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What is a Wildfire Mobile Attack?

Learn the basics of a Wildland Fire Mobile Attack.

Mobile Attack (aka Pump & Roll or Rolling Attack) is an initial attack wildland firefighting tactic ideal for quick-moving fires in light vegetation. Cured grass (dried grass) can be a major fire carrier in an open area. There doesn't need to be a thick forest of trees and dry debris to carry a strong wildland fire. These grass fires are fast-moving and can burn thousands of acres very quickly if not quickly controlled at the beginning. A mobile attack is a very common tactic used by fire crews when the land is somewhat flat and drivable.

The method of mobile attack is fairly simple and straightforward. The engine with a water skid unit drives in the black along the fire edge. This is to ensure the engine does not get in the way of the fire but instead stay behind it. Whilst someone drives the engine in the black, the nozzle operator walks out in front or alongside the engine on the fire line to put water down at the base of the flames and suppress the fire.

It's very important that the driver can see the nozzle operator at all times. The nozzle operator needs to be a safe distance from the engine for safety, within 10-15ft.

With light vegetation fires, the black can cool quickly but if this area is still hot from the passing fire, the operator needs to not only put down water on the flame but spray the area in which the engine will drive to make sure it's cool. This can be achieved with a sweeping motion of the nozzle or you acquire additional help with a second nozzle operator and work as a team to make a safe path for the truck as well as suppress the flames.

Conducting a Mobile Attack

An effective way to implement a mobile attack is to always start with an anchor point which is where your suppression operation starts. It's important to make sure your anchor point is broad enough to eliminate the chance of the fire turning incase of a wind shift. The main goal in wildland firefighting is to create a perimeter to control the fire.

A common attack method is the pincer or flanking attack which suppresses the fire from each side starting from the anchor point.

Once the anchor point is safely secured, the crew splits into 2 groups with one or more mobile attack engines with each group. As one group moves along the left flank (left side), the second moves along the right flank (right side).

As the 2 crews work to suppress the fire along the edge, they work towards the head of the fire. It's important to use extreme caution when getting close to the head of the fire for the safety of the crew. With changes in wind, terrain, and fuel, the fire can change direction very quickly. Being aware of your surroundings and the fires activity at all times is crucial. If there aren't enough resources to attack both the left and right flanks of the fire, it's important to assess the values at risk and choose the flank that has the most potential for fire growth.

After encircling the fire and effectively suppressing it, stay on scene to check for any flare-ups or hot spots along the edge of the fire. If the fire were to reignite unburnt fuel, it's essential that the crew is ready to jump into action. Spot fires are very common from burning embers that are carried in the wind. When the hot burning embers land in new fuel, spot fires can start well outside the burn area. It's important to stay aware of what's happening around you and to not have all of your focus on the base of the flame that you are suppressing. Keep alert and work as a team with clear communications.

Know You Resources

With mobile attack units, the water storage tanks are limited in capacity. With a larger tank capacity being on average 500gallons, and with one, 1.5” lay flat fire hose and fire nozzle, your tank will be sucked dry after 20-30 minutes (dependent on your pump capacity and nozzle use). Many wildland fire crews use smaller diameter hoses in order to maximize the use of water on hand.

It's essential to plan ahead and have back up water supply ready. Whether you have additional water stored in tanks, in an additional engine, or in a pool/pond, it's important to make sure the hoses are flowing as much as possible to suppress the fire. Having more than one mobile attack unit on the scene can help keep a flank under suppression. As one unit is being refilled, the second continues to attack the fire. Have an action plan in place to ensure the shortest time necessary to refill and return back to the flank.

Mobile Attack Equipment

With mobile attack tactics, Alpine offers a range of solutions for any situation whether you are a property owner or a fire crew looking to upgrade your equipment. From smaller UTV bed fire skids to larger powerful truck bed units, Alpine has something to offer. By proudly manufacturing in America, Alpine can offer high quality, reliable, and durable equipment for the most demanding environments. California wildfires happen every year and it's important to be prepared and know the best way to control or suppress the opposing flames.

Safety Is Always First

It's always Alpines recommendation to follow and accept mandatory evacuation orders if they have been issued. Every property owner has the right to protect their home and valuables but using educated decisions on whether it's best to leave or not is important especially if lives are at risk.


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