Wildland Firefighting

Getting a job as a federal wildland firefighter

If you are interested in wildland ("forest") firefighting, following is some general information that will get you started on your quest for a federal wildland firefighter position. The majority of these jobs are with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) the National Park Service (NPS), and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) also offers a few firefighter positions on national wildlife refuges.

Entry-level firefighters are generally hired as Range Technicians or Forestry Technicians/Aides. In addition, a few positions are available for Professional Foresters and Natural Resource Specialists specializing in fire management. These titles are used in the federal service to describe a myriad of different positions for field-going individuals. For fire management positions, you should seek only those vacancy announcements that specify "Fire" in the job title, such as "Forestry Technician (Fire)." Pay rates for these jobs vary by geographical area. Where the cost of living is high, employees receive specific locality pay.

Hiring procedures vary among agencies and even within each agency. If you are interested in working at a particular location, you should contact its personnel department and request information on their specific hiring procedures.

Some federal wildland firefighters get permanent fire jobs after several seasons of temporary employment. Because competition is great, recent budget cutbacks may make it difficult to get hired permanently. Job opportunities sometimes vary due to politics, as it is the President and Congress who make the final decisions on the federal fire budget.

How to find out about job openings

For 24-hour job information, call the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) at 912/757-3000, or visit their Web site at www.usajobs.opm.gov. You can also reach the board through the Internet (Telnet only) at fjob.mail.opm.gov.

Other useful links:

Utah Fire Management: www.ut.blm.gov/Fire

BLM National Office of Fire and Aviation: www.blm.gov/fna/recruit.htm

The Department of Interior’s (DOI) Fire Integrated Recruitment Employment Systems (FIRES): www.firejobs.doi.gov

How to apply

Review the list of openings, decide which jobs you are interested in, and follow the instructions given. You may apply for most positions with a resume, the Optional Application for Federal Employment, or any other written format. (You can get the Optional Application form by calling OPM or dialing its electronic bulletin board.) For jobs that are unique or filled through automated procedures, you will be given special forms to complete.

What to include on your application

Although the federal government does not require a standard application form for most jobs, they do need certain information in order to evaluate your qualifications and determine whether you meet legal requirements for the job. If your resume or application does not provide all the information requested in the job vacancy announcement, you may lose consideration for a job. Help speed the selection process by keeping your resume or application brief and by sending only relevant material. Type or print clearly in dark ink. Be sure to include the following:

  • Announcement number, title and grade(s) of the job for which you are applying
  • Personal information: name, address, phone numbers, Social Security number, country of citizenship, veteran's preference if any, reinstatement eligibility if any, and highest federal civilian grade held.
  • Education: high school name, city and state; date of diploma or GED; college/university attended; name, city and state; major; type and year of degree received. Include a copy of your college transcript if the vacancy announcement requests it.
  • Work experience: job title, duties and accomplishments; employer's name and address; supervisor's name and phone number; starting and ending dates; hours per week and salary. Indicate whether they may contact your current supervisor.
  • Other qualifications: job-related training courses, skills, certificates and licenses; job-related honors, awards and special accomplishments such as publications, memberships in professional or honor societies, leadership activities, public speaking, and performance awards.

Veteran's preference

If you served on active duty in the U.S. military and were separated under honorable conditions, you may be eligible for veteran's preference. To receive preference if your service began after 10/15/76, you must have a Campaign Badge, Expeditionary Medal, or a service-connected disability. For further details, call OPM at 912/757-3000. Select "Federal employment topics" and then "Veterans." Or access the electronic bulletin board at 912/757-3100.

Other tips

If you are not willing to move around in order to establish a work history with the federal government, your chances of getting hired on permanently may be limited. Most federal wildland firefighter positions are in the west. Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Washington, California have lots of public land and thus need more wildland firefighters than states that do not have a lot of public land. (Public land includes national forests, national parks or monuments, national wildlife refuges, and land managed by the BLM.)

If you're not the outdoors type, you are a poor candidate for jobs of this type. Wildland firefighting assignments take you to some of the most beautiful country in the U.S. Not only is this for free, but the government pays you to be there! However, this beautiful country is often remote and rugged, almost never a level hike, and dangerous to be in when it is burning.

If you are having problems getting hired, talk to someone who is already a federal fire management employee about how they got hired. Also, many states have their own wildland firefighter agencies, and employment with them might be another option.




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