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Fire Wars
Three firefighers with equipment Outfitting Wildland Firefighters

Paul Head (left) is the National Park Service Fire Management Officer for the northeast region, and Tess Shatzer is a park ranger at the Lowell National Historical Park in Lowell, Massachusetts.

To find out what Paul and Tess are wearing, click on the gear list below.

Fire shirt | Fire pants | Boots | Line pack | Head lamp | Helmet | Goggles | Radio | Bladder bag | Gloves | Shovel | Pulaski | Brush coat | Chain saw | Drip torch



 
Fire shirt


  Fire shirt
A wildland firefighter's standard-issue fire shirt is made of fire-resistant Nomex material and is always bright yellow for easy visibility.
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Fire pants


  Fire pants
Fire pants are made of high-strength, flame-resistant, synthetic Nomex material. Beneath their fire pants and fire shirts, wildland firefighters must wear 100% cotton undergarments. Synthetic materials such as nylon and rayon will adhere to the skin in extreme heat.
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Boots


  Boots
Eight-inch, lug-soled leather boots provide firefighters with ankle support, traction, and foot protection.
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Line pack


  Line pack
A wildland firefighter's line pack, worn on the back, contains all of his or her gear in various compartments, including:
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Fire shelter


  Fire Shelter
Many firefighters who have deployed fire shelters in emergency situations say they would not have survived without them. Made of fiberglass and aluminum, the shelter is a lightweight pup tent enclosed in a small pouch that wildland firefighters can use as a last-resort cocoon in a life-threatening predicament. The fire shelter reflects radiant heat, reducing a deadly 1,000-degree fire to a survivable 120 degrees, and provides a temporary pocket of breathable air in a fire-entrapment situation.
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Water bottle


  Water bottle
Extreme temperatures and physical exertion can quickly lead to dehydration. Wildland firefighters must carry plenty of water.
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Earplugs


  Earplugs
Earplugs provide protection from loud sounds (such as water pumps, chain saws, helicopters, and bulldozers), debris, and dirt as fires rage around them.
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Flares


  Flares
Wildland firefighters use flares to light backfires and prescribed burns. Also known as backfiring fuses, their flares are specially made to work in all weather conditions and ignite on a delayed fuse to prevent injuries.
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Handbooks


  Handbooks
Containing at-a-glance information on protocols, techniques, and safety measures, wildland firefighting manuals are an important reference tool to have on hand.
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Map and compass


  Map and compass
Before a wildland firefighter can set out into the backcountry, he or she must know where the fire is, how to get to it, and how to get away from it. A marked map of the region and a compass are essential.
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First aid


  First aid
Basic first aid supplies, such as lip protection, moleskin for blistered feet, and pain medication for a pounding head are useful, if not essential.
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Toilet paper


  Toilet paper
Paul and Tess both carry a supply of toilet paper in their packs.
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Snacks


  Snacks
To keep their energy level high, firefighters keep a selection of snacks handy.
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Flagging


  Flagging
Wildland firefighters use brightly colored tape to mark routes or work areas.
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Space blanket   Space blanket
Waterproof and windproof, a thermal space blanket keeps a firefighter warm and dry. Space blankets can be used as an impromptu shelter in poor weather conditions.
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Head lamp


  Head lamp
When it gets dark in the woods, a head lamp lights a firefighter's way.
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Helmet


  Helmet
A wildland firefighter's helmet is similar to a construction worker's hardhat. It is made of durable fiberglass in a bright color and protects the head from sparks and falling debris, which can cause impact and puncture injuries.
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Goggles


  Goggles
Goggles protect a firefighter's eyes from heat, smoke, and debris. Designed to be stowed on his or her helmet, wildland firefighting goggles are anti-fog, have a hard-coated outer lens, and can sustain five minutes at 500°F, according to National Fire Protection Agency specifications.
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Radio


  Radio
Communication is crucial in wildland firefighting. A radio strapped to the firefighter's chest allows him or her to hear weather reports and fire-plan updates and to communicate with headquarters and other crews.
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Bladder bag


  Bladder bag
Also called a backpack pump, a bladder bag is a collapsible pack made of neoprene or high-strength nylon fabric and fitted with a hand-pumped sprayer. Wildland firefighters carry bags filled with up to five gallons of water, which can be sprayed on the fuel at the base of flames in order to cool it before digging.
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Gloves


  Gloves
Leather gloves protect a firefighter's hands.
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Shovel


  Shovel
Wildland firefighters carry a shovel, useful for digging, scraping, and spreading loose dirt over small flames.
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Pulaski


  Pulaski
Named after Edward Pulaski, the Forest Service District Ranger who invented it after fighting the great fires of 1910, the Pulaski is a chopping and trenching tool that combines an axe blade with a narrow, adze-like blade.
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Brush coat


  Brush coat
Made from cotton and fire-resistant Nomex, a firefighter's coat provides protection from flames and visibility with bright color and relective stripes. Brush coats are not always practical in high temperatures; firefighters usually wear them on night shifts and during brisk dawn line briefings.
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Chain saw


  Chain saw
When trees need to be felled or moved out of the way, firefighters use a chain saw. To safeguard against injury, thick synthetic-material chaps (seen above in green) are worn while operating a chain saw.
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Drip torch


  Drip torch
Firefighters use this small, handheld fuel tank with a handle, nozzle, and igniter to drip a burning mixture of diesel fuel and gasoline on materials to be burned. Drip torches are also known as backfire pots.
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