4 Facts You Didn’t Know About Wildland Firefighting

Three wildland firefighters in protective clothing and equipment using a hose to spray water on a blazing group of trees.

Firefighting isn’t restricted to putting out burning buildings and other urban structures. Wildland firefighters do the same job, but they do it in the great outdoors! As such, wildland firefighters require special training, techniques, and equipment a structural firefighter might never need. Here are four facts you didn’t know about wildland firefighting. Sadly, with climate change, the number of wildfires has increased. Wildland firefighters are the ones called in to save the forests, prairies, and more!

Trained To Protect Nature

It goes without saying that firefighters must be in prime physical shape. However, while structural firefighters must be ready to ascend ladders and stairs, wildland firefighters must be physically fit and equipped enough to handle rough terrain. They train for extended hikes while wearing heavy packs full of equipment. They may have to climb trees and, in the case of the specially trained hot shot crews, must know how to parachute from a plane or helicopter to fight fires in more remote areas. Wildland firefighters know how to survive in the farthest reaches of the woods and other areas since they may have to station there for days or even weeks.

The Big Dig

Firelines aren’t what they sound like. They’re trenches firefighters dig in the wilderness to remove anything that can burn and slow down and contain fires. Wildland firefighters use tools and heavy equipment to reach the non-burnable mineral layer buried deep below. The fire has nothing to consume and will fizzle out when firefighters remove its fuel. However, firelines can be deadly. Firefighters encounter skin-peeling heat, out-of-control flames, falling trees and rocks, and blinding smoke while digging these trenches. Therefore, firefighters must stay alert as they dig.

Fewer Firetrucks, More Fire Planes!

While wildland firefighters rely on several vehicles to put out fires, you’re unlikely to see the familiar hook and ladder trucks found in the city. Of course, they employ pumper trucks, but they also use bulldozers, backhoes, and supply trucks. These vehicles have all-terrain tires and increased suspension to handle the rough treatment the terrain offers. Fire planes are also handy. They deliver thousands of gallons of water, foam, and other fire-retardant chemicals to the fire’s source—dumping it, flying back, and returning for more.

Controlled Burns

Firefighters that start fires? It’s true! Firefighters start backburns to destroy fuel—dried-up brush and other vegetation—and keep an approaching fire from advancing. They monitor such fires carefully and only use this technique when conditions allow. Wildland firefighters burn up any fuel when the weather and climate make it likelier for an area of dried-up plant life to go up in smoke while keeping the flames low. This method can also aid in plant growth.

Those are just four facts you didn’t know about wildland firefighting. Consider becoming a wildland firefighter yourself if the idea of protecting nature and saving the planet from uncontrolled conflagrations appeals to you!

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