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Firefighters in the Air

In the Forest Service, firefighters who work in aviation are critical to the fire management mission.

In aviation, firefighters deliver equipment and supplies to firefighters in remote locations. They deploy smokejumpers and rappellers on fires and provide reconnaissance of new fires and fire behavior. They also drop fire retardant or water to slow down a fire so firefighters on the ground can contain it. Aviation jobs in the Forest Service include:

  • Pilots fly planes, airtankers, and helicopters.
  • Helitack crews are flown in helicopters to remote locations. Some helitack crews are also trained to rappel from the helicopter to the fire. Click here to read more about helitack crews.
  • Smokejumpers parachute from planes to remote wildfires. Click here to read more about smokejumpers.
  • Helibase managers direct helicopter operations at established bases.
  • Aviation dispatchers process orders for aircraft. Dispatchers send the aircraft to the requesting unit and monitor the safe flight of firefighting aircraft across the country.
  • Air Tactical Supervisors provide “eyes in the sky” and coordinate the use of aircraft on a wildfire. Air Tactical Supervisors provide safety oversight and relay fire location and fire behavior information to fireline supervisors on the ground.

Helitack Crews

Image of the Helitack Crews web pageHelitack crews are teams of firefighters who are transported by helicopter to wildfires. Read more on Helitack Crews.

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Night burnout operations help strengthen fireline.   Credit: US Forest Service, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest

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