Current Structural FF looking at pursuing Wildland


Hello all,

I’m really hoping to get some input from all of you. I’ve hit a crossroads in my life. I am currently a paid full time structural firefighter on the east coast. We are a busy and large department with a lot of opportunity to promote, good retirement and good pay. What I don’t like is the crappy entitled lazy attitude that we have. It doesn’t suit me. I’m 22 and looking to pursue a department or organization that’s focused on the mission. I have alway loved the western part of the US and the outdoor activities that it holds. Living in Virginia sucks and doesn’t hold much value to me. It’s expensive. We don’t run a lot of fires and I don’t get to be outside as much as I’d like. I love the idea of wildland because from what I’ve seen the culture of brotherhood is there. The work is hard and dirty but rewarding. You get to be in the mountains and hiking and traveling around during fire season. All those things really appeal to me. However, I’m not sure where to get started. I also don’t want to leave my current job to pursue something that I can’t pursue as a career. I know a lot of wildland is seasonal and I don’t want to get into the wrong organization and never be able to get a full time position and safe for my retirement and future. I don’t mind living in my truck and traveling out west during the off Season at my current stage in life. But I do worry that if I decide to go this route that I won’t be able to move past seasonal work into something more sustainable for my long term future. I don’t have a family or kids right now But I plan to eventually. Can you all shed any light on how the wildland fire service has treated you and the people you know. Thanks a lot for your time guys. hope to hear from you it’s appreciated!


Good morning - I can offer several options. Of course you can always start applying for jobs out west immediately, and if you’re young, fit, willing to move, and willing to learn, you ought to have a good shot at it. State and Fed agencies, as well as contractors, offer a wide variety of opportunities and locations. To start though, you may want to start close to home to get your feet in the door. Get ahold of the Virginia Department of Forestry, or one of the nearby state forestry agencies, or if you have an NPS or USFS area near you they may have opportunities, and see about getting in on initial wildland fire training, and perhaps some semi-local opportunities. They may even be able to facilitate you getting some national assignments even while keeping the job you have, to get your feet in the door and make sure you like it before you jump in with both feet.


Some questions
Are you IFSAC/Pro Board certified? If so that means your good in all 50 states. Only thing California would require to work LG/State would be Command/Company Officer 2E(The Wildland part of NFPA 1021)
As has been stated, start slowly, start close to home and work west. I personally work with a guy from the midwest who DID exactly what you want to do for the same reason’s you want to do it. He studied and figured out where he wanted to work. He prepared for written & oral tests. He took & passed them and came out west


Avoid the feds. Go CalFire. (retired fed speaking…)


Wish I could tell stymie he’s wrong. Can’t. Because he’s right.

Look at other options. IMHO.


Actually, I don’t really care for CalFire that much either. It’s just that they pay better. Feds have OK bennies and great experience but here in Cali pretty much have their hands tied with AA lawsuits and such. I worked as a Fed for 29 years. Made less than 50k/year. Got fair retirement but was in the old CSRS system. Got out at 52 so can’t complain. Starting out again; Me thinks I might’ve gone railroading…


Cal Fire pays the best and your structural experience will weigh in on your application - they have as many structural engines as wildland engines. Start collecting NWCG certificates. If you want to go to California, go to the Cal Fire/State Fire Marshal/ State Fire Training website and see if any of your previous training can be articulated into California certificates. Attending a west coast community college fire academy on top of your previous experience will make you a serious contender.

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Don’t go to any other college fire academy. You will still need to go through Cal Fire FFA.

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