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Control measure

Firebreaks and fuel breaks

Control measure knowledge

A firebreak can be implemented to present an obstacle to the spread of fire; this tactic can be useful in waste, roof (particularly thatch) and wildfires. If a firebreak is to be effective, it should be a sufficient distance from the fire to ensure that the break can be completed before the fire reaches that point. A firebreak can be complemented by using extinguishing media to further resist the spread of fire in a particular direction.

A fuel break is an existing, planned change or discontinuity in fuel that will reduce the likelihood of combustion, fire intensity and/or the rate of firespread.

In preventing firespread, the position of separating walls and other firebreaks that could help with checking the spread of fire should be considered. In modern buildings with fire-resisting floors, horizontal fire travel is more usual, while in older buildings the spread of fire tends to be in a more vertical direction.

See also: National Operational Guidance: Wildfire

See National Operational Guidance: Environmental protection

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Develop tactical guidance and support arrangements for the hazards that may be encountered and the actions to be taken when implementing a firebreak system
  • Consult and liaise with relevant people and/or agencies to obtain advice and support on firebreak information in identified areas of land and specific buildings
  • Produce site specific risk information (SSRI) on appropriate firebreaks

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Consider creating a firebreak to prevent firespread, considering the time required to implement

  • Monitor the effectiveness of any firebreak and communicate any breach to all personnel
  • Assess the fuel type, weather conditions, resources and time required to create an effective firebreak

  • Consider separating burning material from the fire using heavy plant and extinguishing it