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People Working With Fire

U.S. Forest Service wildland fire crews respond to 50,000-60,000 wildfires each year. Firefighters on the ground and in the air must be highly trained in their specific jobs in order to safely preserve and protect our forests, grasslands, and the communities that surround them.  

On the ground:

  • Handcrews construct the fireline, an area of land that is cleared of flammable materials and dug down to mineral soil to help control and slow wildfires.
  • Engine crews work with specialized wildland fire engines that carry foam and spray water. They are the initial attack force on new wildfires and are the holding force on  prescribed burns.
  • Hotshots specialize in wildfire suppression and participates in search and rescue missions as well as disaster response missions.

In the air:

  • Smokejumpers parachute from planes to remote wildfires that can’t be reached easily by any other method. They are a highly skilled, physically fit, rapid response crew that usually provides the initial attack against a wildfire. Smokejumpers respond to a variety of other emergencies, for example, providing hurricane relief.
  • Helitack crews crews specialize in utilizing helicopters to  respond quickly to wildfires by either landing the helicopter near a wildfire or rappelling from the helicopter to the fire
  • Helibase managers direct helicopter operations at established bases.
  • Aviation dispatchers process orders for aircraft and then send aircraft to areas across the country while monitoring the flight for safety.
  • Air tactical supervisors coordinate use of aircraft on a wildfire, provide safety information, and relay fire location and behavior to supervisors on the ground.
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