Firefighter Safety

Factsheet/brief icon

When the fire starts: A science-based framework for risk-based incident response

View factsheet.

Potential Operational Delineations (PODs) is a spatial wildfire planning framework that brings together operational fire responses and landscape management goals from Forest Planning documents. The PODs risk-based framework helps managers weigh a portfolio of landscape values, including human assets and natural resources, current conditions, responder safety, and likely fire outcomes to identify appropriate fire management objectives. Across the country, more than 30 National Forests have begun developing and implementing this planning framework with local partners complementing the Shared Stewardship efforts.

Webinar, video, audio icon

Impacts of COVID-19 on the 2020 fire season

Webinar recording.

Cathelijne Stoof, Wageningen University, Netherlands
Val Chalton, Landworks, South Africa
Tomás Withington, Administración de Parques Nacionales de Argentina, Argentina
Cristiano Foderi, University of Firenze, Italy
Erin Belval, Colorado State University, USA

Webinar, video, audio icon

Wildland firefighter health effects: Brief overview

View video (5:31)

This video provides a brief overview of a new approach to examine the potential health effects that wildland firefighters may experience working on wildland fires. This effort is a collaboration between the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH), the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.

As you will see in the video, a NIOSH team actually goes into the field on a wildfire in Idaho to test members of the Sawtooth Interagency Hotshot Crew on potential impacts to their overall health, including effects to their hearts, lungs, kidneys, and hearing.

Webinar, video, audio icon

WildfireSAFE: A tool to provide rapid, actionable intelligence to inform risk-based decision making for wildland fire operations

USFS webinar recording.

Description: Webinar discusses safety tools for wildland firefighters. Safe and effective wildland firefighting operations require access to real-time, actionable intelligence about the wildland fire environment. Historically, this information has been difficult to collect and disseminate and failed to provide access to the best-available science to inform decision making. It describes the Severe Fire Danger Index (SFDI) and show how it is related to historical wildfire events that heavily impacted communities and firefighters and present a prototype for a simple, mobile and web-based platform that can provide real-time access to SFDI, fuels, terrain and values-at-risk for every fire in the country.

Presenter: Matt Jolly, RMRS ecologist

Tool icon

Wildland Fire Learning Portal

Access courses.
These online courses were developed by Wildland Fire Management Research, Development, and Application, Fire Regime Condition Class, LANDFIRE, National Wildfire Coordinating Group, and National Advanced Fire and Resource Institute.

Webinar, video, audio icon

An introduction to the new US National Fire Danger Rating System

Webinar recording.

In this webinar, Matt Jolly (Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station) presents the structure and function of the current version of the US National Fire Danger Rating, NFDRS2016. He shows how this system can be used to assess seasonal variations in fuel moisture and fire potential and how it can be used to quantify fire season severity anywhere in the country. Jolly demonstrates the use of FireFamily+ Version 5.0 to explore local fire weather conditions and suggests ways to use both tabular and graphical displays to communicate fire danger conditions to a variety of audiences such as firefighters, IMT members, fire management officers, line officers and the public. Finally, he introduces new spatial fire danger assessment tools and discuss the future of NFDRS.

Journal article icon

Severe Fire Danger Index: Informing firefighter and community risk

View article.

This study presents the development and evaluation of a spatial fire danger index that can be used to assess historical events, forecast extreme fire danger, and communicate those conditions to both firefighters and the public. It uses two United States National Fire Danger Rating System indices that are related to fire intensity and spread potential. These indices are normalized, combined, and categorized based on a 39-yr climatology (1979–2017) to produce a single, categorical metric called the Severe Fire Danger Index (SFDI) that has five classes; Low, Moderate, High, Very High, and Severe. We evaluate the SFDI against the number of newly reported wildfires and total area burned from agency fire reports (1992–2017) as well as daily remotely sensed numbers of active fire pixels and total daily fire radiative power for large fires (2003–2016) from the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) across the conterminous United States. We show that the SFDI adequately captures geographic and seasonal variations of fire activity and intensity, where 58% of the eventual area burned reported by agency fire records, 75.2% of all MODIS active large fire pixels, and 81.2% of all fire radiative power occurred when the SFDI was either Very High or Severe (above the 90th percentile).

Synthesis/Technical Report icon

A review of US wildland firefighter entrapments: Trends, important environmental factors and research needs

Read the review.

Examination of the historical literature indicated that entrapment potential peaks when fire behavior rapidly deviates from an assumed trajectory, becomes extreme and compromises the use of escape routes, safety zones or both. Additionally, despite the numerous safety guidelines that have been developed as a result of analyzing past entrapments, we found issues with the way factual information from these incidents is reported, recorded and stored that make quantitative investigations difficult. To address this, a fire entrapment database was assembled that revealed when details about the location and time of entrapments are included in analyses, it becomes possible to ascertain trends in space and time and assess the relative influence of various environmental variables on the likelihood of an entrapment. Several research needs were also identified, which highlight the necessity for improvements in both fundamental knowledge and the tools used to disseminate that knowledge.

Journal article icon

Injuries and illnesses self-reported by wildland firefighters

View article.

A total of 284 wildland firefighters (WLFFs) responded to the questionnaire, but were not required to answer every question. Quantitative data from the questionnaire were analysed to determine WLFF demographics, types of injuries and illnesses sustained, and the potential influence environmental factors have on injuries sustained. Most WLFFs sustained at least one injury or illness in the past five fire seasons with a majority of those injuries and illnesses occurring on the fireline on rocky mountainside terrain. Nearly half of the 453 injuries and illnesses reported were sprains and strains occurring to the lower back, knee and ankle. Twenty percent of WLFFs reporting injuries felt that their injury or illness was preventable. With most injuries and illnesses occurring on the fireline, the development of a more targeted, job-specific injury and illness prevention program that focuses on the lower extremities is warranted.

Journal article icon

Wildland firefighter smoke exposure and risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality

View paper.

Wildland firefighters are exposed to wood smoke, which contains hazardous air pollutants, by suppressing thousands of wildfires across the US each year. Firefighters who worked 49 days per year were exposed to a daily dose of PM4 that ranged from 0.15 mg to 0.74 mg for a 5- and 25-year career, respectively. The daily dose for firefighters working 98 days per year of PM4 ranged from 0.30 mg to 1.49 mg. Across all exposure scenarios (49 and 98 fire days per year) and career durations (5–25 years), we estimated that wildland firefighters were at an increased risk of LC (8 percent to 43 percent) and CVD (16 percent to 30 percent) mortality. This unique approach assessed long term health risks for wildland firefighters and demonstrated that wildland firefighters have an increased risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Narrow your search

Stay Connected