CHAPTER 6:  FIRE SUPPRESSION



6.1 INTRODUCTION

Wildfires can be suppressed using a variety of strategies including confinement, containment and control. These strategies utilize the tactics of both direct and indirect attack. Control strategies with direct attack tactics and heavy reliance on mechanized equipment are the current means used by most fire departments in suppressing wildfires in the Central Pine Barrens. Most departments within the Central Pine Barrens use the Incident Command System (ICS) with heavy dependence on mutual aid assistance. Mutual aid response is coordinated through the Suffolk County Fire, Rescue, and Emergency Services Department. This plan recognizes the success that this well established structure has for suppressing wildfires within the Central Pine Barrens.

Full suppression should remain the standard for areas where wildland and development areas meet, when fires threaten residential areas, and when human life and property are in immediate danger.

6.2 RESOURCES

Most wildfires within the Central Pine Barrens are handled with a modest amount of suppression resources, provided by the fire district in which the fire occurs and local mutual aid. These incidents are typically less than three hours in duration and do not require any special resources or elaborate requirements for rehabilitation ("rehab"), liquid refreshment or nutrition. The mutual aid requests are processed by the Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services (FRES) Communication Center in Yaphank, which maintains a current database of all available apparatus and special equipment.

Additional resources may be needed for larger or unique incidents. A list of available resources used for firefighting is included in Appendix D.1. This list includes nontraditional firefighting equipment, specialized firefighting equipment and other equipment needed to control a wildland fire. This list should be modified to fit local needs and to include specific information about local vendors. It is recommended that the fire chief prepare this local resource list in cooperation with his Board of Fire Commissioners. The list should be reviewed periodically, and updated as needed, to ensure accuracy when needed for an emergency.

For very large incidents, involving Countywide response and lasting more than eight hours, additional provisions must be made for extensive rehab and personnel rotation (provision for meals, bathroom facilities, etc.). Also, provisions must be made to allow for relief and rotation of personnel in all key ICS functions. Logistics problems are not often experienced with Suffolk County incidents, but nonetheless are an important component of the Logistics Group in the Incident Command Structure. This ICS section is best handled under the direction of at least one chief officer who should coordinate expenditures with a representative from the Board of Fire Commissioners.

The Central Pine Barrens Wildfire Management Task Force has also been working with local, County and State government officials to make other special suppression equipment available to the local fire chief. These special resources include helicopters with "water drop" capability and availability of "hand crews" for support during suppression and mop-up operations. Once agreements and procedures for obtaining access to this equipment is finalized, information will be distributed to all fire chiefs and commissioners for their use.

6.3 SIZE-UP AND INCIDENT CLASSIFICATION

6.3.1 Size-Up

Size-up of a wildland fire is just as important as size-up in a structure fire. The Wildfire Task Force has developed a size-up system for wildfires that uses the national system(1) but incorporates local knowledge and conditions. Appendix D.2 contains a simple wildfire size-up form that will assist the first arriving officer in determining the extent of the fire, and recording pertinent information. This form will also assist the Incident Commander in performing future size-ups as required throughout the incident. It is recommended that a size-up of the fire occurs upon arrival and then update every fifteen (15) minutes until the fire is contained, thereafter, every thirty (30) minutes until the fire is controlled, and at least once each eight (8) hours until the fire is extinguished.

The Size-Up Form found in Appendix D.2, assists with recording specific fire data identified in Table 6.1.

 

Table 6.1: Summary of Data Recorded on Size-Up Form 
Fire Data Description
Date and Time Self explanatory.
Location Street location of fire.
Size The size of the fire is recorded in terms of number of acres involved on arrival of first unit and at time of updates.
Rate of spread Recorded on arrival and at time of updates as fast, medium or slow.
Exposures Identifies the type of exposure: residential, business or hazardous materials and time until threatened.
Firebreaks Identifies trails, roads or cleared areas that can be used as firebreaks or firelines.
Fire behavior Type of fuel [grass, slow woods (such as oak and locust) or pines] and type of fire (ground, surface or crown)
Weather conditions Temperature, wind speed, relative humidity and wind direction
Fire weather index This is a scale and explanation of the fire weather conditions for the fire location disseminated by Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services, obtained at the time of dispatch and updated as required. It includes information on the 10 hr. fuel moisture content and drought index.
Fire classification Type IV - Responding Department & up to 3 Mutual-Aid Departments. 

Type III - Responding Department & 3-10 Mutual-Aid Departments. 

Type II - County Wide Resources are needed, most ICS positions are filled. 

Type I - State and Federal Resources are needed - ALL ICS positions are filled by most qualified personnel. 
 

Each classification indicates the level of equipment, manpower and mutual aid (local, county, state and/or federal) required in addition to the responding department to control and extinguish the fire. Type I represents the most severe case where state and/or federal aid is required to control the fire. An exception to this would be the use of state helicopter resources which may also be employed under Type II and III without reclassification to a Type I. 

6.3.2 Incident Classification

The second part of the Size-Up Form, identified as the Wildfire Checklist in Appendix D.3, will assist the first arriving officer in determining strategies and tactics. This section of the form assists the Incident Commander with the paper work needed for reporting requirements and also with determining the resources required to contain, control and extinguish a wildland fire. This form provides information and collects data on the items identified below:

6.4. STRATEGIES AND TACTICS

6.4.1 Strategies

Following size-up, the first arriving officer should follow the recommended guidelines below to establish an Incident Command System (ICS) and the staging area, determine strategies and tactics for effective fire suppression (keeping in mind firefighter safety), while minimizing the impact of suppression strategies and tactics on the local ecology.
 

1. Establish Incident Command System (ICS)
  • Fill key positions with experienced officers and/or mutual aid chief officers
  • Request Mobile Command Post (if required)
Note: It is recommended that a unified command be established to integrate all involved agencies. The IC should be the senior officer of the district where the fire started. The IC can and should transfer the IC authority when the fire and associated emergency is no longer active in his district but remains an emergency or threat in another fire district. Transfer of command should take place only when it is practical to do and face to face. In fast moving incidents, this requires agreement that the initial IC will remain in command, even as the fire spreads into an adjoining district(s).

 
2. Establish Staging Area and Assign Staging Officer
  • Form "strike teams" as appropriate composed of brush trucks, engine companies, tanker crews, combination of units. See Appendix D.4 "Staging Area Form".
  • Each strike team should be briefed on the situation (size-up), their assignment objectives, command and communication issues and where to report at completion of assignment. See Appendix D.5 "Wildfire Briefing Form".
  • A strike team leader should be assigned by the Operations Officer.
  • An "Emergency Only" frequency should be assigned and made known to all strike team leaders.
  • Accountability tags will be left with the Staging Officer and picked up after each assignment. If tags are not carried by an arriving unit, the Staging Officer will complete and hold a "Crew Log" for that unit. 
  • Consideration should be given during high fire weather index days to "pre-stage" equipment at locations favorable for dispatch to wildland fires, this will assist in reducing response time to the alarm and location.

 
3. Determine Strategies To Be Used
  • There are two strategies to consider offensive or defensive attack. Consideration must be given for the urban interface - assigning engine company strike teams, evacuations. 
  • The need to constantly review conditions and effectiveness of attack versus the resources on hand. Change strategies, tactics or resources when conditions warrant, re-evaluate using the "Size-Up Form".
  • When considering the strategies and tactics to use during the course of the firefight, consideration should be given toward the protection of the wildland environment. Tactics friendly to the environment should be used when conditions warrant.

 
4. Determine Tactics To Be Used For Firefighting
  • Direct - Aggressive (local terminology): Used for ground or surface fire characterized by a small area, a slow moving fire and low flame heights only. This involves using brush truck strike teams deployed to and working at the head of the fire for suppression, using water or Class "A" foam.
  • Direct- Flank (local terminology):  Used for ground or surface fire characterized by a large area, fast moving fire and medium flame heights. This involves using brush truck strike teams deployed to anchor and flank the fire for suppression, using water or Class "A" foam. 
  • Indirect- Defensive (local terminology): Used for a crown fire characterized by a large area, a fast moving fire and high flame heights. Brush truck strike teams are deployed to widen firebreaks. It involves the cautious use of an anchor and flank strategy, always leaving escape routes to control the flanks of the fire. Attempt to halt the head of the fire at large firebreaks by the use of brush truck strike teams and/or engine tanker strike teams. Deploy brush truck strike team for "brand patrol" (local terminology) downwind of the firebreak. 
  • Urban Interface Protection: accomplished by the use of engine tanker strike teams to protect structures as resources allow. See Exposures section of "Size-Up Form". 
  • Fuel removal: Accomplished by the use of bulldozers to cut firebreaks, consideration should be given to their use at night due to reduced fire conditions and consider assignment of fire band radios. Fire apparatus are assigned to large firebreaks in defensive mode. Brush truck strike teams are used to protect bulldozer operations and for "brand patrol" downwind of the fire. 
  • Special Operations: These include helicopter water drops (e.g., NY National Guard or other agencies, possibly private resources), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) and/or fire department hand crews and other resources. Special operations may be accomplished by the use of Class "A" Foam for protection of structures, firelines and line firing operations. 

 
5. Follow Established Fire Safety Strategies
  • Firefighter Safety - Firefighter safety has long been a primary concern for wildland firefighters. However, multiple fatalities over the last several years nationwide have sparked a renewed emphasis in this area. The key message is: 
No wildfire, even those that threaten structures or improvements, is worth risking death or injury.

Staying safe at a wildfire means that fire personnel are aware of and monitor, environmental factors that include fuel characteristics, fuel moisture, fuel temperature, terrain, wind, atmospheric stability and fire behavior. There are indicators for each of these factors and their interactions that affect fire behavior and therefore firefighter safety. Select effective suppression tactics considering observed and expected fire behavior. 

The safety system called: Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, Safety Zones (LCES) highlights the most critical components of fireline safety. It emphasizes the following: 

  • Focus on the essential elements of the Ten Standard Fire Orders (See Appendix D.6)
  • Brief all personnel on escape routes and safety zones well in advance. As conditions change, there may be a need to change escape routes and safety zones. If this occurs, others must be notified. LCES must be established before they are needed. 

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  • If escape plans include the use of vehicles, the vehicles should be pre-positioned with drivers.
  • Indirect line construction needs to have well scouted safety zones.
  • Select an experienced, trusted firefighter as a lookout and insure dependable communications systems are in place.
  • If escape routes and safety zones are needed, think clearly and act decisively. Panic leads to trouble.

 
5. Follow Established Fire Safety Strategies - Continued
The National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) publishes the Fireline Safety Reference Booklet (NFES 2243) that summarizes the basic elements of wildfire safety concepts. It includes the following: 
  • Look Up, Look Down, Look Around: Fire Environmental Factors and Indicators
  • Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes and Safety Zones (LCES)
  • 10 Standard Fire Orders
  • 18 Watchout Situations (Survival Checklist)
  • Indirect Line Construction Guidelines
  • Common Denominators of Fire Behavior on Tragedy Fires
  • 9 Urban/Wildland "Watchouts"
  • Safety Zones: Safety Zones are set up to protect firefighters in case the main body of the fire changes direction and/or starts to move quicker than expected. These areas should assist in protecting firefighters and equipment in the path of a fire by lowering the intensity of the fire. Safety zones should be set up prior to an actual fire occurring. Departments are encouraged to pre-plan districts to layout these safety zones. These zones should be areas that are relatively free of high tree cover and have low flame spread. 
During actual fire operations, mutual aid departments should be briefed on the locations of these safety zones prior to equipment being committed into operation. These briefings should occur at the same time they are given the assignment form, or this can be done when the equipment is assigned into the staging area. 

Sector officers and officers of equipment in operation during a large fire should constantly be aware of safety zone locations in the area in case they are needed.


 
6. Rehabilitation (Rehab) and Relief Operations
  • The IC should establish a rehab area for all major incidents to ensure firefighter safety and health. This area should be physically located adjacent to the Staging Area. The Rehab area can be assigned to and performed by Community Ambulance Companies who are called upon to supply standby ambulances.

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  • Plans should be made to relieve crews as necessary. Relief should be done at the Staging Area and all crew changes should be documented with the Staging Officer who is holding accountability tags.

 
7. Resources and Logistics:
As part of the ICS, a Logistics Officer should be assigned to begin work on procurement and set up of anticipated support items, such as: 
  • food and liquid refreshments
  • bathrooms
  • enlarged command center and meeting area
  • fuel and gasoline supplies
  • spare parts and mechanics
  • any other items needed by the IC to extinguish the fire
  • Class "A" Foam

6.4.2 Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics (MIST)

The use of MIST is discussed in this subsection as it relates to Long Island wildfires and brush truck operations. MIST is NOT a separate classification of wildfire suppression tactics or strategies. It is simply a "mind-set" of how to suppress a wildfire while minimizing the long term effects of the suppression action. This concept also extensively reduces wear and tear on the brush trucks, bulldozers and fire plows, as well as the number of breakdowns experienced.

The concept of MIST is to use the minimum amount of apparatus and heavy equipment necessary to effectively extinguish the fire and to take into account ecosystem management objectives when establishing suppression tactics. For Long Island, which has extensive wildland-urban interface zones, it is recognized that an aggressive attack is necessary for protection of lives and property. There are, however, several simple guidelines that follow the MIST concept while using aggressive suppression tactics. Firefighter safety, as always, remains the highest priority. Identified below are examples of how MIST can be used in firefighting situations.

The more vehicles "crisscross" the interior of the fire, the more likely fire brands could be picked up by these vehicles and potentially deposited outside of the burn area. This increases the likelihood of re-ignition after the fire department leaves the scene. 6.5 MOP-UP AND PERIMETER CONTROL

Effective mop-up and perimeter control must be started as soon as possible to secure firelines from the point of fire origin. The IC should assign a Chief Officer as the perimeter control officer. The use of brush truck strike teams should be considered for this operation prior to bulldozers to protect the woodlands from further damage. Units should secure the perimeter and not be overly concerned with small internal fires. A fireline should be created and held to contain the fire and finally extinguish it. The use of hand crews can also be of value when difficult terrain or limited equipment exists.

The use of burnouts of unburned fuel inside the perimeter is an effective method of controlling the perimeter to limit the chance of internal fires gaining the headway needed to breach the perimeter. The IC will need to determine, based on existing predicted local weather conditions, whether or not burnouts can be used.

6.R RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Fireline Safety Reference Booklet, National Wildfire Coordinating Group