Appreciating Wildland Firefighters (& WildFire Stats)


National Wildland Firefighter Day is July 2nd. July gets hot and dry, making wildfire risks increase. So, let’s talk about these smoke jumping, forest-and-structure-saving heroes and appreciate the job they do and all their challenges.

Stats on Wildfires

Wildfires are unplanned, out of control fires. They start from people (intentionally or just lost control) or lightning. The amount of wildfires changes through the years, keeping wildland firefighters busy. Certain states are more prone to lightning strikes while others will be more prone to losing land to each wildfire. Let’s look at some of the stats.

What’s it Take to be a Wildland Firefighter?

Departments typically hire wildland firefighters early in the year to prepare for the season which runs late June through late October. It takes physical fitness and specific education depending on the agency. Candidates may need to know about environmental science, agriculture, watershed management, wildlife management, wildland fire science, or more. Wildland firefighters can work a wildfire for weeks at a time. Seasonal firefighters may only get $8 an hour, but they could additionally receive hazard pay.

Hotshot fire crews undergo special training and have more experience. They receive the more difficult assignments and are active 130 days out of the year. There’s currently about 68 hotshot crews (about 1,360 firefighters) in the country.

Smokejumpers start their job 3,000 feet up and are a type of highly trained wildland firefighters. They parachute down close to the fire and create firebreaks to stop the spread of fire. Their attack allows for quick action which aims to keep the fire as small as possible.

Helitack crews are crucial for bringing supplies to inaccessible areas. They’re trained to repel and drop equipment closer to the fire than the terrain would allow ground crews.

The many types of air tanks can carry up to 2-3 thousand gallons of water or fire retardant to dump on wildfires. The fire retardant has a pink dye so pilots can see where the drop lands.

Prevention and Support

Last year, fire suppression alone cost over 3 million dollars. This doesn’t include labor, prevention, and other operational costs. Prevention is key, but even if we did everything to prevent human error, lightning still strikes. Here are some ways you can prevent wildfires from occurring.

  • Build your fire in a safe, clear area, away from flammables and near a water source.
  • Put your fires out and make sure everything is cold and saturated with water.
  • Avoid driving over dry grass if possible, and especially avoid parking on it.
  • Maintain your equipment to avoid malfunction that could result in sparks or small fires.
  • Check conditions (dryness, heat, wind) before burning anything or using any fireworks—and follow local laws/guidelines!

Wildfires are just one of 11 major natural disasters. To learn more about all natural disasters and how to prepare, check this out. We need to be prepared and to support our wildland firefighters. You can support wildland firefighters through the Wildland Firefighter Foundation or find your local forestry or wildland firefighter organization to see how to support them.

Thank You!

We want to thank our wildland firefighters for all they do to keep our forests, wildlife, our homes, and us safe. They often work in remote areas and it goes unrecognized, so let’s show our appreciation.

Did we miss anything important about wildland firefighters or wildfires? Let us know!