Hazmat Incident Operations

Misc Fireline Hazards
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Jun 2020


Firefighters who may encounter hazardous materials (hazmat) in the field should always recognize that hazmat requires special precautions. Hazardous materials in the field include, but are not limited to, clandestine drug waste, which may look like common household trash at first glance; midnight dumping, which may be recognized by the presence of barrels or containers; discoloration of land, plants, or water, and/or dead vegetation and animals; and transportation accidents with spillage or release of hazmat that may result in danger to life, property, or resources.

Think Safety

  • Assess situation.
  • Safe approach: upwind/upgrade/upstream.
  • Identify, isolate, establish perimeter, and deny entry.
  • Notify agency dispatcher.
  • Use Global Positioning System (GPS) for exact location.
  • Request assistance and identify a safe route.

Scene Management

  • The goal is to protect life, environment, and property.
  • Attempt to identify substance using Emergency Response Guide (use binoculars to look for placards/labels, container shapes/colors, Material Safety Data Sheets, shipping papers, and license plate).
  • Assess quantity of material involved.
  • Identify exposures and hazards surrounding the site.
  • Anticipate weather influences.

Isolation Distances

  • Minor event (1 drum, 1 bag, etc.) = 150 feet.
  • Major event (more than 1 drum or bag, etc.) = 500 feet.
  • Residential/light commercial = 300 feet.
  • Open areas = 1,000 feet.
  • BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion) potential = 2,500 feet (one-half mile).
  • Stage arriving units 2,500 feet upwind.
  • Position vehicles heading out.


Refer to the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461, All Hazard section (yellow) for contact information for 24-hour emergency response communications services and other incident reporting numbers.

Link to most recent version of the Emergency Response Guidebook (2016). Look for 2020 version to be out soon.


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

Have an idea? Have feedback? Share it.

EMAIL | Facebook | URL: https://www.nwcg.gov/committees/6-Minutes-for-safety
MAIL: 6 Minutes for Safety Subcommittee • 3833 S. Development Ave • Boise, ID 83705 | FAX: 208-387-5378