August 2020 - Wildfire Hazards: Fire Behaviour

Alert of the Month

This series of safety alerts for May, June and August is intended for all workers, both forestry workers and fire crews, responding to fires and highlights hazards that exist in a wildfire environment.

Fire behaviour can range from a smoldering ground-fire to a fast-moving flame-front that can quickly pose a threat to workers on the ground. Working safely around wildfire requires workers to make appropriate decisions on what to do when confronted with different types of fire behaviour, or different potentials for fire behaviour.

In many cases it is obvious when a fire is dangerous. A fast-moving fire burning aggressively through the treetops makes it easy to decide to stay away. However, it is much harder to determine whether an area that currently is not burning (or is not burning aggressively) poses a threat to workers. Fire behaviour can increase very quickly to a point where it puts workers at risk and recognizing this can be difficult, even for experienced fire personnel.

Used extensively in the United States, the 18 Fire Watch-Out Situations offer a list of situations that can become dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. If workers find themselves in any of these situations, they must re-evaluate what they are doing and their position on the fire using the LACES protocol addressed in a 2019 Safety Alert.

18 Fire Watch-Out Situations

1. Fire not scouted and sized up.  10. Attempting frontal assault on fire.
2. In country not seen in daylight. 11. Unburned fuel between you and fire.
3. Safety zones and escape routes not identified. 12. Cannot see main fire; not in contact with someone who can.
4. Unfamiliar with weather and local factors influencing fire behavior. 13. On a hillside where rolling material can ignite fuel below.
5. Uninformed on strategy, tactics, and hazards. 14. Weather becoming hotter and drier.
6. Instructions and assignments not clear. 15. Wind increases and/or changes direction.
7. No communication link with crew members or supervisor. 16. Getting frequent spot fires across line.
8. Constructing line without safe anchor point. 17. Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zones difficult.
9.Building fireline downhill with fire below. 18.Taking a nap near fireline.


In addition to the 18 Fire Watch-Out Situations, some additional tips for recognizing fire behaviour potential are:


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