Wildland Fire Incident Qualifications

Firefighters learn from each other at a fire refresher.
Annual fire refresher training is a key component of ensuring all crew members have the necessary qualifications.

NPS / PStevko

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 stating that the individuals have met the appropriate physical fitness, experience, and training standards.

Obtaining a Qualifications Card

If you do not have an Incident Qualification 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. In this case you would typically speak to a collateral-duty FMO, 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 various 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 an Incident Qualification Card (Red Card).

Work Capacity Test

The work capacity test used in the National Park Service is known as 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:

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

Task Books

Task books contain competencies, behaviors, and tasks that must be completed before a person becomes qualified in the position for which a specific task book is issued. For more information on the process of obtaining and completing a task book, consult with your supervisor or visit the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s Position Task Books page to obtain the taskbook for the position in which you are interested.

Last updated: May 5, 2018