What is the protocol in case of entrapment in a wildfire in the United States?

ISK Fire Survival

In the United States, the protocol for wildland firefighters to act in the event of entrapment in wildfires is based on established practices and detailed safety procedures, primarily derived from lessons learned from past incidents. A key component of these protocols is the system of 10 Wildfire Fighting Rules, the 18 Watch Out Situations, and the use of Safety Zones and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Some key aspects of these protocols are described below:

  1. 10 Rules of Wildfire Fighting: These rules offer a basis for safe decision-making in the field. They include staying informed about fire and weather conditions, knowing escape instructions and safety zones, and staying alert, calm, and steady in potentially dangerous situations.
  2. 18 Screaming Danger Situations: This set of situations warns firefighters about specific conditions or settings during fires that have led to entrapments or dangerous situations in the past. They include sudden changes in fire behavior, being in areas of difficult escape, and the presence of fire below on steep terrain.
  3. Safety Zones and Escape Routes: Clear identification and communication of safety zones and escape routes are crucial. Safety zones are areas that offer protection from fire, such as areas that have already burned, areas without vegetation, or areas with very low vegetation. Escape routes are planned and safe paths to move into these safety zones.
  4. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Proper use of PPE, including personal fire shelters, is essential for protection in the event of entrapment. These shelters are devices of last resort designed to reflect radiant heat and provide breathable air in extreme situations.
  5. LOOKOUTS-COMMUNICATIONS-ESCAPE ROUTES-SAFETY ZONES (LCES): This acronym summarizes the essential components of wildland firefighting safety: lookouts, communications, escape routes, and safety zones. All of these elements must be clearly established and communicated before and during firefighting operations.
  6. Training and Drills: Regular training and entrapment drills are critical to preparing wildland firefighters to respond appropriately in emergency situations.

These protocols and practices are designed to minimize the risk of entrapment and improve the chances of survival should they occur. Ongoing training, risk assessment, and informed decision-making are essential components of America’s wildland firefighter safety strategy.