Tree Foundation of Kern

Wildland Fire Manager

To prevent, suppress, contain and control damage and injuries as a result of fires

Once a natural part of many ecosystems, wildland fires were largely held in check for more than five decades and today's fire managers, battling blazes, work to prevent catastrophic fires brought about by years of overgrowth and crowding within forests.

Although fire managers do fight wildland fires and help save lives, property and natural resources, much of their work tackles prevention through prescribed burning and other fire management techniques.

Successful fire management is a team effort that includes professionals such as timber managers and biologists along with the technical expertise of fire fighters and fuels managers and those who work the educational front lines teaching children about fire safety.

The field of fire management offers a wide variety of job opportunities behind the scenes, on the front lines and even positions such as administrative and clerical which remain far from the field and flames. "No matter what your skill is with the Forest Service, you can be useful in fighting fires," said Artie Colson with the U.S. Forest Service at Sequoia National Forest in California.

Hot Shots, an elite group of firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service, work where the dirt meets the pavement, coordinating with other agencies to battle wildland fires when they reach the border of the urban environment. Fighting fires as a Hot Shot involves high risk and extreme physical conditioning for both men and women. Hot Shots live together, train together and fight fires together, and the camaraderie and trust among these highly efficient 20-person teams is hard to match.

According to Fulton Hot Shot Superintendent Ron Bollier the job requires both physical and mental stamina and toughness. Although the work is seasonal, the financial return can be great as Hot Shots travel wherever they are needed helping to battle blazes. Hot Shot work is not just for men any longer and today women train and work equally alongside men although there numbers remain relatively small given the physical demands of the job.

After one month of training Hot Shot Erin Pulcher realized how out of shape she was but said the demands just made her work and train harder. "I chose to grit my teeth and prove to myself that this was something I could do. It really helped me prove that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to."

Pulcher recalled her favorite saying about the job of the Hot Shot -- "Of course it's hard. It's the hard that makes it good. If it was easy then you would see everybody wanting to do it."

Requires: Physically and mentally very demanding. Good seasonal work. Salary: About $25,000 for six months. Starts at $9 per hour, up to $16 per hour.