On the Job: Forest Fire Fighters
Derek Dalrymple is an inter-regional hotshot crew member working out of the Blue Ridge Ranger District in Happy Jack, Arizona. He is originally from Littleton, Colorado, and attended college in both Maine and Michigan.
I got started as a firefighter by taking wildfire suppression classes when I was in college in Maine.
The challenges of the job vary greatly. The biggest one is probably learning to work as a team. The team needs to work really well together to achieve peak performance. Good discipline is also important. The work is rewarding, though, knowing that you are helping the public and helping to preserve natural resources. I've learned a lot about leadership and about what I'm capable of doing.
The days vary a lot, too.
Days at the ranger station are just eight hours long, five days a week. We work out to stay in shape, train, prepare firefighting equipment, and do general yardwork to keep up the ranger station. We spend our free time in the outdoors as well, fishing or mountain biking. Our ranger station is pretty remote, so we can't just go into town for a movie.
The best advice I can give to people trying to get into the business is to hang in there and be persistent. It helps a lot to contact the supervisor of the ranger station where you want to work and to get any kind of outdoor experience possible.