The Front Line of Wildfires
From prevention to containment, learn about the many types of wildland firefighters protecting our nation from the ravages of unwanted wildfires.
- Wildfire Prevention Specialists/Program Managers
Implement plans with partners to promote wildfire prevention within their region, state, forest, or community.
- Wildfire Prevention & Patrol Specialists
Provide education in the classroom and community, write warnings for violations that may cause fires, perform initial attack on new fires, and investigate fires to determine their cause.
Though used less often today due to other forms of aerial detection, lookouts are stationed in towers in remote areas or during times of heavy lightning to observe, plot and report locations of fires.
Lookouts spend days, weeks or months alone in some of the wildest, most remote places in the country. Life is rustic in a fire tower, but lookouts have provided an invaluable service for 100 years.
- Fire Prevention & Education Teams
Skilled and mobile personnel who enhance local wildfire prevention activities where risk is elevated. They reduce unwanted human-caused fire ignitions through prevention assessments and education.
- Fire Scientists
Study environmental conditions, fire behavior, and the effects of fire. They also provide predictive services and offer management options before, during and after wildfires and prescribed fires.
- Fuels Specialists
Fuels specialists and prescribed fire managers develop and implement plans for maintaining healthy ecosystems where fire plays a necessary role. Using the best available science, specialists determine treatments and timing, which can include mechanically removing vegetation or prescribed burning during different times of the year.
- Prescribed Fire Managers
Prescribed fire managers, along with fuels specialists, develop plans and implement prescribed fires to maintain healthy ecosystems where fire plays a necessary role.
- Fire Managers
With years of extensive training and experience, fire managers analyze wildfires to determine a suppression strategy and assemble the firefighters and equipment needed to implement it.
These crews, of about 20 firefighters, are the foundation of wildland firefighting. They often work 12-hour shifts using hand tools to create the fireline, a perimeter cleared of flammable materials.
They also eliminate hotspots, monitor unburned areas to make sure sparks don’t jump the line, and “mop up” contained areas of the fire by making sure it is completely extinguished
- Dozer/Tractor Plow Crews
These crews, which range in size from three to five firefighters, operate heavy equipment such as bulldozers and tractor plows to indirectly attack wildfires by clearing vegetation and constructing firebreaks around the perimeter of the fire.
- Hotshot Crews
The most experienced handcrews, hotshots meet stringent qualifications and work in some of the roughest, most remote terrains, on the most complex fires. They are highly mobile and self-sufficient.
- Helitack Crews
Helitack crews are specially trained to use helicopters to fight wildfires. They sometimes even rappel from helicopters to reach fire in remote areas quickly. They are often first to reach a wildfire.
Since 1940, highly skilled and physically fit smokejumpers have parachuted to wildfires that can’t otherwise be reached. They are often supported by cargo drops of food, water and firefighting gear.
- Engine Crews
Engine crews, which range in size from three to five firefighters, work with fire engines that carry 250 to 750 gallons of water and several hundred feet of hose to directly attack wildfires.
- Incident Management Teams
Fire experts whose main responsibility is to develop and implement strategies to fight wildfires by managing the equipment, transportation and other goods and services wildland firefighters need.