Wildfire Career Profiles


Wildfire Technologist

What does a typical day look like in your role?

A typical day as a "Wildfire Technologist" is all about training, mentoring and providing direction and leadership in an effort towards being ready to safely, efficiently and successfully detect and extinguish wildfire. This involves the challenges of having trained, qualified and available staff and contractors ready to both detect and action wildfire with fully functional equipment and support tools.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

The dedication of staff, the excitement of what Mother Nature has in store for us, the team atmosphere, the logistical challenges associated with controlling wildfire, the variety of tasks within the different assigned programs and the sense of victory or accomplishment when we control a wildfire(s).

What are the skills and competencies required to be successful in your role?

To be successful in this position you have to enjoy what you do, be level headed and able to handle stress effectively and have the ability to make good and timely decisions. You also need to communicate well with others, provide training, support and guidance of junior staff, maintain positive working relationships with co-workers and clients and be a team player.

What helped you get to where you are today?

It all started in Grade Eleven when I had an interview with my High School Career Councilor. At the end of the interview I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in Forestry and I was informed on what education/courses I required to get there.

After graduating from the Forest Technology program at NAIT, I was successful in obtaining a Forest Officer position with the Government of Alberta and have held a position with the organization my entire career. What I think helped me advance to where I am today is my personal abilities, work ethic, team attitude, dedication to the organization and most of all, the support of my family.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing this field?

In Wildfire Management, like any other emergency service, you must be prepared to make sacrifices. Maintaining a work/life balance at times can be very difficult being that your availability and expertise may be required at any time during the fire season.

You must be able to work in a team environment, work long hours and handle stress very well. You have to be an excellent communicator and get along well with others. The challenges, responsibility and variety of assignments can be very rewarding.

Updated: May 16, 2013

Wildfire Training Specialist

What does a typical day look like in your role?

Outside of active fire participation, my position has 3 specific roles. First, prepare classroom (academic) and field (practical) material to be included in a variety for training courses. Second, deliver that material in a style or format that will be understood by the receiving audience. Third, facilitate the logistics of the course to allow guest speakers the ability to focus on delivery.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

The role of Wildfire Training Specialist allows significant interaction with a variety of staff; from long term permanent staff to first time seasonal staff. The result is ensuring the required background work and preparation has been completed to meet the training needs for the appropriate audience. The position also allows insight to the direction, change and future of the department.

What are the skills and competencies required to be successful in your role?

A strong diverse wildfire operational background is critical to being successful. More of the Hinton Training Centre courses are becoming operational/field skills applicable. The position would be difficult to perform without a broad experience base to support instructional delivery.

What helped you get to where you are today?

The opportunity to instruct was offered while working in a Wildfire Management Area. This provided an insight to the training specialist position requirements. A few skills advantageous to this position include; self-motivation, project management, public speaking, operational understanding, the ability to be proactive and strong team awareness.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing this field?

Gain a variety of operational skills, participate in instruction and public speaking opportunities when presented. A background or understanding of adult education principles and theories would support understanding the concepts of the training specialist position.

Updated: May 16, 2013

Wildfire Prevention Officer

What does a typical day look like in your role?

I do not have a typical day! I have a typical year, as the work runs in cycles. On any given day I could be in my office doing paper work; or in the field working on a wildfire; or burning piles from a FireSmart project.

I could be in front of a municipal council discussing FireSmart by-laws or cost recovery under the Mutual Aid Agreement. Or I could be in front of a classroom full of eager to learn grade 6 students talking about fire prevention.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

I enjoy the variability in my work. I deal with the 3 E’s of wildfire prevention (Education, Enforcement and Engineering), which are all new and exciting in the field of wildfire management. This work allows me to try new ideas, work within science based facts and the world of the legal system. Plus, use a lot of common sense!

What are the skills and competencies required to be successful in your role?

Good communication skills, both written and oral, good organizational skills and good technical knowledge in the areas of wildfire suppression and wildfire behaviour. Good knowledge of financial policies and contract administration is also beneficial.

What helped you get to where you are today?

Hard work and the ability to take new ideas and concepts and apply them in the field. Being open and honest with the public and other stakeholders, following up on the commitments I make and good organizational skills.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing this field?

Be patient. A lot of the work you will do as a Wildfire Prevention Officer will take time to show results. In some case it could be years before the true results are known. Experience helps to make the job easier, people will buy into new ideas and projects if they know you have worked in the field for a numbers of years or if you have actually done the work yourself.

Updated: May 16, 2013

Provincial Fire Behaviour Specialist

What does a typical day look like in your role?

My day will vary greatly between summer and winter. During the winter months, my primary focus will be working in the office, reviewing and updating the decision support models and associated data that is used in the Spatial Fire Management System (SFMS), the department’s primary pre-suppression planning tool.

I will be asked to review the fire behaviour prescriptions for prescribed burn plans and routinely get asked to review the fire behaviour components papers and reports for a variety of groups. I also spend considerable time preparing and assisting with the delivery of a number of Fire Behaviour related course to field staff.

During the summer months the focus of the job moves toward being deployed in the field, (anywhere across Alberta and occasionally other parts of Canada), providing fire behaviour forecasts and fire behaviour support for active wildfires and prescribed burning. In addition I will provide day to day support for SFMS to the field staff across the Province. As well, I will be asked to do fire behaviour projections using Prometheus, the Canadian Wildfire Growth Model.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

The job of fire behaviour forecasting is both an art and a science. To me, the most enjoyable part of the job is the challenges associated with trying to forecast what a wildfire will do under a variety of ever changing weather, fuel and topographic changes. Using the most updated science and computer models, with the art of using past experiences and observations, provides a very challenging task.

What are the skills and competencies required to be successful in your role?

When working within the area of fire management, I believe the most important trait you need is to have the personality and ability to work with people in a team environment. Almost all of our work is done in a team environment and if you don’t have the ability to work with other people, you can have all the technical skills in the world but you will likely have trouble succeeding.

The second skill you need is the knowledge and understanding of the fire environment and how it will affect fire behaviour. This is a skill that needs to be learned by not only training but actually observing wildfires in the field.

What helped you get to where you are today?

I believe having spent the first half of my career working in the forest in all aspects of forest and land management, not only fire management, gave me a very broad experience base which allows me to look at forest as a complete ecosystem.

Working in all areas not only helped me be technically capable but it exposed me to a number of situations which forced me to learn how to deal with people and issues. This was combined with the time and effort I have spent learning and understanding the use of the various computer systems and models which prepared me for this position.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing this field?

I think the most important advice I could offer is to spend as much time in the field as you can learning and understanding the forest environment. Spend time watching and observing wildfire behaviour and try to relate what is happening on a fire based on the fuel conditions, weather and topography. Even if you have decided to specialize in forest protection, spend time learning all facets of forest and land management. Increasing your awareness and understanding of these two areas will benefit you in understanding fire and its role on our landscapes.

Updated: May 16, 2013

 

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Updated: May 16, 2013