National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Roadside Incident Response


Nationally, the number of injuries and fatalities among emergency responders who are responding to roadside incidents is increasing. Although most wildland fires occur in remote areas, there are situations where wildland fire personnel are responding to fires along rural country roads, backcountry roads, or major highways; where risk still exists for firefighters.

Considerations when responding to fires and other incidents along roadsides:

  • Firefighter and public safety will always be the number one priority.
  • Utilize Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, and Safety Zones in all incident activities.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is to be used on all incidents.

Upon Arrival at the Scene

Size up the incident – see Incident Response Pocket Guide, PMS 461, Sizeup Report on the inside front cover.

  • What has happened?
  • What is happening?
  • What will or could happen?
  • Is this a hazardous materials situation?

Apply the Risk Management Process

Tactical Considerations:

  • Anytime traffic flow is affected by the incident, contact the jurisdictional law enforcement agency for assistance.
  • Conduct all operations as far from traffic lanes as possible to provide for crew and public safety.
  • Park units on the same side of the roadway whenever possible to avoid traffic congestion.
  • Personnel should not exit the fire apparatus until instructed to do so by the module leader.
  • Exit the fire apparatus away from the roadway or where hazard exposure is minimized.
  • Exit the fire apparatus with full PPE.
  • Post a lookout to watch for and control oncoming traffic.
  • Utilize forward and rear spotters when visibility is impaired or road conditions warrant.
  • Utilize road flares or other traffic warning signs whenever possible.
  • If equipment needs to be removed from the traffic side of the apparatus, one person will retrieve the equipment and a lookout will watch for oncoming traffic.
  • Engine operators will operate pumps from the non-traffic side or from the cab of the apparatus when possible. Keep all hose, fire tools, and equipment out of traffic lanes when possible.
  • During night operations, utilize reflective clothing, vests, and other safety equipment as necessary.
  • All emergency responses on roadways will be concluded as quickly as possible to reduce personnel exposure.
  • Cancel or demobilize unnecessary apparatus as soon as possible.

Note: Each emergency vehicle operator will follow their state laws and agency policies governing the operations of emergency vehicles.


Vehicles - Roads
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Mar 2022

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