Transfer of Command

Operational Engagement
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Mar 2022


7. Maintain prompt communications with your forces, your supervisor, and adjoining forces. A bulldozer is on one side of a fire burning in palmetto, and a fire engine and water tender are on the other.  A supervisory firefighter is in the middle talking into the radio and gesturing to the bulldozer.

7. Maintain prompt communications with your forces, your supervisor, and adjoining forces.

The Incident Command System (ICS) relies on interagency communications between firefighting resources for collaborative fire suppression. This Standard Firefighting Order shows a variety of firefighting resources working together to effectively suppress a wildland fire.

Read about all 10 Standard Firefighting Orders.

Risks to fireline personnel increase significantly during transfer of command periods regardless of the size or complexity of the incident. There is a high potential for fatalities, serious injuries, or incidents during transfer of command. Be proactive in mitigating the risks by proper implementation of LCES – Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, and Safety Zones.

Factors for increased risks to fireline personnel during transition periods include:

  • No or poor briefing of incoming personnel.
  • Lack of fire weather and behavior information, both forecast and observed.
  • Communications: face-to-face briefings may not be possible and radio frequencies may be overextended and/or changing due to the increased demands on the system.
  • Initial attack resources may not have checked in and the Incident Commander (IC) may not be aware of the number, type, and location of all resources.
  • Location of safety zones and escape routes may not be known and communicated to all resources.
  • Not all resources know who is in command.

Mitigation actions to take:

  • Lookouts: post and maintain your own lookouts.
  • Communications: maintain existing communications with your own and adjacent resources, as well as your original supervisor, while you are developing communications with incoming adjacent resources and your new supervisor.
  • Escape routes and safety zones: identify escape routes and ensure incoming resources are aware of their locations; be aware that your original escape routes and safety zones may no longer be accessible due to changing fire behavior or your increased distance from them.
  • Plan for transitions to occur at the morning briefing.
  • Utilize the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461, Briefing Checklist (inside back cover).


Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
10 Standard Firefighting Orders, PMS 110 
18 Watch Out Situations, PMS 118
10 & 18 Poster, PMS 110-18
NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
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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