It’s Not Easy Being Green

By Bre Orcasitas — Field Operations Specialist  Wildland Fire LLC

Let’s take a trip waaaay back in time to when each of us first started out in fire.

Imagine: The crew’s start date is tomorrow and you’re nervous.

What happens on the first day? Where am I supposed to park? What kind of clothes am I supposed to wear: exercise clothes, work clothes? Do they give me a sleeping bag or am I supposed to have one? How am I going to learn to fight fire? Am I supposed to know how to drive a manual? What do we do all day if we don’t go on a fire? What happens when we go on a fire? How long do we work?

These are the types of thoughts that roll through the mind of a green firefighter. It’s overwhelming to be new in the fire world where things constantly move at a hurried pace and the phrase, “you don’t know what you don’t know until you don’t know it” couldn’t ring more true.

For most of us, “being green” was many moons ago but it’s important to take that trip back in time to remember that green firefighters aren’t asking the wrong questions, they simply don’t know enough to ask the right questions; the questions that would provide answers to set them up for success.

Coming up in fire, much of what we learned and how we learned it was due to either the dedicated mentorship of someone we worked with and/or pure luck. It wasn’t because we asked the right questions. Even still there are so many things that we didn’t learn ahead of needing the information and ended up having to fight our way through (usually at the most inopportune times) some complicated process we knew nothing about.

There are many helpful nuggets of information that float through the fire community sporadically like a pinball machine reaching some but not others, making it much more challenging for those who didn’t get the message.

Essentially, there hasn’t ever been an easily accessible source where folks could get information to set themselves up for success when starting out in fire; to get answers to those questions that we didn’t know to ask. It was more of a situation where if you could navigate through the steep learning curve, you’re in! Well, all that is about to change.

There is a new resource guide being published by NWCG called “A Preparedness Guide for Firefighters and their Families” (formerly named “The Purple Ribbon Campaign”), which was developed by a group of dedicated individuals who recognized a need and then spent several years going through the labor intensive process of researching and editing this guide in tandem with incorporating insights from firefighters and their family members to make it a truly useful resource. No more guesswork! Well, let’s be realistic, there will still be a steep learning curve but that’s half the fun.


The cover of the preparedness guide.

What’s in this thing?

The main focus is to provide information for newly hired firefighters and their families. I’m sure that any career firefighter can recognize the benefit of having something they could have handed their family members (way back when) to explain the job and all the unspoken realities which go along with it.

Here is a quick look at the Table of Contents:

What to Expect

The Basics
Glimpse of the Wildland Firefighting Job
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The Personal Gear Bag
Physical Demands and Training
Will They Be Home for Dinner?
Schedules, Planning, and Understanding
 Day in the Life of a Wildland Firefighter on Assignment

Hazards of the Job

Hazard Types
Physical Hazards
Line of Duty Death or Injury Hazards
Behavioral Health Resources
Stress First Aid
The Stress Continuum
The Seven Cs of Stress First Aid
Additional Resources
Safety, Physical, and Behavioral Health Resources
Serious Injury and Line of Duty Death Response and Accident Reviews
Planning Resources
Designation of Beneficiary Information

Even though this resource guide is focused at new firefighters and their families, there is still a large amount of content that, more than likely, would be new information to experienced firefighters as well. Have you ever tried to find the forms to change a beneficiary? I have and it’s like playing a less fun version of “Where’s Waldo?” This guide has quick links for that sort of stuff along with a ton of other useful info.

After reading this resource guide I walked away most impressed that the realities of this profession are accurately depicted. I am a firefighter and so is my husband. That means that I know the job and all the weight that comes with it, but I also know and understand what it means to solo parent while my spouse is on an assignment, feeling completely  overwhelmed and overrun.

This resource guide paints a clear picture for new firefighters and their families in order to help them know what’s coming so they can have a solid plan before that first fire call. Finally, there is something helpful that we can hand to a person when they come asking about a job.

Where can I find it?

A quick Google search will pull up the resource guide but you could also follow the link at the bottom of this post.

An important item to mention is that this resource guide is currently in draft form, meaning, if you would like to provide recommendations about additional content to include, other edits or accolades, please follow the instructions in the document or add your comments to this post.

A Preparedness Guide for Firefighters and their Families

2 thoughts on “It’s Not Easy Being Green

  1. You mean getting yelled at while you’re sitting in the ghetto seat of the buggy while you’re scabbed on a hotshot crew isn’t the best way to learn new things? Right on. This guide was a cool idea. I could have used it in 2003.

    I hope somewhere in this guide it lets people know not to let their personal items from their buggy bin encroach the items in the Lead Sawyer’s bin or he will call that person an f-word face. It should also include a chapter about not accidentally bringing your sigs in the buggy or the lead swamper will write a song about it and sing it every single day. The song goes like this-

    Chorus- ” (Offender’s Name) brought his/her sigs in the buggy.”
    Repeat 50-100 times.

    I hope the “Day in the Life” chapter says, “On fire assignments you’ll get up early. Eat some food. Ride out to the woods. Do a bunch of hard stuff that somebody tells you to do because they got told by somebody in a uniform shirt to tell you to do it. You’ll eat lunch. You’ll ride back to the place where you ate breakfast. You’ll eat dinner. Then you’ll go to bed and do it again the next day. When not on fire assignments you’ll do the same thing but you’ll provide your own meals. Then you’ll get divorced.”

  2. Interesting comment from BigMun. Unfortunate but all too often true. Let’s learn from our elders abuse and our misfortune. Let us also not repeat the abuse we have suffered. May we all graduate after our 20 and 50 and get a good safety job!

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