Site hosted by Build your free website today!

The Ten Standard Fire Orders and Eighteen Watchout Situations have been developed over the course of the last five or six decades by the wildland fire community.  Each of the Fire Orders and Watchouts have been learned from incidents in which that situation has led to a fatality, entrapment, or near miss incident.  These are stressed to wildland firefighters and every firefighter is expected to remember each of them, even rookies. The Standard Fire Orders are the laws to live by for wildland firefighters.  The Watchout Situations are indicators or trigger points that remind firefighters to reanalyze the LCES system (Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, and Safety Zones) and to re-evaluate their suppression strategies and tactics.  Each of these have been written by the blood of wildland firefighters who have lost their lives fighting fire.  One of the first tragedy fires that contributed to the development of the 10 & 18 was the Mann Gulch Fire in Montana. This happened in 1949 and 13 USFS Montana Smokejumpers were killed.  A book written by Norman Maclean called Young Men and Fire tells the entire story of the fire. The Standard Fire Orders were revised (changed arrangement) in 2002, visit USDA Fire and Aviation to view them. Click here to view a Power Point presentation I designed to help learn the 18 Watchouts.

10 Standard Fire Orders

Fight fire aggressively, but provide for safety first.

This overall rule recognizes that fire fighting is an exceptionally hazardous occupation, and cautions us to remember that no resource or property is as valuable as a human life.


Initiate all actions based on current and expected fire behavior.

Elements contributing to fire behavior include weather, topography and fuels. Keep your eye on the fire and try to anticipate how it might change given these three conditions. It could mean a lifesaving difference in where you decide to build the fire line and position anchor points, escape routes and safety zones.


Recognize current weather conditions and obtain forecasts.

Again, it's important to be informed about three weather factors that affect the behavior of fire: wind, temperature and relative humidity. You can use any number of ways to stay informed about these factors, but the chief thing is to remember that weather can make a critical difference in your fire fighting strategy.


Ensure instructions are given and understood.

If your supervisor is not clear and precise, demand and receive specific direction. Your life may depend on it.


Obtain current information on fire status.

For example, where is the fire perimeter? Where is it moving? How fast is it moving? Are there spot fires between you and the perimeter? If your own observations don't provide the answers, get in touch with someone who can tell you.


Remain in communication with crew members, your supervisor and adjoining forces.

They can provide critical information which could save your life.


Determine safety zones and escape routes.

A safety zone is any area that is unlikely to burn - including ground already burned over, a wetland or lake, even a rock slide. The ways you get to it are your escape routes. They should be the fastest and easiest routes, cleared in advance.


Establish lookouts in potentially hazardous situations.

Naturally your lookouts should be experienced, alert and reliable, able to recognize changes in the weather and dangerous fire conditions such as spotting. The purpose of the lookout is to keep you in touch with the fire when you're preoccupied with tasks that keep you from seeing and hearing it yourself.


Retain control at all times.

That means assuring that instructions and assignments are understood... establishing and maintaining a communication link... and knowing the locations of all crew members at all times.


Stay alert, keep calm, think clearly, act decisively.

In short, think before you make a move, no matter how tired you feel- or how much adrenaline is pumping. This final fire order may seem the most obvious of all, until you experience the stress of a wildland fire. Heat exhaustion, fatigue, or panic may strike when you least expect it, even for a few critical moments. These things have happened to the best and most experienced of firefighters and cost many of them their lives.

18 Watchout Situations

1) Fire not scouted and sized up.
2) In country not seen in daylight.
3) Safety zones and escape routes not identified.
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/supervisors.
8) Constructing line without a safe anchor point.
9) Building fireline downhill with fire below.
10) Attempting frontal assault on fire.
11) Unburned fuel between you and the fire.
12) Can not see main fire, not in contact with anyone who can.
13) On a hillside where rolling material can ignite fuel below.
14) Weather is getting hotter and drier.
15) Wind increases and/or changes direction.
16) Getting frequent spot fires across the line.
17) Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zones difficult.
18) Taking a nap near the fireline.

Home Page | Wildland Fire Reports | Pictures |  National News |
Fire Links | The Unimog |  Season Stats | 10 & 18 | Job Info |