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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Defend or Not: NWCG Structure Triage Guidelines - Escape Routes and Safety Zones, Determining Factor Is Safety Zone Present?. #WildlandFire #CaFire

Wildland Fire Incident Management Field Guide

Structure Protection Guidelines

during sizeup and triage.
Move to the nearest safety zone, let the fire front pass, and return as 
soon as conditions allow.

Placing Equipment
• If visibility is zero due to smoke from the fire, do not try to move your vehicles, as many accidents have occurred this way. Stay in your safety zone behind the structure, or use the structure as a refuge.
• Identify escape routes and safety zones, and make them known to all crewmembers. 
ALWAYS STAY MOBILE, and wear all of your PPE. 
• Back the equipment in for a quick escape.
• Mark the entrance to long driveways to show that protection is in place (very important when the structure cannot be seen from the road). Always notify Operations Section of the meaning of markings used: 
 Ribbon (flagging) across the drive entrance 
 Multiple ribbons on the street at the end of a drive 
 A sign 
 Other predetermined markings 
• Park in a cleared area (watch for overhead hazards).
• Protect your equipment (park behind the structure, placing the structure between the 
equipment and the fire front; be aware of spot fires occurring behind you). 
• Watch for hazards (dropoffs, potholes, aboveground fuel storage, chemicals, septic 
• Keep egress route clear:
 Park extra equipment on the street.
 Keep all hoses off the driveway. 
• Have an engine and/or crew protection line charged and readily available.
• DO NOT make long hose lays.
• Try to keep sight contact with all crew members. 

 Structure Triage Guidelines
Defensible – Prep and Hold
• Determining Factor: Safety zone present.
• Sizeup: Structure has some tactical challenges. 
• Tactics: Firefighters are needed onsite to implement structure protection tactics during 
fire front contact.
Defensible – Standalone
• Determining Factor: Safety zone present.
• Sizeup: Structure has very few tactical challenges.
• Tactics: Firefighters may not need to be directly assigned to protect the structure as it is 
not likely to ignite during initial fire front contact. However, no structure in the path of a 
wildfire is completely without need of protection. Patrol after the passage of the fire 
front will be needed to protect the structure. 
Non-Defensible – Prep and Leave 
• Determining Factor: NO safety zone present.
• Size up: Structure has some tactical challenges.
• Tactics: Firefighters are not able to commit to stay and protect the structure. Iftime 
allows, rapid mitigation measures may be performed. Set a trigger point for a safe 
retreat. Remember preincident preparation is the responsibility of the homeowner. Patrol 
after the passage of the fire front will be needed to protect the structure. 
Non-Defensible – Rescue Driveby 
• Determining Factor: NO safety zone present.
• Size up: Structure has significant tactical challenges.
• Tactics: Firefighters are not able to commit to stay and protect the structure. If time 
allows, check to ensure that people are not present in the threatened structure (especially 
children, the elderly, and invalids). Set a trigger point for a safe retreat. Patrol after the 
passage of the fire front will be needed to protect the structure. 
Structure Assessment Checklist (if Time Permits)
Address and Property Name
• Numerical street address, ranch name, etc.
• Number of residents onsite 
Road Access
• Road surface (paved, gravel, unimproved, dirt) 
• Adequate width; vegetation clearance and safety zones along road
• Undercarriage problems (4x4 access only) 
• Turnouts and turnarounds 
• Bridges (load limits)
• Stream crossings (approach angle, crossing depth, and surface) 
• Terrain (road slope and location on slope – near chimneys, saddles, canyon bottom) 
• Grade (more than 15%) 
Structure or Building
• Single residence, multicomplex, or outbuilding (barn or storage) 
• Does the building have unknown or hazardous materials? 
• Exterior walls (stucco or other noncombustible, wood frame, vinyl, wood shake) 
• Large, unprotected windows facing heat source
• Proximity of any aboveground fuel tanks (liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), fuel oil, etc.) 
• Roof material (wood shake, asphalt, noncombustible) 
• Eaves (covered with little overhang, or exposed, with large overhang) 
• Other features (wood deck, wood patio cover and furniture, wood fencing) 
Clearances, Exposures, and Defensible Space
• Structure location (narrow ridge, canyon, midslope, chimney) 
• Adequate clearance around structure (minimum of 100 feet; the steeper the slope, the 
more clearance is required)
• Surrounding fuels (the larger and denser the fuels, the more clearance required)
• Flammable fuels (trees, ladder fuel, shrubs) adjacent to structure (is there time for 
removing these fuels?) 
• Other combustibles near structure (wood piles, furniture, fuel tanks) 
• Is there adequate clearance around fuel tank? 
• Power lines or transformers (DO NOT park under power lines) 
Hazardous Materials
• Chemicals (look for DOT, NFPA, or UN symbols) 
• Pesticides and herbicides
• Petroleum products 
• Paint products 
Water Sources
• Hydrant or standpipe (When connecting with hydrant, be aware of flow rate and gal/min 
output; size and venting capability of engine or water tender may not be able to handle 
hydrants with high flow and gal/min rates.) 
• Storage tank
• Swimming pool 
• Hot tub 
• Fish pond 
• Irrigation ditch
• Is safe evacuation possible? (Identify safe refuge for those who cannot be evacuated.)
• Coordinate with onscene law enforcement and emergency services personnel.
Estimated Resources for Protection
• Number(s) and type(s) of engines, water tenders, crews, dozers (General guidelines: One 
engine per structure, one additional engine for every four structures to be used as 
“backup” and for patrol. For structures that are close together (50 feet or less), one engine 
may be adequate to protect two structures.) 
• Type and number of aircraft available
Water-Use Guidelines
• Keep at least 100 gallons of water reserve in your tank. 
• Top off tank at every opportunity; use a garden hose. 
• Draft water from a swimming pool, hot tub, and/or fishpond. 
• STAY MOBILE. Do not hook up to the hydrant except to refill the tank. (Hydrant may 
not always work if the system is electric powered and power is lost in the area.) 
• CONSERVE WATER; avoid wetting down an area. 
• Apply water only if it controls fire spread or significantly reduces heating of the structure 
being protected. 
• Keep fire out of the heavier fuels.
• Extinguish fire at its lowest intensity, not when it is flaring up.
• Knock down fire in the lighter fuels. 
• Have enough water to last the duration of the main heat wave and to protect the crew. 
• Apply compressed air foam (CAF) or gel, if available. 
Preparing the Structure
• Determine if residents are home (legal responsibility for evacuation lies with law 
enforcement). If residents remain on scene, advise them to use the structure, if it’s safe to 
do so, as a refuge when the fire arrives. 
• Clean leaves, needles, and any other combustible materials (in accordance with agency 
policy) off of the roof.
• Cover vents and any air conditioning unit(s) on the roof (in accordance with agency 
• Remove and scatter away from the structure:
 Overhanging limbs
 Ground or ladder fuels to prevent fire from moving into the crowns 
 Wooden fences and wood piles near the structure 
• Clear the area around any aboveground fuel tank(s), and shut off the tank(s). 
• Place combustible outside furniture inside the structure. 
• Close windows and doors, including the garage door, leaving all of them unlocked. As a 
last resort, you may need to use the structure as a refuge.
• Have garden hoses charged, and place them strategically around the structure for 
immediate use.

Building Refuge
Seeking refuge in a building or structure is an option supervisors may want to consider for crew 
protection when a change in fire behavior prevents reaching an escape route or safety zone. 
Agency guidelines MUST be considered when deciding to use a building or structure as crew 
• Advise your immediate supervisor (Strike Team Leader, Division/Group Supervisor, etc.) 
of the situation. 
• If time allows, remove combustible materials (lawn furniture, wood piles, etc.) and 
vegetation away from the structure and any propane tank(s). 
• Close windows and heavy drapes. Take down light-weight curtains, and close exterior 
• Bring into the structure fire extinguishers, back pumps, and charged hose line, if 
• Fill all sinks, bathtubs, and any available buckets with water, and soak towels and other 
heavy cloth items to place against exterior door jams.
• KEEP AWAY from windows and exterior doors as the fire passes. 
• STAY OUT of the basement and upper floors. 
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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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