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USFS Fire Suppression: Foundational Doctrine

Sen. Maria Cantwell's April, 2005 statement on:
Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2005

Ed Hollenhead's March, 2005 proposal:
The Review of Fire Suppression Doctrine for the USDA Forest Service

Jim Cook's June, 2004 analysis:
Trends in Wildland Fire Entrapment Fatalities

Jim Saveland's 1995 Wildfire article:
Creating a Passion for Safety vs. Management Oversight & Inspection

Professional Status:
The Future of Fire Service Training and Education

USMC Doctrine: Warfighting


Foundational Doctrine

June, 2005

Risk & Risk Management

Fire suppression is an inherently dangerous job and very hazardous. No resource or facility is worth the loss of human life; however while working within their agency doctrine and policy, fire fighters using the best available science, equipment, and training can be killed or injured. Our employees are expected to make reasonable and prudent decisions to accomplish the agency mission while minimizing loss of life and serious injuries. Fire fighters are empowered and expected to manage the risks of fire suppression.

Risk Management Concept:

The purpose of risk management is to minimize the exposure and affects of the inherent hazards in fire suppression while maximizing the opportunities to achieve mission objectives during fire suppression operations. Risk management includes communications and a process for situational awareness, hazard assessment, hazard control, decision point and evaluation.


—Safety is the ability fire fighters have to deal with risks or hazards to avoid damage or losses and yet still achieve the leader's intent,

—Risk management is a dynamic process exercised by everyone having fire suppression responsibilities or duties. It allows individuals to assess a given situation and take what they determine is the most appropriate course of action based on leaders' intent,

—We recognize and accept the inherent risks associated with fire suppression. We depend on our doctrine, training, skilled experience, and leadership to mitigate those risks. Disregard for these recognized inherent risks and failure to practice risk management is unacceptable, regardless of whether or not it results in injury or death.

—Individuals will be held accountable for their decisions. Those decisions should be considered to be reasonable and prudent based on doctrine, training, and experience given the context of the situation.

—In order to mitigate effects of fatigue of mind and body, it is a fire suppression leadership responsibility, as well as a personal responsibility to appropriately manage fatigue.

—To promote a bias for action fire fighters are expected to maximize suppression opportunities while minimizing exposure to inherent risks.

—Organizational learning is crucial to risk management. Fire fighters are students of fire and continually learn from all situations including successes, failures, agency safety investigations, and reviews. We foster an atmosphere of willful communication. Therefore it’s critical that employee statements for agency safety investigations are treated as “confidential”.

—Extensive formal and informal training is critical to risk management and mission accomplishment.

—Fire suppression leadership ensures all employees with an incident qualifications card adhere to and maintain an appropriate level of physical fitness.

—Recognize those practicing and promoting the use of risk management in the accomplishing the agency mission.

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