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The Front Line


Who they are and what they do

America's wildland firefighters have earned a reputation for being among the best in the world. These dedicated men and women endure exhausting work, harsh living conditions, and long separations from friends and family to protect our nation's natural resources from the ravages of unwanted wildfire.



Fire Managers

When a wildfire starts, fire managers analyze the situation quickly but carefully to determine the best course of action. Once fire managers have weighed these elements and developed a suppression strategy, they decide what kind of firefighters and equipment they will need to implement it. When fire is started by natural causes, the fire manager with a team of experts may decide to allow the fire to burn when and where doing so will safely reduce the amount of fuel for fires and not degrade water quality, wildlife habitat, or other resources and not cause any risk to the public. Fire managers must have extensive training and years of experience to qualify for the position.



These crews, usually consisting of 20 men and women, serve as the infantry of wildland fire forces. Their main responsibility is to construct a "fireline" – a strip of land cleared of flammable materials – around wildfires to contain them. After a few seasons, these firefighters can apply to be on "hotshot" crews.


Hotshot Crews

These highly skilled firefighters specially trained in suppression tactics, are usually used to attack wildfires when they first start, and to suppress big fires in the most critical and high risk areas.


Helitack Crews

"Helitack" crews are specially trained in the use of helicopters during fire suppression. Some of the crew are trained to rappel from the helicopter to reach fire in remote locations quickly. Because they can be rapidly deployed, they are often the first to respond to a wildfire.



These airborne firefighters parachute from planes to attack wildfires in remote and inaccessible areas when the fire first begins. They are often supported by para-cargo drops of personal gear, food, water, and specialized equipment to help suppress fires.


Engine Crews

Engine crews, which range in size from 3 to 10 firefighters, use 250 to 750 gallons of water and several hundred feet of hose to directly attack wildfires. Some engines carry special equipment to spray foam and chemicals on homes, and other structures to help them resist fire.


Incident Management Teams

These teams consist of fire experts whose primary responsibility is to develop and implement strategies to suppress wildfires. Members of the team are in charge of providing the food, equipment, transportation, and other goods and services that wildland firefighters need.


Approximate number of acres burned in the U.S. so far this year based on historical statistics.


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If you want to join 'em

To become a wildland firefighter, you must be be 18 or order and pass a physical fitness test.

For more information contact:

State Forestry Agency

or the nearest office of the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, or The Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Some conservation organizations also employ wildland firefighters.