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Career and Education Opportunities for Forest Firefighters in Seattle, Washington

There is a wide variety of career and education opportunities for forest firefighters in the Seattle, Washington area. About 7,060 people are currently employed as forest firefighters in Washington. By 2016, this is expected to grow by 11% to 7,850 people employed. This is not quite as good as the nation as a whole, where employment opportunities for forest firefighters are expected to grow by about 18.5%. Forest firefighters generally control and suppress fires in forests or vacant public land.

Forest firefighters earn approximately $30 hourly or $62,910 per year on average in Washington. Nationally they average about $21 hourly or $44,260 annually. Compared with people working in the overall category of Fire Control, people working as forest firefighters in Washington earn less. They earn less than people working in the overall category of Fire Control nationally. Forest firefighters work in a variety of jobs, including: forest ranger, fire fighter, and forestry crew chief.

The Seattle area is home to sixty-five schools of higher education, including five within twenty-five miles of Seattle where you can get a degree as a forest firefighter. Given that the most common education level for forest firefighters is a high school diploma or GED, it will take only a short time to learn to be a forest firefighter if you already have a high school diploma.

CAREER DESCRIPTION: Forest Firefighter

Forest Firefighter video from the State of New Jersey Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development

In general, forest firefighters control and suppress fires in forests or vacant public land.

Forest firefighters patrol burned areas after fires to identify and eliminate hot spots that may restart fires. They also extinguish flames and embers to suppress fires, using shovels, or engine- or hand-driven water or chemical pumps. Equally important, forest firefighters have to manage knowledge of current firefighting practices by participating in drills and by attending seminars and conferences. They are often called upon to fell trees, cut and clear brush, and dig trenches to generate firelines, using axes, chainsaws or shovels. They are expected to manage fire equipment and firehouse living quarters. Finally, forest firefighters manage contact with fire dispatchers at all times to notify them of the need for additional firefighters and supplies, or to detail any difficulties encountered.

Every day, forest firefighters are expected to be able to lift, push and move large and heavy objects. They need to evaluate problems as they arise. It is also important that they listen to and understand others in meetings.

It is important for forest firefighters to perform forest maintenance and improvement tasks such as cutting brush, planting trees, building trails and marking timber. They are often called upon to inform and educate the public about fire prevention. They also operate pumps connected to high-pressure hoses. They are sometimes expected to transport staff and cargo to and from fire areas. Somewhat less frequently, forest firefighters are also expected to participate in physical training to maintain high levels of physical fitness.

Forest firefighters sometimes are asked to serve as fully trained lead helicopter crewmember and as helispot manager. They also have to be able to observe forest areas from fire lookout towers to spot potential problems and test and maintain tools, equipment, jump gear and parachutes to insure readiness for fire suppression efforts. And finally, they sometimes have to manage fire equipment and firehouse living quarters.

Like many other jobs, forest firefighters must be reliable and be thorough and dependable.

Similar jobs with educational opportunities in Seattle include:

  • Fire Code Inspector. Inspect buildings and equipment to detect fire hazards and enforce state and local regulations.
  • Fire Fighter. Control and extinguish municipal fires, protect life and property and conduct rescue efforts.
  • Fire Inspector. Conduct investigations to determine causes of fires and explosions.
  • Forest Fire Lookout. Enforce fire regulations and inspect for forest fire hazards. Report forest fires and weather conditions.
  • Lifeguard. Monitor recreational areas, such as pools, beaches, or ski slopes to provide assistance and protection to participants.

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: Forest Firefighter Training

Bellevue College - Bellevue, WA

Bellevue College, 3000 Landerholm Cir SE, Bellevue, WA 98007-6484. Bellevue College is a large college located in Bellevue, Washington. It is a public school with primarily 4-year or above programs and has 11,748 students. Bellevue College has an associate's degree program in Fire Science/Firefighting which graduated nineteen students in 2008.

Clover Park Technical College - Lakewood, WA

Clover Park Technical College, 4500 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, WA 98499-4004. Clover Park Technical College is a medium sized college located in Lakewood, Washington. It is a public school with primarily 2-year programs and has 3,781 students. Clover Park Technical College has a less than one year and an associate's degree program in Fire Protection, Other Specialties which graduated four and four students respectively in 2008.

Olympic College - Bremerton, WA

Olympic College, 1600 Chester Ave, Bremerton, WA 98337-1699. Olympic College is a medium sized college located in Bremerton, Washington. It is a public school with primarily 4-year or above programs and has 6,596 students. Olympic College has a less than one year and an associate's degree program in Fire Science/Firefighting which graduated twenty-three and two students respectively in 2008.

Everett Community College - Everett, WA

Everett Community College, 2000 Tower Street, Everett, WA 98201. Everett Community College is a medium sized college located in Everett, Washington. It is a public school with primarily 2-year programs and has 5,765 students. Everett Community College has a one to two year and an associate's degree program in Fire Science/Firefighting which graduated thirteen and fifteen students respectively in 2008.

Bates Technical College - Tacoma, WA

Bates Technical College, 1101 S Yakima Ave, Tacoma, WA 98405. Bates Technical College is a medium sized college located in Tacoma, Washington. It is a public school with primarily 2-year programs and has 2,807 students. Bates Technical College has less than one year, one to two year, and associate's degree programs in Fire Science/Firefighting which graduated thirty-nine, three, and fifteen students respectively in 2008.

CERTIFICATIONS

Oxygen Administration: Prepares laypersons and professional rescuers with the knowledge and skills needed to know when and how to use supplemental oxygen and breathing devices.

For more information, see the American Red Cross website.

Incident Safety Officer - Fire Suppression Certification: A fire department incident safety officer's mission is to promote safety standards and practices in the fire, rescue and emergency services community.

For more information, see the Fire Department Safety Officers Association website.

Health & Safety Officer Certification: Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Programs.

For more information, see the Fire Department Safety Officers Association website.

Special Hazards Suppression Systems: This certification program is designed for engineering technicians engaged in the detailing and layout and/or installation and maintenance related to special hazards suppression systems.

For more information, see the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies website.

LOCATION INFORMATION: Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington photo by Dschwen

Seattle is located in King County, Washington. It has a population of over 598,541, which has grown by 6.2% in the past ten years. The cost of living index in Seattle, 126, is far greater than the national average. New single-family homes in Seattle are valued at $206,700 on average, which is well below the state average. In 2008, five hundred ninety-five new homes were built in Seattle, down from seven hundred seventy-five the previous year.

The three big industries for women in Seattle are health care, professional, scientific, and technical services, and educational services. For men, it is professional, scientific, and technical services, construction, and educational services. The average commute to work is about 25 minutes. More than 47.2% of Seattle residents have a bachelor's degree, which is higher than the state average. The percentage of residents with a graduate degree, 17.3%, is higher than the state average.

The unemployment rate in Seattle is 7.8%, which is less than Washington's average of 8.7%.

The percentage of Seattle residents that are affiliated with a religious congregation, 37.3%, is less than the national average but more than the state average. The largest religious groups are the Catholic Church, the LDS (Mormon) Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Seattle is home to the Berth 5 and the Akli Point Lighthouse as well as Lincoln Park and Myrtle Edwards Park. Shopping centers in the area include Lake City Shopping Center, Westwood Village Shopping Center and Oak Tree Village Shopping Center. Visitors to Seattle can choose from A-1 Motel, Arlington Suites and Marriott Sea-Tac Airport for temporary stays in the area.