Last modified on Oct 14, 2016

Fire Terminology

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Casual reference to wildland interface and/or intermix.


Includes fire prevention program activities that are aimed at preventing the ignition of wildland fires and/or reducing damage from fires. Components include law enforcement, public education, engineering, fuels modification, and fire-safe planning.


A formal process of analyzing and prioritizing ignitions which identifies those ignitions that are most likely to become large and/or damaging fires.


An incident base is the command and control location for all personnel and equipment working an incident. Incident bases are set up within a close but safe proximity to the incident. The incident base is similar to a small city complete with sleeping areas, feeding areas, toilets, showers, and equipment repair facilities.


Initial attack means the first attack on the fire. The number of resources sent on the first dispatch to a wildfire depends upon the location of the fire, the fuels in the area (vegetation, timber, homes, etc) and current weather conditions. Municipal fire departments would call this the first alarm. Most fires are caught within the first burn period (the first two hours). Therefore, the vast majority of the fires CAL FIRE responds to are considered initial attack fires.


The geographical meeting point of two diverse systems, wildland and structures. At this interface, structures and vegetation are sufficiently close that a wildland fire could spread to structures or a structure fire ignites vegetation.


Interspersing of developed land with wildland, where there are no easily discernible boundaries between the two systems. An example would be what real estate brochures describe as “ranchettes” or “weekend farmer” homes. This poses more problems in wildland fire management than interface.


The scattering or intermixing of structures with natural vegetation. In this type of interface, there are no clearly defined boundaries.


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