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Kern Back In Business: Wildland firefighter open house and hiring

Bureau of Land Management Wildland Firefighters
Posted at 6:23 AM, Oct 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-21 11:09:00-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Here’s your chance to fight wild land fires across the state and country. The Bureau of Land Management is hosting an open house in Bakersfield to help them recruit future fire fighters. Among those positions that are available are the hot shots.

On November 2nd there will be a chance to talk with the BLM about their fire division and see if you have the right stuff to fight wildfires during fire season.

When fire ignites in Kern County or California’s wildlands, the BLM sends in their fire crews. Among their crews are the Kern Valley hotshots, who are considered some of the best firefighters because they fight fire in the toughest places in the state and country.

Armando Carlos is one of those Kern Valley hot shots and just finished his first year. He said it was tough.

Carlos said, “I thought that I was physically ready, when I really wasn’t.” He continued, "“You get that adrenaline rush, so you don’t think about, you can’t be scared. You just have to go and do your job and keep doing it. And do it until it’s done and your shift is over.”

Kyle Clendenen is the Kern Valley hotshot assistant superintendent. He said while most days are normal 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., their work days can change quickly and drastically.

“That day you go to work you don’t know if you’ll go home that night, or go home, get a fire and go home the next day," said Clendenen. "Or if you’ll go to a fire and go out of state and be gone for 15 days or 14 days.”

It’s that long time on the road that Carlos said makes it important to have good tools and comradery.

“[This is] our fire engine, our tool on wheels. This is our house. This is where we keep everything. This is our transportation to the fire.”

To get ready for next fire season, the BLM is looking to hire their next group of wildland firefighters. On Saturday November 2nd from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the BLM will host an open house before opening their hiring. That open house will be at their Bakersfield Field Office at 3801 Pegasus Drive.

Clendenen said, “Anyone can apply for this to become a season wildland fire. All you need to have is, you need a high school diploma or GED, at least 18 and a valid driver's license. And that's all you have to have in order to apply on USA Jobs."

For those with little to no experience Clendenen said they will train you. Joel Sanchez is one of those wildland firefighters gaining his first wildfire experience with the BLM. And he remembers his first call.

“It was an active fire on a bit of a slope," said Sanchez. "So we actually go to engage the fire directly. What was going through my mind, everything really. I was super flustered, but luckily I had my crew members to help me through.”

If you plan to apply both Sanchez and Carlos said get in the best shape you can be in because the work is tough. But they said they love the feeling when they put out a fire.

Sanchez said, “Relief, just because I know that the worst hours are behind me.” While Carlos added, “It’s the best thing, it’s the best thing that you can do. I love this job.”