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GERMAN AGENCY FOR TECHNICAL COOPERATION
MINISTRY OF FORESTRY AND ESTATE CROPS
Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project, South Sumatra
Integrated Forest Fire Management Project, East Kalimantan
of Forest Firefighters
Marc V. J. Nicolas and Grant S. Beebe
Kanwil Departemen Kehutanan dan Perkebunan
Propinsi Kalimantan Timur dan Propinsi Sumatera Selatan
Training of forest firefighters in logging concession; PT. Inhutani V, South Sumatra
Produced through cooperation between
GOVERNMENT OF INDONESIA - MINISTRY OF FORESTRY AND ESTATE CROPS
EUROPEAN UNION - EUROPEAN COMMISSION
GTZ - GERMAN AGENCY FOR TECHNICAL COOPERATION
This is one of the two reports prepared during 1999 jointly by the Forest Fire
Prevention and Control Project, South Sumatra, and the Integrated Forest Fire
Management Project, East Kalimantan.
Titles of the reports are:
Fire Management in the Logging Concessions and Plantation Forests of
I ndonesia. M.V.J. Nicolas and G.S. Beebe.
The Training of Forest Firefighters in I ndonesia. M.V.J. Nicolas and G.S. Beebe.
These reports are also available in Bahasa Indonesia.
Copies of the reports can be obtained from;
The Project Leader, FFPCP, PO Box 1229, Palembang 30000, Indonesia
Fax number: +62 711 417 137 – Homepage: http://www.mdp.co.id/ffpcp.htm
The Project Leader, IFFM-GTZ, Kotak Pos 1202, Samarinda 75001, Indonesia
Fax number: +62 541 33 519 – Homepage: http://www.iffm.or.id
A shortage of competent fire staff at all levels severely limits fire prevention and
control efforts throughout Indonesia.
This document, prepared by the EU-funded Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project
(FFPCP) and the Integrated Forest Fire Management Project (IFFM) supported by
GTZ, proposes a broad framework within which firefighter training can be developed
and implemented. It is not a substitute for the development of a national or regional
course in firefighter training. (The task of preparing such a syllabus is for a
government institution.) Within the framework, priority is given to the teaching of the
basics. These can be summarized as the training of (i) fire crews of 5 – 20 people
organized as a unit, (ii) crew bosses – the men-in-charge of the fire crews, and (iii) the
fire bosses – those responsible for all suppression and service activities at a fire.
It is however recognized that fire prevention is preferable to later fire control and both
FFPCP and IFFM run extensive prevention programmes.
The report brings together the current thinking and priorities on firefighter training
from countries with a long history of combating forest fires and tailors these to
Indonesian conditions. The adaptations are based firmly on the long-term field-based
experience of IFFM in Kalimantan and FFPCP in Sumatra. They have been tested and
shown to be appropriate.
Regency level staff of the Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops have to form the
backbone of an upgraded firefighting system although people from many other
agencies must also be included. At present private timber concession companies are
the major source of trained manpower as these companies are required by law to
appoint fire control staff. They thus have a nucleus organization that can be further
trained and strengthened. Volunteer village firefighters and members of NGOs also
have a part to play, as do the armed services.
The theoretical and practical training of firefighters is best carried out by local
instructors. The first step is thus to train-the-trainers. The second is to spread the
knowledge within to ensure the establishment of the modern, well-adapted
organization that is urgently needed.
The report details the minimum theoretical knowledge and practical experience that is
required to train the forest firefighters at regency and provincial level. Topics covered
include the terminology and theory of firefighting, the chain of command, the need to
anticipate and the importance of communications.
Practical components covered in the training course are intended to acquaint trainees
with the essentials of fire behaviour and fire suppression techniques. Hands-on
experience in the use of equipment under controlled conditions is seen as an essential
pre-requisite before new recruits face a wildfire.
Firefighting is dangerous and physically demanding. Safety is stressed and a module
on first aid included.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Basic training of firefighters
2. ORGANIZATION AND COMMAND
The fire boss's rules
Anticipation and maps
3. THE THEORY OF FIREFIGHTING
The fire triangle
Fuels, weather and topography
The ten standard fire orders
4. PRACTICAL FIREFIGHTING
Forest types and fire suppression techniques
Building the fire-line
Head and anchor points
Direct and indirect attacks
Mop-up and water use
5. SAFETY AND FIRST AID
Treatment of burns
ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS
APPENDIX. FIRE MANAGEMENT TERMINOLOGY
The Integrated Forest Fire Management Project (IFFM) operates under a bilateral
technical cooperation agreement between the governments of Indonesia and Germany.
The project is responsible to the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops
(MoFEC) and is based in Samarinda in the province of East Kalimantan.
The Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project (FFPCP) is a joint undertaking between
the European Union and MoFEC and is based in Palembang, South Sumatra province.
FFPCP works, as does IFFM, through the Provincial Forestry and Estate Crops Office.
As part of their remits FFPCP and IFFM assist Indonesia to strengthen the country’s
fire management capacity by suggesting practical methods to train firefighters.
Recommendations contained in this paper are based on a field-level ‘hands-on’
approach to the problem, gained working with concession holders and government
agencies to prevent and control vegetation fires on peat and non-organic soils. This
paper is the second of two joint publications: the other deals with fire management in
the logging concessions and plantation forests.
Figure 1. Location of FFPCP and IFFM projects in Indonesia.
The training of forest firefighters is covered here. But it is the prevention of fires not
their successful control that must be the objective of much future work.
Throughout Indonesia over 99 percent of all vegetation fires are started directly by
man or arise from his activities. Small-scale land clearance by farmers leads to many
fires, and lack of awareness to others. However the larger fires tend to result from
commercial land clearance for plantation crops. In recent years this has also brought
increasing numbers of land ownership conflicts that result in arson and yet more fires.
There is a pressing need to re-examine land-use policy and also government policies
that unintentionally provide incentives to use fire.
FFPCP and IFFM stress fire prevention in their daily work; in particular through
targeted campaigns such as environmental awareness campaigns with schoolchildren
and the work with forest concession holders (Nicolas and Beebe, 1999).
Within the context of firefighting, a broad framework is proposed within which the
training of forest firefighters in Indonesia can be developed and implemented. Trained
ground crews come first. Until they are in place and fully equipped throughout
Indonesia, there is no place for, and no need to dream of, the use of helicopters and
fixed-wing aircraft to detect and fight forest fires. Priority is given to the basics and the
report is intended to draw attention to these elements that must be included in future
teaching exercises. These can be summarized as the training of:
• fire crews – 5 to 20 people organized to work as a unit,
• the crew boss – the man-in-charge of a fire crew, and
• the fire boss or incident commander – the man responsible for all suppression and
service activities at a fire.
The report gives guidelines on the topics that need to be addressed during Province and
Regency level training. It includes chapters on organization and command structures,
the theory of firefighting and on the training of firefighters under field conditions. The
safety of men must prevail and a short additional chapter outlines these training needs.
Fire terminology is covered in an appendix.
The report is not intended to, and is not, a substitute for an over-due national
programme in firefighter training. This task needs to be taken in hand by an appointed
Action at field level is an urgent necessity and must depend upon the simple and clear
training of firefighters as well as on appropriately adapted but inexpensive equipment.
The basic tactics and strategies developed in temperate countries with a long history of
vegetation fires – and thus extensive experience of their control – are also applicable to
tropical Indonesia. They do however, need some adaptation to take into account
differences in vegetation types and the limited infrastructure within the country.
Examples of publications that deal with the fundamentals of tactics and strategy and
which can be consulted for further details, include; Canada and USA (Perry, 1990),
Australia (NSW Government, 1989), southern Europe (Nicolas, 1982).
Some of the differences between the tropics and the temperate zones make firefighting
less difficult; the high humidity (≥ 55 %) and low wind speeds (≤ 25 km.h¯¹) reduce
the speed of fire spread. But others make fire control much more difficult. Problems
caused by the large size of Indonesia and the lack of access (few roads, and by rivers in
the wetland) are not easy to overcome, and the hot damp climate makes firefighting
enervating. The major difficulty, however, is the weakness of the institutions – now
worsened by the deep economic crisis – responsible for fire prevention and control.
Plate 1. Forest fire covering 1 300 ha. in the HPH, PT. Inhutani V, South Sumatra province,
FFPCP in South Sumatra and IFFM in East Kalimantan have identified the provision
of support to Regency Forestry Head Offices (Cabang Dinas Kehutanan Tingkat II) as
the most effective way to strengthen fire fighting capacity - and fire prevention - in the
immediate and near future. The areas at risk are large, resources limited, and a
selective approach to firefighting is fundamental. Three categories of land need
priority protection, each has a particular fire management requirement;
• Virgin forests and conservation areas: forest guards from the Ministry of Forestry
and Estate Crops (Kanwil Kehutanan dan Perkebunan, Dinas Kehutanan and Dinas
• Commercial forest areas with HPH, HPHTI and estate crops: private firefighters
assisted by paid volunteers.
• Zones near to villages: paid volunteer firefighters and NGOs.
Fire crews are the foundation of any system to prevent and control forest fires. In
Indonesia, the primary need is to form, train, and equip crews at Regency level. As the
crews, the crew bosses and the fire bosses become more successful, they will earn the
recognition from the authorities and the community that is so necessary to gain and
maintain high motivation and good results.
While MoFEC staff must form the backbone of the system, people from many other
institutional agencies should also be involved in the formation of fire crews. Private
firefighters from the timber concessions constitute an important resource (Nicolas and
Beebe, 1999) and volunteer firefighters and members of NGOs have a part to play: not
least because villagers have an extensive knowledge of fire as used in traditional land
clearing. But all have to be part of the official structure, and be commanded by well
trained fire bosses.
In 1998, IFFM trained officers and enlisted men of the armed services (ABRI)
stationed in East and West Kalimantan. FFPCP supported similar training in North and
South Sumatra. There is a long tradition in Indonesia of the military being used to help
fight forest fires. The training in 1998 was an attempt by the two projects to provide
ABRI with more in-depth knowledge of firefighting techniques and fire behaviour
before they took the field. The discipline, morale and strong command structure
inherent within the armed services make ABRI a logical institution to tap into in times
of fire emergency.
Plate 2. Training in firefighting for officers and enlisted men of the armed services (ABRI) by
IFFM and FFPCP, near Lake Toba, North Sumatra province, March 1998.
Field experience gained by FFPCP and IFFM has shown the necessity to keep
equipment simple, compatible and adaptable. (Nicolas, 1998; Schindler, 1998). Overly
complex equipment is never used or is quickly broken. Equipment, especially pumps,
should not be distributed without training in its use. Firefighters need proper protective
clothing to minimize personal risk.
There is an urgent need to form at national or ASEAN level, a group to determine
appropriate standards for:
• individual protective equipment (helmets, clothes, boots, gloves),
• robust, simple, and effective handtools (especially for fire line construction),
• backpack pumps,
• motorized pumps, fire hoses, and fittings (all compatible),
• slip-on tank units, and
• adaptable fire tankers (small trucks).
Figure 2. Users of effective and standardized firefighting equipment need appropriate training.
Standardization will prevent money from being wasted on equipment that is too
complex or cumbersome to use, that is incompatible with other equipment, and that is
potentially hazardous to firefighters. Donors must adhere to the agreed standards.
A secondary aim of equipment standardization is to help Indonesia develop local fire
equipment manufactures where none exist today. Fire rakes were specially produced in
Palembang to a design by FFPCP. For more complex firefighting equipment (e.g. slip-
on tanks, Nicolas, 1999), joint venture manufacture with an overseas partner is a likely
starting point. (Nicolas, 1999a).
IFFM commissioned the manufacture of a pair of ‘slip-on’ pickup-truck-mounted
pumper units in Samarinda. These were modeled on imported units and while there
have been problems of reliability, the original imported units had there own drawbacks
of high initial cost and non-availability of spare parts.
Plate 3. High quality fire rakes manufactured in Palembang, South Sumatra province.
Basic Training of Firefighters
In late 1998 ASEAN recognised the severe shortage of firefighting expertise within
Indonesia and some weaknesses in other countries within the region. In consequence a
decision was taken to establish by 2004, a Regional Research and Training Centre in
the Management of Forest and Land Fire: it is planned that the Centre will be placed
with the University of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan province. But if Indonesia is
the judicious choice to host the future regional training centre, it must remain open to
doubt that the selection of Province is the best. Funds are being sought and much
preliminary work is needed to agree an appropriate curriculum.
As noted above, little attention has been paid to the practicalities of firefighting in
Indonesia. International workshops that followed from the disastrous vegetation fire
seasons of 1997 - 1998 chose, in the main, to focus on high technology systems to
monitor and predict future fires. While fire danger rating systems can help firefighters
anticipate risks, in many places there are no fire crews in the field to help. Far too little
importance was placed on organization, training and equipping at the field level. It
must be remembered that;
• Firefighting depends on well-trained crews kept in practice with regular theoretical
and practical courses.
• Managerial staff need more advanced training in forest fire management, forest
firefighting and ‘tactical reasoning’. They also need a radio system adapted for use
in fire management. A strategic pyramidal organization and a tactical chain of
command are concepts which remain to be developed, but whose absence must not
hinder field level development.
• First aid knowledge and training is essential. Firefighters must be able to rescue
their injured colleagues and wounded civilians.
• Discipline is necessary during firefighting campaigns that require numerous
personnel for many days. Fire control must be conducted with military methods
Table 1 (FFPCP) and Table 2 (IFFM) show examples of basic training programmes
developed jointly with the Regional Offices of MoFEC in South Sumatra and East
Kalimantan. (Beebe and Ismunandar, 1998).
Days 1, 2 and 3: Theory
Fire Terminology and Legislation
Fire Behaviour, Weather and Topography
Weather Station and Fire Danger Index
Patrolling and Fire Detection
Fire Suppression Techniques
Command, Communication and Discipline
First aid and Safety
Days 4 and 5: Practice
Tool Use and Safety
Fireline Construction Techniques
Direct and Indirect Attack
Mop Up Techniques
Table 1. Basic training programme used in South Sumatra province in 1998.
Day 1: Theory
Fire Behaviour, Weather and Topography
Patrolling and Fire Detection
Fire Suppression Techniques
Command, Communication and Discipline
Days 2 and 3: Field Exercises
Tool Use and Safety
Fireline Construction Techniques
Direct and Indirect Attack
Mop Up Techniques
Using Pumps and Hose
Table 2. Basic training programme used in East Kalimantan province in 1998.
The two programmes contain both theory and practical elements but differ somewhat
in content and duration. There is a need to harmonize curricula through a national
firefighting programme that includes components on first aid and the need for
discipline when firefighting.
The setting up of an effective fire control organization will take considerable time,
funds and effort - but if it is not done, satellites and computers are pointless.
Plate 4. Fire crew training in South Sumatra province, August 1998.
2. ORGANIZATION AND COMMAND
One person – the fire boss – takes charge of all the people working on a fire. The most
dangerous and least efficient ways to fight a fire is for everyone to work by himself or
in small groups. But, it is the job of everyone to watch out for himself and the rest of
the team to make sure that no one gets hurt.
The job of the fire boss is to take charge of everyone, to plan strategy and tactics, to
insure safety, and to tell local forestry officials how the work is progressing.
The basic unit for firefighting is a crew of 5 – 20 firefighters. A single crew is
sufficient to put out a small fire, and the crew boss can also be the fire boss. For a large
fire, firefighters are grouped into numerous crews. Each crew has a crew boss who
reports to and receives instructions from the fire boss. The fire boss himself does not
need to himself talk to every firefighter. A single person is unable to keep track of
more than eight firefighters while also scouting the fire, planning strategy and
reporting to authorities. At a large fire, the fire boss gives authority to crew bosses to
instruct and keep track of their own crews and to make limited decisions, particularly
when the safety of their crew is threatened.
The Fire Boss's Rules
A good fire boss has a;
• thorough knowledge of fire prevention and control,
• ability to make fast and reliable decisions based on this knowledge,
• carry out and supervise a variety of operational and investigative field activities,
• knowledge of the use of computers, radios, meteorological instruments and maps in
• ability to calculate and interpret fire danger indices, and
• accurately complete fire reports.
The fire boss's rules are;
• consider the general situation and make an appreciation of action required,
• set yourself a clear objective and manage that objective, (e.g. to confine the fire to
one hectare within 30 minutes),
• assign tasks and resources to meet that objective,
• ensure that every person working on the fire knows who is in charge,
• continually emphasize that safety considerations are paramount,
• maintain direct control of no more than eight people (span of control between
three to eight; see Appendix Fire Management Terminology),
• ensure effective communication arrangements are established, and
• brief people at every opportunity.
Anticipation and Maps
On arrival the fire boss scouts the fire and decides if he can control it with the
resources he has with him. Even if it appears that he can, he still sends word to the
local authorities so that they are prepared if conditions change and the fire worsens. If
it seems that the fire is too large for the immediate crew, reinforcements are called.
Changes in fire perimeter and behaviour over time are anticipated. Thereafter the fire
boss continuously assesses the future need for additional fire crews, equipment and
other resources for the hours ahead. Such foresight is possible when the boss is
thoroughly familiar with the topography, fuels, local weather and the capabilities of
crews and equipment.
Figure 3. The use of maps is an essential part of anticipation.
Two sets of maps are needed to assist in the control of forest fires;
• Regional maps with at a scale of 1: 250 000, and
• Local maps at a scale of 1: 50 000, that cover the area around a large fire.
Regional maps are used in the command posts to locate fires and guide the units to
them. Local maps with their larger scale are an essential tool for the fire boss as they
contain precise information on the local wilderness, villages, access roads, water
supplies, fields, types of forest and on vegetation.
Both scales of map need to be ruled with a grid system – used by the armed services –
related to latitude and longitude lines using the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM)
grid. Whole degree and minute lines are added, seconds can be estimated by eye.
[NOAA satellite data showing the location of vegetation fires is received in the less
widely understood convention of decimal degrees but is converted to minutes and
seconds before transmission to users. See Anderson, Imanda and Muhnandar (1999)
for further details.]
A graph system of fire behaviour anticipation is used in many countries (Figure 11). It
is a particularly useful tool in helping to imagine where and how big the fire will be in
30 minutes, one hour, two hours, etc. With its use the fire boss can then define his new;
• objective; a goal statement that indicates what he wants to achieve at the fire,
• strategies; developed from the objective and that describe how the fire will be
• tactics; the tasking of personnel to implement the strategies.
Figure 4. Graph system of fire behaviour anticipation used with a 1: 50 000 map.
Communication takes place at many levels during a fire. The fire boss gives clear
instructions to his crew bosses. Crew bosses talk to their firefighters and other crew
bosses to give instructions and warnings if conditions become dangerous. Firefighters
talk to one another so that they can pass along instructions from the crew boss or ask
Everyone at the fire must be able to be contacted quickly – by radio, voice, or
messenger – if conditions become unsafe and firefighters have to run for safety. The
fire boss needs also to be able to communicate with forest authorities to request help
and report progress. This progress report passes details of size, fuels, numbers of
people and equipment being used, and an estimated control schedule. It is transmitted
by radio, through a messenger sent to a telephone, or directly by messenger.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) radio communication code is
used to ensure uniformity and enhance audibility (see Appendix Fire Management
Figure 5. Radio communication network for firefighting.
The fire boss completes a report after each fire in the concession. It forms the official
record and is used to obtain a picture of numbers over time and the impact of each fire.
Reports also help ensure the continuous improvement of fighting capability and the
understanding of fire behaviour.
Analysis of the reports leads to the identification of fire causes, high fire risk areas,
economic losses, firefighting costs, and the effectiveness of firefighting and pre-
suppression measures. Information that is crucial to improve operations.
3. THE THEORY OF FIREFIGHTING
Donors regularly send trainers with considerable forest fire knowledge to Indonesia to
run basic firefighter training courses. However, experience shows that the best training
results come when Indonesians instruct other Indonesians. Hence, the first requirement
of any extensive training exercise is to develop a skilled and experience cadre of local
Basic fire training should be mandatory for anyone who will regularly take part in
organized firefighting. Training needs to last five days; two days of classroom study
and three days to practice the acquired knowledge. After completion, students will be
ready to form effective, disciplined fire crews.
Studies of forest fire behaviour and firefighting begin with an explanation of
terminology. The list below gives examples of basic terms that must be understood
before discussing forest fires and suppression techniques. Further definitions are given
in Appendix Fire Management Terminology.
• Fuel; the grass, shrubs and trees - alive and dead - that a fire burns.
• Head; the front of a fire where the flames are highest.
• Tail; the back end of a fire where the flames are lowest.
• Flank; the side of a fire.
• Fireline; a path dug through the grass, shrubs or trees around a fire to stop it.
• Wetline; a fireline made by squirting water on a fire rather than by digging.
• Tanker; a truck with a tank of water on the back and a pump and hose.
• Direct attack; suppression action taken right on the fire’s edge.
• Indirect attack; suppression action carried out at a distance from the fire.
• Fire boss; the person who is in charge of a fire at the fire scene.
The Fire Triangle
Trees, grass, and brush burn only when air and sufficient heat are also present:
Fuel – Air – Heat make up the Fire Triangle.
Figure 6. The fire triangle.
Without any one of the sides of the triangle, a fire cannot burn. There must be dry fuel,
sufficient heat to ignite the fuel – a match, a coal seam, a cooking fire, a spark from a
chainsaw – and air, without which a fire cannot breathe.
The Fire Triangle also indicates how to fight fire. To extinguish it, remove fuel, heat or
air. Fuel is removed by building a fire line where the fire runs out of things to burn;
heat by spraying on water, and; air by throwing on dirt.
Fuels, Weather and Topography
The ease or difficulty of controlling a forest fire depends on many things. Most
important are the types of fuels that are burning, the weather, and the shape of the land
– the topography.
Fuels: A knowledge of what is burning is the first consideration when trying to answer
the question, “How can we put out the fire?”
• What kinds of plants are burning? Trees, shrubs or grass? Standing trees and logs
lying on the ground burn more slowly than grass or shrubs, but give off more heat
when they do burn. Are the plants mostly alive or dead? Dead plants burn more
easily and hotter than live ones. And how much fuel is there? Have some trees been
removed for firewood or has some of the grass been raked away? The more fuel
there is, the hotter a fire burns and the harder it is to control.
• How much moisture is in the plants that are burning? Living plants will burn if
they are very dry, and dead plants will not if they are very wet.
• How are the burning plants arranged? Is the grass standing or matted? Are the
trees standing or lying on the ground? Are the fuels spread evenly throughout the
field or are they clumped? Standing fuels generally burn hotter than lying fuels as
more air can reach them. Unevenly spread fuels reduce fire spread.
Figure 7. Knowledge of fuel of fuel types is of great importance.
Weather: The weather before and during a fire determines how it burns.
• Temperature is important. The hotter the weather in the weeks before and during
the fire, the easier it is for a fire to grow and the harder it is to control.
• The stronger the wind, the harder the fire is to control. Wind bends the flames so
that they touch the fuel ahead of the fire and help it to spread. And wind carries
embers to fuel ahead of the fire and sometimes across firelines to start new spot
fires. Wind also provides more air to the fire and makes it burn hotter. Wind helps
to dry fuels so that they burn more easily.
Thunderstorms often bring gusty storm winds that speed a fire and can change its
direction more than once. In the morning light winds usually move uphill; in the
evening downhill, as the ground warms and cools with the rising and setting of the
sun. All winds cause problems for fire control.
• Rain and high humidity make fuel wetter, and thus a fire moves more slowly and is
easier to control. Light fuels (grass) wet and dry quickly - trees and shrubs more
Topography: The shape of the land is important in fire control. Hills and slopes bring
difficulties that flat country does not; they and other features affect how a fire burns
and how it can be extinguished.
• Rising slopes raise flames closer to fuels ahead and the fire moves more quickly
than on the flat. Plants above the fire are warmed before the fire reaches them and
they ignite more easily. The steeper the rising slope, the faster the fire spreads and
the harder it is to control. Firelines on a slope above a fire need to be wider than
those below or on the sides of a fire.
Slope also allows burning objects - logs or seeds - to roll across a fireline and cause
• Slope aspect is important. Slopes that face east heat up earlier in the day than those
that face west, which warm up in the afternoon and evening. A fire on a west
facing slope is more difficult to control late in the day than one on a hill facing
• Natural barriers help fighting. Small rivers, rocks, and patches of bare earth can all
slow a fire and can be used to help control it. Man-made paths, roads and clearings
serve the same function.
The Ten Standard Fire Orders
Every firefighter should learn and remember ten standard orders;
1. Fight fire aggressively but provide for safety first.
2. Initiate all action based on current and expected fire behaviour.
3. Recognize current weather conditions and obtain forecasts.
4. Ensure instructions are given and understood.
5. Obtain current information on the status of the fire.
6. Remain in communication with crew members and your fire boss.
7. Determine safety zones and escape routes.
8. Establish lookouts in potentially hazardous situations.
9. Retain control at all times.
10. Stay alert, calm, think clearly, act decisively.
4. PRACTICAL FIREFIGHTING
Practical training is intended to acquaint new firefighters with the essentials of fire
behaviour and suppression techniques, and to give the students a chance to practice
firefighting under controlled conditions before being faced with a wildfire.
Plate 5. Firefighting training; to ‘touch the fire’ is essential.
Forest Types and Fire Suppression Techniques
It is essential to develop a fire suppression strategy that is based on the reality of
conditions in the field and which can be put into action through existing organizations.
Only when this basic strategy is in place can more advanced methods of fire
suppression be adopted according to their cost effectiveness and the values-at-risk.
Upland forest: Fire spread is normally not rapid, but access is limited and is
ultimately by foot. Thus relatively light hand tools need to be used and water is applied
only with backpack pumps. Fire rakes and fire beaters are most suited to the fuel types
and are used to make a direct attack at the tail and flanks of a fire. Steep slopes make
the head of the fire difficult to control and back burning from a fireline in front of the
fire is necessary. For this, McLeod tools (a combination hoe and rake), brush hooks,
and drip-torches are required. Pulaski axes (a combination chopping and trenching
tool) are needed for mop-up.
Lowland forest: Fire spread is often more rapid than in upland forest, but difficulties
are lessened by easier access and flat terrain. Fire suppression strategies, tactics and
tools are similar.
Peat swamp forest: Access is by waterway. Most of the fires originate along the
borders of these channels in mixed alang-alang (Imperata cylindrica) and sparse gelam
(Melaleuca cajuputi ssp. leucodendron) woodland. In an extreme drought these
channel-associated fires spread and threaten the denser patches of forest and must be
controlled before they enter or turn into ground fires.
Handtools have to be transportable by boat and finally by hand. They are similar to
those utilised in the other forest types. High pressure portable pumps with hoses and
fittings can be used to fight fires close to waterways. A number of peat swamp
concession forests have limited access by a light, moveable railway system used to
extract logs. Otherwise access to the interior is by foot, and is difficult. Direct attack
may not be feasible and the fire has to be contained by constructing a fire break around
the perimeter. This perimeter attack is made with hand tools (fire shovels, brush hooks,
Pulaski axes, mechanical shrub cutters) and chain saws.
Figure 8. Backpack pumps and machetes used in combination for fire suppression.
Building the Fireline
A fireline built with shovels, fire rakes and axes is the most common way to fight
vegetation fires throughout the world. Grass, shrubs, and trees are removed from in
front of a fire to starve it of fuel.
The fireline is most easily dug by groups working together in line, each man swinging
his tool just a few times before moving on. In this way, a completed fireline is started
by the first person in the crew and finished by the last, with each in between doing a
small share of the work. The last person must ensure that the line is of good quality
and tell the others to improve it if it is not.
The fireline is dug down to bare earth and wide enough with no roots or branches
crossing it to give the fire a way to escape. As a guide, the fireline should be at least as
wide as the vegetation alongside is tall. For example, if the grass and shrubs are 1.5 m
in height, the fireline needs to be over 1.5 m wide.
Figure 9. Use of fire rake and safety tool spacing to build the fireline.
Head and Anchor Points
Typical free-burning fires have an uneven width with the main spread moving with the
wind or up-slope (Figure 6). The most rapidly moving portion is called the head of the
fire; the adjoining portions of the perimeter the flanks, and; the slowest moving portion
is known as the tail.
The crew selects an anchor point to begin digging the fireline. The anchor point is a
safe place at the tail of the fire; trails, roads, patches of bare earth or where the fire is
already out are all suitable. The anchor point lets the crew begin the line without fear
that the fire will burn around behind them.
Alternatively, firefighters can begin their attack at the head of the fire if it is not too
hot, and then work back towards the tail. The technique should be used with caution
but is a good way to prevent fires from growing large. Firelines begun at the head must
still be connected to a cool part of the fire or to some other anchor point.
Figure 10. The anatomy of a forest fire; from the head to the tail.
Direct and Indirect Attacks
Fires are controlled in one of two ways. Either a fireline is dug around the fire, or the
edges are sprayed with water until they are extinguished. Once the fire is stopped (or
checked) the next task is to prevent its escape beyond its control lines. Firefighters
follow rules to ensure that they do their job safely and effectively. Fires can either be
fought close in - a direct attack - or from a distance - an indirect attack.
Direct attack involves spraying the edge of a fire with a hose or backpack pump,
swatting the flames with shovels or fire swatters, pulling flaming material into the
burning area, or by cutting a fireline right along the fire edge. A direct attack is almost
always safer than an indirect; the crew can run into the already burned area if the fire
gets too hot. In a direct attack, several people should regularly check the line
(patrolling) behind the crew to make sure the fire has not crossed the line.
Figure 11. Direct attack with hand tools and backpack pump.
Indirect attack is carried out by back firing from a control line that can be a natural
barrier, one constructed at the time, e.g. a fireline, or one that has been pre-built, e.g. a
road or firebreak. The object is to clear-burn an area approximately 30 m. wide ahead
of the fire but to sacrifice as little extra area to the fire as possible. Ideally, the clear
area should be between two control lines with the back fire extinguished before the
main fire arrives. The turbulence that occurs when two fires meet is thus avoided.
Different techniques are used to set a back fire - strip fires, spot fires or flanking fires -
to ensure the area is burned completely before the main fire arrives. The operation
requires skill and experience as well as adequate resources. Backfiring should only be
carried out in areas of light, uniform fuels and in winds below 15 km.hr
Neither indirect nor direct firelines are safe until the fire has burned all the way to the
line and is no longer flaming. Thus as a crew builds an indirect line, it regularly burns
out the fuel between the line and the fire.
Figure 12. Fireline construction for an indirect attack.
Figure 13. Back firing and holding crews (X) from a fuelbreak.
Mop-Up and Water Use
Once a fireline has been built to surround the fire, the final job is to mop-up the fire.
This is done by working around the edge putting out whatever is still flaming or
smoking. Only after the fire has stopped smoking should it be considered as out.
The use of water in direct attack or mop-up is dictated by its availability and by access
to carry in pumping equipment. Water is difficult to transport and should be used as
effectively as possible. It is the responsibility of pump operators and nozzlemen to
Water is used either to extinguish the interior of a fire or to limit its spread by building
a wet-line. It is also used to knock down the flames at the head or flank of a fire to
allow passage into the already burned area and attack from the leeward side of the
flames. A straight jet of water is especially useful to extinguish fire in the tops of trees
and to extinguish fuels burning underground (where it is used in conjunction with hand
Water is applied as a spray to the base of the flames nearest the nozzle, not directly to
the flames themselves. The nozzle should be shut when moving between hot areas to
allow the firefighter to observe if the fire re-ignites, as well as to save water.
Additives and foam-producing pumps and nozzles help stretch a limited resource.
Foam greatly increases the effectiveness of water use. The foam-producing additives
reduce surface tension and allow the water to cover a greater area and to penetrate
better into densely matted vegetation; they are easily mixed in large, collapsible tanks
(1000 l.) for later use with 18 l. backpack pumps. Common detergents such as
washing-up liquids are cheap and effective.
While the theory of effective water use can be taught, there is no substitute for
Figure 14. Water use with pump, hoses and nozzles.
5. SAFETY AND FIRST AID
Forest firefighting is physically demanding, dangerous work that requires strength,
stamina and the ability to remain alert despite fatigue and stress. Every year many
firefighters are killed by flames and smoke; as many again by falling trees, by
sunstroke or accident with a tool or vehicle. Constant attention to safe working
practices can keep the toll of death and injury to an absolute minimum (Chandler et al.,
1991). Safety is the prime responsibility of every person at the fire.
It is widely recognized that the effectiveness of a fire crew is reduced by around 50
percent after 6 – 8 hours work, and falls even more sharply after this. Crews thus need
changing after eight hours: a good time is in the early morning or late evening when
the wind is often at its weakest and the fire thus less force. If return home for a nights
rest is impossible, tents and bedrolls need to be brought to the fire site (Heikkila,
Gronqvist and Jurvelius, 1993).
Food and drinking water are essentials. A ready supply of potable water must be freely
available from the outset: perhaps surprisingly, work rate falls most steeply if no water
is drunk between 1 and 2 hours after starting. Meal breaks are taken in rotation and the
food must be both appetizing and nourishing. Supplies are maintained from base camp
or are locally purchased as convenient.
The following watch-out list was developed after analysis of many accidents, injuries
and fatalities (NWCG, 1992). It warns firefighters of potential problems.
1. You are given an assignment not clear to you.
2. You cannot see the main body of the fire, and you are not in communication with
anyone who can.
3. You are getting spot fires over your line.
4. You are attempting a head attack on the fire.
5. You are in an area where you do not know local fire behaviour conditions.
6. You are working in an area you have not seen in daylight.
7. You are working in steep, broken topography.
8. You are working an indirect attack in heavy fuels.
9. You notice a wind change.
10. You notice rolling materials on the slope you are working on.
11. You are assigned to construct a line downhill.
12. You or your crew complain of headaches, fatigue or drowsiness while working.
Fire crews are exposed to heat, smoke and fatigue. Smoke rather than the severe heat is
perhaps the critical element: it burns the eyes, limits clean air, and contains high levels
of deadly carbon monoxide. It is common for initial attack crews to work four to eight
hours at a stretch, and fatigue and stress are often cited when a firefighter is injured.
Physical fitness is required, safety is all important. As noted by Perry (1990), “The
safety of everyone engaged in firefighting is the personal business of everyone, both
for himself and his fellows.”
All the crew members must be correctly dressed in protective clothing; helmets,
clothes, strong boots and work gloves. Plastic goggles protect the eyes from flying
particles and smoke, and cotton cloth shrouds protect against burns on the ears and
neck. Smoke masks with disposable paper filters give some protection to the
respiratory system. A personal water canteen is a sensible addition. People wearing
tee-shirts, shorts and unsuitable footwear must not be allowed near the fire-ground.
‘Nomex’ or similar brands of flame resistant suits are widely used in temperate
climates. They provide excellent protection but have proved to retain too much body
heat for use in East Kalimantan conditions and the wearer quickly suffers exhaustion.
This is likely to be the case throughout Indonesia. Pure stout-cotton overalls are cooler
to wear and still provide good protection. There should be no plastic in the cloth weave
or in the fittings.
Plate 6. Individual protective equipment provided by FFPCP to the Provincial Forestry and
Estate Crops Office of South Sumatra.
Immediate first aid must be administered to injured firefighters or wounded civilians.
Knowledge of, and training in, first aid is essential. In large fires there should be
several trained people or a specialist crew.
Each fire crew needs a first aid kit containing at least;
• first aid manual that explains how to handle common problems,
• assorted adhesive bandages and straping tapes,
• aspirin and antiseptic creams and liquids,
• scissors and safety pins.
Plate 7. First aid kits supplied to the Regency Fire Centres by FFPCP and IFFM.
At least one member of each fire crew should be well trained in how to deal with;
• stoppage of breath (give artificial respiration, then lay in recovery position),
• serious bleeding (apply pressure to stop the bleeding and bandage the injury),
• burns (see paragraph below),
• broken bones (immobilize the injury with splints),
• shock (lay the victim in the recovery position),
• heatstroke (cool the body with water, then lay in recovery position).
The recovery position extends the head and neck so that a casualty maintains an open,
widened airway, the tongue cannot fall to the back of the throat, and any vomit or fluid
will drain freely. The casualty is lying on his side (Figure 12) supported by one leg and
one arm. In the case of head or ear injury, keep the injured side down.
Figure 15. The two steps to place a person in the recovery position.
FFPCP and IFFM have prepared four pocket books in Bahasa Indonesia that are
distributed after each training course; they cover first aid, treatment of burns, safety at
forest fires and radio communication rules (Nicolas and Puri Indonesian Language
Treatment of burns
Burns need urgent treatment;
• Immediately reduce the wound temperature by irrigating with cold water for a
minimum of ten minutes. The method is used in units that specialize in the
treatment of severe burn injuries as it reduces tissue damage, speeds healing and
helps a fuller recovery.
• Every firefighter must know the simple technique to cool the burn and be taught to
take prompt action.
• Never apply greasy ointments as they seal heat into the wound and may also cause
Table 4. Irrigating the burn with cold water for ten minutes minimizes the after-effects.
Anderson, I.P., Imanda, I.D. and Muhnandar (1999). Vegetation fires in Indonesia: the
interpretation of NOAA-derived hot-spot data. Forest Fire Prevention and Control
Project, Palembang. European Union and the Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops,
Beebe, G.S. and Ismunandar, S. (1998). Pelatihan penanggulangan kebakaran hutan
dan lahan. Integrated Forest Fire Management Project, Samarinda. German Agency
for Technical Cooperation and the Ministry of Forestry, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Chandler, C., Cheney, P., Thomas, P., Trabaud, L. and Williams, D. (1991). Fire in
forestry; forest fire management and organization. Krieger. Florida, USA.
FAO (1986). Wildland fire management terminology; terminologie de la lutte contre
les incendies de foret; terminologia del control de incendios en tierras incultas. Food
and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Roma, Italy.
Heikkila, T.V., Gronqvist, R. and Jurvelius, M. (1993). Handbook on forest fire
control. National Board of Education, Government of Finland. Helsinki, Finland.
McPherson, G.R., Wade, D.D. and Phillips, C.B. (1990). Glossary of wildland fire
management terms used in the United States. Society of American Foresters, USA.
Nicolas, M.V.J. (1982). Prevention et lutte contre les feux de forets. France Selection,
Nicolas, M.V.J. (1998). The practicalities of fighting forest fires; a view from the
Province of South Sumatra. Paper, ‘International Cross Sectoral Forum on Forest Fire
Management in South East Asia’, National Planning Development Agency of
Indonesia, Japan International Cooperation Agency and International Tropical Timber
Organisation. 7-8 December 1998. Jakarta, Indonesia.
Nicolas, M.V.J. and Puri Indonesian Language Plus (1998). Kebakaran hutan dan
keselamatan kerja, Pertolongan pertama pada kecelakaan, Perawatan pada korban
luka bakar and Prosedur radio komunikasi. Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project,
Palembang. European Union and the Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops, Jakarta,
Nicolas, M.V.J. (1999). Slip-on tanks for South Sumatra province: use and
maintenance. Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project, Palembang. European Union
and the Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Nicolas, M.V.J. (1999a). Firefighting in the field; the South Sumatra experience.
Paper, ‘Second International Workshop on Forest Fire Control and Suppression
Aspects’, Faculty of Forestry, Bogor Agriculture University. 16-21 February 1999.
Nicolas, M.V.J. and Beebe, G.S. (1999). Fire management in the logging concessions
and plantation forests of Indonesia. Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project,
Palembang, and Integrated Forest Fire Management Project, Samarinda. European
Union, German Agency for Technical Cooperation and the Ministry of Forestry and
Estate Crops, Jakarta, Indonesia.
NSW Government (1989). Fire suppression; officer training module. New South
Wales Bush Fire Council, Australia.
NWCG (1992). Fireline handbook. National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
Perry, D.G. (1990). Wildland firefighting; fire behavior, tactics and command. Fire
Publications, Inc. U.S.A.
Schindler, L. (1998). Fire management in Indonesia - quo vadis? Paper, ‘International
Cross Sectoral Forum on Forest Fire Management in South East Asia’, National
Planning Development Agency of Indonesia, Japan International Cooperation Agency
and International Tropical Timber Organisation. 7-8 December 1998. Jakarta,
ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS
Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia (Armed Forces of Indonesia)
Association of South East Asia Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FFPCP Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project (EU)
GTZ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (German Agency
for Technical Cooperation)
HPH Hak Pengusahaan Hutan (Forest Concession)
Hak Pengusahaan Hutan Tanaman Industri (Industrial Plantation)
International Civil Aviation Organization
Integrated Forest Fire Management Project (GTZ)
MoFEC Ministry of Forestry and Estate Crops
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
New South Wales (Australia)
National Wildfire Coordinating Group (Washington D.C., USA)
Perseroan Terbatas (Limited Liability Company)
USA United States of America
UTM Universal Transverse Mercator
FIRE MANAGEMENT TERMINOLOGY
The terminology used in this paper and in training courses follows the standards set by
the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO, 1986) and the
English-speaking countries (McPherson et al., 1990; Chandler et al., 1991).
• Anchor Point: Point of Attack: An advantageous location, generally a fire barrier,
from which to start constructing a fireline. Used to minimize the chance of being
outflanked by the fire while the line is being constructed.
• Attack Line: Line of hose, pre-connected to the pump and ready for immediate
use in attacking a fire.
• Back Fire: Fire spreading, or more often deliberately ignited to spread, against the
wind or down slope. [A fire spreading on level ground in the absence of wind is a
• Backpack Pump: Knapsack pump: A portable sprayer with hand-pump fed from a
container fitted with shoulder straps.
• Bulldozer : A crawler tractor with a scraper blade attached.
• Burn: An area over which fire has run.
• Chain of Command: Order of rank and authority in the organization.
• Command: The act of directing, ordering, and/or controlling firefighting forces by
virtue of legal, administrative or delegated authority.
• Contain a Fire: Take fire suppression action which can reasonably be excepted to
keep the fire within established boundaries under prevailing conditions.
• Control a Fire: To complete a control line around a fire and cool-down all hot
spots that threaten the control line until it can reasonably be expected to hold.
• Control Line: A comprehensive term for all the constructed or natural fire barriers
and treated fire edges used to control a fire.
• Crew Boss: A person in supervisory charge of usually 5 to 20 firefighters and
responsible for their performance, safety and welfare.
• Crown Fire: A fire that advances from the top of one tree to the next more or less
independently of the surface fire.
• Direct Attack: Any treatment of burning fuel at a fire’s active edge in an effort to
control a fire (e.g. wetting, smothering, physical separation of burning from non-
• Dead Fuels: Fuels having no living tissue and in which the moisture content is
governed by atmospheric moisture (relative humidity and precipitation), air
temperature and solar radiation.
• Drip Torch: A hand-held tool for igniting prescribed burning or back fires by
dripping flaming fuel on the materials to be burned.
• Early Burning: Prescribed burning carried out at the dry season before the
undergrowth is completely dry or the leaves are shed; as an insurance against more
severe fire damage later on.
• Escape Route: A route away from danger spots in a fire; should be pre-planned.
• Escape Fire: A fire that has exceeded initial attack capabilities.
• Fire Behaviour: The manner in which a fire reacts to the variables of fuels,
weather and topography.
• Fire Boss: Incident Commander: The person responsible for all fire suppression
and service activities at a fire.
• Firebreak: A natural or constructed discontinuity in a fuelbed used to segregate,
stop and control the spread of fire; or to provide a control line from which to
suppress a fire; characterized by a complete lack of combustibles down to mineral
• Fire Crew: A general term for 5 – 20 firefighters organized to work as a unit.
• Fire Front: That part of a fire within which continuous flaming combustion is
taking place. Unless otherwise specified it is assumed to be the leading edge of the
• Fire Guard: General term for a firefighter, lookout, patrol, prevention guard or
other person directly employed to prevent and/or detect and suppress fires.
• Fire Hazard: A fuel complex, defined by volume, type, condition, arrangement,
and location, that determines the degree both of ease of ignition and difficulty of
• Fireline: Generally, any cleared or treated strip used in fire control; more
specifically, that portion of a control line from which flammable materials have
been removed by scraping or digging down to mineral soil.
• Fire Management: All activities required to protect the forest from fire; and the
use of fire to meet land management goals and objectives.
• Fire Pre-suppression: Activities undertaken in advance of fire occurrence to help
ensure more effective suppression. Includes over-all planning, recruitment and
training of fire control personnel, procurement and maintenance of firefighting
equipment and supplies, fuel treatment, and creating, maintaining and improving a
system of fuelbreaks, roads, water sources and control lines.
• Fire Prevention: All measures taken in connection with fire management, forest
management, land use and the general public which may result in the prevention of
outbreak of fire or the reduction of fire severity and spread.
• Fire Pump: An engine-driven pump, usually gasoline-powered, specifically
designed for use in fire suppression, that may be carried by a person or transported
on skids or a trailer.
• Fire Rake: Long-handled combination rake and cutting tool, the blade of which is
constructed of a single row of three or four strong, sharpened teeth.
• Fire Report: Official record of a fire, generally including information on cause,
location, action taken, damage and costs from start of fire until completion of
• Fire Shovel: Shovel designed to construct a fireline; has a tapered blade with both
edges sharpened to scrape, dig, grub and cut.
• Fire Suppression: Fire Control: All the work and activities connected with fire-
extinguishing operations, begins with discovery and continues until the fire is
• Fire Swatter: Fire Beater: Fire suppression tool, sometimes improvised, used in
direct attack to beat out flames along a fire edge; may consist merely of a green
branch or wet sacking, or be a manufactured tool (e.g. a flap of belting fabric
fastened to a long handle).
• Fire Tool Cache: Fire cache: Supply of fire tools and equipment assembled in
planned quantities and/or standard units at a strategic point for exclusive use in fire
• Fire Triangle: An instructional aid in which the side of a triangle are used to
represent the oxygen, heat and fuel necessary for combustion and flame
production. When any one of these factors is removed, flame production ceases.
• Foam: Compounds introduced into a stream of water (by special nozzles or pre-
mixing) to develop a stream of air bubbles surrounded by a tenacious film of water
and foaming agent capable of smothering fires; the product of such equipment.
• Fuel: All combustible organic material in forest, other vegetation types and
• Fuelbreak: Generally wide (20 – 300 m.) strips of land on which the native
vegetation has been permanently modified so that fires that burn into them can be
more readily controlled. Some fuelbreaks contain firelines (e.g. roads, hand lines)
which can be quickly widened with hand tools or by burning-out.
• Ground Fire: Fire that burns the organic material in the soil layer (e.g. peat) and
often along with it, the surface litter and low-growing vegetation.
• Hand Crew: Ground Crew: Fire crew trained and equipped to fight fire with hand
• Hand Line: Fireline constructed with hand tools.
• Handie-Talkie: Walkie-Talkie: Two-way radio hand-set used for fire
• Hose-Lay: Arrangement of connected lengths of fire hose and accessories on the
ground; begins at the first pumping unit and ends at the point of water delivery.
• Hot Spot: A particularly active part of a fire.
• ICAO Code: For radio communications, the code from the International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO) is used to enhance audibility and clarity.
A: ALPHA J: JULIET S: SIERRA
B: BRAVO K: KILO T: TANGO
C: CHARLIE L: LIMA U: UNIFORM
D: DELTA M: MIKE V: VICTOR
E: ECHO N: NOVEMBER W: WHISKEY
F: FOXTROT O: OSCAR X: X-RAY
H: HOTEL P: PAPA Y: YANKEE
G: GOLF Q: QUEBEC Z: ZULU
I : INDIA R: ROMEO
• Indirect Attack: A method of fire suppression in which the control line is located
a considerable distance from the fire’s active edge; generally used in a fire with
rapid rate of spread or high intensity to utilize natural or constructed firebreaks or
fuelbreaks and favorable discontinuities in topography. Intervening fuel is often
burned-out but occasionally, depending on conditions, the main fire is allowed to
burn to the control line.
• Indirect Attack: A method of suppression in which the control line is located
some considerable distance away from the fire’s active edge.
• Initial Attack: First Attack: The first actions taken to suppress a fire; resources
initially committed to an incident.
• Large Fire: For statistical purposes, a fire burning more than a specified land area,
e.g. 100 hectares; a fire burning with a size and intensity such that its behavior is
determined by interactions between its own convection column and weather
conditions above the surface.
• Lookout Tower: Structure that elevates a person above nearby obstruction to sight
fires; generally capped by a hut.
• McLeod Tool: A short-handled combination hoe and rake, with or without
• Mopping Up: Mop-Up: Making a fire safe after it has been controlled by
extinguishment or removal of burning material along the control line, by the felling
of snags, the trenchment of logs, etc.
• Natural Barrier: any area where lack of flammable material obstructs the spread
of forest fires.
• Plan of Attack: The selected course of action and organization of personnel and
equipment in fire suppression; applied to a particular fire or to all fires of a specific
• Point of Attack: See Anchor Point.
• Portable Pump: Small gasoline-driven pump that can be carried to a water source
by one or two firefighters over difficult terrain.
• Pulaski: Combination chopping and trenching tool widely used in fireline
construction which has an axe blade and a narrow trenching blade fitted to a
• Reinforced Attack: Support: Those resources requested in addition to the
resources for initial attack.
• Running Fire: A fire spreading rapidly with a well-defined head.
• Sector: A designated segment of fire perimeter or control line allocated to the
suppression-work unit for two or more crews under one leader.
• Slip-on Tank: A tank, a hose-reel, an auxiliary pump and an engine combined into
a one-piece assembly that can be slipped onto a truck bed or trailer.
• Span of Control: Maximum number of subordinates that can be directly
supervised by one person without loss of efficiency. In fire suppression the number
varies by activity but is generally between five and ten; up to 20 for hand crews.
• Spot Fire: Fire set outside the perimeter of the main fire by a flying spark.
• Surface Fire: Fire that burns only surface litter, other loose debris of the forest
floor and small vegetation.
• Tanker Trailer: Trailer able to mount a tank, fire pump, hose and ancillary
• Uncontrolled Fire: A fire that threatens to destroy life, property or natural
resources; a fire not burning within the confines of firebreaks, or; a fire burning
with such intensity that it can not be readily extinguished with the tools available.
• Undercut Line: Trench: A fireline below a fire on a slope. Should be trenched to
catch rolling material.
• Volunteer Firefighter: Irregular, legally-enrolled firefighter under the fire
management organization regulations who devotes time to community fire service
for monetary compensation.
• Wetting Agent: Surfactant: An additive that reduces the surface tension of water
or other liquid causing it to spread and penetrate more effectively.
• Wildfire: Wildland fire: Any fire that is not meeting management objective and
thus requires suppression.
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