National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Wildland Fire Investigation Team Leader

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INVL Incident Position Description

The Wildland Fire Investigation Team Leader (INVL) performs as the leader of a wildland fire investigation team. The INVL supervises one or more Wildland Fire Investigator (INVF) and reports to Incident Commander (IC) or Agency Administrator (AA) or their designee. The INVL works in the Prevention and Investigation functional area.
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Leadership Level 3, Leader of People (Develop Intent)

  • For additional information review Level 3 description, expected behaviors and knowledge, suggested development goals, and self-study opportunities.

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.
  • Obtain briefing from incident supervisor.

Build the Team

  • Identify assigned resources and maintain accountability. Confirm that Incident Action Plan (IAP) or relevant plan has all assigned resources listed. Report any missing resources up chain of command.
  • Assemble and validate readiness of assigned personnel and equipment.
  • Establish and communicate chain of command, reporting procedures, risk management processes, and radio frequency management. 
  • Identify and anticipate staffing needs and request additional resources and/or replacements as needed.
  • Assess experience level of assigned personnel and discuss performance capabilities and any limitations.
  • Participate in operational briefings as directed.
  • Brief assigned personnel.
  • Identify assigned resources and maintain accountability.
  • Develop standard investigation team organizational structure; relate team structure to investigation plan objectives.
  • Obtain and distribute IAPs, other relevant plans, maps, and local area information.
  • Brief assigned personnel using IAP and/or NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461, briefing checklist.

Supervise and Direct Work Assignments

  • Establish and communicate objectives, priorities, work assignments, and performance expectations.
  • Identify, analyze, and use relevant situational information to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions.
  • Adjust actions based on changing information and evolving situation awareness. Develop and implement contingency plans. Communicate changing conditions to assigned resources and supervisor.
  • Ensure incident objectives and performance standards are met.
  • Monitor performance and provide immediate and regular feedback to assigned personnel.

Perform Investigation Team Leader-Specific Responsibilities

  • Manage fire investigations and follow wildland fire investigation administrative and legal procedures.
  • Organize and deploy assigned investigators based on established objectives and capabilities.
  • Provide status updates on conditions affecting investigations, access, hazardous conditions, unresolved conflicts, air operations, etc., to supervisor.
  • Establish accurate logistical needs and use established ordering procedures.
  • Contribute to the planning process by providing accurate information and recommendations through established chain of command regarding scene access and security.
  • Perform INVF duties as necessary.
  • Apply laws, rules, and regulations applicable to agency/jurisdiction for wildland fire investigation.
  • Apply administrative, civil, and criminal process(es) to wildland fire investigation in agency/jurisdiction and state the authority for specific agency/jurisdiction.
  • Obtain and assemble materials needed during the case development phase of a wildland fire investigation.
  • Conduct second opinion analysis of a fire origin.
  • Utilize arson and/or complex/major fire investigation techniques, strategies, tactics, and investigation team or task force management when investigating arson or complex fires.
  • Identify wildland fire arson indicators.
  • Document, collect, and preserve evidence in accordance with current standards. Prepare a comprehensive investigation plan for the case development phase of a wildland fire investigation.
  • Secure fire scenes.
  • Record observations and events. Search for, protect/preserve, and collect evidence while maintaining chain of custody.
  • Identify and interview witnesses and anyone who may have knowledge that may be useful in the investigation.
  • Obtain and conduct interrogations of suspects in cases where criminal charges may be filed.
  • Present case to administrators and/or attorneys for consideration of legal action.
  • Provide documents for court actions, criminal actions, etc.
  • Present effective testimony during court cases when necessary.

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:
    • Wildland fire investigation team
    • Support resources
    • Other enforcement agencies
    • 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 NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461:
    • Identify Hazards
    • Assess Hazards
    • Develop Controls and Make Risk Decisions
    • Implement Controls
    • Supervise and Evaluate
  • Plan for medical emergencies. Ensure that assigned resources are prepared to execute the Medical Plan (ICS 206 WF). Ensure familiarity with medical responders, communication procedures, and transportation plan. Manage the medical emergency based on procedures stated in the IAP, Medical Incident Report, or other relevant guidelines.
  • Monitor for signs and symptoms of fatigue, illness, or injury. Mitigate appropriately.
  • Account for location, health, safety, and welfare of assigned personnel.
  • Submit accident/incident reports with pertinent forms (SAFECOM, SAFENET, agency-specific forms) through established chain of command.


  • Complete, review, authorize, ensure timeliness of, and route as required:
  • Document evidence and photographs relating to identified fire cause.
  • Document and describe services required for investigation.
  • Document and display elements of the crime of wildland fire arson for your jurisdiction.
  • Document and present common ignition sources, evidence, and indicators routinely encountered at the scene of an arson fire.
  • Document the findings of an investigation and identify any specialized documentation requirements.
  • Document where evidence and case reports will be stored, who has received copies, and who will be contacted for any follow-up needs for additional investigation concerns.


  • 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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