Strength and Conditioning Programs for Wildland Firefighters

How To Get a Job on a Type 1 Hotshot Crew

The Inside Scoop on What It Takes to Get Hired


Tip #1: Master the Internet Application

Whether you want to work for the US Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Bureau of Land Management, the application process can be difficult. On top of this, you are likely going to have to submit your application online. Paper applications are a thing of the past. Naturally, their respective websites are hardly pillars of web design excellence, so prepare to be frustrated while you first learn how to navigate the sites. Once you start putting in applications, it’s imperative that you proofread, and double-check all of your submissions. A simple omission, or a failure to note something as trivial as having a high school diploma / GED could disqualify you for a position. It’s also worth considering that if you have a criminal past or something that stops you from passing a national police clearance, it will probably make it more difficult for you to find a job. This all depends on what the checks bring up though, it might not be a big deal if it’s something minor. Services, like the fire department, have to ensure that all of their force are reliable and safe though. Other measures taken to ensure you are a trustworthy person include subjecting all successful candidates to a drug test. For that reason, you should expect a visit from a drug testing service Lewisville TX if you want to work in any of these departments.

Here are links to the career sites of the five major federal agencies that hire wildland firefighters:

Also, is a great resource to check out. It aggregates hiring information and job postings from a host of federal, state, and private sector employers.

Every crew is different, but most crews will begin posting job advertisements online sometime in January or February. Check out the sites regularly, and don’t hesitate to call the crew that you’re interested in and ask when they plan to post, how many new positions they expect to hire for, what specific announcement they’ll be posting under, and what Grade levels (GS-3, GS-4, GS-5, etc). The earlier you establish contact with a crew, the better.

If you’ve never fought fire before, you’ll most likely start at the GS-3 level. However, if you’ve had previous jobs where you’ve used pulaskis, chainsaws, and axes frequently (e.g. trail crew experience, landscaping, etc) you might be able to qualify for a GS-4 rating. Also, a college degree (especially in fire science, ecology, biology, or environmental sciences) might allow you to qualify for the GS-4 pay grade without previous fire experience. The difference is usually only a dollar or two, but hotshots make their money in overtime hours and hazard pay. Quick math: if you make $10.00/hr and get 600 hours of overtime (average) in a season, you’ll make $15.00/hr x 600hrs = $9,000 in overtime pay. Plus, assuming all 600 hours of overtime was accrued on fire assignments and qualified for hazard pay (very unlikely) you would earn an additional $2.50/hr x 600/hrs = $1,500. Now let’s say you were making $11.00/hr.

Overtime Pay = $16.50/hr x 600/hrs = $9,900.

Hazard Pay = $2.75/hr x 600/hrs = $1,650.

It might not seem like a lot at first, but an extra dollar per hour adds $1,050 to your paycheck just in overtime & hazard pay..

Tip #2: Introduce Yourself

Like anything else in life, the person who makes the extra effort will be rewarded. Hotshot Superintendents and Captains spend their off-season wading through hundreds of anonymous online applications. If you want to stand out from the rest of the crowd, there’s three options:

The “Good Option” – Pickup the Phone. Sometime during the off-season, ideally before the Christmas season, take the time to introduce yourself to your future crew. You can find contact information for every single Interagency Hotshot Crew in the US on this site. Also, Hotshot Fitness has taken the time to compile a list of every hotshot crews’ website and social media page.

The “Better Option” – Shake a Hand. If you live within 50 miles of a duty station – stop by in person.. Ask about what positions might be opening up, what they expect from their rookies, and what their crew values are. Are they a running crew or a hiking crew? Do they need an EMT? Will they be light on sawyers? This will not only improve your chances of getting hired but also help you decide if the crew is the right fit for you.

“The Best Option” – Take a hike. Or a run. This cannot be stressed enough: Hotshots prize physical fitness. There’s a saying that if you can’t run or hike with the crew, you don’t deserve to be on the crew. Ask if you can go on an off-season training run or hike with a Squad boss / Captain / or the Superintendent. This demonstrates a number of things: a commitment to the crew, a strong work ethic, a take-charge personality, and (hopefully) shows off your level of physical fitness.

Tip #3: Get a skill

Ask yourself “What can I do to differentiate myself from all the other job candidates?” Truth be told, a hotshot crew’s overhead reviews hundreds of job applications. You need to stand out. The best way to do that is by adding a valuable skill set to your resume. Hotshot crews can never have too many crew members with medical training, so consider getting your EMT certification with some help from this Physician Coding Resource site, a wilderness EMT or wilderness first aid / first responder. Your local red cross should offer these classes or your local community college. You can also find these types of courses online, Coast2Coast mississauga does this for residents of Canada, they really can be anywhere, doing it will not only give you a standout resume, but you’ll also be trained in saving someone’s life and helping someone in need. You might not be the designated EMT for the crew, but you’ll stand a better chance of getting hired. When you have twenty guys hiking around in the woods, playing with chainsaws, swinging axes and fighting fire…it’s comforting to know there’s some medical personnel close by!

Tip #4: Take a class

Consider taking S-130/190 before the start of the season. Especially out west, many fire departments or community colleges will offer it. Definitely worth looking into. Or any Fire Science classes in general.

Tip #5: Get Fire Experience

In order to abide by IHC guidelines, 80% of the crew members on a hotshot crew must have previous wildland fire experience. Which makes getting placed on a hotshot crew as a rookie firefighter incredibly tough. So where can you get that prized experience? Your best bet is on Type II hand crew. They’re structured much like a hotshot crew but are not considered a national resource, and thus don’t go off-forest on assignments as much. Still, a Type II crew is a great way to start your fire career, and you’ll see plenty of fire as a crew member on one. It’s crucial to stand-out physically on a Type II crew if you aspire to be a hotshot. That’ll be one of the first questions your Type II crew Superintendent will be asked by a Hotshot Superintendent.

Another option, though less preferable to working on a Type II crew, is working on an engine crew. This isn’t a dig on engine crews, those guys have a specialty and work just as hard as anyone else, but if you’re gunning for a spot on ‘shot crew, you need to spend some time in the trenches. Working on an engine crew is a less preferable option because you won’t gain as much line cutting experience, but you will become quite proficient in progressive hoselays! Hotshot crews prefer to recruit from hand crews because they know they’re capable of hunching over and hacking out line for hours on end. Nevertheless, many, many hotshots get their start on engine crews. At the end of the day, what’s most important is fire experience. Period.

Other options include Fuels and Trails crews, as well as private contractors such as Firestorm in California. Private contractors are growing both in numbers, and quality, and many outfits are sending out highly-qualified and well-trained crews to aid federal firefighters on the fireline. Check the jobs page for hiring opportunities with private contractors in your area.

Whatever route you choose, work hard, earn the respect of your supervisors, get a fire season or two under your belt, and keep your eye on the prize – a spot on a hotshot crew.


  1. Amanda berry Author April 22, 2016 (12:09 am)

    Hello my name is Amanda and I have been on a hand crew in fallbrook california for 3 seasons as a lead sawyer and have also worked as a saw mechanic. As of now I am pursuing my education at miramar college and will be graduating in the summer of 2017 with an A.A degree along with an A.S degree in Fire Science. My question is will I still be able to get hired on a Hotshot crew in the middle of the season? I am one to complete any goals I set for myself and do not want to quit going to school before I am able to graduate but I also don’t want to miss getting hired on. I have the experience and will have the education as well. If any one has any info can you please let me know. I am willing to relocate and do whatever it takes.

    Reply to Amanda berry
    • Randy Author May 4, 2016 (12:31 pm)

      You can keep trying and looking up post on usa jobs, for local hotshots crews but it’s get more difficult to land a job when the season progress through the summer. so it’s best to apply beginning of the year with all certification attached to your resume. And good luck

      Reply to Randy
    • Gil Author May 28, 2016 (12:10 am)

      Hello Amanda,keep doing what your doing now type two fire crew work finish your fire edu, get all that good fire edu, out of the why so your free to be full timer on type one wildland fire crews Hot Shots. Hot Shot Crews prefer thier crew members to be on from start to finish five to six months. 2017 is not that far off. ( Former wildland fire fighter HOT SHOTS, Helitack reppeler,Eng, crews,and the frist fire crew type two Hand crew back in the day.) P.S wildland fire is much more intense now then back in the mid 80’s90’s,and early 2000’s so finish fire science schooling all your fire experiance,and fire edu, will look good on resume. Good Luck Gil.

      Reply to Gil
    • Ian Gustafson Author November 16, 2016 (2:23 am)

      Hello Amanda,
      Congratulations on completing your degrees! (I’m guessing you finished them this passed summer.) I’m around the same area, near Fallbrook. What did it take for you to get on a hand crew?

      Any info would help, Thank you!

      Reply to Ian Gustafson
    • Bear Palomo Author January 9, 2017 (12:53 am)

      Middle of season is tough to get on because usually the crew is full. Sometimes folks take off to go to school or someone gets injured or some other unforeseen circumstance.

      Also you miss the operational refresher stuff that happens in the beginning of the season so while this is not an impossible scenario, it is unlikely you are going to get hired mid-season.

      Reply to Bear Palomo
    • Sam Author November 20, 2017 (9:49 pm)

      How do I get on a handcrew? I have experience but I am not certified, plus I also had another question about background I have a background so how can I get in on the hand crew with a background in Southern California. I don’t even know where to go or where to apply for a job. Can you help please.

      Reply to Sam
  2. Ericnavarro Author June 21, 2016 (3:10 am)

    Just found my calling

    Reply to Ericnavarro
  3. Alex Author October 10, 2016 (8:42 pm)

    I’m about to graduate college and thinking about enrolling in The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. While I work as a Wildland firefighting for a long term career. I don’t know if should go into a Income-based repayment or Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan and stretch it out 25 years. I not sure The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program even work for Wildland fire fighting, because it’s seasonal temp. Does anyone know this might work or should I change position?

    Reply to Alex
  4. Sid Author October 24, 2016 (7:07 pm)


    Will having extensive prescribed burn experience be helpful for getting onto a hotshot crew?

    Reply to Sid
    • Bear Palomo Author January 9, 2017 (12:59 am)

      It won’t hurt, especially since having Rx experience means you understand a bit about fire behavior.

      One word to the wise, though: don’t pass yourself off as an expert. In my experience, hotshot crews want someone who is trainable and will work well with the rest of the team, and someone who already knows (or thinks they know) everything has potential to disrupt. If you can show you have knowledge and show some humility about wanting to learn more and take your knowledge to the next level, Rx experience can be a great thing on your resume.

      Reply to Bear Palomo
  5. Konrad Author March 4, 2017 (3:42 am)

    Hi there I have a degree in environmental science, four seasons of prescribed fire experience and several hundred hours of chainsaw experience. I just landed a spot in the Malheur NF for my first fire season and originally they had me on a type 2 initial attack crew but they switched me to a spot on an engine crew because I didn’t have enough on the line experience but I had saw experience. I’m kind of bummed about it and I’m not sure what to think. So I’m curious to know if this type of thing happens frequently, I was told that type 2 crews were easy to get on as a first year firefighter, are type two initial attack crews more difficult to get on without actual fireline experience? I have skills that could be utilized and I don’t want my lack of on the line experience to be a setback for my first fire season. I also know I have to pay my dues and move up, any advice or thoughts? Thanks.

    Reply to Konrad
    • Mike Author March 6, 2017 (12:42 am)

      Hi Konrad –
      Thanks for the comment. I’ll add my two cents here. I honestly haven’t heard of that happening to anyone (getting switched from one crew to another) like that. But I’m sure there was a valid reason internally. That being said, plenty of folks transition from engine crews to Hotshot crews (without Type 2 hand crew experience) prior. Since you’re posting this under “How to Get a Job on a Type 1 Hotshot Crew” – I’m assuming that’s your aim. Also, there might be some opportunities to detail on to a handcrew during the season. While I was on the Feather River Handcrew, we would occasionally pickup engine folks for fires and extended rolls. Definitely happens. As the season wears on, people get injured, and handcrews need a minimum # of folks to deploy for off-forest assignments. So definitely start networking on Day 1, build up some relationships, and if people know you’re around and interested, you might get your shoulder tapped to help out on the hand crew during the season. Best of both worlds.

      Also, don’t discount the experience you’re going to have on an engine. You’ll cut some line – I promise. And you’ll build up a lot of transferable skills. Also, get good at setting up portable pumps. That’s a great skill to have on a handcrew / hotshot crew. Especially on mop up operations (where hotshots make their money), it’s super helpful to have some folks with engine experience who can work pumps, setup hoselays (and fix them when they inevitably bonk), etc.

      You’re gonna have a great season. Make the best of the experience. Keep your eye on the prize. Network. Build relationships, and be a sponge for knowledge. Learn whatever someone will teach you. And whether you’re on a type 2 crew or an engine crew this year, you’re going to be a stronger candidate for a hotshot crew next year.

      Get after it!

      Reply to Mike
  6. Breanna Author April 6, 2017 (11:08 am)

    This is very interesting job I thought of becoming a firefighter when I got of school I just never did I graduated high school in 2016 I’m 18 years old and my name is Breanna. I was wanting to get a little more information on what I needed to do for a job like this. Right now I’m a lifeguard/rec for the city and just very bored of sitting and doing nothing and wanted something challenging and interested so if you would please give any information you have Thanks.

    Reply to Breanna
    • David Author April 20, 2017 (5:49 pm)

      Hello Breanna,

      This will be my first season, so I am by no means seasoned. I can tell you what I did to get picked up by a crew this year. I tried last year and it never really panned out. I Went to a wildfire program here in my area to get some certs and just begin networking. I have done everything I can to make myself attractive. I have networked. I called crews all over the country. When spring rolled around this year I was offered three jobs with several other interest calls that I told I was not interested. I will be working on a type 2 IA crew with what I was told was a chance to detail with one of the local hotshot crews if I excel and work hard. Get you name out there. Take some classes with your local college, tech school, or local forestry unit, and read. I have read everything I can on the web about the job. I start in three weeks and couldnt be happier that all of my hard work is about to pay off. The basic class you need would be a red card class and IS 700 through FEMA. The red card class should include S-130 and S-190. Good luck and go do some research on the info. You may just be able to get a job for this coming season. Oh and do some PT. Show up in better shape then they are expecting you too.

      Reply to David
  7. brett Author June 16, 2017 (9:26 pm)

    i’ll chime in with my limited experience on the topic because it’s not really the standard path to a type 1 crew:

    i volunteered with a rural mountain department for about a year, then took my s-130/190, 290, 211, and 212 all in one month through the local cooperators network. started poking around on usajobs mid-season, mostly to practice the process for the next year.

    applied for some vacancies and received a surprising call from a hotshot crew based entirely on the strength of my cover letter. did an interview on the spot and apparently made a great impression, showed dedication by offering to drive the 18 hours to shake hands with the supt. and next thing i knew, i had an offer.

    the ops capt asked zero questions about my fire experience and instead honed in on my history as a elite cyclist and my current fitness levels, how well i work in a team and evaluated my work ethic. not one question about cutting line or laying hose.

    so the point i’m trying to get at here is that while real live experience on a fire line goes a long, long way, what makes a good team member isn’t how many flaming fronts you’ve seen or how many chains you’ve cut, but how you’ll actually integrate with a team and how dedicated you are and what you’ll sacrifice. saw certs and getting some training out of the way doesn’t hurt either! my cover letter got my resume noticed, plain and simple. always, always, always remember that cover letter is really your first interview, so make it short, sweet, and tell them exactly who you are.

    Reply to brett
  8. Nancy Nunez Author June 18, 2017 (1:49 am)

    I just got released from a conservation fire camp #2 Rainbow in Fallbrook .ca I was on a hand crew as the 1st. Saw for 2yrs. I would like to be on a hot shot crew need to know how do I apply ? Also is there any tree falling companies associated with CAL FIRE?

    Reply to Nancy Nunez
  9. Harrison Author July 29, 2017 (9:44 am)

    I’m in need of any information on how to join a hot shot crew in the San Bernardino area, I am currently 17 and have been highly interested in being on a hot shot crew, what skills might I need, or is there any classes I should take

    Reply to Harrison
    • Mike Author July 30, 2017 (6:32 pm)

      Hi Harrison –
      Thanks for writing and love that you’re interested in pursuing a job on a hotshot crew. First off, the chances that your first job in fire will be on a shot crew is low. There are only a a couple spots open to rookies on any given crew. So look to getting on with a type II hand crew, and engine crew, or a fuels crew first. That will give you some valuable experience in fire, and help develop your core skill set. In the meantime, start networking! Start reaching out to local hotshot crews and introducing yourself. Let them know that in another season or two, you want to join the crew. Get on their radar! And of course, get yourself physically prepared! With discipline and patience – you can make it happen. PM me at mike at hotshotfitness and I’d be happy to share more info about my experience. Good luck! Anybody else have some good suggestions or advice for Harrison?

      Reply to Mike
  10. Harrison Author August 3, 2017 (6:15 am)

    Big thanks Mike I will look into a type 2 crew along with others types of crew helps a lot

    Reply to Harrison
  11. Matt Author August 17, 2017 (5:20 am)

    I am in need of some advice. Just graduated high school about to go to a 4 year college. Love the outdoors hiking my ass of and working real hard. Wondering what are some general steps to point me in this direction. Maybe volunteering in summers or a good degree to choose? Thanks

    Reply to Matt
  12. Doug Williamson Author August 21, 2017 (12:41 am)

    Hi I would like an application for the Hot Shots my name is Doug Williamson

    Reply to Doug Williamson
  13. Brandon Ross Author October 16, 2017 (4:33 pm)

    Currently finishing my enlistment down in the San Diego area and beginning classes in January. I plan on taking a EMT-B course and the S-190 class. I will try to follow up with the S-290 class in the Fall. I have no fire experience and was wondering if there were any other classes you could prescribe for me to take so I look more desirable. I plan on calling my local IHC about the matter, but figured I would ask you all first.

    Reply to Brandon Ross
  14. Kourtney L. Author October 26, 2017 (2:58 am)

    I am old and fat but I love weather. I can’t help but think what an asset I would be with my extensive weather obsession. Plus, I’m a pet nurse so I can handle many a medical situation. I would ride a quad since my behind is too slow to make it out of a tough situation. There is nothing available for an old lady like me who loves nature in all of its brilliance? No paper pusher here, I want to get out in the thick of it! Blessings to you all.

    Reply to Kourtney L.
    • Mike Author October 26, 2017 (4:00 pm)

      Hi Kourtney –
      Maybe look into being a fire lookout? Being a weather expert is a great skill to have in that role.


      Reply to Mike
  15. Ben Author November 23, 2017 (12:53 am)

    How would this apply to getting a job on an engine crew? My goal is to become a hotshot, but it’s not likely at my experience level this year. Would you recommending calling an engine captain, or maybe an AFMO, to express interest in a job? Thanks, love the site.

    Reply to Ben
  16. Micheal Author January 30, 2018 (6:38 pm)

    Im 30 years old. Traveling hemodialysis technician. Was raised on the navajo reservation out in the forest offgrid no electric or running water. I feel at heart that this is what i want to do. At this age and no fire fighting experience how would one go about trying to become a hotshot. What is the age cut off?

    Reply to Micheal
  17. Jeremiah Author April 10, 2018 (10:52 pm)

    I would love to be a Hotshot crew

    Reply to Jeremiah
  18. Pedro Villa Author May 8, 2018 (9:56 pm)

    Hello my name is Pedro Villa I was wondering how Can i go about signing up for the hotshot crew I do have alot expérience and im really interested I also live in Fresno California. If You can give Me quidance on how to go about it thank you.

    Reply to Pedro Villa
  19. Shaelyn Author August 2, 2018 (8:12 pm)

    Hello! My name is Shaelyn, I have no experience in anything fire related. What are the requirements for starting hotshot training?

    Reply to Shaelyn
  20. austin Author August 8, 2018 (10:23 am)

    if you have felonies does that disqualify you?

    Reply to austin
  21. Charlie Umhau Author September 13, 2018 (10:28 pm)

    Is anyone else having trouble applying for Wildland Firefighting jobs on USAjobs? Seems that the network for the USDA/USFS online application-eRecruit- is down? Anyone else having this problem or have any suggestions to work around this?

    Reply to Charlie Umhau
  22. Andy Author September 20, 2018 (5:42 pm)

    Nice…I do wonder now I am looking with this a dream to become a hotshot will come true. I live in the UK ex Birtish Army Sniper

    Reply to Andy
  23. Matt Author January 26, 2019 (1:40 am)

    I applied all over the country for various type 2 crews, helitack, fuels, and hotshot crews this year. i’ve worked for pennsylvania’s bureau of forestry and have been on a 2 week western fire assighnement on a type 2 crew. I just got an offer on an engine in norhthern Cali. i’m kinda bummed as I was hoping to get on a hand crew. Is it best for me to just suck it up and try an engine crew for a season? or wait and see if I get another offer, I have had other calls from different regions seeing if i’m still interested but no offers yet. Thanks in advance for any advice.

    Reply to Matt
    • Mike Author January 26, 2019 (10:40 pm)

      Matt –
      Curious to hear what others have to say, but I would say, overall, there’s a lot of positive stuff here. Sure, you were trying to get on a handcrew, but you 1.) you were able to transition to a federal job on a national forest. One season of fire experience with a federal agency will make you way more competitive for roles next season. So bear that in mind. Think long term. 2.) You’re networking. You’re going to go out to CA, and meet a bunch of folks on the district. You’re going to meet folks from hotshot crews and type 2 crews. You’re not able to do that when you’re in PA. Again, that networking will help for next summer. I realize that seems like a lifetime away, but it’s not. Get your experience on the engine (who knows, you might love it!). And if there’s a hotshot crew or type 2 crew on the district, you might even get a chance to detail in with them for an off-forest roll. That happens a lot. Sometimes, over the season, you’ll have crews that are short a person or two (injury, PTO, etc.) and the crew will ask around and pull people off of trails crews, fuels crews, and engine crews to fill-in. That’s another great way to get your foot in the door.

      I’d say take the offer. While it’s not 100% what you’re looking for, it will put you in a great position for the year after, you’ll learn a ton, get valuable experience, and network. That’s all super valuable. Good luck!

      Reply to Mike
  24. Jack Author April 23, 2019 (12:39 am)

    Hello, my name is Jack. How early is too early to contact crews that you are interested in working for in the coming season? I will be starting my first wildfire season this year on a Type 2 crew for a city fire Dept. in northern AZ. I want to establish an early line of communication with crews, but I don’t want to be so early in contacting to where it might be a negative mark. I appreciate any information, and thank you for this extremely helpful website! -Jack

    Reply to Jack
  25. Javin Jackson Author May 27, 2019 (7:35 am)

    Hello my name is Javin Jackson I just recently left the California conversation crops and I want to work for the hotshots because that’s what I love to do and want to help make impact on saving the wildlife and do something positive with my life that will help save and make the world better in any possible way that I can

    Reply to Javin Jackson
  26. Henrik Author August 7, 2020 (6:45 pm)

    Hello My name is Henrik Rahr I live in portland oregon Im looking for an internship for some sort of fire suppression crew because im not yet 18 but I want to get as close as I can and do as much as I can to working with fires. what can I do to get as close as I an to fighting fires without yet meeting the age requirements?

    Reply to Henrik

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