As our hearts and prayers go out to the thousands of helpless California and other western residents fleeing their homes and livelihoods in the face of the voracious forest fires devastating the western and southwestern United States, we must not forget the gallant men and women firefighters battling the fierce, record-setting fires.
With most of the fires started by ignorant fools too stupid to realize that flames mixed with the historic drought plaguing the area are a time-bomb waiting to explode, we cringe at the thought and video of the hundreds of thousands of acres burning out of control and swallowing everything in its path, including homes, businesses, vehicles, animals, utility systems, and entire communities.
Thrown right in the middle of these chaotic tragedies are the courageous firefighters comprising the fire crews, the elite hot-shot crews, engine crews, firefighting aircraft and helicopter crews, fire prevention crews, dispatchers, fire lookout crews and smokejumpers, all risking their lives to save people, property and animals.
We encourage young people (age 35 and younger) unsure of what career path to follow to check out possible federal firefighting positions, such as those advertised on the Federal Government's online job service: www.usajobs.gov.
You also can visit the websites of federal and state firefighting agencies. The Bureau of Land Management, for example, employs more than 1,500 people in its program for permanent and temporary (seasonal) firefighters. The Department of the Interior's firefighting jobs website is www.doi.gov/fire.
All positions, except dispatcher and fire prevention, require applicants to pass a rigorous pre-employment physical examination. All positions require pre-employment drug testing. Most permanent positions require applicants to be 35 or younger.
The job sites are filled with hazards, from smoke, fire and falling debris, to rugged terrain and wicked heat. Training is rigorous, workdays seemingly endless and the pace can be exhausting. But those already in it look upon the job as a both a challenge and a duty.
Bored with your mundane job? Searching for an exciting career or new challenges? Want to travel the country and interact with a "team" with a real sense of purpose? Is it in you to live on the edge of risk, reward and endurance?
Check out a career in federal firefighting. Go be a hero.