National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Subjective vs. Objective Hazards


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.

A popular mountaineering test divides the alpinists' hazards into two distinct types: subjective, which one has direct control over (e.g., condition of the equipment, the decision to turn back) and objective hazards, which are inherent to the alpine environment (e.g., avalanches, rock fall).

Objective hazards are a natural part of the environment. They cannot be eliminated, and one must either:

  •  Not go into the environment where they exist, or
  •  Adhere to a procedure where safety from the hazard is assured.

Similarly, the wildland firefighter's hazards are either subjective or objective. Examples of subjective hazards would be working below a dozer constructing fireline or the use of improper techniques while felling a tree. The fireline supervisor has direct control over these types of hazards.

The wildland fire environment has four basic objective hazards: lightning, fire-weakened timber (standing and lying), rolling rocks, and entrapment by running fires. When these hazards exist, the options are:

  • Not enter the environment, or
  •  Adhere to a safe procedure.
    • The key to a safe procedure is Lookout(s), Communications(s), Escape Routes, and Safety Zones (LCES).

The nature of wildland fire suppression dictates continuously evaluating and, when necessary, re-establishing LCES as time and fire growth progress.

Identify subjective or objective hazards of working in the vicinity of or associated with:

  • Dozer(s) or Tractor Plows
  • Snags
  • Helicopters
  • Fixed-Wing Aircraft
  • Other Engines and Vehicles
  • All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
  • Oil and Gas Wells and Pipelines
  • Power Lines
  • Floating Divisions
  • Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)


Operational Engagement
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Mar 2022

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