Types of Wildland Firefighter Jobs

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The federal government has several agencies that oversee wildland fire programs to protect citizens and also ecosystems. The need for these employees is often seasonal in the summer and after just one year of service, some of the more general firefighter crew members can often move up to more specialized work.

Wildland firefighting is physically exhausting and dangerous – but appeals to people who like working with their hands and taking on challenges. According to the U.S. Forest Service, wildland firefighting is for people who “like hiking without trails; packing between 40 and 120 pounds of food, water, and supplies on your back; eating and sleeping in the dirt for days on end; and not having consistent showers.”

It certainly is a tough job but comes complete with service to country and making a difference in the environment.

Interested in a wildland firefighter job? Take a look at a few of the jobs you should consider:

Fuel Crew

As the name implies, this crew specializes in fuel-related wildland fire tasks. There are generally 10 members in a fuel crew. Fuel crew members focus on fuel: meaning ecological fuels, such as timber or shrubs. Their role can include reducing fuel availability (thinning timber), clearing fuel, and even applying chemicals to fuels identified as potential risks. Restoration of fire-adapted ecosystems is the ultimate goal. Some of the tools used in these roles include chainsaws and other hand tools.

Engine Crew

Engine crews can have anywhere from 3 to 10 people. Fire suppression and patrolling are major components of this role. These firefighters have to be especially fit and alert as they are often involved in a lot of the strenuous portions of wildland fire fighting. Hand tools, hoses and other construction tools are part of this job.

Hand Crew

These crews usually have around 20 members and handle tasks like constructing fire lines and rehabilitation of burned out areas. Tools like chainsaws and drip torches are commonly used in these roles.

Hotshot Crew

Hotshot crews are a more specialized version of hand crews and are often placed in the most rugged terrain. These firefighters must be in incredible physical shape to be able to perform their dangerous and difficult tasks. There are so few of these specialized firefighters that often they are sent all over the country to put their skills to work.

Helitack Crew

These firefighters arrive at fires via helicopter. Once on the ground, these crew members use hand tools and chainsaws to fight the flames. They may also be trained to drop water or fire retardant from the air. The helicopters also serve a support role by bringing in personnel and supplies during fires. Helitack crews aren’t just used in emergency situations; they play an integral role in prescribed burns too.


These firefighters jump from airplanes with parachutes to arrive at the part of a fire where they are most needed. They also provide hazardous fuels reduction support when land management agencies need it. Since they can be deployed from any airport, these firefighters can arrive quickly to the scene in cases where driving in would be time-prohibitive.

Wildland Fire Module

These crews of around 10 people help with firefighting planning and overall execution of prescribed fire projects, or emergency firefighting. This group has a high level of expertise because of the wide range of tasks it must complete, including fire effects monitoring, line construction, long-term planning and fire management. These crews are also trained to be self-sufficient, often in remote areas.

Prescribed Wildland Fire Crew

This group supports planned fire projects. This can include everything from equipment maintenance to burn unit preparation. The work this crew does makes a difference in how efficiently a prescribed burn is executed.

Ready to get started? Visit wildland firefighting employee sites for the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Park Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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