Lookouts (LCES)

Operational Engagement
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Feb 2021


5. Post lookouts when there is possible danger. A firefighter works by a water pump in a creek. Two firefighters spray water onto flames. And another firefighter talks into a radio while observing all firefighters.

5. Post lookouts when there is possible danger.

Lookouts provide time-sensitive information to firefighters. This Standard Firefighting Order demonstrates firefighters installing a pump and hose lay with a designated lookout to keep watch for and communicate possible hazards.

Read about all 10 Standard Firefighting Orders.

Lookouts are often better situated to notice the cumulative changes of fire behavior.

Fire Order #5 says, “Post lookouts when there is possible danger.” Should you utilize lookouts at all times?

  • Lookouts should be posted at all times.

What are you looking for when you are selecting a lookout location?

  • Choose a good vantage point, preferably with a good overview of the entire area where firefighters are located, including escape routes and safety zones.
  • Never rely exclusively on aircraft as your lookout.  

What are the desired qualities, capabilities, knowledge, and responsibilities of a lookout person?

  • Experienced firefighter.
  • Solid knowledge of fire behavior and the ability to recognize and monitor other environmental hazards.
  • Knowledge of crew locations, escape and safety locations, and trigger points.
  • Good communicator – keeps the crew advised of fire behavior changes, tracks weather trends and relays the information, informs crew of work progress and updates from the latest strategy and tactical briefings.
  • Monitors and accounts for all individuals within his/her assigned area at all times, and will notify others if breaks are needed.
  • Knowledge of weather patterns, and signs of incoming weather changes.

What is the necessary equipment for a lookout?

  • Personal protective equipment, radio with extra batteries, compass, binoculars, belt weather kit, an incident action plan, map, food, water, and watch.


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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