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Forest service firefighters sought

TIM OMARZU, Sun News Service

The Tahoe National Forest is looking for a few good firefighters – including some “sliders” – willing to work hard and potentially rack up big overtime hours.

TNF plans to take on more than 30 new full- and part-time firefighters this year.

It’s part of a nationwide push to hire 3,500 new Forest Service firefighters following last year’s wildfire season, which scorched almost 7 million acres in the West.

“This year, we got jobs,” said Howard Carlson, TNF assistant fire chief. “There is just more opportunity than I’ve ever seen in 27 years doing this.”

Applicants need only be U.S. citizens, at least 18 years of age, and in good physical health.

Benefits include travel, Carlson said. Last season, TNF firefighters went to fires in such places as Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and Alaska.

Pay is about $10.50 an hour, and there’s ample opportunity to get overtime, Carlson said.

Typically, a firefighter will get between 400 and 700 hours of overtime a summer, he said.

Factor in hazard pay – for time actually fighting a fire – means an extra 25 percent on top of base pay, and a firefighter on overtime makes 1 3/4 pay, Carlson noted.

“You can make a pretty decent summer wage and put some money away,” if you’re a seasonal firefighter, Carlson said.

Along with new firefighters, the TNF is getting new equipment: two new fire engines, two crew carriers – vehicles large enough to carry 10-person fire crews – miscellaneous pickup trucks and SUVs.

The TNF will establish a new “helitack,” or helicopter fire attack crew, at White Cloud on Highway 20 east of Nevada City.

Firefighters will rappel from the helicopter to reach fires, Carlson explained.

“They come right out of the side of the ship,” he said. “We call ’em ‘sliders.'”

The new funding will boost TNF’s firefighting budget from about $1.2 million to $3 million, Carlson said. Some of that is one-time funding to purchase new equipment, but the new firefighting positions should stay in place “for the foreseeable future,” he said.

The firefighter application process is centralized in a federal office, but Nevada County people who want to work in TNF can indicate that on their application, he said.

“It think it’s the greatest job in the world,” Carlson said of firefighting. “It can be a very rewarding job. And it can be a job where you learn a lot about yourself.”

To find out more or get an application for a Forest Service firefighting job, call toll-free (877) 813-3476; or get on the Internet at http://www.fs.fed.us/fsjobs


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