They say that only you can prevent wildfires. If that’s the case, you could be doing a better job.
More than 57,000 wildfires broke out in 2020. 10 million acres of land burned, destroying thousands of buildings and killing dozens of people. Wildfires are expected to grow as climate change spreads drought and invasive species.
This makes wildland firefighters more important than ever. Yet many people are not aware of what a wildland firefighter does. They know of urban firefighters, and they assume the two are largely interchangeable.
That’s not the case. If you are interested in becoming a wildland firefighter, you need to know the basics about their line of work. Here is your quick guide.
The Job of a Wildland Firefighter
As the name indicates, wildland firefighters work out in the wildlands. They fight fires in forests, natural parks, and other rural locations.
Fires out in nature are similar to fires in buildings. Both need oxygen, heat, and fuel in order to burn. Fires in buildings produce dangerous smoke that can prevent a firefighter from getting oxygen.
Since fires in the wilderness happen in the open air, there is less chance of suffocation. But wildfires have more fuel and oxygen to burn with. They can spread over thousands of acres, producing devastating heat and destroying whole towns.
Wildland firefighters work very long hours. They must navigate difficult terrains with heavy equipment.
Wildfires can occur during any season. Wildland firefighters must stay in shape and remain on guard for a blaze to occur at any moment.
Firefighters risk their lives to keep people safe. Many get injured on the job. If you want to be a wildland firefighter, you must be willing to risk your life to help others.
Despite the risks, many wildland personnel are happy with their jobs. They get to make a difference in communities across the United States. They get to see breathtaking natural wonders and make close friends.
Not all wildland firefighters come alike. There are many different opportunities that a person can pursue.
Engine crews are what most people think of firefighters. They ride out on fire engines to locations and spray blazes with foam. For massive wildfires, crews stay at a perimeter and keep the fire from crossing it.
Helitack crews work on helicopters. They drop water on fires from above, or they retrieve injured people by lowering personnel down.
Fire modules offer coordination and strategic skills. They can provide long-term planning, working with municipalities on how they can prevent wildfires.
Hotshot crews are groups of trained professionals who travel throughout the United States. They perform intense training so they can respond to fires with a moment’s notice. Many crews head to the hottest parts of the fire and try to put them out.
Smokejumpers jump from airplanes into remote areas. Like hotshot crews, jumpers are highly trained. They are largely self-sufficient, working on the ground by themselves for days at a time.
Aviators are also needed. People who fly smokejumpers into positions require special training and need experience in firefighting. Other professionals include fire analysts and ecologists, who study old fires and predict new ones.
To be a successful wildland firefighter, you need special tools. Axes chop down and dismantle burning objects. If a firefighter needs to enter a building, they can use their ax.
Hoes and shovels establish a perimeter around a building. They uproot wet soil that cannot catch on fire, and they create a physical barrier between the fire and flammable objects.
To communicate with each other, many firefighters use fire radios. Since there are few radio towers in the wildlands, wildland fire radios are designed to carry long distances. BK radios are popular for their portability, with firefighters able to carry them as they travel.
Firefighters also need oxygen tanks and masks. Though they are out in the open air, a firefighter can still inhale dangerous smoke. They also need several tools to put out the fire itself, including foam and water tanks.
Firefighting training is comprehensive and difficult. Trainees spend days hiking and climbing with heavy equipment. They train at night and during weekends, with minimal chances to rest.
They learn to use their wide variety of tools. To use an ax and shovel, a trainee must develop upper body strength and hand-eye coordination. They must learn how to use a radio and talk to dispatchers.
Firefighters learn CPR and first aid skills. Many have training in post-traumatic stress disorder and mental illnesses, which wildfires can cause or exacerbate. They learn how to tend to people who are having an emotional breakdown.
Firefighters must also learn several mental skills. They learn how to take orders and follow leadership. They practice situational awareness, recognizing the threats that a fire could pose to them.
Many firefighters must take annual refresher courses. They learn about how fires took place in the previous year and they familiarize themselves with new protocols. Fires are always changing, so firefighters must always change how they fight them.
Fight Fires the Right Way
Being a wildland firefighter is a tough yet important job. They work long hours in remote conditions, fighting large blazes.
You can work on an engine or helitack crew. With enough training and experience, you can perform on a hotshot crew or as a smokejumper.
You will need tools like fire radios and axes. Your training will involve days of hiking and physical training. But you will find yourself in a fulfilling and engaging line of work.
Get everything you need to fight fires. BK Fire Radios offers affordable radio technology. Get a price quote today.