We dont use scbas because we are always required to wear a line pack with a fire shelter on it. A scba would be to dangoures to wear in a shelter.When you are trying to catch a grass fire a 35 pound pack is plenty of weight a air tank would just slow you down and fatigue you way to much.
When addressing the use of air packs on brush fires, you have to look at the entire ensemble, not just the use of airpacks. This includes the selection and use of PPE. Some years back now, my department, after much discussion and support from our local, adopted a new policy to use only single layering for wildland PPE. The prior system using your blue nomex work pants over yellow wildland nomex PPE caused heat issues and hampered firefighters movement. We took our lead from the USFS who has been wearing single layering for years. We were also significantly impacted by the death of a young Santa Barbara firefighter who died of heat stroke wearing full double layered PPE and walking as an EMT to his assignment on one of the divisions... by himself. So bringing hydration issues and reminding folks to always at least consider using the buddy system.
In regard to the USFS stance on SCBA's usage, Chief Waller from Hilton Head FD was right on the money. The USFS is no longer in the business to provide structure protection. The 2006 California Esperanza Incident that claimed 5 USFS firefighters has had long lasting effects on the USFS system and fire tactics philosophy. What's good about this is that when you are around a structure of car fire, lots of nasty toxins are in the air and the USFS recognizes these hazards and have taken action to provide firefighter protection, both physically and legally.
For those of us who work for all-risk departments, or in other words, when the bells go off, we get to deal with the issues from start to finish, then you have to be very heads up to both mitigate the incident as well as protect your personnel. To ask the question about whether or not to wear a pack at a brush fire requires first a basic review of routes of entry that can include inhalation, absorption and ingestion exposures. Wearing the proper PPE provides protection needed to be able to live to your retirement age and enjoy a half way decent quality of life.
Over 25 years ago, when I was a firefighter but also one of the first hazmat technicians on my department, having attended the National Fire Academies Hazmat Chemistry and Tactics courses, I had a better insight into providing personal protection where it wasn't currently being afforded. I purchased my own double cartridge respirator and wore it on brush fires when I was in heavy smoke. A friend of mine gave me a pretty hard time for wearing the respirator. Called me a female cat... and everyone had a laugh. My thoughts and defense was that there was a lot of waste burning in the brush with a lot of different colors of smoke. After having the toxicology training, it didn't take a nobel prize laureate to figure out that something just wasn't right. I got over the teasing and eventually the entire department was issued nomex covered carbon filtered masks that is kept with the fire shelter for every firefighter. The bad news here is that my buddy was diagnosed a couple years back with non-operative brain cancer. I believe that the exposure mentioned above, some 20 years + ago could have certainly played a part in his brain cancer. It takes up to 20 years in some cases for cancers to show themselves. The wildcard here is your personal genetics. We are all built different and can handle different kids of exposures better than others dependent upon where your roots were... and what you were exposed to.
I'm assuming here that anyone reading this knows the dangers of things that burn. Wool carpeting gives off cyanide gas, telephone poles or railroad ties for example that give off absolutely deadly gases because of the arsenic used to bug / weatherproof the wood. The plastics and synthetics found in cars and houses produce even more toxic compounds that I promise you, will shorten your life span as well as degrade your quality of life if you allow yourself to be
Here in TX, most of our brush trucks have a place behind the cab for firefighters to fight wildfires. We dont ever get off the truck except for mop up. I totally disagree with wearing SCBA at a wild fire.
#1-firefighters cant actually feel the heat as much as non packed firefighters.
#2-u cannot tell the actual smoke intensity, thus causing the truck or pump to choke up because lack of air.
#3-I dont really want to carry a pack around just because, it has a use and wildland fires are not one of them. If your driver/operator is doing his job, he will put you on the fireline with very or little smoke. WHIFFS are a must. dust masks,nomex hood etc.. are also a must.
This is just my opinion, take it for what it's worth. been on several over 1,000 + and never had a use for and air pack. We do have them on our brush rigs though, in case of a structure that is threatned or possibly involved. I like using brush gear instead of bunker gear. Bunker gear at a grass fire in TX will not do you much good after about an hour you will be in the box getting an I.V.
Like i said earlier just my opinion and what we do at our dept. Stay Safe