Wildland Fire 10s and 18s

The 10 Standard Firefighting Orders were developed in the 1950s by a task force studying what happened on tragedy fires and ways for injuries and fatalities to be prevented in the future. They found these ten common themes that led to trouble and firefighters getting injured or killed. The 18 Watch Out Situations we know today came from the 13 Situations That Shout Watch Out, which were developed in the 1960s. The 18s as we know them have been unchanged since 1987, when five were added to the original 13. If firefighters follow the 10s and keep the cautionary 18s in mind as they are making decisions and working on the fireline, risks can be mitigated and bad situations can hopefully be avoided.

10 Standard Firefighting Orders

The point of these is to help firefighters work safely in hazardous environments by giving guidelines. They are grouped according to different categories. 1-3 are fire behavior, 4-6 are fireline safety, 7-9 are organizational control, and 10 happens if 1-9 are followed.

  1. Keep informed of fire weather conditions and forecasts.

  2. Know what the fire is doing at all times.

  3. Base all actions on current and expected behavior of the fire.

  4. Identify escape routes and safety zones and make them known.

  5. Post lookouts when there is possible danger.

  6. Be alert. Keep calm. Think clearly. Act decisively.

  7. Maintain prompt communications with your forces, your supervisor, and adjoining forces.

  8. Give clear instructions and be sure they are understood.

  9. Maintain control of your forces at all times.

  10. Fight fire aggressively, having provided for safety first.

18 Watch Out Situations

These are specific fireline situations that have lead to entrapments, injuries, or fatalities in wildfire history. They serve as cautionary warnings to keep in the back of your mind while fighting fire.

  1. Fire not scouted and sized up.

  2. In country not seen in daylight.

  3. Safety zones and escape routes not identified.

  4. Unfamiliar with weather and local factors influencing fire behavior.

  5. Uninformed on strategy, tactics, and hazards.

  6. Instructions and assignments not clear.

  7. No communication link with crew members or supervisor.

  8. Constructing line without safe anchor point.

  9. Building fireline downhill with fire below.

  10. Attempting frontal assault on fire.

  11. Unburned fuel between you and fire.

  12. Cannot see main fire; not in contact with someone who can.

  13. On a hillside where rolling material can ignite fuel below.

  14. Weather becoming hotter and drier.

  15. Wind increases and/or changes direction.

  16. Getting frequent spot fires across line.

  17. Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zones difficult.

  18. Taking a nap near fireline.

Photo of current Watch Out Situation #16 from an excellent    Wildfiretoday.com    article about the history and evolution of the 18 Watch Out Situations.

Photo of current Watch Out Situation #16 from an excellent Wildfiretoday.com article about the history and evolution of the 18 Watch Out Situations.