National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Uninformed on Strategy, Tactics, or Hazards


5. Uninformed on strategy, tactics, and hazards. A fire is burning on a hillside.  A white airtanker drops red retardant in the foreground, where no flames are visible.

5. Uninformed on strategy, tactics, and hazards.

Wildland firefighters rely on coordinated strategies and tactics to efficiently suppress fires and avoid hazards. This Watch Out demonstrates an airtanker dropping retardant away from the intended area, potentially indicating unclear communication.

Read about all 18 Watch Out Situations.

Firefighters who are uninformed on strategy, tactics, or hazards are in conflict with Watch Out Situation #5. Before going to the fireline, it is imperative that firefighters obtain information about strategies, tactics, or hazards by asking themselves the following questions:

  • Can communications be established to find out strategy, tactics, or hazards?
    • Discuss ways you might establish communications.
    • For example: Contact someone who is already on the fire and ask them what tactics and strategies are working or not working, what hazards have they witnessed, etc.
  • Can scouting safely identify potential hazards?
    • Talk about different methods of scouting a fire (e.g., using a lookout from your crew or sending a line scout ahead, utilizing air attack or the spotter on a smokejumper airplane).
    • Discuss what types of hazards you might come across and ways you would mitigate them.
    • For example: If you arrive at a fire after dark and are instructed to dig line downhill with the fire below, how could you make this a safe situation?
  • Have strategies, tactics, or hazards changed since last informed?
    • Discuss situations that might alter the way you are fighting a fire (e.g., wind shifts, resources you expected don’t arrive, etc.).
    • Also, think about what new hazards can develop while you are on the fireline (e.g., roots burning out and trees coming down, winds shifting direction and speed, etc.).
  • Can you get a briefing from your supervisor?
    • Talk about the importance of constant communications and ensuring firefighters are on the same page with strategies and tactics.
    • For example, if one crew decides to do a burnout but doesn’t let the crew at the other end of the line know what they are doing, what can happen?
  • To reduce the risks:
    • Post lookouts.
    • Determine escape routes and establish safety zones.
    • Consider retreating until you are better informed.
    • Don't leave a staging area or operational briefing until you have all the pertinent information.
      • Emphasize ways to inform firefighters about strategies, tactics, and hazards. Tell a story about when you were uninformed and what you did to correct the situation so that you were safe.
    • Use the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461 (back inside cover) Briefing Checklist.


Operational Engagement
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Mar 2022

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