Forest Firefighting Crew Jobs
The value of forested lands and the safety of the persons using it make firefighting a very important job.
Although mostly seasonal positions, there are many opportunities, from fire crew members who actively fight wildfires to the dispatchers who provide the necessary communication links during fires.
In Canada, forest firefighting jobs are part of the Ministry of Forests and Range Protection program.
The primary role of a fire crew member is to fight forest fires.
This may be within the crew member’s home area or traveling to other locations across North America to assist with firefighting as needed. Fighting a forest fire is not at all the same as fighting a building fire.
Controlling a fire by removing downed trees, scrub or other fuel in the fire’s path to reduce its impact requires a great deal of manual labor.
When not actively fighting fires, a fire crew member will be active in many fire prevention measures. Removing fire fuel by thinning forested areas, removing downed trees or managing prescribed burns are a few examples. Fire crew members also participate in public activities to educate community members on fire prevention.
A fire crew member is typically a summer job between May and September, with the beginning and end dates somewhat in flux based on fire conditions each year. In British Columbia alone, about 1,000 firefighters are hired each year, with many more applicants than positions. Payment is usually in the $15,000 to $25,000 range for the season.
Crew members are generally required to have completed high school, with a preference for applicants with at least a diploma from a technical school. College experience in a forestry-related program is helpful as well.
Because there are usually a greater number of applicants than available positions each year, hiring entities typically look for a number of preferred certifications and experiences.
Certification in first aid, helicopter rappel and hoist procedures and airplane parachuting are a few examples. Experience in fire suppression, chainsaw use and general wilderness work experience is preferred as well.
A fire crew member active in the field requires a physically fit and motivated individual. An individual must be able to work in extreme conditions of heat and smoke for extended periods of time in rugged terrain. Again, due to the number of applicants, many are asked to attend a boot camp to have their fitness gauged, with top performers being offered the positions. Examples of tests required in British Columbia include the ability to first carry a load of 45 pounds for nearly five kilometers in less than 45 minutes, then rest 15 minutes before finally carrying a water pump and hose for a certain amount of time and distance.
Many locations require an applicant pass a medical exam performed by a doctor, with special attention placed on cardiovascular and strength characteristics.