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Safety zones

Safety zones are predetermined areas of safety where personnel can find refuge from a wildfire. Safety zones should be:

  • Pre-planned, to avoid confusion and panic
  • Connected by appropriate escape routes, to enable access by personnel
  • Continually monitored throughout the incident and changed as required
  • Communicated to all personnel during initial briefings and through further communication throughout the incident

Any changes made to safety zones should be communicated to all personnel at the earliest opportunity.

Safety zones need to be a sufficient size to accommodate all personnel and to allow the minimum separation of at least four times the maximum flame length between personnel and the flames. This guideline is based upon radiant heat only, so a greater distance may be required to compensate for convective heat, particularly if there are strong winds.

Safety zones should also be:

  • Close enough to be effectively used
  • Devoid of fuel (or contain the minimum of fuel)
  • Upwind of the fire
  • Downslope of the fire

Safety zones should not be located:

  • Beneath aerial fuels (canopies or crowns)
  • Beneath or near overhead power lines, gas pipelines or oil pipelines
  • Within saddles or re-entrants
  • Where access is via steep uphill escape routes

The burned area (also referred to as the 'black area') may be considered an appropriate safety zone if it satisfies the criteria explained above and there is no remaining fuel that might sustain the fire should it change direction and burn back into the black area.

Refer to the 'safety management' section of The foundation for incident command for generic guidance.