National Wildfire Coordinating Group

M-581, Fire Program Management - An Overview, N/A

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Course Materials

This instructor-led course has pre-course work. Additional information about the course can be found on the Overview page


  1. Read Chapter 1 and applicable agency-specific chapter (chapters 2 - 6) of the Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book).
  2. Read the publication Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, PMS 494-2.


Instructor Information (Instructor-Led Delivery)


Unit/Topic Presentations Materials
Content Guidelines

The unit objective information included below is a template for course evaluation and design. The intent of M-581 is to provide Agency Administrators (AAs) and Fire Program Managers a foundation for wildland fire program administration by focusing on the policies and procedures which govern the management of program elements in federal land management agencies.

Course outcomes include:

  • Familiarity of the policies which govern fire management programs.
  • An understanding of the roles and responsibilities of an AA in fire program oversight at the unit level.
  • An understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a Fire Management Officer (FMO) in fire program oversight at the unit level.
  • An understanding of the critical nature of communication between AAs and FMOs in fire program administration.
Wildland Fire Organizational Culture and Leadership


Intent: To identify defining elements of wildland fire culture and how the culture or subculture may align or differ from the parent-agency culture. The desired outcome of this unit is to allow FMOs and AAs to understand the opportunities and barriers organizational culture presents, particularly as it relates to effective communication.

Delivery Considerations: Consider the influence of leadership, risk, and operational environment in the culture. Utilize a review of the NWCG Leadership Development program as pre-work (e.g., values and principles, and the Leading in the Wildland Fire Service, PMS 494-2).

Learning Outcomes:

  • List and describe critical elements of wildland fire and land management agencies organizational cultures.
  • Describe the differences between land management agency culture and the wildland fire culture.
  • Discuss the implications of cultural differences to leading and providing oversight to a wildland fire organization.
Wildland Fire Management Policy

Intent: To provide a basic understanding of the laws, policies, and practices which govern fire management activities in wildland fire agencies.

Delivery Considerations: none

Learning Outcomes:

  • Describe the laws and policy framework for implementing wildland fire management activities on federal lands.
  • Describe how the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy guides the implementation of wildland fire management activities.
  • List and describe the guiding principles and elements of the Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy.
  • Understand how policies tier to and dictate the wildland fire program from guiding Wildland Fire Policy to unit fire management plans.
Wildland Fire Budget

Intent: Provide a foundational understanding of how an agency’s fire budget is requested and administered and how the federal budget process can impact field operations.

Delivery Considerations: Utilize state/geographic budget experts to highlight federal and specific agency processes. Utilize coaches for agency-specific group discussion. Consider agency-specific breakouts for this section.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Describe agency budget cycles.
  • Identify the laws, policies, and business rules which govern use of wildland fire funds.
  • Describe the appropriate use of different wildland fire fund types.
Fire Management Planning and Decision-Making


Intent: Provide a common understanding for AAs and FMOs on how plans and decision-making processes are developed, maintained, and tied to land management plans.

Delivery Considerations: This section may lend itself to utilize coaches for separate FMO and AA discussions of roles and responsibilities.

Fire Management Planning

Learning Outcomes:

  • Identify the department and agency policies governing fire management planning.
  • Describe the agency differences in fire management planning.
  • Describe the AA’s and FMO’s roles in the development, review, and revision process of a fire management plan or other guidance document.
  • Describe methods to evaluate existing fire management plans and the process recommending changes.
  • Describe the role of an AA and FMO in the implementation of a fire management plan and its components.
  • Identify methods to ensure fire management employees understand how fire management plans and activities relate to land management objectives.


Learning Outcomes:

  • Describe the importance of integrating fire management activities across jurisdictions, program areas, and activities.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the decision processes specific to wildland fire management.
  • Describe the use of Wildland Fire Decision Support System (WFDSS) as a decision support tool.
  • Describe the roles required within WFDSS to pre-load local data and objectives, and to publish a wildfire decision.
Coordination and Cooperation

Intent: Provide an overall understanding of the importance of relationships with different cooperators/stakeholders and importance of agreement with internal and external partnerships.

Delivery Considerations: Recommend a panel discussion with different local, state, private, and federal stakeholders.

Learning Elements:

  • Describe the importance of stakeholder support to maintain an effective fire management program.
  • Identify the different types of fire management meetings and their purpose.
  • Understand the Agency Administrator’s and FMO’s roles in the various types of fire management meetings.
  • Identify the elements of a unit fire communication plan, the use of communication tools, and the importance of collaboration with external partners.
  • Identify the purpose in visiting outstations, incidents, projects, and prescribed burns.
  • Describe the purpose of annual fire meetings (internal/external) and how to address management controls and safety issues.
  • List the elements of national and local agreements and Annual Operating Plans (AOP) and discuss their importance.

Intent: Provide an understanding of the Agency Administrator’s and FMO’s roles and responsibilities for overseeing preparedness activities.

Delivery Considerations: Consider delivering a portion of this unit together and then break into the two audiences (AA and FMO) to address the differences in knowledge and level of detail needed for each audience.

Learning Elements:

  • Describe the importance of maintaining awareness of seasonal and daily fire danger.
  • Identify when fire conditions will impact other program areas and describe the implications.
  • Identify the elements included in the annual FMO delegation of authority and describe the implications.
  • Describe the role of an AA and FMO in development of local fire management standard operating procedures (SOPs).
  • Describe the roles and responsibilities in the development, review, and revision process of AOP for cooperator agreements.
  • List the purpose of and describe the function of a Fire Danger Operating Plan (FDOP) and associated plans (response, staffing, preparedness, prevention, restriction/closure, etc.).


  • Recognize the importance in maintaining a coordinated, and effective interagency wildland fire response.
  • Explain your agency’s fire severity request process and identify how the funds may be utilized.
Fire Prevention, Education, Mitigation, and Trespass


Intent: Provide an understanding of policies and actions of a fire prevention, trespass, and communication program.

Delivery Considerations: Reference agency-specific authorities as most agencies differ on policies governing cost recovery.

Fire Prevention, Education, and Mitigation

Learning Elements:

  • Identify methods which evaluate the effectiveness of reducing unwanted fire ignitions and trespass actions.
  • Describe the role of an FMO in ensuring fire safe communities.

Trespass and Cost Recovery

Learning Elements:

  • Understand the laws and policies governing cost recovery.
  • Understand an Agency Administrator's decision space on pursuing cost recovery.
Firefighter Training and Qualifications


Intent: Provide AAs and FMOs an overview of the unique human resources and workforce planning requirements associated with oversight and management of fire and aviation programs.

Delivery Considerations: None.

Learning Elements:

  • Identify the policies and standards documents which govern wildland fire training and workforce development activities for fire and non-fire personnel.
  • Describe the Agency Administrator's and FMO’s roles in wildland fire qualifications management for wildland fire and non-fire personnel.
  • Describe the policy requirements for training and qualifications of line officers and their designated actings.
  • Review the Interagency Fire Program Management (IFPM) and FS-FPM standards and describe the implications for succession planning.
  • Describe the benefits of an Incident Qualification Review process.
  • Identify what Certifying Official means in IQCS.
  • Describe the process and purpose of conducting individual training/qualification audits.
  • Identify agency-specific workforce development programs.
Safety and Risk Management

Intent: Provide an understanding of wildland fire policy for safety, risk management, response to serious accidents and Line of Duty Death (LODD), and the importance of pre-planning.

Delivery Considerations: Utilize case studies, sand table exercises, scenarios, or staff rides.

Learning Elements:

  • Describe risk management processes utilized at the strategic and tactical level in the wildland environment.
  • Describe the importance of emphasizing agency safety policies when engaging with fire management staff.
  • Describe the pre-planning and response actions to a serious accident or LODD.
  • Identify what is in a unit safety plan as it relates to fire management.
  • Describe the role in the development, review, revision, and implementation process for:
  • Understand the role of the FMO for reporting accidents in the SAFENET and SAFECOM systems.
  • Describe the process for identifying and mitigating high risk scenarios (such as oil/gas, UXO, or HCN).
  • Identify the elements of local briefing packages and describe their importance.
  • Review the agency policy on incident work/rest guidelines and length of assignment.
Fuels and Vegetation Management

Intent: Provide an understanding of fuels management policy, the significance to implementing fuels reduction, and the implementation associated with signing a prescribed fire burn plan.

Delivery Considerations: Utilize case studies, a local staff ride, or actual prescribed fire burn plans.

Learning Elements:

  • Identify agency and interagency policies that govern fuels management.
  • Describe the Agency Administrator's and FMO’s roles in overseeing a fuels and vegetation management program.
  • Describe the methods available to implement fuels reduction.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of decision processes tied to fuels management.
  • Discuss the cost benefit of implementing a hazardous fuels reduction program.
  • Explain the FMO’s and Agency Administrator’s roles in preparing and implementing prescribed fire plans.
  • Review a prescribed fire burn plan and assess the critical elements.
  • Describe the different fuels management reporting tools and their purpose (e.g., NFPORS, FTEM).
Incident Management and Response

Intent: Provide an understanding of the Agency Administrator’s and FMO’s roles and responsibilities of various aspects of incident response from initial attack, extended attack, large or long-term incident management, and post-fire activities.

Delivery Considerations: Consider using a current local/geographic incident as a case study to highlight the different decision points an FMO and AAwould be responsible for.


Learning Elements:

  • Identify policies guiding national, geographic, and local mobilization through the national dispatch system.
  • Describe the role and function of National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC), geographic area multi-agency coordinating groups (GMAC), and local multi-agency coordination groups (MAC).

Initial Attack and Incident Management Teams

Learning Elements:

  • Distinguish between the Agency Administrator’s and FMO’s responsibilities during initial attack, extended attack, and large or long-term incident management.
  • Understand the importance of providing expectations for all incident commanders.
  • Describe the importance of providing guidance and direction to an Incident Management Team (IMT).
  • Describe the Agency Administrator’s and FMO’s roles and responsibilities when hosting a Type1, 2, or 3 incident management organization.
  • Identify the critical elements of a delegation of authority for Incident Commanders (ICs).
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the decision processes specific to wildland fire management response.
  • Describe the use of Resource Advisors (READs) and other incident advisors on wildland fire incidents.

Incident Business

Learning Element:

  • Describe pre-incident planning activities including service/supply plans, local incident support, agreements, and casual hiring.
  • Describe incident business needs and considerations during an incident including using an Incident Business Advisor (IBA), cost-effective fire operations, cost shares, land use agreements, support units, claims, and incident replacement, and as they apply specifically to Type 3 incidents.
  • Describe incident business needs and considerations post incident, including large fire review, financial and confidential records, and reviews.

Post-Fire Activities

Learning Element:

  • Identify agency guidance for incident transfer of command.
  • List and describe potential post-fire activities.
  • Identify reporting requirements for the use of wildland fire chemicals.
  • Understand the policy and procedures for wildland fire reporting and managing of incident records.
Investigations and Reviews

Intent: Provide an understanding of the general purpose for various reviews, investigations, and programmatic changes based on findings and recommendations.

Delivery Considerations: Utilize current case studies.

Learning Elements:

  • Understand the different types and purposes of agency reviews; describe the roles and responsibilities in the review process.
    • Preparedness Review
    • AAR
    • Fire and Aviation Safety Team (FAST) Review
    • Safety Assistance Team (SAT)
    • Aviation Safety Assistance Team (ASAT) Review
    • Large Fire Review
    • Individual Fire Review
    • Lesson Learned Review (LLR)
    • Rapid Lesson Sharing (RLS)
    • Declared Wildfire Reviews
  • Understand the different types and purposes of agency investigations; describe the roles and responsibilities in the investigation process.
    • Serious Wildland Fire Accident
    • Wildland Fire Accident
    • Near-miss
    • Entrapment
    • Burnover
    • Fire Shelter Deployment
    • Fire Trespass
  • Discuss the responsibility to develop strategies on implementing programmatic changes based on outcomes of reviews and investigations.

Intent: Provide an understanding of the complexities of managing and utilizing aviation assets for fire and non-fire missions.

Delivery Considerations: Utilize local and state aviation managers to review what elements of an aviation plan the FMOs and AAs need to know.

Learning Elements:

  • Identify the policies governing aviation use by land management agencies.
  • Identify national, state, regional, and local responsibilities for aviation management.
  • Discuss the critical elements of an aviation plan.
  • Describe the role in the development, review, and revision process for a unit aviation plan.
  • Describe the different types of aviation assets used in fire and land management activities.

Legal and Liability

Intent: Provide an understanding of the potential criminal and civil liabilities associated with administrating a wildland fire program.

Delivery Considerations: Utilize an agency solicitor to deliver content.

Learning Elements:

  • Understand the personal liabilities associated with the FMO and AA positions.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of agency liability associated with wildland fire management decisions [National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Tort].
  • Understand the inherent protection one has as a federal employee and how you are covered when acting under the scope of your employment.

Preparing for Unintended Outcomes

Intent: Provide a basic understanding of how to prepare an organization to respond to critical incidents, accidents, or fatalities.

Delivery Considerations: None

Learning Elements:

  • Identify products and actions that can be used to prepare an organization to respond to a critical incident, accident, or fatality.
  • Describe the tools, programs, and processes that can be utilized during a response to a critical incident.


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