The rules of engagement in wildland firefighting are effective and written in blood. They include the “Fire Orders,” “18 Watch-Outs” and “Down Hill Line Construction” check list. Strategy is either a direct or an indirect attack, using tactics of “Anchor/Flank/Pinch...
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9. Strong winds (both size-up and fire behavior component).
10. Evacuation of public with potential for panic (a consideration on any major incident).
In analyzing each of “The Structural Situations That Shout ‘Watch Out,’ ” they are either a size-up component or an input of making a fire behavior prediction.
Conclusion: “The Structural Situations That Shout ‘Watch Out,’ ” taken as a whole, is a myth.
• The fire shelter is a last-resort piece of personal protective equipment – This was discussed extensively in my column in the September 2010 issue.
Conclusion: The fire shelter as a last-resort piece of equipment is a myth.
• Stay mobile, don’t hook-up to a hydrant and don’t lay a supply line – This is probably the most misunderstood of all one-liners. It is mentioned in almost every text and article, yet there is a time to stay mobile and likewise there is a time to lay a supply line. An example of when to stay mobile is an assignment at a WUI fire and where the housing area to which you are assigned is determined to be a safe area, but the home that may be directly impacted is not predictable. Obviously, stay mobile and commit when and where needed, using best hoselay practices.
An assignment that may require committing and perhaps laying a short supply line would be a structure with a safety zone present where the engine will not be leaving. If it is determined that additional water may be needed, lay the supply line.
Some pointers I’ve mentioned in previous columns: Never bet your crew or your apparatus on water staying in the hoseline. If you are sure you will need more water than you bring to the fight, consider other options. There is additional safety in water. In the future I will write a detailed article on this subject.
Conclusion: Stay mobile, don’t hook-up or don’t lay a supply line is a myth.
The purpose of writing this column is to inform firefighters that what is written as gospel may be just a suggestion. Wildland fire behavior can change rapidly and tactics must be adjusted accordingly.
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At my Firehouse World 2011 presentation in San Diego, CA, “Station, Esperanza and Calabasas Burnovers: Common Denominators,” I’m scheduled to be joined by Captain John Culbertson, Ph.D., and Division Chief Brian Crandell of the Central Valley Fire District in Montana to provide a three-hour review of critical clues that lead to underestimated and unexpected fire behavior. In addition, Los Angeles County Fire’s Rob Morales, Camp 16 crew supervisor (engineer rank), will share his story from the burnover at Camp 16 so that firefighters may learn from this tragedy. The class takes place on March 1 from 8:30 to 11:30 A.M.
JP HARRIS is a battalion chief (ret.) with the Los Angeles County, CA, Fire Department, where he served for 38 years. For 10 years, he trained crew supervisors and superintendents in prescription burning and firing operations as part of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Prescription Burn Program. Harris has served as a camp-, battalion- and division-level instructor for Los Angeles County Fire, developing and instructing wildland, structure and survival techniques for cooperating agencies throughout the western United States. He also has taught numerous wildland firefighting classes to career and volunteer firefighters and created the five-volume “Wildland Video Series.” He can be contacted at email@example.com.