National Wildfire Coordinating Group

2018 WOR Day 6: Leadership in Medevac Situations

Ribbon symbol for survivor next to the Wildland Fire Leadership logoWeek of Remembrance June 30-July 6

This Week of Remembrance is dedicated to all those who have fallen in the line of duty and is intended to serve as an opportunity to renew our commitment to the health, wellness and safety of wildland firefighters.

It’s July 5th and you just attended morning briefing and received your crew’s assignment for the day. In your division breakout they mentioned that you would be operating in some “pretty gnarly terrain” filled with loose rocks and steep slopes. You brief the crew on the day’s mission, get them going and then start to scout out what’s ahead. All of a sudden you get a call from one of sawyers saying their saw partner has been hit by a rolling rock and is unconscious. WHAT DO YOU DO????

“Fire is a complex, dynamic, and often unpredictable phenomenon. Fire operations require mobilizing a complex organization that includes management, command, support, and firefighting personnel, as well as aircraft, vehicles, machinery, and communications equipment. While the magnitude and complexity of the fire itself and of the human response to it will vary, the fact that fire operations are inherently dangerous will never change. A firefighter utilizing the best available science, equipment, training, and working within the scope of agency doctrine and policy, can still suffer serious injury or death.”  Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book), chapter 1, page 8.

“We honor and remember through learning”

Brit Rosso
Director, LLC


The guiding doctrine for fire operations clearly states that the environment that we work in is filled with many unknown variables. As leaders it’s our responsibility to adequately prepare ourselves and team members for the inevitable situations we will be faced with. Medevac situations add another level of complexity within our environment and usually tend to be chaotic in nature. Emotions run high, fog of war rolls in and often times it’s a situation a lot of people haven’t been involved with. During these situations it is imperative to be cognizant of your operational tempo and ensure you give clear leaders intent.

Operational tempo: is the speed and intensity of our actions relative to the speed and intensity of unfolding events in the operational environment. When life is threatened there is an obvious sense of urgency.  Remember the 6th Standard Firefighting Order: Be alert. Keep calm. Think clearly. Act decisively.

Clear leader’s intent: is the foundation to bringing order to chaos. It allows you to effectively give a clear task, purpose and end state. When the situation presents itself you may find yourself as the Incident within an Incident commander whether or not you’re the Division, Crew Boss, or Squad Leader. You must rapidly evaluate the situation and build an organization to assist in patient care, transportation and communication.

Action: Watch this video (WFSTAR preparing for wildfire medevac) then answer the following questions

  1. What are you doing preseason to train for medevac situations? Do you incorporate medevac scenarios into your sandtable exercises?
  2. Does everyone understand the Medical Incident Report and the process involved? Is everyone prepared to act as the Incident Commander for a medical situation? What are some considerations when establishing a command structure to handle the situation?
  3. What are some considerations to consider post medevac? How is the crew handling the situation? Is there a need for peer support or CISM?


The topics, review, and resources for the NWCG “Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance” have been contributed by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, the Wildland Fire Leadership Subcommittee, the Interagency Helicopter Operations Subcommittee, interagency dispatchers, and many other field SMEs.

Week of Remembrance
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Jun 2023

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