Glossary of firefighting terms

With all these wildfires it sometimes seem like the officials are speaking another language. What do these terms mean?

Containment: A fire is contained when it is surrounded on all sides by some kind of boundary but is still burning on the interior.

The fire could still jump the boundary line.

Boundary line: A fire line or strip of area where the vegetation has been removed to deny the fire fuel.

Could be a river, a road or other barrier which is expected to stop the fire. Fire line can be built by hand crews, dozers and hose lines.

Control: A fire is controlled when there is no further threat of it jumping a containment line.

Crews continue to do mop-up work within the fire lines, but the fire fight is over.

Evacuation: Only the governor can order mandatory evacuations. Until then, all evacuation requests are mandatory.

Initial attack: The first attack. The number of resources sent on the first dispatch to a wildland fire depends on the fire's location, the fuels and weather conditions.

Fuels: Vegetation, timber, homes, anything that burns.

Extended attack: Additional resources are called in because the fire has burned beyond the area or building or origin.

Major attack or major fire: To extinguish the fire will require a long-term commitment and logistical support.

Strike team: A team of five pieces of equipment of the same type with a strike team leader, can consist of structure engines or wildland engines.

Task force: Typically consists of five pieces of mixed equipment, which can include a combination of engines, bulldozers, etc., with a task force leader.

Fire weather watch/red-flag warning: A designation initiated by the National Weather Service when they believe conditions could exist in the next 12-72 hours which may result in extreme fire behavior.

The weather service notifies the fire service. A red-flag warning is issued for events that will occur within 24 hours. These watches and warnings are called because a combination of high temperatures, low humidity and high winds. They can also be issued when there is a possibility of dry lightning. These notifications advise firefighters of the potential for erratic conditions and rapid fire spread.

- Source: Reno Fire



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