A Career in Forest Firefighting


A forest fire can injure or kill animals, threaten towns and communities, emit pollutants into the air, and alter the soil and water. It can spread very quickly, and will destroy everything in its path. As a forest firefighter, it’s your job to minimize the damage that’s caused by a blaze like this one on the left by putting it out as quickly as possible. You also work to prevent fires from occurring in the first place, which involves removing fallen trees, managing controlled burning, and working to educate the community about fire prevention.

As a Forest Firefighter, the majority of your work is done outdoors as part of a crew. Many forest firefighters work where they live (and often where they grew up), protecting forests by putting out the fires that threaten their community. You are motivated and enjoy the challenge that every day brings. You are committed to your team, dedicated to physical fitness, endurance, diligence and the feeling of satisfaction knowing that you’re helping to protect the natural environment, people, and property.

The list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a forest fire fighter:

  • Use firefighting tools such as hoses, axes, and handheld radios
  • Operate and maintain skidders and bulldozers
  • Participate in water bombing operations
  • Dig trenches, cut trees, and pump water onto burning areas
  • Patrol burned areas to watch for hot spots that could restart fires
  • Prepare firefighting reports

Forest firefighters work in a variety of locations, including, but not limited to:

  • Carry heavy equipment across rough terrain
  • Handle large- or small-scale forest fires
  • Prepare firefighting reports

Before entering the workforce, forest firefighters are required to be trained in:

  • Chainsaw safety
  • Standard first aid
  • Transportation of dangerous goods
  • Workplace hazardous materials information systems (WHMIS)

Attributes & Abilitiesrelatedcareers

  • Communication skills
  • Work well as part of a team
  • Able to work in stressful situations
  • Physical strength and stamina
  • An interest in nature and the environment

You should have a strong interest in:

  • Physical education
  • Biology
  • Math
  • English

In most cases, the minimum educational requirement to work as a forest firefighter is a high school diploma. The following post-secondary programs are most applicable to a career in this field:

  • Forestry
  • Wilderness and survival
Location Wage ($/hr)
Low Median High
Vancouver Island and Coast Region 17.00 22.00 35.00
  •  Usually work 40 hours a week, which can include evening and weekend shifts
  • Wages
  • Starting wage 1st year in BC average $19-$20/hour

A few Post-Secondary Education Options

  • College of the Rockies fire training certificate
  • Location: Cranbrook Campus
  • Length: 22 Weeks
  • Tuition Levels (approx.): $13017 Total
  • Book & Supply Cost Estimates: $2500 Total
  • Credentials: Certificate
  • Confirm your program information with COTR
  • Application Deadline Advice: Applications from qualified students are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Early application is recommended.
  • Application Fee: $30


  • BSF (Major in Forest Resources Management) Degree (UBC)
  • Location: Point Grey Campus – Vancouver BC
  • Length: Four Years
  • Tuition Levels (approx.): $5720 per year
  • Book & Supply Cost Estimates: $1170 per year
  • Credentials: Bachelor’s Degree
  • Confirm your program information with UBC
  • Application Deadline Advice: Applications must be submitted by January 31 for September entry. Early application is recommended. Confirm dates with UBC.
  • Application Fee: $62


  • Career Fire Fighter Pre-Employment Certificate
  • Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC)
  • Location: Maple Ridge
  • Length: 12 weeks (30 credits)
  • Tuition Levels (approx.): $7717 Total
  • Book & Supply Cost Estimates: $258 Total
  • Credentials: Certificate
  • Confirm your program information with JIBC
  • Application Deadline Advice: Visit www.jibc.ca for further information.
  • Application Fee: $75. Apply to JIBC now with the BC Post-Secondary Application Service.


“The best way for someone to qualify for an entry-level position is to enter a program in forest management at college and complete all the requirements to earn the degree.”


  • Traveling to places that you would never otherwise see
  • Working with air operations on incident management teams, especially helicopters on fires, and getting to ‘play in the woods’ for a living
  • An opportunity to do something different every day
  • Thinking on your feet (e.g. determining whether you have a brush fire or if you’re going to a sandbagging call), you never know exactly what you have until you arrive on scene. You have to determine if you have a brush fire, if don’t know exactly the type of brush that you have, the topography, the weather, what the fire is exactly doing, or how long you are going to be working for
  • You get to stay physically fit and get to serve your community, which is admirable
  • You get to enjoy the camaraderie, working with other people and learning as well teaching them things


  • The work can be dangerous
  • Working with the forest service, sometimes we are working long hours, especially during prescribed burning season and fire season
  • Working on holidays; and when it’s a beautiful sunny day, it’s a possible fire day. While everyone else is at the beach, a ranger is sitting at home waiting on a fire
  • Being on call for fires means you have to stay close to home or close to your truck
  • Being away from your family/friends for long stretches of time, whether it’s days or weeks
  • Discomfort: sometimes sleeping out on mountainsides on rocks, on the dirt, and getting dirty for long periods of time.
  • Work outdoors in all kinds of weather
  • The work is noisy, dusty, and physically demanding




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