Safety

The Fire Management Manual is intended to facilitate safe burning and suppression operations that will protect people and property. Required training on the use of equipment and associated PPE is addressed in training requirements of specific fire management positions, e.g. Chainsaw Operator, ATV/UTV Operator, Basic Firefighter, etc. Also relevant, the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG) is an NWCG job aid providing a collection of best practices that have evolved over time within the wildland fire service in the US and is useful for fire personnel to carry while on fires.


High Reliability Organizing (HRO)

HRO is a way of thinking and acting that improves the reliability of our collective work. The Five Principles of HRO reflect the two problem-centered concepts of Anticipation and Containment. Hallmarks include: discovering errors, problems or failures early; applying systems thinking to collective work activities; showing sensitivity to how things are done, and continuously seeking improvement; being prepared for things to not go as planned, for events to go sideways at the worst possible time; respecting differences between people, and valuing expertise no matter where it falls in the chain of command. How HRO applies to fire management work is described by the authors in this article from Fire Management Today.

Fire Extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers are used to provide a first line of defense against fires of limited size, often in early or incipient stage of development. Fire extinguishers of the proper type must be installed and readily available on vehicles and field equipment such as trucks, ATV's, UTV's and tractors or mowing equipment that could catch fire during operation. Type ABC extinguishers in the 2-4 lb. capacity are appropriate for small off-highway vehicles such as ATV's. Portable fire extinguishers must be regularly inspected and recharged or replaced according to manufacturer recommendations.

Drip Torches

Drip Torches, handheld devices used for igniting fires by dripping flaming liquid fuel on the materials to be burned, must meet US Department of Transportation (DOT) specifications for transportation of fuel and US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards for color (red) and labeling for fuel storage and fuel dispensing. All TNC drip torches not meeting DOT standards must be removed from use and recycled. Torches meeting DOT standards are typically marked with a “UN” symbol and manufactured after 2003.

All TNC drip torches must meet OSHA standards by December 31, 2019, red with a flammable liquid label. When purchasing new drip torches, it is recommended they meet USDA Forest Service specification 5100-614, which are powder coated red and include the flammable liquid label.

Heat Index and strenous activity

Heat Index, a metric combining air temperature and relative humidity, can be a safety issue when values are elevated. The table below is a reference identifying conditions when heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke is possible from prolonged or strenuous work activity. Dehydration in workers can also accelerate adverse effects of heat and humidity. Proper mitigation of heat exposure must include hydration strategies, including electrolyte replacement and strategies to address elevated body temperature. Heat mitigations may include avoiding peak temperature times of the day, rotating crews in and out of the heat, and taking frequent breaks from strenuous activities.

Heat Index

Fatigue and Work/Rest Ratio

Fatigue is a safety issue in both prescribed fire and fire suppression, impacting physical stamina and mental acuity. It can be complicated by the cumulative effects of smoke exposure, especially carbon monoxide buildup. It can lead to accidents on the fireline and vehicle accidents while crew members are driving home.

The Conservancy does not have specific work/rest ratio limits, but encourages Fire Managers and Burn Bosses to consider the probable length of the work day when developing burn unit plans, including travel time to and from the burn. Crew members may need to camp or stay in a motel if the workday is expected to be especially long. Rest periods should be scheduled for firefighters engaged in extended suppression episodes.


Oversight Process

The Conservancy recently adopted a formal process for oversight of fire programs within Operating Units of the organization. This process began in June 2008 and continues with reviews of six to eight Operating Units per fiscal year. Programs can request a review by contacting the Fire Management Coordinator. A geographically distributed selection of programs to be reviewed is announced each year.

The purpose of the review is to ensure that programs are following Conservancy standards, to assess the progress of the Operating Unit fire program toward meeting their objectives, to improve fire management knowledge and skills, and to enhance learning throughout the Conservancy's fire management organization.

The process consists of two phases: operational reviews and administrative reviews. These reviews are based on the requirements, guidelines and administrative processes for Conservancy fire management set out in this Manual. Operational reviews are conducted by the Fire Manager for each program s/he oversees See: Operational Review Checklist. Administrative reviews are conducted by a team of two people consisting of the Fire Management Coordinator (or a designee thereof) and a Fire Manager from outside the geographic area of the program being reviewed. The reviews will be constructive in tone. Examples of excellence and areas for improvement will be identified. A formal report will be completed evaluating Administrative Criteria of the Administrative Review Checklist, including any identified Required Followup items.

If a Fire Manager or the administrative review team determines that a TNC fire program is operating under unsafe conditions or otherwise putting personnel and the Conservancy at significant risk due to disregard for organizational standards, the program may temporarily be suspended from engaging in fire management operations. The Fire Manager must contact the Fire Management Coordinator and relevant State Director immediately to determine and implement corrective measures.

Additional in-region reviews and self-evaluations are encouraged between formal reviews. Escaped fire and serious incident reviews will take place as needed by a separate process determined by the Fire Manager, Conservancy attorney and the Fire Management Coordinator.

Download the Fire Program Oversight Review Process.

Last updated October 9, 2019.

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