National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Origin of the 10 and 18 – June 17, 1957


A poster with individual line art drawings of the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders and 18 Watch Out Situations used to educate wildland firefighters of the dangers and situations to be aware of.

The 10 Standard Firefighting Orders and the 18 Watch Out Situations, as referenced in the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461, provide wildland firefighters with a set of consistent best practices and a series of scenarios to be mindful of when responding to a wildland fire.

View the 10 and 18 Poster, PMS 110-18.

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 the outcome. 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 USDA Forest Service Chief Richard E. McArdle. The task force reviewed the records of 16 tragedy fires that occurred between 1937 and 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 13 Situations That Shout Watch Out were developed. Later this was expanded to the 18 Watch Out Situations.  These Situations are more specific and cautionary than the Standard Fire Orders. They describe situations that expand the Firefighting 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 Firefighting 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 that they act as reminders of conditions that need to be continuously monitored and assessed.

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

Originally there were 13 Watch Out Situations, with the additional five added 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 and 18s?

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

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


This Day in History
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Aug 2023

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