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Unit 10: Fire Behavior Affects Fireline Tactics

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Management  ::   Control Lines   ::   Standards   ::   Attack Planning   ::   Planning   ::   Exercises


Upon completion of this unit you will be expected to:

  • List five reasons for flanking a fire running up slope or driven by strong winds.
  • Describe six hazards involved when constructing fireline near the bottoms of deep, narrow canyons.
  • Give five problems related to heat transfer which affect the standards for constructing fireline, then give precautionary measures that should be taken against each.
  • Determine locations for firelines in mountainous terrain based on fuels, wind, slope, and fire conditions.
  • Given direct and indirect methods of attack, discuss when you would use each method.
  • Discuss why timing is important to various fire control activities.
  • Explain how fire behavior values for rate of spread, flame length, probability of ignition, and moisture of extinction are used in fire control planning.

Fire Management Overview

In Unit 1, we identified a need for fire behavior knowledge and predictions as an aid to managers in decision making to achieve fire management objectives. Wildfires and the control actions taken to suppress them can be very costly. Resource managers and the general public take a justifiably critical view of poor tactical decisions that escalate fire costs. At the same time, losses of life and property due to fire trigger investigations to determine whether neglect or poor tactical judgments were responsible.

In addition to discussing the numerous factors making up the fire environment, the first nine units of this course have taken you through many of the steps required for making fire behavior calculations and predictions. Input values needed for such calculations have been covered. This is a complex process which will be continued in Unit 11 on fire behavior predictions.

Fire personnel must continually assess potential fire behavior, but not everyone will be making fire behavior calculations using mathematical models. Nevertheless it is important for fire personnel to recognize the value and utility of these calculations. In this unit, we will apply both fire behavior predictions made using models and general fire behavior assessments to fire management decisions, including fire suppression tactics.


Fire management objectives include:

  1. The protection of high values with reasonable losses due to wildfires.
  2. The cost effectiveness of suppression forces.
  3. The accurate assessment of hazards and safety practices followed.
  4. The safe containment of management fires.


Fire Suppression Tactics : The science and art of deploying and maneuvering forces against wildfire.

Fire behavior considerations must play an important role in tactical decisions made to manage or control wildland fires.

  1. Locations of control lines.
  2. Standards for fireline construction.
  3. Use of direct or indirect attack.
  4. Limitations on use of forces.
  5. Identification of hazardous fire conditions.
  6. Timing of control actions.



In this unit, we want to tie outputs from the fire behavior model to fire control planning and to give you practice in working with these values. In the figure above, we have diagrammed the relationships of fire behavior inputs, outputs, and various tactical planning needs. Notice how the four primary inputs of fuel model, fuel moisture, windspeed, and slope percent are tied to fire behavior outputs. Rate of spread, flame length, fireline intensity, and probability of ignition have been discussed in previous units. These four output values, plus the basic input values, are all used in the fire control planning process. Each of the segments of planning involves consideration of each of the fire behavior input and output values. This planning, and subsequent field operations, will determine success in meeting fire management objectives.

Copyright 2008, Michael Jenkins. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, November 10). Unit 10: Fire Behavior Affects Fireline Tactics. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License