Overhead refers to personnel assigned to supervisory positions, unit leaders, managers and other specialists assigned to wildfires or other emergency situations.
The majority of people in wildland firefighting overhead positions work on the fireline or at the incident command post. This includes positions like operations section chief, helitack manager, strike team leader, and finance section chief. However, not everyone involved in wildland fire is, or was, a firefighter before obtaining a job in operations or management.
There are opportunities within wildland fire that do not include fighting directly on the fireline. These opportunities include working in dispatch, prevention, fire ecology, training, safety, fire business, and public information.
The public information officer (PIO) is responsible for internal and external communication, and may be assigned to community outreach, media relations, social media or information center operations. PIOs are the first-line contact for all levels of media and the public on an incident and may be involved in multiple levels within the wildland firefighting organization.
Training specialists organize and manage training for wildland firefighters and support personnel. Training specialists develop, update, coordinate, implement, and evaluate standards and curriculum.
Wildland Fire Dispatcher
The world of dispatching is exciting and challenging. Dispatchers are responsible for mobilizing resources, such as engine crews, helicopters, and airtankers, to wildland fires and other incidents. They coordinate communication between the incident and fire managers and handle requests from the fire for additional personnel and equipment. They also relay important weather information, keep detailed records of incident response, and track resource locations. Multitasking, prioritization skills, and the ability to operate in high-stress situations are essential.
Wildland fire dispatching involves different focus areas, including: initial attack, expanded, aircraft and intelligence.
Fire investigators require specialized skills to determine the scientific method in the origin and cause of a fire.
In areas with a high rate of human-caused fires, fire investigators will work with law enforcement and fire crews to ensure fires are properly investigated to determine the cause and appropriate actions to take. Actions may include cost recovery, prevention/mitigation measures, education campaigns, or pursuing civil/criminal lawsuits.
For more information about specific positions, visit the National Wildfire Coordinating Group Position Catalog.