Patrick R. Sullivan, Michael J. Campbell, Philip E. Dennison, Simon C. Brewer, Bret W. Butler
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Behavior
Fire Safety Zones
Simulation Modeling
Human Dimensions of Fire Management
Human Factors of Firefighter Safety

NRFSN number: 21926
FRAMES RCS Number: 61985
Record updated: September 28, 2020

Escape routes keep firefighters safe by providing efficient evacuation pathways from the fire line to safety zones. Effectively utilizing escape routes requires a precise understanding of how much time it will take firefighters to traverse them. To improve this understanding, we collected GPS-tracked travel rate data from US Interagency Hotshot “Type 1” Crews during training in 2019. Firefighters were tracked while hiking, carrying standard loads (e.g., packs, tools, etc.) along trails with a precisely-measured terrain slope derived from airborne lidar. The effects of the slope on the instantaneous travel rate were assessed by three models generated using non-linear quantile regression, representing low (bottom third), moderate (middle third), and high (upper third) rates of travel, which were validated using k-fold cross-validation. The models peak at about a −3° (downhill) slope, similar to previous slope-dependent travel rate functions. The moderate firefighter travel rate model mostly predicts faster movement than previous slope-dependent travel rate functions, suggesting that firefighters generally move faster than non-firefighting personnel while hiking. Steepness was also found to have a smaller effect on firefighter travel rates than previously predicted. The travel rate functions produced by this study provide guidelines for firefighter escape route travel rates and allow for more accurate and flexible wildland firefighting safety planning.


Sullivan, Patrick R.; Campbell, Michael J.; Dennison, Philip E.; Brewer, Simon C.; Butler, Bret W. 2020. Modeling wildland firefighter travel rates by terrain slope: results from GPS-tracking of type 1 crew movement. Fire 3(3):52.

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