Finding work as a wildland fire contractor

By Wayne Eder

Having trained wildland fire contractors for many years, I often get asked, "How do I get started in the business?" My advice is typically the same each time — don't do it.

By way of explanation, there are thousands of dedicated individuals that own or operate wildland fire contract businesses throughout the United States, many doing a great job and making a living.

Unfortunately, this business is tough to make it in, but if you're determined to pursue it, I would like to take a few moments to explore the ups and downs of the private wildland fire world with you.

To get work, you need a contract. Contracts are awarded at the local, regional, state and federal levels. Finding them can be a chore, but you can start at your state forestry agency website and the federal agency sites for USDA Forest Service and USDI Bureau of Land Management.

These contracts are going to be specific with specific requirements, including but not limited to:

  • Minimum apparatus requirements to meet National Wildfire Coordination Group standards. Apparatus and equipment are typically required to be inspected by a third party. For example, Cascade Fire Equipment in Medford, Ore., is an authorized third party inspector that may be able to assist you in meeting the requirements prior to an inspection.
  • Minimum equipment inventories.
  • Minimum training.
  • Vehicle/equipment inspections.
  • Radio equipment requirements.
  • Travel/response time requirements.
  • Turnout time requirements.

The best place to start is by joining one of the contractor associations, such as the National Wildfire Suppression Association.

Read more on "How to become a wildland contractor"

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