Strategic Operational Planner

SOPL decorative banner: photos depicting SOPL position. SOPL Position Description: The Strategic Operational Planner (SOPL) position is responsible for developing courses of action on long-term wildfire events. The courses of action for these wildfires may include both protection and resource benefit objectives. The SOPL may be ordered by and work for the host unit, the Geographic Area Coordination Center (GACC), or the IMT assigned to the fire.

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SOPL Incident Position Description

The Strategic Operational Planner (SOPL) is responsible for developing the course of action on long-term wildfire events. The SOPL may be ordered by and work for the host unit, the Geographic Area Coordination Center (GACC), or an Incident Management Team (IMT). The SOPL may work in the Planning, Operations, or Command functional area, or separate from the IMT. The SOPL reports to the Agency Administrator (AA), Fire Management Officer (FMO), or local fire management organization.
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Prepare and Mobilize

  • Ensure individual readiness.
  • Review agency procedures, policies, and regulations for managing wildland fire to achieve land use objectives as related to the position.
  • Obtain complete information from dispatch upon assignment. 
  • Obtain roles and permissions in the Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) necessary to review relevant decision components for a wildfire incident as requested by the host unit.

Perform Strategic Operational Planner-Specific Duties

  • Obtain information from supervisor, duty officer, AA, dispatch, or Incident Commander (IC) about the incident and WFDSS document.
  • Establish the organizational role of the SOPL in relation to assigned personnel, local fire management organization, IC, and/or AA.
  • Adhere to local policies for ordering, use, and release of resources.
  • Identify jurisdictional boundaries and which authorities/agencies should be involved, including strategic objectives and management requirements for relevant Fire Management Units within the planning area.
  • Evaluate short- and long-term fire behavior predictions, fire weather, and fire behavior assessments, and interpret results to support decision-making.  Brief appropriate approving officials.
  • Develop the Course of Action for a long-term wildfire incident. 
  • Coordinate with local Resource Advisor (READ) or other designated agency representative and identify issues regarding regulatory environmental compliance and mitigation to ensure concerns are adequately addressed in the Course of Action.
  • Evaluate consistency between strategic objectives and management requirements as stated in the WFDSS and objectives for the incident.
  • Evaluate existing Course of Action to determine if identified resource and protection objectives can be met through plan implementation.
  • Recommend modifications as needed to the Course of Action as conditions warrant/change.
  • Develop recommended management actions consistent with the wilderness, natural and cultural resource values, agency policy, and local land management plans.
  • Develop cost estimates for individual Management Action Points within the proposed Course of Action.
  • Utilize risk assessments for the incident based on values, hazards, and probability.
  • Utilize risk assessment information in developing Course of Action.
  • Consider and document hazards and mitigations in the development of Course of Action.
  • Follow the Risk Management Process in the development of the Management Actions within the Course of Action.
  • Identify special areas of concern and describe management actions to address concerns.

Communicate and Coordinate

  • Establish and maintain positive interpersonal and interagency working relationships.
  • Participate in briefings as necessary.
  • Participate in incident closeout.
  • Establish and maintain on-going communication on the incident as necessary.
  • Participate in After Action Reviews (AARs).

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.



  • Coordinate an efficient transfer of position duties:
    • Ensure continuity of operations
    • Exchange critical safety information
    • Communicate transfer of authority through established chain of command
  • Complete the demobilization checkout process before being released from the incident.
  • Upon demobilization, report your status to your home unit, including a reassignment or the estimated time of arrival (ETA) to your home unit.


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