Are You the Next Wildland Firefighter? Take this Quiz to Find Out!

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Every year, wildland firefighters save thousands of lives and tens of thousands of homes.

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.

Many Americans 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.

How do you see yourself answering the following statements?

I don’t mind being in the spotlight.

True: Wildland 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.

False: Not 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.

True: 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 selflessly.

False: Those 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.

False: Becoming 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 depends upon.

I am eager to maintain my above average physical strength and stamina.

True: Constant 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.

True: While 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 solve.

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.

False: A 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 conflict.

True: While 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.

False: Those 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 communication skills.

True: Firefighters 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.

False: Young 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?

U.S. 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

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