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  • Certs/Degrees/Qualifications

    I joined this forum in hopes that I can get some feedback to some questions I have about getting into the fire service to make me stand out more as a candidate. My current plan I envision for myself is get on a crew with the usfs as part of an engine then heliattack then hopefully rappel crew/smokejumper. And being a hotshot goes without saying. Later in my late 20s approaching my 30s I hope to switch to structure. I'm from Los Angeles and like many, I would like to be apart of them.

    I'm currently 23. I took some wildland fire tech classes at my college and have credits for my certificate I just need the academy. Until recently I was in the academy when I tore my ACL after falling from a pretty steep hike. The next academy is spring 2019 I couldn't continue so I had to drop out and after a couple days of feeling down on my luck I decided I'll use this time to get some certs and qualifications in.
    I'm currently looking into emt classes.

    now here's my question:

    For wildland:
    what tests or certs are there out there that pertain to getting on an engine crew and heliattack/aviation or any others that I can add on my belt? (I already completed Fema certs)

    Structure: same question as above. I'm looking into emt classes but looking for what else can I do to make myself an appealing candidate in a competitive job? What kind of certs and qualifications are out there that I can take?

    and lastly, my father thinks I should join the coast guard reserves he believes that would help me. What are your thoughts?

    Thank you for any help in advance

  • #2
    I just retired from the US Forest Service. It was a great career, I enjoyed it a great deal. I do not wish to discourage anyone from following that as a career, but it is not the agency I started working for 22 years ago.

    If your ultimate goal is to work LAFD or LACO you should really focus on that, if you get hired as a seasonal with the USFS that is great experience, but what you are describing could easily take 8 to 10 years, and then you want to switch mid stream and start all over when you are in your 30s?

    Wildland fire is not the temp gig it was 20 years ago, 50% or more of the positions are now career positions. At least that is the case in California. That results in fewer temp jobs being available, and people are looking at candidate more with an eye for long term development. Unfortunately management has also decided to take almost all hiring input away from supervisors which makes it harder to say what is desirable.

    If I were in your shoes today, with the goals of working in Southern California you have stated my priorities would be on getting your EMT. Gain some experience as an EMT and work towards becoming a Paramedic. The opportunities for an experienced paramedic firefighter candidate are far greater than an EMT candidate. The experienced paramedic part is important, inexperienced paramedic firefighters have a much higher failure rate because they are trying to learn two jobs at the same time.

    With the goal of working in Socal, and doing wildland you should give some thought to Calfire which has PERS retirement even for its seasonals.
    Time spent working for the state will carry over towards retirement with a California city or county fire department. Working for a Fed agency doesn't.

    Being 23 retirement probably seems a lifetime away, and you may not think much about it. You will appreciate having those extra years when you are 50. Calfire doesn't have hotshots or smokejumpers, but they do have helitack crews. You could also look at some of the counties which do have non-inmate fire crews, Kern County has a hotshot crew and several counties have type 2 crews. Some also have helitack crews and dozers.

    The USFS has a lot of unique opportunities, a wide variety of assignments, a great deal of travel and quite a bit of autonomy. While I am disappointed in some of the paths the agency has gone down, I do still think it is a great place to work. Your plan however does not strike me as particularly realistic and with it sounding like you want to stay close to Socal, does not take advantage of one of the greatest advantages of the agency which is mobility. As an employee of the Forest Service you can relocate to nearly anywhere in the entire US. Other than some great experience it doesn't offer much for someone who really wants to work for a city fire department in California.


    • #3
      Thank you for your advice and I will look into Calfire. The reason why I chose to go through wildland first is because in high school I wasn't involved with any team sports and not the most athletically fit.Then after high school up until I was 20 I was just working. So I don't have much to put on a resume. I started getting in shape when I heard getting a job as wildland fireman was a little easier to break into than structure And figured that'll be something I can put on my resume to help me stand out and build a good rep for myself when it comes time to join a city fire dept. As far as why I want to be part of an engine/ heliattack crew is because that knowledge carries over to structure so that's another thing I can put on my resume and that was my reasoning behind that. I'm still new to this whole thing but I'm fully committed and my plan is not set in stone. I'm open to other options so thank you again for replying.


      • #4
        Don't know how it works on the west coast, but on the other end of the country being a paramedic and having college credits at least at the associates level improves your chances to get on board with a city department. Oh, and having the right combination of ethnicity and gender ;-)


        • #5
          Wildland is definitely easier to get into at the seasonal level compared to a career fire department position. I would strongly suggest you consider all options US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, seasonal county fire jobs, even contract fire suppression companies for the experience.

          Wildland fire is good experience while you try to get hired by a city / county fire department. This is particularly true in Southern California where most of departments have a substantial wildland urban interface to deal with.

          My comments were based on your idea of putting a substantial investment into a wildland fire career with the intent of jumping ship down the road to start over.

          Basically it comes down to EMS is a job requirement for just about every California fire department, minimum of EMT and in many departments Paramedic has become required. Wildland is and likely will remain just a nice to have thing.

          You should also ask yourself, are you interested in EMS. If the answer is no, understand that is upwards of 70% of a fire departments response, some departments it is closer to 90%. You will go to medical aids with the USFS as well, but with nowhere near the frequency.

          Finances also play a part. I retired as a fire captain, with the last 10 years of my career in that position. I was almost at the top step for the position and even with hundreds of hours of overtime I made less than most probationary firefighters in the Bay Area or So Cal do when they are at the tower.

          I live where I can afford to live on my salary, that is not going to happen in Southern California even with their locality pay. I don't know how those guys make it with the cost of living. Well actually that isn't true, I do. They commute like crazy living out in the desert where it is cheaper to live.

          I don't want to discourage anyone from a career in wildland fire if that is what they want to do. Just being honest that it isn't the best solution if it isn't where you want to end up long term. I have had quite a few of my seasonal firefighters end up with a city, but most only spent 2-3 years with us before moving to something closer to their goal.
          Last edited by Here and there; 03-20-2018, 04:55 PM.


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