Origin of the 10 and 18's - June 17

This Day in History
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Jul 2020


This Day in History is a brief summary of a powerful learning opportunity and is not intended to second guess or be judgmental of decisions and actions. Put yourself in the following situation as if you do not know what the outcome will be. What are the conditions? What are you thinking? What are YOU doing?


The original 10, Standard Firefighting Orders were developed in 1957 by a task force commissioned by the USDA Forest Service Chief Richard E. McArdle. The task force reviewed the records of 16 tragedy fires that occurred from 1937 to 1956. The Standard Firefighting Orders were based in part on the successful "General Orders" used by the United States Armed Forces. The Standard Firefighting Orders are organized in a deliberate and sequential way to be implemented systematically and applied to all fire situations.

Shortly after the Standard Firefighting Orders were incorporated into firefighter training, the 18 Situations That Shout Watch Out were developed. These 18 situations are more specific and cautionary than the Standard Fire Orders and described situations that expand the 10 points of the Fire Orders with the intent that if firefighters follow the Standard Firefighting Orders and are alerted to the 18 Watch Out Situations, much of the risk of firefighting can be reduced. Below are the original recommendation and fire orders from the report.


“Adopt for service-wide use the attached "Standard Firefighting Orders." These orders are to be committed to memory by all personnel with fire control responsibilities.”  

Standard Firefighting Orders

  1. FIRE WEATHER.  Keep informed of fire weather conditions and predictions.
  2. INSTRUCTIONS.  Know exactly what my instructions are and follow them at all times.
  3. RIGHT THINGS FIRST.  Identify the key points of my assignment and take action in order of priority.
  4. ESCAPE PLAN.  Have an escape plan in mind and direct subordinates in event of a blow-up.
  5. SCOUTING.  Thoroughly scout the fire areas for which I am responsible.
  6. COMMUNICATION.  Establish and maintain regular communication with adjoining forces, subordinates, and superior officers.
  7. ALERTNESS.  Quickly recognize changed conditions and immediately revise plans to handle.
  8. LOOKOUT.  Post a lookout for every possibly dangerous situation.
  9. DISCIPLINE.  Establish and maintain control of all men under my supervision and at all times know where they are and what they are doing.
  10. SUPERVISION.  Be sure men I commit to any fire job have clear instructions and adequate overhead.  

Discussion Points:

Though the Fire Orders are in the form of a list, they are not a checklist. The intended use of the Orders is not to check off 1 through 10 and be done with them, but to act as reminders of conditions that need to be continuously maintained and assessed.

  • What is the connection between the Standard Fire Orders and situational awareness?  

Originally there were 13 Watch Out Situations with the last 5 being added on in 1987.

  • If you could add one more Watch Out what would it be and why?  

The original recommendation in 1957 states that the Fire Orders “are to be committed to memory”.

  • What do you and your crew/unit do to help each other remember and understand the 10 & 18’s?  

Have everyone at the briefing look at the Incident Response Pocket Guide, PMS 461 outside back cover. Compare the current and original list.

  • Is the same material covered?
  • What are the biggest differences?


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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