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Unit 10: Fire Behavior Affects Fireline Tactics

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

Planning Attack on Wildfires

Fire attack methods generally fall into one of these:

  1. Direct attack : A method of suppression in which the fire perimeter of burning edge is treated by wetting, cooling, smothering, or chemically quenching the fire or by mechanically separating the fire from unburned fuel.
  2. Indirect attack : A method of suppression in which the control line is located away from the fire’s edge, perhaps a considerable distance, to take advantage of natural firebreaks or favorable breaks in fuels and topography, and the intervening fuel is burned out or backfired.

Backfiring

We're going to consider various attack methods that fall into one or the other category. First let's look at an indirect attack method that is well known, but seldom used. This is the backfire. The figure below illustrates backfiring from a ridgetop, which is one of the better locations to place a control line. Backfires are used to slow the advance of a hot running head of a fire and to reduce the heat energy at the control lines. Remember that this attack is always indirect; control lines are selected on the firefighters' terms; timing and experience are very important when starting the draft fire; and the strategic decision to backfire is usually made at the command level.

Backfire from a ridge

When direct attack on the head of the fire is not feasible, backfiring might be a consideration. Backfiring can be dangerous and is sometimes done in desperation; however, it is a viable suppression tactic that is sometimes necessary to stop a fire. Planning and carrying out a backfire require the best fire weather and fire behavior inputs you can acquire.

Backfires are used to slow the advance of a hot running head of a fire and to reduce the heat energy output at the control lines. Remember that:

  1. This attack is always indirect.
  2. Control lines are selected on the firefighter’s terms.
  3. Timing is important when starting the draft fire.
  4. The strategical decision to backfire is usually made at the command level.

Other Fireline Tactics

  1. Hotspotting.
  2. Using engines or pumpers.
  3. Cold trailing.
  4. Burning out.
  5. Strip firing in light fuels.

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, November 11). Unit 10: Fire Behavior Affects Fireline Tactics. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: http://ocw.usu.edu/Forest__Range__and_Wildlife_Sciences/Wildland_Fire_Management_and_Planning/Unit_10__Fire_Behavior_Affects_Fireline_Tactics_5.html. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License