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Within the state's 13 fire districts, crews of trained wildland firefighters operate under the supervision of their respective district fire wardens. These wildland firefighters are schooled in forest fire behavior and wildland firefighting methods. Some of their skills include: use of the incident command system (ICS); fireground safety; and use of specialized tools and equipment such as pumps, brushfire vehicles, brush breakers, chain saws, class A foam systems and wildland firefighting hand tools.These firefighters are also available to assist any city or town in Massachusetts during times of difficult wildfire incidents or when other specialized equipment is needed during non-fire emergencies, i.e., tree removal after damaging storms.
The bureau maintains an agreement with the Massachusetts Army Air National Guard for helicopter water-/class A foam-dropping operations. These helicopters are equipped with 200-gallon "Bambi Buckets" for aerial drops to contain wildfires in remote locations where access by ground firefighting equipment is difficult or impossible.
Massachusetts also benefits from mutual aid agreements with neighboring states and other forest firefighting agencies, such as the Northeast Forest Fire Compact and the U.S.D.A. Forest Service. The MBFFC may request resources to combat any extreme fire incident in the state.
Massachusetts Wildfire Crew
The bureau maintains a specialized fully trained and equipped Wildfire Crew that is "Red Card" certified for deployment to any out-of-state fire managed by the federal government's U.S.D.A. Forest Service. To become "Red Card" certified, a firefighter must pass a series of written and physical endurance tests. These required tests are administered annually.
There are approximately 60 firefighters on the state's Wildfire Crew list. A crew boss leads the units with the assistance of squad bosses. Wildfire Crews have been dispatched to large fires in California; the Yellowstone, Wyoming fires; the Grasslands of North Dakota; Montana; Idaho; the Florida fires of 1998; and fires in Virginia last November.
For further information on the Wildfire Crews, contact the bureau's crew boss and training officer, District Fire Warden Philip Gilmore, at: Erving State Forest, 200 Main St., Erving, MA 01344 (telephone 978-544-2760).
- Federal Excess Property Program. This program is operated in cooperation with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and provides cities and towns with free equipment and materials strictly for firefighting purposes. Fire departments have benefited from free use of portable pumps, generators, all-wheel-drive heavy- and light-duty trucks, and even personal protective clothing.
- Rural Community Fire Protection. This program is also operated in cooperation with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and works directly with communities with populations of 10,000 or less. It provides training, safety equipment, firefighting supplies, class A foam, special forestry tools and other items directly related to wildland fire control.
- Natural disaster emergencies. The MBFFC has provided and can provide assistance to communities during any large disaster incident through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. Bureau personnel have assisted during past disasters like the blizzard of 1978, Hurricane Bob and other natural disasters. Additionally, individual Bureau personnel are first responder certified and also trained for search and rescue operations.
- Specialized training for wildfires. Through the Massachusetts Fire Training Academy, bureau personnel teach wildfire behavior and modern methods of fire suppression and give demonstrations using modern suppression equipment. Wildland and wildland urban interface fire training is also provided to municipal structural firefighters.