Firefighter Travel

For firefighters, one of the most exciting aspects of the job is the opportunity to travel and see different areas of the country.

Travelling to a fire assignment in different part of the country provides an opportunity to see fire behavior in a different and an opportunity for a firefighter to enhance skillsets.

If you are specifically interested in a firefighting job that includes a lot of travel, consider applying to a Wildland Fire Module or Hotshot Crew. The National Park Service has six wildland fire modules and two interagency hotshot crews.

A group of firefighters gathered around a Forest Service sign.

Firefighters from the National Capital Region of the National Park Service travelled to Oregon to assist with fires on the Klamath National Forest.

Save Time at Airport Security

Airport security screening procedures affect wildland firefighters every fire season. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulates the security screening of all passengers traveling on commercial and charter aircraft. The TSA has implemented security screening regulations and procedures that will affect firefighters. Airlines have also instituted baggage requirements that affect travelers. All personnel should be aware of the regulations and procedures.

Current TSA regulations prevent bringing many items on the plane in carry-on bags, but those same items can be carried in checked baggage. Such items include knives or razors of any kind, scissors, axes, handtools, and power tools such as chain saws or drills. Disposable razors and their cartridges are permitted.

Items not permitted

Some items that are not permitted on commercial or charter aircraft, either in carry-on bags or in checked baggage, include fusees, strike-anywhere matches, lighter fluid, and gasoline.

Fire shelters

The TSA has asked that firefighters carrying fire shelters keep the shelter in either the yellow or blue fire shelter carrying case, or within the backpack pouch specifically designed to hold a fire shelter (figure 1). This practice should help screeners during processing and decrease the likelihood that they could damage the fire shelter during the security inspection.

Traveling Fire Shelters

Figure 1. Carry the fire shelter in either the blue fire shelter carrying case (left), or in a backpack pouch (right) specifically designed to hold a fire shelter.

Resource orders

Security screeners may also ask firefighters to verify their government identification or confirm resource orders sending them to the fire, when these materials are available. Having these documents readily available should help ensure efficient security screening.

Baggage weight

The last item of concern is the limitation on checked baggage imposed by individual airlines. Some airlines have instituted additional charges for bags weighing more than 50 pounds and for bags with a combined length, width, and height of more than 62 inches. Many full red bags (figure 2) would be over either the weight or the size limit. The baggage fees for bags that are too heavy or too big could be between $25 and $50 per bag. Airlines may demand payment at the gate, whether by government or personal credit card. Since these additional charges are imposed by individual airlines, the Forest Service has not been able to secure a waiver, clearance, or exemption of these requirements. If such an arrangement is reached, an additional advisory will be issued.

Firefighter Red Bag

Figure 2. Full red bags may exceed weight or size limits set by commercial airlines.

According to the National Interagency Mobilization Guide, all personnel traveling to fires, with the exception of smokejumpers, rappellers, and helicopter managers, are allowed to carry one frameless, soft pack not to exceed 45 pounds, and web gear or a briefcase (not both), not to exceed 20 pounds. If these limitations are followed, the 50-pound weight restriction will not be a problem. Smokejumpers, rappellers, and helicopter managers have higher baggage weight limits.

If the weight or size restrictions are a concern, you may want to carry a small duffel bag so you can repack your red bag before traveling. You may be able to meet the baggage requirements by shifting some items from your red bag to a second bag for the flight.