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What Is Wildland Firefighting?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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Wildland firefighting refers to the suppression of uncontrolled fires that are burning on uninhabited land or wilderness. Firefighters who fight these types of fires will typically try to control how the fire burns and contain it to one area. These firefighters are often assisted by others on the ground and in the air, and they carry several special tools.

Since wildfires can easily burn out of control, wildland firefighting often focuses on containing the flames. By stopping the flames from spreading, firefighters can help prevent injury, death, and property damage. There are several type of outdoor fires. Grass fires often occur on grassy land like plains and prairies, for example. Forest fires often begin in wooded areas.

Wildland firefighting efforts generally are directed from a command center. Authorities who run the command center are responsible for preparing reports for the media, calling in wildland firefighters, and providing firefighters with the proper equipment. This center is also responsible for organizing and communicating with different aerial firefighters.

Aircraft are an important part of wildland firefighting. These include special helicopters and planes, sometimes known as air tankers, which are equipped with either buckets or tanks. These tanks can be filled with hundreds or thousands of gallons of water or some other type of fire retardant, such as ammonium polyphosphate. Modern fire retardants not only help control wildfires, but also help fertilize the ground, causing vegetation to grow back faster.

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Buckets and tanks can be filled a couple ways. They can be filled while the aircraft is on the ground, but they can also be filled in flight. Buckets, for example, can be filled by dunking them into a large body of water, while tanks can be filled by siphoning water from a body of water. Pilots in these aircraft typically dump the fire retardant in front of a fire, or just at it's edge. This can help firefighters on the ground maintain a fire line, which can help stop the fire from spreading.

Wildland firefighting is a very dangerous and physically demanding job. For this reason, these firefighters must be very physically fit. Typically, they must also go through rigorous wildland firefighter training courses where they will learn the skills and techniques needed to fight wildland fires, including how to build fire lines and use their equipment.

A wildland firefighter's equipment is a very important part of fighting these fires. This equipment can include tools such as rakes, shovels, chainsaws, navigation equipment, and explosives. Some even carry temporary shelters that can protect them from intense heat. These are often only used in emergencies in which a firefighter gets trapped by the fire.

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