In this final installment about the National Park Service (NPS), we will discuss the different types of fire fighter job opportunities. These can range from dispatchers, fire managers, safety specialists, and fire fighters in the Fire and Aviation Management Program. In the NPS fire program, there are 400 permanent and 600 seasonal employees. The fire prevention occupations that appear in this article are unique to the NPS.
Fire fighter jobs are not just limited to the NPS. Many other fire fighters are hired under the GS-0081 job series. There are 9,005 total fire fighters employed nationwide in the GS-0081 series. The Department of Navy is the largest employer with 3,131, the Department of the Army (2,808), and the Air Force employs 2437. There are 224 fire fighters working overseas. The VA also employs 293, DOD 157, Homeland Security 95, HHS 31 and a few work for other agencies.
Wildland Fire Fighter (GS-0401/0455/0462)
There are various types of wildland fire fighter categories.
1. GS-02 trainee an entry level position. They receive training and perform simple tasks as part of the crew.
2. GS-03 level trainee and they perform tasks such developing a working knowledge of fire suppression, fuel management techniques, assist in backfire and burnout, and others.
3. GS-04 is considered a skilled wildland fire fighter. Their assignments are more specialized such as tree falling, backfire, and burnout operations. They must also be able to utilize a variety of specialized tools, equipment, and techniques while managing wildfires.
4. GS-05 is a senior wildland fire fighter that performs all aspects of wildland and prescribed fire operations. This will include preparation, ignition, monitoring, holding, and mop-up. Gathering of information on weather data, topography, fuel types, and fire behavior when responding to wildland fire incidents.
Different qualifications apply for GS grade level 2-5.
1. GS-02 requires 3 months of general work experience and graduated from high school or its equivalent.
2. GS-03 needs 6 months of general work experience, and at least 1 year of education above high school and should include at least 6 semester hours of a combination of the following courses, range management, agriculture, forestry, wildlife management, biology, and other natural or physical sciences.
3. GS-04 must have 6 months work experience, and specialized work experience at the GS-03 level. The employee must have 2 years of education beyond high school and at least 12 semester hours in a combination of courses that include forestry, agriculture, crop or plant science, range management, soil science or wildland fire science. They must also have 90 days of wildland fire experience.
4. GS-05 must have 12 months of specialized experience that is equivalent to the GS-04. They should have a bachelor’s degree that should include 24 semester hours in any combination of some the following courses, forestry, agriculture, range management, wildlife management, watershed management and civil or forest engineering. The GS-05 must also posses a National Wildlife Coordinating Group (NWCG) incident management qualification and training.Fire Fighter Type (FFT1) and successful completion of S-290 “Intermediate Wildland Fire Behavior”.
There are also physical requirements and testing. All must be able to pass an initial pre-employment examination. Pass a work capacity fitness test (must carry a 45 lb pack for 3 miles within 45 minutes).
The salary range for GS-02-05 is $20,419.00-$27,982.00 / per year. You must be a U.S. citizen to apply for any fire fighter position. The mandatory retirement age for fire fighters is 57.
Andy Hall is a GS-0462-07, Prescribed Fire/Fuels Technician at Grand Teton National Park. Hall indicates, “I really like physical labor and the fact that the job combines physical and mental challenges while getting paid to hike. I have an interest in land management. It is rewarding to be able to do what is right for the landscape. The job has taken me all over the country and world including Australia. Working on a team to solve complex problems is also very rewarding.”
Hall also states, “The wildland fire service offers many different options. One can have a career in logistics, information, finance, planning, safety… not just the person putting water on the fire or digging hand line (fire suppression). Recently I have switched from a pure suppression job to a prescribed fire and fuels job. I like this job because it combines my degree in forestry with my fire experience. It is a good challenge to try to put fire back on the landscape while trying to reduce the threat of fire on places where its effects would be catastrophic. It is a good mix of being inside at a desk planning and being outside running a chainsaw and working on fires.”
Fire Management Officer (GS-0401)
The employee is responsible for directing all the phases of the fire management program to include planning, program direction, coordination, and evaluation.
Analyze the current fire management plans, makes appropriate changes according to guidelines. They make sure that the fire management program is compliant with all environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Coordinates program activities with all federal, state, tribal, and local government entities and agencies. Manages unit aviation programs, operations, and ensures that all phases of fire and aviation management planning are complete. Directs and supervises budgets as required. Monitors fire season severity predictions, fire behavior, fire activity level, and ensures appropriate actions for safe and efficient operations.
A bachelor’s degree in any of the biological sciences, agriculture, natural resources, chemistry, or other related studies. Additionally, you will need 1 year of specialized wildland fire management experience equivalent to the GS-11 grade level. For a GS-12, the salary range is $76,667.00 to $99,672.00 / Per Year. You must be a U.S. citizen to apply.
John Cataldo is a GS-0401-13, Wildland Fire and Aviation Management Officer, at Yellowstone National Park. Cataldo cites, “I’ve wanted to be a firefighter since I was seven years old growing up in New York, but I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as wildland firefighters until I moved out West when I was 17. After high school, I chose to study wildlife management at Humboldt State University and learned that wildlife management was really all about habitat management. Managing wildland fire allows me to participate in habitat management on a larger scale in a single fire season than few ever have the opportunity to during their entire career. This career is the perfect nexus of those aspirations – Firefighting and wildlife management.
Cataldo indicates he, “Flies in helicopters, using fire to fight fire, using fire to maintain ecological processes and for habitat restoration, getting paid to exercise and stay in great shape, and hiking into and camping out in remote places that few people ever get to see. I encourage all prospective firefighters to make sure that they complete a college education in a Natural Resources related major such as biology, wildlife management, or forestry before looking for permanent employment in wildland firefighting. You will need a college degree related to Natural Resources management later on down the road to promote into managerial fire positions when your body starts to wear down from all the abuse that this career hands out. There are plenty of seasonal fire fighting jobs available. However, do not be discouraged if you cannot get a seasonal fire fighting job the first several times that you apply. Fire fighting is starting to become a very popular and competitive career choice.”
The national parks are wonderful places to visit, and enjoy with family and friends. It is even a greater place to work, so check out the fantastic jobs the NPS has to offer.
Careers featured in this article: (Includes job listings)
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About The Author
A Pennsylvania native, Betty Boyd moved to the Tennessee Valley in 1994. She retired in early 2012 after 30 years of Government service. Boyd was an Acquisition Manager/IT Manager/ Project Manager during her 30-year career. Boyd also served as a supervisor and team leader during her career. In 2012 Boyd founded a consulting firm, Boyd Consulting Services, which offers writing services to clients and companies. For more information about these writing services see the following website: http://www.BettyBoydWriting.com/.
Betty attended Athens State University, Athens, AL and received a B.B.A. in Management of Technology in 2000. She received her Masters of Science degree from Syracuse University with a concentration in Information Management in 2007. Boyd is a certified Level III contracting professional and she received a Masters level certificate in Project Management from the National Defense University in 2008.