UNIT X--FIRE BEHAVIOR AFFECTS FIRELINE TACTICS
Fire behavior affects fireline tactics. After you have read the instructions to students on page 1,
please read the unit objectives on page 2. Return to this text when you have finished.
Please turn to page 3. In Unit 1, we identified a need for fire behavior knowledge and predictions
as an aid to managers in decision making to achieve fire management objectives. Some of these
objectives are the protection of high values with reasonable losses due to wildfires, the cost
effectiveness of suppression forces, the accurate assessment of hazards and safety practices
followed, and the safe containment of management fires.
Wildfires and the control actions taken to suppress them can be very costly. Resource managers
and the general public take a justifiably critical view of poor tactical decisions that escalate fire
costs. At the same time, losses of life and property due to fire trigger investigations to determine
whether neglect or poor tactical judgments were responsible.
In addition to discussing the numerous factors making up the fire environment, the first nine
units of this course have taken you through many of the steps required for making fire behavior
calculations and predictions. Input values needed for such calculations have been covered. This
is a complex process which will be continued in Unit 11 on fire behavior predictions.
Fire personnel must continually assess potential fire behavior, but not everyone will be making
fire behavior calculations using mathematical models. Nevertheless it is important for fire
personnel to recognize the value and utility of these calculations. In this unit, we will apply both
fire behavior predictions made using models and general fire behavior assessments to fire
management decisions, including fire suppression tactics.
What do we mean by fire suppression tactics? Well, our definition is the science and art of
deploying and maneuvering forces against wildfire. Tactics are often used in a military sense, for
intelligence and strategic planning are usually vital to successful combat operations. The same
holds true in combating wildfires.
Item A states that fire behavior considerations must play an important role in tactical decisions
made to manage or control wildland fires. Some of these decisions involve the following factors:
Locations of control lines, standards for fireline construction, use of direct or indirect attack,
limitations on use of forces, identification of hazardous fire conditions, and timing of control
actions. These are the areas on which this unit will concentrate, since fire behavior has direct
implications for each of them.
In this unit, we want to tie outputs from the fire behavior model to fire control planning and to
give you practice in working with these values. In figure 1 on page 4, we have diagrammed the
relationships of fire behavior inputs, outputs, and various tactical planning needs. Notice how the
four primary inputs of fuel model, fuel moisture, windspeed, and slope percent are tied to fire