130 and S190 and get my red card in December or January. I'm also looking for some seasonal work to get me through the next few months. I'm looking at the ski lodges in Colorado, and a lot require a commitment until April. Is that too late?

    Are there other less expensive boots anybody could recommend for my first pair? It is hard to drop $500 on a pair of boots when I might not even get a job as a firefighter this year. I'm also interested in some lighter options. I wear insulated xtra tuffs on the boats, and they weigh 6 pounds per pair. I've hiked in them when I had some free time on land, and it is pretty tiring! I came across a company called Haix. Has anybody used their wildland fire boots?

    Thanks!

    Rachel

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    I have heard bad things about their wildland boots. Their other boots I heard great things about except for wildland. There are all types of wildland boots. Anywhere from Danners, Hathornes ( Knock off White's and half the price). I would go to the closest professional boot store or a fire equipment store ( like a uniform store) most of them sell wildland boots and you can try different pairs on and see what you like more. Once you find the pair you like in price and weight, I would look online and find a better deal nearby to save even more money. But like previously stated, your feet are money, and you pay what you get so your feet may hurt,etc. I did that, and will never do it again.

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    I will stand by White's boots forever. They do have less expensive options other than the smokejumpers. They have White's Hawthornes which are probably 100-150$ cheaper.

    I have heard of Redwing boots which are pretty cheap boots that are not made by White's. Not sure how they feel or how they hold up.

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    Unfortunately, I think I'd have to drive about 7 hours to get to the closest shop to try on actual wildland firefighter boots. Kansas doesn't quite have the same need for wildland fire gear that other states have.

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    I've done quite well buying from Drew's Boots. They offer Whites and Nicks which are pretty much the standard wildland boots are judged by, but do offer some less expensive options.

    I have a crew member who has been using one of the less expensive ($200 ish) Drew's brand boots for most of the 7 or 8 years she has been working.

    They also stock the La Sportiva Glacier which is a light weight boot. I have a pair I use mostly day to day around the station. They are insulated and very warm which makes them nice for burning in the off season when it is wet and cold, but they can be uncomfortably warm in the summer. They are not as tough and can not be rebuilt like the good logger boots (most any that Drews sells), so after a season or two you will be buying a new pair. For comparison I have had my White's for 14 years, and my Nick's for 8 with the occasional resole job ($150).


    http://drewsboots.com/product_list/17


    Redwing boots are decent, I wore them my first couple of seasons but for the price ($250-300) I think you would do better with one of the lower end boots Drew's sells.


    Wesco is another popular boot.

    http://www.wescoboots.com/wesco/stock2010.asp
    Last edited by Here and there; 11-23-2013 at 03:01 PM.
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    As far as your biology work, for a regular fire crew that really isn't a thing to play up or hide. We get lots of seasonal firefighters with degrees, lots without. Down the road it could help you as you climb the career ladder as college is required at the upper end. I've had several guys work for me who did the Alaskan fishing thing. What you can probably play up the most from the job is the working conditions. Not sure what your particular job was like, but time away from friends and family, long hours, lifting heavy loads and exposure to the elements seems pretty typical and is applicable to wildland firefighting.

    There are fire use and fire effects crews who could be interested in biology experience.

    You also might look at biology jobs, many of the Federal agencies use their non-fire employees on fires, particularly the smaller less fire prone areas that don't have lots of standing fire crews.

    The US Forest Service and National Park Service get a lot of attention, but don't over look the Bureau of Land Management or US Fish & Wildlife which also hire firefighters.
    Last edited by Here and there; 11-23-2013 at 03:17 PM.
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    Thank you for the info and the link Here and There!

    Can anybody give me some info on boot style preferences? The boots look to have varying heel heights and what is the point of Lace to toe or not? Rough vs smooth leather? Do any run small or large? I've read about wearing 2 pairs of socks. Should I go up half a size? I haven't worn land work boots in quite awhile, and spending this much money makes me nervous!

    I wear neoprene xtra tuffs on the boats, and mostly sandals or running shoes on land! I have a high arch, but have been wearing minimalist running shoes for the past 2.5 years. No arch problems so far!

    Thank you all for your help! I really appreciate it. Observing has gotten really comfortable as a job, even if I really don't enjoy the watch dog part of the job, and the tension that brings. It is scary to go in a completely different path after 3 years! Working in the middle of the ocean in 15-30 foot seas is normal now. Starting a new job is terrifying, and not the firefighting part, the "not sure I'll have a job or be good at it" part!

    Another question! Do I need to provide my own camping gear for fire camps? I have a self inflating therm-a-rest sleeping pad (AWESOME), a very light sleeping bag, a heavier bulky rectangular bag, and a 4 person tent. Most of my camping has been car camping. Most of the time I don't even bother with the tent and make a bed up in my Jeep. When I drive to Seattle from Kansas I camp my way there to save money. The only one of those I think would be usable for this would be the sleeping pad.

    If you have any more tips on experience or gear, I'd love to hear it!

    Thank you again!!!

    Rachel

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    If you have boot questions, size etc call Drews, I've always had good service from them and they have done well adjusting size between different brands and styles, tall heal, low heel etc. They will even work from a tracing of your foot to help figure out your size.

    Camping gear should be provided by the employer, a redbag (duffel), "40 degree" sleeping bag, foam pad a 60 second tent, and cheap headlamp are the standard you can expect.

    Many crews provide much higher quality gear than this, but you never know until you get there. This is the case with the Feds anyway. I would expect similar from a state forestry agency, but can't really say for sure.

    It wouldn't hurt to bring your own sleeping bag and sleeping pad, worst case you use it on the trip to the new job and to go camping on your days off.

    Boots are the only major purchase you should need to make, but I would plan on another $200 for incidentals, crew T shirts (usually $10-20 each), sweatshirt ($30), hat, belt etc. Anything left over can go into your off district fund. You always want to make sure you have some cash with you when you go away on fires, I recommend at least $40, but personally try to keep $100 on hand.
    Meals, lodging etc is covered by the agency when on a fire assignment but there are times you may need cash and ATM machines or debit cards are not always available (snacks, souvenirs, ran out of toothpaste etc).

    Also plan on not getting paid for up to 6 weeks after starting work, you should get paid 3 weeks after your first day, then every 2 weeks following (you will also get one more check 2 weeks after your last so it evens out) but glitches do occur particularly in your first season so it is good to be prepared for it.

    Inexpensive government housing may be available, but varies by location. I am at a remote station with a barracks. At my station the barracks costs the seasonal employees $7 / day (about $200 / mo) to live in if they choose to. The rent is taken directly from their paycheck and all utilities are included in that $7 (electric, gas, water, satellite TV, washer, dryer etc). It is their home for the season, not just the days they are on duty.

    When I worked for the National Park Service we had a house for the crew that cost them each around $350 / mo so the rate can vary significantly between different Federal agencies and by location.
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    Some departments have sleeping bags already on the engines ( calfire) while some say your not allowed to use them at all if you work 24 hour shifts. So it comes down to the department you work for. And once you get hired, you can ask them exactly they think you need.

    As for extra cash for fires, I recommend at least $40-100. You never know what you might forget, or something breaks and its essential you need to replace.

    Lastly, boots. There are boot shops that will get a custom mold for your foot to help with your high arch. I have a low arch so I got a tall heel. Try on many pairs before you buy. All have different feels to them. DO RESEARCH. That is key. Once you get one you like, it should feel like nothing is on your foot.

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    Here and there & Gino pretty much nailed it. Also GOLD BOND POWDER is your best friend on fires, trust me. It gets nasty out there.

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    Oh HECK YA! Gold Bond will be a life saver. You can always get some at the medical supply unit at base camp for free at a large incident but get some for when your not at a incident.

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    Thank you for all the information!

    I've started applying for seasonal positions on USAJOBS.gov. Most of the listings I see end around March or April. Should I not expect to hear anything before then, or be worried if I haven't by then?

    Thanks,

    Rachel

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    They were offering jobs all the way into june at some places this year. Usually anywhere from March through June conditional offers are made.
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    Well, I'm somewhere around 20+ fire job apps in on USAJOBS, and no interviews or offers yet, but was informed I was referred to 4 of the locations, 2 in Montana and 2 in Utah! I'm working my way through the online training, and set to do the in person part of S-130 and the pack test in mid January. Starting to get a little nervous! I know I shouldn't expect any news this early, but it is a bit stressful not knowing about employment for the next year, and keeping up the motivation to continue job applications! A friend of mine who works with the BLM in Montana says it is a numbers game, so I'll keep sending in applications.

    Still no boots, but I'm hoping to get some in the next couple of weeks to start breaking in.

    Thanks again for all the information, and feel free to share any more if you have it!

    Rachel
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    Has anybody worn the Hathorn Explorer Lace to toe Logger boots? It looks like they have a bit lower heel than some of the other boots. I have a really high arch, and my ankles tend to roll out with higher heels. I need to call White's and talk to them about it all, but thought I would get some personal insight first!

    Thanks!

    Rachel

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    Yeah I have worn some. The problem with those are that they are a little cheaper and not professionally fitted. So the problem you will have for those is the sides will get stretched out and in turn the sides arent as strong. This happened to me and I rolled my ankle about 15 times that summer. Sometimes worst than others. This is why I had to get custom fitted for my boots and OMG can you tell the difference. All they do for custom fitting is either : A) get a mold of your foot and build a boot around that, or B) go to a professional boot store and have them try on different size boots such as 10D or E EE EEE etc. Some are lower heels than others, and some are wider. Your best bet is to find a white's certified seller in your area and go down and talk to them.

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    Thanks for the info! Rolling ankles is definitely a bad thing, and I'm rather prone to it, so I'll avoid them. As far as I can tell, I'd have to drive to Nebraska, Oklahoma, or Colorado to get to a boot store that carries any decent selection of wildland fire boots. There just isn't much of a market for them in Kansas! I'm kicking myself for not getting some earlier this year when I was in the Pac NW for work. I even drove through Spokane in August! I just hadn't gotten fed up enough with fisheries observing to look into other work yet! I'll give White's a call!

    Thanks!

    Rachel

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    You can always get loggee boots. Just go down to boot store near you and see what they have, you may be suprised. Or a uniform store as well.

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    There are some Red Wing dealers in Kansas. Not the best boots but adequate and you could try them on for fit. I believe they are offering both the tall heel and low heel in their logger boot. I used Redwings when I first started as a volunteer FF and later in my first 2 seasons with the Forest Service. I don't know how much they are these days, but they used to be about 1/2 the price of Whites, so probably $200-250.

    Redwing has really good service and will often give a firefighters discount. I went through a couple pairs of their station boots when I worked on an ambulance, and two pairs of their logger boots and they always treated me well. I still have a pair as my back up, back up boots.

    They are not nearly as rugged as Whites or Nicks, but should get you through a season no problem. If you have fitting issues it might be worth getting a cheaper boot you can actually try on vs a better more expensive boot you are guessing at, then get the better boots down the road when you have a job and are in an area that stocks good firefighting boots.


    You will want to look at one of their 9" leather logger boots. The requirements for boots are pretty vague, leather construction, at least 8" tall, with a lug sole so you have some leeway in the specific boot.

    Also stay away from steel toes.

    http://www.redwingshoes.com/

    Check their store finder to see what might be near you. Worst case you can at least get an idea of sizing by trying on the boot.

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    Thank you! I was freaking out a little about buying $400 non returnable boots that might not even fit! Even if I buy another pair later, I feel much more comfortable buying a pair locally to get me started. Funds are quite tight, so a lower price boot I can replace later when funds are available and I figure out what features I do and do not like would be preferable! Then I'd have a back up pair as well!

    Another question!

    What months do most entry level seasonal (like GS 2-3) fire jobs start? I'm looking for some interim seasonal work, but I don't want to get a job that just goes a little too long and miss out on the entire fire season!

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    Quote Originally Posted by rgugs View Post
    Thank you! I was freaking out a little about buying $400 non returnable boots that might not even fit! Even if I buy another pair later, I feel much more comfortable buying a pair locally to get me started. Funds are quite tight, so a lower price boot I can replace later when funds are available and I figure out what features I do and do not like would be preferable! Then I'd have a back up pair as well!

    Another question!

    What months do most entry level seasonal (like GS 2-3) fire jobs start? I'm looking for some interim seasonal work, but I don't want to get a job that just goes a little too long and miss out on the entire fire season!

    Depends on the region, and the season, if it stays dry like it is now it might be a very early start. In general the southwest starts a little earlier (March / April), the North and Pacific Northwest later (June). California falls in the middle (May). Don't really know much about the hiring in the Midwest, South and East.

    For the Feds you are probably looking at offers anywhere from late February through April and start dates 6-10 weeks after an offer. That assumes you are offered a job right off, if you are further down and an offer is made after a first or second choice doesn't work out you might not start until July.

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