Protips for landing your first fire job

A member of a Bureau of Land Management engine crew helps manage a prescribed fire in southwest Idaho. (DOI/Neal Herbert)


If you’re looking for a seasonal job in wildland fire, now is the time to apply! Four bureaus manage wildland fire for the Department of the Interior, and all of them are currently hiring seasonal firefighters for next year. These include the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Our colleagues at the U.S. Forest Service are also looking for firefighters to fill their ranks. Entry-level positions typically work a six-month season and pay $11 to $14 per hour depending on location (GS-03 on the federal pay scale).

Luckily there’s one-stop shopping for all federal job announcements. Despite that simplicity, the process of searching and applying for federal jobs has its quirks. Here are some tips to help you navigate the world of federal hiring...and land your first job in wildland fire.


  • All federal job announcements are posted at
  • Searching can be tricky because there’s isn’t a single keyword that will provide a list of all the jobs related to wildland fire. Here are two searches that cover most entry-level positions:
  • Search results will include government-wide opportunities unless you add a filter for a particular agency (e.g. Bureau of Land Management).
  • Each job announcement is limited to one agency but may be used to hire positions in multiple locations. You can choose your preferred locations in the application process.
  • Before you apply, find out who is hiring in a specific location (Assistant Fire Management Officer, Engine Foreman, etc.) and call them to introduce yourself and learn more about the job. Check out this list of contacts for fire managers across the country.


  • Applications for federal jobs are only accepted at To apply you'll need to create an account and provide a resume.
  • Use the USAJOBS resume builder until you're familiar with the process. The resume builder will prompt you to provide details you might not know to include on a custom resume.
  • Make sure your resume specifically shows how you meet the qualifications listed in the announcement. Don’t use one-page resumes. Clearly documenting your experience (which helps determine if you qualify for a job) is more important than keeping your resume short.
  • List references that can speak to your character as an employee (e.g. self-starter, team player).

After you Apply

  • Be patient: the process of reviewing applications can be lengthy.
  • You can login to your USAJOBS account to check the status of an application.
  • You may receive an email notification that your application has been referred to the hiring official.
  • Having your application referred doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be offered a job.
  • If your application isn’t referred, you will not be offered a job under that announcement.
  • Answer your phone, check messages/email often, and respond quickly. Hiring officials contact select applicants by phone or email to check availability, schedule interviews, or make job offers.
  • If you’re not contacted, keep checking the status of your application on USAJOBS for updates.

I hope these tips help you navigate the application process...and find a job. Feel free to post follow-up questions to us via Facebook and Twitter, or read more about the USAJOBS application process and starting a career in wildland fire.

Good luck everyone...see you on the fireline next year!

Neal Herbert is a Public Affairs Specialist with the Office of Wildland Fire.