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How can I become a Fire Crew Supervisor by 35?

My goals in life are to be a Frontline Fire Fighter, then continue to Fire Crew Supervisor, and after if I still have time get my Doctorate in Forestry Preservation and teach as a professor.

Thank you comment icon Firsthand experience is the most important thing you can gain in the wildland fire world. All the classes they offer about the ICS system and fire behavior are helpful, but when it comes down to it, the guy with the most hotline shifts on the books is going to climb the ladder and get those leadership roles, because no matter how intelligent someone is or how interested they may be in fighting fire, there is a human element to it, crew leads are holding 20 other lives in their hands, and decision making under pressure has to be on point or there is consequences. Parker Hamilton

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Subject: Career question for you

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Ryan’s Answer

Hello Braedon! Sounds like you have a lot of ambitions and dreams - awesome!

Becoming a firefighting supervisor by 35 is very doable. You can probably begin working as a frontline firefighter at 18. Wildland firefighters have a much shorter training process than structural firefighters, so after just a few weeks of training you can be a certified frontline wildland firefighter (known in the industry as a Firefighter Type II, or FFT2).

Next up is to become what's known as a Squad Boss, for FFT1. This is generally a good thing to pursue after about 2-3 full seasons of experience as a FFT2, and it qualifies you to lead a small squad of about 5 other firefighters.

After another 3-5 years as a FFT1, depending what kind of system you're working in and your performance, you may be able to begin pursuing certification as a Crew Boss or Engine Boss. At this level you'd be supervising an entire hand crew or wildland engine company. So, Crew Boss by 35 is very possible.

If you want to continue to move up the ranks you can pursue a Strike Team Leader, Group/Division Supervisor, Task Force Leader, Section Chief, and Incident Commander position. Reaching these levels by 35 may be more challenging, but not impossible if you stay focused and work hard.

Firefighting, especially wildland firefighting, can be physically taxing and difficult on family life because of the frequent travel. You could retire as a federal firefighter after 20-years...that would make you 38 years old and leave plenty of time for a second career teaching. You may also be able to earn your degrees during the winter "slow seasons". Many public safety employers offer some tuition assistance.

I hope this answers your questions. Please feel free to ask me any follow-up questions you may have!
Thank you comment icon You rock! This advice is very helpful. Braedon
Thank you comment icon Thank you! The insight is incredible. I'm in Job Corps now, I'm 23 and starting fire crew next week. I'm excited to keep moving forward and take this advice. I will reach out as soon as I have more questions. This was reassuring and motivating. My goals right now are to complete Advanced Training to become FFT2, continue and become a crew boss, and try to end up with a degree (bachelor's or master's) in Fire Science and Wildlife Conservation Research. It'd be nice to have this career and retire as a professor or author or both. Braedon
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William’s Answer

Keep advancing in your current role and aim to be the most informed and qualified for the position by the age of 35. Collaborate closely with your peers and colleagues, focusing on your ambition to become a supervisor. Make it clear that this is the role you're passionately working towards.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the advice, William. Braedon
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hey there, Braedon!

Let's chat about how you can become a Fire Crew Supervisor by the time you hit 35. It's a big goal, but with the right strategy, education, training, and experience, it's totally achievable. Here's a roadmap to get you there:

1. Start with the Right Education and Training: Kick off your journey with the right education. Degrees in forestry, fire science, or similar fields will give you a solid base. Plus, courses or certifications in incident command systems, leadership, and emergency management will add some extra shine to your qualifications.

2. Get Your Hands Dirty as a Frontline Firefighter: Before you can lead, you need to know the ropes. Spend time as a frontline firefighter to learn the ins and outs of fire suppression, rescue operations, and emergency response. You'll also get a taste of managing fire incidents and teamwork.

3. Step Up to Leadership Roles: As you move up in your career, grab any chance to lead. This could mean leading small teams, participating in training exercises, or taking on extra responsibilities. It's all about showing that you can handle the heat and lead others in high-stress situations.

4. Go for Advanced Certifications: If you want to stand out, consider advanced certifications like Fire Officer or Incident Commander. These show that you're a pro at incident management, decision-making under pressure, and leading complex operations.

5. Find a Mentor and Keep Growing: Connect with experienced fire service professionals who can guide you. Keep learning and staying up-to-date with the latest in fire management through professional development opportunities.

6. Keep Learning: Besides practical experience, consider further education like a Master’s degree in fire science or a related field. This can give you the critical thinking skills you need for leadership roles in the firefighting and fire management sector.

Stick to these steps and stay committed, and you'll be well on your way to becoming a Fire Crew Supervisor by 35.

I used some top-notch resources to help answer your question:

- National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG): They set the standards for training and certification for wildland firefighters and fire management personnel.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): They provide insights into the educational requirements, job outlook, and advancement opportunities in firefighting.
- National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC): They're a go-to source for wildfire information and resources, and offer guidance on wildfire management practices and career paths in fire suppression and control.

These sources helped me give you accurate information about the requirements for becoming a Fire Crew Supervisor.

Take care and best of luck,
James!
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is amazing! I really needed it. Braedon
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