Which Factor Is Present In Most Wildland Firefighting Fatalities and Burnovers? by ProQuest


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									                                                 WILDLAND FIREFIGHTING                                                                >>>
                         By JP HARRIS

                        Which Factor Is Present In Most
                        Wildland Firefighting Fatalities and Burnovers?
                         Firefighters Responding to WUI Fires Must Understand Fire Behavior
Photos by Pat Shanley

                                                                                                                         The fire behavior has increased and the fire will be wind/topography/fuel
                        An Office of Emergency Services (OES) Strike Team leader from the Poway,                         driven, fire intensity will continue to increase and the left flank of the fire
                        CA, Fire Department and an engine crew protect a structure during the                            will challenge firefighters at the structure. At about the same time, and
                        “Station Fire.” Notice the fire behavior – the spot fire is approximately one                    10 miles southwest of this location, two Los Angeles County firefighters
                        mile ahead of the main fire.                                                                     lost their lives.

                               ast month, we discussed using LCES (Lookouts, Commu-                                           • Topography – Slope, aspect and terrain features
                               nication, Escape routes and Safety zones) combined with                                        Each component is a study in itself. The behavior of fire can be
                               making a fire behavior prediction to determine whether fire-                              driven by wind, fuel or topography, individually or any combina-
                        fighters could commit to protect structures in the wildland urban                                tion of the three.
                        interface (WUI). This month, we will explore the complex task of                                      Dr. Bret Butler is a research engineer at Missoula Fire Labora-
                        predicting fire behavior.                                                                        tory Center in Montana. His primary responsibility is the research
                             This column is intended for the firefighter who occasionally                                of fire behavior during an out-of-control wildland fire. In the “2008
                        responds to wildland fires with the focus of structure protection                                Fireline Safety Refresher” training video, Dr. Butler states that “pre-
                        in the WUI. The term wildland fire is used here to describe grass/                               dicting fire behavior is a most complex task…when a fire is burn-
                        brush, forest/timber or a vegetation fire.                                                       ing in an open environment involving the three major elements of
                             Most professional wildland firefighters would agree that the                                a wildfire.” Yet, firefighters around the globe respond to WUI fires
                        primary factor causing firefighter burnover fatalities would be                                  with little or no training in the behavior of fire, and are frequently
                        a lack of knowledge or the inability to estimate fire behavior. Or,                              assigned to protect structures in the path of a wind-driven wildland
                        stated another way, it is the failure to “base all actions on current                            fire. Lack of experience, training and/or knowledge puts firefight-
                        and expected behavior of the fire,” referring to the third of the “Ten                           ers at a tremendous disadvantage when predicting fire behavior.
                        Standard Firefighting Orders” for wildland firefighters.                         
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