Structure Triage During Wildfires

During a brush fire, it’s imperative that firefighters make quick but well-thought-out decisions that reflect life safety issues for both responders and citizens first, followed by property conservation.

Structure Triage is ‘generally’ when fire personnel prepare and set up and defend homes prior to an advancing fire-front approaches. We strategically direct resources (fire engines) at the structures they are assigned to protect.


Hopefully by demonstrating how we determine the safest way to protect your property as first responders, you’ll learn how to help us – help you!

Just like when we triage multiple patients during accidents, we do the same with structures.

Green category: These properties could be likened to the “walking wounded.” The homeowners have put effort into mitigating the hazards of these structures, so they will more than likely survive the event without extensive firefighting efforts or intervention. These homes have a good amount of survivable space around them and feature good ingress and egress routes. With these types of homes, we can focus our efforts on simply stopping the fire from encroaching on the property, if needed. These types of properties can also act as possible safety areas for our folks if crews need to pull back and wait for the fire to pass.

Yellow category: These homes may need some attention from an engine company that includes moving flammable lawn furniture away from the property or removing a wood pile from near the structure. Access may be a little more limited. As with the green category, these types of properties won’t have many issues, so they may also be considered for use as a safety zone, as firefighters may be able to ride out a fire-front without too much trouble.

Red category: These are the immediate patients that will require some fast, effective work on our part in a short period of time. This may entail physically removing fire hazards from around the property. Crews will need to be able to go back as soon as possible to clean up around these structures, as more than likely there will be some lingering issues either from collateral fires or embers lodged in vents or decks.

Black category: Unfortunately, these are the dead and the dying in the triage system. These structures simply cannot be saved. The homeowner has not done anything to mitigate hazards which makes it impossible for us to save. There is no safety zone or any way for firefighters to retreat quickly if needed. Simply put, these homes will require too much time, effort, resources and risk to affect any positive outcome. We simply cannot risk harm to our firefighters if the homeowners haven’t taken responsibility for their home’s safety and survivability.

Which patient does your property categorize in? It might be a good time for that “checkup” from your local fire department and keep you and your property safe and healthy!

We maintain situational awareness at all times and think decisively—remember that possessions are important, but they’re not worth yours or a firefighter’s life.

Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Previous articleSearching for a Home
Next articleNative Touch