What Does a Field Producer Bring When Covering Wildfires?

NBC News field producer Kevin Nious, who is based in the Los Angeles bureau, frequently covers wildfires and other extreme weather in the Western United States. He shared with NBCU Academy what fire safety gear and newsgathering supplies he needs on the go.   

“Your job description as a field producer is to make stuff happen. If you’re not making it happen, that’s not a good day,” Nious said. “I make sure I have my audio recording equipment, video equipment, power source, laptop, internet and safety gear so I can protect myself and get what we need.”  

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Watch the video above or read about Nious’ must-have items below. 

Fire safety gear

  • Nomex fire-resistant clothing  
  • Fire shelter, a fire-resistant blanket that reflects heat. While Nious has trained to use it as a last resort so flames can “pass over” him, he also said, “I pray that it never happens.” 
  • Press badge and relevant legal documents. Nious brings a printed, laminated copy of California Penal Code 409.5, a state law that allows journalists and media professionals to enter disaster zones for reporting, in case anyone tries to block access.

Read more on safely covering wildfires and NBC News correspondent Steve Patterson’s top tips for reporting on wildfires.

Video and Audio Equipment

  • Small camera 
  • Wireless audio lavalier pack 
  • Small tripod

“My job is to scout out the location and make sure the reporter and crew have everything they need for shoots. However, if I get there before the crew, I am the crew,” Nious said.

Power converters and battery packs

  • Car power inverter, which draws power from a car’s auxiliary power outlet or “car cigarette lighter.” Nious’ inverter has USB ports and an electrical plug.  
  • USB power pack to charge phones and other devices.

“One of my assignments was in Idaho in winter. We were out in the field for hours at a time, and when it’s cold, electronic devices utilize more power,” Nious said. “It was vital to have an inverter in the car to not only charge my phone, laptop and accessories, but also my correspondent’s devices.”

Laptop and mobile Wi-Fi (Mi-Fi)

  • Laptop and mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, which Nious calls his “mobile office.”

“I can be out in the middle of a wildfire, crime scene or natural disaster. As long as there’s cellphone service or satellite internet, Mi-Fi and a laptop, you can do essentially everything you can do back at your office,” he said.

Gallery: NBC News Covering Wildfires

NBC News correspondent Steve Patterson and photojournalist Alan Rice cover wildfires in California. The pink substance in some of the photos is fire retardant dropped from aircraft by California officials.