National Wildfire Coordinating Group

S-491, Intermediate National Fire Danger Rating System, 2015

S-491 Decorative banner: Four photos of wildland fire operations. An aerial of a large plume of smoke rising from a forest fire. Smokey Bear on a roadside fire activity sign. A firefighter takes a weather meter reading as he points his device at the fire beyond. A pair of hands hold a weather gauge and weather charts checking the data.

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The course develops the knowledge and skill to operate, maintain and manage the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) at the local unit. Course lecture and exercises support practical and technical application of the intellectually complex subject matter. The course requires a computer classroom with Internet access to present.


  • Demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to operate, apply, and manage the National Fire Danger Rating System.

Target Group

The course lessons and exercises support training for dispatchers and others charged with editing and inputting weather information into WIMS used for NFDRS calculations, fire management staff who apply NFDRS outputs to decision-making, and fire behavior specialists who incorporate NFDRS products into assessments and projections.

Prerequisite Qualifications and Training

  • Demonstrate at least intermediate skills with the current Windows™ operating system.
  • Successful completion of S-290, Intermediate Wildland Fire Behavior.
  • Possess a valid Weather Information Management System (WIMS) and Wildland Fire Management Information system (WFMI) logon identification.
  • Current and comprehensive working knowledge of WIMS (the WIMS course is strongly recommended to attain this prerequisite knowledge).
  • Successfully complete the pre-selection assessment with a minimum passing score of 70% or higher.

Session Offerings

Sessions of this course may be available in the NWCG Wildland Fire Learning Portal (WFLP). Enrollment requires an account. Log on as a guest to search for session offerings of this course and to view other public content. To search for a specific course, use the FIND LEARNING menu at the top of the page, then select UPCOMING COURSES. To view Geographic Area training schedules, select the specific GEOGRAPHIC AREA information using the drop-down menu at the top of the page. Contact your local Training Officer for more information about local course sessions.



S-491 is available as classroom instructor-led training.

Course Components and Hours to Complete

Course Component Course Time
Pre-course work N/A
Pre-selection assessment 8
Online training N/A
Instructor-led training 36
Total Hours 44

Computer Specialist

It is essential that a computer specialist either be one of the cadre members or be immediately available to the course presentation to resolve any computer, network, or printing problems encountered. Persons selected to fill this capacity must be thoroughly familiar with the hardware (personal computers, network, internet connection, printers, projector) used in presenting the course, with directory structures used, and to a lesser extent the software and its installation.

Course Materials

Course coordinators or lead instructors should contact the S-491 Intermediate National Fire Danger Rating System Course Steering Committee to obtain most recent course materials. See Roster for contact information at

Course Level

Regional, state, or area

Minimum Instructor Qualifications

In order to maintain consistency and oversight of course delivery, course coordinators must consult with the NWCG Fire Environment Curriculum Subcommittee (FENC) when selecting lead instructors to present the S-491 course. See roster for contact information. At a minimum, the lead instructor has general knowledge of the entire S-491 course material; has previous experience as a lead instructor or unit leader for S-491; has broad experience applying NFDRS outputs; has the ability to relate each unit and lesson to the next and to the entire course; and is competent to teach any lesson in the course. The lead instructor shall be responsible for selecting the remainder of the cadre for the course. The subject matter of this course is highly technical and complex. The lead instructor shall make every effort to select the most qualified individuals to teach individual lessons and lead units, paying special attention to matching the instructor to the content and complexity of those units.

At a minimum, unit and lesson instructors have completed S-491 and preferably attended the advanced NFDRS course (S-591). The unit leader must be competent in all the areas of emphasis within the unit, be able to teach any of the lessons or provide answers to detailed questions about the lesson’s content, and provide leadership to coaches.

The lesson instructors should be competent and comfortable in presenting the content of the lesson, answering technical questions on the lesson subject matter, and have expertise with the course software sufficient to coach students through course exercises.

The ratio of instructors and coaches to students must be no fewer than 1:5 to ensure availability of adequate coaching during exercises.

See NWCG Standards for Course Delivery, PMS 901-1, Instructor Standards for more information.


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