Fire and Rescue Service Wildfire Operational Guidance

This guidance has been produced to give fire and rescue service personnel an additional understanding and awareness of the phenomenon of wildfire. It examines the hazards, risks and controls relating to Fire and Rescue Service personnel, the personnel of other agencies and members of the public at Incidents of wildfire. It also provides a point of reference for those who may be called upon to plan for wildfire events and for those incident commanders and personnel responding to such incidents.

8A Preparedness, Pre-Planning and Partnerships


8A.1 Wildfire events, due to their potential complexity, scale and risk, can be managed much more effectively if FRSs have undertaken wildfire specific preparatory actions prior to an incident occurring.

8A.2 Having robust and resilient preparedness arrangements will assist in ensuring that all potential issues have been considered in advance of an incident and effective control measures have been identified and implemented. Key to this proactive approach is the development of integrated planning and response arrangements with partner agencies.

8A.3 FRS responsibilities to produce Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMP) and develop, or contribute to, Community Risk Registers (CRR) should ensure that an assessment of wildfire risks within individual FRSs are fully considered.


8A.4 The main aim of an IRMP is to make the fire and rescue service more responsive to locally identified needs and thus better able to deliver their operational response and community fire safety. By moving the service from reactive response to proactive risk reduction across both the operational and community arenas, and by widening the quality and type of services provided, IRMPs hope to deliver:

  • A reduced number of fires and other emergency incidents.
  • A reduction in loss of life due to fires and other emergency incidents.
  • A reduction in the number and severity of injuries occurring in fires and other emergency incidents.
  • Safeguard the environment and heritage.
  • Provide communities with value for money.

8A.5 To specifically address the issue of wildfire within local IRMP planning, guidance was produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government in August 20081 and made available to FRSs throughout the UK.

8A.6 The guidance is intended to assist FRSs in the preparation of an IRMP strategy for combating wildfires. The purpose is to raise awareness of wildfire as an issue within the FRS to enable services to understand the scope of wildfire considerations in the IRMP process so they are able to undertake risk analysis, develop response and prevention strategies, develop delivery mechanisms and to monitor, review and evaluate such activity.

8A.7 Under The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 Fire and Rescue Services are designated as Category 1 responders. This places a legal duty on FRSs to co-operate with partners from their Local Resilience Forum (LRF) to develop and maintain a Community Risk Register (CRR).

8A.8 The CRR provides an agreed position on the risks affecting a local area and on the planning and resourcing priorities required to prepare for those risks. The purpose of the CRR is to enable each FRS Category 1 responder to:

  • Be fully informed of the risks of emergency in its area;
  • Benefit from the range of views on risk of all of its partners on the LRF;
  • Identify collectively the main local emergency plans and capabilities which appear to be needed across all the Category 1 responders;
  • Decide which of the plans and capabilities should properly fall to it;
  • Appreciate which of its partners in the LRF acknowledges responsibility for developing plans and capabilities against the various risks.

8A.9 The CRR should be shared with LRFs with whom a boundary is shared. Category 1 responders should also consider whether there are any specific risks which should be communicated to any LRFs in any other local areas.

8A.10 While the Act imposes a duty on each Category 1 responder to assess risk, it is recognised that requiring each Category 1 responder to perform this duty in isolation would lead to a wasteful duplication of resources. It is more efficient for individual Category 1 responders to fulfil their risk assessment duties by participating in a collaborative exercise that result in a single, collective risk assessment.

8A.11 This ensures that each local risk is only assessed once and allows the workload to be shared between Category 1 responders. It also helps to streamline the relationship between Category 1 Responders and the government departments and agencies that are able to support the risk assessments.

8A.12 Although the level of risk varies, every area of the UK has a wildfire threat. It is clear therefore that through both the IRMP and CRR processes FRSs should be fully considering the potential impact of the wildfire threat upon their services.

Assessment and Fire Plans

8A.13 As a consequence of undertaking IRMP and CRR assessments, FRSs should ensure that any wildfire risks identified within their areas are subject to a specific and dedicated operational assessment. Not only should this seek to address risk, but also operational and response considerations associated with responding to an incident at that location.

8A.14 It is recommended that FRSs undertake work to produce fire plans which enhance preparedness in advance of a wildfire incident and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of any subsequent operational response.

As a general, but not exhaustive, guide Fire Plans should cover:

  • Estate/Land Owner Contact(s)
  • Neighbouring Estate Contact(s)
  • FRS Rendezvous Points
  • Access and Turning Points
  • Colour coded roads and tracks indicating those that can be used by different types of vehicle
  • Available Equipment
  • Specialist Assistance
  • Communications
  • Water Supplies
  • Identified Hazards
  • Priority Areas (i.e. SSSI/SPA/SAC and water courses)
  • OS mapping of area
  • Digital photography of area
  • Infrastructure

An example of a Fire Plan template is included as Appendix 1.

8A.15 Wildfire can have a direct and indirect effect on the environment and the economy. As a result there is a broad spectrum of public and private stakeholders that have an interest in the subject. FRSs face many challenges in their efforts to protect communities from the effects of wildfire, but this interest can be used to establish networks that can be utilised to form a more collaborative approach to preparedness, prevention and response.

8A.16 What is apparent is that to be robust and resilient, Fire Plans must be developed in consultation, and with the collaboration, of the owners and managers of the land under assessment. Whilst land owners have no legal responsibility to co-operate in the production of a Fire Plan, there are obviously significant advantages for them to do so. As well as the benefits of a co-ordinated and orchestrated response, they can be used to identify vulnerable and sensitive areas of landscape and detail the pre-planning required to mitigate any potential environmental damage.

8A.17 Aside from developing a closer working relationship with local FRS personnel to support and enhance the effectiveness of any response, the plans should ensure that the scale of the fire, the resources required to manage it and the economic and environmental loss arising from it are reduced. In addition, disruption will be reduced and there may well be financial incentives available from insurance companies for those owners and estates which enter into the collaborative production of fire plans.

Partnership Working and Fire Groups

8A.18 The concept of partnership working is well established with the UK Fire Service and wildfire is an incident type which particularly benefits from a collaborative approach.

8A.19 FRSs increasingly recognise that without a renewed focus and strategy for dealing with wildfire events, then the likely result will be a significantly increased operational commitment, increasingly stretched resources and greater costs of providing resilient fire cover. Already, FRSs are looking to shift focus from incident response to more effective and robust pre-planning and prevention, and increase the assistance available from partnerships to deliver these changes.

8A.20 It would be impossible for FRSs to attempt to address future wildfire risk in isolation, and there are a number of partnerships which have been developed to bring wildfire stakeholders and practitioners together to improve planning, prevention and response, and at the same time enhancing cross sector liaison and facilitating the sharing of knowledge and best practice.

Photo 8 A.1 An example of specialist off road equipment being used at a fire

Photo 8 A.1 An example of specialist off road equipment being used at a fire

8A.21 Although FRSs may have limited responsibility or involvement in what happens to an area of landscape post incident, a fire group also offers an opportunity for effective restoration plans to be developed to address longer-term environmental impacts.

Photo 8A.2 Specialist manufacturers can provide purpose built vehicles for land managers and FRSs

Photo 8A.2 Specialist manufacturers can provide purpose built vehicles for land managers and FRSs

8A.22 Local fire groups are an invaluable point of contact, networking and capacity building. They are a particularly useful mechanism for the development of closer links between the FRS and partners (and potential partners), that can provide tactical and logistical operational assistance in the event of a wildfire incident. FRSs should seek to establish a framework that results in a collective response to wildfire emergencies. This support will maximise the effective and efficient use of resources, prevent duplication, and to some degree minimise and share cost.

Photo 8A.3 An Argo-cat All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) available to Northumberland fire group partners

Photo 8A.3 An Argo-cat All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) available to Northumberland fire group partners

8A.23 Preparedness, through the development of working relationships with partners can alleviate many of the problems routinely confronted at large wildfire incidents. The success of a Fire Group will depend greatly on good working relationships, trust and a shared belief and demonstration of the mutual benefit of collaborative working. It should be structured in such a way that it empowers partners to play a full and meaningful role in the group.

Photo 8A.4 All terrain vehicles are able to traverse over difficult parts of the landscape

Photo 8A.4 All terrain vehicles are able to traverse over difficult parts of the landscape

Group Membership

8A.24 The membership of any local wildfire group will depend upon the local circumstances, some will be formed where there are numerous potential partners, and in other areas the opportunities to involve other agencies may be limited.

8A.25 It is recommended that to ascertain the maximum benefits from the establishment and membership of the group a combination of national, regional and local stakeholders should ideally be sought.

As a general guide, governmental and national public bodies may include:

  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Natural England
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • Environment Agency
  • National Parks
  • National Trust/National Trust for Scotland
  • Forestry Commission or Forestry Commission Scotland
  • Crown Estates
  • Ministry of Defence

Non-government organisations include:

  • National Game Keepers Association
  • National Farmers Union and NFU Scotland
  • The Heather Trust
  • The Moorland Association (Scotland Moorland Forum)
  • Wildlife Trust
  • Woodland Trust
  • The Countryside and Business Association
  • Scottish Land and Estates

Photo 8A.5 Fire Service, forest workers and land managers take part in an equipment fimiliarisation event

Photo 8A.5 Fire Service, forest workers and land managers take part in an equipment fimiliarisation event

8A.26 Representatives from these organisations, along with FRSs and local land management community representation can form a core membership that will provide long-term local wildfire group resilience.

Photo 8A.6 Demonstrating that there are opportunities for innovative partner support

Photo 8A.6 Demonstrating that there are opportunities for innovative partner support

Features of a Successful Fire Group

  • The group should be a consortium made up of equal partners.
  • The secretariat of the group should ideally have an understanding of wildfire and links with the rural sector.
  • The group should have a clear mandate.
  • There should be a willingness to work together for the benefit of the group.
  • There should be effective methods of communication between members, meetings should be held when necessary but kept to a manageable number.
  • The development of local fire plans should be a priority, copies should be held by the local land manager and the FRS.
  • Standard operational procedures should include active partner involvement, the role of partner agencies within the plan should be fully understood by FRS and other partners.


8A.27 A collective response depends on alleviating any differences in understanding between partners and in standardising procedures and equipment as far as reasonably possible. Specifically, this should lead to local agreement of the management or operational role(s) that rural sector partners can undertake to support the FRS incident command team.

8A.28 To operate co-operatively it is essential that effective exchange of information and multi agency training systems are established. This can then allow for resilient operational integration between FRSs and land management partners within the group.

Photo 8A.7 A soft track vehicle equipped with a fire fogging system

Photo 8A.7 A soft track vehicle equipped with a fire fogging system

8A.29 The aims of mutual training should be to:

  • Improve the effectiveness of operational response and incident command.
  • Provide a rapid and cost effective response which minimises the potential draw on the resources of each group member - particularly the FRS.
  • Confirm and test the roles of non-FRS partners within the incident command system.
  • Establish and embed operational interoperability.
  • Enable resources to act co-operatively.
  • Utilise all available wildfire resources, expertise and skill to manage the incident.
  • Shared understanding of safety protocols, partner's roles and responsibilities and response procedures.

Photo 8A.8 An example of the type of off road vehicles that can be provided by commercial companies that actively support fire groups

Photo 8A.8 An example of the type of off road vehicles that can be provided by commercial companies that actively support fire groups

National Wildfire Bodies

8A.30 To address national strategic wildfire issues, the Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF) was formed in 2004, followed by the English Wildfire Forum (now the England and Wales Wildfire Forum EWWF) in 2007.

8A.31 Both forums are unfunded special interest groups which exist to create a strategic forum between fire and rescue services, national land management agencies, environment and conservation groups and other relevant stakeholder agencies in Scotland, England and Wales. The SWF and EWWF are committed to promoting and developing a wider understanding of wildfire, its impact and associated risks.

8A.32 The SWF and EWWF exist to develop and communicate wildfire prevention, protection and mitigation strategies to Government, stakeholders and their wider communities.

8A.33 In recognition of the raised awareness of the risks posed by wildfire incidents, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) has established an Operational Wildfire Group with membership open to all UK FRSs. The purpose of the CFOA Wildfire group is to:

  • Raise the awareness of risks and dangers of Wildfire incidents within the UK FRS community.
  • Seek to develop national standards for Wildfire training and suppression techniques.
  • Seek to identify and establish accreditation for Wildfire training.
  • Identify and share best practice in relation to Wildfire Incidents.
  • Seek to support Fire and Rescue Services by developing a resilient and robust mutual aid framework to meet operational, tactical and command and control requirements.
  • Develop an effective marketing, lobbying and communications strategy to support the activities of the Working Group.
  • Offer advice and support to Fire and Rescue Services regarding Wildfire pre-planning, prevention and response.
  • Encourage and support Fire and Rescue Services to work in partnership with local and regional land management agencies to develop more effective planning and response networks, i.e. Fire Operations Groups.
  • Seek to support improved data quality, collection and statistical analysis of wildfire events from the CLG Incident Recording System and external partners.
  • Ensure that there is effective liaison and exchange of information between the CFOA Wildfire Group and the England and Wales Wildfire Forum (EWWF), Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF) and other relevant fora, organisations and agencies.
  • The Group will commission and co-ordinate work packages to develop policies and procedures.

National Preparedness

8A.34 Whilst the development of specific and dedicated local wildfire response is becoming more established, there remain opportunities to progress national resilience in regard to wildfire response.

8A.35 As the events of April/May 2011 demonstrated, FRSs face enormous challenges in dealing with large scale and high numbers of wildfire events. The development of nationally co-ordinated and resilient wildfire support response will enable appropriate mutual aid and firefighting/command support to be provided to FRSs which have been significantly affected.

8A.36 In the same way as enhanced capability, resilience and response provision has been developed for the terrorist threat, water rescue and flood response, high volume pumping and urban search and rescue; wildfire can also benefit from the introduction of subject matter advisors (SMAs), interoperable training and equipment, standardised systems of work and central resource management and deployment.


Email: Dean Cowper

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