A smokejumper exits a plane. (US Forest Service photo)
This blog is part of a series from the U.S. Forest Service on its wildland firefighting program to increase awareness about when and how the agency suppresses fires, to provide insights into the lives of those fighting fires, and to explain some of the cutting-edge research underway on fire behavior. Check back to the USDA Blog during the 2013 wildfire season for new information. Additional resources are available at www.fs.fed.us/wildlandfire/.
Imagine jumping from a plane into a fire, with enough provisions to last for several days. That’s what highly trained Forest Service smokejumpers do to provide quick initial attack on wildland fires.
The attack is a well-choreographed scenario. Aircraft can hold anywhere from eight to 16 jumpers, a ‘spotter’ who stays with the plane, the pilot and provisions to make the jumpers self-sufficient for 72 hours. The spotter is responsible for the safe release of the jumpers. Once the jumpers have landed, the aircraft will circle around and drop their cargo by parachute from just above treetop height. The spotter also is responsible for communicating essential information about the wind, fire activity and the terrain to the jumpers, the pilot and to dispatch centers. Read more »
A large plume of smoke rises over Colorado Springs, Colo., that cast a wide, dark shadow over homes and businesses. Wildland fires burn intensely and creating a defensible space around your home can be the difference between a close call and complete destruction. (Adam Drake/Inciweb.org)
The pictures are poignant: house after house destroyed by a wildland fire. We look at these pictures and wonder if anything could have been done to better protect these homes.
Sometimes wildfires are unpredictable. But there are measures homeowners can take that will help lessen the chances a fire will consume their property.
“People who live in a wildland-urban interface often forget or disregard the wildland fire cycles and dangers,” said Tom Harbour, Fire and Aviation Management director. “We need homeowners to understand that they can make a difference by making their homes defensible from wildfire.” Read more »
Starting controlled fires in Kafue National Park
Managing wildland fire is pretty much the same anywhere in the world. You need to think carefully about when and where to apply it and how to starve the fire of fuel in places you don’t want it. There are several ways to do it—but you need to know how.
As a U.S. Forest Service fire applications specialist, managing wildfire, monitoring ecosystem response and teaching others how to do so has been Tonja Opperman’s job for years. She is so good at it that recently the Forest Service International Programs invited her to teach fire monitoring in Zambia’s Kafue National Park. Read more »
Wildland firefighter trainees windup a fire hose.
With fires raging across the Western states dramatic images of wildland firefighters attempting to contain the flames are a regular visual in newspapers and on TV and computer devices across the country. These striking visuals rouse the fighter in some of us and we might ask: Can I fight a wildfire?
The answer is you can—if you meet certain criteria. Both federal and state agencies have varying requirements to award what is referred to as a Wildfire Qualification Card. Like a driver’s license, this card says you’re certified to fight wildland fires. So how do you get one? Aside from hours of online testing, you’ll have to enroll in a week long fire training-type boot camp where you’ll take more tests and be given a large spiral bound book called the Fireland Handbook. Read more »