Useful Notes: Wildland Firefighting
Only you can prevent forest fires.
The large areas of untamed and semi-tamed wilderness in the United States are prone to wildfire every year, particularly in the summer when wood, brush, and grass are dry. As a result great efforts are spent in controlling blazes. While of late doctrine has changed from a realization that fire is a part of the ecology, at the least fires have to be watched.
If they get out of control thousands of volunteers have to be raised in what have been compared to military operations. As these operations take place every year, wildfire has become its own subculture.
The composition of a fire camp resembles less a regular military structure than a feudal levy, being drawn from a hodgepodge of traditional contributors rather than a scientifically organized and trained permanent force. Personnel come from a variety of sources. Some are contributed by Federal and State forestry services or by interested corporations like timber companies, and the effort tends to be supervised by the National Interagency Fire Center at its headquarters in Boise. Also notable are small settlements like towns and American Indian tribes that have a tradition of contributing young men for the fire service every year; Proud Firefighter Races
if you will. National Guardsmen and occasionally regular military personnel take part and there has been profitable feedback between the methods and traditions of the two occupations. Convicts deemed to pose low risk of escape may volunteer themselves for firefighting efforts under the supervision of correctional officers. And of course when a fire gets to near a town, the local fire department and other emergency services will join. There are a number of specialties, famous among them are the smoke jumpers, which during World War II
were manned largely by conscientious objectors
desiring to prove that their refusal was not because of lack of courage.
Another specialty that is now obsolete was manning the watchtowers that dot the west. Satellites have made these obsolete and most of them have been relegated to picturesque historical relics. Commanders
of the project were once called "fire bosses" but are now referred to as "Incident Commanders".note
Tactics in wildfire fighting involve corraling the fire into a manageable area until it starves itself of fuel, or is drenched out by weather. This involves careful use of terrain—and sometimes, deliberate destruction of fuel, often ironically by deliberately setting controlled blazes. Wildfires have their own specialized equipment, notable among them is the Pulaski, a multipurpose fireaxe which is something of a Subcultural Weapon.
Other countries prone to massive wildfires have similar traditions. Notable among these are Australia and Russia.