Fire Not Scouted and Sized Up

Operational Engagement
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Jun 2020


Watchout Situation #1 comes up during initial attack and every time resources arrive at a fire.

Before taking action on the fire, the following considerations must be addressed:

  • Can you personally observe the fire or must you use scouts? Describe ways you can scout and size up a fire.
  • Do you know the location of the fire perimeter? Discuss situations in which the fire perimeter may not be obvious. (Spotty fires, etc.)
  • Do you know the direction of fire spread? When isn’t the direction of fire spread obvious? (Wind shifts, spotty fires, etc.)
  • Does the direction of fire spread increase risk? Talk about situations where you may have to approach the head of the fire. (Hiking down from a helispot, approaching from an existing road, switching winds, etc.)
  • Do you know the fuels and their condition? What kind of information will you assume from what you already know about fuel types? (Spot fires in fir, extreme fire potential in flashy fuels, etc.)
  • What information can aerial resources provide about the fire?
  • Do topographic hazards exist? What can you assume from the kind of terrain the fire covers? (Slope, chimneys, aspect, etc.)
  • Does enough information exist to establish a plan of attack? When do you have enough information to begin fighting fire? What do you need to know?
  • Do other dangers exist? Have you talked about factors specific to the area you are working in? (Hunters in the woods, drought, snag patches, etc.)

To reduce the risks:

  • Post lookouts until the fire is sized up and escape routes and safety zones are established.
  • Retreat if the situation is too complex. Review fires where you had to wait until your assigned area of the fire was scouted and sized up before you were allowed onto the fireline.


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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