Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
- Where can I find up-to-date information for current wildfires near me?
- How do I become a wildland firefighter?
- Aren't most firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service?
- Can wildland firefighters also save homes?
- How do firefighters from one state end up on a fire in another state?
- What is a prescribed fire?
- Is a "fuels treatment" the same as a prescribed fire?
There are a number of web-based resources offering different types of information about fire and fire management activities around the country.
Current Wildland Fire Information
The National Interagency Fire Center provides current fire information each morning during the active western fire season. Multiple reports and maps are available.
This site provides current information produced by fire managers on the incidents themselves. The site is updated a number of times daily during large or complex fires.
The federal government advertises all wildland firefighter positions through the Office of Personnel Management’s USAJOBS web site. Visit www.usajobs.opm.gov and search 0462 Forestry Technician and/or 0455 Range Technician job series for firefighter listings.
Five federal agencies that manage public lands also have wildland fire programs, which address fire in all types of vegetation, including forests. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service alone manages 75 million acres of burnable lands, primarily national wildlife refuges, across all 50 states and U.S. territories, surrounded by more than 700 communities. Some states and local agencies, as well as private land organizations like The Nature Conservancy, also hire wildland firefighters.
While wildland firefighters do take action to prevent wildfires from spreading to communities, they are not trained or outfitted to protect or enter burning buildings. Structure protection is usually the responsibility of local fire departments, which have personnel who are trained and equipped with appropriate gear.
If a wildfire grows to an extent that local firefighting personnel and equipment can’t handle it alone, fire managers can request more equipment, personnel and logistical support through a local dispatch center. If necessary these requests are sent to a Geographic Area Coordination Center (GACC) and even to the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC) in an attempt to locate and send available resources. In some cases, wildland firefighters are even shared between the United States and Canada, Australia, and New Zealand..
Prescribed fire or prescribed burning is wildland fire that is planned, ignited, and managed by professional fire managers. Managed fire is used to reduce wildfire risks and benefit natural resources by thinning overgrown vegetation. A prescribed burn plan is written well in advance of each planned event and must be approved by agency managers prior to any ignition. A prescribed fire is only allowed under specific conditions, depending upon available resources, time of year, weather and desired results.
Fuels treatments are actions by land managers to reduce and remove overgrown, decadent, or dangerous accumulations of vegetation, which can include prescribed burning, as well as other techniques such as mechanical thinning using chainsaws and other machinery, grazing livestock, and applying chemicals to kill weeds. The term “fuels” refers to the vegetation, also known as “hazardous fuels,” which can fuel a wildfire.