How To Become A Forest Firefighter

Forest fires are devastating in so many ways. They spread quickly, destroying natural habitat and killing wildlife.

They also cause damage to individual homes and communities and can take human lives or cause serious injuries.

If you have ever found yourself watching news coverage of a forest fire and felt inspired by the brave firefighters, then you might be wondering how you can become a forest firefighter and do what they do.

Becoming a forest firefighter is not easy, but it is a rewarding and noble profession.

We have put together this useful guide to tell you everything you need to know about how to become a forest firefighter, also known as a wildland firefighter. Keep reading to find out more about this career. 

How To Become A Forest FireFighter

Being A Forest Firefighter

Before you apply to become a forest firefighter, you need to make sure that you are prepared. It is a very challenging  job that will require dedication and determination. 

You will need to work long hours doing physically demanding work including heavy lifting, climbing steep and uneven terrain, and withstanding immense heat. It is also an emotionally intensive job, working in high stress environments. 

There are various different roles in the forest firefighting service including hand crews that deal with operation and maintenance of tools and equipment, engine crews, helicopter crews, and smoke jumpers.

There are entry level positions, senior management positions and everything in between. 

Working as a forest firefighter is not just fighting fires - it is also preventing them, detecting them and patrolling.

If all of this sounds like your ideal career then keep reading to find out how to get involved. 

Basic Eligibility Requirements 

There are some basic requirements that you need to meet in order to become a forest firefighter.

Before you consider a career in firefighting, make sure that all of these things apply to you:

  • Citizenship - You must be a U.S. Citizen or a U.S. National in order to become a forest firefighter. 

  • Driver’s License - You must have a valid driver’s license

  • Age - You must be between the ages of 18 and 37 in order to apply (if you are accepted then you can continue in the job role beyond this age

  • Selective Service - If you are a male born after 1959 then you must be registered for selective service unless you are exempt 

  • IFPM - You must meet the Interagency Fire Program Management Qualifications. The IFPM is a collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service and the Department Of Interior Wildlife Bureaus. It ensures that anyone working in fire and aviation is suitably qualified for the job. 

  • Drug Test - You must be able to provide a negative drug test result 

  • WCT - You must be able to pass a work capacity test 

These are the basic requirements that everyone who wishes to apply must meet. Individual forest services may have their own requirements depending on the area and the number of applications they receive.

Make sure you check with the forest service that you are going to be applying to. 

How To Become A Forest Firefighter


You do not need a degree to become a forest firefighter. However, there is a lot of competition so a relevant degree could set you apart from the other candidates.

This could be fire science, forestry, agriculture, wildlife management, range management, conservation, forest engineering, wildland fire science, soil science, or natural resources.

Relevant experience is also useful, like volunteering with a local fire service or with forest rangers. 

You can also become a forest firefighter if you are already a qualified firefighter.

This experience of dealing with fires and working in a high pressure environment will put you in a good position to be accepted into the role. 

However, working in a forest is very different to working in a highly populated area and it will come with its own challenges. 

The requirements to become part of a hotshot crew can be different. A hotshot crew is a team of 20 highly trained specialist forest firefighters who tackle large, fast-spreading blazes.

They tend to be made up of experienced forest firefighters, though this is not always the case.

If you want to join a hotshot crew then you will need to contact the forest service you want to join for more information on requirements. 

Entry Tests 

You will need to pass a written test in order for your application to be successful. You will also need to pass a work capacity test to ensure that you are fit and able to do the job.

Some forest services may also require you to pass a psychological evaluation. 

During your training you will also need to pass various tests and evaluations to make sure that you are retaining all of the relevant information and learning the necessary skills. 

Physical Fitness 

Before you consider applying to become a forest firefighter, you should make sure that you are physically fit.

You need to have stamina, cardiovascular fitness and endurance, and good muscular strength.

The job involves long hours, strenuous work, and you might not get much rest in between shifts. It can be grueling and is certainly a vigorous challenge. 

You should also make sure that you are comfortable in forest terrain. Go on regular hikes taking challenging routes to make sure that you can handle the steep inclines and uneven ground.

You can also be proactive doing these hikes with a weighted backpack, as you will likely have heavy equipment with you when doing the job. This will prepare you well for the demands of the work.

If you can track your hikes and the speed then this could also be used to prove that you are capable of doing the job. 


Being a forest firefighter is a challenging job that is not suited to everyone. It is also a competitive profession to get into.

If you think that it is the career for you then make sure you check that you meet the requirements before you apply. Good luck!