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Control measure

Carry out direct observation

Control measure knowledge

Ground fires are, by their very nature, concealed, which means they can be very difficult to locate. It can also be very difficult to determine the depth and extent of firespread beneath the ground. The presence and location of spot fires and crown fires can also be difficult for personnel to identify when they are completing specific tasks. Spot fires and crown fires can also ignite as a result of very rapid changes in conditions and fire behaviour.

Direct observation of the scene of operations should therefore be used in conjunction with local knowledge and/or specialist advice, to identify and provide early warning of ground fires, spot fires and crown fires that may occur during a wildfire.

The primary method for monitoring the incident and providing an early warning of potential ground fires, spot fires and crown fires, is to implement the LACES safety protocol at the earliest opportunity and, specifically, to deploy lookouts. Tactical lookouts should be deployed to topographical high points and can also be deployed effectively as aerial observers (refer to the Control Measure: Consider using aerial observation for further information):

  • On a fixed-wing aircraft
  • On a helicopter
  • To accompany the operator of an unmanned aircraft to observe images/video transmitted to the ground from the unmanned aircraft

At some wildfire incidents it may also be necessary or beneficial to deploy tactical lookouts in mobile reconnaissance roles, using appropriate vehicles.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Provide fire and rescue service personnel with equipment to enable them to carry out observation and reconnaissance safely and effectively

  • Undertake pre-planning activity to identify and record areas that may be susceptible to ground fires, spot fires and crown fires

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Implement the LACES safety protocol and deploy team and tactical lookouts at the earliest opportunity

  • Consider the number of tactical lookouts required to survey the entire incident ground

  • Brief lookouts on their roles and areas of responsibilities for observation and monitoring

  • Provide lookouts with information about the presence of ground, smouldering and aerial fuels

  • Position tactical lookouts to monitor fire behaviour and the safety of personnel

  • Consider requesting local knowledge and/or specialist advice to identify potential locations for ground fires, spot fires and crown fires and the likely areas of firespread
  • Assign team and tactical lookouts to observe, monitor and predict fire development and spread