Proposal for combining Type 1 and Type 2 incident management qualifications into a single level

Teams would be called “Complex Incident Management Teams”

Southern California Incident Management Team 3
File photo. Southern California Incident Management Team 3.

A decade after a similar concept was proposed, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) is being asked again to change the way Incident Management Teams (IMT) are configured. Currently there are three levels, Types 1, 2 and 3, with Type 1 IMTs being the highest qualified. The idea is to combine Types 1 and 2 into just one type, which will be called Complex Incident Management Teams (CIMT).

The Incident Workforce Development Group (IWDG), a working group of IMT practitioners and subject matter experts jointly chartered by the Fire Management Board (FMB), crafted a memo to the FMB asking for the change, in order to address the following:

  • Reduced number of IMT participants to fill IMT rosters, impacting the total number of IMTs available nationally;
  • Inconsistent use of IMTs due to lack of national IMT rotation management and commitment approval;
  • Reliance on Administratively Determined (AD) employees, retirees, and cooperators to staff IMTs without commensurate trainee use; and
  • Standardization of the IMT mobilization processes and other criteria across Geographic Areas.

In 2010, recognizing that the workforce management and succession planning for wildfire response was not sustainable, the NWCG chartered an interagency team to develop a new organizational model for incident management. In October, 2011 the NWCG released a 51-page document, Evolving Incident Management — A Recommendation for the Future. (If they issued a companion report, a Recommendation for the Past, we were unable to find it.) The suggestion was to merge all federally sponsored type 1 and type 2 teams into one type of IMT. There would three response levels: Initial attack (type 4 and 5 incidents), extended attack (type 3 incidents managed by type 3 IMTs), and complex incidents managed by Complex IMTs. Wildfire Today’s last update on that proposal was in 2015.

Below is a copy of the memo about the current suggestion. It was signed January 10, 2022 by the two top fire guys in the US Forest Service and the Department of the Interior and sent to the Fire Management Board, NWCG, and the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group.

(Click on the document above to see at bottom-left how to zoom in or scroll to pages two and three.)

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”Complex Incident Management Teams”]

The recently released report about the 2020 fatality on the El Dorado Fire addressed many issues the investigators felt were related to the management of that incident, including the current system for configuring IMTs:

“The same concerns exist for Incident Management Teams (IMT). With the reduction of 39 percent of the Forest Service’s non-fire workforce since 2000, the “militia” available to assist in IMT duties is rapidly being reduced to a mythical entity, often spoken of but rarely seen. The 2020 fire year was simply the latest in a long string of years where we did not have enough IMTs, let alone general resources, to address suppressing fire in our current paradigm. On the El Dorado Fire, Region 5 took a creative approach to ensure Type 1 oversight by grafting a Type 1 incident commander onto a Type 2 team, when no Type 1 teams were available. While this met the need and policy requirements, one cannot help but wonder what the difference really is between a Type 1 and Type 2 team. Why not just create one national team typing system, and why not ensure that it is staffed to a holistic fire management response (see Theme 2) and not just a direct perimeter control response.”


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

Status of “Evolving Incident Management”

Rocky Mtn Area Team C
The Rocky Mountain Geographic Area Team “C” Type 2 Incident Management Team at their annual meeting in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 2013. (click to see a larger version.)

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group has been working on efforts to address sustainability issues with wildland fire management succession planning for incident management teams. In other words, to ensure that the wildland fire agencies continue to have an adequate number and the right mix of incident management teams and the personnel to staff them. The NWCG chartered the Incident Management Organization Succession Planning Team (IMOSPT) and the Evolving Incident Management (EIM) project team to develop implementation plans.

Evans Kuo, the Project Lead for Evolving Incident Management, provided an update on the group’s progress, dated May 27, 2015: (I wish I had a dollar for every acronym below.)


…As you know, last fall we made the presentation to the NWCG Executive Board (under whom the EIM Task Team is tasked).  A copy of what we presented can be located at:  NWCG accepted our report and forwarded it onto the Fire Management Board (FMB) along with their endorsement.  Over the course of last fall the FMB reviewed our findings, developed a strategy to move forward, and presented it to the Fire Executive Council (FEC).  A key element of the FMB strategy is to divide up the tasks / recommendations identified by the EIM Task Team and re-assign these tasks to different entities that have the purview to make the decisions, i.e. NMAC for IMT mobilization and IMT utilization processes, CGAC for IMT governance practices, FMB for overarching principles that individual agencies have purview over, NWCG for development of streamlined development pathways, etc.   One of the problems we ran into in EIM Phase 3 was NWCG’s role in the new governance structure, which changed quite a bit since 2010 when IMOSP/EIM was first conceived.  Hopefully the FMB strategy will help clean up the governance issues and allow us to move forward in a more succinct way.

Last winter FEC discussed our revised recommendations and the FMB plan of action and they briefed the Federal Fire Policy Council (FFPC).  At their April 2015 meeting FFPC agreed to the FMB/FEC recommendation and strategy to move forward.  We’re expecting to see the final FFPC decision memo soon, but I did get a copy of the draft decision.  In short, the FFPC decision supports all the revised recommendations the EIM Task Team developed:

  1. Maintain distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 IMTs and establish national templates to increase the speed to certification.

  2. Maintain GACG autonomy to assign IMTs within their geographic area, though NMAC will continue to exercise their authority to maintain a “national perspective” relative to IMT assignments and regular exercising all IMTs.

  3. Defer to the GACG to determine number of IMTs hosted by each GA, with some sideboards that NMAC and CGAC will put into place.

  4. Work within individual bureaus and agencies to analyze and reduce (if possible) barriers and disincentives to IMT participation.  Will also be evaluating the possibility of establishing national and geographic area participation goals for each agency/bureau/partner agency. “


Related articles on Wildfire Today:

New model for Incident Management Teams February 6, 2012
NWCG reconfigures Incident Management Teams September 24, 2013

NWCG reconfigures Incident Management Teams

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group has decided to make a major change in the configuration of Wildland Fire Incident Management Teams (IMTs). Saying “the current workforce management and succession planning for wildfire incident management is not sustainable”, the plan is for Type 1 Incident Management Teams and Type 2 Incident Management Teams to evolve into “Complex IMTs”.

Going forward the organization will be recognizing three levels of interagency wildland fire response: Initial Attack, Extended Attack, and Complex. As part of this transition, State and Federally sponsored Type 1 and Type 2 Wildland Fire IMTs will evolve into “Complex IMTs” utilizing current Type 1 standards as their guiding principles.

This change was a product of the Evolving Incident Management project which recommended a reduction in federally sponsored IMTs from the current 53 to 40, with State sponsored teams assisting with a national surge capacity. There is still a lot to be figured out, including transition plans, the distribution of IMTs across the Geographic Areas, and their capacity to sponsor and fill the positions on the teams.

The memo from the NWCG.


Thanks go out to Ken

New model for Incident Management Teams

Big Elk Fire, Wyoming, July, 2009
Big Elk Fire, Wyoming, July, 1999. Photo: Bill Gabbert

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) has released a new organizational model for Incident Management Teams (IMT), titled Evolving Incident Management: A Recommendation for the Future.

(Apparently they decided not to make a recommendation for the past.)

In light of smaller federal work forces, more state and local IMTs, and longer fire seasons, the NWCG recognized that the current workforce management and succession planning for wildfire response is not sustainable. The new plan, which refers to a “decrease in Federal capacity”, admits that one of the primary purposes of the new model is to help find a solution to the difficulty in filling positions on IMTs, in part due to the smaller work forces. This, in spite of the fact that the U.S. Forest Service routinely assures congressional panels and the public that the federal government has plenty of wildland fire suppression capability and the budgets proposed by the Administration for the land management agencies are sufficient for protecting the public lands.

Some of the recommended changes are very significant, such as combining the Type 1 and Type 2 IMTs into just one type of team, and reducing the total number of federally sponsored teams from 55 to 40.

The entire 51-page document can be found HERE. Below, in the bullets, are some of the highlights of the new system:

  • Number of Teams. The target number of federally sponsored IMTs is 40.
  • Typing of Teams. Merge all federally sponsored type 1 and type 2 teams into one type of IMT.
  • NIMO teams.There [would continue to] be four National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) teams supervised and managed by the USDA Forest Service.
  • Incident Complexity and Scalability. There are three response levels: Initial attack (type 4 and 5 incidents), extended attack (type 3 incidents managed by type 3 IMTs) and complex incidents managed by IMTs.
  • State teams. IMTs sponsored by states would provide surge capacity at elevated geographic area and national preparedness levels under the recommended model.
  • Team Management and Dispatching. Geographic area coordination centers would manage IMT rotations for their geographic area until the national preparedness level reaches 3. At preparedness level 3 and above the National Interagency Coordination Center coordinates the IMT rotation in consultation with the geographic area coordination centers.
  • Team Funding. Each IMT would receive an established amount of support funding provided by the agencies in their home geographic area. Teams are provided with administrative staff support to support ICs with management of their team rosters and other logistical needs.
  • Team Size and Configuration. IMTs are composed of 27 members and 14 trainees in the recommended organizational model. The IMTs are available in short team and long team configurations.
  • Area Command. Short-term recommendations (2012–2015) include (1) maintaining four area command teams, and (2) formalizing the current management of the four area command teams as a pool of interchangeable personnel sufficient to staff four teams. Long-term recommendations (2016 and beyond) include transitioning area command teams to strategic management teams. This would more accurately reflect the changing demands for an oversight group to provide strategic planning, risk management, command, control, coordination, information management, and preparedness support. This transition would also be the source for innovative processes, procedures, and technology to support incident objectives.
  • Performance and Accountability. All agency administrators in units with wildland fire programs would have a performance standard or element for fire management. Expectations for each agency’s level of participation should be developed based on their percent of wildland fire workload.
  • Incentives. Incentives for participation should be a part of the implementation plan for the recommended organizational model. Disincentives should be identified and reduced or eliminated.
  • Workforce Development. Develop a robust and coordinated succession planning system linking workforce development to staffing of IMTs.

The NWCG expects to implement the new model over the next five to ten years.

Several interesting facts showed up in the document, such as on page 22:

Although the number of IMTs has remained relatively stable since 2004, the composition of teams has changed. The Federal workforce has shrunk, especially in some parts of the country. For example, the USDA Forest Service workforce in Oregon and Washington has gone from 7,893 employees in 1990 to 3,630 employees in 2010. IMT make-up has shifted from Federal militia to a higher percentage of state, local government, and retired Federal (second career and AD) participation.

And these three charts:
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