Monday, April 15, 2013

L is for LCES

In the fire world there are a lot of acronyms. It can be overwhelming at times, but I think in some ways it also helps to remember some of the important things when we're on the line.

LCES is the short version of the Standard Firefighting Orders (which I'll post about when I get to S).


For every fire operation, regardless of what crew you're on (even if you're the lowly camp crew) it's essential to establish each of these components before going about your duties. It's in the times that these things were overlooked that accidents and even disasters happen.

When I started out on the camp crews, no one ever told me about escape routes or safety zones if, for some reason the camp were to be overtaken with fire. It's easy to feel comfortable when you're nowhere near the fire (or so you think), but fire moves quickly and can be very unpredictable.

One of the fire camps I worked in with the camp crew happened to be situated in the middle of four different fires, which ended up burning together into one massive fire, and overtaking the whole fire camp. Luckily for me, my two weeks were over when that happened. However, there were still people in that camp--food crews, shower contractors, camp crews, and all the overhead/management people. From the stories I heard, it was chaos in that camp. Most of the people (if any at all) were not aware of what safety zones or escape routes even were let alone where they were and when to use them. This is an example of poor communication. Also, it seems like they would have gotten people out of harms way a lot easier if there had been lookouts properly posted to give updates on the fire activity and location.

It's easy to identify what the problems were when things have gone wrong, but the more difficult task is remembering to cover all the bases as you're working. It's identifying what you need in the moment that really makes the difference.

Some things may seem to get repetitive after hearing them over and over in briefings and after action reviews, but when your life and the lives of your crew members are on the line then it's good to get past the redundancy and really make sure that LCES are in place.

Do you have any examples of situations gone wrong (or right) because of LCES?

Fire Away!


  1. I thought knowing all that before hand was part of the routine training? We were in Big Sur few years back when the evacuations were going on and the sky was yellow and smoking because of the large number of fires. We saw camps along the route. Hubby thought it all interesting and I wanted to get out.


    1. Yes, for firefighters we are drilled very hard on LCES. Anytime I go out on a crew we always have a lookout, good communication, escape routes, and safety zones...but, I'm not sure they always remember it in other aspects of fire such as the main camps. Probably most of the time they do a better job with this sort of thing in the camps, but I never heard anything about these things as a sixteen year old on the camp crew. Probably not too many fire camps actually burn over.