New recruits learn the strategies and tactics of combating wildfire

by | Feb 21, 2018

Students discuss the use and capabilities of helicopters in combating wildfires. There is an emphasis on safety when working around or near helicopters.

Airplanes and helicopters fly overhead, fire engine lights flash, sirens blare, while volunteer firefighters and residents lob questions and suggestions at the initial attack incident commander, whose job is to form a plan and bring order to the chaos. Fortunately for this incident commander, this is basic strategy and tactics training and no lives or property are in danger.

The scenario leading up to the students having to deploy their practice fire shelters is discussed in an after-action review led by one of the instructors. Deploying a fire shelter is the last option wildland firefighters will use when no other escape route is available from an oncoming fire.

North Carolina averages around 5,000 wildfires each year that burn about 25,000 acres, requiring fire suppression action from the N.C. Forest Service, often with assistance from cooperating agencies and local fire departments. To help in this effort, 34 new recruits to the agency, serving in the Coastal and Piedmont regions, recently attended one of two wildland fire strategies and tactics trainings. The five-day training sessions were held at the N.C. Forest Service Coastal Region Training Facility in Kinston, NC, and Camp Rockfish in Hoke County near Fayetteville.

Basic strategy and tactics training teaches students to become initial attack incident commanders. Seasoned wildland firefighters provide the recruits with the knowledge base to confidently and safely combat wildfires while protecting lives, property and the state’s natural resources. Field exercises feature four main problems with teams rotating through and students taking turns as the incident commander. The students are presented with real-world possibilities including situations that range from evacuations, intoxicated citizens, to injuries and having to deploy a fire shelter. All the problems focus on forming a plan, as well as requesting and managing needed resources such as volunteer firefighters, other N.C. Forest Service personnel, tractor plow units, aircraft and other resources.

Instructors familiarize students with the various equipment types and capabilities used in wildland firefighting. In addition to

A demonstration of helicopter capabilities and use of a “Bambi” bucket is given to the students.

learning about the capabilities of the agency’s aviation resources, such as single engine air tankers and helicopters, students learn about the capabilities of different tractor plow units used to build firelines, and Type VI Engines (a pickup truck with a water tank and pump) that are typically used by the N.C. Forest Service in wildland firefighting.

Throughout their careers, these new employees will continue to train and increase their incident management qualifications to meet national standards, which will enable them to be dispatched across the nation for all hazards emergency response. Over the years, the N.C. Forest Service has been able to send highly trained employees to work on some of the largest incidents across the nation. These experiences help to enhance their skills, which they implement on incidents across North Carolina.

Every training N.C. Forest Service personnel receive always puts a heavy emphasis on safety. North Carolinians can help protect firefighters, and our state’s beautiful natural resources, by exercising caution when using fire. Do your part to prevent wildfires by being careful when burning yard debris. Careless debris burning is the number one cause of wildfires in the state. When burning you should have fire suppression tools handy (shovel for throwing dirt on the fire, a water hose or bucket of water, etc.), always keep a watch on your fire and make sure the it is fully extinguished before leaving it unattended. You can also do your part by discarding cigarettes, charcoal and other hot ashes appropriately, such as in a metal container with a lid. Learn more about fire prevention at