We interviewed state workers holding down those jobs to find out what they do, how they got there and what they think you should know about their work.
Here's the first installment in our series on unusual state employee jobs:
Name: Thomas Humann
Job title: Fire pilot, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Number of years with the state: eight
How did you come to be a fire pilot?
"I did have a fairly decent foundation of helicopter flying. I flew attack helicopters in the Marine Corps and then I was flying Marine One for President George W. Bush. ... In 2003 during the fire siege that occurred in Southern California I had a chance to meet with a bunch of guys from (Cal Fire). ... Then when I got out in 2005 I had the opportunity to move to Sacramento, worked as a department aviation safety officer for four years and then moved out to my current location as a field fire pilot."
What does a typical week in the life of a fire pilot look like?
"It is fairly diverse. We don't know what any given day is going to bring. It is mostly going to be fire response, but we could also get any number of types of rescue calls. Most of what we do is fire firefighting itself. ... We try to capture and contain the fire before it becomes something significant. ... For me, that was a real natural transition (from the Marine Corps)...there was the same type of unit cohesion and camaraderie...they want to save homes and help people."
What is the most extraordinary or interesting thing that has happened while you were on the job?
"I'll mention two things. One was the eye opening experience in 2007 of getting dispatched to the fires in Southern California, where frankly it looked like Armageddon down there. ... We do rescues as well. We went out and got a call fairly late in the day for two little lost girls. Just as it was getting too dark to see, we were able to locate the girls, a couple of guys were able to jump out of the helicopter ... and I was able to pick them up."
Is there anything you want people to know about your job?
"The best thing for people to know is that we are able to contain 90 percent of fires that are 10 acres or less. On a day to day basis, most of time in California, most of these fires amount to basically nothing because of the quick response we are able to provide."
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PHOTO: Courtesy of Thomas Humann/Victor Acosta.