Highlights from the 1977 CDF Fire Control Handbook

Looking back 45 years at large fire organization charts, “support teams”, and hair requirements in California

CDF Fire Control Handbook, 1977
Cover of the 1977 California Department of Forestry Fire Control Handbook.

Chief John Hawkins shared with us a copy of the California Department of Forestry’s Fire Control Handbook, 1977 edition. The agency was known as CDF before they became the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CAL FIRE.

It is a .pdf copy of Handbook 5600 with a few amendments around 1979 and 1980 to address the agency’s limited trial of the Incident Command System (ICS) in their Region VI starting in 1978, and the planned California-wide implementation of the ICS in 1983. The entire document can be downloaded here  (large 10.2 Mb file).

Firefighters of a certain age will most likely enjoy skimming through the pages of this 45-year old document.

CDF 1977 Fire Control Handbook
From page 51 in the CDF 1977 Fire Control Handbook, amended December, 1980.

The 324-page book contains many operational guides, as well as information about aviation, safety, pre-attack planning, “support teams”, and flood control operations. Much of it is timeless, but there have also been many changes. It is interesting to compare the 45-year old policies with current procedures.

But going back even further, let’s take a look at fire organizations before ICS began to be adopted in the 1980s:

forest fire organization, forest service, 1953
Two-Sector Fire. From Principles of Organization for Forest Fire Suppression, US Forest Service, 1953.
Organization on the, Battlement Creek Fire, July 1976
Organization on the Battlement Creek Fire, July, 1976. From the report.

My career was with the US Forest Service and National Park Service. The CDF organization from the Fire Control Handbook has at least one feature unfamiliar to me, the “Attack” function, which was called the Line Function by the USFS. It is now labeled “Operations” in the ICS. In the USFS it was led by a Line Boss in the pre-ICS days. “Service” became Logistics, and in the Planning section the Maps and Records Officer was replaced by two units, Resources Unit and Situation Unit. Sectors became Divisions, and a new position was inserted between the Planning Section Chief and Division Boss: Branch Director. There were numerous changes in Service/Logistics.

CDF Fire Organization Structure, 1979
CDF Fire Organization Structure, 1979.

And then there is the current Incident Command System structure; keep in mind, you only fill the positions that are needed.

Continue reading “Highlights from the 1977 CDF Fire Control Handbook”

New ICS map symbology

Additions to the Incident Command System Standards for Geospatial Operations

Updated April 27, 2022

ICS Symbology 2022
ICS Symbology 2022

(Updated April 27, 2022 to reflect the revisions for 2022)

You may have seen new symbols on wildfire maps this year. That is because the National Wildfire Coordinating Group approved new symbology again, this time for the 2022 fire season.

They were developed by the NWCG Data Management Committee and are now part of the Incident Command System Standards for Geospatial Operations. Many of the new symbols introduced in the last few years are for various types of fireline, such as Planned Hand Line, Planned Mixed Construction Line, Planned Road as Line, Planned Secondary Line, Temporary Flight Restriction, Foam Drop, Retardant Drop, Escape Route, plus — Structure Wrap, Retardant in Avoidance Area, UAS Launch and Recovery Zone, and many more.

Some of the new symbols will be fairly easy to remember. Others, not so much. A map in color will be necessary to easily differentiate a few of them, such as Fence vs. Other vs. Road Repair, and the three types of drops, Water, Foam, and Retardant. Most maps have legends to make the interpretation easier, and ArcGIS Pro has a filter to only display the features used on the map.

The image above is moderate resolution; a high-resolution pdf version (2.9 MB) can be downloaded.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Katei and Steve.