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Response to Wildfires – How the Forest Service Operates

By Phil Sammon, USDA Forest Service Public Affairs

As part of the federal response to wildland fires, The USDA Forest Service Fire and Aviation management team follows stringent guidelines to provide the most capable, experienced, well-trained and equipped men and women in both initial attack and sustained fire fighting operations anywhere in the US and overseas. Our leaders at all levels, our crews, our equipment, and our interagency support and cooperation are unequalled anywhere in the world. This level of proficiency, logistics support, and decision-making processes, didn’t happen overnight and it does not maintain itself in a haphazard manner.

When you see the green and white trucks, the yellow-shirted crews, and the aviation units arrive near a wildland fire near you, know that every single Forest Service firefighter has one of the largest logistical support organizations behind him or her. This Incident Command Team structure (ICT) and its agency and interagency support brings decades of experience and the most modern techniques and equipment available. We lead in the field of wildland fire research and joint fire science, working with numerous other federal and state agencies, and local private and non-profit partners and organizations. To give you an idea of the extent to which our crews are trained to respond to fires, click on the numerous links below to get an overview of our capabilities, requirements, and expectations for wildland fire response:

Interagency Fire Program Management – fire management qualifications standards established to improve firefighter safety and increase professionalism in fire management programs.

National Advanced Fire & Resource Institute (NAFRI) – formerly NARTC - a national level center for strategic planning, development, and implementation of fire, fuels, resource, and incident management skills and educational processes.

National Wildfire Coordination Group’s (NWCG) Training Working Team (TWT) – manages all aspects of the NWCG training curricula program and provides guidance to other teams on the development process and standards.

National Wildland Fire Training - links to local area, geographic area, national, and other related interagency wildland fire training information.

Each wildland fire is different, and the ICT commanders have sometimes hours or only minutes to make decisions that can change the course of a fire. Lives, communities, and natural resources are all dependent on the decisions and actions of these highly-skilled men and women. It is a process with sound rationale behind every action, and multiple types of short- and long-term response actions available that has been forged in wildland fire response for a century.

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