Incident Qualifications

The Incident Qualification Card, commonly called a Red Card is an accepted interagency certification that a person is qualified to do the required job when arriving on an incident.

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group sets minimum training, experience and physical fitness standards for wildland fire positions. Incident Qualification Cards are issued to individuals who successfully complete the required training, experience and physical fitness (Work Capacity) test by the firefighting agencies that are members of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

In place of Incident Qualification Cards, local and rural firefighting agencies may issue letters of certification that state the individuals have met the appropriate physical fitness, experience and training standards.

Obtaining a Qualifications Card

If you do not have a Qualifications card (Red Card), there are several steps to go through:

  • Discuss your interest in fire with your immediate supervisor to obtain permission to pursue the training and other requirements as well as go on incidents (many incidents are during the summer when visitor traffic to parks is at its peak).
  • Speak with, or have your supervisor speak with, the Fire Management Officer (FMO) at your park about your interest. If your park is small, it may not have a full-time FMO. There typically is a collateral-duty FMO to speak to, as well as your Regional Fire Management Officer. See what trainings are necessary in your area of interest; some may be web-based self study courses that may be completed at your home unit. The Wildland and Prescribed Fire Qualification Guide (310-1) is the main source for the requirements for different positions.
  • Work with your local Incident Qualifications and Certification System (IQCS) account manager to make sure your training and qualifications information is up-to-date and accurate so they can print you a qualification card (Red Card).

Work Capacity Test

The Work Capacity Test used in the National Park Service is the Pack Test. It is used to qualify individuals for the three levels of wildland firefighting duty: Arduous, Moderate, and Light.

The Pack Test measures:

  • Aerobic capacity
  • Muscular Strength
  • Muscular Endurance

All wildland firefighting personnel must meet minimum levels of fitness requirements for the type of duties they are assigned:

Arduous Pack Test

Involves fieldwork calling for above-average endurance and superior conditioning. All firefighters are required to perform arduous duty. 3-mile hike, 45-pound pack, 45 minutes

Moderate Field Test

Involves field work requiring complete control of physical faculties and may include considerable walking, standing, and lifting 25-50 lbs. Safety officers and fire behavior analysts are examples of moderate duty positions. 2-mile hike, 25-pound pack, 30 minutes

Light Walk Test

Involves mainly office-type work with occasional field activity. Examples include: staging area and helibase managers. 1-mile hike, No weight, 16 minutes


Taskbooks contain competencies, behaviors and tasks that must be completed before becoming qualified in the position for which a specific taskbook is issued. For more information on the process of obtaining and completing a taskbook consult with your supervisor or visit the NWCG Publication Management System website to obtain the taskbook for the position in which you are interested.

Incident Management Team Participation

There are two types of Incident Management Teams (IMTs): Type 1 and Type 2 used to manage large incidents. Some areas have Type 3 IMT's to manage smaller incidents that extend for multiple operational periods.

The teams consist of members from federal, state, county and local agencies. Many teams have trainee positions for persons who have not yet met all the training requirements for their position.

As a general rule, Type 1 National Teams manage the most complex fires. Type 2 Teams generally manage less complex wildland fires. Both Type 1 and Type 2 teams are managed on a rotational basis through the nine Geographical Areas. While the National Type 1 teams are on rotation throughout the year, Type 2 teams are only activated during the fire season.

The Geographic Areas (GA) advertises vacancies on teams within their area and selects new team members from the nominations received. Vacancies are generally announced through the agencies within the GA, some Geographic Area Coordination Centers (GACC's) have placed recruitment information on their websites. In addition to the core IMTs, many subordinate positions are required to manage an incident. Dispatch centers will search the Resource Ordering and Status System (ROSS) for available individuals to fill orders placed by the Incident Management Team. These may be Incident Command System positions identified in the Wildland and Prescribed Fire Qualification Guide (310-1) or Technical Specialists.