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Idaho Fire Incident Map

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Ever wonder what contain or control means? Confused by overhead vs. aircraft? Check out the examples below of our most commonly used fire terminology. More questions? Visit: and leave us a comment under the post. We will help answer any further questions. 

Air Attack or Air Tactical Aircraft: is an airplane that flies over an incident, providing tactical coordination with the incident commander on the ground, and directing airtankers and helicopters to critical areas of a fire for retardant and water drops.

Air Tanker: A fixed-wing aircraft equipped to drop fire retardants or suppressants.

Backfire: A fire set along the inner edge of a fireline to consume the fuel in the path of a wildfire and/or change the direction of force of the fire's convection column.

Blow-up: A sudden increase in fire intensity or rate of spread strong enough to prevent direct control or to upset control plans. Blow-ups are often accompanied by violent convection and may have other characteristics of a fire storm. 

Brush: A collective term that refers to stands of vegetation dominated by shrubby, woody plants, or low growing trees, usually of a type undesirable for livestock or timber management.

Brush Fire: A fire burning in vegetation that is predominantly shrubs, brush and scrub growth.

Bucket Drops: The dropping of fire retardants or suppressants from specially designed buckets slung below a helicopter.

Cold Trailing: A method of controlling a partly dead fire edge by carefully inspecting and feeling with the hand for heat to detect any fire, digging out every live spot, and trenching any live edge.

Contain a fire: A fuel break around the fire has been completed. This break may include natural barriers or manually and/or mechanically constructed line.

Control a fire: The complete extinguishment of a fire, including spot fires. Fireline has been strengthened so that flare-ups from within the perimeter of the fire will not break through this line.

Control Line: All built or natural fire barriers and treated fire edge used to control a fire.

Extreme Fire Behavior: "Extreme" implies a level of fire behavior characteristics that ordinarily precludes methods of direct control action. One of more of the following is usually involved: high rate of spread, prolific crowning and/or spotting, presence of fire whirls, strong convection column. Predictability is difficult because such fires often exercise some degree of influence on their environment and behave erratically, sometimes dangerously.

Fire Behavior: The manner in which a fire reacts to the influences of fuel, weather and topography.

Fire Intensity: A general term relating to the heat energy released by a fire.

Fire Line: A linear fire barrier that is scraped or dug to mineral soil.

Fire Perimeter: The entire outer edge or boundary of a fire.

Fire Season: 1) Period(s) of the year during which wildland fires are likely to occur, spread, and affect resource values sufficient to warrant organized fire management activities. 2) A legally enacted time during which burning activities are regulated by state or local authority.

Fire Weather: Weather conditions that influence fire ignition, behavior and suppression.

Fire Weather Watch: A term used by fire weather forecasters to notify using agencies, usually 24 to 72 hours ahead of the event, that current and developing meteorological conditions may evolve into dangerous fire weather.

Fire Triangle: Instructional aid in which the sides of a triangle are used to represent the three factors (oxygen, heat, fuel) necessary for combustion and flame production; removal of any of the three factors causes flame production to cease.

Firefighting Aircraft means support of the firefighters on the ground from aircraft in the air. Aircraft can access steep, rocky or unsafe areas before ground forces are able to gain entry.

Fuel: Combustible material. Includes, vegetation, such as grass, leaves, ground litter, plants, shrubs and trees, that feed a fire.

Ground Fuel: All combustible materials below the surface litter, including duff, tree or shrub roots, punchy wood, peat, and sawdust, that normally support a glowing combustion without flame.

Hand Line: A fireline built with hand tools.

Helibase: The main location within the general incident area for parking, fueling, maintaining, and loading helicopters. The helibase is usually located at or near the incident base.

Helispot: A temporary landing spot for helicopters.

Helitack: The use of helicopters to transport crews, equipment, and fire retardants or suppressants to the fire line during the initial stages of a fire.

Helitack Crew: A group of firefighters trained in the technical and logistical use of helicopters for fire suppression.

Hotshot Crew: A highly trained fire crew used mainly to build fireline by hand.

Hotspot: A particular active part of a fire.

Lead Plane: Aircraft with pilot used to make dry runs over the target area to check wing and smoke conditions and topography and to lead air tankers to targets and supervise their drops.

Mop-up: To make a fire safe or reduce residual smoke after the fire has been controlled by extinguishing or removing burning material along or near the control line, felling snags, or moving logs so they won't roll downhill.

Overhead: People assigned to supervisory positions, including incident commanders, command staff, general staff, directors, supervisors, and unit leaders.

Prevention: Activities directed at reducing the incidence of fires, including public education, law enforcement, personal contact, and reduction of fuel hazards.

Red Flag Warning: Term used by fire weather forecasters to alert forecast users to an ongoing or imminent critical fire weather pattern.

Rehabilitation: The activities necessary to repair damage or disturbance caused by wildland fires or the fire suppression activity.

Resources: 1) Personnel, equipment, services and supplies available, or potentially available, for assignment to incidents. 2) The natural resources of an area, such as timber, crass, watershed values, recreation values, and wildlife habitat.

Retardant: A substance or chemical agent which reduced the flammability of combustibles.

Run (of a fire): The rapid advance of the head of a fire with a marked change in fire line intensity and rate of spread from that noted before and after the advance.

Running: A rapidly spreading surface fire with a well-defined head.

Smoldering Fire: A fire burning without flame and barely spreading.

SEAT: Single Engine Air Tanker- A fixed-wing aircraft equipped to drop fire retardants or suppressants.

Torching: The ignition and flare-up of a tree or small group of trees, usually from bottom to top.

Water Tender: A ground vehicle capable of transporting specified quantities of water.