Record number of applicants signing up to fight forestland wildfires

It can’t ever be overstated that fighting forest fires is one of the most demanding and dangerous occupations on Earth.  So when men and women line up for a chance to do the job it also makes sense that the work isn’t only seen as risky but highly necessary and important.

From KIRO Radio:

Firefighter Daniel Lyon faced 60-foot columns of fire and smoke as black as night when his team took on the Twisp River Fire last summer. …

Lyon suffered burns on 60 percent of his body when his truck was overtaken by flames.  Three other firefighters in the vehicle with him were killed that day in Okanogan County.

Washington has seen two years of record-breaking fire seasons, more than 390,000 acres up in smoke between June and September of 2015, and 250,000 acres in 2014.

But as the state prepares for the next round of wildfires expected this summer, rather than seeing people shy away, the State Department of Natural Resources is reporting more applications than ever from people who say they’re inspired by the sacrifice of those three firefighters in Twisp. … [Emphasis added.]

For the summer 2016 fire season, which usually runs from mid-June to September, DNR is hiring at least 461 firefighters. The application period began in mid-December and runs through April 30.

What does it take to be a firefighter?  Although candidates do need to be in excellent physical condition, they don’t necessarily need to have firehouse experience, and it’s generally best not to apply stereotypes.

When thinking about firefighters, many picture a superman, 6’3″ tall, who can bench 250 pounds. But according to [Trevor McConchie with the Department of Natural Resources], that stereotype is completely wrong. Anyone can be a firefighter if they’re determined enough.

“Some of the best firefighters that I’ve worked with are 5’2″, petite women who can kick my butt going up a hill,” said McConchie.

Applicants do have to be in good physical shape, but don’t have to know anything about fire. You just have to be 18-years-old, have a high school diploma or a GED, a driver’s license, and be able to drive a stick shift. The state will put you through a rigorous training program up to a week long to learn techniques like building a fire line and tracking fire behavior.