Forest Fire Protection Jobs

Forest lands represent large monetary values for the owners, whether they are private or public. Forest fires put a substantial investment of trees, habitat, buildings and human lives at risk every year. Fire protection personnel are necessary to manage forest firefighting operations to protect that investment. This heading deals with personnel roles involved with managing fire protection services, as opposed to the actual forest fighters. Information on those personnel can be found under a different reforestation support page.

Forest Fighting Smokejumpers working on a Fire in Northern California

The forest protection or fire control officer is responsible for developing and managing forest fire programs in their respective areas. They are involved in all aspects of fire control, including preparedness, detection, prevention, suppression and management.

On the management end, the officer is required to ensure an area is capable of handling forest fires, beginning with managing rosters of available and necessary firefighting staff. In terms of action, the officer is generally in charge of fire control action during actual fires. Fire prevention jobs include monitoring and controlling accidental wildfires and using prescribed burns to manage the risk of forest fires. Finally, the officer works with law enforcement officials to enforce forest fire laws and educate the public on these laws.

Many positions for beginning officers are seasonal, typically running from June through September. Obtaining a seasonal position is usually the first step towards filling permanent positions. The seasonal positions have typical earnings of $2,000 to $3,000 each month, while permanent positions range between $30,000 and $50,000. Typical education requirements include a diploma from an accredited forest technical school, along with fire certification for the specific employment area. A valid driver’s license and an acceptable driving record are required for this position. Otherwise, hiring companies generally look for candidates who have experience in managing wildfires.

Being a fire protection officer is not an easy job. The officer must be able to work consecutive days of long periods of strenuous physical activity in extreme heat and smoke conditions. Fires are unpredictable, so the fire protection officer must be able to respond at a moment’s notice, ready to perform a range of activities in difficult terrain and all types of weather conditions.

Another position is the fire weather forecaster, which is responsible for providing information to assist with wildfire prevention and preparedness. Using the latest meteorology technology, the forecaster provides any weather-related information to fire control teams to allow them to make the best decisions possible. The position is usually permanent, but seasonal, with the majority of the work occurring between April and September, which is the typical wildfire season. Pay scales center around $20 per hour. The position requires a bachelor’s degree in meteorology or a related field. 

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