Every year across the United States, more than 78,000 wildfires occur consuming over 5 million acres of forest, brush and grassland (10 year average). Through a Cooperative Agreement with the USDA Forest Service, state forestry organizations provide trained firefighting resources to assist with the efforts to contain and control some of the largest wildfires in the nation.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service has participated in mobilizing wildland firefighters for dispatch throughout the United States since 1974. Participation in this national effort is possible because the agency is able to provide fully trained, certified and equipped personnel on short notice to any location in the country to assist with protecting lives, property and natural resources. By participating in this program, state and fire service personnel meet an immediate national need and at the same time gain valuable experience that advances firefighter skills that are used to suppress wildfires that occur here in Maryland.
Every year the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service develops and maintains a list of qualified personnel who meet or exceed the minimum requirements necessary in order to be eligible for dispatch. The agency actively recruits department and fire service personnel to participate in this program with many of the participants returning year after year for fire duty. Participants must be department personnel, a volunteer or career firefighter, or a returning fire crew member with a satisfactory evaluation. All individuals are required annually to pass a physical endurance test called the “pack test” and attend a RT-130 annual firefighter refresher training course. Maryland dispatches both qualified single resource personnel that serve in overhead positions and 20-person Type 2 wildland fire hand crews.
An entry level firefighter is required to attend a 40 hour basic firefighter training class that includes S-130 Wildland Firefighter, S-190 Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior, L-180 Human Factors on the Fireline and I-100 Introduction to Incident Command System (ICS). The training is generally offered once in the spring and again in the fall each year. Physical fitness testing is given in late winter or early spring in each of the four regions of the state. After completion of all the requirements an individual is issued a “red card” that lists all the qualified duties that they are eligible to perform on a wildfire incident nationally. Certification of all firefighters is completed in May and Maryland's resources are listed available in June. Resources are subject to dispatch and mobilization on as little as 12 hours notice and can be sent anywhere to assist nationally. All cost associated with assistance provided is reimbursed to the state through the cooperative agreement with the USDA Forest Service.
The Forest Service also hosts a Wildland Fire Camp every other year that is a simulated wildfire incident. This allows participants an opportunity to function as part of a fire crew and perform those duties that would be expected on an actual incident. It also offers advanced skills training for returning firefighter. The camp is held in May at the Broad Creek Memorial Scout Camp in Harford County.
Individuals desiring to be a part of Maryland's Interagency Wildfire efforts are encouraged to contact the appropriate Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service Fire Staff contact for the county in which they reside.