1. #1
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    Arrow Am I Going Out West?

    I have read some other posts under this forum and a lot of you have some good things to say. I am in need of your advice and expertise. I applied to BLM fire range tech. opportunities in California about two months ago over the internet via firejobs.doi.gov. When I started thinking I wasn’t going to get the call, I did a few days ago. I talked with a guy from the Northern California BLM office and he only wanted to know if I was still interested at this point and what my certifications were. I told him I am still extremely interested in the position and that I am certified Firefighter-I and EMT-B. After, he asked if I had any S-130-190 training. I now know that is basic wildland firefighter training. I had told him I had 5-plus years as an emergency firefighter and that I had some wildland firefighter training encompassed in my Firefighter-I class, but that was it. Lastly, he asked for the best time to call back for an interview. Now I ask anyone out there what does this all mean? Do I have a good chance of going because I got this call? If anyone has dealt with the online application process before or anyone with knowledge of how this is handled by the BLM please let me know. This would be my first time and I applied for GS-2 spots. I am located in Connecticut. Any information or experience would be greatly appreciated. Thanks guys.

  2. #2
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    I work for the US Forest Service but we do things about the same as the other feds.

    The way the fed wildland agencies (USFS, BLM, NPS, etc) hire for seasonals is much less formal than what you may have experienced with city type jobs, however this also means we don't all do it the same way. Personally when I'm looking for a seasonal I'll generally pull 2 or 3 apps that look promising then call to see if they are interested in working for me. If they say yes then I will call some of their employers and / or references. Since there is a chance some were not interested or didn't check out, if I had called your chances would be pretty good, 1 in 3 or better. However some places hire as a group and call everyone on the list to see where they are interested in working, still available etc, then sit down as a group and look through the interested one, other people may take one name and if it all checks out they hire that person, if it doesn't they go back and get another name.

    Typically a list has 30-50 applicants with maybe 1/4 to 1/2 that many openings available.

    So yes I would say your odds are good, but don't pack your bags yet.

    If it works out, good luck, if not I would suggest you look for a basic wildland class before next season (S130 wildland firefighter, S190 Intro to wildland fire behavior, I 100 Intro to ICS and L180 Human factors), typically these 4 classes will be offered together in a single 40 hour class or over a couple of weekends. Also apply to BLM, US Fish and Wildlife, National Park Service and the US Forest Service if you didn't this year, all use the same training and you can transfer between agencies, the US Forest Service is the largest by far so it offers your best chances since they hire many more seasonals than the other agencies. The other agencies are all good just smaller (BLM is the biggest by land mass but the USFS has more firefighters).

    Definately try and contact supervisors where you want to work well in advance, we usually start thinking about hiring by April (to bring crews on May-June) so make your contacts by early March, keep in contact with those that sound promising, we get many single callers, but only a handful who keep after us, those are the ones with the best chances, don't be a stalker but a continued presence helps keep your name fresh, also make sure you keep your application up to date, you would be surprised how many people apply but then fail to keep their application current andit falls out of the system by the time we go looking for it. Understand for most of the supervisors the off season is actually more hectic than fire season due to training and other duties, plus we have very little work force but lots of work when the seasonals are laid off.

    Any other questions I'd be glad to help.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the info NonSurfinCaFF. I have excellent references so I wont be worried about that. I'll give it a couple days to hear back from them. Now if I am hired will I recieve some training? Also, you had mentioned may-june as a start date. If possible, could you be more specific on the time table? Thanks a lot man, you have been a great help so far.

  4. #4
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    Yes if they hire you, you will get the training I mentioned, it is the minimum requirement to work. These classes can be taught in house, and what we usually do is round up all the new hires that need the training and then put on the classes in the first or second week.

    However that could be a sticky point for you depending on how many seasonals they are hiring, if nobody else is going to need the training they may decide to go with someone who has the training already. We usually offer the training every year so it isn't an issue for us to hire someone without the training, but for a smaller organization it could be. I wouldn't start worrying about it though there are other areas we are much more concerned with than if we have to put on the basic classes, we will be going thruogh a refresher with the crew anyway so its not that big a deal for most.

    They also might look at your training and see how much they can transfer over to meet the requirements. The fact you have some prior experience also is a good thing, you would be surprised how many people get hired then decide this firefighting thing isn't what they expected and they quit after a couple of weeks, then we are back looking through applications when we should be getting the bugs out of the crews performance, at least they know you are really interested and have some idea what you are getting into. Also EMT is a good thing particularly if you have some medical experience, structure training is also good since in California most of us have SCBA on the engines and respond to car fires and such. Those are things that many of our applicants don't have.

    Start dates vary alot by region and unit, so it is hard to get real specific. I'm in Central California and we usually bring on the seasonals around May 15, sometimes as early as May 1 or even late April if the budgets look good or the fire season looks like it might come a little early. Some parts of Northern CA, plus Oregon and Washington might wait until the end of May or even early June since they dry out a little later.
    In the southwest it is not uncommon for them to hire in March or April since their season starts a little earlier than ours and parts of the south are actually finishing up their season. (Yes it is possible to work in the west during the summer then go down south and work during part of the winter, it is unusual but I know a few manage to do it).


    Also make sure you're ready for the pack test, it is not that hard but it takes many by surprise since the pace is quite fast. 45 lb pack, 45 minutes over a 3 mile mostly flat course. I would suggest you go down to a track and give it some practice, take someone with you as it is much easier when you have someone to talk too, plus its safer as people do get hurt and a few have died taking the test. Most crews will do a crew hike or run every morning, we are allowed an hour a day for physical training so it wouldn't hurt to start some mild excercise if you don't already.

    Did you apply for more than just the BLM?

    Also if you don't get picked up at the beginning of the season still check back occasionally, we often hire a few later on as people go to school, get hired elsewhere, get hurt or just quit.

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