year, wildland firefighters save thousands of lives and tens of thousands of
For these services, they earn much respect and
appreciation from the citizens they serve. Wildland firefighters often work
outdoors and are paid to stay in peak physical shape. They become a band of
brothers (and sisters), a unique and enriching position in a competitive
American society where getting up on the other is valued more highly than cooperation.
compete for limited firefighting spots every year. Keep in mind, however that,
in a career where much is gained, much is asked. Review these 8 questions to see if you have
what it takes to be a wildland firefighter. If the answer is yes, the next step
is to attend a fire training academy or fire science program near you.
you see yourself answering the following statements?
I don’t mind being in the
firefighters sometimes find themselves in front of an audience, whether they’re
discussing evacuation procedures in a subdivision or providing quick comments
to a local reporter.
only do citizens need answers from wildland firefighters, so do the news media,
schools and other government organizations. When wildland fires threaten neighborhoods,
the media swarms the area. Firefighters must know that evacuated citizens and
public officials are glued to television sets, waiting for updates. Comfort in
front of the camera could help firefighters on the job.
I have high integrity.
and trustworthiness is not only critical for public safety, but for the
efficient functioning and safety of the team. Wildland firefighters’ lives are
in each other’s hands during a blaze. Their training equips them to act
who get ahead through deceit and manipulation should consider other careers. If
the public doesn’t see through you, your fellow firefighters will. Wildland firefighters
work with others with a high level of self-sacrifice, honesty and respect.
Actions will give your intentions away.
I recognize that my conduct
in my private life can affect my job.
True: As a
public safety official, wildland firefighters must keep their conduct on a high
level at all times. Any report of misconduct erodes the public’s view of the
government’s ability to protect them.
a firefighter involves accepting that your life is not your own to some extent.
Firefighters serve the people at all times. Risky behaviors diminish the
firefighter’s physical, intellectual and emotional skills that the public
I am eager to maintain my
above average physical strength and stamina.
strength, balance and stamina conditioning are a critical part of being a
wildland firefighter. Firefighters must move tree limbs, debris, hoses and more
during a fire.
False: Coming into firefighting training out of shape
puts you behind immediately. A dedication to fitness starts in the teen years
as an aspect of personality and inherent value. Those who prioritize physical
fitness fit the wildland firefighting role better than those who don’t.
I want my career to be
about more than money.
some work for the money that can earn them status symbols, others need deeper
reasons. A firefighting career has its perks, but it won’t land high end cars
and homes. Wildland firefighters are driven to serve the public in an honorable
way. That rewards them more than the latest greatest gadget or fad. Despite a
lack of designer suits and bling, the wildland firefighter earns great
admiration throughout his or her career.
False: If you
answered this way, know that careers in the private sector will earn those
looking to advance quickly more money.
I like to fix things and problem
True: Working in the middle of a wildland
fire requires on the spot thinking. Those who get a charge from problem solving
have developed this muscle throughout their lives. Employers of wildland
firefighters want those ready to try solutions in new situations.
natural desire to understand how machines and nature works starts in
childhood. Trying one solution over
another develops this skill. This orientation sets firefighters up to solve
problems in new—often emergency--situations.
I am confident handling
the biggest challenge in a firefighting job is the fire, it’s not the only
challenge. Firefighters deal with people experiencing extreme stress, perhaps
the most stress they’ve ever experienced in their lives. Firefighters must be
the ones staying calm enough to direct the public.
who’ve developed conflict skills will be using them on the job, not only with
the public, but with fellow firefighters as well. While we mention above that
the firefighting team becomes like a family, keep in mind that family members
conflict from time to time. Then they move on. Conflict when resolved maturely
can even help team members grow closer. The good news is that fire science or
fire training schools include components on how to deal with the public, fellow
firefighters and even internal conflict in high-stress situations.
I have good people and
need interpersonal skills like active listening, reflection, and personality-type
gauging. First, firefighters will be juggling lots of different personalities
and dynamics on their team. They’ll also need to communicate clearly with
government officials and the media.
people often need some time to grow into the good communicators they have the
potential to be. Fire training or fire
science school helps to give them that time. Those who dream of being hermits,
who fall dead silent in crowds or resist social situations, however, might feel
more comfortable in other positions.
Do You Have What It Takes
to Be a Wildland Firefighter?
Department of Agriculture and Forest Service scientists tell us that fires will
continue to increase in intensity and severity due to the expansion of urban
areas, increased camping, and global warming. This means more wildland
firefighters will be in demand. Few other careers receive the respect and
gratitude of a wildland firefighter. If this feels like the perfect career for
you, look for training programs in your area.