How to Become a Wildland Firefighter

fire crew readying to go to the front line

Most starting wildland firefighter positions

are temporary seasonal positions – four to six months of work per year. A great gig for college students available in the summer and other folks with part-time commitments.

Positions with the U.S. Forest Service generally accept applications between October and November, with applicants hired in January or February. Application periods can be short, so check with your district office to be sure.

Hotshots packing gear from truck
firefighter walking away from fire

To apply, contact the district office where you’d like to work and ask about available positions, job numbers (they’re specific for each position) and deadlines. Then visit USAJOBS.GOV, search the keyword, “Wildland Fire,” and follow the steps to fill out an application. Then, start training!

To prepare, emphasize hiking with a backpack, running and calisthenics. Every national forest and individual crew has specific physical requirements for their employees – some will be tougher than others. If you land a job, contact your future supervisor to ask about fitness requirements. Often, there are minimum requirements for push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and the 1.5 mile run.

Always, there will be the required “Pack Test,” which requires participants to walk 3 miles on flat ground while carrying a 45 pound pack in 45 minutes or less.


Story:Sam Averett

Photography:Kari Greer & Kyle Miller

Smokey Bear - 75 years of vigilance

Filson Smokey Bear tops Shop Smokey