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Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Wildfire Season will soon be here in Virginia. And So You Want To Be A Firefighter!

As we are preparing for our Fall Wildfire Season which traditionally beging October 15th Many wildfires continue to burn from California to Minnesotta to Texas.

A few 911 call transcripts from Bastrop TX are posted below and are very interesting.


Pagami Wildfire: 61% Containment!

Firefighters continue to make progress on the Pagami Creek wildfire. Current estimates have the fire at about 61% contained.
A wildfire that has consumed more than 93,000 acres of Minnesota wilderness was 61 percent contained

PLEASANT VALLEY, Ariz. - The burned acreage numbers are continuing to grow on a lightning-caused northern Arizona wildfire.
Tonto National Forest officials say the so-called Tanner fire is 30 percent contained as of Thursday night after charring 6,000 acres near Young.
The fire started Aug. 20 near the peak of Armer Mountain in the Sierra Anchas.

Bastrop, TX--New numbers were released Tuesday on the Bastrop wildfire. It is 98 percent contained and cost an estimated $250 million. It is the most expensive in Texas history.
Also, for the first time, the 911 calls from that fire were released. Here's a transcript of some of the calls made by homeowners and emergency responders:
DISPATCHER: Bastrop County 911. Do you need fire, police or an ambulance?
CALLER: I've got an electrical power line down and I'm afraid it's going to spark another fire right in the area of the other one.

RESPONDER: Be advised I need deputies on 1441. We have smoke running across the road. We need to shut down 1441.
CALLER: That fire down on county road is pretty much on it's way right to our house.
CALLER: I'm standing here now and it's 100 yards away if that.
DISPATCHER: Okay, all right. I will let them know.

RESPONDER: I have done all I can do.
RESPONDER: You need to get out of the smoke. Reid, back away from the house.

RESPONDER: Josh we are abandoning this house. It's too bad. We are getting out. It sounds like a freight train coming in here.
RESPONDER: We have fires on Kelly and KC with houses burning.
RESPONDER: Chief, I don't have any more units, you are going to have to get me some more units from out of town. We don't have people. I'm protecting every house I got over here.

CALLER: It's a big fire. please send someone.
DISPATCHER: I'm going right now okay. Hold on one second and let me talk to them right quick OK?
CALLER: OK. OK. Go get in the car. Go get in the car. I am afraid. It is a big fire. My husband is still in the house, I don't know why. We have two kids, I want to get my kids.
DISPATCHER: Calm down. Take a deep breath, everything is going to be OK. I'm sending the fire department to you right now. Grab your kids, grab your husband and then leave. OK?

Fire investigators confirmed what one caller said. The Bastrop wildfire started when branches and trees fell on power lines, causing them to spark. The fire killed two people and destroyed nearly 1,600 homes.

So You Want To Be A Wildfire Fighter!
Here is some information that might help specific to VIRGINIA.

Become a WildlandFirefighter

What Does It Take To Become A Wildland Firefighter and Is It For You?

Is Firefighting for You?

You think it’s a wild adventure; it’s exciting and a big adrenaline rush. Maybe someone you know has been a firefighter. Maybe it’s become your dream. While firefighting can be all of these things, it is also dangerous and must be taken seriously. It’s not an easy task – it involves continuous training and experience. But most of all, it takes a great deal of perseverance, patience, persistence, dedication and good old-fashioned hard work to become a wildland firefighter.

Duties and Rewards

Several state and federal agencies in Virginia hire part-time wildland firefighters to assist in fire suppression duties. These firefighters must be trained and qualified in a number of tasks, as well as be able to pass physical fitness guidelines. As an entry level firefighter, you will be part of a larger organization with various command staff personnel directing and supervising your work. Wildland firefighting is often long hours of hard, dirty work in extreme fire environments. But, saving our valuable natural resources; protecting homes and public safety, and working in a cohesive team effort is extremely rewarding.


In addition to working within the Commonwealth, there may be opportunities to travel to other states. In times of large natural disasters, other states request assistance. These disasters could include wildfires, hurricanes and winter snow/ice storms. Several years ago, many firefighters from Virginia assisted with the Columbia shuttle disaster recovery efforts. Sometimes, these deployments include staying in large fire camps of a few thousand people. They may have portable showers, medical facilities and dining halls with great food. Or, you might be “spiked-out” on the mountain for an extended stay with none of the fire camp amenities. Here in Virginia, personnel are provided motel rooms if away from home. More often, you are close enough to travel back to the comforts of your own home after a short deployment on the fireline. Typically, a firefighter is on the fireline for up to 16 hours in an operational period on larger fires, but smaller fires may require only a few hours of suppression work.

“Tools” of the Firefighter

Firefighters use many “tools” to aid them in their firefighting efforts. These tools may include variations of familiar hand tools, such as a rake or shovel. Other tools have been developed over time, such as the Pulaski – a combination of an axe and a hoe. Various designs of portable water pumps have been utilized for years in wildland suppression. Larger equipment, such as bulldozers, helicopters and even airplanes for dropping water or chemical fire retardant, is also used in fighting wildland fires. Another “tool” is flame-retardant clothing that firefighters wear for their safety. Your basic training will include what these tools are used for and how to safely and properly use them. Support personnel often use computer models to predict the spread and intensity of the fire. There are many “tools,” whether large and complex or small and simple, that the Virginia firefighter is exposed to on a wildland fire.


The following are the current minimum requirements for becoming a wildland firefighter with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF):

Level 1 (VFF1- Beginner Level)

  • Complete “Ground Cover Fire Training” (8 hrs minimum)
  • Complete Fire Shelter Training and Deployment
  • Moderate Fitness Test (2-mile walk with 25 lb.-pack in 30 minutes or less)
  • Recommendation of VDOF

Level 2 (VFF2)

  • Complete Firefighter Courses (S-130/S-190/I-100/L-180)
  • Fire Shelter Training and Deployment
  • Minimum 5 wildland fire responses
  • Moderate Fitness Test
  • Recommendation of VDOF

Level 3 (VFF3)

  • Qualified as VFF2
  • Qualified as NWCG Crew Boss (same as Federal CRWB level below)
  • Arduous Fitness Test (3-mile walk with 45 lb. pack in 45 minutes or less)
  • Recommendation of VDOF

The following are the current minimum requirements for becoming a wildland firefighter with the USDA Forest Service or any other federal agency:

Level 1 (FFT2 - Beginner Level)

  • Complete Wildland Firefighter Courses(S-130/S-190/I-100/L-180)
  • Complete Fire Shelter Training and Deployment
  • Pass Arduous Fitness Test (3-mile walk with 45 lb. pack in 45 minutes or less)

Level 2 (FFT1)

  • Qualified as FFT2
  • Complete Advanced Firefighter Courses (S-131 & S-133)
  • Successful Completion of FFT1 Taskbook on Wildland Fires
  • Arduous Fitness Test

Level 3 (CRWB)

  • Qualified as FFT1
  • Complete S-230 & S-215 Courses
  • Successful Completion of CRWB Taskbook on Wildland Fires
  • Arduous Fitness Test

Contact Information

Western Region Office, Salem: 540.387.5461
Alleghany, Bath, Bedford, Bland, Botetourt, Buchanan, Carroll, Craig, Dickenson, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Grayson, Henry, Highland, Lee, Montgomery, Patrick, Pulaski, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise and Wythe counties

Central Region Office, Charlottesville: 434.977.5193
Albemarle, Amelia, Amherst, Appomattox, Arlington, Augusta, Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, Clarke, Culpeper, Cumberland, Fairfax, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Frederick, Goochland, Greene, Halifax, Loudoun, Louisa, Lunenburg, Madison, Mecklenburg, Nelson, Nottoway, Orange, Page, Pittsylvania, Powhatan, Prince Edward, Prince William, Rappahannock, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Warren counties

Eastern Region Office, Providence Forge: 804.966.2209
Accomack, Brunswick, Caroline, Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Essex, Gloucester, Greensville, Hanover, Henrico, Isle of Wight, James City, King & Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, New Kent, Northampton, Northumberland, Prince George, Richmond, Southampton, Surry, Sussex, Westmoreland and York counties

For More Information

For more information about becoming a wildland firefighter, please contact your local Virginia Department of Forestry office or visit the agency website at

For information about federal firefighting, contact:

George Washington & Jefferson National Forest, Roanoke, VA: 540.265.5220

Shenandoah National Park, Luray, VA: 540.999.3500 #3442
US Fish & Wildlife Service, Suffolk, VA: 757.986.3480
Folks from all accross the country travel to many different states to fight wildfires and each "home unit" has their own specific requirments to becomming a wildland firefighter. Please check with your local State or Federal agency responsible for wildfire response for local requirments. Once you are "qualified nationally" in your home state you will be qualified to travel to all other states to respond to wildfires under the approval and direction of the agency that Red Carded you.

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