Friday, July 20, 2007

Smokejumpers and Smokejumping

Smokejumping has been the greatest adventure of my life! Please check out my website and leave any questions or comments you may have about The Greatest Job in the World, here.

Questions on how to become a smokejumper? See the following: How can I become a Smokejumper? (Wildfire experience needed.)

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good Day,

My name is Patrick, and I have recently become insanely interested in smoke jumping. You seem like a good source for some info and advice. I'm 25, ex-military, Infantryman. I was not airborne, just a leg, so I'm used to humping rediculous distances with much weight. I passed up green berets for this, it took a hold of me that much. I reenlisted as a firefighter back home in South Dakota National Guard, I've gone to DOD fire academy, (mostly structural stuff, FF1 & 2, Hazmat, etc.), and im working on a degree in fire science online. I am considering a school im wyoming that focuses more on wildland than the course i'm currently in. So, if you would, where should I start? Is 25 too old to start? Should I continue online since Jumpers travel frequently, I realize it might take a few years. What kind of hours do u work? Second jobs? Let me have it man, Im serious about this! Thank You,

Patrick

Buck said...

Hi Patrick,

25 is not too old to start. If I were you I'd focus on getting wildland firefighting experience. Actual fireline experience will be much more valuable in getting accepted into smokejumper training than your degree, parachuting experience, and so on. Ideally, I'd suggest getting on a hotshot crew as soon as possible. Work as hard as you can and learn as much as possible about fire. Once you've got some wildland fire experience with some very good references, you can start talking to some smokejumper bases about how to get into their rookie training programs.

It's a very competitive field, no doubt about it. Usually, several years of wildland firefighting experience are required before you'll be seriously considered. Many people are never selected no matter how long they work towards smokejumping.

Most jumpers are doing something else during the "off season," things like school, other jobs, travel, skiing, etc. Some work as smokejumpers all year doing whatever work needs to be done.

While working, hours can range from 40 hours a week to well over 100 hours a week.

Spiderschwein said...

Hello, I am a boy from Germany. 19 years old and saw e documentation about Smokejumpers in TV. Do you think, that it is possible to do Smokejumping for only one season? Because I am ready with school and I am very interrested in this. After school I want to hang up for mayby one year before I start to study. Now do you think it is possible to do that or not because of the short time, training or something else...
I hope my english is not to bad for understanding :-)
Thank You

Buck said...

Hi Spiderschwein,

Your English is fine.

I'm afraid it would be impossible for you at the present. Extensive wildland firefighting experience is necessary before you can be considered for acceptance into training, and even then it is very competitive.

On the other hand, many experienced firefighters have been smokejumpers for only one season.

Best of luck,

Buck

Anonymous said...

Hi Buck,
I am going to apply for a seasonal smokejumper spot with this season and I would like to know what I can do to better my chances for getting hired .(call? go in person to the base?)
I have four seasons with the Forest Service on the Angeles and Los Padres Forests with experience varying from Type 1 crew to engine. I rate out as a GS5.
I know the minimal physical qualifications to pass, but what is really expected of a jumper as for pushup, pullup, situps, and so on.

Buck thank you for your time,
Ryan

Buck said...

I think calling and personally visiting the base is a good idea. Let your enthusiasm show, but don't overdo it. If they can put a face to the name it can help. Of course, mostly they want a good, strong, experienced worker. Getting kudos from your old supervisors is a big plus.

You should be able to do at least the minimums, many times a day. A lot of people show up barely able to do the minimums and they don't make it. Get yourself in the best shape of your life!

Good luck,

Buck

Anonymous said...

hello

im tim i have been trying to get started in the fire fighters for awhile now so i could work my way to smokejumping but i have gotten nowhere do you have any advise as to what i should do

Buck said...

Getting some wildland firefighting experience is the most important of all. Apply for district firefighting crews for the Bureau of Land Manangement or Forest Service, or even a private firefighting contractor. You might be able to get a job for one of the above where firefighting is a secondary duty. One step in job experience that many people follow on their way to smokejumping is working on a Hotshot crew, so you should be applying to these crews as soon as you can, also.

Good luck!

Buck

Anonymous said...

Hello sir,

My name is Patrick i'm a senior in highschool and I have found smokejumping to be very interesting but I havnt been able to find out what I do to get started because ive been told several different stories on what to do, right now my plan is to go to college that has a firefighting degree but ive also been told to take a degree like biology or a degree dealing with forrestry and try to get on fighting fires in the summer with BLM. So I would really appreaciate it if you could give me advice or an actual answer on what I need to do to at least get started toward that career.

Thank you and much appreaciation.

Buck said...

Hi Patrick,

To become a smokejumper, wildfire experience is essential, having a related degree is not. So most importantly you need to get some wildland firefighting experience.

If you decide to make wildfire a career, having a related degree is a requirement for some management level positions.

Check out my above answers, too.

Good luck!

Buck

Anonymous said...

hi im chris ive been thinking about smokejumping for a year now. im 20 years old and in good shape. im just curious on how i can become a smokejumper. should i shoot to become a firefighter first? or is there an actuall academy for smokejumping?

Buck said...

Hi Chris,

Please see the above answers and my website. There is no actual academy where people "off the street" go directly into firefighting via smokejumping. You must have extensive wildland firefighting experience first.

Gurr said...

hey patrick,
This will be my fourth season in wildland fire...I just got hired for a squadboss position on a type 2 handcrew...do you have any advice as to getting hired for rookie training besides talking to the bases? also, could you give me a rundown on rookie training as far as running, hiking, physical stuff? thank you!

Buck said...

Hi Gurr,

Although it wouldn't hurt to start applying now, working on a Type 1 crew would be very helpful.

Rookie training varies from base to base so I can't give you specifics. Some time spent on Google should give you a few examples. But there are a lot of pushups, pullups, situps, running and packing.

Training tends to be much harder that many people think, and the washout rate is high. You should be able to do the requirements of the PT test several times in one day.

See the below links. Good luck!

Buck

Training plan
Smokejumper training

blake horr said...

hi this is blake horr
i need facts- do i need collge? Is there a weight and heigth limit? how do i get on a hot shot crew? i need to know, i have always wanted to be a smoke jumper but rather than chase a dream i chased the big bucks of the oilfeild, haha far off from what i wanted huh. i need to know, im 20 years old,im 6-6 in hieght and 235 pounds. and want to start now.

Buck said...

A little bit of research will answer your question about whether college is needed to be a smokejumper. It isn't.

Some bases have a 200 lbs max weight limitation with a 60" minimum and 77" max height. The BLM is likely to cut you some slack on the weight because they use square parachutes which tend to allow for softer landings if used correctly.

You get on a hotshot crew by applying. Try Google. There aren't any shortcuts. The work of becoming a smokejumper starts with research.

jon said...

Hey Buck

I just took my WSE-01 wildland course here in Utah and got a job on the Internship Crew as a GS03 for 09 season, So ill get hands on paid training from may 4- early fall. I was thinking also next year returning as GS04 and getting on the Hotshots (since Im making fitness my #1 priority).

I have been interested in smoke jumping for a bit now. Just unsure If I want to get a education or live the life of a smoke jumper and retire. If you make WLFF or Smoke Jumping your career I hear you have the option for early retirement, is that true?

Would you say Wildland fire or "Smoke Jumping" is a good choice for someone interested in one day having a degree. Im putting experience through work first but am interested in a degree in science of animals and conservation. Since jumping is hard work Id think u need a degree or something to fall back on.

Thank you
jon

Buck said...

Hi Jon,

Being a hotshot or a smokejumper is something that I would only advise doing if you love the job. It's true that you can get an early retirement if you get put in enough years as a firefighter, but there's a reason for that! It's hard work and hard on your body and not many people can last physically until the normal retirement age.

A large share of smokejumpers have degrees, so you don't need to choose between the two. I think it's always wise to have a "plan b" and that is true for a wildland firefighting career.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi,


I am one month away from going to Northern New Mexico College to get an AAS in Wildland Fire Science, but I was wondering if it would be more beneficial to just go straight to work. I'm only 18 and just got out of high school, and I can get my degree in less than two years. I'm leaning towards going to school, but if it's more beneficial not to, then I'm not going to drop all that money.

Basically, the master plan is college, several seasons as a hotshot, Army (airborne), then trying to apply as a smoke jumper. Does that sound plausable?

Buck said...

I think most people would say to try to try to get a degree AND to fight fire. Lots of people go to school in the winter and fight fire during the summer.

If your primary goal is smokejumping, fire will be of much more value than Airborne experience. As a matter of fact, although paratrooper experience is admired, a high recommendation from a hotshot crew is much more likely to get you selected as a rookie smokejumper.

Good luck!

Buck

Anonymous said...

Hi Buck,

I was just wondering what is the best way to get wildland firefighting experience? Where should I start? Should I just apply to a hotshot crew or is there something lower than that, that I should apply for and just work my up to a hotshot crew and then a smokejumper? Also, do you have to be certified in anything beforehand or do you just apply and then if they hire you they put you through an academy? I currently live in Texas and to get a job as a structure firefighter you have to get certified in firefighting then they hire you and put you in their own extensive training. Sorry if I'm confusing you. It would be great if you could answer these questions. Thanks!

Buck said...

It's been a long time since I had to "get my foot in the door." Sometimes it's possible to get lucky and get hired on a hotshot crew with virtually no experience, but in general it might pay to try to get started on a crew such as a district fire crew for the BLM or Forest Service. It's possible to get hired on at times with no experience and then they will put you through a basic course(s.) You might call the crew you are interested in working for and see what they have to say. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

do you ever save animals?


from the forest fires.

Buck said...

It's amazing how few animals I've seen that have been killed in fires. Animals like deer almost always easily run away. I guess I moved some young geese out of the way once. That's the only time I can think of where I've tried to rescue animals.

Anonymous said...

Dear, Buck

Do you see many female smokejumpers these days? Is it hard for a female to get a job as a smoke jumper?

Thanks,

Ciciley

Buck said...

Hi Ciciley,

Most bases have a few female smokejumpers. Women usually have an advantage in getting selected for smokejumper training. But wildfire experience is still necessary of course, along with good recommendations from prior employers and excellent physical fitness to complete the training.

Good luck,

Buck

Unknown said...

Hey Buck,
Just want to start this out by saying thanks for all these previous questions you answered and of course for your fire duty. I was wondering if a past felony conviction would stop me from being excepted? It was for carrying a concealed firearm, young and dumb, which I've been paying for dearly. I'm currently in college studying for an A.A.S. in Fire Science, and planning on coming back for my EMT 1 certification, and I'm just curious to know if that would prevent me from getting into Wildland firefighting. Have worked along side any great firemen who have also made bad decisions in their past? again thanks for everything Buck. Alonzo G.

Buck said...

Hi Alonzo,

I honestly don't know all the legalities. I think it would depend not only on the regulations but on the screeners, too.

The screeners I know would be much more concerned about whether you are a hard working, dependable, experienced, firefighter now than about something foolish you did years ago. Many smokejumpers did something foolish when they were young, and I can think of at least two that I know personally that were convicted of felonies.

Anonymous said...

My name is Nathan, I got out of the navy after three years as a diver and I'm looking for my next adventurous job. I have my GI bill and would like to use it first so what degree or degrees would be the most helpful to obtaining a job as a smokejumper?

Buck said...

Hi Nathan,

On-the-ground wildfire experience is most important, but a degree in Wildland Fire or Fire Science would be helpful. Good luck!

Buck

HarpT said...

Greetings, I found a Craigslist posting for wild land firefighting for quite a few place in Oregon earlier this year when fire season was about to start. I went online and got my NIMS cert and was about to attend a 7 day training course but some scheduled court appearances conflicted with my availability for that time. I am 37 years old and have never done wild land firefighting, but I can run about 11 miles in 100 minutes, can do 350 push-ups in 10 sets in less than an hour, and weigh 210 lbs. Will my age disqualify me from becoming a wild land firefighter or perhaps even moving into smoke jumping if I'm still able to meet or exceed the physical requirements?

Buck said...

Hi HarpT,
Your age won't disqualify you. You will absolutely need wildfire experience however, at least two seasons worth if not more. If your goal is to become a smokejumper, you should definitely start firefighting ASAP and ideally get on a Hotshot crew as soon as you can.
Good luck!
Buck