Standard Operating
Procedures
Requirements
Guidelines
  1. Wildfire Response Plans
  2. Other Planning Documents
  3. Non-broadcast Burning
  4. Fire Shelters
  5. Communications
  6. Mechanized Equipment
  7. Weather Window Forecast
  8. Burning After Dark
  9. On-site Weather Monitoring
  10. Crew Size
  11. Burn Size
  12. Checklist and Crew Briefing
  13. Test Fire
  14. Post-burn Critique
  15. Post-burn Departure
 
  Fire Management Guidelines

These guidelines establish standards for fire management planning, fitness, and burn operations. All personnel responsible for conducting prescribed burns for The Nature Conservancy should consider each of these guidelines during the burn planning process. Guidelines differ from Fire Management Requirements in that they may not apply to all burns, but, like requirements, it is mandatory that each guideline be considered in the planning process.

If a guideline is not justified or appropriate for a given burn, an exemption or modification can be made by the Fire Manager. Exemptions to any of the guidelines must be justified in writing and approved by the designated individual. During the review process, the Fire Manager should look for explicit criteria that will mitigate for the modification or waiver. For example, if the use of an engine is not possible on a prescribed burn due to access limitations, do crew size, crew qualifications, prescription parameters, or other specifications take this into account and mitigate for the lack of a mechanized water delivery system?

These guidelines are minimal standards for wildland fire operations of low complexity. More stringent criteria may be necessary on moderate to high complexity burns. See the TNC Complexity Rating Guide to determine the complexity level of a burn.

There are 15 Fire Management Guidelines.


1. Wildfire Response Plan

A Wildfire Response Plan (also called fire control plan or suppression plan) should be completed for all sites under active fire management by the Conservancy. If a Fire Manager finds justification for exempting this guideline, the Prescribed Burn Unit Plan must contain a detailed Contingency Plan.

How a fire control agency suppresses a wildfire on Conservancy property is at the discretion of that agency. Many Conservancy sites have sensitive ecological areas that might be damaged by direct attack methods, such as the use of dozers to install emergency fire breaks. If we would like the agency to consider other methods, such as using indirect attack and burning out from existing roads or fire lines, then specific criteria and objectives should be spelled out and agreed to in the Wildfire Response Plan. Most fire control agencies will consider such tactics if they understand our perspective and concerns. The Conservancy should communicate with local fire control authorities as the plan is developed.

The Wildfire Response Plan may be included in a comprehensive multi-landowner fire management plan. The Conservancy encourages cooperative agreements or other arrangements with fire control agencies to deal with wildfires, such as Mutual Aid Agreements.

For detailed guidance, see Wildfire Response Plan.

2. Other Planning Documents

Proper planning documents are required for Nature Conservancy prescribed burns. The necessary documents vary with the type of burn to be conducted.

The Nature Conservancy conducts four types of prescribed burns: 1) Ecological Management Burns, 2) Research Burns, 3) Training Burns, and 4) Hazard Reduction Burns. In practice, the differences between these types of burns may not be clear-cut; nevertheless, all burns should be categorized as one or more of these types. A list of the required documents for each type of burn is included in Fire Management Planning.

Regardless of type, all prescribed burns require a Prescribed Burn Unit Plan. This requirement is part of the Conservancy's fire management Standard Operating Procedure.

The Prescribed Burn Unit Plan contains a field that indicates whether planning documents are complete, and a section to justify a burn if all planning documents are not complete. It is up to the Fire Manager to decide if a burn is justified in the absence of planning documents.

Developing fire management plans and fire management capability within a program can be lengthy processes. Because developing a fire management program may take several years and training burns are an essential part of this process, Fire Managers have the authority to approve training burns that may also have ecological management objectives, even though a Site Fire Management Plan is not complete. This should not, however, be used as an excuse to indefinitely delay completion of a Site Fire Management Plan.

3. Non-broadcast Burning

Non-broadcast burning includes activities during which fire is used to perform a maintenance or land management function that does not fall into the Conservancy classifications of prescribed fire (ecological, hazard reduction, training, or research). This includes activities such as burning brush or debris piles, destruction of old structures, burning out agricultural ditches (not ditches with contigous fuels into surrounding landscape), and spot-burning for invasives.

The following items from Requirement #3 may not be waived or exempted: All non-broadcast burns must meet state and local regulations and permit requirements; All non-broadcast burns must have a plan and a Consequence Analysis must be conducted as part of Fire Manager review and approval; All non-broadcast burns must be preceded by completion of the Non-broadcast Burn Go/No-go Checklist.

Non-broadcast burn plan. The complexity of the operation and the weather conditions will determine the complexity of the plan. It may vary from a simple two-page form or Incident Action Plan (for burning brush piles in mid-winter when surrounded by snow) to a site-specific Non-broadcast Burn Unit Plan (for burning large slash piles when surrounding fuels are flammable). (See examples Example of Simple Plan and Example of Extensive Plan.) The Fire Manager will determine what type of plan is necessary and will review and approve the plan. It may be acceptable to write one plan that covers multiple sites and/or multiple burns during one season, such as burning brush piles at a preserve over multiple days during the winter.

Regardless of the plan format, non-broadcast burn plan components should consider: crew size and qualifications, safety and PPE, pre-burn site preparation, on-site equipment, ignition method, weather conditions, medical plan, contingencies, emergency contacts, smoke management, holding, patrol and mop-up standards.

All burns must be supervised by a person qualified as FFT1 (Squad Boss) or higher.

As per Guideline #15, non-broadcast burns will be monitored until they are out.

4. Fire Shelters

Fire shelters should be available to and worn by all crew members unless the Prescribed Burn Unit Plan states and justifies that they are not necessary. There is no blanket exemption for multiple burns. Everyone carrying a shelter must be trained in its use. Even on burns where their use is waived, a shelter should be available to any crew member who desires one.

Beginning on January 1, 2010 the Conservancy will transition to the use of New Generation Fire Shelters. Old style shelters will not be allowed on any wildland fire under the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior agencies, the U.S. Forest Service, and most states after that date. Conservancy Fire Managers may choose to extend the use of old style shelters on some Conservancy led prescribed burns on Conservancy lands for an additional period of time in 2010 to facilitate program transition. However, it is expected that all old style shelters will be taken completely out of service and disposed of properly after August 1, 2010.

5. Communications

All burns must have two-way radios. At a minimum there should be a radio for the Burn Boss, each line boss/squad boss, and each engine. A mobile phone should be on site. The nearest land-line telephone should be noted in the Prescribed Burn Unit Plan.

6. Mechanized Equipment

A backup water delivery system must be available for all fires on which containment is dependent on mechanized water delivery. The exact nature of the backup water system is dependent on the individual burn and must be described in the burn plan. Backup systems may include, for example, an engine, an ATV with a spray rig, and/or portable pumps and hose. The intent of the guideline is to ensure a reasonable backup water supply is available in case of mechanical or vehicle failure of the primary water source. Where appropriate, other standby mechanized fire suppression equipment may be used for backup, such as a dozer.

7. Weather Window Forecast

The Burn Boss should have a professional zone weather forecast obtained the day of the burn that predicts appropriate weather will hold at least two hours past the expected duration of the burn.

8. Burning After Dark

If a burn is expected to begin or continue after dusk, it must be so stated and approved in the Prescribed Burn Plan. No burn operations should continue after dark unless each crew member has a headlamp or other light source. The permitting/authorization processes of some states may be more restrictive than this guideline. This information should be covered in the Review of Laws and Regulations.

9. On-site Weather Monitoring

Wind speed, wind direction, relative humidity, and ambient air temperature should be monitored at intervals throughout the burn. Use tables, computer programs, fuel sticks, or direct measurement to estimate burn-time fuel moisture.

10. Crew Size

All burns should have at least 6 qualified personnel, including the Burn Boss. No individual should directly oversee more than six crew members.

11. Burn Size

Urban burns should not exceed 100 acres. Urban burns are those within 1/2 mile of a town limit or urban population center. The carrier of our smoke insurance requested this criterion.

12. Checklist and Crew Briefing

Before ignition, the Burn Boss will review the TNC Go/ No-Go Checklist for compliance with guidelines, requirements, burn plan and prescription and conduct a crew briefing for all personnel on a burn.

13. Test Fire

A test fire should precede all burns

14. Post-Burn Critique/After Action Review

A post-burn critique to discuss the day's operations should follow every burn. The After Action Review or another suitable format may be used.

15. Post-Burn Departure

All fires should be monitored until they are completely out. It is the responsibility of the Burn Boss to determine when it is safe to dismiss the fire crew and to assign personnel to monitor the fire. The criteria for this decision should be included in the Prescribed Burn Unit Plan.

Last updated November 20, 2012.

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