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Unit 9: Extreme Fire Behavior

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Terminology   ::   Tragedy Fires   ::   Predicting Behavior   ::  Safety Precautions  ::   Exercises

Fire Safety Precautions

The last portion of this unit is on fire safety precautions. Once we can realize that certain hazardous conditions can develop on a fire, what do we do about it? First of all, we must recognize our obligation of fighting fires in a safe and effective manner.

Fire Safety Policy : To prevent accidents thereby protecting the lives and well-being of firefighters while accomplishing fire control at least costs.

Still we have accidents on fires, some of which are fatal. A question that might be asked is, "Are these due to acts of God, or to carelessness or lack of knowledge on the part of people?" Certainly many of the fatalities could have been prevented if the proper precautions had been taken.

Major common denominators of fire behavior on tragedy and near miss fires (Carl C. Wilson):

  1. On relatively small fires or deceptively quiet sectors of large fires.
  2. In relatively light fuels, such as grass, herbs, and light brush.
  3. An unexpected shift in wind direction or in wind speed.
  4. Fires responded to topographic conditions and ran uphill.

Cautions and Watch Out Situations

Advice and cautions to firefighters - Be alert and be informed

  1. IN LIGHT FUELS where high rates of spread are possible, i.e., grass and/or brush.
  2. IN STEEP TERRAIN where fire can make an uphill run, i.e., narrow canyons and box canyons.
  3. TO WIND SHIFTS and other weather changes-get latest forecasts, take observations, and watch the sky for indicators.
  4. TO TRAVELING in unfamiliar country, hazardous terrain, and/or heavy fuels.
  5. TO WHAT THE FIRE IS DOING -post lookouts and keep in communication with others on the fire.
  6. TO MEANS OF ESCAPE , i.e., escape routes, safety islands, and fire shelters.
  7. TO PROP WASH AND TURBULENCE from low flying aircraft, i.e., helicopters and air tankers.
  8. TO SUPERVISORS' ORDERS and instructions, and be sure you understand them.

Hazards on the fireline

The figure above illustrates a fire situation where several firefighters are working a spot fire in a canyon. How many hazardous conditions can you identify in this figure? Probably all of the cautions above could apply to the overall situation.

Eighteen situations that shout "watch out" :

  1. Fire not scouted and sized up.
  2. In country not seen in daylight.
  3. Safety zones and escape routes not identified.
  4. Unfamiliar with weather and local factors influencing fire behavior.
  5. Uninformed on strategy, tactics, and hazards.
  6. Instructions and assignments not clear.
  7. No communication link with crew members/supervisors.
  8. Constructing fireline without safe anchor point.
  9. Building fireline downhill with fire below.
  10. Attempting frontal assault on fire.
  11. Unburned fuel between you and the fire.
  12. Cannot see main fire, not in contact with anyone who can.
  13. On a hillside where rolling material can ignite fuel below.
  14. Weather is getting hotter and drier.
  15. Wind increases and/or changes direction.
  16. Getting frequent spot fires across line.
  17. Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zones difficult.
  18. Feel like taking a nap near fireline.

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, November 10). Unit 9: Extreme Fire Behavior. 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