It's that time of year again!
Everywhere you go you are reminded to let those you care about know how you feel about them. It is in this spirit that we have been thinking about our heroes, and alas, our sentimentality has produced 14 Things We LOVE About Wildland Firefighters:
- They’re selfless, risking their own safety for the safety of others, precious wildlife, and our natural resources:
"Wildland firefighting remains a dangerous business, with at least 1,030 people killed in the line of duty since the Great Fire of 1910 in the Northern Rockies."
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They also continually and faithfully submit themselves to brutal labor, long hours, and tough conditions, over and over again. They'll even travel long distances to help others in need, regardless of having no personal duty to them, which leads us to:
- They’re tough, through and through! Like this description that left no room for frills in the US Forest Service's brochure on Wildland Firefighting:
"If you like hiking without trails; packing between 40 and 120 pounds of food, water, and supplies on your back; eating and sleeping in the dirt for days on end; and not having consistent showers, then you may be interested in becoming a wildland firefighter. Wildland firefighters are often away from home, without days off, for 14+ days at a time. Wildland firefighters do not work regular schedules of 8 hour days but are often asked to work 16+ hours a day when on a fire or an assignment. Wildland firefighters do not get normal summer vacations but spend all summer working on their districts or traveling about the North American continent responding to fire in a variety of conditions."
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And you know what that leads us to:
- They’re spontaneous and flexible, readily adapting and making use of whatever means necessary to accomplish their goal:
"The “initial attack” is the fire suppression effort that occurs on the first day of a wildfire. It is fast-paced and successfully controls over 95% of all wildfires in the United States. When it fails, a wildfire becomes a “project” fire, often requiring multiple weeks and hundreds of personnel to put it out. Unlike the initial attack fire suppression, which has similar strategies to a structural fire, project fires involve a more measured approach and tactics sustainable for a longer campaign."
Training and reference materials for Wildland Firefighters available online -
Aaaand even though it's pretty obvious, we do have to make the point:
- They're strong, and by that we mean WOW!
"Firefighters are held to rigorous fitness standards both during the hiring process — when they’ll be required to pass extensive strength and endurance tests — and throughout their careers."
To insure you know we understand the weight (pun intended) of this point, we’ll reiterate:
"Wildland firefighters are a special breed of professionals that deal with complex, high stress situations that require not only muscular strength but also muscular endurance, cardiovascular conditioning, and flexibility for prolonged periods of time while under duress."
Which would be significant in and of it self, but of course they don't stop there! No, they make it a winning combination because they're also:
- Courageous! They repeatedly dare to stand amidst one of the most powerful forces of nature and attempt to coerce it into submission. Jumping out of helicopters, flying slurry drop planes, digging line, and wielding chainsaws are nothing for a seasoned wildland Vet! This heroic work is becoming increasingly important as climate change leads to changes in the field as well:
Per the HuffPost.com's May 16,2014 "As Fires Rage, Risks to Wildland Firefighters Rise" blog entry by Mary Pauline Lowry...
"Wildland firefighters have traditionally done much of their exhilarating work in remote and unpopulated areas. But over the last few decades, as residential areas have increasingly been constructed in what experts call wildland-urban-interface areas (WUI) where structures are at risk of being burned by wildfires, firefighters are more and more often called in to defend homes."
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Even though others might gripe and complain about it, not our wildland friends:
- They’re dependable, even despite some of the roughest conditions:
"Fighting on the line, you’ll be subjected to intense heat and dry winds. Wildland firefighters commonly contend with heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and sunburn, as well as smoke congestion and irritation to eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Besides digging and setting up fire control lines, firefighters often have to cut open smoldering trees to subdue any lingering flames or sparks, using water dropped by helicopters. When water is not available, firefighters have to remove burning limbs and coals from the hotspot manually, and then cover them with dirt to put out the fire.
Over the course of a wildland fire event, you may hike countless miles carrying a 60-100 pound pack, and if you’re a smokejumper, you’ll do so after having parachuted out of an airplane. The risks are many, and firefighting is not for the faint of heart."
Campground necessities are a no-brainer for Wildland Firefighter Preparedness
Of course, they're much too smart to leave their valuable lives to chance and so they are also extremely:
- Well organized and prepared to act fast in a variety of extreme situations:
"Incident Command System (ICS) which defines jobs or positions that can be activated and used on fires and other types of planned or unplanned incidents. Each position has clearly defined duties as well as training and experience requirements. Each person filling a position that has been activated knows where they fit into the organizational structure and to whom they should report. Standard terminology is used to facilitate communication so that personnel from different agencies can easily work side by side. The system is flexible and scalable so that it can be used on very small or very large incidents."
Their commitment doesn't end with emergencies and disasters either:
- They’re relied upon for a variety of tasks to ensure the wellbeing of our national forests and complete them all graciously for everyone's benefit:
"Wildland firefighters perform fire prevention and suppression measures in natural environments, such as forests and other vacant public lands. Fire prevention duties include preparing firebreaks by trimming trees, removing brush and performing controlled burns to reduce the potential for large outbreaks.
In addition to extinguishing forest fires, wildland firefighters are responsible for rescuing victims, providing emergency medical treatment and patrolling burned areas to ensure fires don't restart. Other general duties include routine maintenance of tools and equipment and participation in public fire prevention education programs."
They preform tirelessly, because:
- They’re passionate about what they do:
"It takes a certain type of person to fight wildfires. It’s not what they look like. Or sound like. It’s not their heritage or their culture. It’s their heart.
A seven-minute U.S. Forest Service recruitment video, “The Heart of a Firefighter,” takes viewers as close to being as firefighter as possible through a small screen.
"When I smell smoke, I got to go,” one firefighter said in the video. “That gets into your blood and it gets into your heart. When you save a bunch of houses and people come out and shake your hand, that’s just a good feeling that stays with you the rest of your life.""
Oh, and did we mention?
- They're also very generous, but don't consider their sacrifices to be all that much:
"Firefighters put their lives on the line to protect other people’s property and lives. Why do they choose to take such dangerous work? Sociologist Matthew Desmond asks this question in his book, On the Fireline: Living and Dying with Wildland Firefighters, and the answer is truly surprising.
Desmond explains that most of the firefighters were working-class men from the country who had been working with nature all of their lives. They raised cattle and rode horses; they cut down trees, chopped firewood, and built fences; they hunted and fished as often as they could. They were at home in nature. They felt that they knew nature. And they had been manipulating nature all their lives. Desmond wrote: “…my crewmembers are much more than confident on the fireline. They are comfortable.”
So it basically goes without saying that they're:
11. A supportive, loyal, and downright loving community!
"This past weekend we finished training 23 new firefighters and then we welcomed back about 25 Inbound employees and conducted a drill/field day in Cave Junction. Watching the new members interact with our experienced members and the excitement on the faces of all of our new family members left everyone renewed and invigorated.
The newness and excitement was palpable and a great reminder why we love wildland firefighting. I observed the bonding and am proud of the team and product that we are building." - Dillon, Dillon's Blog
Which I know we're all grateful for because:
12. They’re also our very own friends & family!
Wildland firefighters represent the diversity of the land they protect. They are federal, state and local firefighters, private sector firefighters, interface firefighters, and volunteers from rural communities and towns across the United States. Many are long-time career professionals, some much newer to the job. They're ordinary people doing an extraordinary job – a community of committed individuals who work and train to protect our private and public lands.”
Which is why we want to hear from you:
14. _____________________! Now is your chance to let us know: What is your top reason for loving wildland firefighters? Your comments below will complete this post!
Thank you for your involvement! Please be sure to share with all of your wildland friends.