1. #1
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    Default Starting to apply.. a couple of questions

    Well,
    I am starting to apply for this year. I registered and have my resume complete at Avue Digital. Since this will be my first Wildland Fire Season, I have a couple of questions. BTW, I am a Certified Wildland Firefighter/EMT.

    My first question is that I noticed that each job posting is by state. I live in Texas, so lets say, I get the job in Montana. Do I pay to fly myself up there? How does that whole thing work?

    What are the on/off days of Wildland? Obviously I know tons of hard hours, and I love Wildland, I just want to get the feel for everything, and I have a family who fully supports me, but will I not get to see them for the whole fire season?

    Will the agency Pack test me, or is it something I will have to find on my own and get done?

    My original understanding, of lets say, working for USFS, was that you would be hired and then they fly you where they need you? Anyway, these were my initial questions as I am looking through these job openings. Thanks in advance for any info!
    Wildland Firefighter/EMT-B
    "Why be Structured when you can go Wild?"

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    I don't have all the answers, but here is what I have to offer you based on my experience. I am a member of a BLM IHC (Interagency Hotshot Crew) in Ca and can give you my perspective based on my last 2 seasons. We had guys from through out the US who moved to California just for the fire season.

    #1- You are responsible for your own travel expenses to station location. You will be required to relocate to have an hour or less response time to the station. You may get lucky with the USFS to get a station that has barracks available to you. They are in expensive and make the move a little easier.

    #2-Days on/off vary depending on what your job is (i.e.- helitack, IHC, engine, dozer, hand crew, etc). Helicopters are typically staffed 7 days a week with crewmembers having rotating days off. I believe engines are the same, but Iím not 100% sure. I am a hotshot and were are suppose to work 5 days a week with 2 days off. The days off depend on where you work. We get thur and fri. Thatís the way it suppose to be, but that rarely happened. We went for over a month and had only 2 days off sometimes. Unless you get 1 or 2 days mandatory R&R after a 14 day assignment, you are on call for your regular days off, so don't plan on going anywhere far. Be ready to sacrifice a lot for the job. I missed my twin bros wedding that I was suppose to be the best man in because we were sent to AZ for a 14. When you sigh up, you become US Gov. property for 6 months. Plan on not seeing your family. Thatís just one of many down sides of the job. There are many positives of the job as well, so donít let it get you down. Its the best job I have ever had and I wouldnít trade it for anything in the world. It is the most fun you will ever have being miserable (thatís if you go for the hotshots, engine and helicopter people have it a little easier, but equality as important. sorry, crew bias).

    #3- They will arrange for you to take the pack test if they hire you.

    They only fly you around as needed from your station. Usually only the IHC's or other hand crews fly since they donít require an engine to operate from. We drove everywhere last season, sometimes 2-3 days to get somewhere. It all depends on the severity and the need.

    In addition to the USFS, check out BLM. They cover far more land than the forest service, but often are unrecognized and forgot about. Here is a link to there hiring site. Good luck with your applications and have a safe season. See you on the line.


    BLM Job Page
    http://www.firejobs.doi.gov/

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    Pretty much everything is there. Days off will depend on your individual crew. The whole crew may go off at the same time, or you can stagger the crews days off so the engine is manned 7 days a week. Work schedule is 5 on/2 off, but the less time off, the more $$ you make.

    If you have somewhere in particular you have a burning desire to work, call them and let them know you applied... make your application stand out from the others.

    Good Luck, and keep one foot in the black
    IACOJ
    Stopping controlled burning DOES NOT stop the burning, only the control!
    http://www.wy.blm.gov/fireuse/fums.htm

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    If I remember right AVUE is USFS only, look at USAjobs.opm.gov, they list all jobs for all agencies. Then if needed they direct you to another site.

    We also do 7 day a week staffing, with everyone rotating days off. During the season we very rarely get our assigned days off, maybe one every two weeks, just enough to get groceries. Last summer I was lucky enough to have a day off when my parents cam to visit, but I didn't plan it, it just happened. My brother works in Montana, my parents drove up to see him last summer and he got sent out the day they go there. No big deal, you go into the summer knowing thats how it will be. You will be responsible for your moving expenses, depending on the agency you may have to find your own housing or they may provide it. I have worked for the USFWS and NPS both in Idaho and Arizona, both agencies provided government housing. You still have to pay rent, but it is normally really cheap, but you get what you pay for.
    Have someone proof your application, check spelling and grammar. It never hurts to put in a call to the agency you want to work for. You can ask them specific questions about the job, the crew and the typical season. Plus it shows them you took the first step to get more information.

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    Sice I am new to the Wildland arena I only ask out of true ignorance....Those of you that work for the USFS during the summer....What are your occupations or what do you do in the "off" season? I mean a person does have to eat
    T. Krampe NREMT-P
    I.A.C.O.J. EMS Division
    Charter Member & Board Member of Foops.org

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    I work for Mt. DNRC during the summer, in the fall doing special projects such as hazard reduction, thinning projects, tree marking, spraying seedlings or what ever else the unit can find for us to do. This winter I've started working for a company assembling furniture and bikes. Then hope I can get an off unit dispatch,, maybe Ok. or Tx. this winter.



    Stay safe..........a safe line is a black line
    SKVFD5
    (Homey)

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    Call and talk to the places you have applyed at. send them copys of your certs and such.. you can also get your pack test done at home .it has been knowing to help out if you do that.. i have worked in fire for the usfs and found when i hired folks i liked it when they called and chatted a bit...

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    Quote Originally Posted by ingkey
    Its the best job I have ever had and I wouldnít trade it for anything in the world. It is the most fun you will ever have being miserable (thatís if you go for the hotshots, engine and helicopter people have it a little easier, but equality as important. sorry, crew bias).
    That is a good way to put it, but its not that much easier on the other crews although at least on the 7 day crews your days off are yours (no recall required) when you actually get them.


    fade to black
    Most everything has been pretty well covered, but I have a couple of suggestions.

    If you can take the pack test locally, it should be accepted when you arrive but even if it isn't at least you know you can pass it. I can't imagine traveling to a job out of state only to fail the pack test on the first day. If you fail you don't have a job, you can take it more than once before you start but you only get one shot once you start work. You should be able to take it with any Federal wildland fire agency, just find out when they are doing one. Taking it before hire is not required, just a good idea.

    While the USFS is the biggest (BLM has more acreage but the USFS has more crews), don't over look the other Federal agencies, besides the USFS the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense hire seasonal firefighters. All have pretty much the same working conditions and the pay is the same. If you would like to stay in Texas your best bet is probably US Fish & Wildlife. There are also plenty of state organizations, the Texas Forest Service might be worth looking into if you haven't already.

    Housing when available is cheap, I think our seasonals were paying $150-200 a month for barracks. The living conditions vary from open bunk rooms to individual rooms, some are very nice, others you will be advised to pack a pellet gun for rodent safari's.

    You will most likely work 5- 8 hour days, but some crews do work 4- 10 hour days. Hand crews will limit your off duty time as the whole crew goes together so many expect you to be available for a 2 hour call back, other crews (Engines, Helitack) generally don't do this since even if you were available they would not take you with them and you will just be assigned elsewhere until the crew gets home.


    eyeofthestorm
    It varies from region to region and agency to agency but most Engineer and Captain positions and higher are 9 months to full time, below that many have 6 to 9 month positions. Seasonals often work 5 or 6 months. For those that are not year round some work in another shop (timber, recreation etc) during the winter, some work in another region that has fuels or fire work in the winter months, some have winter seasonal jobs like Ski Patrol, some just have another job that doesn't mind them only working part of the year, finally some just collect unemployment. Sometimes there is enough work to keep them employed during the winter some years but that should not be expected since it is not always available.

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    Storm, as a "permanent seasonal employee", I can pretty much expect to work around 18 payperiods out of the 26 in a year. I make my annual salary in about 6 months because of all the overtime and hazard pay (the latter assuming we actually get fires instead of red flag warnings on calm, clear days ). I stock up on food when money is flowing, so that when I am not "working" I have food. I use the time to spend with my family to make up for being gone during fire season. I also use my tax return to help hold me over until work starts again. There's always the never ending "honey-do" list one has as a homeowner.
    IACOJ
    Stopping controlled burning DOES NOT stop the burning, only the control!
    http://www.wy.blm.gov/fireuse/fums.htm

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    Quote Originally Posted by ncbrush6
    Call and talk to the places you have applyed at. send them copys of your certs and such.. you can also get your pack test done at home .it has been knowing to help out if you do that.. i have worked in fire for the usfs and found when i hired folks i liked it when they called and chatted a bit...
    Definately worth talking to the crews you are interested in, we just get a list of names really nothing to set one apart from another, so if you have talked to a crew and they like you, they have a name to ask for.

    You also want to give some detail in your job descriptions, it will help you alot if you do because the raters may not credit you for some of your experience if they don't know exactly what you did. This can be as simple as mentioning whether or not you have driven trucks with a manual transmission. Pretend it is an interview instead of a job application, which it really is in a way.

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    NonSurfinCaFF is right on about the rodent problems, it seems to be a required for all government housing to be over run by critters. All of the government housing I have lived in has had some kind of problem, from spiders everywhere to mice that would eat my fruit off the table at night. But you can get really creative with the problem.
    I would suggest putting in a lot of applications, that way you have a better chance of getting hired.
    A lot of the guys I work with take the winter off. They save as much as they can, and after a good summer with a lot of OT and H pay they spend the winter traveling and hanging out. I also know several guys that go back east and do prescribed burns all winter. The nature conservancy does a huge amount of burning during the winter in Florida, Maryland and a few other states.

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    Thanks for all the replies! This info helps out quite a bit. I looked at USAJobs and found a few postings where you select 7 locations where you would like to work. A question I have is that it lists pay from $9.64-$11.45. What is the normal hazard pay tack on to that, etc. I am trying to budget all this out.
    I will also call around and see about going ahead and pak testing before hand.
    Wildland Firefighter/EMT-B
    "Why be Structured when you can go Wild?"

  13. #13
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    Hazard pay is 25% of your base pay. The pay range is probably due to the listing being for different pay grade levels.

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    this is probably a stupid question, but I was wondering if there were shorter seasonal oppurtunities out there between May/June and August. I'm in college, an EMT and a vollie firefighter, and I'm interested in going out in the summer between semesters to work on a crew. Just was wondering if those possibilities exist. Thanks.
    New York State EMT-B

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    Most seasonals are GS3 or GS4

    There is some variation in pay based on locality but most are in the Rest of US pay area (there is extra pay in some areas but most are cities and there are not many wildland jobs in these areas).

    GS3 step 1 is $10.82/hr, overtime rate $16.23/hr

    GS4 step 1 is $12.14/hr, overtime rate $18.21/hr

    You will get paid every 14 days

    GS3 $865.60 per pay period (2 weeks)

    GS4 $971.20 per pay period

    You will also get 4 hours or sick leave and 4 hours of annual leave per pay period.

    Locality or special pay rates can add up to 18% (parts of Southern California), but there are only a few locations that you will get any extra, I think all are in California, but even in CA I think only 5 Forests out of the 18 have any extra locality pay)

    You can generally expect to work 200 to 1000+ hours of overtime during the season, the wide range is due to where you work and what kind of crew you are on, also how busy the season is overall.

    Hazard pay is +25% on all hours worked on days you are on an active fire, it doesn't matter how long the fire is, it applies to all hours worked that day, even if the fire was only 20 minutes.

    If you are scheduled to work sundays you will get sunday differential, which is +25% added to the base hours you work on sunday. You do not get this for working OT on a sunday.

    Unfortunately you really can't plan on anything beyond your base 40 hours, since fires are not considerate enough to schedule themselves
    Most likely you will do much better than just the base, but there are those years like this past one where not much happens.
    Last edited by NonSurfinCaFF; 01-18-2006 at 01:32 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BruenRescue2003
    this is probably a stupid question, but I was wondering if there were shorter seasonal oppurtunities out there between May/June and August. I'm in college, an EMT and a vollie firefighter, and I'm interested in going out in the summer between semesters to work on a crew. Just was wondering if those possibilities exist. Thanks.
    Yes, you can work within those times, you may need to shop around a bit more but we get lots of students, some crews won't bother with them, others really like to hire students, most are in between. Region 3 (Arizona / New Mexico) has a fire season that is well within that time since their season typically runs April/May to July/August. Being a student also opens up another option, you can be hired as a STEP (student temporary employment program), it is basically the same as a temp seasonal but has some advantages for both the employee and employer since it allows more flexibility.

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