Photo of UK Fire Cats 2016

UK Fire Cats is a program in partnership with the UK Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF), and the U.S. Forest Service. The purpose of the UK Fire Cats is to provide UK Forestry Majors hands-on experience with wildland firefighting. UK Fire Cats are paid employees by KDF and are classified as “Emergency Firefighters.” UK Fire Cats are on-call to fight wildland fire on weekends during the fall and spring fire seasons.

UK Fire Cats - Student Wildland Firefighter Organization

UK Fire Cats Application

View PDF of the UK Fire Cat requirements.

To participate in UK Fire Cats this fall semester, you must submit your application by March 31, 2022.

Fire Season

Spring Fire Season - Feb. 15 through April 30
Fall Fire Season - Oct. 1 through Dec. 15


  • Full-time student enrolled at Univ. of Kentucky
  • Good academic standing  (2.0 cumulative GPA or better)
  • Successful completion (or anticipated completion prior to start of fire season) of S-130/S-190/L-180/IS-100/IS-700 Wildland Fire Training (These trainings are usually completed during FOR 255 Forest Fire.)

Application Process

There are 21 slots available for UK Fire Cats. All new applicants must email the following to Laura Lhotka (

  1. Resume
  2. Cover letter
  3. List of 3 references

Applications are due March 31. Students must be willing to participate in a pre-employment interview. Applicants will be notified prior to the end of spring semester if they are selected. The UK Fire Cats term begins at the beginning of each academic year with the start of fall semester.

Selection Criteria for 21 Person Roster

  • Current Fire Cats automatically accepted
  • Preference given to: (in order) Forestry majors, NRES majors, then all other majors
  • Preference given to: (in order) seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshmen, graduate student. (This is based on year in degree program, not necessarily credit hours.)
  • Ability to participate in mandatory training (RT-130) and work capacity test. These are usually held the second weekend in September.
  • Anticipated weekend availability during fire seasons
  • Successful completion of work capacity test (walk 3 miles in 45 minutes with 45 lb weighted vest)


  • Absences on assigned workdays must be pre-approved by KDF Crew Leader. 
  • Three unexcused absences may result in loss of position on 21 person roster and student must return gear to Laura Lhotka. Students which have forfeited gear may qualify for the program at the next application process.
  • Roster vacancies will be filled by alternates that have completed trainings and KDF employment paperwork.

Careers in Wildland Fire

UK Fire Cats - In the news...

UK's Fire Cats: College students, 'good firefighters' - by Natalie Parks - Kentucky Kernel (October 24, 2019)

UK Fire Cats Wrap Up Their First Wildfire Season - by Carl Nathe and Carol Lea Spence - UKNow (May 14, 2014)

Learn More
Undergraduate Program

Find out more about the undergraduate forestry program and how you can start your career in the outdoors.

Learn More

Career Opportunities

Learn what you can do with a degree in forestry.

View Careers

Explore Forestry

Watch or listen to our From the Woods Today show to learn about all things forestry in Kentucky.

View Episodes

Forestry Curriculum

Learn more about the requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Forestry.

View Curriculum

Spring Field Semester

View week-by-week summaries of the Spring Field Semester that occurs during spring of the junior year.

View Field Semester

Wildlife Biology and Management Minor

View the requirements for the Wildlife Biology and Management Minor.

View Wildlife Minor

How can we help? 

If you have questions about the UK Forestry program or would like to schedule a visit, let us know.

Contact Laura Lhotka, Forestry Academic Coordinator 859-257-8718,