Across the American Southwest and Rocky Mountains, wildfires rage annually through millions of acres of wilderness, destroying everything along the way.

A wildfire is a natural occurrence that helps replenish the land—until it affects homes and communities full of people. It’s those people that need your help when the blazes rise all around.

Wildfire first responders need very specific equipment to be effective. Here are a few pieces of gear you should have in your prep bag.

• Fire Retardant Gear. Obviously, you’ll be totally worthless without the protective properties of full-body flame retardant jackets and boots and helmets. Heavy-duty military jackets offer a lot of protection to firefighters on the ground during a wildfire blaze, as well as those in the air fighting the flames from above.

For ground forces, you want a fire shelter in addition to your standard gear. These extremely useful pieces of fire gear look like shiny aluminum bivouacs. You can hunker down underneath it and be completely protected from danger as flames engulf your immediate vicinity. These shelters are must-haves for anyone attempting to evacuate a home near a heavy blaze, as you can put immobile people in a shelter if you aren’t able to get them out of harm’s way fast enough.

• Handheld Tools. A firefighter’s best friend is a sturdy fire axe. Beyond the standard axe, however, you might find several new advancements to be great additions to your tool belt:

  • A bush axe, which cuts through young saplings quickly and without catching.
  • A brush hook to quickly clean out underbrush and other low-lying debris.
  • A fire swatter, which stamps out ground fires and prevents their spread to other areas.

These firefighting tools can be carried on your belt or backpack, and they’re light enough to carry long distances as well. They’re also strong enough to break through doors so you can get to trapped people quickly.

• Communications Devices. Constant communication is key during an epic wildfire. You need to stay abreast of the positions of your team members as well as the current status of the fire, so a radio transmitter that can withstand intense heat and smoke are paramount not only to the success of your mission, but to your own life.

Today’s advanced equipment is highly specialized and able to help your cause no matter how experienced you are with fighting wildfires. From fire retardant axes and clothing to emergency shelters and high-powered short-band radios, your ability to master these tools is just as important as your ability to master the flames.

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