Wildland Fire Suppression Tactics Reference Guide
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INTRODUCTION TO REFERENCE GUIDE
- FIRE ORDERS
- WATCH OUT SITUATIONS
- LOOKOUTS, COMMUNICATIONS, ESCAPE ROUTES, SAFETY ZONES
SECTION 2—USE OF WATER AND ADDITIVES
- Types of Pumps
- Series, Parallel, and Staged Pumping
- Hose Lays
- Tactical Use of Water
- Class A Foam
SECTION 3—USE OF FIRE IN CONTROL OPERATIONS
- Burning Out and Backfiring
- Types of Fire Spread
- Ignition Techniques
- Strip Firing
- One, Two, Three -Three, Two, One (1-2-3/3-2-1) Firing Concept
- Head and Strip Head Firing
- Blowhole Firing
- Spot Firing
- Ring Firing
- Chevron Firing
- Burn Strip
- Planning and Conducting Firing Operations
- Special Firing Considerations
- Firing Equipment
SECTION 4—MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT
- Comparison of Dozers Used For Fireline Construction
- Dozer Production Rates
- Dozer Line Construction Principles
- Tractor Plows
- Principles of Tractor/Plow Operations
- Mobile Attack
- Tandem Tactic
- Pincer Tactic
- Envelopment Tactic
- Stationary Attack
- Inside-out Tactic
- Parallel Attack
- Engine Production Rates
SECTION 5—TACTICAL AIR OPERATIONS
- Factors Affecting Aircraft Use
- Factors to Consider in Retardant Aircraft Use
- Types, Effects, and Use of Retardant
- Recommended Retardant Coverage Levels
- Retardant Evaluation Criteria
- Air Tanker Tactics
- Principles of Retardant Application
SECTION 6 -WILDLAND/URBAN INTERFACE
- Kinds of Wildland/Urban Interface
- Structural Fire Behavior
- WildlandlUrban Fire Sizeup Considerations
- Structure Triage
- WildlandlUrban Interface Firefighting Tactics
- Structure Full Containment
- Structure Partial Containment
- Structure No Containment
- Structural Firefighting Situations That Shout "Watch
- Structural Watch Out Situations & Triage Made Easier
SECTION 7 -FUELS, FIRE BEHAVIOR, AND TACTICS BY GEOGRAPHIC
AREAS OF THE UNITED STATES
- Northwest and Northern Rocky Mountains
- Southern and Central California
- Great Basin and Southern Rocky Mountains
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
SUPPRESSION TACTICS REFERENCE GUIDE
SECTION 1 -FIRE SUPPRESSION PRINCIPLES
MINIMUM IMPACT SUPPRESSION TACTICS (MIST)
The following guidelines for MINIMUM IMPACT SUPPRESSION are for agency
administrators, incident management teams, and firefighters to consider.
Some or all of the items may apply, depending upon the situation.
Managers and firefighters need to ask, "Are suppression and mopup
tactics commensurate with the fire's potential to spread and cause resource
damage in this land allocation? What tactics are adequate for the behavior
of this fire? Are our tactics causing long-term adverse impacts on the
land? Will MIST compromise firefighter safety?"
One evident tactic is the choice of fireline to use. There are good
examples where cattle trails in fine fuels on 30% slopes were used as
fireline and as the anchoring point for burnout. There are bad tactical
examples in similar or lighter fuels where blade-wide dozer lines were
used. In some cases, several blade-wide parallel dozer lines through
grass/scab areas were made. Dozer lines are now in places where vehicle
trails did not exist, thus opening additional area to possible destructive
Good tactical examples exist on easily accessible ground where fire
spread was halted by engines driven along the fire perimeter using water
for holding and extinguishing fire spread. In similar situations, bad
examples exist where dozer lines were constructed parallel to existing
gravel roads that could have served as adequate firelines.
Another very evident tactic that causes long-term lasting impact and
resource loss is tree cutting. A bad tactical example exists in a situation,
where up to 400 yards inside the fire's perimeter, living ponderosa pine
that had minimum fire in the base have been cut. Instead of using hand
pumps and/or dirt, the chain saw served as a means to extinguish the
fire from the base of these trees, which often have evidence of past
fires extinguished naturally or by some other means. The question needs
to be asked. "Even if a tree is on fire and may never be used for
timber volume, why is it being cut?" Dead, standing trees are acknowledged
as a resource for some specific management objectives.
COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF
- Evaluate each and every suppression tactic during planning and
strategy sessions to see that they meet agency administrator objectives
and minimum impact suppression guidelines.
- Include agency resource advisor and/or local representative in
- Discuss MIST with other overhead during operational period briefings,
to gain full understanding of tactics.
MIST are implemented during line construction as well as other resource
- Use resource advisor to evaluate that suppression tactics are commensurate
with land/resource objectives, and incident objectives.
- Use an assessment team for a different perspective of the situation.
- Use additional consultation from “publics” or someone
outside the agency, especially if the fire has been, or is expected
to be, burning for an extended period of time.
- Adjust line production rates to reflect the minimum impact suppression
- Use brush blade for line building-when dozer line is determined
as necessary tactic.
- Leave some trees randomly in fireline.
- Ensure that instructions for minimum impact suppression tactics
are listed in the Incident Action Plan.
- Detail objectives for extent of mopup necessary-for instance: “_______ distance
within perimeter boundary.”
- If helicopters are involved, use long line remote hook in lieu
of helispots to deliver/retrieve gear.
- Anticipate fire behavior and ensure all instructions can be implemented
- Consider coyote camps versus fixed camp site in sensitive areas.
- If extremely sensitive area, consider use of portable facilities
(heat/cook units, latrines).
- Emphasize minimum impact suppression tactics during each operational
- Encourage strike team leaders and crew superintendents to provide
input on firefighter safety as it relates to MIST.
- Explain expectations for instructions listed in Incident Action
- Consider showing minimum impact suppression slide-tape program
or video to the crews upon arrival at airport/incident.
- Consider judicious use of helicopters-consider long lining instead
of helispot construction.
- Use natural openings so far as practical.
- Consider use of helibucket and water/foam before calling for air
- Monitor suppression tactics/conditions.
actions performed around areas other than incident base, i.e., dump sites,
camps, staging areas, helibases, etc., result in minimum impact upon
DIVISION/GROUP SUPERVISOR AND STRIKE TEAM/TASK FORCE LEADER
- Ensure crew superintendents and single resource bosses understand
what is expected.
- Discuss minimum impact tactics with crew.
- Ensure dozer and falling bosses understand what is expected.
- If helicopters are involved, use natural openings as much as possible;
minimize cutting only to allow safe operation.
- Avoid construction of landing areas in high visitor use areas.
- Ensure/monitor results expected.
- Discuss minimum impact suppression tactics with crew.
- Provide feedback on implementation of tactics-were they successful
in halting fire spread; what revisions are necessary.
- Look for opportunities to further minimize impact to land and resources
during the suppression and mopup phase.
- Emphasize use of lookouts.
MIST Implementation Guidelines
Minimum impact suppression is an increased emphasis to do the job of
suppressing a wildland fire while maintaining a high standard of caring
for the land. Actual fire conditions and your good judgment will dictate
the actions you take. Consider what is necessary to halt fire spread
and ensure it is contained within the fireline or designated perimeter
Safety is of utmost importance.
Constantly review and apply the Watchout Situations and Fire Orders.
particularly cautious with:
- burning snags you allow to burn down
or partially burned live and dead trees -unburned fuel between
you and the fire
- hazard trees (identify them with either observer,
flagging, and/or glow-sticks)
Be constantly aware of the surroundings, of expected fire behavior,
and possible fire perimeter one or two days hence.
- Select procedures, tools, equipment that least impact the environment.
- Give serious consideration to use of water as a firelining tactic
(fireline constructed with nozzle pressure, wetlining)
- In light fuels:
- cold-trail line
- allow fire to burn to natural barrier
- consider burn out and use of gunnysack or swatter
recheck cold trailed fireline
- if constructed fireline is necessary,
use minimum width and depth to check fire spread
- consider use of natural barriers and cold-trailing
- consider cooling with dirt and water, and cold-trailing
- if constructed
fireline is necessary, use minimum width and depth to check fire
- minimize bucking to establish fireline; preferably build
line around logs
- Aerial fuels:—brush, trees, and snags:
- adjacent to fireline: limb
only enough to prevent additional fire spread
- inside fireline: remove or limb only those fuels which if ignited
would have potential to spread fire outside the fireline
or small trees that are necessary to cut during fireline construction
will be cut flush with the ground
burned trees, and snags:
cutting of trees, burned trees, and snags
- live trees will not be cut, unless determined they will cause
fire spread across the fireline or seriously endanger workers.
If tree cutting occurs, cut stumps flush with the ground
- scrape around tree bases near fireline if hot and likely to cause
hazard trees with either an observer, flagging and/or glowsticks
using indirect attack:
- do not fall snags on the intended unburned side of the constructed
fireline, unless they are an obvious safety hazard to crews working
in the vicinity
- on the intended bum-out side of the line, fall only those snags
that would reach the fireline should they burn and fall over. Consider
alternative means to falling, i.e., fireline explosives, bucket
items listed above (aerial fuels; brush, trees, and snags)
- Consider using 'hot-spot' detection devices along perimeter (aerial
- cold-trail areas adjacent to unburned fuels.
- do minimal spading;
restrict spading to hot areas near fireline only.
- use extensive
cold-trailing to detect hot areas.
Medium and heavy fuels:
-cold-trail charred logs near fireline; do minimal scraping or tool
-minimize bucking of logs to check for hot spots or extinguish fire:
preferably roll the logs.
logs to original position after checking or ground is cool.
-refrain from making boneyards: burned/partially burned fuels that were
moved should be arranged in natural positions as much as possible.
-consider allowing larger logs near the fireline to bum out instead
of bucking into manageable lengths. Use lever, etc., to move large logs.
fuels-brush, small trees and limbs
or limb only those fuels which, if ignited, have potential to spread
fire outside the fireline.
Burning trees and snags
-If possible allow burning trees/snags to bum themselves out or down.
(Ensure adequate safety measures are implemented and communicated.)
-identify hazard trees with either an observer, flagging, and/or glowsticks.
- if burning
trees/snags pose serious threat of spreading fire brands, extinguish
fire with water or dirt. FELLING by chain saw will be last means-consider
falling by blasting, if available.
CAMP SITES AND PERSONAL CONDUCT
Use existing campsites if available.
If existing campsites are not available, select campsites that are unlikely
to be observed by visitors/users.
Select impact-resistant sites such as rocky or sandy soils, or opening
within heavy timber. Avoid camping in meadows, along streams or lake
Change camp location if ground vegetation in and around the camp shows
signs of excessive use.
Do minimal disturbance to land in preparing bedding and campfire sites.
Do not clear vegetation or do trenching to create bedding sites.
Toilet sites should be located a minimum of 200 feet from water sources.
Holes should be dug 6-8 inches deep.
Select alternate travel routes between camp and fire if trail becomes
Evaluate coyote camps versus fixed camp site in sensitive areas.
RESTORATION OF FIRE SUPPRESSION ACTIVITIES
-after fire spread is secured, fill in deep and wide firelines, and cup
trenches. -waterbar, as necessary, to prevent erosion, or use woody material
to act as sediment dams. -ensure stumps from cut trees/large size brush
are cut flush with
ground. -camouflage cut stumps, if possible. -any trees or large size
brush cut during fireline construction should
be scattered to appear natural.
-restore campsite to natural conditions as much as possible. -scatter
fireplace rocks, charcoal from fire; cover fire ring with soil;
blend area with natural cover. -pack out all garbage and unburnables.
General -remove all signs of human activity (plastic flagging, small
aluminum foil, litter). -restore helicopter landing sites. -cover, fill
in latrine sites.
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