Attempting a Frontal Assault on a Fire

Operational Engagement
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Sep 2020


Attempting a frontal assault on a fire is recognized as Watch Out Situation #10 and is a potentially dangerous tactic.

#10. Attempting a frontal assault on fire. It is safer to start firefighting where the activity is lesser or the fire is moving away from firefighters. This Watch Out shows a firefighter in a position where he would be unable to safely engage in fire suppression.  
18 Watch Out Situations, PMS 118 available in English and Español.

If your tactics include a frontal assault, the following checklist must be adequately addressed before engaging the fire:

  • Has the fire been scouted and sized up? Who will scout and size up a fire and what are they looking for?
  • Is your position defensible? List what makes a firefighter’s position defensible. (Anchor points, safety zones, escape routes, etc.)
  • Are escape routes and safety zones adequate? Review what constitutes an adequate safety zone and escape route.
  • Do you have an anchor point? How would you establish an anchor point for a frontal assault on a fire?
  • Do you have adequate resources to complete the assault? Discuss things you need to consider; for example, if the frontal assault fails, do you have backup?
  • Are you informed on strategy, tactics, and hazards? Consider what could happen if someone has a different approach than you; i.e., the IC has a burnout operation planned while you are attempting frontal assault.
  • Is the terrain favorable to holding the fire? Discuss ways the terrain will influence where you will make a stand.
  • Are you relying on aircraft for support operation?  Any operation, especially frontal assault, should not need air resources to be safe.

In order to reduce the risks, reassess your tactics, post lookouts, identify situations in which firefighters may be enticed to attempt frontal assault on a fire. Review why this may or may not be a good idea.


Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
NWCG Standards for Helicopter Operations, PMS 510
RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center

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