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Firefighter safety zone: the effect of terrain slope of separation distance

Author(s): Bret W. Butler, Jason M. Forthofer
Editor(s): Domingos Xavier Viegas
Year Published: 2010

Perhaps one of the most critical decisions made on wildland fires is the identification of suitable safety zones for firefighters during daily fire management operations. To be effective (timely, repeatable, and accurate), these decisions rely on good training and good judgement. The current safety zone guidelines used in the US (see fig. 1) and published in the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG) and Fireline Handbook were developed based on the assumption that the fire and safety zone were located on flat terrain. The minimum safe distance for a firefighter to be from a flame was calculated as that corresponding to a radiant incident energy flux level of 7.0kW-m-2 which was determined to be the level at which exposed human skin will develop a 2nd degree burn in less than 90 seconds. An approximate correlation was derived from this model that indicated a minimum separation between the firefighter and fire should be equal to four times the flame height. For a circular safety zone this would be equal to the safety zone radius.

Citation: Butler, Bret; Forthofer, Jason. 2010. Firefighter Safety Zone: The effect of terrain slope of separation distance. In: Viegas, D. X., ed. Proceedings of the VI International Conference on Forest Fire Research; 15-18 November 2010; Coimbra, Portugal. Coimbra, Portugal: University of Coimbra. 3 p.
Topic(s): Fire Behavior, Fire Safety Zones
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Conference Proceedings
NRFSN number: 16930
Record updated: May 16, 2018