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Section 4.0 Wildfire Entrapment Avoidance

Wildfire Entrapment Avoidance

Pre-Work Crew Safety Briefing


  • chain of command - who is the I.C.
  • discuss fireline hazards
  • what is the current and expected weather
  • what is the current and expected fire behaviour
  • overall strategy for the day
  • crew tasks for the day - goals and expectations
  • designated first aid - where located and call signs
  • escape routes - location
  • expected air support for the day
  • is this an Interface Fire - what special precautions
  • communication system and call signs (conduct radio checks before leaving office and again before leaving staging area
  • individual work assignments for the day
  • Lookouts - who, where, call signs
  • medical emergency plan and procedures (roll of each crew person)
  • LAACES - see below



Most fires should have an experienced person posted as a lookout to watch over the overall fire behaviour and to report fire behaviour changes immediately

  • posted if there is any hint of difficult fire behaviour
  • must be experienced
  • must have effective means of communication
  • must know where crews are working
  • must know where all escape routes are
  • must have maps, weather kit, (often not readily available), watch, compass
  • must know when to advise of serious potential fire behaviour - early, not too late 

Anchor point

This is a designated point along the fireline chosen as the place where the initial attack will begin.  All safety hazards have been assessed and escape routes (minimum of two) have been established)

Awareness (situational)

Each person on the fireline must be aware of their surroundings at all times.  (See Lookout)

Also, look up in the sky often.  The cloud pattern can tell you a huge “story” regarding winds and weather changes approaching

The first established escape routes, over time (one or two hours or days) may no longer be valid for you.  These could now be too far away to be effective or they may have been burned over and no longer usable.

Be aware of danger trees

Be aware of your fellow workers and how they may be doing.  Is someone showing signs of heat exhaustion?


You must ensure the technical (radios, cell phones, etc.) are working well and that you can transmit and receive messages wherever you are working along the fireline.

You must also communicate with your fellow crew persons and supervisors about all events that you see happening in your area.

A very important aspect of communication is also keeping detailed notes AND to be listening for and noting any weather reports, etc.

Escape Routes

You must have and know where at least two escape routes are located.  You must know how long it will take at a brisk walking speed, how long it will take to follow those escape routes to safe zones.

That time and more must be allowed for when deciding upon a Tactical Withdraw.

Escape Routes must;

  • be brushed, cleared out
  • must orient, downward, outward and away from fire
  • must not lead upward above the fire
  • must be timed
  • must allow fire crews to easily and quickly reach a safe zone
  • must be identified on the ground and on fire maps
  • must be discussed with all fire personnel

Safety Zones

These must be established prior to any commencement of work on the fire.  These must be large enough to protect the firefighters from not only the actual flame but from the radiant heat.

Safety Zones

  • must be realistic in size and location
  • must be safe from rolling debris and falling trees
  • must not be in or near a gully or "saddle"
  • below and away from the fire
  • “in the black” is not considered an established Safe Zone (“in the black” may become a temporary “safe zone” in an emergency)
  • safety zones must be large enough to ensure fire crews can be at least 4 times the distance away from the fire as the height of the expected flames at the edge of the zone.  (i.e. expected flame height of 30 feet / 10 metres means 120 feet / 40 metres AND if the fire may burn on all sides of the safety zone at the same time ... a much larger zone will be required 


10 Standard Firefighting Orders

  1. Fire Weather - always keep informed of the current and expected Fire Weather
  2. Fire Behaviour - always know what the fire behaviour is.  Use personal observation as well as Lookouts and reports from other crew persons, etc.
  3. Tactics - base all tactics on current and more importantly, expected fire weather and fire behaviour
  4. Escape Routes - there must always be a minimum of two valid escape routes at each fire.  Know where they are.  
  5. Lookout - almost all fires require a Lookout to be posted if fire behaviour appears to warrant it.
  6. Stay Alert, Calm, and Think clearly, Be decisive - but remain flexible to unexpected events
  7. Communications must be established and maintained
  8. Instructions must be very clear and understood - ask questions to confirm this
  9. Control - all crew persons, crews, and resources must be monitored and kept in control at all times
  10. Aggressive but always SAFETY FIRST action


(very similar but another way to remember safety rules)

W-A-T-C-H - O-U-T slogan for fire line safety.

W - weather dominates fire behaviour
A - action is based on what the fire is doing
T - try out at least two escape routes
C- communications, keep them clear and simple
H - hazards such as snags, flash fuels and dangerous terrain must be observed

O - observe changes in the weather
U - understand your instructions
T - think clearly, stay alert and keep calm at all times


Maintain At All Times

Here are some basic but very important indicators to watch for which will “tell” you the fire behaviour is intensifying;

  • SMOKE THAT WAS “LAYING” IN OR PARTIALLY IN THE CANOPY IS NOW THINNING AND DISSIPATING (air mass above the fire is heating up - or winds are increasing) (the Lookout should be seeing the smoke rising above the canopy and becoming thicker)
  • SMOKE IS CURLING BACK DOWN TO THE SURFACE SOME DISTANCE AWAY FROM THE FIRE EDGE (Lookout should be seeing this and communicating this information)
  • CLOUDS ABOVE ARE STREAKY (high winds aloft which may “touch down” on your fire)
  • TIME OF DAY - (some valleys and canyons have winds that increase quickly and greatly at very predictable times every day during the summer) (these are the warmer, upslope winds that travel up river valleys during the day - and down at night when it is cooler)
  • GLACIERS - (provide a constant outflow of air down valleys - directly above these cooler downslope winds may be warmer, upslope winds - giving the fire a varied and somewhat unpredictable pattern of winds)

Four Common Denominators of Deadly Fire Entrapment Incidents

  1. Small Fires or on smaller sections of big fires
  2. Weather Event
  3. Change of Topography
  4. Light / Fine / Flash Fuels

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"If In Doubt  

Back Out!"