Poll: the minimum number of firefighters dispatched to a fire

The issue of a firefighter suppressing a wildfire alone has recently come up on Wildfire Today. Here is your chance to weigh in on the issue.

As a routine practice during fire season, should an agency dispatch less than two firefighters to put out (not scout) a wildland fire if little is known about the fire other than the location?

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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. Google+

11 thoughts on “Poll: the minimum number of firefighters dispatched to a fire”

  1. Could you imagine , a single resource shows up to a small fire and while doing their size up , they are oblivious to a snag which subsequently takes them out . Help doesn’t arrive for sometime and that person succumbs to their injuries . I sure don’t want to be the person that tells their spouse that they were the only folks on that fire at that time. It could conceivably happen .OUCH!

  2. Want to know why I vote NO?

    All this “teamwork” talk purported by all these HRO LMA’s talking team, talking leadership, commanders intent, staff rides, sand tables, yada yada yada….

    All the teamwork BS as in BULLSHIRT has come to roost.

    If you fire gladiators with the capital S on the front of your NOMEX think that you as in by yourself think you can handle a fire in remote areas with the help……Go Ahead

    Then……do not attempt to talk about fire being like a military operation UNLESS your are practicing the two man, two person, battle buddy routine the US Army lectures and ACTUALLY TEACHES…..

    You ask those new veteran firefighters you “gots” out there now…..and you will sooooooon LEARN that NO ought to be the answer to this poll.

    Because you will not BS a former firefighter and US Army soldier and try to impress us with all the “new found knowledge” that the wildland fire exhibits by saying all this “battle stuff”

    If the agency dispatch is less than two………wellll……you know what I think…….a clear and present violation of what teamwork is in the LMA’s

    Less than two….accountability at the highest levels ought to be spelled out……lose the only one ……and the leadership LOSES their permanent full time position.

    Sound harsh? Not much in the “accountability” in the last 20 years has been practiced or preached……..so do not be preaching teamwork, and the the “fire is a battleground” stuff unless you are REALLY ready to play!!!!!!!

  3. The closest resource should respond and if happens to be a single person no problem. Get eyes on the fire to size it up. If that person can contain it by themselves they will let dispatch know. This system saves taxpayer money and agency money to keep engines staffed, helitac staffed and FPT’s out in the field to protect forests and users.
    There is only so much money to go around to keep firefighters in the field. When you buy expensive Type 3 engines, chase truck to follow, and trailered rangers you eat up a lot of budget. This type of equipment does not put out the fire any quicker and is in fact making for slower response times. The use of 4 wheel drive type 6 is a true IA vehicle, being cheaper, faster, and can go more places. The type 3’s are more defensive.
    My point is keeping more people out in the field to IA fires when they are small and response times are faster.

  4. The question is not how many people are first on scene. The question is how many people (and by implication, how many resources) are included in the initial dispatch. Having spent my fire time in California, I am prejudiced towards the overwhelming IA mode. Most fires I ever went on, a majority of the people and equipment were turned around when the first units arrived on scene and determined what was necessary for rapid control. But when you needed more resources of whatever type, they were already enroute. That includes both my time with CDF and as a volunteer with a rural fire department.

  5. There would seem to be a bit of difference between the extremes of letting someone put out an innocuous roadside fire and sending one ranger into difficult terrain during severe drought on a red flag day.
    Silly questions:
    Is there any guidance given to supervisors on what to dispatch in different conditions or is dispatch entirely on a supervisor’s judgment?
    (In theory or practice, what are the worst-case conditions under which someone could be dispatched to face a fire alone?)
    Does Florida’s forestry organization coordinate dispatch with local agencies?
    If sending people one at a time is “safe”, would it be cheap to increase insurance/AD&D coverage for the fire fighters and their families, or does it mean that it would be safe to send managers out solo to the fire first?

  6. I said it is OK in some fuel types not because I think it’s a good idea to IA afire alone, but bebecause I am usually the only resource from my agency, but there is a minimum of a two department dispatch from the vfds. So even though I am usually the only representative from a wildland agency, I am not the only one on a fire. As our readiness plans go up I will staff a ff on my engine to assist in suppression. With that said many times during the week when many of the vfds are working other jobs outside of the area we will respond two wildland engines ( with one person per engine) to fires to make sure we have at least two engines on the fire.
    I think response should be left up to agencies and local districts instead of politicians outside of the woodland arena.

  7. Seems this discussion, and much of the discussion on the other related thread goes back to the disease we all catch so often. I’m expert in how to deal with wildfires in my area, therefore I know best you YOU should deal with YOUR fires. Except it doesn’t work that way. Many underlying principles are universal, including safety, but to compare a tractor-plow attack in the SE to how fires in Cali or Oregon are fought, or saying because I’m highly experienced in fast running prairie fires that I can tell Idaho or Georgia how to manage their fire problem is narrow sighted. While I would always advocate sending overwhelming force when there is any potential for threat, I also realize there are times when a fire is burning, and local folks, knowing local conditions, can say with a high degree of confidence that it can be readily resolved and does not require a high level dispatch. Comparing a roadside fire in Florida to one in the Montana wilderness is not a valid comparison. Kind of like a discussion a few years ago where some folks, based on the conditions they’re used to, were adamant that fire shelters should be required on a 1/100th acre fire in the freshly mowed median of the interstate. Some times common sense should be allowed to prevail, and too many rules written by managers and politicians can actually detract from safely catching a fire while it’s still small and low risk.

    1. I agree with you for the most part, however- just because it’s how it’s been done in the past and with relatively low (to moderate) casualty/injury to fire rates, does not mean it’s best practice. What i’m driving at is that the cost of a second person on-scene as a rule is not cost prohibitive (I know a bunch of Ga and Fl state folks- they make next to nothing). Sure, don’t bump 2 plows to a 3 acre fire, but how much do you save from not having a guy in a pickup vs. someone on-site to render aid?

      I know that many times the vfd is there, but perhaps there is a happy medium as opposed to just relying on that “often” help.

  8. In my county you are not alone. There is always some VFD members on scene to assist. Also, the daily fire weather would help determine of a second unit needs to roll.

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