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The primary duty of the Wildland Firefighter is the suppression of wildland fires. As a national resource, the crews travel throughout the U.S. and internationally to assist on fires and other incidents.
The crews often support large wildfires through fire line construction, burnout operations and mop-up. However, initial attack of smaller fires is also a common assignment. For example, during the 2000 fire season, the Pike crews spent approximately 5 weeks as an initial attack resource outside of our home forest.
The crews also complete tasks to support resource management goals. They assist with prescribed fires through plan writing, burn unit preparation, lighting and holding. Trail maintenance, rehab of wildfire areas, Monument Fire Center maintenance and repair, and fuels management are other examples of project work the crews perform.
The crews can work as one unit or split into smaller squads to accomplish different tasks. The crew structure, experience and vehicles facilitate both crew and squad configurations.
Wildland Firefighters can perform a multitude of tasks to meet fire management and resource objectives. Because of crew structure, training and experience, they can be used to support large wildland fires, prescribed fires, initial attack, and most other areas of fire and resource management. The crew can work as a unit or can be split up, using different personnel for a variety of tasks. Though the Pike Hotshot Crew is used for a variety of fire and resource management objectives, the primary duty is the suppression of wildland fires on assignments throughout the United States and even internationally.
The crews often work in very hazardous situations for long periods, often enduring extremely hot, smoky, dirty, and dusty working conditions. The work is physically demanding and can be emotionally taxing. Wildland Firefighters are frequently required to work for days at a time -- sometimes up to 14 days straight, without a day off or returning home. A typical shift is 16 hours or longer, and shifts over 24 hours do occur.
The crews are together for 24 hours a day on assignment. They eat, work, travel, and rest as a team. Under these conditions, teamwork, camaraderie, understanding, and flexibility are mandatory. The firefighters are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each member is expected to be available, day or night, during the fire season. If called up when off duty, they are required to be enroute to the incident within two hours. This limits personal travel and demands a high level of commitment.
All firefighters are required to pass a
physical fitness test measured by the pack test. This test requires
individuals to carry a 45 lb pack over a flat, 3 mile course in 45
minutes or less.
Camaraderie and Dedication
Being a Wildland Firefighter requires a high level of commitment during the fire season. The fire season generally begins in early May and ends in the beginning of October. Over the past 3 seasons, firefighters have averaged approximately 100 days on assignment away from home. Essentially, this means members may spend 3 months or more away from their home in the summer.
Wildland Firefighter Gear