Private firefighting industry growing

Published: Oct. 31, 2019 at 2:27 PM PDT
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Private firefighting continues to grow as an industry. With fires scorching the state of California, some homeowners and insurance companies contract out companies to protect homes and structures in wildfires.

"We've been doing the private sector for three years," Ryan Bellanca, of

, says. "And we've had one that was successful and another was cancelled and that happens, you get called and get dismissed all the time."

Mark Winkelman is a battalion chief with the Reno Fire Department who says during wildfires it can be challenging to coordinate with private crews.

"The problem we have with the private firefighting companies is actually knowing they're on the fire," Wingelman says. "It's important to us to have accountability on all the firefighters that are working and sometimes those folks get lost in the shuffle because they don't come through federal contracts so it makes it difficult to track what they're actually doing on the fire."

Winkelman says that everything comes down to good communication and without it things can easily go sideways. Bellanca agrees but says it goes both ways.

"Yeah I could see how that could get real complicated but like on this last fire these guys showed up as we were conducting our operation we had a strike team of folks come in and we definitely meshed just fine but the way that some folks wanted to work with us and some wanted to ignore us," Bellanca says.

Winkelman recently worked with private firefighters and says that time, things ran smoothly.

"Those firefighters did check in and they had the correct communication so that one went pretty well," he says.

A 2012 study from

shows that private firefighting raked in a revenue stream of $2.1 billion across the country.

Bellanca believes that it comes down to luck and resources in wildfires.

"We responded to the Kincade Fire to our client and his wishes were help any of my neighbors you can if my house is okay and so we did that and we fought fire the whole night in the neighborhood," he says.