FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT
Cedar Fire Incident
Engine 6162 Crew Entrapment,
Fatality, and Burn Injuries
October 29, 2003
Draft Standard Operating Procedures
Title: Wildland Firing Operations Standard Operating
Firing operations are often critical operations in the fire management
job. If planned and executed correctly, they can speed control of a fire
and greatly reduce suppression costs. Conversely, if not done right, they
can endanger personnel, extend control time, damage property and increase
Firing operations must not jeopardize the safety of personnel or equipment
or invalidate suppression action on adjacent Divisions/Groups. Confirmation
of this is absolutely mandatory prior to firing. No backfiring action
regardless of strategic importance or other critical factors is worth
risking one human life! When in doubt choose another safe and appropriate
Backfiring operations are a method of indirect attack typically used
against rapidly spreading fires. Safety considerations must be given first
priority. Backfiring must be approved by the Incident Commander and should
be performed by properly certified and qualified personnel.
The most successful backfiring is conducted from completed control lines.
These are best located at a break in the terrain - the lee side of ridgetops
is often best choice, canyon bottoms second choice and benches or roads
in mid-slope third. The third choice is the most dangerous from the personnel
safety standpoint and requires the most skill and understanding of fire
Backfiring is most often used to contain a rapidly spreading fire. Backfiring
provides a wide defense perimeter, and may be further employed to change
the force of the convection column. Backfiring is a tactic which makes
possible a strategy of locating control lines at places where the fire
can be fought safely on the firefighter's terms.
Except for rare circumstances meeting specified criteria, backfiring
is executed on a command decision made through the ICS channels of authority.
Occasionally a situation may develop requiring immediate action to backfire.
Division/Group Supervisors, Initial Attack and Extended Attack Incident
Commanders should be authorized to initiate backfiring provided:
The act does not jeopardize the safety of personnel or invalidate
the actions of adjacent resources and personnel.
A change in weather or fire behavior requires this course of action
to maintain control of the situation or control lines
It is taken to mitigate a safety situation such as creating a safety
or deployment zone
One Certified and Qualified individual must be responsible for controlling
and directing the backfiring operation. If a qualified individual is not
available the operation should not be attempted. In addition to Certified
and Qualified individuals it is also necessary to have available:
Typically Novato Fire District personnel are not certified and qualified
to conduct firing operations; however, they may support a back firing
operation by a certified and qualified individual or team, if needed.
A Burn Out operation is the intentional burning of fuels inside the control
line to strengthen the line. Burning out is almost always done as a part
of line construction (direct attack/parallel attack); the control line
is considered incomplete unless there is no fuel between the fire and
the line. Burn Out operations are typically performed without the approval
of the Incident Commander or direct supervisor however, a notification
of both is essential to avoid confusion regarding observed fire behavior
on the incident.
The following guidelines apply to all firing operations and you must
assure that you:
Do not place fire fighting personnel or the public at risk
Do not put property at risk
Will be able to maintain control of the operation
Will not make the situation worse
Have a beginning point and an ending point (anchor points)
Will be able to complete your operation with the personnel and equipment
Have considered all other options including the use of other tactics
Will not delay suppression activities by spending the time to gather
prepare and execute the firing operation
Coordinate with adjoining resources/personnel
If you can not unequivocally make meet the guidelines of this SOP in
the time available, do not fire!
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