Where to find drivers/operators

Other than hiring friends, family and other retired firefighters, where are most water truck operators getting their driver’s? It seems like a daunting task to find people willing to drop everything for an opportunity to work for 3 weeks and then get laid off again once the fire is out. Drivers also need a Class B license and fire equipment safety class under their belts to lessen the pool of available drivers. Posting an ad on Craigslist seems like leaving it up to chance. I am curious what operators are doing to find good drivers, that can operate the truck, know about fires, able to get through morning briefing, understand the orders from the Division Boss, and not do something dumb to get kicked off the fire?

Good luck. Very few and far between, especially the past few years.


That’s the $10,000 question anybody can go out and buy a water truck finding somebody to run it just look at all the accidents with water tenders this year I know of three major rollovers in California and two of them it was the drivers first day and or first fire.


Recognize that it isn’t just about finding good qualified operators. If you’re brand new to the field of CWN, the good operators are also going to be questioning whether you are someone they want to work for. They will be wanting to know if your equipment is satisfactory suitable for the type of work necessary, whether the equipment is well maintained, if you pay in a timely manner, etc. on large fires that extend for months, you will need to have enough cash flow to pay your opening before you will get paid from the fire. There’s no incremental billing or pay throughout the fire and you will get paid sometime roughly 90-120 days down range of the fire’s completion, not when you’re equipment is released.

These are just a few of the factors you have to consider and plan for as you start up


As someone who use to be a CWN, I only used/employed those I knew & trusted. If I couldn’t staff the equipment, I turned down the assignment.

In this day an age, seeing all the LOOKING FOR DRIVERS/OPERATOR’S posted on this site as well as Facebook is mind blowing.

  1. How do you know who you are hiring is qualified?
  2. How do those getting hired know they will get paid?
    As a HEQB & EQTS it is obvious as the day is long who the CONTENDERS are and who the PRETENDERS are during the inspection process. Nothing sets off alarm bells from an Overhead perspective then to meet someone new at breakout having not been told about it. I can tell you personally, it sets off more than a few alarm bells when it comes to the 10’s & 18’s.

As an HEQB as well I have sent more than one resource packing when I can’t trust that they will be safe and effective. I can’t afford to have to pull all my dozers to go put a water truck back on it’s wheels and won’t babysit a new driver who doesn’t know how to use the radio and get to the engines who need water. While I can usually assign a new operator to a simple task such as watering roads or nurse tender operations, I have to have confidence that if the pace picks up and gets real, I won’t have to come find you and bring you to safety.

Be very cautions about hiring someone who you do not know and cannot verify their ability, check references, find out if they have worked fires before and ask the heavy equipment community if they know the person. The last thing you want is to spend all that money to dispatch your driver and truck just to have them kicked off the fire on day 1. It’s a small community of equipment bosses and operators and horse trading between bosses does happen. I know there are vendors that I love working with because they know what they are doing and need little supervision and those who will be the first to be let go because they need constant supervision to keep production and safety at an acceptable level.