Forest Firefighting and Prevention Supervisors are considered Enterprising careers according to the Strong Interest Inventory®. This Inventory sorts careers into six unique categories based on the personal and workplace preferences and vocational strengths of successful professionals in those careers. Enterprising careers center on managing larger groups of people who strive to achieve a particular goal. Enterprising individuals thrive in positions of power or status, where they can see a real material impact of their efforts. They are also strong leaders, with high levels of energy and confidence. They have the ability to skillfully build interpersonal relationships and inspire others to rally behind them.
Forest Firefighting Supervisors are responsible for supervising the Firefighters on the front lines of controlling and suppressing fires. In some cases, they are hands on, personally leading an engine, helicopter, plane, or other vehicle with a crew to suppress a fire. In other situations, they may be intermediaries, communicating details of fires among professionals at multiple bureaucratic levels and organizations, including dispatch centers. This also involves gauging and monitoring the size, location, and condition of active fires, as well as various conditions that may change these factors. Processing this information is vital to inform strategic requesting and dispatching of crews and equipment to ensure that units function and suppress fires as effectively and efficiently as possible.
When there is not an active fire, Forest Firefighting Supervisors maintain the suppression equipment and inspect it on a regular basis to ensure that all resources are ready to go at a moment’s notice. This is also true for their stations, uniforms, and other areas or resources which may be used in suppressing fires, as well as personnel. Supervisors must recruit personnel and train Firefighters in skills like parachute jumping, radio communication, and aerial observation both in classroom settings as well as in active situations. They also oversee scheduling and set priorities for workers on a day to day basis. Those supervisors who are more involved with prevention may inspect buildings or other environments, like pools, and play areas to ensure that they are in accordance with local and state regulations. They may regulate controlled burns, to make sure fires do not get out of hand. A last responsibility is to educate the public as much as possible in preventing fires to the best of their abilities to reduce the chance of a disaster.
Forest Firefighting Supervisors use many different kinds of tools and technologies on a daily basis. In actively suppressing fires, they may use tractors, trailers, all-terrain vehicles, helicopters, vans, or other vehicles, as well as various tools for measuring weather conditions, such as anemometers and binoculars. Safety equipment, like goggles, gloves, hard hats and fire-resistant suits are also essential. From a software standpoint, these supervisors utilize standard office software including Microsoft Office Suite, e-mail and web browser software, as well as more specialized scientific software such as FlamMap.
Most Forest Firefighting and Prevention Supervisors hold either an Associate’s Degree (30%) or a High School Diploma (19%), with nearly 20% having attended some college. In general, these supervisors have strong written and oral communication skills, and enjoy high-stress work environments where precise communication is important. They possess the ability to think critically and make quick judgments under pressure, knowing that their decisions will not only impact those with whom they work, but also potentially thousands of people who will be affected by an active fire.
While the nation-wide median Forest Firefighting and Prevention Supervisor salary is $72,230, the best-paid supervisors in California, for instance, can earn more than twice that, at over $150,000 per year. Even the median wage in California is nearly $100,000, though New Jersey leads the nation with a median supervisor’s salary of $116,080. However, states less prone to forest fires tend to have lower salaries, with Mississippi and Kentucky for instance, both averaging under $45,000 per year. Nearly 5,000 jobs are expected to be added before 2024 with the fastest growth occurring in the western states of Utah, Texas, and Colorado.
Below are some employment trends for Forest Firefighting and Prevention Supervisors:
- Median Forest Firefighting and Prevention Supervisors Salary: $34.72 hourly; $72,230 annually
- Employment: 64,000 employees
- Projected growth (2014-2024): average (5% to 8%)
- Projected job openings (2014-2024): 33,400
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- Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2014-2022 employment projections Onetonline.org