Vehicles | October 22, 2020 8:11 am

Filson Teamed Up With Ford for a Stylish Bronco That’s Built to Fight Forest Fires

The Wildland Fire Rig recalls retro Forest Service vehicles in both paint and purpose

Filson Bronco
The Bronco Wildland Fire Rig, a concept firefighting vehicle from Filson and Ford.
Ford + Filson

On Friday, Ford is opening its online build-and-price tool for the new Bronco back up. The module, which lets prospective customers play around with colors, upgrades and configurations before plopping down the $100 reservation fee, was taken offline after the system was overwhelmed with demand. As Dave Rivers, SUV marketing manager at Ford, told InsideHook, reservations have already exceeded 165,000.

The delay ended up being a blessing in disguise, as reservation holders just got some new inspiration for their potential Bronco builds. Today, Ford announced the Wildland Fire Rig, a concept Bronco made in collaboration with heritage outdoor brand Filson. 

On its face, it’s an enviable, backwoods-ready off-roader, featuring Filson materials like the brand’s duck canvas and bridle leather, a sweet minty green paint job — a color you may recognize from official U.S. Forest Service vehicles, like previous generation Broncos — and a full-bore firefighting skid, high-pressure hose, Pulaski axes and all. But as the name and the deadly serious gear suggest, this vehicle has a purpose beyond, you know, selling more Broncos. 

Filson Ford Bronco Wildland Fire Rig concept vehicle
A classic Bronco in forest service green next to the new Wildland Fire Rig concept.
Ford + Filson

“We would not be able to do our work in helping the American public and the Forest Service steward these lands without collaborations like these,” explained Mary Mitsos, president and CEO of the National Forest Foundation

That’s the key element of the Wildland Fire Rig: it’s not simply a collaboration between two storied American brands to excite their fanbases (though that’s certainly part of it). It also includes a third partner, the nonprofit National Forest Foundation, which will receive support financially for conservation, and also support for awareness around responsible use of the outdoors — something new Bronco owners may need to be reminded of.

“The ability to have these brands help us, and us help them, to communicate to the American public the importance of recreating responsibly — you know, a lot of first-time users don’t necessarily know how to do that and they can cause unintended damage that then we need to repair, so if we can cut that off in the beginning that’s probably message number one,” said Mitsos. “Message number two is that through planting a million trees in a year — [Ford is] our biggest anchor partner that we’ve ever had in our tree-planting campaign effort — the ability to plant a million trees a year in places that have been impacted by natural disturbance, where forests won’t be forests again without human intervention, is just astounding.”

Filson firefighting Bronco
The Filson Bronco concept features a fully functional firefighting skid.
Ford + Filson

To achieve these goals, Ford announced the Bronco Wild Fund this week, an endowment funded by proceeds from vehicle sales that will support nonprofits in preservation, like the NFF’s “50 Million for Our Forests” tree-planting initiative, as well as education around outdoor recreation. For its part, Filson also released a capsule collection with Bronco today — a T-shirt, water bottle and duffel bag — and a portion of the proceeds will go to the NFF. But as Mitsos made clear, Filson has a long history of supporting national forests in a variety of ways. In fact, Director of Marketing Doug Thielen and the Filson team are the people who introduced Mitsos and the NFF to Ford in the first place.

If you want to see the Wildland Fire Rig in person, the companies will be touring it around the country, starting at Filson’s Seattle flagship store this Friday before heading to places like Mammoth and Moab. But what happens after that? Is the concept vehicle itself just that, an idea rather than a workhorse?

Not quite. Rivers said that Ford is working on donating two Broncos to wildland firefighting companies sometime next summer — something all parties involved said was even more important in light of the recent devastating U.S. wildfires. Currently, the company is working with Mitsos to find who could use them, and once they connect, the automaker won’t simply be handing over replicas of what they’ve put together with Filson — they’ll be asking the firefighters for their input about what their ideal firefighting rig looks like.

“I’m not able to say what the concept becomes,” River said, when asked if Bronco owners may be able to incorporate any of the Filson elements, or the coveted forest service green color, into their own builds sometime in the future. But he also didn’t shut it down. 

“We’re going to test this concept a little bit further,” he said.