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Control measure
Use a wildfire prediction system

Control measure knowledge

Fire and rescue personnel need to understand and predict fire behaviour and extreme fire behaviour at wildfires, in order to recognise potential hazards and to manage the safety of personnel and others. The main method for predicting and anticipating likely fire behaviour is to apply an appropriate wildfire prediction system at every wildfire incident.

The key principle behind an appropriate wildfire prediction system is that fire behaviour within any given fuel is influenced predominantly by three major forces:

  • Wind
  • Slope
  • Aspect

These three factors are referred to as the 'forces of alignment', because whenever a wildfire is supported by either the wind, slope and/or aspect it will burn with greater intensity and spread more rapidly. If the fire loses the support of the wind, slope and/or aspect the intensity and rate of spread will decrease. An understanding of how these three factors, along with the type, condition and continuity of the fuel, influence fire behaviour and firespread is of vital importance for developing safe and effective tactical plans for wildfires. More specifically, this understanding is necessary for:

  • Identifying windows of opportunity
  • Identifying critical points
  • Selecting appropriate trigger points
  • Selecting appropriate suppression tactics for use at particular times and places (see control measure 'Consider appropriate fire suppression tactics and develop and implement a tactical plan')
  • Implementing the LACES safety protocol

It should be understood that sometimes the parts of the fire that show little activity (for example, lower intensity parts of the fire with lower rates of firespread) may actually have the most potential for future fire development. Tactical plans for wildfires should be based on what it is likely to happen in the future, and the initial and continuing priority must be to analyse the fire perimeter and establish what potential each part of the fire has for changes in intensity and firespread.

Refer to the section on 'The wildfire prediction system' in the Scottish Government's Wildfire Operational Guidance for further information about predicting fire behaviour.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Provide personnel with appropriate topographical maps and mapping systems
  • Provide personnel with weather forecasts and/or tools

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Develop a tactical plan considering predicted fire behaviour, spread and availability of resources
  • Implement the LACES safety protocol at the earliest opportunity
  • Deploy tactical and/or team lookouts
  • Regularly gather and review information on the:

    • Fire - location, size, intensity, direction of firespread and rate of firespread
    • Topography - aspect, slope, the position of fire on the slope as well as any topographical hazards
    • Fuel - type, condition, arrangement and changes throughout the incident
    • Weather - current and predicted temperature, relative humidity, wind direction and wind speed
  • Use a wildfire prediction system to predict future fire behaviour and firespread to:

    • Identify windows of opportunity, trigger points and critical points
    • Inform the implementation of the LACES safety protocol
    • Inform the development of a tactical plan
  • Continue to gather information on weather, topography and fuel, and regularly review and amend the wildfire prediction as necessary
  • Deliver comprehensive briefings on predicted fire behaviour, firespread and identified trigger points
  • Communicate any changes to predicted fire behaviour and firespread to personnel

    All personnel working at wildfire incidents should inform the team lookout, tactical lookout and/or incident commander as soon as possible if they observe extreme fire behaviour.

  • Use a Wildfire Prediction System (WPS) to assist with the prediction of future fire behaviour and spread
  • Request regular updates from tactical lookouts regarding actual fire development against predictions

  • Plan for the relocation of incident command based on prediction of fire behaviour and spread