Wildland Fire Safety & Risk Management
Protection of human life, including safety of firefighters and the public, is the first priority in wildland fire management. This is the first priority in the federal wildland fire policy. Protection of property and resources is the second priority, with management decisions based on replacement values if lost to fire. Federal wildland fire policy was revised in 1995, and engaged a proactive approach to managing fire. The Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy and Program Review was chartered in 1994 by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to ensure that federal policies are uniform and programs are cooperative and cohesive.
Guidance for the Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy was issued in February 2009. This Guidance provides for consistent implementation of the 1995/2001 Federal Fire Policy, as directed by the Wildland Fire Leadership Council.
The 2009 Guidance reaffirmed that firefighter and public safety are the overriding priorities in all wildland fire management. The 2009 Guidance changed some terminology, as in wildland fire describing any non-structure fire that occurs in the wildland. Wildland fires are categorized into two distinct types:
- Wildfires – Unplanned natural ignitions, human-caused ignitions, and planned ignitions that are declared wildfires.
- Prescribed fires – Planned ignitions.
The federal wildland fire agencies continue to develop unified direction for agency/bureau manuals, directives, handbooks, guidebooks, plans, agreements, and other pertinent documents to complete final implementation of this guidance. The Agencies are revising and developing accountability standards, performance measures, and monitoring systems to assess if resource and protection objectives are met during the management of wildland fires.
The Agencies continue to work closely together in wildland firefighter safety. The primary means by which safety is achieved is through risk management. Risk management is a process for assessing risk and developing strategies to mitigate it. This enables leaders to make improved organizational and operational decisions.
The goal of the fire safety program is to provide direction and guidance for safe and effective management in all wildland fire activities. Safety is the responsibility of everyone assigned to wildland fire, and must be practiced at all operational levels from the national fire director, state/regional director, and unit manager to employees in the field. Per federal policy, agency administrators stress that firefighter and public safety always takes precedence over property and resource loss. Coordination between the fire management staff and unit safety officer(s) is essential in achieving this goal. The Agencies continued to face challenges that made management of wildland fires complex and demanding. Steps have been taken to adopt risk assessment and mitigation techniques to be applied before and during fire incidents. These work to inform fire management in advance of risk, to improve safety, and reduce fire-related impacts. 'After action reviews' of fire-related accidents continues to be used. Lessons learned from the reviews are posted on fire websites, and best practices are designed and put into policy and/or operation procedures as needed.
Wildland Fire Safety and Risk Management Point of Contact:
Rod Bloms, Fire Operations Specialist