Improving decision processes and the informational basis upon which decisions are made in pursuit of safer and more effective fire response have become key priorities of the fire research community. One area of emphasis is bridging the gap between fire researchers and managers through development of application-focused, operationally relevant decision support tools. In this paper we focus on a family of such tools designed to characterise the difficulty of suppression operations by weighing suppression challenges against suppression opportunities. These tools integrate potential fire behaviour, vegetation cover types, topography, road and trail networks, existing fuel breaks and fireline production potential to map the operational effort necessary for fire suppression. We include case studies from two large fires in the USA and Spain to demonstrate model updates and improvements intended to better capture extreme fire behaviour and present results demonstrating successful fire containment where suppression difficulty index (SDI) values were low and containment only after a moderation of fire weather where SDI values were high. A basic aim of this work is reducing the uncertainty and increasing the efficiency of suppression operations through assessment of landscape conditions and incorporation of expert knowledge into planning.