One of the states with the most challenging environments for firefighting is Alaska. This leaves many wondering how to become a firefighter in Alaska.
This state has a lot of potential threats to life with common issues like house fires and road accidents and major forest fires and incidents with oil refineries. Towns like Anchorage and Juneau also require a lot of coverage to protect citizens. So how can you become a firefighter in Alaska?
How to Become a Firefighter in Alaska
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Be healthy and in good physical condition
- Complete basic fire & EMS training
These requirements are the bare minimum for volunteer firefighters in Alaska. They help new recruits get a foot onto the ladder. But there are other requirements in across Alaska.
There are some differences in age requirement across the state, such as in Juneau where you need to be 21. There are also different expectations for the educational qualifications required.
In this guide, I will discuss some of the requirements and considerations for these areas and other key points of interest. I will look at the main departments and training facilities for these areas, but before that, I want to discuss some of the unique factors that make Alaskan firefighting so interesting.
Firefighting in Alaska
Wildland firefighting is one of the areas where Alaska does things a little differently. The state is remote and wild and doesn’t have the same demand for metropolitan career firefighters.
One option for Alaskan natives looking to play their part in the fire service is to work via this agency. They provide emergency cover for periods of high fire risk. This isn’t going to be for everyone.
There is no guarantee of steady work and team members are on call most of the time.
However, it can be rewarded when there is a major emergency in the area. Forest fires are more common with current climate events. Alaskan firefighters need to be prepared with as many hands manning the equipment as possible.
To become an emergency firefighter in this capacity you need to meet a few basic requirements. You must be over 18 years of age, as is the case with most volunteers, and able to pass the fitness test. Applicants should also be prepared to be available for field assignment for long periods. Find out more here.
Firefighters near oil refineries in Alaska.
There are other threats that firefighter applicants need to consider when thinking of how to become a firefighter in Alaska.
The remote tundra is Alaska is home to few people but a lot of industry in some areas. Oil fields and refineries are in place and at risk of fire and dangerous contaminations of the environment.
Firefighters near these facilities need to be trained in handling these sorts of blazes and able to evacuate civilians. This is precisely what you need to do at the North Slope Borough Fire Department.
They only serve 8 villages and a small number of residents, but they also have temporary residents in the form of workers in these refineries. They also work with the Medevac Division to provide patient transfers in an emergency.
Fire Academies in Alaska
There aren’t a lot of choices for fire academies and colleges offering fire courses in Alaska. But, there are options available at the following institutions.
Anyone interested in training in a local capacity away from these areas should contact their local department for more guidance.
- Anchorage: University of Alaska Anchorage
- Barrow: Ilisagvik College
- Fairbanks: University Of Alaska – Fairbanks
The University of Alaska offers a Fire Science Associate degree in the city of Anchorage to give students a comprehensive education on fire prevention and management.
Students can learn about different prevention methods, strategies for fire suppression, the principles of fire, wildland fire control and earn this emergency services training.
Another option is the Fire Science program at Ilisagvik University. This is a course run by IỊisaġvik College in collaboration with the North Slope Borough Fire Department.
Students can learn the basics of their new career while also learn about the work of EMS. Those that successfully complete the course can go on to take part in Alaska state EMT and Firefighter 2 examinations. Find out more here.
Student and scholarship firefighter programs to help students further.
This is an initiative brought together by the Fire departments of Chena-Goldstream, Steese and the University of Alaska.
The idea is that participants can gain their college education while also enjoying job experience in the profession. This gives those with strong aspirations the chance to gain a more well-rounded education.
They must complete 12 credit hours per semester with a 2.00 grade point average while also working rotational 24-hour shifts at a station.
Students must also prove their character with a clean criminal and driving record and conduct themselves professionally at all times.
Upon completion, they can then continue onto a degree course to become a career firefighter. This is a lot to handle and only the most dedicated and strong candidates will manage the course.
It has to be this tough to separate out the very best candidates for long careers in the fire service. Requirements to apply for this Scholarship program include, certification of a Firefighter 1, CPAT and high school education. A background check, an essay and two letters of recommendation.
The University of Alaska Fire department program is the only one in the country where students can earn and learn at the same time at such a high standard.
They can earn up to $27,000 per year, with the qualification to attend emergencies, while still earning a college degree. 90% of alumni that graduate here find success in the fire service. You can learn more about this option here.
Major Fire Departments in Alaska
There is such diversity in the landscape and scale of the settlements in Alaska that I wanted to highlight two very different departments here.
One gives a sense of what it can be like to work as an Alaskan firefighter in a major city. The other is a smaller department far to the North that still deserves the same amount of care and skill.
How to Become a Juneau, AK Firefighter
- Public Safety Testing written exam over 70%
- High school diploma or GED
- EMT or Paramedic, (Firefighter by time of appointment to the position)
- At least 21 years of age
The best place to start here is by looking at the capital of Juneau. As I mentioned before, the age restrictions are tougher here.
There is a lot to consider with the different types of residents and tourists on land and at sea. This city offers a service that is a combination department with different roles. There are 36 career staff working alongside 40 volunteers and an additional 9 administrative staff members.
Juneau is small as a city but large for the state of Alaska. There is a population of over 31,000 that live there all year round. But, it is important to remember that this can increase by as much as 18,000 people when the large cruise ships come in.
The capital has an area of 3,255 square miles and is the third-largest municipality in the United States.
All trainees that work here need to develop a wide skill set because of the urban population, the outlying landscape and the work around the port.
This means high angle rope, hazmat and water rescue training. Learn more about working in Juneau by following this link.
How to Become a North Pole Firefighter
- 19 years of age
- Valid Alaska Driver’s License
- State of Alaska EMT
- State of Alaska Firefighter 1
- Excellent Physical Condition
Even the most northerly districts in Alaska need fire service coverage. North Pole might not have the most intense schedule of operations and incidents but there are still major risk factors.
The department covers an area of 4.2 square miles and just over 2000 people. It is a Subarctic area which means a lot of icy roads alongside businesses and homes that need protection.
The minimum qualifications here are also quite strict in terms of age and the training of the applicant. They expect all new recruits to come in with a lot of certifications already under their belts.
There preferred qualifications include the State of Alaska Firefighter 2 certificate, EMT or Paramedic certification and 2 years full-time experience.
Find out more about this department at the following link.
Job Prospects for Firefighters in Alaska
Alaska’s non-metropolitan area offered a mean annual wage of $53,980 and hourly of $25.95.
There were 2.45 jobs per 1000 people, mean annual wage across the whole country of $51,110. This means that the non-metropolitan area was the 5th highest paying in the US.
The mean wage generally is also high compared to many states across America. This may come down to the experience needed to fulfill all of the paid roles and any compensation for difficult conditions.
Alaska is an interesting place if you’re interested in how to become a firefighter in Alaska. There are experiences here seen nowhere else because of the challenges of the landscape and the remoteness of the different communities.
Volunteer firefighters can make a start in their career aged 18, train and get valuable experience and then progress to career positions in top departments as they get older. Anyone with the skill and determination to achieve their goals can do well as a firefighter in Alaska.