Ryan’s story: A hard-charging California firefighter loses his last battle to suicide (2022)

In summary

Strong and stoic, a Cal Fire captain fought wildland fires and helped retrieve the bodies of despondent people who had jumped off a remote bridge. When the bridge beckoned him, he couldn’t keep fighting.

He was Superman. A skilled surfer, skateboarder and hockey defenseman. A leader much admired and sometimes resented. He was hard-charging, driven by the motto of his unit: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Cal Fire Captain Ryan Mitchell was the embodiment of the heroic archetype: 6–foot-4, strong and stoic, brave in the face of danger, the last person anyone expected to take his own life.

Until he did.

On that bright November morning, Mitchell cleared up the paperwork at the end of his shift, locked the bay doors at Station 20 in El Cajon and set out to put an end to his pain.

He drove half an hour through picturesque rolling hills to a remote bridge in San Diego County and pulled off to the side of the road. Nearby, large public-service signs urged anyone considering suicide to call a toll-free number.

Mitchell got out of his car, walked onto the Pine Valley Creek Bridge and stepped off the 440-foot-high span. He was 35 years old.

One of many

It was 2017, and Mitchell was one of at least 117 firefighters across the country who took their own lives that year, according to the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, the only national organization that tracks such figures.

Although there are ample anecdotal stories about suicides among California firefighters, there is no data detailing the scope of the problem at Cal Fire. National data also is sparse, but suicides appears to be increasing nationwide: The alliance has verified 1,750 firefighter suicides since 1880, with 95% of the deaths occurring between 2000 and 2022. Jeff Dill, a retired fire chief who founded the alliance, estimates that only about a third of firefighter suicides are identified because of the social stigma and code of silence.

“I can’t tell you how many coworkers and longtime friends have killed themselves, and four times as many have attempted it in the last few years.”

Tony Martinez, Cal Fire captain in Napa County

The statistics paint a grim picture: Desperate firefighters turn guns on themselves or drive into trees. One jammed a stick of dynamite in his mouth and lit the fuse. Some set themselves on fire.

Tony Martinez, a Cal Fire captain in Napa County, said many coworkers have committed suicide — or attempted to, some multiple times.

“I can’t tell you how many coworkers and longtime friends have killed themselves, and four times as many have attempted it in the last few years. Three co-workers in Cal Fire died last week. Died by suicide,” Martinez said.

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Finding Ryan

Cell phones began buzzing around 11 a.m. on that Sunday, when many of Mitchell’s family members and friends were at church. A phone tree began heating up with the same urgent question: “Have you heard from Ryan?”

Tony Mecham, Mitchell’s battalion chief in El Cajon, was driving back from a family emergency and left strict instructions not to be bothered. When he received two calls in five minutes, he knew it was something serious. His duty chief reached him while he was driving with his wife on a freeway in the San Fernando Valley.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, but Ryan Mitchell just jumped off the Pine Valley Bridge,” the chief told Mecham.

“I remember it as clear as day,” Mecham said. “I tried to catch my breath. I pulled over, and as my wife drove, I got on the phone and started making calls.”

The 911 calls did not identify the jumper. But once it became clear that a Cal Fire captain was involved, the tenor of the emergency response changed. In terse, tight communications, the region’s first responders moved swiftly to recover the body of a brother in uniform.

A Cal Fire division chief who knew Mitchell’s parents was dispatched to locate them; another was sent to notify Mitchell’s estranged wife, who had been looking for him when he failed to pick up his 16-month-old son. A sheriff’s deputy met Mitchell’s parents at their church.

Mecham began to manage the emotional fallout he knew was coming. It was the worst possible scenario: Mitchell’s own workmates responded to the 911 call from a citizen reporting his suicide. The crew sent to the scene had recognized Mitchell’s vehicle, a distinctive, beat-up station wagon he used when he went surfing.

Commanders took Mitchell’s fire station out of service for the day and instructed other battalion chiefs to visit every station to break the news. Local fire crews covered for Cal Fire that day.

The San Diego County Sheriff and California Highway Patrol let Cal Fire know they would handle the operation. Mecham wanted his people at the scene, but he didn’t want them to have to retrieve their co-worker’s body.

Ryan’s story: A hard-charging California firefighter loses his last battle to suicide (1)

A team hiked into the rugged canyon underneath the bridge and hoisted Mitchell’s body out in a rescue litter. Everyone on the bridge — now teeming with all manner of uniformed personnel from multiple agencies — saluted as the body was placed on a stretcher and draped with an American flag.

Following Cal Fire tradition, a colleague’s body is escorted at all times during its journey to its final resting place. From the bridge, a procession of emergency vehicles accompanied Mitchell in the coroner’s van, along with a CHP vanguard. A Cal Fire honor guard was at the medical examiner’s office to receive him, and stood watch in shifts until the funeral.

People will tell you that time is elastic in moments of extreme distress. Information is being dispatched, the words are speeding by and you can’t keep up or remember. And the day seems like it’s on repeat, moving slowly and never-ending. In some Cal Fire stations, firefighters wept, some punched their grief into walls and some went home, not knowing what to do with themselves.

Ernie Marugg, a battalion chief in San Diego County who mentored Mitchell, had just left church when he heard the radio call. He took both of his stations in the area out of service and “self-dispatched” to the scene. He considered hiking into the canyon but instead waited on the bridge. “I didn’t want to see him like that, but I didn’t want to leave my boy out there.”

It was Marugg who pushed the gurney with Mitchell’s body into the morgue.

Colleagues began piecing together the day, struggling to construct a timeline as if the assembly of facts might help them understand why Mitchell took his life.

A fellow firefighter walked up to Ryan Mitchell and said, “Hey, buddy, everything alright?” Mitchell told him his car was overheating. “I’m all good,” he said.

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A tragic detail emerged of Mitchell’s last moments: A federal battalion chief who knew Mitchell — his unit was based in the same station — was driving by that morning and saw Mitchell sitting quietly in his car by the bridge.

The firefighter pulled over, walked to Mitchell and said, “Hey, buddy, everything alright?” according to Mitchell’s best friend, Battalion Chief Patrick Walker.

Mitchell told him his car was overheating and he was just waiting for it to cool. “I’m all good,” he said, Walker said. The firefighter went on his way, waving.

Sometime after that, Mitchell stepped into air.

Trying to unlock Ryan’s mind

No one knows what set Ryan Mitchell — who had fought dozens of wildland fires throughout the state during his 12 years of service — on his downward spiral. The disintegration of his marriage, too much firefighting and too little sleep — the same problems documented by his colleagues. The struggle to never show weakness and the imperative to save everyone. It could have been all of it — or none of it.

Mitchell dreamed of shifting to aviation, the elite corps of firefighting. When he failed to get accepted into Cal Fire’s program, it was deeply disappointing, and angered him. One of his supervisors said the rejection “broke him.” Mitchell told friends he’d been stressing about his marriage, too.

Denial claims no exclusivity. Mitchell’s friends and family believed his brave front. Through it all, he confided in few people, and even fewer understood the depth of the pain and blankness that he felt.

Mitchell was in Marugg’s office one day and the battalion chief suggested counseling. When Mitchell said he had seen someone and that he was fine, Marugg believed him. It was a month or two before Mitchell died.

“He didn’t offer me a whole lot,” Marugg said. “If he saw the therapist more than two times, I would be surprised. He said everything was back on track. I thought he was getting better.”

Suicide has a stealthy manner, often hiding in plain sight. No one had a clue about Mitchell’s plan to kill himself until he did, and then they thought they saw clues scattered everywhere.

Clinicians often can’t pinpoint the moment, the nudge or push that takes a person from maintaining to can’t-take-it-anymore. There’s no diagnostic template for suicide.

Sometimes it’s a trigger that releases awful memories: The fire captain who responded to a child drowning who lost his own child to drowning. It can be a single, horrific incident: The fire boss who heard the screams of burning colleagues, unable to get to them.

Or it can be the accumulation of a career’s-worth of death, destruction and irreparable wounds. By the time a firefighter reaches that tipping point, trauma has seeped into deep places and is difficult to dredge out.

It can be a single, horrific incident.Or it can be the accumulation of a career’s-worth of death, destruction and irreparable wounds.

The onset of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression can go unnoticed,becoming so much a part of person’s psyche that dark thoughts become the norm, said Sidra Goldman-Mellor, who studies depression and suicide at University of California, Merced.

“People don’t have the language. People don’t recognize that how they are feeling now is not how they always felt. It seems normal to them,” she said.

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In California, the mythmaking around wildland firefighting has a century of unvarnished heroism behind it. But human heroes, like Mitchell, have their limits.

“It’s a form of cultural brainwashing,” Dill said. “ You put this uniform on, you act a certain way, you are brave and courageous. ‘We give help, we don’t ask for help.’ The problem with firefighters is we believe our own myths.”

Walker remembers seeing some worrisome signs. He had been concerned about his young friend and colleague for some time. He spoke to Mitchell in the days before his suicide. and was taken aback by how quiet he was: The captain not only didn’t talk about his problems, he didn’t talk much at all.

Yet everything about Mitchell’s suicide showed evidence of deliberation, choosing a spot he knew, a bridge in the remote mountains east of San Diego — one of the highest in the nation — that is frequently the scene of suicides, Walker said. “It was purposeful,” he said. “He had picked up dead bodies from Pine Valley before, and thought, ‘That’s a sure thing.’“

Then there was a photo he posted on Facebook a year before he took his life: It depicted a firefighter in full gear holding a gun to his head.

Ryan’s story: A hard-charging California firefighter loses his last battle to suicide (2)

Even his father, his clone in many ways, didn’t see the desperation in a grown man’s fatigue and emptiness, only the brave boy he raised.

“Ryan wasn’t the kind of guy to have those kinds of issues. He was an unmitigated hard-ass,” Will Mitchell said. “He was a hard-charger in the department, and the department doesn’t tell hard-chargers to slow down. Ryan found his breaking point, it was too much, too hard, too fast.”

Will Mitchell visited his son not long before his death. “He did not look well at that time, he looked gaunt. He was cooked,” Mitchell said. The captain had taken a shift for another firefighter who he deemed too tired to work any longer. Then he went to his home station and worked another three-day shift. “We never saw him again.”

Gone was the man Will Mitchell competed against on surf breaks in Mexico and El Salvador. The agile skateboarder. The kid in the backseat on the way to ice hockey tournaments. The commanding officer who pushed “his guys” in physical training nearly as hard as he pushed himself.

Ryan’s story: A hard-charging California firefighter loses his last battle to suicide (3)

Mitchell left behind a wife and son, Aiden, a little towheaded beach kid who mirrors his parents’ sun-splashed good looks. The job — or life — ate away at the marriage, and the couple was separated at the time of Mitchell’s death.

Through the family, his wife, Denelle Mitchell, declined an interview. But she told a television station two years after Ryan’s death that she could see the toll firefighting was taking on him.

“The fire seasons were getting longer and harder,” she said. “There’s days where as a firefighter wife, they come home and they just are so exhausted — mentally, physically, and emotionally drained.”

Now she raises money for suicide awareness.

Saying goodbye to Ryan

Mitchell’s suicide shook the Cal Fire family. His life was celebrated at a memorial service, with 1,500 in attendance, replete with the fire service’s elaborate rituals.

An honor guard stood at attention on a stage filled with emblems of Mitchell’s life: a surfboard, two hockey jerseys, beat up fire gear and helmets bearing his badge number, 4797. Bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” and firefighters wore their Class A dress uniforms with white gloves. And, finally, the 200-year-old tradition of ringing three bells, a firefighter’s “last alarm.”

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Mecham, the battallion chief, spoke at the service, acknowledging the trauma and suicide directly.

“I have witnessed the sadness and anger that Ryan’s death has created,” he told the crowd. “Why did they not catch it, why did we miss it, why Ryan?

“People are looking for understanding for something we may never understand. The harsh reality is we will probably never know why. The Ryan Mitchell you all know and love did not take his own life. Ryan Mitchell’s disease took his life.”

“I don’t know what demons got ahold of my friend on that bridge. But I don’t want them to catch me.”

Patrick Walker, Cal Fire battalion chief and mitchell’s best friend

Mitchell’s family and other loved ones remain shattered. His father, a burly, no-nonsense building contractor, wears a rubber wristband memorializing Ryan’s life. Already an ordained minister, he was moved after his son’s death to become a chaplain for the fire service, but still struggles with his faith. “I’ve had a few knock-down, drag-outs with God, ” he said.

The cruelty of suicide is felt in its reverberations. Those who are left behind have forever to pose what-ifs and second-guess every small disagreement and overlooked wound — with no chance of making anything right.

“Ryan and my relationship was never perfect as a father and son,” Will Mitchell said. “We butted heads, we were at odds with each other. We didn’t speak to each other for periods of time, we were out of communication way too often.

“I relished the idea of making sure that all that garbage was forgiven and forgotten. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that. It’s a huge regret.”

Ryan’s story: A hard-charging California firefighter loses his last battle to suicide (4)

The suicide of any firefighter prompts soul-searching among colleagues, especially among those who have battled their own troubling thoughts. Mitchell’s best friend, Walker, like many, has faced his own darkness. When he drives across that tall bridge, he still shivers.

“I haul ass across it,” he said. “I don’t know what demons got ahold of my friend on that bridge. But I don’t want them to catch me.”

If you are having suicidal thoughts, you can get help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 988 or visitinghttps://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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FAQs

What do Cal Fire firefighters make? ›

$66,278. The estimated total pay for a Firefighter at CAL Fire is $66,278 per year.

How many firefighters are in California? ›

The state's much-admired fire service has only recently tried to come to grips with the scope of the mental health problems among its 6,500 firefighters and support personnel.

How many firefighters died in California each year? ›

Fires casualties by general incident type
Incident type% of deathsNational average
Structures*51.284.9
Structures/Residential45.876.4
Vehicles44.67.7
Outside2.44.5

Who is fighting the California fires? ›

The BLM is a member of the California Forest Management Task Force. California's Federal, State, and local wildland firefighting agencies have formed extraordinary partnerships to fight fires, and together with local communities, to prevent or lessen fire danger.

How much does a Fire Captain make for CAL FIRE? ›

How much does a FIRE Captain make in California? As of Sep 24, 2022, the average annual pay for a FIRE Captain in California is $51,549 a year.

How much does CAL FIRE pay an hour? ›

CAL Fire Salaries
Job TitleSalary
Firefighter/EMT salaries - 29 salaries reported$34/hr
Firefighter/Paramedic salaries - 10 salaries reported$35/hr
Firefighter I salaries - 9 salaries reported$26/hr
Fire Fighter Ff1 Seasonal salaries - 5 salaries reported$33/hr
16 more rows

What state pays firefighters most? ›

Geographic profile for Firefighters:
StateEmployment (1)Annual mean wage (2)
California27,730$ 80,990
Washington7,740$ 76,280
New York10,640$ 72,670
Colorado5,460$ 68,300
1 more row
31 Mar 2022

Where do firefighters get paid the most? ›

The states and districts that pay Firefighters the highest mean salary are New Jersey ($86,880), California ($86,860), Washington ($77,700), New York ($77,380), and Hawaii ($68,590). How Much Do Firefighters Make in Your City?

What is the busiest fire department in United States? ›

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A Nashville fire station was named the busiest in the country by Firehouse Magazine.

What is the average life expectancy of a firefighter? ›

LIFESPAN: Research has shown the life span of firefighters is on average, 10-15 years less than non-firefighters. HEART PROBLEMS: A major reason for deaths among firefighters is heart associated problems, thus, keeping a healthy lifestyle and healthy diet along with regular medical checks are a vital strategy.

How many volunteer firefighters died in 911? ›

Of the 2,977 victims killed in the September 11 attacks, 420 were emergency workers in New York City who responded to the World Trade Center. This included: 343 firefighters (including a chaplain and two paramedics) of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY);

How many firefighters died in the line of duty in 2021? ›

There were 135 on-duty firefighter deaths in 2021. Sixty-five were due to COVID. Of the 70 non-COVID deaths: Thirty-five were volunteer firefighters, 27 were career firefighters, seven were contractors to state and federal land management agencies, and one was a member of an industrial fire department.

How much do California inmate firefighters make? ›

The all-inmate crews live in so-called fire camps and are led by personnel from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. They earn between $2.90 and $5 a day depending on their duties—and slightly more when actively fighting a fire.

Is the Dixie Fire still burning in California? ›

The Dixie Fire was an enormous wildfire in Butte, Plumas, Lassen, Shasta, and Tehama Counties, California. It was named after Dixie Road, near where the fire started in Butte County.
...
Dixie Fire
Date(s)July 13, 2021 — October 25, 2021
Burned area963,309 acres 1,505 square miles 3,898 square kilometres 389,837 hectares
12 more rows

What percentage of firefighters are inmates? ›

Four years ago, when I first wrote about the thousands of incarcerated firefighters who compose up to 30 percent of California's wildland firefighting crews, there was no pathway to a professional career through Cal Fire or municipal fire departments after their release.

How much does a fire battalion chief make in California? ›

How much does a Fire Battalion Chief make in California? The average Fire Battalion Chief salary in California is $94,500 as of August 29, 2022, but the range typically falls between $87,300 and $110,800.

Does Cal Fire pay well? ›

Average Cal Fire Firefighter yearly pay in California is approximately $49,469, which is 10% above the national average.

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Salary ranges from $82,932 to $107,568 per year in addition to benefits, paid time off, holidays, and more! Apply by September 13, 2022! For more information click the link below: calcareers.ca.gov/CalHrPublic/Jo… Apply to be an Information Technology Specialist I for @CAL_FIRE in Yolo County!

How much does a CAL FIRE helicopter pilot make? ›

As of Sep 22, 2022, the average annual pay for a Fire Pilot in California is $59,844 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $28.77 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,150/week or $4,987/month.

How much does a CAL FIRE dispatcher make? ›

The estimated total pay for a Communications Operator/911 Dispatcher at CAL Fire is $5,763 per month. This number represents the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users. The estimated base pay is $5,316 per month.

How long are CAL FIRE shifts? ›

Alvarez: With Cal Fire, we work a three-day shift, so we stay at the firehouse for three days, 72 hours, and we're at home for four days. So it's three days on, four days off.

Which city has the best firefighters? ›

Amarillo, TX

Which country has the best firefighter? ›

Italy's firefighters crowned the best in the world.

What is the highest paying occupation? ›

Highest Paying Occupations
OCCUPATION2021 MEDIAN PAY
General internal medicine physiciansThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year
Family medicine physiciansThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year
Emergency medicine physiciansThis wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year
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Do firefighters have to shave? ›

Worn so it does not interfere with the proper wearing and performance of the approved department safety helmet or the proper sealing of the face mask of the self-contained breathing apparatus. Uniformed personnel will be clean shaven; however, neatly trimmed sideburns and mustaches are permitted.

What is the best state to be a firefighter in? ›

Indiana is the best state in the country for firefighter/paramedic jobs, and Connecticut has the second-highest median salary in the country.
...
1. Indiana.
Total Firefighter/Paramedic Jobs:247
Average Annual Salary:$58,135
Lowest 10 Percent Earn:$43,000
Highest 10 Percent Earn:$78,000
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6 Apr 2021

What percentage of firefighters get divorced? ›

In contrast, age-standardized prevalence of current divorce among female fighters (32.1%) was more than three times that for females in the general population (10.4%). Prevalence of ever divorce was substantially higher among female (40.0%) compared with male firefighters (24.4%).

What city has the largest fire department in the world? ›

The Tokyo Fire Department (TFD) (Japanese: 東京消防庁, Tokyo Shōbōchō) is a fire department headquartered in Ōtemachi, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan. The TFD was formed on March 7, 1948, and is responsible for protecting the Tokyo Metropolis Area. The Fire Department is the largest urban fire department in the world.

What is the highest firefighter rank? ›

In most municipalities, civil service exams determine all but the highest two ranks, i.e., all but positions 9 and 10:
  • Firefighter/EMT.
  • Firefighter/Paramedic.
  • Driver Engineer.
  • Lieutenant.
  • Captain.
  • Battalion Chief.
  • Assistant Chief.
  • Fire Chief.

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CAL FIRE is the largest fire department in California and the third-largest fire department in the United States. Our firefighters protect 33 million acres of State Responsibility Area (SRA).

What is the number one killer of firefighters? ›

(WSAW) - Seventy-Five percent of firefighters added to the IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial died from cancer associated with the job from 2015 to 2020. According to the CDC, cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters.

Why do firefighters not pay Social Security? ›

Firefighters do not receive Social Security

Their retirement system is their only source of retirement income. Their employers - the cities and counties - do not pay the 6.25% payroll tax for Social Security, and this payroll cost savings is instead invested in a traditional defined-benefit retirement plan.

Why do firefighters retire so early? ›

The fire service requires a high level of physical exertion and takes a serious toll on a worker's physical abilities. As a result, many employers require fire fighters to retire as early as age 50, leaving workers burdened with securing expensive health insurance.

How many children died in 911? ›

At two and a half years old, Christine Lee Hanson was the youngest of the eight children who were killed on 9/11, all passengers aboard the aircraft commandeered by terrorists.

How many dogs died in 911? ›

Animal heroes

Only one dog was killed at the World Trade Center site, a bomb-sniffing dog named Sirius who was brought to the scene by New York/New Jersey Port Authority police officer David Lim. Cyrus was crushed in his basement kennel when the first tower fell. The officer survived.

How many people were rescued after the towers collapsed? ›

Their rescue was later portrayed in the Oliver Stone's film, World Trade Center. In total, twenty survivors were pulled out of the rubble. The final survivor, Port Authority secretary Genelle Guzman-McMillan, was rescued 27 hours after the collapse of the North Tower.

Why do firefighters have heart attacks? ›

Research indicates that the stress of firefighting (heavy muscular work, heat stress, sympathetic nervous system activation, and exposure to smoke) triggers a cardiac event in individuals with underlying disease.

What is the second most common cause of firefighter deaths? ›

Motor vehicle crashes are the second highest cause of death for firefighters. The leading cause of death is stress and overexertion which accounts for approximately 50% of the fatalities.

How many FDNY died a year? ›

Firefighter deaths
YearTotalVolunteer
20166939
20176032
20186535
20194825
39 more rows

Does CAL FIRE pay well? ›

Average Cal Fire Firefighter yearly pay in California is approximately $49,469, which is 10% above the national average.

Is CAL FIRE a good career? ›

74% of CAL Fire employees would recommend working there to a friend based on Glassdoor reviews. Employees also rated CAL Fire 2.7 out of 5 for work life balance, 3.5 for culture and values and 4.2 for career opportunities.

How much do California wildfire firefighters make? ›

How much does a Wildland Firefighter make in California? As of Sep 23, 2022, the average annual pay for a Wildland Firefighter in California is $31,413 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $15.10 an hour. This is the equivalent of $604/week or $2,617/month.

How long is the CAL FIRE Academy? ›

This rigorous 219 hours of training is specifically for those seeking a seasonal firefighter job with CAL FIRE. The new 6-week format will include additional certifications, including SFT Low Angle Rope Rescue Operations (LARRO), NWCG Firefighter Type 1 S-131, Portable Pumps and Water Use S-211.

How much does a CAL FIRE helicopter pilot make? ›

As of Sep 22, 2022, the average annual pay for a Fire Pilot in California is $59,844 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $28.77 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,150/week or $4,987/month.

How much does a CAL FIRE dispatcher make? ›

The estimated total pay for a Communications Operator/911 Dispatcher at CAL Fire is $5,763 per month. This number represents the median, which is the midpoint of the ranges from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and based on salaries collected from our users. The estimated base pay is $5,316 per month.

How much does a CAL FIRE hand crew make? ›

Average Cal Fire Firefighter yearly pay in the United States is approximately $49,469, which is 10% above the national average.

How long does it take to become a firefighter? ›

All new firefighters are required to undergo extensive training that normally lasts between 12 and 16 weeks. Even firefighters who have been doing the job for a number of years are required to do ongoing training to ensure they're at the top of their game.

How much do Smokejumpers make in California? ›

A smokejumper earns around $16.00 per hour while a smokejumper foreman earns about $24.00 per hour. Smokejumpers are paid nothing extra for making parachute jumps; however, they do receive hazard pay equivalent to 25 percent of their base pay when working on an uncontrolled wildfire.

How old do you have to be to work for CAL FIRE? ›

You will be helping to fulfill one of CAL FIRE's most important responsibilities: protecting the people, property, and resources of the State of California. You must be 18 years of age at the time of your appointment to Firefighter I.

How much do hotshots get paid in California? ›

How much does a Hotshot Driver make in California? As of Sep 25, 2022, the average annual pay for a Hotshot Driver in California is $64,458 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $30.99 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,239/week or $5,371/month.

How much are hotshot firefighters paid? ›

Hotshot Wildland Firefighter Salaries
Job TitleSalary
National Park Service Hotshot Wildland Firefighter salaries - 1 salaries reported$25/hr
Usfs Hotshot Wildland Firefighter salaries - 1 salaries reported$21/hr
US Forest Service Hotshot Wildland Firefighter salaries - 1 salaries reported$23/hr
1 more row
13 Dec 2021

How much do Cal Fire firefighters make with overtime? ›

In the city and county fire departments in Los Angeles, for example, the number of firefighters earning more than $100,000 in overtime alone has surged from 41 in 2011 to 1,085 last year. Eight years ago, only three firefighters in Los Angeles earned a $300,000 salary, The Times' analysis found.

How much does it cost to go to Cal Fire Academy? ›

School information

Time to complete this education training ranges from 3 hours to 3 months depending on the qualification, with a median time to complete of 8 hours. The cost to attend CAL FIRE Academy is $150.

How much does the fire Academy cost in California? ›

Breadcrumb
COST BREAKDOWN FOR ACADEMYCOST
Unit Cost: 20 units @ $46/unit$920.00
Student Health Fees:$21.00
Student Fee:$10.00
Materials Fee: State Fire Training Certifications$675.00
3 more rows

How long does it take to join LAFD? ›

About 6 to 7 months are needed to complete firefighter training in Los Angeles. Other than that, the Los Angeles Fire Department's selection process normally takes some months to complete as well. So, you are looking at a period of 8 to 12 months in total.

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Introduction: My name is Foster Heidenreich CPA, I am a delightful, quaint, glorious, quaint, faithful, enchanting, fine person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.