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A Firefighter's Guide To Protecting Homes

Action Plan
Use the information from your size-up to set priorities which generally follow this order:

  • Life Safety
  • Incident Stabilization
  • Improved Property Values
  • Natural Resource Values
  • Keeping the fire from moving into heavier or more dangerous fuels
  • Keeping the fire on one side of a ridge
  • Keeping the fire as small as possible - Consider costs and values at risk
  • Making sure all suppression actions contribute to the final control of the fire

Common Ignition Points

  • Flammable roof coverings
  • Unscreened vents, windows or holes
  • Open doors, windows or crawl spaces
  • Wooden patio decks and stacked wood
  • Gutters full of debris
  • In windy conditions, firebrands can enter almost any opening, even under roof tiles and tightly fit siding
  • Area under porches and patio covers

Structure Triage
Three categories of threatened structures include:

  1. Those needing little or no attention for now
  2. Those needing protection but saveable
  3. Those that are hopeless
    Factors that may make an attempt to save a structure too dangerous or hopeless:
    • The Fire is making significant runs in live fuels and there is little or no clearance.
    • Fire behavior is extreme; spot fires are numerous and are growing faster than can be extinguished.
    • Water supply will not last as long as the fire threat.
    • Extreme fire behavior dictates you leave the area NOW.
    • The roof is more than 1/4 involved.
    • There is fire inside the structure or windows are broken, in windy conditions.
    • The arrival time of other resources.

Engine Positioning and Setup
It is critical that you position your personnel and apparatus in positions to protect the structure, but also that you can make a quick move, if necessary. Prepare the structure and lay out the protection lines.

how to position fire engine when  protecting homes


Survival Checklist
"Watch out!" situations

  • Fire not scouted and sized up.
  • In country not seen in daylight.
  • Safety zones and escape routes not identified.
  • Unfamiliar with weather and local factors influencing fire behavior.
  • Uninformed on strategy, tactics and hazards.
  • Instructions and assignments not clear.
  • No communications link with crew members/supervisor.
  • Constructing fireline without safe anchor point.
  • Building fireline downhill with fire below.
  • Attempting frontal assault on fire.
  • Unburned fuel between you and the fire.
  • Cannot see main fire. Not in contact with anyone who can.
  • On a hillside where rolling material can ignite fuel below.
  • Weather is getting hotter and drier.
  • Wind increases and/or changes directions.
  • Getting frequent spot fires across line.
  • Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zones difficult.
  • Taking a nap near the fireline.

Image displaying a safe distance between a structure and the fire

Defensible Space
Defensible space is the safe workable distance between the structure and the fuels surrounding it. More space is needed as fuels get thicker, taller and more combustible, and as slope gets steeper. A minimum distance of 30 feet is required and gives the firefighter a chance to succeed.


  • Lookouts
  • Communications
  • Escape Routes
  • Safety Zones

Size Up
Your primary considerations as you arrive at the fire include fire fighter safety, threat to life,
potential fire behavior, access, the threat to structures and improved property, and water supply. Observe:

Fire history:
What have fires in this area done before?
Weather conditions:
Temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction. Ask for an up-to-date forecast.
Heavy/light, loading, arrangement, etc.
Ridges, man-made or natural barriers.
Fire Behavior:
Spotting crowning and rate of spread.
Fire Brands:
A primary threat, how many brands are there?
Number of Structures Being Threatened:
Density, roofing, siding, clearance and arrangements
Narrow roads, dead ends, bridges and clearance.
Water Sources:
Hydrants, swimming pools, ponds and rivers.
Will you have to evacuate people or animals? If the residents are going to stay, turn them into an asset. Identify safety zones.
Special Hazards:
Hazardous materials, high-voltage lines and above-ground fuel storage tanks.

The Ready, Set, Go! (RSG) program is a collaborative process that can improve coordination and communication between emergency response agencies and the community. Developing the Ready, Set, Go! program in your community can help build partnerships and clarify and refine priorities to protect life, property, infrastructure and valued resources.

For more information visit:

Fire Safety Initiative Report


WildFire Hazard Mitigation

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Wildfire Equipment
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Last Updated: August 17, 2011

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