Forest Firefighter


Forest fire fighters use a variety of tactics to control forest fires. For example, when a raging wildfire is on its way, sometimes it’s necessary for forest fire fighters to set a strategic fire to remove trees that could serve as fuel. Forest fire fighters work for logging companies, contractors, and the government.

A forest firefighter looking on at a wildfire

At a glance

Imagine that you’re flying in a helicopter above a large stretch of forest. You see smoke rising from the treetops. The helicopter circles around to give a clear view of the fire below. It then travels around the smoke and lands in an area where you can grab your gear and safely disembark. You feel an emotional and physical rush as you and your crew move quickly to control the fire before it grows large enough to destroy the entire forest.

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 by putting it out as quickly as possible. You also work to prevent fires from occurring in the first place. This involves duties such as removing fallen trees, managing controlled burning, and working to educate the community about fire prevention.

The majority of your work is done outdoors as part of a crew. Many forest firefighters live where they grew up, protecting forests by putting out the fires that threaten them. You are motivated and enjoy the challenge that every day brings. You are committed to your team, dedicated to physical fitness, and feel satisfied knowing that you’re helping to protect the natural environment, people, and property.

Job duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following 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

Work environment

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

In the office:

  • Prepare firefighting reports

In the field:

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

Where to work

  • Federal or provincial government departments
  • Federal or provincial parks
  • Research centres
  • Private fire fighter companies

Education & requirements

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

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)

If you are a high school student considering a career as a forest firefighter, you should have a strong interest in:

  • Physical education
  • Biology
  • Math
  • English

Salary

In their first few years, forest firefighters can make an average of $18,500 per year in Canada.

A forest firefighter with several years of experience and education can make an average of $25,000 per year.