Common wildfire terms and what they mean, per the Texas A&M Forest Service

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the midst of wildfire season, you may come across a lot of terminology that can be confusing to interpret. Luckily, the Texas A&M Forest Service has a glossary of wildfire-fighting terms and their definitions.

Below are some common terms KXAN comes across and uses in wildfire coverage, and what they mean.

The full glossary of terms and definitions can be read in the document below.

Note: The below terms and definitions were copied directly from Texas A&M Forest Service and were not created by KXAN. This is a compilation of common terms.

Brush Fire
Fire burning in vegetation that is predominantly shrubs, brush and scrub growth.

Contain a Fire
When a fire is contained, it is surrounded by a fuel break. This break can include natural barriers as well as line constructed manually or mechanically. The fire is not extinguished at this point.

Control a Fire
When a fire is controlled, it is surrounded by a control line, its forward progression has been stopped and it is not expected to escape under foreseeable conditions. It is not completely extinguished, but it no longer poses a direct threat to surrounding homes or property.

Control Line
Inclusive term for all constructed or natural fire barriers — including swaths of fire retardant — used to control a fire.

Drought Index
Number representing the difference between normal and current moisture conditions. Net effect of evaporation, transpiration and precipitation in producing cumulative moisture depletion in deep duff or upper soil layers.

Any ground-level machine providing specified levels of pumping, water and hose capacity.

Engine Crew
Firefighters assigned to a type of engine. Minimum crew make up is determined by engine type as outlined in the Fireline Handbook.

Escaped Fire
Fire that continues to spread despite initial attack fire suppression efforts. Also applies to prescribed fire that exceeds its prescription.

Fire Crew
Organized group of firefighters under the supervision of a crew leader or other designated official.

Fire Danger
Probability — based on weather, fuel moisture and other factors — of a fire occurring, and the likelihood of it spreading. Danger is categorized as low, moderate, high or extreme.

Fire Intensity
Amount of heat generated by a fire.

Linear fire barrier that is scraped or dug down to mineral soil — by hand or mechanically. More generally, the term “on the fireline” is used to describe working a fire.

Fire Perimeter
Entire outer edge or boundary of a fire.

Fire Season
Period or periods of the year when wildfires are likely to occur, spread and affect resource values sufficient to warrant organized fire management activities. Texas does not have a set fire season, though fire activity historically picks up in late summer and then again after the first freeze, lasting until spring rains bring about vegetative green‐up. Consider the driest part of the state, the Trans Pecos region, in particular, generally sees an increase in wildfires in the spring.

A formal Texas fire season is declared when fire activity and requests for help from local departments begin to increase.

Particularly active part of the fire.

Initial Attack
Actions taken by the first firefighters to arrive on scene.

Knock Down
Reduce the flame or heat on vigorously‐burning parts of a fire edge.

Extinguishing or removing burning material on a fire after it’s been controlled. Designed to make the fire safer and reduce residual smoke.

Prescribed Fire
Fire ignited intentionally under certain, predetermined conditions to meet specific land management objectives related to hazardous fuels reduction or habitat improvement. A written prescribed fire plan must be approved prior to the fire, and National Environmental Policy Act requirements must be met.

Activities — public education, law enforcement, fuel reduction, etc. — aimed at reducing wildfire occurrence.

Red Flag Warning
Fire weather forecaster term; alerts the public to an ongoing or imminent critical fire weather pattern.

Chemical agent that reduces the flammability of combustibles.

Spot Fire
Fire ignited by sparks or embers that are blown outside of the perimeter of the main fire.

Fire producing sparks or embers that are carried by the wind and start new fires outside the perimeter of the main fire.

Staging Area
Established locations where resources can be placed while awaiting a tactical assignment.

All work related to extinguishing or containing a fire.

Uncontrolled Burn
Any fire that threatens to destroy life, property or natural resources.

Any non‐structure fire — other than a prescribed fire — that occurs in the wildland.

Area in which development is essentially non‐existent except for roads, railroads, power lines and similar transportation or utility structures.

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