The Bugwood Network

Red Flag Situations

United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Southern Region, February 1989; Technical Publication R8-TP 11.

If any of the following conditions exist, analyze further before burnings.


  • No written plan
  • No map
  • No safety briefing
  • Heavy fuels
  • Dry duff and soil
  • Extended drought
  • Inadequate control lines
  • No update weather forecast for area
  • Forecast does not agree with prescription
  • Poor visibility
  • Personnel or equipment stretched thin
  • Burning large area using ignition
  • Communications for all people not available
  • No backup plan or forces available
  • No one notified or plans to burn
  • Behavior of test fire not as prescribed
  • A smoke-management system has not been used
  • Smoke-sensitive area downwind or down drainage
  • Organic soil present
  • Daytime Dispersion Index below 40
  • Not enough personnel or equipment available to control an escaped fire
  • Personnel on fire not qualified to take action on escaped fire.

Debris burning - in addition to the above:

  • Area contains windrows
  • A lot of dirt in piles
  • Poor nighttime smoke dispersion forecast
  • Have not looked down drainage
  • Mixing height is below 1,650 feet (500 meters)
  • Debris was piled when wet
  • Pile exteriors are wet

If any of the following conditions exit, stop burning and plow out existing fire.

  • Fire behavior erratic
  • Spot fire or slop-over occurs and is difficult to control
  • Wind shifting or other unforeseen change in weather
  • Smoke not dispersing as predicted
  • Public road or other sensitive area smoke in
  • Burn does not comply with all laws, regulations, and standards
  • Large fuels igniting and burning, not enough personnel to mopup before dark and likely to smoke in a smoke sensitive area.

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The University of Georgia - Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - Dept. of Entomology

Last updated December 2018

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