Wildland Firefighter Foundation
Wildland Firefighter Foundation

Home / WLF FamilySaid / Comment by Ab

  • 06/08/2002
  • WildlandFire.com Team
  • 0 Comment

Ab Note: This message is cross posted from theysaid. We’re looking forward to family members writing in. Don’t be shy. People will reply to your questions.

Hi, I am curious to know if the base camp at Susanville (sends firefighters out all around the country or do they basically stay on the western side of the US? Is this the closest base camp to Spokane, Washington?

Also, what is daily base camp life like? Who prepares the meals? Is there an established camp there with sleeping accommodations & provisions? When there is no fire for them to fight, are they free to leave camp? How many firefighters work out of the camp?

Also, how long is training to learn how to parachute into fire areas? Are there any prerequisites to becoming a “smoke jumper?” how dangerous is it?

I have a 17 year old grandson who is talking about the good money to be earned, just working from late spring to fall. He feels it would give him a good nest egg for college in 2005. I am concerned about the conditions at the camp and the training beginners get.

If I get a favorable response from you I would like to look into this further – can you direct me to a site/sites where I could learn more about the basics and how a parent/grandparent could track (on the internet) what fires are current & if a family member is put on a certain fire.

thanks so much for anything you can help me with,

Lu H

Lu, I don’t personally know about the camp at Susanville, but here are a couple of quick answers to some of your questions:

To be a smokejumper, you must be an experienced wildland firefighter and then go through extensive jumper training. It is not for beginners. To find out about smokejumpers, try this site… www.fs.fed.us/fire/people/smokejumpers/. Smokejumpers are a ” shared national resource”. They travel to remote, inaccessible areas all over the US to fight wildfire.

I imagine your grandson is talking about temporary, seasonal firefighting work with a federal agency since they’re the largest hirers (ex, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service). If so, he’d be hired to work on a handcrew or engine crew at a local Forest or BLM “duty station”. He’s likely to be dispatched from there with his crew to fight fires out of the area or out of the state. Wildland firefighting assignments can take crews to some of the most beautiful country in the U.S. and they get paid for it. With overtime, the money can add up especially from a young person’s perspective. Some crew members finance their college education fighting fire. However, the beautiful country where fires burn is often rugged and remote… and potentially dangerous when it’s afire. Hours can be long and strenuous. Then sometimes you just “wait a lot”.

The FFI training in which I’ve participated is excellent. It stresses safety, how to stay safe. However, if your grandson is not the outdoorsy type or is not in excellent physical shape, he may be a poor candidate for this kind of job. For a successful experience as in all jobs, the relationship between the person and job must be a “good fit”. If the fit is right, he could have the most rewarding experience of his life. Suggest that he go to the location he’s interested in and talk to the firefighters there. He could treat it as an “informational” job interview.

Here’s info on FS firefighter employment www.fs.fed.us/fire/people/employment/ and the hiring site for the Forest Service www.fs.fed.us/fire/links/links_employment.html and for the BLM www.fire.blm.gov/recruit.htm. Training is done by the agency. You can look a post I did on 6/5 in response to Kirby to get some few details on the training required for the intro level qualifications — Firefighter I. In addition to relying on themselves, novice firefighters must also rely on their more experienced squad bosses and crew supervisors or on their engine captains. There is lots of on-the-job training, both formal and informal. To get a feel for the wider fire community, browse the FS Fire and Aviation site. Fire is “interagency”, but that’s a good place to start.

Sometimes it is not possible to know where your family member is fighting fire unless they call and tell you… and sometimes that’s hard to do from remote sites. Their “duty station” forest will probably know where they were dispatched first, but their crew might be sent on after that first location. Some of the family members who write in to our familysaid web page during the season know more about tracking their family members than firefighters do. Undoubtedly you can get some more answers to questions from them as the season gets underway. Pop over to the familysaid page in a few weeks and ask those good folks. Browse back through their suggestions from seasons past. As far as the resources we maintain on wildlandfire.com, if you are able to find out a fire’s name, you can take a look at our running list of large fires on the web, 2003 linked at the top of this page. You can read the National Fire Situation Report, the NIFC Large Fire website, the southwest or southern CA news and notes pages, all linked from our Links Page, button in our header. You can follow some fires via our News Page also linked in our header. Clearly not much for this season is up on the web yet but there are signs that things are heating up.


The views expressed are not those of this site, this blog or its affiliated companies. By posting your comments you agree to accept our terms of use.

Leave a comment