How To Become a Wildland Firefighter

Fighting wildfires and putting out existing ones are the duties of wildland firefighters. Governmental wildland firefighting organizations (National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U S. Fish and Game, Land Management, Emergency Services, Fire and Rescue), at the state level (Fish and Game, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Fish and Wildlife Service), and at the local level when forest land is located within the incorporated area. While some wildland firefighters work all year and others only during fire season, both scenarios involve demanding work and intense competition for positions. By obtaining a certificate or degree in fire science, prospective employees can frequently increase their chances of landing a job. This manual explains how to become a wildland firefighter in detail.

Future wildland firefighters should concentrate their pre-application efforts on two things: physical development and academic preparation. On the physical side, fitness is key. During the hiring process, when they must pass challenging strength and endurance tests, and throughout their careers, firefighters are held to strict fitness standards. Exercises that simulate working in a wildfire, such as hiking and running while carrying weight, will be especially helpful. Basic outdoorman and survival skills may also be useful given that a large portion of the job is performed in the wilderness.

Specific educational requirements are set by each agency. The community colleges and vocational schools in the area offer courses in fire science and emergency medical technician for applicants who want to stand out. The majority of these courses will be taught entirely in the classroom, but some may also include fieldwork. More advanced training may be necessary for particular branches of wildland firefighting, such as engine crews, and some of the areas of study that may be necessary include fire shelter training and ground cover fire training.

All applicants must be at least 18 years old, in good physical and academic health, and possess a high school diploma or an equivalent. Aspiring wildland firefighters might discover that potential employers like fire departments prefer to hire people with prior firefighting experience. As a result, to get a foot in the door, early training may include working as a volunteer firefighter.

A degree in fire science is another way to advance your education and experience at a young age. Many associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in fire science include wildland firefighting in their curricula. In some instances, the concept of wildland combat is covered in a single course, while in other instances, students can concentrate on it with the intention of entering the field after graduation.

When they need to fill positions, fire departments frequently host recruitment events. Applicants complete written and physical tests. This initial round of testing acts as an initial barrier to entry, weeding out the incapable and the unprepared because there are frequently hundreds of applicants for only a few positions. The process has just started for those who make it through the first phase.

A minimum of two exams are typically taken by prospective wildland firefighters in order to be accepted into departmental training programs. The first is a written exam that typically has 100 questions and covers fundamental job skills like spatial awareness, mechanical reasoning, and logic. The objective of the second section, the Candidate Physical Ability Test, is to gauge the applicant’s physical stamina and health. Candidates frequently have to walk three miles through difficult terrain while toting nearly fifty pounds of equipment. Running is not permitted, and the hike must be finished in 45 minutes or less.

Those who apply will need to finish fire academy training if they are hired for the position. Candidates who want to specialize in fighting wildfires might need to obtain a particular credential in order to be considered. For instance, candidates must successfully complete the National Wildfire Coordinating Group Basic Firefighter course as well as the Introduction to Fire Behavior course in Colorado, a state that is well-known for its wildland firefighting, in order to obtain a “Red Card” (or Interagency Incident Qualification Card).

A firefighter may need to pursue additional training and education in order to advance in the field. There are numerous degree programs available in areas like advanced fire management techniques, fuels, public affairs, rangeland ecology, and more for those who are interested. For entry-level positions, a college degree is typically not necessary, but for firefighters aspiring to leadership roles, a bachelor’s or even a graduate degree in fire science may be required.

Firefighting specialty programs are available as well. For example, the U. S. For those interested in becoming parachuting firefighters, or smoke jumpers as they are also known, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offers courses in aviation fire training. Other fire training facilities provide instruction in tactical decision-making, prescribed fire modeling and management, smoke management techniques, dispatch, incident command, and fire investigation.

How to become a Wildland Firefighter (Forest Service)

Average salary for wildland firefighters

The majority of employers demand that wildland firefighters be at least 18 years of age. They also require some post-secondary education, work experience and licensure:


Employers in the state and federal government frequently demand that wildland firefighters possess both postsecondary education and professional experience. For those who choose to further their education, a bachelor’s degree in forestry or a related field is typically required. Candidates for a forestry degree gain knowledge of environmental science, range management, water conservation, and related subjects.


Typically, training programs for wildland firefighters must be completed on the job, and they typically last a few weeks. Internships, which can last up to four years, are another option for people working for federal agencies.

Additionally, those who work as wildland firefighters in national parks and forests must pass a physical exam to demonstrate their strength and endurance. Candidates must carry 45 pounds of equipment three miles in 45 minutes in order to pass the test.


To pursue this career, most wildland firefighters must at least have a state driver’s license, which necessitates passing written and practical exams. Some wildland firefighters must also pass separate written and practical exams to obtain a commercial driver’s license. A drug test may also be required of wildland firefighters who work for state or federal agencies.


You need the following competencies to succeed as a wildland firefighter:

What does a wildland firefighter do?

Wildland firefighters prevent and control fires in forests. Typically, they work in both public and private forests, and they may be employed by either the state or the federal government. Wildland firefighters are usually responsible for the following tasks:

How to be a wildland firefighter

To become a wildland firefighter, follow these five steps:

1. Get a drivers license

The majority of wildland firefighting positions require applicants to be at least 18 years old. Next, earn your drivers license. In addition to passing the required written and practical tests, you may need to enroll in a drivers education course to get ready. Pass the necessary written and practical tests for your commercial license if you’re thinking about applying for a job that requires a CDL.

2. Complete post-secondary education or work experience requirements

To become eligible for employment as a wildland firefighter, you can either gain professional experience or finish post-secondary education. If you choose to pursue education, you can major in forestry in a bachelor’s degree program or take courses in plant science, conservation, watershed management, range management, forest engineering, or wildland fire science. As an alternative, you could work in the private sector for at least six months putting out wildland fires.

3. Create a resume

Create a resume so you can start applying for jobs after fulfilling the prerequisites for working in this field. Include pertinent education, abilities, and employment history so that potential employers can determine your suitability for the job.

4. Pass a drug test

Most state and federal employers, like a state forest or a national park, require you to pass a drug test before you can begin working for them. For this test, adhere to your employer’s instructions, which typically include providing a physical sample.

5. Undergo on-the-job training or complete an apprenticeship

You need to finish a training course or an apprenticeship to work for a federal agency. Unlike apprenticeship programs, which can last up to four years and offer extensive training, standard training programs may only last a few weeks.

You must successfully complete a physical examination as part of your training to demonstrate your physical suitability for the position. You are given an Incident Qualification Card, also known as a red card, after passing this test. If you receive a red card, the federal government may use you to put out wildfires in national parks and forests.

Wildland firefighter frequently asked questions

Review the following answers to frequently asked questions to learn more about becoming a wildland firefighter:

Where do wildland firefighters usually work?

Most wildland firefighters work for state and federal properties, and they operate in forests and parks. The majority of wildland firefighters are employed by state and federal parks and forests in Southeastern states like Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia as well as West Coast states like California, Oregon, and Washington.

Additionally, federal agency employees with red cards who are wildland firefighters can be dispatched to emergencies anywhere in the country.

Do wildland firefighters typically work full time?

The majority of wildland forest defenders work full-time during particular seasons, which typically last for six months. Typically, they are employed during the season when forest fires are most likely to affect their region.

Do wildland firefighters need special degrees?

Candidates with a college degree or coursework in forestry, agriculture, or related fields are frequently hired by state and federal employers. The National Wildfire Suppression Association offers a Professional Certified Emergency Services Contractor credential that you may want to consider pursuing. Although it is not necessary to have this certification, it can help you become a better wildland firefighter.


How do I start a wildland firefighting career?

Eligibility Requirements
  1. Must be a U.S. Citizen or U.S. National.
  2. Males born after December 31, 1959, must register for the Selective Service or be exempt.
  3. Must meet Interagency Fire Program Management (IFPM) qualifications.
  4. Position requires a Work Capacity Test (WCT)
  5. Must possess and maintain a valid driver’s license.

Is wildland firefighting a good career?

Wildland firefighters might be required to work long hours in difficult circumstances that change frequently, such as hot weather and steep terrain. A career in wildland fire offers many benefits, including the chance to work in some of the most picturesque locations in the nation and make lifelong friends.

What disqualifies you from being a wildland firefighter?

Fairly clean criminal record (DUIs and felonies won’t automatically disqualify you, but each crew has its own standards) is required for Federal wildland firefighting jobs. Valid driver’s license Some employers may demand a drug test and/or a background check

How many months do wildland firefighters work?

If you’ve ever interacted with a seasonal wildland firefighter, you probably already know that many of them are only employed for 6 to 9 months of the year (during the wildfire season) to fight fires, after which they have several months of free time.

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