Equipment Operator Wildfire Operations Awareness  
Fire Safety Awareness & Specific  Fire Attack Procedures Common in the Wildland Fire Environment

Equipment Operator Fire Safety &
Fire Attack Procedures
Module Two
Safe & Effective Equipment Operations in the Wildland Fire Environment



MODULE ONE - Basic Fire Suppression & Safety

MODULE TWO - Equipment Operator Fire Safety and Fire Attack Techniques

MODULE THREE - Fire Entrapment Avoidance & Safety

MODULE FOUR - Risk Management & The Human Factor


    Lessons 11 - 15
  • 11 - Helicopters & Safety
  • 12 - Air Tankers
  • 13 - Heavy Equipment
  • 14 - WATCH OUT (watch two excellent video clips)
  • 15 - Evacuation Procedures

Complete Course Table of Contents

Lesson 11 Helicopters & Safety

Often equipment operators will travel to and from their worksite in a helicopter.

Helicopters are used on almost every fire for a variety of reasons. 

Some of these are:

  • ferrying - transporting crews
  • bucketing - cooling down hot spots
  • long lining - moving equipment into the fire area
  • observation
  • infrared scanning
  • mapping
  • medical evacuations (medi-vac)

Helicopters have three main danger areas

  1. main rotor blade
  2. tail rotor blade
  3. exhaust (on some types such as the Hughes 500)

Some DO's and DON'Ts when working near helicopters:

  • Never approach a helicopter unless you have been directed to do so AND you have been given basic instructions
  • Never walk to the rear of a helicopter (behind the landing gear)
  • Never run
  • Do not load a helicopter unless you have been trained
  • Never walk uphill when departing a helicopter
  • Never walk downhill toward a helicopter
  • Always communicate with pilot (eye contact and hand signals may work)
  • Always make sure to stay back 30 meters (100 feet)
  • Always make sure the helipad is clear of loose debris. (loose hose, sleeping bags, etc.)
  • Always carry your hard hat or use a chin strap when in the vicinity of a helicopter
  • Always carry your equipment waist height
  • Head down, eyes up
  • Shield your eyes from rotor wash debris (flying dust)
  • If you are required to ride in a helicopter, tell your supervisor and the pilot that you have not had a helicopter safety training course
  • Enter and exit on the left side if safe to do so (pilot can see you better) (NEVER WALK TO THE REAR OF THE HELICOPTER TO GET TO THE LEFT SIDE)
  • Always fasten your seat belt
  • Do not slam the door (pilot will advise you)
  • When departing do not do so until the pilot advises you to
  • When departing, fasten your seat belt behind you prior to getting out

NOTE: This review course is NOT a formal Helicopter Safety Review

Lesson 12 Air Tankers

Many fires in British Columbia will “see” air-tanker action. This may occur before you arrive or afterward. The fire retardant being dropped from the tankers has the potential to do serious harm if precautions are not taken by fire fighters (and the pilots).

There are some basic important precautions to take when air-tankers are “working” the fire you are on.

If you are told or become aware that air-tanker action is going to take place on “your” fire;

Immediately - move away at a right angle, from the proximity of the intended drop zone. Do not run. The air-tankers are led to the fire by a smaller aircraft called the “bird-dog”. On board is a pilot and a Forest Officer called an Air Attack Officer. The Air Attack Officer directs the air-tankers and will be in radio communication with the Incident Commander on the ground.

The “bird dog” plane will fly low over the intended drop zone and on the same flight path the tankers will follow. The “bird dog” plane will sound a series of yelping sirens as he passes overhead as a warning the air-tankers are not far behind.

You should be clear of the drop zone.

However, if you are not - do not panic!

  • Find a low, protected location - a hollow in the ground and lay face down.
  • Face the direction the “bird dog” plane came from.
  • Lay your hand tools behind you and
  • hold your hard hat on.

Do not take shelter behind snags (green, standing trees can be knocked over) or any object or debris that may bounce up and injure you.In most cases the worst that will happen to you is you will be covered with red fire retardant.
After the initial drop.There are usually more than one air-tanker drops therefore, stay where you are until you hear the all-clear. The all-clear will come from the “bird dog” flying low over the fire again, sounding a loud siren, similar to a police siren.
When the all clear is sounded, carefully get up, check all around you (and up) and move toward the rest of your crew. The fire retardant should be washed off your skin.Be aware that it is very slippery to walk on.

Lesson 13 Heavy Equipment  (See PART TWO)

Equipment Operators - NOTE:  This is the basic information a firefighter should have when working in the vicinity of heavy equipment. 

  • Not a lot
  • Not very specific

Remember this!

Working in the same general area as heavy equipment, (i.e. bulldozers, back-hoes, excavators, feller-bunchers, etc.) require some extra precautions and considerations.

  • Never work below machinery - they may dislodge rocks
  • Keep at least two tree lengths away
  • Make sure the operator sees you before you approach AND that he/she signals you before you come closer
  • Wear Hi-Vis vests when working with machinery
  • Note that some machinery can change direction extremely quickly - stay well back
  • Protect your eyes from dust and flying debris
  • Never ride on any equipment that is not designed to carry passengers
  • Never rest near equipment

Lesson 14 WATCH OUT

Workers must always keep in mind the; 

W-A-T-C-H - O-U-T slogan for fire line safety.

W - weather dominates fire behaviour
A - action is based on what the fire is doing
T - try out at least two escape routes
C- communications, keep them clear and simple
H - hazards such as snags, flash fuels and dangerous terrain must be observed

O - observe changes in the weather
U - understand your instructions
T - think clearly, stay alert and keep calm at all times

Lesson 15 Evacuation Procedures

If an order to evacuate or to leave the fire for any reason, is given, fire fighters must:

  • remain calm, do not panic
  • follow your crew leader's instructions
  • stay with your crew
  • take your tools and personal gear (unless told otherwise)
  • proceed to designated safe zone(s) via the escape routes
  • If you become separated from your crew, go immediately to one of the predetermined safe zones. If you are cut-off and unable to reach a safe area, travel in a downhill direction to find:

  • an open area of rocks and very little fuel
  • a body of water (i.e. creek, swamp or lake)
  • a deciduous stand of trees
  • in some instances you may move back into the burned over ground if the surrounding forest is not too thick

In the event of a self-directed evacuation,(ONLY EXTREME DANGER) leave the fire area immediately and proceed to a designated safe zone. Inform your supervisor or other authority as soon as possible.

NEXT PAGE Module One, Chapter 4, Lessons 16 - 20

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