How Do I Become a Wildland Firefighter?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

To become a wildland firefighter, it is necessary to meet physical standards, complete some training at a fire academy, and meet additional requirements for service with a given fire agency or private company. The more qualifications applicants for available positions have, the more likely they are to be hired. Wildland firefighters can work for a variety of agencies, and it is important to be aware that each has its own hiring and training procedures. Applicants may apply to several in the process of developing their careers.

A wildland firefighter must meet certain physical standards.
A wildland firefighter must meet certain physical standards.

At a minimum, a wildland firefighter usually needs to have a high school degree and the ability to pass a fitness test, which will include running with a heavily laden pack and navigating an obstacle course. This tests a trainee's ability to keep up with training tasks and is also important for projecting future field performance. Unlike urban firefighters, wildland firefighters may have to hike or run for miles to access a fire site, carrying gear to last them for several days, and this requires a very high level of fitness.

Training at a fire academy is among requirements to become a wildland firefighter for a government agency or private company.
Training at a fire academy is among requirements to become a wildland firefighter for a government agency or private company.

Agencies will list available openings for both full and part time wildland firefighter work. Applicants can submit applications for these positions. They will usually need to pass an interview and may need a background check as well. If the agency accepts a firefighter as a trainee, it will provide training. Trainees work their way through the ranks with a set of courses combined with actual firefighting experience. Once a trainee has enough training to work, she can be sent out to respond to fires, working with more experienced personnel to develop skills.

Training academies usually do not accept students without a sponsor like a government agency or private company paying for training, but some community and technical colleges may offer firefighting programs that are open to members of the public. People who want to become wildland firefighters can look into these options if they have trouble placing with fire agencies. It's also possible to work for an organization like a volunteer fire department and use this for the basis of an application for wildland firefighter training.

Once a wildland firefighter qualifies for work, he will always be in training. Agencies offer regular refresher courses as well as advanced training in special fire topics. Firefighters who take advantage of as many of these opportunities as possible are viewed more favorably when it is time for promotions, and are more likely to develop careers in fire service. More qualifications can also provide firefighters with opportunities like a chance to travel overseas to offer assistance with serious wildfires in other countries.

Local fire departments often provide wildland fire training.
Local fire departments often provide wildland fire training.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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