Field Observer

FOBS decorative banner: photos depicting FOBS position. FOBS Position Description: The Field Observer (FOBS) is responsible for collecting incident status information from personal observations at the incident and providing this information to the Situation Unit Leader (SITL) , Division Supervisor (DIVS), and other fireline resources as directed. The information may include but is not limited to, fire perimeter location, onsite weather, fire behavior, fuel conditions, and fire effects information needed to assess firefighter safety and whether the fire is achieving established incident objectives and requirements.

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FOBS Incident Position Description

Field Observer (FOBS) The Field Observer (FOBS) is responsible for collecting incident status information from personal observations at the incident and providing this information to the Situation Unit Leader (SITL), Division/Group Supervisor (DIVS), and other fireline resources as directed. The FOBS works for the SITL in the Planning functional area.
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Prepare and Mobilize

  • Ensure individual readiness.
  • Gather critical information pertinent to the assignment.
  • Travel to and check in at assignment.
  • Check in with incident supervisor and/or dispatch when arriving at the incident.
  • Review Incident Action Plan (IAP) and obtain briefing, objectives, and intent from supervisor.
  • Obtain briefing from previous shift/assignment position as necessary.

Build The Team

  • Establish and communicate chain of command, reporting procedures, risk management processes, and radio frequency management. 
  • Establish a common operating picture with supervisors.
  • Participate in operational briefings as directed.

Lead, Supervise, Direct

  • Model leadership values and principles. Provide positive influence. Emphasize teamwork.
  • Adjust actions based on changing information and evolving situation awareness. Develop and implement contingency plans. Communicate changing conditions to supervisor.
  • Identify, analyze, and use relevant situational information to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions.

Perform Field Observer-Specific Duties

  • Determine location of assignment, types of information required, priorities, time limits for completion, methods of communication and documentation, and method of transportation.
  • Coordinate travel to and from fireline with appropriate overhead (e.g., travel routes, communication procedures, accountability). Ensure adherence to vehicle safety procedures. Identify ingress and egress routes. Consider bridge and road limits, equipment weight and length, and weather effects.
  • Recon the assigned fire area.
  • Use maps, compass, Global Positioning System (GPS) and other tools and applications to gather information and navigate on incident.
  • Report special occurrences (e.g., structure/improved property loss or damage, accidents, sickness) to supervisor.
  • Through established chain of command, assist the responsible land management agency and/or assigned Resource Advisor with the protection of natural, cultural, and other resources. Communicate when such resources are discovered and document suppression impacts.
  • Observe and record first order fire effects.
  • Monitor, obtain, and record weather and fire behavior data.
  • Recognize and report atmospheric characteristics that influence fire behavior.
  • Monitor and record smoke management information.
  • Plot fire perimeter on a map.
  • Assist in preparing maps for use in Situation Unit, Incident Command Post (ICP), and IAP
  • Provide completed observation logs or forms for weather, fire behavior, fuel conditions, and fire effects as assigned. Summarize observations to help determine if the fire is achieving established incident objectives, as requested by supervisor.
  • Attend debriefings of operations personnel to obtain situation information.  

Communicate and Coordinate

  • Follow established processes and chain of command for collecting, producing, and distributing information. 
  • Ensure clear understanding of expectations and timely communication within and across Incident Command System (ICS) functional areas and chain of command.
  • Establish communications and exchange necessary briefings/information with the following:
    • Support resources
    • Adjacent resources
    • Supervisor
    • Other ICS functional areas
  • Communicate effectively using multichannel radios. Prepare and program radios for assignment. Use plain language and ICS terminology.
  • Conduct and/or participate in After Action Reviews (AAR).

Manage Risk

  • Apply the Risk Management Process as stated in the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461:
    • Identify Hazards
    • Assess Hazards
    • Develop Controls and Make Risk Decisions
    • Implement Controls
    • Supervise and Evaluate
  • Ensure Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, and Safety Zones (LCES) are established and known to all firefighters before they are needed. Refer to guidelines stated in IRPG.
  • Use Look Up, Down and Around in IRPG to help maintain situation awareness. Adjust actions accordingly. Develop and communicate contingency plans and trigger points.
  • Immediately report any condition that may cause danger or be a safety hazard to personnel.



  • Brief assigned resources on demobilization procedures and responsibilities. Ensure incident and agency demobilization procedures and work/rest driving standards are followed.
  • Coordinate an efficient transfer of position duties when mobilizing and demobilizing (e.g., IMT or host agency).
  • Return equipment and supplies to appropriate unit. 
  • Complete demobilization checkout process before being released from the incident.
  • Upon demobilization, report status to home unit including reassignment or estimated time of arrival (ETA) to home unit.


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