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.