National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Working Around Pack Stock


Fire crews often receive supplies transported by pack stock (horses and mules). While these animals provide fire crews a valuable service, they can cause injury to themselves and personnel, and severely damage food, gear, and fire equipment, if not handled properly.

Much like adding aviation resources to a fire incident, having pack stock around is adding an additional hazard to the fire environment which increases the difficulty in maintaining situational awareness. Fire personnel must be aware that human activity, aircraft, wildlife, and weather conditions can and will affect the behavior of the pack animals, often unpredictably.

  • Avoid making any sudden or abrupt moves or making any loud or unusual noises around the stock. Be calm, relaxed, steady, and smooth around the animals at all times.
  • When passing pack stock on the trail, know your escape routes at all times. Move off the trail before the stock passes. Calmly move to the same side, preferably the downhill side, with all of your gear. Be far enough off the trail that no one could get kicked, but close enough for the stock to see everyone. Talk to the packer and the stock as they approach and pass…this helps the stock know that you and your crew are not something to be afraid of.
  • Packers, like all fire personnel, must maintain communications at all times. Ensure that the communication plan is known to everyone. Individual forest and park units will have the specific safety-related guidelines identified for Packers in regards to required fire training, personal protective equipment, communications, etc.

Work around pack stock in the same manner you would work around helicopters:

  • Stay outside of the safety circle unless invited or escorted in.
  • Only approach from the front.
  • Never approach from the tail or walk around the tail.
  • Don’t run, wave arms, or throw things.
  • Put your gear where directed and in an orderly manner.
  • Weigh everything. Weight and balance are important on mules and helicopters!

Graphic showing a mule in front of a helicopter representing that safety around helicopters is how you should work around pack animals.




Misc Fireline Hazards
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Feb 2021

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