Before You Grow Up: Be a Wildlands Firefighter

There are only a few carefree summers in your life. Don’t waste them interning at law firms—opt for one of these adventure-packed seasonal gigs instead.

early job wildfire firefighter on call hotshot

    Photo: Nick/Flickr

Think of this as the minor leagues for aspiring hotshots and smoke jumpers. On-call firefighters, many of whom are college students, learn the ropes by working 14-to-21-day stints as mop-up crews at forest-fire sites, dousing flames and clearing out felled brush. Home during workdays is a tent or a sleeping bag rolled out on the dirt. The rest of the time you can hike, bike, or just cool your heels in town.

Prereqs: Candidates must be 18 or older and fit enough to walk three miles with a 45-pound pack in 45 minutes.

How to Break In: California’s Mendocino National Forest employs several on-call crews that consist mostly of college students. “They’re designed so people can check out firefighting without the summer-long commitment,” says Mendocino fire-training officer Jesse Roach. “A lot of my students will work one deployment, go backpacking, and then work another deployment.” Also check out private companies like Oregon’s Grayback Forestry.

Pay: $11 to $15 per hour, plus food and a tent space.

Romance Potential: Unlike hotshots or smoke jumpers, you can actually hold down a relationship, because you aren’t in the field all summer.

Résumé Skills: Hose operation, teamwork, putting out fires.

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