Wildfire officials call for a safety-related tactical pause

Six firefighters in the U.S. have been killed on wildfires this year

Firefighters Lofer Fire Arizona
Firefighters on the Lofer Fire in Arizona, August 31, 2020. InciWeb.

During this very busy part of the 2020 wildfire season the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) has called for a temporary stand-down or “tactical pause” to evaluate the risks faced by aerial and ground-based firefighters. So far this year line of duty deaths have included one firefighter on the ground and six pilots (counting one fatality in an air tanker crash in Spain).

Below is the text of a memo from the NMAC dated August 30, 2020:

Subject: Tactical Pause — Focus on Risk Management

We are in the height of the 2020 Western fire season and we have been reminded that the wildland fire environment is dangerous whether you are on the ground or in the air. Along with the increase in fire activity, there has been an increase in close calls, serious accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Please honor those that have fallen, most recently our aviators, by actively managing risk. It is now late August and long-term fatigue is setting in, which exacerbates the complexity of a fire season made even more difficult by COVID-19.

We ask you to take a tactical pause at some point on Wednesday, September 2nd to discuss current risks to which you are exposed. The timing and length of this tactical pause is at your discretion. During this time stop, think, and talk about how you assess and mitigate risk. Ask yourself, your coworkers, or your crew what, if anything, is different from your previous experience and how are you dealing with it? What is concerning you specifically when it comes to your safety and those you work with or lead? What might you be missing? It is all too easy to be task oriented so take this opportunity to discuss some simple reminders or measures you can take to reduce your exposure to the inherent hazards of our occupation or COVID-19, which can reduce the probability of the next accident or illness.

Use references such as the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG) to aid you in your discussions. The latest interagency wildland fire COVID-19 information can be found on the Medical and Public Health Advisory Team (MPHAT) webpage. The value of this tactical pause will be in the discussions you engage in so make it count.

We also recommend that you review and discuss Planning for Medical Emergencies (page #2) and the Medical Incident Report (page #118-119), also referred to as the “8-Line”, in your IRPG. Reviewing and discussing these job aids will better prepare you to respond to an accident or medical emergency if one does occur.

Finally, NMAC wants to be clear that we care about the health and welfare of our responders. We are asking you to take this time to discuss risk management and do everything possible to ensure you return home safely at the end of each shift and each fire assignment.

/s/ Joshua Simmons
NMAC Chair

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to LM.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

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.

One thought on “Wildfire officials call for a safety-related tactical pause”

  1. Greetings Bill,
    Thank you for posting this article here, it really helps us all to put things in a better perspective, just how difficult and challenging this fire season already is.
    There’s still 3 to 4 months to go. We need some good luck and some cooperation from Mother Nature soon, to get us through this extreme drought predicament we are in right now in the western states.
    The Great Basin coordination centers seasonal & daily wildfire outlook website that you turned us to the other day is a superb information gathering tool.
    The outlook is not looking good for us. It seems we will not have a monsoon season at all really, coupled with seemingly endless near record breaking heat.
    This is uncharted territory for us in my own farmers almanac.
    Simply put, I have never seen a monsoon season completely dry up like this before. Yes, I remember last year at this time very well.
    We had a very meager monsoon season going for us in the four corners region, yet somehow it felt a little more significant than what we’re seeing right now. I sure am looking looking forward to things cooling down and hopefully moistening up this coming fall.
    I hope all of our fire resources stay as safe as possible.
    The recent accidents and injuries and fatalities to those firefighters during this monumental 2020 wildfire season are such a very sad tragedy for all of us to witness.
    I do sincerely want to wish all of the families of those injured & fallen firefighters, my sincere condolences for the loss of their very brave talented loved ones.
    With every good wish here,
    -Jamie B
    Taos, NM


Comments are closed.