Fire Ecology & Management
Fighting Wildfires - The Incident Command System
Principles & Practices
Wildfire is a natural part of many Idaho ecosystems, but when homes and lives are threatened or landscapes are burned beyond repair, fighting wildfires becomes a necessity. It may look simple, but fighting a wildfire is dangerous, complex and constantly evolving task.
The Incident Command System
All wildland firefighters follow the same motto: protect lives, houses, and property, while ensuring safety for everyone involved.
When wildfires burn on public lands, firefighters follow the Incident Command System (ICS) to ensure organization and safety. The Bureau of Land Management, the federal departments of the Interior and Agriculture, and the Idaho Department of Lands have shared firefighting goals, policies, and tactics.
ICS is an emergency management system designed to provide standardized structure and language for responding to emergencies. The ICS consists of five working units:
- Command is in charge of the wildland fire incident. It is established by the first officer on the scene, who assumes the role of Incident Commander (IC). The IC immediately establishes priorities, objectives, and strategies and is responsible for monitoring safety and for managing organization by delegating authority to units as needed.
- Operations carries out the plans established by the IC and Operations staff. It is responsible for fire suppression and rescue. Operations staff are made up of both commanders and firefighters working on the fire.
- Planning is responsible for collecting, evaluating, and distributing data and publishes the Incident Action Plan, which is used by everyone working on the fire. The Incident Action Plan includes all related plans of action—which firefighters and resources are assigned to the fire, where they are assigned, contact information for the ICS staff, safety information for firefighters, and maps of the fire and surrounding area.
- Logistics provides services and support to firefighters—communication equipment, medical supplies, clothing, accommodations, food, restrooms, showers, and vehicle maintenance.
- Finance tracks all money associated with the fire incident, including personnel time, contracts, and workers' compensation and claims.