National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Attempting a Frontal Assault on a Fire


10. Attempting frontal assault on fire. Large, orange flames move towards a lone firefighter holding a shovel and standing in grass and brush.

10. Attempting 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.

Read about all 18 Watch Out Situations.

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

If your tactics include a frontal assault, adequately address the following 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 implemented a different approach; for example, the Incident Commander (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 to support the operation? Any operation, especially frontal assault, should not need air resources to be completed safely.

To reduce the risks, reassess your tactics, post lookouts, and 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.


Operational Engagement
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Mar 2022

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