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Colorado Firecamp - wildland firefighter training

Apply on-line now for Colorado Firecamp's upcoming S-130/190 Basic Firefighter classes:

  • December 8-11, 2022
  • January 5-8, 2023
  • February 2-5, 2023
  • March 2-5, 2023
  • March 30 - April 2, 2023
  • April 20-23, 2023
  • May 11-14, 2023
  • June 1-4, 2023
  • June 22-25, 2023
  • July 13-16, 2023

Cost: $600 includes tuition, books, meals & lodging. Agency sponsorship is not required. Apply online now.

List of items needed for class is posted with S-130/190 class details.

Daily bus service to Salida departs from downtown Denver at 1:45 pm with a one-way cost of about $29 on the Bustang, Gunnison-Denver route. Light rail train service departs every 15 minutes on RTD University of Colorado A Line between Denver International Airport and Union Station in downtown Denver, with a ticket cost of $9 each way. Schedule your flight arrival time for 11:30 am or earlier on the day prior to your class start for the bus connections to Salida. Extra night of lodging costs $30. Firecamp staff will pick-up and drop-off students at the bus stop in Salida at no charge.

Information about finding a job as a wildland firefighter.

South Canyon Fire witness statement — Tony Petrilli, 1994

Introduction to ICS

S-130 Instructor Evaluation

Firefighter 2 Tasks

Interagency Media Guidelines for Wildland Fires—March, 2004

S-130/190 Firefighter Training
and Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior

The four lessons of “Introduction to ICS” are from the FEMA Emergency Management Institute's IS-100 class, Students may complete the lessons here or on the FEMA website. The post-test can be taken for course credit and a certificate at

Lesson 4: ICS Organization: Part II

Lesson Overview

The ICS Organization: Part II lesson introduces you to the:

  • Roles and responsibilities of the General Staff.
  • Expansion and contraction of the ICS organization.

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Describe the role and function of the Operations Section.
  • Describe the role and function of the Planning Section.
  • Describe the role and function of the Logistics Section.
  • Describe the role and function of the Finance/Administration Section.

General Staff

Expansion of the incident may also require the delegation of authority for the performance of the other management functions. The people who perform the other four management functions are designated as the General Staff. The General Staff is made up of four Sections: Operations, Planning, Logistics, and Finance/Administration.

ICS organizational chart with the four General Staff functions highlighted:  Operations Section, Planning Section, Logistics Section, and Finance/Administration Section.

The General Staff reports directly to the Incident Commander.

ICS Section Chiefs and Deputies

As mentioned previously, the person in charge of each Section is designated as a Chief. Section Chiefs have the ability to expand their Section to meet the needs of the situation. Each of the Section Chiefs may have a Deputy, or more than one, if necessary. The Deputy:

  • May assume responsibility for a specific portion of the primary position, work as relief, or be assigned other tasks.
  • Should always be as proficient as the person for whom he or she works.

In large incidents, especially where multiple disciplines or jurisdictions are involved, the use of Deputies from other organizations can greatly increase interagency coordination.

Operations Section

Until Operations is established as a separate Section, the Incident Commander has direct control of tactical resources. The Incident Commander will determine the need for a separate Operations Section at an incident or event. When the Incident Commander activates an Operations Section, he or she will assign an individual as the Operations Section Chief.

ICS organizational chart with the Operations Section highlighted.

Operations Section Chief

The Operations Section Chief will develop and manage the Operations Section to accomplish the incident objectives set by the Incident Commander. The Operations Section Chief is normally the person with the greatest technical and tactical expertise in dealing with the problem at hand.

Operations Section: Maintaining Span of Control

The Operations function is where the tactical fieldwork is done and the most incident resources are assigned. Often the most hazardous activities are carried out there. The following supervisory levels can be added to help manage span of control:

Divisions Divisions are used to divide an incident geographically.
Groups Groups are used to describe functional areas of operation.
Branches Branches are used when the number of Divisions or Groups exceeds the span of control and can be either geographical or functional.

Operations Section: Divisions

Divisions are used to divide an incident geographically. The person in charge of each Division is designated as a Supervisor. How the area is divided is determined by the needs of the incident.

The most common way to identify Divisions is by using alphabet characters (A, B, C, etc.). Other identifiers may be used as long as Division identifiers are known by assigned responders.

The important thing to remember about ICS Divisions is that they are established to divide an incident into geographical areas of operation.

Operations Section: Groups

Groups are used to describe functional areas of operation. The person in charge of each Group is designated as a Supervisor.

Operations Section Section with Health & Safety and Public Works Groups.

The kind of Group to be established will also be determined by the needs of an incident. Groups are normally labeled according to the job that they are assigned (e.g., Human Services Group, Infrastructure Support Group, etc.). Groups will work wherever their assigned task is needed and are not limited geographically.

Operations Section: Divisions and Groups

Divisions and Groups can be used together on an incident. Divisions and Groups are at an equal level in the organization. One does not supervise the other. When a Group is working within a Division on a special assignment, Division and Group Supervisors must closely coordinate their activities.

Ops Section with 1 Division and 2 Groups. One Group has 2 specialists.

Operations Section: Establishing Branches

If the number of Divisions or Groups exceeds the span of control, it may be necessary to establish another level of organization within the Operations Section, called Branches. The person in charge of each Branch is designated as a Director. Deputies may also be used at the Branch level. Branches can be divided into Groups or Divisions - or can be a combination of both.

Ops Section with 3 Branches, each having 2 Groups.

Operations Section: Branches, Other Factors

While span of control is a common reason to establish Branches, additional considerations may also indicate the need to use these Branches, including:

  • Multidiscipline Incidents. Some incidents have multiple disciplines involved (e.g., Firefighting, Health & Medical, Hazardous Materials, Public Works & Engineering, Energy, etc.) that may create the need to set up incident operations around a functional Branch structure.
  • Multijurisdiction Incidents. In some incidents it may be better to organize the incident around jurisdictional lines. In these situations, Branches may be set up to reflect jurisdictional boundaries.
  • Very Large Incidents. Very large incidents may be organized using geographic or functional Branches.

Managing the Operations Section

While there are any number of ways to organize field responses, Branches and Groups may be used to organize resources and maintain span of control.

Operations Section: Expanding and Contracting

The Incident Commander or Operations Section Chief at an incident may work initially with only a few single resources or staff members.

Organizational chart with Public Works, Evacuation, and Public Safety Specialists below the Operations Section.

The Operations Section usually develops from the bottom up. The organization will expand to include needed levels of supervision as more and more resources are deployed.

Organizational chart with Public Works, Evacuation, Law Enforcement, Transportation, and Communication Specialists below the Operations Section.

Task Forces are a combination of mixed resources with common communications operating under the direct supervision of a Leader. Task Forces can be versatile combinations of resources and their use is encouraged. The combining of resources into Task Forces allows for several resource elements to be managed under one individual's supervision, thus lessening the span of control of the Supervisor.

Organizational chart with a Task Force (highlighted), Strike Team, and Single Resource below the Operations Section.

Strike Teams are a set number of resources of the same kind and type with common communications operating under the direct supervision of a Strike Team Leader. Strike Teams are highly effective management units. The foreknowledge that all elements have the same capability and the knowledge of how many will be applied allows for better planning, ordering, utilization and management.

Organizational chart with a Task Force, Strike Team (highlighted), and Single Resource below the Operations Section.

Single Resources may be individuals, a piece of equipment and its personnel complement, or a crew or team of individuals with an identified supervisor that can be used at an incident.

Organizational chart with a Task Force, Strike Team, and Single Resource (highlighted) below the Operations Section.

As we covered earlier, it is important to maintain an effective span of control. Maintaining span of control can be done easily by grouping resources into Divisions or Groups.

Organizational chart, see long description

Another way to add supervision levels is to create Branches within the Operations Section.

Public Works Branch, see long description

At some point, the Operations Section and the rest of the ICS organization will contract. The decision to contract will be based on the achievement of tactical objectives. Demobilization planning begins upon activation of the first personnel and continues until the ICS organization ceases operation.

Public Works Branch with Power Restoration and Hazardous Waste Task Forces.

Planning Section

The Incident Commander will determine if there is a need for a Planning Section and designate a Planning Section Chief. If no Planning Section is established, the Incident Commander will perform all planning functions. It is up to the Planning Section Chief to activate any needed additional staffing.

Planning Section: Major Activities

The major activities of the Planning Section may include:

  • Collecting, evaluating, and displaying incident intelligence and information.
  • Preparing and documenting Incident Action Plans.
  • Conducting long-range and/or contingency planning.
  • Developing plans for demobilization.
  • Maintaining incident documentation.
  • Tracking resources assigned to the incident.

Planning Section: Units

The Planning Section can be further staffed with four Units. In addition, Technical Specialists who provide special expertise useful in incident management and response may also be assigned to work in the Planning Section. Depending on the needs, Technical Specialists may also be assigned to other Sections in the organization.

Planning Section organizational chart with five subordinate components:  Resources Unit, Situation Unit, Documentation Unit, Demobilization Unit, and Technical Specialists.
  • Resources Unit: Conducts all check-in activities and maintains the status of all incident resources. The Resources Unit plays a significant role in preparing the written Incident Action Plan.
  • Situation Unit: Collects and analyzes information on the current situation, prepares situation displays and situation summaries, and develops maps and projections.
  • Documentation Unit: Provides duplication services, including the written Incident Action Plan. Maintains and archives all incident-related documentation.
  • Demobilization Unit: Assists in ensuring that resources are released from the incident in an orderly, safe, and cost-effective manner.

Logistics Section

The Incident Commander will determine if there is a need for a Logistics Section at the incident, and designate an individual to fill the position of the Logistics Section Chief. If no Logistics Section is established, the Incident Commander will perform all logistical functions. The size of the incident, complexity of support needs, and the incident length will determine whether a separate Logistics Section is established. Additional staffing is the responsibility of the Logistics Section Chief.

Logistics Section: Major Activities

The Logistics Section is responsible for all of the services and support needs, including:

  • Ordering, obtaining, maintaining, and accounting for essential personnel, equipment, and supplies.
  • Providing communication planning and resources.
  • Setting up food services.
  • Setting up and maintaining incident facilities.
  • Providing support transportation.
  • Providing medical services to incident personnel.

Logistics Section: Branches and Units

The Logistics Section can be further staffed by two Branches and six Units.

Not all of the Units may be required; they will be established based on need. The titles of the Units are descriptive of their responsibilities.

Logistics Section chart with Service and Support Branches and Communication, Medical, Food, Supply, Facilities, and Ground Support Units.

The Logistics Service Branch can be staffed to include a:

  • Communication Unit: Prepares and implements the Incident Communication Plan (ICS-205), distributes and maintains communications equipment, supervises the Incident Communications Center, and establishes adequate communications over the incident.
  • Medical Unit: Develops the Medical Plan (ICS-206), provides first aid and light medical treatment for personnel assigned to the incident, and prepares procedures for a major medical emergency.
  • Food Unit: Supplies the food and potable water for all incident facilities and personnel, and obtains the necessary equipment and supplies to operate food service facilities at Bases and Camps.
  • Supply Unit: Determines the type and amount of supplies needed to support the incident. The Unit orders, receives, stores, and distributes supplies, and services nonexpendable equipment. All resource orders are placed through the Supply Unit. The Unit maintains inventory and accountability of supplies and equipment.
  • Facilities Unit: Sets up and maintains required facilities to support the incident. Provides managers for the Incident Base and Camps. Also responsible for facility security and facility maintenance services: sanitation, lighting, cleanup.
  • Ground Support Unit: Prepares the Transportation Plan. Arranges for, activates, and documents the fueling, maintenance, and repair of ground resources. Arranges for the transportation of personnel, supplies, food, and equipment.

Finance/Administration Section

The Incident Commander will determine if there is a need for a Finance/Administration Section at the incident and designate an individual to fill the position of the Finance/Administration Section Chief.

If no Finance/Administration Section is established, the Incident Commander will perform all finance functions.

Finance/Administration Section: Major Activities

The Finance/Administration Section is set up for any incident that requires incident-specific financial management. The Finance/Administration Section is responsible for:

  • Contract negotiation and monitoring.
  • Timekeeping.
  • Cost analysis.
  • Compensation for injury or damage to property.

Finance/Administration Section: Increasing Use

More and more larger incidents are using a Finance/Administration Section to monitor costs. Smaller incidents may also require certain Finance/Administration support.

For example, the Incident Commander may establish one or more Units of the Finance/Administration Section for such things as procuring special equipment, contracting with a vendor, or making cost estimates for alternative response strategies.

Finance/Administration Section: Units

The Finance/Administration Section may staff four Units. Not all Units may be required; they will be established based on need.

Finance/Administration organizational chart with four subordinate units:  Procurement Unit, Time Unit, Cost Unit, and Compensation/Claims Unit.
  • Procurement Unit: Responsible for administering all financial matters pertaining to vendor contracts, leases, and fiscal agreements.
  • Time Unit: Responsible for incident personnel time recording.
  • Cost Unit: Collects all cost data, performs cost effectiveness analyses, provides cost estimates, and makes cost savings recommendations.
  • Compensation/Claims Unit: Responsible for the overall management and direction of all administrative matters pertaining to compensation for injury and claims related activities kept for the incident.

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