Standard Orders and Watch Outs

Ten Standard Firefighting Orders

These basic ten guidelines have been successfully used by thousands of firefighters and leaders for more than forty years.

Appropriate use of these fundamental guidelines enable companies to safely work in hazardous locations because they have the ability to get an early warning of any serious hazard, and have the ability to escape to a safety zone before any fire behavior change could cause an entrapment.

These guidelines are also relevant for predicting and preventing many other fireline casualties:

  1. Keep informed on fire weather conditions and forecasts. 
  2. Know what your 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 communication with your forces, your supervisor, and adjoining forces.
  8. Give clear instructions and insure 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

  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 regarding strategy, tactics, and hazards
  6. Instructions and assignments are not clear
  7. No communication with your company or supervisor
  8. Constructing line without a safe anchor point
  9. Building fireline downhill with fire below
  10. Attempting a frontal assault on the fire
  11. Unburned fuel between you and the fire
  12. Cannot see the main fire and not in communication with someone who can
  13. On a hillside where rolling material can ignite material below
  14. Weather is getting hotter and drier
  15. Wind increasing or changing direction
  16. Getting frequent spot fires across the fireline
  17. Terrain and fuels make escape to safety zone difficult
  18. Taking a nap near the fireline