Founded in 1906 under the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service is charged with overseeing 417 park units across the United States and its territories, from "Maine to Guam" and back again. Of the 417 park units under its authority, 352 have "burnable vegetation", which requires the NPS to respond to fires on nearly 53 million acres of land. And let's be honest here - not all land is created equal. The Park Service is responsible for protecting America's crown jewels. People all over the world come to visit the US to see these natural wonders. Places like:
Zion. Yosemite. Glacier. The Everglades. Grand Canyon. Yellowstone. Joshua Tree. Rocky Mountain. Acadia. Great Smoky Mountains. Olympia...the list goes on.
Think about it - who wouldn't want to work on a fire crew in Yosemite or Rocky Mountain National Park? They're willing to pay you to spend a summer in paradise. And oh yeah, you'll get paid to work out for, at minimum, an hour every day! If that doesn't excite you - you're on the wrong website my friend.
To compare the National Park Service to other federal agencies see the chart below to learn more about the total acres managed, # of wildfires on their land, and total acres burned annually in 2017.
Wildland Fire Modules
- Black Hills at Jewel Cave NM (SD)
- Buffalo National River (AR)
- Cumberland Gap NHP (KY)
- Great Smoky Mountains NP (TN)
- Saguaro National Park (AZ)
- Whiskeytown NRA (CA)
- Bandelier National Monument
- Everglades Helitack
- Grand Canyon Helitack
- Mesa Verde Helitack
- Teton Interagency Helitack Crew
- Sequoia Kings Canyon Helitack
- Yellowstone Helitack
- Yosemite Helitack
- Zion Helitack
- Arrowhead IHC (Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park)
- Rocky Mountain IHC (Rocky Mountain National Park)
Type 2 Hand Crews
- Crew 61, National Park of American Samoa
Based on publicly available information on the NPS's resources, we can make some assumptions about where the opportunities are to work for the NPS. The chart above assumes the following:
- Aviation Crews = 10 people per crew
- Engine Crews = 4 people per crew
- Hotshot Crews = 20 people per crew
- Type 2 Crews = 20 people per crew
- Wildland Fire Modules = 10 people per crew
Type 2 Hand Crews
The NPS has one Type 2 Handcrew that we could determine, and they're based on the National Park of American Samoa. Yes. You read that correctly. In the middle of the South Pacific, there is a Type 2 Hand Crew. And they regularly come to the Lower 48 during the summer for assignments.
They've gained a little notoriety on the internet as the "Singing Crew". Here's a post from the National Park Service's Facebook page about them along with a video montage talking about them and their background. Our assumption would be that there would be a strong preference for hiring local Samoans to staff this crew. We visited Travelocity to see how much a ticket from San Francisco to Pago Pago, American Samoa would be and we couldn't even find a flight. So if you're in American Samoa and looking to get on a Type 2 hand crew, you're in luck! If you're looking for a way to spend fire season in a tropical paradise, this probably isn't gonna work for you. Maybe look to San Diego instead?
The NPS has 2 hotshot crews. In order to remain compliant with NWCG standards, 80% of the crew must have at least 1 year of fire experience. Which means that each year, each crew can hire, at most, 4 rookies. So there are technically 8 rookie spots available across the two NPS hotshot crews each year.
With 108 engines in the NPS's fleet, this presents the best area for an entry-level firefighter to break in. Now, it's a bit tough to determine precisely how many people are employed year over year on these engines because, depending on the type of engine, staffing levels might vary. For instance, a Type 3 Engine (the largest wildland fire engine) might have 5-7 firefighters assigned to it, while a smaller rig, like a Type 6 engine, might only have 4 or 5 firefighters assigned to it. Also included in this might be patrol rigs or prevention rigs, which might only be staffed by 1 or 2 firefighters. That being said, 432 is our best estimation based on the information available to us. Assuming that each engine could hire 1 - 2 rookies per year, you're looking at somewhere between 108 and 216 entry-level opportunities.
By the numbers alone, your best chance to get on with the NPS for the fire season will be on an engine crew. There are simply more spots available than anywhere else.
Wildland Fire Modules
Of the 48 active wildland fire modules, 6 of those modules are Park Service. And a wildland fire module can have between 7-10 crew members. Depending on the crew, between 4-7 of those roles could be designated for entry-level crew member. So, assuming all crews are maximally-staffed (10 crew members), there are 42 crew member positions available. Assuming minimal staffing (7 crew members), there are approximately 24 positions available. Obviously, the true number lies somewhere in between. And while there is not a specific requirement that crew members have previous fire experience, per NWCG guidelines on WFMs, it would be fair to assume that each crew would limit their hiring of rookies to 1 or 2 per crew per season. So assuming that is the case, there are as few as 6 entry-level positions available, or as many as 12 positions. Again, the true number is most likely somewhere in the middle.
No entry-level positions are available on a helitack crew. All helitack crews require at least one year of fire experience.