Q: What does Firestorm Do?
A: Firestorm does many things, so we will summarize the main areas of our operation.
Firestorm is an emergency service, forestry management and fire safety company that performs contracts for the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), The National Park Service (NPS), private land and home owners as well as local governments.
Firestorm has several different departments that perform these different operations for the various agencies. Firestorm’s Emergency Services Division provides 20-person Hand Crews and fire Engines to the US Forest Service as well as the National Park Service. The hand crews and engines perform the same tasks on Wildland fires as those of the Federal agencies.
The Forestry and Fire Safety Division utilizes the fire crews to perform hazardous fuels reduction work for private landowners, nonprofits, and local, state and federal governments. Work includes chainsaw thinning, controlled burning, handline construction and more. Firestorm also performs biomass removal, mastication, and other forms of mechanical fuels treatment.
Firestorm also provides agencies and private landowners consultation regarding fire hazard reduction, project layout and project implementation. In summary, if there is a project to be done we will do it.
Q: What kind of pay does firestorm offer?
A: Firestorms pay varies depending on several factors and your capacity in the organization. Our pay on the fire crews is comparable of that of the Federal agencies and varies depending on experience. If hired, you will be given a pay rate schedule and your supervisor will go over it with you.
Q: What kind of benefits are available?
A: Employees that work government service contracts are eligible to accrue Paid Personal Hours after their first year of employment. For employees who have been with Firestorm for more than 12 months of continuous service there is a 401k option. Firestorm does not contribute to the 401k at this time.
Q: Do I need to have previous training?
A: Yes. A prerequisite to being hired is to be currently certified, whether it is the first time taking your Basic Wildland Fire Training or you need your RT-130 Annual Refresher and Work Capacity Test. Firestorm accepts any certified NWCG Training.
Q: What if my training is through Cal Fire or a Conservation Camp?
A: If you received your training through Cal Fire, you probably have a certificate that says 67 Hour Firefighter I Basic Training. This certificate is acceptable and equivalent to the NWCG S-130, S-190 and L-180. You still will need to take the online self study I-100 and IS-700a courses. If it has been more than 12 months since you took your 67-Hour training, you will need to take the RT-130 Annual Refresher and Work Capacity Test.
Q: Do I need to have previous experience?
A: No. Firestorm hires about 30-40% new hires every year that have no prior experience.
Q: What kind of work do you do on a Hand Crew / Engine Crew?
A: Our hand crews and engines perform many tasks. While on fires, our crews perform the same tasks as any agency crew – handline construction, mop-up and burnout preparation and assistance. When not on fires, the crews perform project work consisting of hand thinning and piling, handline construction for burn preparations, chipping, and other forms of fuel reduction work. After fire season, our hand crews perform thousands of acres of broadcast and pile burning.
Q: What equipment do I need to be on a fire crew?
A: Firestorm will provide all of you firefighting gear and personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes:
- nomex pants
- nomex shirt
- safety glasses
- line gear
- fire shelter
You will need
- Boots with the following minimum standard (8 inches tall, Vibram Soles and without a steel toe.)
- Quality* sleeping bag. We suggest at least a 20 degree bag
- Sleeping pad
- Quality* tent such as a North Face, MSR, Mountain Hardware, Sierra Design.
- Small camp stove is also convenient but not required.
- Head Lamp
- Personal Gear Bag
*While on project, we typically camp out near the project site for 5 days a week. Temperatures have ranged from -4 degrees to 120 degrees, so it is imperative that you have quality camping gear.
Q: What are the best boots to get?
A: Everyone has their personal preference when it comes to boots. Our suggestion is to try the following brands: Whites, Nicks, Westco or Danners. Nicks and Whites are fully re-buildable, so at the end of fire season you can send them back to the manufacturer and they will replace the soles and, if necessary, the leather uppers for about half the price of a new pair.
Average cost for a good pair of boots is between $300 – $400. A properly fitting pair of boots is worth the investment.
Q: What do I have to do to get prepared?
A: Fighting fire and performing our project work will be the toughest job, physically and mentally, that you will ever do. The best thing you can do to get prepared to work on a hand crew is to start hiking, running, and lifting weights. You should be able to run at least 4-5 miles at 8 min. miles, and be capable of hiking up extremely steep hill for miles at a time with at least 30 pounds of gear. You should also be able to do push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups with ease.
Without actually doing the job its tough to be completely prepared, but if you are in excellent physical condition, it will make the job much more bearable. You need to be mentally prepared to work very long hours in very harsh conditions. Most individuals can become physically capable of doing the job, but lack the mental fortitude to handle the rough conditions and fatigue.
You need to communicate with your family what will be expected of you. Fire season often will find you away from home up to 30 days at a time and often without cell phone communication. It is important that your family will support you in this journey and understand the commitment you are making to your handcrew or engine.
Q: Q: What does project work consist of?
A: Our project work consists of the following types of fuels treatment:
- Hand piling
- Chainsaw thinning
- Handline construction
- Fuel break construction
- Pile burning
- Clear-cut burning
- Under story burning
- Fire hazard reduction around homes
Q: Where does Firestorm work?
A: Firestorm operates nationwide. While the majority of our projects are in Northern California, we do have the ability to mobilize any where in the country within 24 hours.
Q: How close do I need to live to my dispatch location?
A: Firestorm’s emergency response time is about 90 minutes from the time that we receive the call. You need to live within one hour (preferably closer) of the dispatch location in which you are hired; Chico, Anderson, or Weaverville.
Q: Do you provide housing?
A: We do not provide housing.
Q: Do you work full time or call when needed?
A: Most wildland fire positions are call-when-needed. We like to call it “Full-Time Seasonal.” During an average to busy fire season, you will work more than full time, generally June/July through September/October.
We like to have our crews available by April 1st and will work through the prescribed burn season (Nov-Dec) or until we get snowed out. We do our best to keep as many firefighters working throughout the year as possible but it comes down to ongoing projects and weather conditions.
Q: Are you guys like Cal Fire, Forest Service, or BLM?
A: All agencies have their differences and similarities. There are a few major differences that make us unique.
• Flexibility: We are not a large bureaucracy so we can be more flexible not only with our operations, but with our personnel.
• Projects: Our fire crews perform a lot of the same work as the other agencies, but the volume that we complete every year is much greater.
• Hiring: Our application process is much simpler. We are good ‘foot in the door’ if you are looking to get some experience in order to get hired by one of the state or federal agencies.
• Travel: We do travel often throughout the western U.S. and are available to go anywhere in the U.S. This is no different than the federal agency crews
The major difference with our crews and engines is that we aren’t stuck having to work out of the same station all summer. Instead, we spend time in Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings National Parks, on the Plumas, Lassen and Shasta-Trinity National Forests and many other areas throughout California and Nevada.
Q: How long is the fire season and how long do you work?
A: Fire season in California typically begins in June and ends in October. Our crews are available from April 1st through December 1st or until the first snow
Q: Do you hire students who plan on going back to school in August or September?
A: Yes. Although we support higher education, we can only hire one or two students per crew since the start of school is typically in August and September which falls right in the middle of fire season, creating a shortage in the crew.