National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Frequent Spot Fires Across the Line


16. Getting frequent spot fires across line. In tall, thick timber, a fire is actively burning on the left side of the road.  On the right side, firefighters are spraying water and digging with tools on spot fires.  Behind them, a green fire engine is driving on the road.

16. Getting frequent spot fires across line.

Spot fires occur when embers land on the unburned side of a fireline. This Watch Out depicts an engine crew attempting to contain several spot fires which are increasing in size while the main fire is also growing.

Read about all 18 Watch Out Situations.

This watch-out situation clearly indicates how much potential a fire has for rapid, uncontrolled growth. Consider the following questions if you are getting spot fires across your line:

  • Can you handle increased spotting?
    List some ways you can keep ahead of spot fires (gridding the green, lookouts, etc.).
  • What is your Probability of Ignition (PIG)? Is it increasing or decreasing?
  • Do you have a plan for long-range spotting? In what fuel type and under what conditions is it likely? What planning would account for handling long-range spotting?
  • Is help available if necessary? What kinds of resources will you have in place, or order, to handle spot fires?
  • If fire behavior increases, is your position still defensible?
    Discuss what type of action you might take if a spot fire takes off.
  • Do you have more than one safety zone in case access to one is cut off?
    Describe how you might utilize multiple safety zones.
  • Do the primary lookouts have a good view of the situation?
    Discuss who might be acting as a lookout (crew member, air resources, supervisors, etc.) and how you will get accurate information from that person. Are you relying on an air attack that is busy with airtankers?
  • Where are you in the burning period? Talk about how your tactics for finding spot fires early in the day to later into the evening may vary. Review PIG and what it can tell you about spotting potential.
  • To reduce the risk, are you ready to retreat?
    Keep your guard up even if spotting has not occurred for a few hours. Review incidents where you have had frequent spot fires and share what you have learned about controlling them.


Weather - Fire Behavior
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Feb 2021

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