Montana Smokejumper Applications: Are You Tough Enough?
At the end of the fire season in western states including Montana, it's last call for anyone who is interested to apply for Smokejumper jobs with the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Agriculture.
Most smokejumper job searches conducted by the USDA will close their application processes on September 29th, with a handful of jobs remaining open until October 11th. It's a short window to apply for one of the most physically demanding jobs in the country: two weeks from open to close that began in the middle of September.
What Is A Smokejumper? (For Our Out-Of-State Friends)
Smokejumpers are firefighters that parachute into wildfires, saving their strength for the actual firefighting rather than slogging to the fire. The practice has been around since the 1940s, when it was popularized by Region 6 (Northwest states) firefighters who were tired of arriving to the scene of a wildfire already exhausted after carrying heavy equipment. Instead, servicemembers who had flown planes in World War 1 flew the firefighters into the danger zone, where they would to dig trenches that would help slow the spread of a wildfire after landing.
The USDA website has a more detailed history of smokejumpers, please read up on them. Remember "A River Runs Through It"? The author Norman Maclean's son John Maclean wrote five books on western state wildfires and the men who fought them. All 5 books are recommended reading.
Qualifications / Eligibility
The Department of Agriculture will hire and train anyone 18 years of age or older for a job with the smokejumpers who is a U.S. citizen. There are other eligibility requirements and qualifications that must be met for these rigorous jobs, those are found on the USDA hiring website. Any applicants who end up being hired can expect 6 months of training, which will include getting familiar with moving around with a 100+ pound pack of gear on their back.
As stated above, being a smokejumper is a physically demanding and dangerous job. Any applicants are expected to be in excellent physical condition, see HERE for a brief preview of smokejumper physical training regimens. I know I couldn't do it!
What Jobs Are Open?
The full list of jobs open with the USDA is found HERE. The jobs range from several distinctions of forest technicians to base managers who are responsible for overseeing all smokejumper activity. The USDA encourages military veterans to apply.
It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it! If you're interested in serving your country, being a Smokejumper is a rewarding opportunity.