Recruitment for BLM AFS North Star Fire Crew is open

BLM AFS’s training crew is perfect opportunity to launch a wildland firefighting career

Video for BLM AFS North Star Fire Crew based in Fairbanks, Alaska. Go to the BLM Alaska Fire Service Facebook @BLMAFS for a captioned version of this video.

Recruitment for the BLM Alaska Fire Service’s Type 2 North Star Fire Crew is open until April 1. Located in Fairbanks, Alaska the North Star Fire Crew is an entry level wildland fire hand crew that provides a pathway to become an AFS hotshot, smokejumper or fire specialist.

As a training crew, the program accepts applicants with little to no fire experience, provides red card certification in the first two weeks of critical training, and during a three-month season, teaches crew members the fundamental skills of wildfire suppression.

Group of firefighters in front of a lake.
The North Star Fire Crew in front of Venetie Lake near the village of Venetie in 2021. The crew spent two weeks in the village creating a fuel break to protect Venetie from a nearby wildfire.

Although classified as a Type 2 hand crew, the North Star Fire Crew is trained and equipped to Interagency Hotshot Crew standards. Overhead positions on the crew are filled by current AFS hotshots with three to five years of wildfire experience.

Whether you are interested in seasonal work only, desire summer adventure in the Alaska wilderness, or want to pursue a career in wildland fire, the North Star Crew provides the opportunity to get your foot in the door. The three-month season – mid-May to mid-August – is ideal for college students. For those wishing to work a full season, the program coordinates placement to other crews including Chena and Midnight Sun hotshots.

Recruitment flier for 2022 North Star Fire Crew.
Recruitment flier for 2022 North Star Fire Crew. Click on this link for PDF copy of flier.

Fire assignments are generally two-weeks in length and crewmembers must be fire-ready at any time day or night. Crewmembers are classified as casual employees (ADs), however a full season with the crew counts toward qualifying experience as regular seasonal employee.

Fighting fire in Alaska is physically demanding and the program strongly encourages physical fitness. The work is outdoors in conditions of heat, cold, wet, wind, dust, and smoke. Crewmember can expect wilderness living conditions, camp-fire-cooked meals, tent camping and sixteen-hour work shifts. These wildfires are often quite remote and accessible only by plane, helicopter, or boat. Crewmembers are paid approximately $20 an hour during two-week fire assignments.

Crewmembers are also paid at the same rate for the two-week training period that commences in mid-May. When not on fires, project work is performed on a volunteer, non-paid basis. Volunteer time varies with the severity of the fire season. In a busy fire such as 2019, the crew worked 64 days on fire and was paid 74 of its 90. In a low to average day, as experienced in 2021, the crew was on a fire 48 days and paid a total of 67 of its 90 days.

Firefighters clearing wood debris in a burned stand of black spruce interspersed with unburned woods..
The North Star Fire Crew is clearing jack straw dead and down trees along the Zitziana River to clear the trees and open the ground up for access to cold trail and to extinguish the Dry Creek Fire on July 11, 2021. Photo by Rob Snyder, BLM AFS

Project work generally involves fuels treatment work such as creating shaded fuel breaks or thinning stands of black space and stacking for later burning. Project work hours vary but typically do not exceed eight hours and crewmembers return to the AFS barracks at night.

The cost of living is significantly defrayed by AFS provided free housing and meals to North Star crewmembers. Both the dining hall and barracks are a short walk from the operations building where crewmembers report to work.

Transportation to and from Fairbanks – at the beginning and end of season – must be provided by crewmembers. Once in Fairbanks, the program facilitates access to Fort Wainwright.

Firefighter walking along a saw line with other firefighters continuing to work in the bachground.
North Star Squad Boss Colton Witt walks along a fuel break outside Venetie created by the North Star Fire Crew to protect the village from the nearby Marten Creek Fire in 2021. Photo by Beth Ipsen, BLM AFS

Training begins on May 16 this year. A pool of approximately 22 candidates will be instructed in basic firefighting skills and techniques; use and maintenance of chainsaws; hand tools; portable pumps; basic air operations; and safety. Daily physical training will occur throughout this training period. Upon completion of initial training, a performance-based selection will identify 16-18 regular crewmembers. The remaining candidates are used as alternatives to facilitate crew needs.

If this sounds like the job for you, download this fillable form and email it to blm_afs_northstars@blm.gov

For more information, contact Crew Supervisor Ben Ferguson at blm_afs_northstars@blm.gov or (907)356-5665.

A group of soot covered firefighters standing at a ridgeline with forest covered hills in the background.
The North Star Fire Crew in 2021.


Categories: AK Fire Info, BLM Alaska Fire Service

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