Wildland Fire Fighting


Every year in Missouri, wildfires threaten structures, habitat and communities. Alongside the U.S. Forest Service, Missouri Department of Conservation, Department of Natural Resources and local fire departments, ERT members help to both battle and mitigate wildfires. In order to assist with wildfires, members receive extensive training and maintain good physical fitness. Upon training completion, our members are fully qualified to respond to a fire on state and federal land. Members must remain fire-ready at all times during Missouri’s wildfire season, stretching from late February through April.

Photo by Natalie Cohen

Photo by Natalie Cohen

A huge part of our conversation efforts throughout the year involve prescribed burning. ERT members assist partnering agencies with prescribed burns to help restore natural habitats, eradicate invasive species, and manage forest health. In the months leading up to fire season, members work extensively to prepare “fireline,” or a buffer between the area intended to be burnt and the land surrounding these areas. ERT members help burn on average over 30,000 acres a year.


Every year in Missouri, the U.S. Forest Service, Missouri Department of Conservation and local volunteer fire departments fight an average of 3,000 wildfires (U.S. Forest Service). In the Mark Twain National Forest in southern Missouri, man-made fire is the leading cause of wildfires.

Photo by Danielle Snowden

Photo by Danielle Snowden

As populations grow and become more dense in rural areas of Missouri, fires that once threatened only natural areas are now increasingly threatening homes and businesses. The burden of protecting many of these homes and natural areas now rests with volunteer fire departments. Every year, ERT members travel to the most rural reaches of Missouri at all hours of the day and night to protect natural areas and houses. During peak fire season, when government agencies and rural fire departments with limited resources are overburdened with fire response, ERT offers the needed labor and expertise to protect land and homes.

ERT members are there to assist rural fire departments when resources and volunteers fall short. Most wildland fires in Missouri can be extinguished through hand crews. Only in rare situations is aircraft assistance required. Thus, the work of ERT members on the ground, using leaf blowers, fire rakes and other hand tools, is extremely valuable. What’s more, by using  hand tools and equipment, ERT enables agencies to rely less on bulldozers, which tear up valuable habitat and natural areas.

Photo by Whitney Movius

Photo by Whitney Movius


As an ERT Member, you could have the opportunity to receive the following trainings:

Member Reflections

Not Your Average Evening,” a first year member’s account of his first wildfire response

The Illusive Rx Unit,” a first year member’s account of burning Taum Sauk Mountain

The Pack Test,” a first year member’s account of passing the Pack Test

Want To Learn More?

U.S. Forest Service, Mark Twain National Forest

U.S. Forest Service, “The Forest Service and Wildfires”

U.S. Forest Service, Pack Test Info Sheet