Home  >  Stop Wildfires!  >  Fighting Wildfires  >  Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade


How They Get the Job Done

Some of the equipment used in fire suppression today has changed over the years, while others have not. High tech equipment and new computer technologies allow fire teams to have better and quicker information on fire mapping, satellite imagery, accurate weather forecasts, and fire behavior modeling.

Improvements in aircraft systems for cargo, fire-retardant chemicals, water delivery systems, and firefighter clothing have likewise evolved with the safety of the firefighter and the public in mind. However, the main tool is still the firefighter with hand tools such as pulaskis, shovels, and adze hoes.


Bulldozers and Tractor Plows

Tracked vehicles with plows for clearing vegetation and mechanized equipment can build a fireline or firebreak faster and more efficiently than human firefighters in terrain that allows equipment use.


Air Tankers

These large planes, fitted with tanks, provide direct support to firefighters on the ground by dropping up to several thousand gallons of water or chemical retardant ahead of an advancing wildfire. As the fire hits the wet area or retardant, it goes out. Even the Air National Guard helps out with the Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS).



Helicopters fitted with fixed tanks or suspended buckets that range in size from 100 to 2,000 gallons support firefighters on the ground by dropping water, foam, or retardant on or near the flaming trees, brush, and structures to cool hot spots and prevent a fire from spreading.


Bambi Bucket

A bambi bucket is a collapsible bucket slung below a helicopter, used to dip water from a variety of sources for fire suppression.



A combination chopping and trenching tool, a Pulaski combines a single-bitted axe-blade with a narrow adze-like trenching blade fitted to a straight handle. Useful for grubbing or trenching in duff and matted roots, it is also well-balanced for chopping.


Fire Resistant Pants/Shirt

All wildland firefighters wear flame resistant clothing made of a special high-strengthen, synthetic material known as Nomex.


Fire Shelter

An aluminized tent offering protection by means of reflecting radiant heat and providing a volume of breathable air if the firefighter gets trapped by the fire.


Fire Line

A linear fire barrier that is scraped or dug in mineral soil to prevent or deter the advancement of a wildfire.


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


Wildfires Burning Today

Enlarge the map

Enlarge the map

View current US Wildfires via
Google Earth


Get Your Smokey Mask!

Get Your Smokey Mask!

Get your Smokey On Pledge

Click here to Sign In



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.