Header:  Fire & Aviation Management.  People in Fire Fire and Aviation Management USDA Forest Service's logo and link to the agency's national site. Contact Us Employment About Us News & Information Fire & Aviation Home People in Fire index
Firefighters on the Ground


Handcrews are the infantry of wildland firefighting forces. Crews of 18 - 20 men and women use hand tools such as pulaskis and shovels to cut containment lines into the soil around a fire. HandcrewHandcrews eliminate hotspots, so new fires won't start, and monitor unburned areas to make sure sparks don't jump the line and start new fires. Handcrews also work to reduce fire risks by removing flammable vegetation from wildland areas. These firefighters are in excellent physical condition. They may spend 12 hours or more working on the fire perimeter. A typical work day for a handcrew is filled with dirt, smoke, heat, and cold.

Engine Crews

Engine crews range in size from two to ten firefighters. They work with specialized wildland fire engines that carry special equipment to spray water and foam. Engine crews also perform a variety of other wildland fire tasks:


  • Respond to reports of new wildfires and serve as initial attack forces.
  • Serve as holding forces on prescribed fires and wildfires to keep the fire from crossing the established perimeter.
  • Use hand tools, water, and foam to put out fires and keep vegetation and structures from burning.
  • Patrol forests and grasslands to look for signs of wildfire.
  • Promote fire prevention with campers and other national forest visitors.


Las Conchas Fire, New Mexico, 2011: Gila Hotshots lined out






The Forest Service and its interagency partners employ hotshot crews to help manage complex wildfires. For more information on Hotshots Click here.

Fire Lookouts

Fire lookouts work in remote towers where they watch for and report wildfires. They use A firelook using equipment.specialized equipment to observe, plot, and report the locations of new fires. Fire lookouts spend days, weeks, or months by themselves in some of the wildest, most remote places in the country. Life is rustic in a fire tower, but fire lookouts have provided an invaluable service in wildfire management for 100 years.

Looking for a job in wildland fire?

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

Click here!

Are you a Contractor or Other Professional?

Image of Contracting home page

Check on contracting opportunities.