According to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the number of large wildfires in the U.S. has increased by seven per year from 1984 to 2011. Behind the increase in scorched acreage is gradual climate change toward drier conditions that could become more severe in the coming decades. If ever there were a time when more people were needed to undergo firefighter training to fight wildfires, now is that time.
Unique Aspects of Wildfires
If you’ve ever watched video of a fire destroying acres of beautiful woodland that took decades to mature, you may have felt the inclination to do something about it. If you’re an aspiring firefighter who would like to protect our nation’s natural areas, wildfire fighting could be the career niche you’ve been looking for. To know for sure, it helps to look at some of the basic differences between standard firefighting -- the kind of firefighting you might do in a city -- and wildfire fighting.
Predictability of Fire Pattern
Due to changing weather, wildfires typically involve the most unpredictable fire patterns. In some cases, sudden high winds cause wildfires to spread exponentially faster than expected. On the flip side, firefighters can also get a helping hand from the atmosphere in the form of rain. Under predictable weather conditions, the spread of wildfires can be relatively well anticipated, but there is always a chance that a weather change will cause an unexpected change in the fire.
Accessing the Fire
Fires that strike homes and buildings can sometimes be easier to approach than wildfires. The truck is parked in the most advantageous position and ladders, pump apparatuses, hoses and other equipment are used to quickly attack the blaze. With wildfires, the most effective point of attack may be within the fire’s perimeter -- a situation that requires parachuting into the proper position. If you become a wildfire fighter, you may also undergo firefighter training to become a parachutist.
Helping Save Lives
Depending on where they start and how they spread, wildfires may or may not involve homes and businesses, whereas fighting fires in a city almost always does. There are many cases where wildfire fighters battle a blaze for days without saving a single human life. If saving human lives is one of the senses of accomplishment you hope to achieve from firefighting, you should consider that fighting wildfires won’t always fulfill that need.
Starting Fires to Prevent Fires
Prescribed fires -- also known as “controlled burns” -- are fires that are purposefully ignited for the sake of ecological interests and the prevention of uncontrolled blazes. In many cases, a controlled burn is performed to reduce the availability of fuels for natural fires, fires that burn hot, long and can be quite destructive to the environment. As a wildfire fighter, you may spend days conducting controlled burns when you aren’t fighting wildfires that occur naturally.
Need more information?
We have highlighted some of the important differences between fighting fires that occur in populated areas and battling blazes that ignite in natural terrain, but there is plenty more to learn about fighting wildfires, information you can find in our great selection of firefighter training books that focus on wildland firefighting. If you need assistance choosing the right firefighter training books for wildland firefighting, call us today at (800) 727-3327. We look to forward to hearing from you!