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Red Card Training 101

What can you expect?

Wondering what it’s like to go through Red Card training with the Bureau of Land Management? From my experience as the Wildland Fire Program Coordinator for Team Rubicon, I’ll tell you that like most TR events, it’s a great opportunity to bond with teammates, and learn from the pros.

Since 2015, BLM has trained nearly 1,000 TR members in wildland fire skills. Each Spring, professional wildland firefighters from BLM load up the truck and trailer and travel the country providing high caliber training to TR members in preparation for the upcoming fire season. The instructors are some of the most experienced wildland fire fighters in BLM, so they keep things interesting by adding real world experiences to the textbook information.

 

The Firefighter Type 2 (FFT2) course otherwise known as “Red Card Training” and “Rookie School” is designed to prepare you with the basics needed to safely deploy as a Wildland Firefighter with BLM. Much of the course takes place in a classroom covering a mix of FEMA ICS, wildland fire basics, personal protective equipment and human factors information.

The course typically starts with some basic admin followed by the infamous pack test: a three-mile walk carrying a 45-pound pack that must be completed in 45 minutes or less. Upon completion of the pack test, students spend the good part of the course the classroom followed by a field learning and practical application session. At the end of the four-day course, you’ll get your Red Card (qualification card) and be eligible to be dispatched in support of wildland fire operations.

HERE’S A RUNDOWN ON WHAT TO EXPECT:

Day 1 starts with a brief intro and a bit of administrative paperwork (to ensure you receive your paycheck for the course) before you head out to tackle the pack test. The idea of walking three miles in 45 minutes doesn’t sound all that rough, but if you haven’t done it wearing a 45-pound weighted pack, or it’s been a while since you have, you may be surprised. The test is definitely something you’ll want to train for several weeks in advance of the course, so you can gauge how much work you’ll need to do to get to a passing time.

Different agencies have different requirements for clothing and packs, but the TR/BLM course allows you to wear whatever footwear and clothing is comfortable (yes, sneakers and silkies are good!). You can either use your own pack or a weighted vest. BLM does not provide, packs, weight or vests. The remainder of the first day is spent in the classroom covering some wildland fire fundamentals. After training is complete, you’ll head to the billeting/camping arranged for the course and enjoy a night of TR camaraderie.

The entire Day 2 of the training is spent in the classroom, chock-full of ICS lessons, fire behavior, and human factors information. You’ll also cover equipment and PPE in preparation for the big day in the field for skill building.

Day 3 starts out in the classroom but ends with an afternoon of field training. There you’ll get acquainted with the range of tools, safety equipment, and techniques used by wildland firefighters. The instructors set up a variety of stations that each team rotates through to learn about digging firelines, controlled burn equipment, cold trailing (searching for hotspots), communications, pump and hose operations, and emergency fire shelter deployment.

Expect a mix of classroom and outdoor training before becoming certified to fight wildland fires with the BLM. The final training day includes a wrap-up of the remaining classroom modules, followed by a brief review of materials before the exam. Yes, there really is an exam, but if you’ve paid attention during the class and you’ve familiarized yourself with the Incident Response Pocket Guide (you’ll get at the training), you shouldn’t have any problem passing the test.

A FEW OTHER THINGS TO KNOW:

A detailed information packet is emailed to all TR members who are registered for training. This goes out approximately 30-45 days before the training date.

Transportation: TR members are responsible for their own transportation to the event, and there’s no reimbursement for mileage. However, you do get paid an hourly wage from BLM (somewhere in the range of $500 total for the 4 days) that you will receive a few weeks after the course to help offset personal expenses.

Food: TR members are responsible for their own food. Occasionally, TR will host an evening social after the training day is complete. This is location dependent and is not to be expected.

Billeting: Campsites are arranged for TR member use during the training, but some people choose to stay at hotels at their own expense. This will vary by training location, so keep an eye out for lodging information in the specific event details.

Military Personnel and Federal Government Employees: Active military personnel, including those on leave or furlough, cannot be paid to take training or be sent out on incidents; and therefore, cannot be hired as casuals.This does not include National Guard or Reserves duty. Federal Government employees, outside of the Department of Interior Fire agencies, cannot be paid to take training or be sent out on incidents; and therefore, cannot be hired as casuals.

What to pack: For the most part it is TR casual (grey T-shirts / TR sweatshirts). For the field training day, you need to have long pants, long sleeves, and boots.

Some notes on boots – When you deploy to fight wildfires with BLM, your boots need to meet certain specs for safety reasons, and wildland approved boots typically cost $200+. For the training, you should be ok with any leather safety boot (should cover up to the mid-shin) and have Vibram soles. Once you’ve completed the training and you have plans to deploy, you can make the investment in fire rated boots. The instructors will also offer good advice on which boots to consider purchasing.

Additional items:

  • IS-700 NIMS Certificate of Completion **Basic Fire Fighting Training Only**
  • IS-100 Certificate of Completion **Basic Fire Fighting Training Only**
  • EMTs and/or Paramedics bring State and/or National EMT & Paramedic Certificates
  • Completed and typed IQCS Form
  • Health Screening Questionnaire (HSQ)
  • MSP exam receipt, if applicable
    • Note: Reimbursement will only be made if you answer yes to any question in Section A, or yes to three or more questions in Section B on the HSQ.
  • Work Boots, Long Sleeves, Long Pants (for Field Day)
  • 45 pound weighted pack or vest to be used for the Pack Test. BLM does not provide this.
  • Banking Information: Routing Number, Account Number, and Account Type
  • Documents that support the I-9, for example:
Either 1 Document from list A: OR 1 Document from list B and from list C:
List A List B List C
U.S. Passport Driver’s License Social Security Card
Permanent Resident Card U.S. Military card Birth Certificate

 

Ensure you’ve triple checked the pack list before going through the four-day training.

SPOILER ALERT: The red cards aren’t red.

Brian Von Herbulis is the Bureau of Land Management Program Coordinator for Team Rubicon. Brian served as the Commanding Officer, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. After retiring from the USMC as a LtCol., Brian helped reverse a struggling construction company as COO and has also used his expertise in program management and operations as a strategic advisor with Mission 43.