Introduction to the elements of a firing operation
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INTRODUCTION TO THE ELEMENTS OF A FIRING OPERATION. Safety. Ensure the firing operation does not Jeopardize the safety of personnel conducting the firing operation Adversely affect suppression forces in the area. 4320.20 SL 2. Fill the basic functions Lookout(s) / intelligence gathering

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  • Ensure the firing operation does not

    • Jeopardize the safety of personnel conducting the firing operation

    • Adversely affect suppression forces in the area

4320.20 SL 2

Fill the basic functions

Lookout(s) / intelligence gathering

Ignition: the lighters and their supplies

Holding forces

Provide for supplemental resources

Additional forces in staging

Reserves for extensive mop-up



4320.20 SL 4

Conduct Line-Based Firing Operations from Completed Control or Wet Line

  • Completed control line

    • Constructed or existing breaks

    • Wet/foam lines

  • Favorable locations include

    • Ridge-tops or just on the lee side

    • Wide canyon bottoms

    • Roads or benches

4320.20 SL 5

Direction of Progress of Overall Firing Operation

Fire into the wind and/or against the slope whenever possible in order to better control the set fire

Opposing wind and slope will influence the effects of applied fire. You must determine if wind will overpower the effects of slope. If wind influence will have a greater influence than slope, tactics may need to be altered to achieve desired results.

4320.20 SL 6

Anchor Points / Check lines

  • Begin firing at an anchor point to prevent uncontrolled fire from out-flanking you

  • Check lines

    • Temporary, open-ended lines used to slow the rate of fire spread

      • Breaks in fuel (streambeds, rocky areas, etc.)

      • Short hand line

      • Wet or foam lines

      • Air drops

4320.20 SL 7


Hand Off Trouble Spots,

and Keep Moving

4320.20 SL 8


Firing Through Saddles or Reversals of Slope

Firing In Bottoms of Steep Canyons

Firing In Brush Fields

Firing In Timber

Adverse Fuel Conditions

Adverse Weather Conditions

4320.20 SL 9

Firing through saddle or slope reversal.

4320.20 SL 10

4320.20 SL 11

Burn simultaneously from each peak down into the saddle.

4320.20 SL 12

4320.20 SL 13

Segment Firing from Top to Bottom

Firing from the Bottom of a Steep Canyon

Firing Abrupt Bends and Corners

Adjust the firing pattern and holding forces to fit the changing direction of fire movement relative to the line

Wind/slope influence affects each line segment differently - adjust technique to fit

Avoid converging fires in tight bends

4320.20 SL 15

Firing an Outside Corner

4320.20 SL 16

Firing an Inside Corner

4320.20 SL 18

Problems with Lines Running Across the Slope

  • Underslung (fire above)

    • Augment holding forces to control rollouts

    • Remove or reposition problem fuels (logs)

    • Trench the control line

  • Fire below the line

    • Augment holding forces for spot fires

    • Modify the fuel bed

    • Lower-intensity firing patterns

4320.20 SL 19


What problems can switchback cause?

4320.20 SL 20


  • Switchbacks present unique problems

    • Fire environment problems

      • Changes in slope/shape

      • Changes in aspect & fuel bed/loading

      • Changes in wind speed & direction

    • Operational problems

      • Narrow, winding roads

      • Holding difficulties

      • LCES application difficulties

4320.20 SL 21


  • Firing Switchbacks

    • Determine beginning & termination points

    • Divide firing into segments

    • Determine firing sequence

    • Select firing techniques

4320.20 SL 22

Firing Switchbacks

  • Determine firing method for each segment based upon

    • Topography: aspect, slope, shape

    • Depth of burned zone

    • Fuel: type, loading, condition

    • Wind: speed; direction on slope

    • Interrelationship of all factors

4320.20 SL 23

Firing Switchbacks

  • Evaluate switchback firing continuously

    • Fire effects & fire behavior

    • Mutual effects between segments

    • Pace of firing operation

    • Threat to control lines

4320.20 SL 24

It is important to understand the hazards associated with switchbacks. You will be firing a mid-slope road with unburned fuels above you. You must proceed at a pace that ensures you do not generate fire intensity that will cause spot fires.

The following slides depict in general terms tactics that may be employed to fire a switchback. Conditions you encounter will always vary. The tactics used on actual events will depend upon the fire environment and the resource capabilities.

Firing Team Coming Down Road

Check Line

Let’s zoom in and fire this switchback

1. Edge or strip fire into the center of the turn, being careful not to generate spot fires across the road

2. Establish sufficient burn zone before firing lower section of switchback

3. Fire out of switchback from the center of turn, ensuring applied fire does not cross road above you.

Switchbacks can also be fired utilizing spike technique

Firing Team Coming Down Road

Spike fire from upper portion of turn down to the lower portion (Note: this animation reflects upslope or negative wind conditions)

Now let’s fire the switch back with fire on the opposite side of the road

Firing Team Coming Down Road

Check Line

1. Ensure adequate burn zone is established above switchback before proceeding

2. Edge fire the upper segment of the switchback to the apex of turn

3.Slowly edge fire the lower segment of switchback, ensuring no head fire pushes across the road

4. Once lower segment is fired, allow adequate burn zone to develop along switchback before continuing to fire down road

Changing Fire Environment Factors

  • Changing Weather

    • Wind changes

      • Fronts

      • Thunderstorm downdrafts

      • Surfacing of winds aloft

      • Variation over the terrain

      • Diurnal patterns (ex: up/down canyon)

    • Relative humidity and temperature changes

    • Fuel variations

4320.20 SL 35

Changing Fire Environment Factors

  • Changing fire behavior

    • Intensity changes can affect firing techniques and safety (deeper burned zone; larger safety zones)

  • Don’t use multiple strips when fire moves away from the line readily

4320.20 SL 36

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