Wildland firefighting is not for the faint of heart — it’s a career choice that takes physical and mental strength and a passion for helping out communities across the US affected by wildfires. If you’ve decided to pursue a wildland firefighter job, the next step is to determine exactly what type of wildland firefighter you want to become.
Wildland Firefighter Positions
Some positions are temporary, permanent, year-round, and seasonal. As in any job, advancement opportunities increase as your ability and skills develop. There are several career paths in wildland firefighting, from hand crew to smokejumper. Some positions are more general, while others require specialized skills and training. Wildland firefighting jobs you should consider:
- Fuel Crew
- Engine Crew
- Hand Crew
- Hotshot Crew
- Helitack Crew
- Wildland Fire Module
A fuel crew is usually made up of 10 members. Their responsibility is for fuel-related wildland fire tasks such as clearing fuels (shrubs, woodlands, or timber), applying chemicals to unwanted fuels, and reducing hazardous fuel. A fuel crew’s ultimate goal is to restore fire-adapted ecosystems and understand the before and after fire effects.
Engine crews are used for fire suppression, patrolling, and project work. They work with wildland fire engines that carry special equipment to spray water and foam. Engine crews also respond to reports of new wildfires and serve as the initial attack forces. Being physically fit and mentally alert is important in this role.
Hand crews are on the frontlines, implementing direct or indirect fire suppression tactics, and are tasked with constructing fire lines. Tools like chainsaws and drip torches are commonly used in these roles.
They are named “Hotshot” because they work on the hottest part of wildfires. Hotshot crews are tasked with similar tasks as hand crews but are placed in more rugged terrains because of their physical fitness and specialization. If you are interested in pursuing a career as a hotshot wildland firefighter, you should be prepared to spend significant periods away from home.
These firefighters arrive at fires via helicopter and help in fire suppression. When on the ground, these crew members use hand tools and chainsaws to fight the flames, and if the fire continues to move forward, the crew assumes a support role in trying to extinguish it. These wildland fire crews range from 7 to 24 members. Smokejumpers are skydiving firefighters. These firefighters are highly-trained with the ability to jump from airplanes with parachutes to arrive at the part of a fire where they are needed. Traveling all over the US, helping suppress wildfires, smokejumpers work from late spring to early fall.
Wildland Fire Module
Wildland fire modules are crews that consist of roughly 7 to 10 highly skilled firefighters with the duties of monitoring fire behavior, line construction, project preparation, and the planning and execution of wildfire management. These crews are trained to be self-sufficient because they are often in remote areas.
Wildland Career Opportunities
Know which position you’re interested in? Check out who’s hiring: