Subjective vs. Objective Hazards

Operational Engagement
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Mar 2020


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, which are a natural part of the environment. They cannot be eliminated and either one must 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 to not enter the environment or to adhere to a safe procedure. The key to safe procedure is Lookout(s), Communications(s), Escape routes, and Safety zone(s) (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.
  • ATVs.
  • Oil and Gas Wells, and Pipelines.
  • Power lines.
  • Floating Divisions.
  • WUI.


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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