Friday, March 6, 2009

Fire Fighter Jobs

Putting out wildfires has always been a vital part of Forest Service work. Over the years we've developed better ways to do that: helicopters and airplanes ring crews and smokejumpers to remote locations, air tankers drop fire retardant, and radio and telephone systems form the sophisticated communication network necessary to coordinate these efforts. The Forest Service today maintains the largest wildfire suppression system in the world.

We have to understand how a fire will behave under many different circumstances. Using a basic knowledge of the area and predicted weather conditions, we plan the attack on the fire. This becomes the strategy underlying all our actions. A fire's burning edge is treated by wetting, cooling, smothering, or chemically quenching it; or by separating the burning material from the unburned.

It may be approached indirectly, using a fireline cleared to bare earth. This fireline is located just far enough away from the fire's edge so the crews can work safely. We might also use natural barriers, such as a stream and rock; or we might set a backfire, to stop a wildfire in its tracks. Fires must be suppressed safely and economically.

The Forest Service is always prepared for this task. Fire crews are chosen, trained, and equipped. Dispatch centers stand ready to keep in constant touch with the crews. Airplanes and helicopters can take off on short notice. Plows, bulldozers, and watertankers are available. The task is complicated because the terrain, altitude, and scarcity of roads can make it hard to get crews and supplies to the spot where they can do the most good.

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