Transfer of Command

Operational Engagement
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Aug 2020


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 (some have occurred in the past). Be proactive in mitigating the risks by proper implementation of LCES—Lookout, 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 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 assure 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.
  • Transition at the morning briefing.
  • Utilize the Incident Response Pocket Guide, PMS 461 Briefing Checklist (inside back cover).


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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