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The difference between structure and wildland firefighters is obvious to anyone involved in firefighting, but it may not be so clear from the outside. Read along to learn about the nuances that separate these two great professions. Maybe one, or both, will spark your interest.

Duties

Structural Firefighters Structural firefighters perform their jobs year-round. They respond to incidents like:

  • Fires inside of buildings and homes
  • Fire alarms
  • Chemical spills
  • Accidents that require emergency medical care

They are trained on strategies and tactics that control incidents in neighborhoods and cities. Structural firefighters are constantly going through training programs to stay on top of new technology.

Wildland Firefighters

Wildland firefighters, unlike structural firefighters, do not work year-round. Their jobs are seasonal, typically performed somewhere between four and six months

throughout the year. Their responsibilities pertain to wildfires, and they include:

  • Cultivating fire lines, which are strips of demolished woodland in the fire’s path which are designed to cut the fire’s fuel
  • Rescuing hikers
  • Protecting communities, homes, wildlife, and forests from fire
  • Using maps and compasses to maintain a sense of direction

Training

You can see the difference between structure and wildland firefighters in the disparate training methods the two professions adopted. Structural firefighters must

pass several interviews, go through physical and written tests, and receive their emergency medical technician (EMT) certification. Some firehouses require a degree in fire science, though others are fine with just a high school degree.

Wildland firefighters must have a post-secondary education, have experience working in rough terrain, receive a Red Card (the certification that says you can

perform the duties of a wildland firefighter), and pass written and physical tests.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The personal protective equipment (PPE) used by the two professions is quite different. Structural firefighters tend to carry fewer, yet heavier, items, including:

  • A coat
  • A helmet
  • Bunker pants
  • Pants with boots
  • A self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)
  • A jacket
  • An ax
  • A radio

Wildland firefighters carry:

  • Line gear
  • Fire gloves
  • Hose packs
  • A first aid kit
  • A compass and GPS
  • Boots
  • A chainsaw
  • A radio
  • Drip torches
  • A helmet

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