California Professional Firefighters

Putting Yourself in Harm's Way -- High-Risk Tactics

For structure firefighting you learned that there are greater hazards associated with topside ventilation than there are with salvage operations. The same principle applies in wildfires. Some common tactics that may be classified as high risk, when fire behavior conditions are high, are listed below.

Structure protection

Considered high risk because virtually all cases involve the following Watch Out situations

  • Having unburned fuel between you and the fire.
  • Cannot see the main fire and not in contact with anyone who can.
  • Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zones difficult.
Indirect tactics

Considered high risk because you are in a position where there is unburned fuel between you and the fire.

Control of spot fires 

Hazardous because the location of the spot fire usually requires firefighters to traverse unburned fuel to attack the fire.

Downhill line construction 

Usually associated with hand crew tactics, but it is common for engine companies to deploy progressive hose lays in the same situation. The major threat in this situation is fuel below you that could ignite and the fire can overrun your position.

Underslung lines

Present the same hazards as downhill line construction. The reason we differentiate is that you can move into the hazardous position when you are working uphill. Any time you have green below you and black above, you are on an underslung line.

Firing tactics 

Considered hazardous for two primary reasons. First, they are usually done as an indirect tactic, and therefore present the problem of unburned fuel. Secondly, the firing introduces a new fire that is not always predictable. The new fire can threaten structures or firefighters and can also affect the behavior of the main fire in unpredictable ways. 

These high risk tactics are listed together to increase awareness of the tactical situations most often associated with entrapments. When one of these high risk tactics is identified in an assignment, reevaluate the LCES.