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How to Become A Wildland Firefighter

Wildland Firefighters are responsible for combatting, suppressing and controlling fires in forests. Getting a job at the local, state or federal level as a Wildland Firefighter will provide you an opportunity to lead an active lifestyle, make great money, travel and serve your community.

If you wish to pursue a wildland career and want to protect millions of acres of forests, then you might want to go through this detailed article. It will explain to you how to become a Wildland Firefighter in the U.S.

Should I Become a Wildland Firefighter?

Wildland firefighters are often required to work long hours in changing and challenging conditions, such as steep terrain and high temperatures. If you have good physical stamina and exceptional decision making skills, then you might have a good chance at excelling in this profession.

Wildland Firefighters are expected to carry out the following activities:

  • Rescue fire victims.
  • Administer emergency medical aid.
  • Notify fire dispatchers in case there is an additional need for supplies and firefighters.
  • Operate pumps and water hoses to suppress fires.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported the following data for Firefighters. The table below highlights the key skills required by these professionals, along with their wage statistics and growth prospects.

Education Required

High school diploma or equivalent.

Training/Work Experience

Long-term on-the-job training.


Firefighters are typically required to be certified as Emergency Medical Technicians.

Key Skills

Communication Skills, Decision Making Skills, Physical Stamina, and Physical Strength.

Annual Median Salary (2019)


Job Outlook (2018-28)



Career Outlook for Firefighters

As per the data published on BLS, Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing was the highest paying industry for Firefighters, paying an annual mean pay of $65,330 in 2019. Moreover, the industry with the highest levels of employment in this occupation was the Local Government (excluding schools and hospitals), with an employment of 289,310 workers in 2019.

States with the Highest Employment Level of Firefighters

In 2019, the state that had the highest employment level of Firefighters was California (33,780), followed by Texas (25,670), Florida (19,560), Ohio (19,200) and Illinois (17,180).

Top Paying States for Firefighters

In 2019, the top paying state for Firefighters in the U.S. was California, which paid an annual mean wage of $84,370. Other states that made it to the list included New Jersey ($80,890), Washington ($76,970), New York ($75,160) and Nevada ($69,310).

Steps to Become a Wildland Firefighters

The steps involved in becoming a Wildland Firefighter are mentioned below:

Step 1: Complete the Required Education

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the minimum education required to become a firefighter is a high school diploma or an equivalent degree, such as GED. However, some coursework beyond high school level is required to acquire an emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. EMT certification requirements vary by state and city, therefore you are advised to consult your state pages for more information.

Step 2: Volunteer to Gain Experience

The next step is to volunteer with your local fire department to get some valuable field experience. The volunteering opportunity will help you build your physical stamina that is required to become an effective wildland firefighter. Such experiences will also make your CV more attractive to prospective employers.

Step 3: Start the Job Hunt and Apply for the Job

You can check with the US Department of the Interior, US Fish & Wildlife Service and the US National Park Service’s Fire and Aviation department to see whether there are any vacancies for Wildland Firefighters. Before applying for the position, you should ensure that you meet all of the experience and education requirements.

Step 4: Pass the Application Exams

Many state and federal firefighters are required to take two exams as part of the application process. This consists of a written exam as well as a physical exam. The written portion tests the candidate’s basic knowledge on wildland firefighting and covers things like mechanical reasoning, response procedures and protective equipment. The physical exam, also called the Candidate Physical Ability exam, tests the candidate’s strength, endurance and physical fitness.

Step 5: Complete Additional Training

After passing the written and physical exams, you will proceed to the next stage, where you will receive a few months of training at the fire academy. You will receive practical training and classroom instructions during your time at the academy. Some of the courses that you might study include emergency medical procedures, fire-prevention methods and firefighting techniques. After graduating from the academy, you will be ready to kick-start your wildfire career.

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