Skip to main content

wildland fire

Wildland Fires Recognize No Borders

An uncontained forest fire burning in Greece, Germany, or the U.S. looks basically the same: they are all destructive. For this important reason, the U.S. Forest Service has a well-established international leadership role in wildland fire management.

The Fire and Aviation Management or FAM’s international program coordinates Forest Service leadership in wildland fire through three main efforts starting with support for international disasters. The next effort is mobilization of fire suppression resources in support of established bilateral arrangements, coordinated by the National Interagency Fire Center and finally through FAM’s international activities coordinated with the Forest Service’s International Programs Office.

A Look at Life in the Wildland Urban Interface

If I were to go running on my favorite trail on the west side of town and ask one of the homeowners, whose house abuts the natural area, to describe where they live, I am guessing they would first say Fort Collins, or maybe offer the name of their neighborhood, followed by “at the base of the foothills.” I am almost certain they would not tell me that they live in the “wildland urban interface.” Yet, that is exactly where they live.

There is a growing population that seeks refuge in and near forests and other natural areas. Not for hiking, biking, and picnicking, but rather to live, in primary residences and second homes. The beauty of the landscape is a great impetus for deciding where to locate. This inspiring beauty, however, masks a wide range of potential threats, of which many homeowners are unaware.

Smokejumpers - Out of the Sky and Into the Fire

This blog is part of a series from the U.S. Forest Service on its wildland firefighting program to increase awareness about when and how the agency suppresses fires, to provide insights into the lives of those fighting fires, and to explain some of the cutting-edge research underway on fire behavior. Check back to the USDA Blog during the 2013 wildfire season for new information. Additional resources are available at

Imagine jumping from a plane into a fire, with enough provisions to last for several days.  That’s what highly trained Forest Service smokejumpers do to provide quick initial attack on wildland fires.

The attack is a well-choreographed scenario.  Aircraft can hold anywhere from eight to 16 jumpers, a ‘spotter’ who stays with the plane, the pilot and provisions to make the jumpers self-sufficient for 72 hours. The spotter is responsible for the safe release of the jumpers.  Once the jumpers have landed, the aircraft will circle around and drop their cargo by parachute from just above treetop height.  The spotter also is responsible for communicating essential information about the wind, fire activity and the terrain to the jumpers, the pilot and to dispatch centers.

The First Step to Help Avoid Wildland Fire Disaster is Acting Wisely

The pictures are poignant: house after house destroyed by a wildland fire. We look at these pictures and wonder if anything could have been done to better protect these homes.

Sometimes wildfires are unpredictable. But there are measures homeowners can take that will help lessen the chances a fire will consume their property.

“People who live in a wildland-urban interface often forget or disregard the wildland fire cycles and dangers,” said Tom Harbour, Fire and Aviation Management director. “We need homeowners to understand that they can make a difference by making their homes defensible from wildfire.”

US Forest Service Assists with Fire Monitoring in Zambia

Managing wildland fire is pretty much the same anywhere in the world. You need to think carefully about when and where to apply it and how to starve the fire of fuel in places you don’t want it. There are several ways to do it—but you need to know how.

As a U.S. Forest Service fire applications specialist, managing wildfire, monitoring ecosystem response and teaching others how to do so has been Tonja Opperman’s job for years. She is so good at it that recently the Forest Service International Programs invited her to teach fire monitoring in Zambia’s Kafue National Park.

What it Takes to Become a Wildland Firefighter

With fires raging across the Western states dramatic images of wildland firefighters attempting to contain the flames are a regular visual in newspapers and on TV and computer devices across the country. These striking visuals rouse the fighter in some of us and we might ask: Can I fight a wildfire?

The answer is you can—if you meet certain criteria. Both federal and state agencies have varying requirements to award what is referred to as a Wildfire Qualification Card. Like a driver’s license, this card says you’re certified to fight wildland fires. So how do you get one? Aside from hours of online testing, you’ll have to enroll in a week long fire training-type boot camp where you’ll take more tests and be given a large spiral bound book called the Fireland Handbook.