Become a Wildland Firefighter
Do you enjoy working in the outdoors? Wildland firefighting is very rewarding work that provides many career opportunities.
What do Idaho BLM wildland firefighters do?
For those who enjoy an active lifestyle, have a love of the outdoors and crave diversity in the workplace, wildland firefighting may be for you. Wildland firefighting is a very diverse profession and provides a wide array of job experience. Firefighters learn how to run firefighting equipment such as chainsaws, wildland fire engines, water pumps and other mechanized tools. They also learn how to read the weather and record it, efficiently dig fire line, safely cut down trees, operate various firefighting equipment, conduct safety briefings and drills, and a wealth of other useful skills.
Wildland firefighters also spend the majority of their time in the outdoors. Wildfires will burn anywhere that fuel is present, so firefighters are often sent to very remote, beautiful areas of Idaho and throughout the United States. Firefighters may end up extinguishing fire on top of a mountain, or they may end up saving homes from flames near a city or community. Firefighters also help with natural disasters, such as flooding. During hurricane Katrina, wildland firefighters went to help those in need.
Wildland Firefighting Occupations
From digging fire line to dispatching air tankers, jobs within the wildland firefighting organization are as varied as the topography in which wildland fires burn.
Wildland fire engine crew members are trained to fight wildland fires using fire engines. Idaho BLM mostly uses what are called Type IV or Heavy wildland fire engines to suppress rangeland fires. These engines are large and require a commercial drivers’ license to operate. They can hold anywhere from 800-950 gallons of water and can weigh up to 32,000 pounds. Engine crewmembers learn how to utilize water in fire suppression, lay hose, utilize chain saws, conduct prescribed burning, and drive wildland fire engines, amongst many other skills.
An engine crew working on a fire assignment
A helicopter crewmember watches as the helicopter drops water
BLM helicopter crews are assigned to helicopters. When they receive a fire call, they quickly board the helicopter, fly to the wildland fire incident, and utilize the helicopter and its water bucket/water dropping mechanisms in fire suppression. Helicopter crews learn how to dig fireline, conduct helicopter bucket drops, guide helicopter pilots into landing situations, utilize chainsaws and load fire crews onto helicopters, amongst many other skills.
BLM hotshot crews are usually made up of 20-22 people. Hotshot crews specialize in creating fireline, so they spend a great deal of time digging line with specialized tools, operating chainsaws, conducting prescribed burn operations, and moving debris and vegetation away from the fire line. Hotshot crewmembers learn how to effectively dig fire line, operate firefighting equipment such as chainsaws, read and record the weather, and conduct prescribed burning operations, amongst other important firefighting skills
The Snake River Hotshot crew working on a fire line
Wildland Fire Prevention
Working in wildland fire prevention involves a wide array of duties. BLM Wildland Fire Prevention Specialists educate the public about wildland fires and how to prevent them. They often work with the media during wildfire incidents to provide updates about wildland fire incidents to other agencies, the public and public officials. They work to educate homeowners about making their homes safe from wildfire and they also conduct Smoky Bear campaign outreach to educate both children and adults about fire prevention.
Wildland Fire Dispatchers
Each Idaho BLM district has a dispatch center. These centers serve as communication hubs for each district; they help disperse fire crews to each fire incident and they maintain communication between firefighters, management, and other agencies, such as city fire departments. Typically, dispatch centers house employees from both the U.S. Forest Service and BLM, so that the agencies have efficient communication when they are working together on wildland fire incidents. Dispatch centers also track where each fire crew is located, as well as statistics involving wildland fires. Wildland fire dispatch personnel gain valuable experience in communication methods, data collection, and map reading, amongst other respected skills.
Wildland fire dispatcher
A firefighter conducting a "back burn."
Fuels crews are in charge of implementing the various vegetation treatments associated with the fire program, the Healthy Forests Act, and improving community safety from wildfire. Fuels crews study BLM lands to determine their health and they implement treatment projects such as prescribed burns to minimize fire potential on a variety of habitats and communities. Fuels crew personnel are often involved in a wide variety of tasks and get to see some of the most beautiful and remote areas of Idaho.
Smokejumpers, true to their name, parachute out of airplanes to wildland fires, usually in very remote areas. Once they land, smokejumpers build fire line with specialized tools, run chainsaws, and conduct prescribed burning operations. A group of BLM Smokejumpers are based out of Boise, Idaho. Click -HERE- to learn more about the BLM smokejumper program.
A smokejumper during a practice parachuting exercise
Some college students become firefighters during the summer months as seasonal employees and then go back to college in the fall. Many people choose career paths in wildland fire, as many options are available in all facets of the wildland fire program. Many firefighters obtain college degrees and then move on to careers in fields such as fire management, fuels specialist, public affairs, biology, botany, rangeland ecology, and a great number of other fields. For more information about BLM careers, click HERE. For more information about wildland fire careers throughout the U.S., click here.
Firefighters can apply for student intern programs. These BLM programs allow students to gain valuable knowledge and skills while working for the BLM and they provide flexible work hours for college students. Click HERE to find out more about these opportunities for students.
Want to check out fire jobs in each district?
Idaho Falls District
Twin Falls District
Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Check out our list of qualifications for wildland firefighters.