Murphy’s Fire Behavior Rules

Rule bookIn going through some papers today I rediscovered “Murphy’s Fire Behavior Rules” that govern wildfire suppression. I have no idea who created them. It’s possible that Rick Gale handed them out during a session in S-520, Advanced Incident Management, but I don’t think he was the author.

Murphy’s Fire Behavior Rules

  1. Winds will remain constant until your backfire is lit.
  2. Upon reaching the far side of the fire, all batteries cease to function.
  3. The last hard freeze of winter occurs the day after you fill the pumper.
  4. Rain occurs only after a fire is finally controlled.
  5. The arrival time for backup coincides precisely with fire containment.
  6. A 3:1 gas/diesel mixture burns hotter than 3:1 diesel/gas. So does the person carrying the drip torch.
  7. You are always one lunch short.
  8. Leakproof bladder bags will. Self-priming pumps won’t.
  9. Burning out the wrong side of the line will prolong the time of containment.
  10. Critiques are sometimes painful.
You may have some suggestions for #11.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

5 thoughts on “Murphy’s Fire Behavior Rules”

  1. This is a free translation into Galician language.

    As leis de Murphy sobre o comportamento dos incendios:
    1. Os ventos manteranse constantes ata que se inicie o contralume.
    2. Tódalas baterías deixan de funcionar tras chegar á parte máis alonxada do incendio.
    3. O derradeiro día realmente frío do inverno (con xeada) prodúcese o día despois de ter enchido a autobomba.
    4. A chuvia ocorre só despois de que o incendio é finalmente controlado.
    5. A hora de chegada dos reforzos coincide precisamente coa contención do lume.
    6. Unha mistura 3:1 de gasolina/gasóleo quéimase máis facilmente que unha mistura 3:1 gasóleo/gasolina. Tamén o fai a persoa que leva o pingalume.
    7. Vostede ten sempre un breve almorzo.
    8. Mochilas extintoras flexibles si. Electrobombas autocebantes non.
    9. Queimar o lado trabucado da liña (do contralume) prolongará o tempo de contención.
    10. As críticas son ás veces dolorosas.

    The Galician language is a official language in Galicia, a nation located in northwestern Spain.
    Galician is very similar to the Portuguese language. as a matter of fact, 600 years ago were the same language; the Galician-Portuguese language.,-7.404785&spn=2.148467,4.938354&t=h&z=8&vpsrc=6

    Sorry for my english.

    Juan Carlos Lemos Rodríguez
    forest engineer.
    Galicia, Spain.
    My sincere appreciation to Bill Gabbert.

  2. – Even during the slowest of seasons, you WILL have a late-in-the-day fire on a day that your spouse, kids, etc. have a very important event scheduled that you need to be at right at end of shift.

  3. I might suggest refining #2 to read “all equipment fails” rather then just the battery. I’ve toted many a chainsaw that wants to stop working one I’ve walked a 1/4 mile with it. Might also add:

    11) the only snag found burning the morning after a fire will be on the farthest away, downwind corner of the burn block (which ties back into #2).
    12) if you find a cured (dead) oak snag burning, the only tool at your disposal to fell the tree will be a pulaski
    13) If a jump happens, it will be 5 minutes before quitting time.


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