While there are many specific firefighter positions, such as engineer firefighters and airport firefighters, there are two more general “firefighter” jobs—structure firefighters and wildland firefighters. Structure firefighters take care of buildings and other structures a contained fires, and wildland firefighters attempt to contain fires in areas with no structures. Continue reading to understand what exactly wildland firefighters do.
What Don’t They Do?
A great way to understand what wildland firefighters do is to first understand what they don’t do. Traditional firefighters have a fire station in the city and respond to various emergencies. Some firefighter EMTs can respond to medical emergencies. Fire inspectors investigate buildings to determine if they are up to fire codes. Some industries, like aviation, have firefighters on-site to address potential fire-related issues.
Wildland firefighters have different skills. Instead of entering buildings and working with ladders, wildland firefighters stop the spread of fires in natural landscapes where a simple change in the wind can send the fire in many different directions.
While you must take tests to become a structural or specialized firefighter, the requirements for wildland firefighters go even further. To be a wildland firefighter, you’re required to:
- Have some post-secondary education
- Pass physical and written tests
- Prove your ability to withstand strenuous physical activity
- Obtain a Red Card, an agency-issued document certifying you have the proper training
Even after all this, you must spend around 14 months training at the fire academy to complete 600 hours of training. With that training, you can become an integral part of the wildland firefighting team. You can go down a few specialized avenues during your training, like working with the engine, hand, or fuel crews. You can also become a smoke jumper who parachutes to forest fire sites.
As a wildland firefighter, you’re not going to be fighting fires every day. Instead, you’ll do daily work inspecting different wildlands and maintaining equipment. One crucial piece of equipment you must maintain carefully is the fire hose and nozzle. Inspecting, washing, and testing the hose and nozzle are some simple rules for maintaining a clean fire hose nozzle every firefighter follows.
Showing up to a call with a hose that doesn’t work could spell disaster for the containment of the wildfire. Hose and nozzle maintenance should be a regular priority for wildland firefighters because it can make the biggest difference in minimizing a wildfire’s damage.
It’s easy to understand what wildland firefighters do after learning what they don’t do, but stepping into their shoes is an entirely different situation. They are among the hardest workers today, and their job isn’t easy by any means. Wildfires grow yearly, meaning the firefighters have to work harder than ever.