Fireline safety
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Fireline Safety. Heather Heward. A state of mind. Safety is a state of mind Safety is always the first priority Safety is your responsibility. Overview. Physical fitness Proper equipment 10 standard firefighting orders 18 watchout situations Hazards Situational awareness .

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Fireline safety

Fireline Safety

Heather Heward

A state of mind

A state of mind

  • Safety is a state of mind

  • Safety is always the first priority

  • Safety is your responsibility



  • Physical fitness

  • Proper equipment

  • 10 standard firefighting orders

  • 18 watchout situations

  • Hazards

  • Situational awareness

Physical fitness

Physical Fitness

  • Fire fighting is a demanding job which required you to be both mentally and physically fit

    • 2 parts of fitness

      • Aerobic fitness – related to oxygen intake, regulates work capacity

      • Muscular fitness – includes both strength and endurance

    • Being fit will allow you to be more tolerant of heat, acclimate faster, work with lower hart rates and body temperatures

Fitness levels

Fitness levels

  • Pack test is the only physical requirement

    • 3 miles

    • 45 pounds

    • 45 minutes

  • Recommended line crew

Physical fitness1

Physical fitness

  • Fitness tests

  • Fatigue

    • 2 to 1 work to rest

  • Heat stress and dehydration

    • Water and electrolytes

  • Smoke and carbon monoxide

  • Food and nutrition

    • 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day

Heat stress

Heat stress

Proper equipment

Proper equipment

  • PPE

    • Wear it right

  • Fire shelter

  • Line gear

  • Personal gear

Ppe required

PPE – required

  • Flame resistant shirt and pants

    • Made from Nomax or Kevlar

    • clean, no holes or tears and has no gas or oil stains.

  • Boots and socks

    • leather 8 inch (no steal toe)

    • cotton or wool socks

  • Hard hat

    • plastic, light weight…

  • Gloves

    • Leather, no gap between glove and shirt

  • Chaps

  • Hearing protection

  • Eye protection

Ppe recommended

PPE – recommended

  • Wear a 2nd layer - typically cotton

  • Goggles

  • Hood or Shroud

Fire shelter

Fire Shelter

  • A fire shelter is a required piece of safety gear

    • Protects you by reflecting radiant heat and trapping air


Preparing for a wildland fire line gear

Preparing for a wildland fire (line gear)

  • Nomex Shirt and Pants

  • All-leather 8” Boots with nonskid soles

  • Hardhat w/ headlamp clips and chin strap

  • Neck shroud

  • Headlamp and batteries

  • Fire Shelter

  • Radio and harness

  • Leather gloves

  • Eye protection

  • Hearing protection

  • Fuseesand lighter

  • Compass and/or GPS

  • Canteens

  • Extra batteries

  • First aid kit

  • Task book

  • MRE or other food

  • Fire line handbook

  • Map/IAP

  • TP

  • Warm layer

  • Rain gear

  • Flagging

  • Parachute cord

  • Knife

Preparing for a wildland fire personal gear

Preparing for a wildland fire (personal gear)

  • 2 set of nomex

  • Underwear, t-shirts, socks

  • Washcloth, towel, soap, shampoo

  • Toothbrush, tooth paste

  • Medications/vitamins

  • Money

  • Camera

  • Bathing suit

  • Flashlight

  • Knife

  • Hat and gloves

  • Warm layers

  • Shower shoes

  • Tent and sleeping bag

  • Extra boot laces

  • Handkerchiefs

  • Book

  • Street clothes

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

  • Developed in 1957

  • Are absolute

    • Common reasons for breaking one of the orders

      • Ignorance – lack adequate training

      • Over confidence – excessive “can do” attitude

      • Lack of empowerment – thinking someone else will take care you

    • Work on making the firefighting orders instinctive

10 standard wildland firefighting orders1

10 standard wildland firefighting orders


  • Keep informed on fire weather conditions and forecasts

  • Know what your fire is doing at all times

  • Base all actions on current and expected fire behavior


  • Identify escape routes and safety zones, and make them known

  • Post lookouts when there is possible danger

  • Be alert. Keep calm. Think clearly. Act decisively


  • Maintain prompt communication with your forces, your supervisor and adjoining forces

  • Give clear instructions and be sure they are understood

  • Maintain control of your forces at all times


  • Fight fire aggressively, having provided for safety first

10 standard wildland firefighting orders2

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

  • Keep informed on fire weather conditions and forecasts

    • 2 types of weather information

      • Tactical – fire weather observations

      • Strategic

        • Spot weather forecasts

        • Long range forecasts

10 standard wildland firefighting orders3

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

  • Know what the fire is doing at all times

    • Keep track of:

      • the location of the fire perimeter

      • the rate and direction of spread

      • fuel cover

      • fire behavior

      • location of fuel breaks

      • spotting

    • Obtain information from:

      • personal observation

      • Lookout

      • Supervisor

10 standard wildland firefighting orders4

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

  • Base all actions on current and expected fire behavior

    • Constantly evaluate the fire behavior and detect subtle changes

    • 3 possible outcomes fire behavior:

      • stays the same

      • lessons

      • gets worse

        Make sure to have a plan for all three!

10 standard wildland firefighting orders5

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

  • Identify escape routes and safety zones and make them known

    • Safety Zone: refuge from an unexpected change in fire behavior

      • Void of fuels

      • Not a deployment zone

    • Escape route: way you get personnel from where you are working to the safety zone

      • quick safe passage from your work site to the safety zone

10 standard wildland firefighting orders6

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

  • Post lookouts when there is possible danger

    • Tasks:

      • Weather

      • Fire behavior

      • Smoke

      • Communications

      • Know crew location and tactics

    • Tools

      • Belt weather kit

      • Compass/GPS/Map

      • Binoculars

      • Radio and plenty of batteries

      • Extra foul weather gear (sun or rain)

      • Comfort

    • Lookouts should be knowledgeable in fire behavior and understand the significance of changes and identify hazardous situations

10 standard wildland firefighting orders7

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

  • Be alert. Keep calm. Think clearly. Act Decisively

    • The key is to understand and avoid what may cause you to be less alert, to get overexcited, or to become mentally disorganized

      • To counteract this you should:

        • Maintain self control

        • Eat and drink correctly

        • Get adequate rest

        • Develop contingency plans

        • Monitor the situation

        • Take regular breaks

10 standard wildland firefighting orders8

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

  • Maintain communications with your forces, your supervisor and adjoining forces

    • Ensures you can receive or report changes in instructions; warnings of changing conditions; changes in status; or progress reports.

      • extra batteries and a back up plan for communication

10 standard wildland firefighting orders9

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

  • Give clear instructions and be sure they are understood

    • Be concise and clear when providing instructions

    • Ask to have instructions repeated if you do not understand them

10 standard wildland firefighting orders10

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

  • Maintain control of your forces at all times

    • To help ensure this

      • Ensure your instructions are clear, concise and understood

      • Maintain communications

      • Know the location of your crew

      • Know the status of the fire

    • The key is to be prepared to react quickly and effectively to the unexpected

10 standard wildland firefighting orders11

10 standard wildland firefighting orders

  • Fight fire aggressively, having provided for safety first

    • If you can not ensure you can fight the fire on your terms stop and reevaluate

    • To fight fire aggressively you must:

      • Lookout

      • Communication

      • Escape Route

      • Safety Zone

      • IRPG

Watch out situations

Watch out situations

  • Fire not scouted and sized up

  • In country not seen in daylight

  • Safety zones and escape routes not identified

  • Unfamiliar with weather and local factors influencing fire behavior

  • Uninformed on strategy, tactics and hazards

  • Instructions and assignments not clear

  • No communication link with crew members or supervisor

Watch out situations1

Watch out situations

  • Constructing line without a safe anchor point

  • Building fireline downhill with fire below

  • Attempting frontal assault on fire

  • Unburned fuel between you and the fire

  • Cannot see the main fire; not in contact with someone who can

  • On a hillside where rolling material can ignite fuel below

  • Weather becoming hotter and drier

Watch out situations2

Watch out situations

  • Wind increases and/or changes direction

  • Getting frequent spot fires across the fireline

  • Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zones difficult

  • Taking a nap near the fireline

Common denominators in fire fatalities

Common denominators in fire fatalities

Fireline safety


  • L – Lookouts

  • C – Communications

  • E – Escape routes

  • S – Safety zones

  • A simple way to help remember the key elements to survival

Fireline safety


  • The Lookout has to:

    • Know the location of the escape routes and safety zones

    • Be experienced enough to properly evaluate the present and potential fire behavior

    • Take weather readings

    • Understand the tactics and strategy

    • Always be able to see the fire

    • Handle other fire communication tasks

    • Look at the bigger picture

Fireline safety


  • Communications

    • See, track, record, interpret, anticipate and report. If the report is not made , all the other stuff is meaningless!

    • Fireline communication:

      • Incident name and IC

      • Immediate supervisor

      • Days plan

      • Days tactics

      • Safety zone and escape routes

      • Communication plan – channels and repeaters

      • AAR

Fireline safety


  • Escape Routes

    • One or more ways to exit danger

      • clearly identified

      • be clear of obstacles

      • short in length

      • not go up hill if possible

      • Decision (trigger) points - when you move to safety

      • Timed and practiced

      • Think about alternatives

Fireline safety


  • Safety Zones

    • A properly designated safety zone should not require the deployment of a fire shelter.

      • large enough to protect firefighters under worse than predicted fire behavior

      • As work progresses along the line new safety zones will have to be identified along with new escape routes.

Fireline hazards

Fireline Hazards

  • Smoke and Dust

  • Snags

  • Stump holes

  • Darkness

  • Footing

  • Rocks

  • Branches/overhead hazards

  • Weather

  • Stobs/roots

  • Pumps, tanks, hoses

  • Bucket/retardant drops

Vehicle hazards

Vehicle hazards

  • Driving is the most dangerous component of fire fighting

    • Fatigue

    • Dust

    • Unfamiliar routes

    • Darkness

    • Bridge weight limits

    • Excessive traffic

    • Parking

    • Vehicle maintenance

    • Emergency response speed i.e. the speed limit

    • Local traffic laws

    • Horse play

    • Loose equipment on vehicle

Aircraft hazards

Aircraft Hazards

  • At the air field

    • Enter and exit

    • Follow instructions

  • Fireline

    • Bucket/retardant drops

    • Sling loads

    • General recon

    • Rotor wash

    • Radio communications

    • Ground contacts

Other hazards

Other hazards

  • Ticks, snakes, and poison oak and ivy

  • Power lines

  • Hazmat

  • People

  • Animals

  • Propane and Utilities

  • Septic

Wildland urban interface hazards

Wildland urban interface hazards

  • Hazardous materials – dangerous gases from burning material

  • Propane tanks – can act as bombs

  • Traffic – can be a major issue so drive carefully

  • Panicked public – help public move form harms way

Human hazards

Human Hazards

  • Attitude

  • Physical conditioning

  • Training levels

  • Experience

  • Fatigue

  • Local knowledge

  • Crew dynamics

  • Chain of command

  • Span of control

  • Effective communications

Human factors

Human Factors

  • Common barriers to good listening:

    • Perceived opinions

    • Distractions

    • Filtering information

    • Not listening

    • Having an attitude

      Every firefighter is responsible for open, effective communication

Five basic communication responsibilities

Five basic communication responsibilities

  • Briefings

    • The passing of general information

  • Debriefing

    • After an incident or event you ask questions of those involved to learn what happened

  • Warnings

    • Information about hazards is passed on

  • Acknowledge messages

    • You say you understand the information or orders

  • Questions

    • You ask for clarification

After you receive an order

After you receive an order

  • You should be able to answer the following:

    • What task am I to perform?

    • What are the known hazards?

    • Where do I go to be safe?

    • How do I get to this place?

Situational awareness

Situational awareness

  • Situational awareness is the gathering of information by observation or through communications

    • This means constantly reassessing the situation as things change

  • Factors that hinder your situational awareness

    • Inexperience

    • Stress

    • Fatigue

    • Attitude

Final thoughts

Final thoughts

  • Remember:

    • It is YOUR responsibility to be safe on the fireline

    • There are no stupid questions, if you don’t know ask

  • Work on your situational experience by reflecting back on the good, the bad the ugly.



  • Why is physical fitness important

  • List the main personal equipment items you need to be a safe firefighter

  • What are the categories of the 10 standard fire orders? What is the most important one?

  • What is the purpose of the 18 watchout situations and what should you do if you are breaking some?

  • What does a lookout do?

  • What is makes communication successful?

  • List several fireline, vehicle, aircraft, and human hazards

  • Situational awareness

The incident command system

The Incident Command System

Heather Heward

Ics definition

ICS - Definition

  • Organizational management system based on:

    • Successful business practices

    • Decades of lessons learned

  • Developed in the 1970’s after a series of catastrophic wildfire in California.

    • Unclear chain of command

    • Poor communication between agencies

    • Failure to outline clear objectives and action plans

    • Lack of designated facilities

    • Inability to expand and contract to fit situation

Ics basic features

ICS – Basic Features

  • Clear text and common terminology

  • Modular organization

  • Management objectives

  • Reliance on an Incident Action Plan (IAP)

  • Manageable span of control

  • Designated locations and facilities

  • Resources management

  • Integrated communications

  • Chain of command and utility of command

  • Unified command

  • Transfer of command

  • Accountability

  • Mobilization

  • Information and intelligence management

Incident commander and staff

Incident Commander and Staff

  • Manage entire incident

    • Ensure incident safety

    • Provide information to stakeholders

    • Establish and maintain contact with other participating agencies

  • Support staff

    • Public information officer

    • Safety officer

    • Liaison officer

General staff

General staff

General staff operation section

General Staff – Operation section

  • Major functions

    • Implement tactics to achieve objectives

    • Assign resources and monitor progress

    • Report back

  • Organization positions

    • Staging area manager

    • Operations branch director

    • Division/Group supervisor

    • Task Force/Strike team leader

    • Single resources

General staff planning section

General Staff – Planning Section

  • Major functions

    • Gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence and information

    • IAP

    • Long-range and contingency planning

    • Maintaining documentation

    • Check in, tracking, and demob

  • Units

    • Resources

    • Situation

    • Documentation

    • Demobilization

General staff logistics section

General Staff – Logistics Section

  • Major Functions

    • Ordering, obtaining, maintaining, and accounting for essential personnel, equipment, and supplies

    • Communication planning and equipment

    • Food services

    • Incident facilities

    • Support transportation

    • Medical services

  • Services branch

    • Communications

    • Medical

    • Food

  • Support Branch

    • Supply

    • Facilities

    • Ground support

General staff finance section

General Staff – Finance section

  • Major functions

    • Negotiating and monitoring contracts

    • Timekeeping

    • Analyzing costs

    • Injury and property damage compensation

  • Units

    • Time

    • Procurement

    • Compensation/claims

    • Cost

Common responsibilities

Common Responsibilities

  • Resource Order

    • Incident name

    • Location

    • Assignment

    • Base phone number

    • Reporting date, time, location

    • Communication (frequencies)

    • Special support requirements

    • Travel authorization

Common responsibilities1

Common Responsibilities

  • Check in

    • Keep track of resources

    • Prepare for future paperwork

  • Initial incident briefing

    • Current situation

    • Job responsibilities

    • Location of work area

    • Communication

    • Coworkers

    • Eating and sleeping arrangements

    • Procedure for resupply

Common responsibilities2

Common Responsibilities

  • Common duties during operational period

    • Acquire needed materials

    • Organize and brief subordinates

    • Debrief

  • Demobilization

    • Brief replacement resources

    • Performance evaluations

    • Check-out

    • Return equipment

    • Post-incident reports

    • Payment paperwork

Discussion questions

Discussion Questions

  • What is the purpose of the Incident Command System?

  • When and where was it developed?

  • What are the support staff groups for the IC?

  • What are some major roles of each of the general staff of the Incident Command Team?

  • What should be included in the initial briefing on arrival at an incident?

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