Seasonal firefighting positions are temporary in nature and usually begin in the middle of summer and last until the first heavy autumn rains put out the last of the forest fires for the year. Firefighters are often college students, teachers or others who work or educational commitments for the months when fire danger in nonexistent. Those who wish to work as seasonal firefighters need to be physically and psychologically fit because the demands of the job can be both mentally and physically exhausting.
Wildland firefighting is handled by several different agencies. Those interested in working as a seasonal firefighter should consider applying to as many different agencies as possible. Because it is such a specialized field, mandatory training is provided by the agencies. Although the average wage for a seasonal firefighter is only about eight dollars per hour, overtime is common, and hazardous duty pay is also a factor. Hazardous duty pay can amount to as much as one-fourth of the base wage.
Flexible Seasonal Schedules
Because of the unpredictable nature of the work, seasonal firefighters must have flexible schedules. It is important they are able to respond to a fire on a moment’s notice, which is why this type of work may not be the best choice for those with family responsibilities unless another household member is present who can cover absences.
The majority of wildland firefighters are employed in the western half of the United States. Many of these work in the state of California because forest fires are prevalent there during the summer months. During drought years, firefighters often work well past the traditional ending date for their particular line of work.
Hiring of seasonal firefighters usually occurs from April through June for the following season. Applicants need to have a valid drivers license and be able to pass a physical fitness examination. Possession of CPR an First Aid certifications will increase the chances of an applicant being hired. The minimum amount of education necessary for consideration for a position as a seasonal firefighter is a high school diploma or GED.
Firefighting crews are frequently required to live in remote wilderness areas and to be on-call 24 hours per day for a period of several months. Weekends and holidays are not observed because forest fires do not magically stop burning during those times. Fire activity is the major determining activity in the length of the employment contract, so there is no real guarantee of how long the job will last and how much cumulative compensation can be expected.