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Questions on some more Wildland Training...

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  • Questions on some more Wildland Training...

    Hey Guys,
    I got my basics last year (S130/190, L-180, I-100). Anyway, I didn't work Wildland this year, instead opting for a year of EMS experience under my belt. I am definitely planning on trying to get hired this upcomming season, but in the meantime wanted to go ahead and get my S131/S290, as well as my S212 knocked out.

    My question is, would you go ahead and get these before next fire season or work a season, get some hands on experience, and then take these courses? The main reason I want to go ahead and get them is that I want the advanced training ( I plan on going even more advanced in the future, just do want expereince before that), I also want to show possible employers that I am serious about the job and took the next steps. What are you guys thoughts on this? Thanks for the help!
    Wildland Firefighter/EMT-B
    "Why be Structured when you can go Wild?"

  • #2
    Its not clear if you have worked a season or just got the classes.

    Getting a year of EMS is a good thing, I like to have at least one EMT or an experienced first responder on my engine as it frees me up to do my job as a supervisor when medical treatment is needed. Alot of people get their EMT but without at least a little hands on experience most really are not that useful.

    As far as the classes go S131 and S290 are good classes, in my opinion S290 is one of the best classes offered. S131 became a requirement after I was past that level but I taught the class last year and it was well liked by the students, they felt it really helped them make the jump to the next level of responsibility.

    I would suggest you wait until you have at least a season preferably 2 or 3 before taking either of these classes. I'm sure you would pass but without some real experence behind you, you won't get nearly as much out of the classes.

    S212 couldn't hurt, its always good to have another person to run a saw on project work and thats where you start to get experience so you can eventually run it on a fire.

    If you want some other classes to show interest you might try and find an S211 portable pumps class, like S212 it doesn't really matter about your prior experience, and it gives you one more tool you're trained to use.


    • #3
      Sorry I didn't make it clear. Yeah, no previous fire experience, but comming up on 8 months of EMS.

      As far as getting hired next season, do you think those classes (S131/290) would help quite a bit or really not that much since I don't have the experience?

      Also, I had looked at the 270/271, due to way down the road going the helitack route, would that be beneficial to go ahead and get?

      Also, forgive all the questions, you are talking to a Texas boy who loves the mountains, but has never dealt w/ them in a fire perspective, so I am new to everything in that kind of enviroment when it comes to operations.
      Last edited by FadeToBlack; 08-12-2006, 04:54 PM.
      Wildland Firefighter/EMT-B
      "Why be Structured when you can go Wild?"


      • #4
        I wouldn't worry too much about the extra classes just yet, to be honest all we are really looking for is a warm body willing to work hard, if you have the basics thats all you need. A phone call or station visit along with a good attitude will go much farther than any extra classes, in fact sometimes the extra classes could hurt you. I understand where you are coming from, I was the same way, I wanted to learn everything now, but some people will see that as you trying to become a captain before you've been a firefighter.

        The equipment classes are good (S212, S211) as they don't require experience to really get the most out of the class.

        S131 has a number of scenarios where you take the role of the IC on a small fire, if you haven't been on many fires alot won't really make much sense.

        Similarly S290 really gets into fire behavior, weather, fuel models etc, again without some personal experience to bring with you much will not make sense and you won't get all you can out of the class, and this is a class you want to squeeze every bit out of as it will follow you your whole career, the stuff in this class is what helps you develop the sense to recognize its time to run away before the fire goes gunny sack.

        S270, besides S211, S212 this would probably be the best if you feel you must take some classes, it primarily focuses on types of aircraft and considerations for their use, while experience is helpful I don't recall much that it would really be needed.

        S271, I'd really stay away from this one, you won't be eligable for helitack until you have at least 1 season behind you, its unusual to see someone on helitack without at least 2 or 3 seasons of experience. The S-271 class has alot of stuff to remember and if you don't go right out and start working on a helitack crew you will probably forget most of it. After 10 years I finally got around to this class but all it really did for me was let me know I don't want to be helitack, way too much paperwork.

        Once you start deeling with the S2xx classes you are really getting into company officer level stuff, not bad to learn but kind of putting the cart before the horse.

        I know you probably want some paper to show you are not sitting on your behind, I can't help you much there but for the extra knowledge you want I'd recommend the Firefighters Handbook on Wildland firefighting, this book covers alot of material including alot from S290. It is the best wildland firefighting book I've seen.


        If you want to improve you odds of getting picked up next year, I'd stick with the EMS and make sure you are in great shape, then start politicing with the engine captains where you want to work. If you haven't already done so you might want to look into getting on with a volunteer department, it is amazing how much being able to play with the tools helps.

        Hopefully some others will chime in with their opinions.


        • #5
          Thank you for the great replies NonSurfin! They have helped tons! I will go and get the 211 and 212 out of the way.

          As far as being here in the middle of a big Texas city (I grew up on a 600 acre farm but moved in to be close to my station), do you have any advice for trying to get hired out of state? I tried the Avue route and have a resume setup on the site, but it seemed very confusing and very difficult to figure out what "real" person to make contact with.

          Also, what is your opinion on working for contract companies like Firestorm to get started. The problem I see with them is that as opposed to working "seasons", it sounds like you are away almost year round due to other projects that are going when not on a fire. This would be difficult for me as I am married, have a son, and live in Texas (they are northern Cali, and although we plan on relocating, it would be after a couple of seasons and I get a feel for where I would like to try and work).
          Wildland Firefighter/EMT-B
          "Why be Structured when you can go Wild?"


          • #6
            Fire Storm has a good reputation, they have some crews working in Yosemite National Park and from what I've seen they look like a good company.

            North Tree Fire is another contract company that seems to have its act together.

            I'm not really sure about the life style of working for a contract company, I think working year round is an option and possibly based on senority, if you are new I don't think you usually get to work year round.

            Working for a reputable contractor won't hurt you, there isn't nearly the same kind of union / non-union issue present with many structure departments. You do need to watch out for the non-reputable contractors though, they won't impact your chances of getting hired but they could hurt you (literally).

            Contract work is generally more project work and extended attack oriented, less initial attack. Good experience but less fun.

            There are also a fair number of "blue card" on call crews contracted to individual forests, these vary from strictly on call for fires to pretty steady work doing project work between fires. I know the Eldorado, Las Padres, Sequoia and Sierra have pretty strong blue card programs, there are others but I don't know which forests they are attached to. Unfortunately I also don't know of a list of these crews but its another thing you could ask about when you call a forest, these crews have pretty good hire rates by the regular FS crews.

            As far as contacts if you go to the USFS website


            you will see a drop down to select forests by state, pick a state, then a list of forests in that state will show up, pick a forest, most forest sites list contact numbers.

            To save you some trouble I've listed several you might be interested here, don't know exactly how Northern, CA your looking to go. There are also a couple of forests in texas that might be a good way to get a first season in.

            The number you call will be a general number but you should be able to get an operator, just ask to speak to someone in fire, usually the Forest FMO, AFMO (Fire Chief, Deputy Chief), just explain you are interested in working on that forest and would like some contact numbers for stations that may have openings, they can help you get in contact with the people in the field. While it may seem inappropriate to talk directly to a Chief, almost all the people I've met in the USFS are really neat people and want to help people get started.

            Eldorado National Forest
            100 Forni Road
            Placerville, CA 95667

            Inyo National Forest
            351 Pacu Lane
            Suite 200
            Bishop, CA 93514

            Klamath National Forest
            1312 Fairlane Road
            Yreka, CA 96097-9549
            (530) 842-6131

            Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
            35 College Drive
            S. Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
            (530) 543-2600

            Lassen National Forest
            2550 Riverside Drive
            Susanville, CA 96130
            (530) 257-2151

            Mendocino National Forest
            825 N. Humboldt Ave.
            Willows, CA 95988
            (530) 934-3316

            Modoc National Forest
            800 West 12th Street
            Alturas, CA 96101
            (530) 233-5811

            Plumas National Forest
            159 Lawrence Street
            Quincy, CA 95971
            (530) 283-2050

            Shasta-Trinity National Forest
            3644 Avtech Parkway
            Redding, CA 96002

            Sierra National Forest
            1600 Tollhouse Road
            Clovis, CA 93611-0532
            (559) 297-0706

            Six Rivers National Forest
            1330 Bayshore Way
            Eureka, CA 95501
            (707) 442-1721

            Stanislaus National Forest
            19777 Greenley Rd.
            Sonora, CA 95370
            (209) 532-3671

            Tahoe National Forest
            631 Coyote Street
            Nevada City, CA 95959
            (530) 265-4531 (voice)

            National Forests & Grasslands in Texas
            415 S. First St., Ste. 110
            Lufkin, Texas 75901
            Phone: 936-639-8501

            Good luck and if there is anything I can do to help let me know, don't hesitate to call some of these numbers, Forest Service people are usually very friendly, if you get a bad one now and then just try another.


            • #7
              Will do, and thanks again for all the info you have provided. It has been a great help!
              Wildland Firefighter/EMT-B
              "Why be Structured when you can go Wild?"


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