As the summer months approach, everyone is thinking about camping, cookouts, and bonfires. What they aren’t thinking about, is the fact that their summer activities could cause a fire. Whether this fire is outside or in a house, there are different types of firefighters for each instance. While some people think firefighters are the same, they come in many different types of outfits. Two types of firefighters I will be comparing are structural firefighters and wildland firefighters.
First I would like to talk about structure firefighters. What they do, how they train, and other things that are specific for a structure firefighter. A structural firefighter’s duty is to fight fires taking place in a home, vehicle, or any type of fire that is not in a woodland/plain environment. Another duty firefighters perform are different types of rescues. This includes vehicle, water, and rope rescue. This type of firefighter requires certain training. The basic training, for a structural firefighter, is a class called Firefighter I and Firefighter II. These classes can range from four to six months, depending on the instructor and students. Along with these classes, a firefighter must take part in training with the fire department they are a member of. Every fire department has different requirements for their members. For example, the Spearfish Fire Department requires the members to put in at least 18 hours of training. The members meet every Wednesday, once a month for meetings and truck check, and twice a month for trainings. One thing every fire department has in common is their personal protective equipment, also known as PPE. Every member is required to have a set of bunker gear. This includes boots, pants, coat, gloves, hood, and helmet. All of these items are made out of nomex. This material allows firefighters to go into a burning building, without getting burned.
Next, I would like to talk about wildland firefighters. Wildland firefighters are the type of firefighter who goes into woodland or grassland areas when there is a fire. The way this is done is by creating a barrier for the fire. A hand line can be dug or burnouts executed in order to make the fire burn in on itself. There may also be instances where a crew will go into the burn area with a hose to knock down a fire or protect a structure. The training for this type of firefighter is more vigorous and the amount of training obtained will depend on what your rank will be. To become a basic wildland firefighter, there is a class called S-130/190. After the firefighter has taken these classes, they will have to take a refresher every year. Along with these, there is a pack test the firefighter must complete every year as well. The pack test is a physical test. The firefighter must carry 45 pounds, for three miles, in 45 minutes. Wildland firefighters have specific clothing and equipment they must carry with them. The gear a wildland firefighter must wear is a hard hat, eye protection (both sunglasses and clear safety glasses), flame resistant shirts, flame resistant pants, leather gloves, leather boots, and hearing protection. This individual must also wear their line pack. A line pack contains everything they might need on a fire. Some of the common things firefighters have in their packs are: fire shelter, headlamp, at least eight batteries to use in headlamp, canteens, first aid kit, allergy medication, multi-tool, carabiner, parachute chord, duct tape, bandanas, toilet paper, instant coffee, supplements, Gatorade powder, granola bars or snacks that hold up in heat, and extra socks. People also keep sunscreen in their bags, along with chapstick.Additional items a firefighter would need at base camp would be placed in a “red bag”. This includes a tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, extra clothes to sleep in, shower shoes, a personal hygiene kit, and even books to keep the mind occupied while waiting.
Although it may seem as if the wildland firefighter has more to worry about, each firefighter must take care of their gear. There are also many guidelines each firefighter must follow in order to stay safe. Structural and wildland firefighters are the same because they are the type of people who run towards the fire, while everyone is running away. Approximately 65% of wildland firefighters are also structure firefighters on their local fire department. Another way they are the same is when the pager goes off, whether it’s in the middle of the night or something important, they respond with no hesitation. They also give their best when trying to save someone’s house or the forest. The comradery on a fire scene brings the brothers and sisters closer together. This is due to people working to a common purpose and therefore, creating the unbreakable bond. Structure fires can be compared to a sprint in track and field, while wildland fires are more like marathons. With this being said, some firefighters like the challenge of doing both. While others prefer to do the sprint or a marathon.
The summer months bring friends closer and allow families to enjoy the outdoors. Sometimes, fires can ruin these experiences. When the alarm goes off, a firefighter is leaving their family, to come save yours.
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