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Put it out!

Put it out!


Wildfires are very common, especially in the state of California. In the year of 2018 in the US, more than 58,000 nationwide wildfires consumed nearly 9 million acres. Fire seasons are getting longer. It takes huge teams of workers to get wildfires under control. So what happens when a wildfire spreads fast? What happens when hundreds of firefighters and support teams rush in to help. How do they get organized? Here’s what a firefighting Incident Command System (ICS) looks like.

Fighting the fire

  • Helibase sets up as close as possible to the fire. Crews maintain the helicopters. Helibases can have many helicopters at one time of various sizes, depending on need.

  • Hand Crews cut fire lines by removing or burning vegetation (plants) down to bare soil. Fires stop at these lines because there is nothing left to burn. Every crew member must be able to carry 45 pounds 3 miles in less than 45 minutes.

  • Hot Shot crews go to more remote and difficult fires, often staying 14 days, working 12-16 hours a day.

  • Smokejumpers parachute into the most remote fires with enough gear to last them 3 days. Thay have to be able to carry 110 pounds 3 miles in less than 90 minutes.

  • Engine Crews drive out to the fires to spray water and create fire lines.

  • Air Tanker Pilots drop loads of fire retardant to slow or stop fires. They swoop down to around 150 feet off the ground, around 50 meters, and fly at speeds of 150 miles an hour.

  • Helicopter Crews transport firefighting to and from fire lines; scoop water from lakes and rivers to dump on fires; and deliver much-needed food, water, and supplies to firefighters in remote areas.

Back at base camp

  • Sleeping Area is where some snooze under the stars if they’re too tired to set up a tent. Trailers have bunks and air conditioning for day sleeping.

  • Food Unit serves hot and cold breakfast along with bag lunches. Root-beer floats are a favorite. Firefighting requires lots of food with energy.

  • Laundry Unit takes in firefighters dirty, ashy, filthy clothes and has them cleaned the next day.

  • Shower Unit provides returning firefighters with a hard choice: Do you eat, sleep, or take a hot shower?

  • Briefing Area is where leaders meet every morning to go over the fire’s status and present the day’s plan and objectives, discuss fire behavior, talk about weather, etc.

  • Medical Unit has emergency medical technicians and medics who treat lots of blisters. Serious injuries and illnesses go straight to the hospital.

  • Ground Support Unit has mechanics and crew who repair vehicles, handle parking and do maintenance like changing tires.

Workers at Camp

  • Incident Commander is in charge and is responsible for everything and everyone fighting the fire.

  • Dispatch Radio Operators monitor and stay in contact with everyone while paying special attention to fire crews calling in for help and supplies.

  • Operations Chief develops the firefighting plan and oversees all the firefighting efforts.

  • Security greets and checks everyone coming in and going out of base camp.

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