What are my chances of getting a job as a Lookout Observer?
There are 127 fire lookout positions available. In any given year, 15 - 30 positions become open simply because a lookout in good standing is given the option to return the following year. The best time to apply is November or December so that your application is on hand and can be referred to.
How long is the work day?
Time spent observing for smokes depend on the weather and fire danger. If it is raining, very little time is required. If it is hot and dry and a lightning storm is predicated, then much more time making observations is required with 12 hour days being the norm. There is no overtime, however, there will be a high hazard day modifier paid when extreme burning conditions exist.
What training is provided?
Each Forest Area is responsible for lookout training. The training can be either a structured event at a central location,
on the job with an experienced lookout observer providing hands on instruction and explanation of policy and procedures,
or a combination of both.
What is provided at the lookout site?
The facilities include the main house, which comprises:
- a combination living room/kitchen
- a small separate room for an office
- a small bedroom
There is a small propane refrigerator, stove and heater. The propane is provided. There is an engine house where the power plant is located and an outhouse.
The lookout tower itself may be 6 m (20 ft.) to 30 m (100 ft.) in height or a cabin type with access through a hole in the ceiling. The average tower height is 30 m (100 ft.).
You are responsible to insure that the house and related facilities are kept in a neat and clean condition at all times. As well, most sites have a small shed
for miscellaneous storage.
There is no running water. Rain water is collected in barrels and boiled for washing. Bathing/shower facilities are usually the result of individual ingenuity.
Groceries are not provided. Drinking water is provided.
Can I bring a spouse, companion, children, or friend?
Yes, however you must advise the Forest Area Office well in advance of any intention of having others stay with you.
The Forest Area is under no obligation to transport other family members, friends, etc. to a remote lookout site. If you intend to have family with you, road accessible
lookouts are the obvious choice.
For families staying at the lookout site, every precaution must be taken to insure that children do not wander off and become lost or involved in potentially dangerous
situations with wildlife, poisonous plants, etc. It is imperative that an individual on the ground is watching the children and not the lookout person in the cupola.
It goes without saying that all persons staying at the site should be in good medical/dental health.
Can I bring a pet?
Pets are allowed; however:
- If the lookout is a fly-in, the animal must be of reasonable size and in a cage.
- The pilot has the right to refuse to carry an animal which is aggressive or uncontrollable.
- At the lookout site, it is imperative that dogs are tied, locked up, or otherwise controlled whenever a helicopter or airplane is landing or taking off.
- It is your responsibility to keep the grounds and facilities clean and free of animal wastes.
How do I get groceries?
Groceries are ordered from a list of common food items. You are responsible for making arrangements with the local merchant
regarding method of payment, etc. prior to departure for the lookout. At remote sites, groceries are delivered once a month.
What can I bring in the way of hobby supplies and personal interest items?
Moderation is the key. Personal interests must not conflict with the primary function of early detection of smoke/fires.
What if I have a wedding, family reunions, etc. to attend during the summer?
You must advise your supervisor well in advance of any requests for planned time off; preferably at the time of hire.
Every attempt will be made to accommodate your request; however, during periods of high hazard or during active firefighting operations, all leave may be cancelled
or transportation may simply be unavailable.
What if I become ill?
It goes without saying that the lookout is a poor place to become sick for anything other than a cold or other minor ailment. Lookout observers should be in good
general health and a recent medical checkup and a trip to the dentist is required.
If the illness is serious, you will be removed from the lookout by the quickest means available and taken to the nearest medical facility for treatment.
What is the Policy on Drugs and Alcohol?
Should you require medication and/or prescription drugs, you must ensure you have an adequate supply on hand.
Use and/or abuse or non-prescription drugs, as well as excessive consumption of alcohol, will not be tolerated and will result in immediate dismissal.
Updated: Feb 9, 2018