The Equipment Used by Wildland Firefighters

Ashley Nibbana |

The Equipment Used by Wildland Firefighters

Even though their job requires them to be nimble and quick, wildland firefighters still must carry and interact with a collection of bulky items that would certainly slow down the average person. You can call this a review of the equipment used by wildland firefighters. Working with your hands so much comes with its own perks, like the chance to utilize fascinating tools. Read on to see if any of these gadgets sound exciting to you. It may be an indication that a life battling forest fires might be appropriate for your career goals.


Chainsaws are one of the most beloved tools used by wildland firefighters. To remove hazardous snags or trees as well as clear fire lines, wildland firefighters need a piece of equipment that can both cut down trees and remain nimble and light enough to be carried far into difficult terrains.

Most wildland firefighters sharpen their chainsaws at every opportunity. They study techniques to learn how best to apply the device to different applications. Over the years, every wildland firefighter will become a master at wielding these powerful tools.

Wildland Packs

Wildland firefighter backpacks serve a vital role in the day-to-day work of a wildland firefighter. They need a carrying device to bring all their important equipment across long distances in hazardous conditions. For that reason, their backpacks are built for stability and durability.

Wildland firefighters wear their packs low on their backs because of how the transfer of weight benefits their mobility. When the center of gravity and the majority of weight goes to the back and hips, they do not feel so much strain on their shoulders. Furthermore, their backs can breathe more with the backpack lower on their bodies.


Perhaps the most important item among the equipment used by wildland firefighters, water is absolutely key to the profession. Wildland firefighters walk tremendous distances in the blazing heat. If they do not have a plenty of water in their backpacks to keep them going, they will quickly give in to dehydration.

Water is not the only liquid wildland firefighters drink. Some also benefit from sports drinks like Gatorade or Vitamin Water. Water is almost always the preferred option but any way a wildland firefighter can improve their hydration levels is a positive step forward.


Wildland firefighters can expect to work up to 16-hour shifts. They must always be prepared to navigate their surroundings in the dead of night. This is affectionately referred to as “night ops.” One of the most valuable equipment pieces used by a wildland firefighter is a headlamp.

Usually running on AA batteries, headlamps should allow firefighters to see the tops of 100-foot trees even in pitch darkness. Under large trees in the middle of the woods, firefighters may be exposed to total darkness. People who live in cities and suburbs may rarely, if ever, experience a perspective where you cannot see your hands in front of you. Firefighters can be forced to work long hours in those exact conditions.


It is important for wildland firefighters to always know the exact location of their team and the fire. Getting separated and lost from the group is a fatal mistake. To that end, wildland firefighters often work with GPS devices to help them keep their bearings in hostile, confusing forest areas.

While there are phone applications firefighters can leverage, and many of them do exactly that, it is also a good practice to rely on GPS devices to navigate the pandemonium of wildland fire battling. For the greatest results, wildland firefighters often use both methods.

Wind Meters

When containing a fire, wildland firefighters need to keep a careful eye on the relative humidity, temperature, and wind speed of the area. All these factors have an impact on the speed and spread of a wildland fire. Ignoring subtle changes in the weather could be the difference between a completed task and life-threatening situation.

Using a wind meter, wildland firefighters can assess the wind speed, air temperature, and water temperature. Backed by that knowledge, wildland firefighters can make important decisions on how to approach a difficult, dangerous firefighting situation.

Pocket Knives

Even though firefighters often have chainsaws to help them clear the brush, there are still small branches that must be snagged so that the crew can walk a path. Pocket knives give wildland firefighters the ability to make small, precise alterations to their surroundings.

Pocket knives and multi-tools serve multiple uses and great care should be taken to keep them sharp and in good working order.

Portable Water Tanks

A portable water tank is a collapsible tank that can be brought across different areas without much difficulty and once set up, is filled with water. They are durable, lightweight, and easy to set up wherever the job may be. Usually, the tanks are deployed near a supply engine.


Last but certainly not least, axes are one of the most important hand tools used by wildland firefighters. Axes are typically used during mop-up operations or when firefighters cut a fire line. Alternatively, they can be used to chop logs, chop stumps, and drive wedges.

In wildland firefighting, firefighters sometimes use either double-bit axes or single-bit axes. The difference is that single-bit axes have a cutting edge on one side and a striking surface on the other. However, double-bit axes have cutting edges on both sides.

The most common axe is a modified pick-axe called a Pulaski. This tool has a digging end but retains the cutting head on the opposite end. You’ll find these tools leading the way when constructing fire line.


There are few professions more heroic and exciting than wildland firefighting. Now that you have read this list of their primary tools, perhaps you have a greater appreciation and interest in what they do. Maybe you should take up the career yourself?

The Equipment Used by Wildland Firefighters