How Veterans Can Get Work Experience in Fighting Wildfires

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(Arizona Conservation Corps)

Some civilian jobs are just perfect for U.S. military veterans -- and fighting wildfires might be one of them. And thanks to one state's training program, veterans can now easily work towards new employment in that field by gaining job experience.

Arizona's Veterans Fire Corps, run by the Arizona Conservation Corps, is a partnership between public lands management agencies and AmeriCorps, the federal government-sponsored civil society program. It trains veterans to fight and prevent wildland fires through resource management, fuels reduction and desert restoration, among other projects.

The Veteran Fire Corps training program runs Sep. 15 through Dec. 18, 2020. It comes with a $400 weekly living allowance and a food budget, as well as an AmeriCorp Education Award and training and experience in natural resource management, fuels mitigation and wildland firefighting.

Related: 15 Toughest Firefighter Interview Questions

Fighting wildfires carries the kind of risk that veterans often crave, especially those of the post-9/11 era. both during and after their military service. And fighting wildfires, though it can leader to Federal jobs, truly is risky. 

forest service careers
The Forest Service employs approximately 10,000 wildland firefighters, including hand crews, Interagency Hotshot Crews, engine crews, helitack crews and smokejumpers.(U.S. Forest Service/Kari Greer)

The 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire, for example, killed 19 firefighters and was the third deadliest wildfire in American history.

But there are other reasons this kind of job might be perfect for veterans. Aside from risk tolerance, a Pew Research study also finds that veterans often want a job that allows them to continue a life of service. The Veterans Fire Corps has that covered too, as the unit also restores and improves trails after catastrophic events.

In 2019, for example, Arizona's Woodbury Fire tore through the Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) in the Superstition Mountains. In the wake of that 132,000-acre fire, Arizona Conservation Corps teams were sent in to repair the trails, build improvements and rehabilitate the area.

But perhaps most importantly, the 9-to-5 office life can turn out to be less than exciting for post-9/11 veterans, who often find the hours strange when compared to the varied schedules they were used to working in the military. The Veteran Fire Corps works for eigh project days with six days off, sleeping in tents or lodges during work. Living quarters outside of the "office" are up to you, however.

If that sounds like the life for you, and you're a veteran age 21-37 with a clean personal history, the Veterans Fire Corps could be the perfect job. Learn how to apply now or get more information at the Veterans Fire Corps website or view their open positions.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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