Wildland Fire: Types of Jobs

A person in a flight helmet leans out of a helicopter looking at fire burning on the ground below.

Looking for a job and/or a career which combines love of the land, science and technology skills, leadership and people skills? Then you may be the right person for a job or career in wildland fire management in the National Park Service.

The National Park Service Wildland Fire Program requires talented people working safely together to be successful. A large number of people work together for the common goal of fire management, fire prevention, and fire suppression.

The National Park Service’s fire program includes nearly 400 permanent employees and 600 seasonal employees. The service both assists and receives assistance from our partners to manage fires and to enhance resources and safety through fuels reduction projects. Whether directly managing fires on a fire crew or providing support on an Incident Management Team (IMT), NPS employees spend thousands of hours supporting the nation’s firefighting efforts.

There are many different specializations in the NPS Wildland Fire Management Program, some of which require special skills and training, and all of which require enthusiasm and dedication. This is a competitive arena which places physical and mental demands on employees.

Employees are hired for temporary and permanent jobs, year round depending upon the area of the country. As an employee’s competencies and skills develop, their opportunities to advance in fire management increases.

Three firefighters use handtools to dig fireline on a slope covered in dried grasses.
Firefighters use a variety of tools to manage fires.




The term firefighter is sometimes used as a generic term for fire personnel, however, firefighters do have specific duties. They serves as a member on a handcrew, and use a variety of specialized tools, equipment, and techniques on wildland and prescribed fires to build fireline, keep fires in check, or within a predefined area. Tools can include the Pulaski, shovel, flapper, McLeod, fire rake, bladder bag and hose, chainsaw, and even sometimes a leafblower. Job announcements for firefighter positions may also be titled as Forestry Technician or Range Technician. Firefighting crews work as a team to reach the objective of a fire or fuels project. If you are interested in becoming a firefighter, you should be team-oriented and safety focused.
A firefighter pulls a hose down from an engine while another firefighter on top of the engine leans over.
Engine crewmembers get ready to respond on a prescribed fire.


Engine Crewmember


Engine crewmembers are firefighters that are used for initial and extended attack fire suppression, support of prescribed fires, patrolling, and project work. Engine crews range in size from three to ten firefighters and work with specialized firefighting equipment and perform many strenuous activities such as mobile attack with engines, hoselay, construction of fireline with hand tools, burnout operations, and mopping up hotspots using the same tools as handcrew firefighters.
Top: group of men and women that make up the Alpine Hotshots; bottom: group of men that make up the Arrowhead Hotshots.
Alpine and Arrowhead Hotshots are based in Rocky Mountain National Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, respectively. They respond to both NPS incidents as well as interagency incidents.




Hotshots are experienced firefighters who work on a hotshot crew and specialize in extended attack on wildland fires. There are two hotshot crews in the NPS -  Alpine Hotshots and Arrowhead Hotshots located at Rocky Mountain National Park, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, respectively. These crews typically work more difficult assignments on wildland fires. They also conduct prescribed fires and fuels projects.
A smokejumper under a red, white, and blue rectangular canopy floats down from sunny skies.
The National Park Service does not host any smokejumper crews, but Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service smokejumpers do respond to fires in national parks.




Smokejumpers are specialized, experienced firefighters who works as a team with other smokejumpers, parachuting into remote areas for initial attack on wildland fires. The National Park Service (NPS) does not employ smokejumpers since there is no NPS smokejumper base or crew, but they are hired by the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (Boise and Alaska) and respond to fires on lands managed by the NPS.
A view from below looking up in the sky at a person leaning out of a helicopter.
Helitack crewmembers rappel from helicopters to reach remote fires.




Helitack crews are wildland fire suppression firefighters specializing in helicopter operations. These firefighters are delivered to fires via helicopter and suppress wildfires with hand tools and chainsaws. Helicopters can be equipped with a bucket or fixed tank to drop water or retardant during firefighting operations. They deliver helitack crews for initial attack, and transport personnel and cargo in support of fires.

Some helitack firefighters are trained to rappel from the helicopter to reach fires in remote locations. A helitack crew provides land management agencies with a safe, highly skilled and a productive aerial firefighting resource. The crew can range in size from an 7 to 24 persons. Helitack crews may also be used to support prescribed fire operations or special projects requiring helicopters.

A firefighter leans over with a cup in her hand in a sagebrush flat while a wildfire burns in the forest in the distance.
A member of the Yellowstone wildland fire module collects seeds as the Maple Fire burns.


Wildland Fire Module


Wildland fire modules are 7 to 10 person fire crews that can assist in planning, fire behavior monitoring, ignition, holding, project preparation and execution. Often, modules are assigned to wildfires that are being managed for objectives outside of full and immediate suppression using strategies such as confinement. They provide expertise in areas of fire effects monitoring, ignition, holding, line construction, and long-term planning.

Wildland fire modules must be self sufficient for extended periods of time and perform many of their functions in remote areas of fires or wilderness areas. Wildland fire modules possess a unique skill-set that can help fire managers achieve objectives when managing fires for multiple objectives.

A woman sits in front of and looks at one of three computer screens.
A dispatcher serves as a vital link for resources for wildland fire management.

Image courtesy of Joe Ritz, Bureau of Land Management



Dispatchers typically work in an interagency center serving multiple bureaus or agencies. They receive and relay information that is vital to the support and safety of personnel such as firefighters in the field. Dispatchers are also responsible for monitoring weather conditions, hazards, locations of personnel, dispatching resources, relaying safety information, communicating critical information and with multiple agencies and divisions, and monitoring flights and tasked with knowing locations, contacts and procedures for many different parks and areas. 
A man sits in front of three computer monitors looking at an online map.
GIS specialists analyze data to ensure firefighters are making the most informed decisions using the best available data.


Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist


Geographic Information System (GIS) specialists within the realm wildland fire management are responsible for the management of geographic data across the spectrum of fire management – from daily operations to long-term programmatic planning. They work closely with fire effects monitors, fire planners, and fire managers with all aspects of wildland fire, from pre-incident to incident response.

They are responsible for ensuring firefighters are making the most informed decisions using the best available data. To do this, they must be familiar with satellite imagery, web-based maps, analyzing data, as well as be able to train others in field data collection. GIS technology that they use includes software like Esri AGOL (ArcGIS Online) and FME (Feature Manipulation Engine), for spatial analysis, mapping, and data visualization in the management of wildland fires.

Using remote sensing tools such as satellite imagery, aerial photography, and uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS or drones), they monitor fire progression and assess its impact, while GPS devices provide accurate location data for incidents, resources, and personnel tracking.

Real-time communication systems, mobile mapping apps, and database management tools help with management coordination and decision-making. Integration with weather monitoring and advanced communication contributes to efficient wildfire management.

Working in Fire GIS is rewarding as it allows professionals to apply cutting-edge technology to address critical challenges, aiding in effective decision-making and contributing to the overall safety and success of wildland fire management efforts.

Two people with neon green rain jackets hold paperwork and a measuring stick.
Fire effects monitors collect data in Denali National Park.


Fire Effects Monitor


The work of fire effects monitors help wildland fire managers make sound management decisions about prescribed fires, the effects of fire on native habitats and species are documented and analyzed. This information is gathered through methodical scientific surveys of monitoring plots within each of prescribed burn unit in a national park unit.

Fire effects monitors gather a variety of information, including size and species of trees, measurements of leaf litter and duff, and quantities of herbaceous plant species. This data, known as "fire effects data", is collected at specific intervals before and after a prescribed burn, so that comparisons can be made by analyzing the changes in vegetation. Desired future conditions have been established for each prescribed burn unit and the analysis of the fire effects data helps managers determine if those goals are being met.

A woman writes on a piece of paper while a person in the background holds a measuring tool.
A fire ecologists collects data in the field at Lake Clark National Park & Preserve.


Fire Ecologist


Fire ecologists provide science-based information to guide fire and land management planning, decisions and practices in order to maintain and understand fire-adapted ecosystems. They seek to understand an ecosystem, which requires looking beyond the system’s present state. Full understanding includes an investigation of the ecosystem’s origin, possible future stages of the ecosystem, and the cycles through which the ecosystem progresses.

Further information regarding types of appointments and other benefits may be found on the Wildland Firefighter Applicant Information page.

Last updated: February 16, 2024