RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)

Smoke: Knowing the Risks

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The chemical makeup of smoke, how it affects our bodies and what actions can be taken to reduce or avoid those affects.
Category: Hazards
Core Component(s): Entrapment Avoidance, Other Hazards & Safety Issues
Estimated Delivery Time: 30 minutes; Video Length: 13:42


Identify the physiological and mental effects of smoke, and propose ways to recognize, diminish, and recover from these effects.

Facilitator Preparation

  • Review the module and video

Facilitating the Discussion

  • Watch the video
  • Facilitate a discussion using the activity and discussion questions.

Conduct Activity

Read scenario to students:

Digging line during a five day burnout, your crew has been exposed to moderate levels of smoke. Crew members have also been exposed to a viral cold (camp crud) and are experiencing respiratory irritation.

The camp is located in an inversion layer which has been filled with smoke.

The burnout was started four hours ago and your crew has been assigned to hold the line. Smoke has been blowing toward your holders and they are coughing.

Your squad leader says, “I have a hammering headache.”

You ask if everything is okay.

The squad leader says, “I’m fine. Mind your own business and get me some aspirin.” The squad leader continues, “Get the squad to mopup 500 feet in and use Pulaskis to fall the huge snags on the line.”

You give the squad leader a bottle of aspirin, which they try to open unsuccessfully.

You ask how the squad of holders are doing.

The squad leader responds, “The sawyers and mop up squad are felling snags in the middle of the fire and mopping up the stumps.”

You can’t hear any chainsaws and everyone appears to be on the holding line. What will you do?

Activity Discussion Questions:

  1. Is your squad leader possibly impacted by smoke effects?
  2. Is the smoke impacting the squad leader’s capability of leading others in a dangerous environment?
  3. What events and indicators in the scenario give clues to the possibility of a smoke-induced change in mental state?
  4. What are your options to begin a recovery?

Smoke chart showing signs and symptoms of CO in atmosphere and blood.


WFSTAR guides are currently being updated and will be added to each module page as they are completed.  In the interim, please use the following guide for this module.  This guide is not completely Section 508 compliant.  If you need an accessible version, please contact Travis Touchette at ttouchet@blm.gov.

Video Information

This video is also available as a download. (Size 44 MB)
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