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Structural vs. Wildland Firefighting: What’s the Difference?

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When people think of firefighters, they probably think of the brave individuals who put out fires in homes and businesses. However, firefighters who extinguish wildfires have different responsibilities and equipment. All firefighters work to save human lives and communities, but there are several differences between structural and wildland firefighting. Learn more about them below.

Job Location

First, structural firefighters are the ones who respond to emergency calls in homes and businesses. If someone is stuck inside a burning building, the job of these firefighters is to get that person to safety. On the other hand, wildland firefighters usually work to stop forest fires from ever getting close to human dwellings.

Training and Education

Both kinds of firefighters must go through extensive training and exams before beginning their job duties. Wildland firefighters have to get their Red Card certifications and postsecondary educations. Structural firefighters must get EMT certification, since they’re more likely to encounter injured people on the job.

Different Equipment

Both kinds of firefighters wear large, recognizable helmets and fireproof clothing, but their other equipment can be very different. In the wildlands, firefighters need to be able to navigate through large distances and cut down trees to prevent fires from spreading. For this reason, wildland firefighters often carry compasses or GPS devices and chain saws. Structural firefighters are more likely to spend time inside smoke-filled buildings, so they each carry an SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus).

Work Schedule

As you can probably guess, one difference between structural and wildland firefighters is how often they work. Since wildfires are more common during seasons with hot temperatures, wildland firefighting is a seasonal job, usually under a six-month contract. Structural firefighting is year-round, since fires can start in homes and businesses any day of the year.

More Than One Role

Firefighting isn’t limited to these two roles—in fact, each type of firefighting has additional roles. Wildlands firefighting requires many different crews working together over large distances, each crew with its own responsibilities. Structural firefighting includes engine crews who divide their responsibilities between the driver, officer, and other firefighters.

If you’re considering becoming a firefighter, know that there are a variety of roles and responsibilities to choose from. Though becoming a firefighter takes hard work and lots of training, the profession is an essential part of keeping communities safe and sound.

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Written by Henry Johnson

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