Many factors contribute to firefighter injury or death. This includes inattentiveness, fatigue, physical condition, and stress. The National Interagency Fire Center provides a vast array of resources that firefighters can use to make themselves aware of situations that can occur on the fireline and steps that can be taken before engaging in fire suppression activities. Additional resources, such as SAFENET, 6 Minutes For Safety, and Safety Grams are provided by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) Risk Management Committee.
The 10 Standard Fire Orders were developed in 1957 by a task force studying ways to prevent firefighter injuries and fatalities. Shortly after the Standard Fire Orders were incorporated into firefighter training, the “18 Situations that Shout Watch Out” were developed. These 18 Situations are more specific and cautionary than the Standard Fire Orders and described situations that expand the 10 points of the Fire Orders. If firefighters follow the 10 Standard Fire Orders and are alerted to the 18 Watch Out Situations, much of the risk of firefighting can be reduced.
1. Keep informed on fire weather conditions and forecasts.
2. Know what your fire is doing at all times.
3. Base all actions on current and expected behavior of the fire.
4. Identify escape routes and safety zones, and make them known.
5. Post lookouts when there is possible danger.
6. Be alert. Keep calm. Think clearly. Act decisively.
7. Maintain prompt communications with your forces, your supervisor, and adjoining forces.
8. Give clear instructions and be sure they are understood.
9. Maintain control of your forces at all times.
If 1-9 are considered, then…
10. Fire fire aggressively, having provided for safety first.
The 10 Standard Fire Orders are firm. We don’t break them; We don’t bend them. All firefighters have a Right to a safe assignment.
Watch Out Situations
1. Fire not scouted and sized up.
2. In country not seen in daylight.
3. Safety zones and escape routes not identified influencing fire behavior.
4. Unfamiliar with weather and local factors influencing fire behavior.
5. Uninformed on strategy, tactics, and hazards.
6. Instructions and assignments not clear.
7. No communication link with crewmembers or supervisor.
8. Constructing line without safe anchor point.
9. Building fireline downhill with fire below.
10. Attempting frontal assault with fire.
11. Unburned fuel between you and fire.
12. Cannot see main fire; not in contact with someone who can.
13. On a hillside where rolling material can ignite fuel below.
14. Weather becoming hotter and drier.
15. Wind increases and/or changes direction.
16. Getting frequent spot fires across line.
17. Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zones difficult.
18. Taking a nap near the fireline.