There are many specialized terms utilized by the aviation fire community. Find out what a particular term means by looking it up in the glossary.


Aerial Ignition

Ignition of fuels by dropping incendiary devices or materials from aircraft.

Air Tanker

A fixed-wing aircraft equipped to drop fire retardants or suppressants.

Aircrew member

Person working in and around aircraft and essential to ensure the safety and successful outcome of the mission.

All Hazard Incident

An incident, natural or human-caused, that requires an organized response by a public, private, and/or governmental entity to protect life, public health and safety, values to be protected, and to minimize any disruption of governmental, social, and economic services. One or more kinds of incident (fire, flood, mass casuality, search, rescue, evacuation, etc.) may occur simultaneously as part of an all hazard incident response.


Backing Fire

Fire that is moving into the wind.

See also Heading Fire and Flanking Fire

Bambi Bucket

A collapsible bucket slung below a helicopter. Used to dip water from a variety of sources for fire suppression.

Bucket Drops

The dropping of fire retardants or suppressants from specially designed buckets slung below a helicopter.


Direct Attack

Any treatment of burning fuel, such as by wetting, smothering or chemically quenching the fire or by physically separating burning from unburned fuel.

Drop Zone

Target area for air tankers, helitankers, and cargo dropping.


Extended Attack Incident

A wildland fire that has not been contained or controlled by initial attack forces and for which more firefighting resources are arriving, en route, or being ordered by the initial attack incident commander.


The phase of a shorthaul evolution involving transport of personnel from a shorthaul site to a staging helispot.

See also Shorthaul

Firefighting Resources

All people and major items of equipment that can, or potentially can, be assigned to fires.



The main location within the general incident area for parking, fueling, maintaining, and loading helicopters. The helibase is usually located at or near the incident base.


A temporary landing spot for helicopters.


The use of helicopters to transport crews, equipment and fire retardants or suppressants to the fireline during the initial stages of a fire.

Helitack Crew

A group of firefighters trained in the technical and logistical use of helicopters for fire suppression.


An aerial ignition device hung from or mounted on a helicopter to disperse ignited lumps of gelled gasoline. Used for backfires, burnouts, or prescribed burns.


Device used in search and rescue to lower and raise personnel and equipment from a hovering helicopter.

Holding Actions

Planned actions required to achieve wildland fire use or prescribed fire management objectives. These actions have specific implementation timeframes for fire use actions but can have less sensitive implementation demands for suppression actions.


Incident Command System (ICS)

A standardized on-scene emergency management concept specifically designed to allow its user(s) to adopt an integrated organizational structure equal to the complexity and demands of single or multiple incidents, without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries.

Infrared Detection

The use of heat sensing equipment, known as Infrared Scanners, for detection of heat sources that are not visually detectable by the normal surveillance methods of either ground or air patrols.

Initial Attack

The actions taken by the first resources to arrive at a wildland fire to protect lives and property, and prevent further extension of the fire.



A pocket of heavy fuels (e.g., downed logs) that may flare up in an area where the fuel load is otherwise low.

Job Hazard Analysis

This analysis of a project is completed by staff to identify hazards to employees and the public. It identifies hazards, corrective actions and the required safety equipment to ensure public and employee safety.

Jump Spot

Selected landing area for smokejumpers.

Jump Suit

Approved protection suit worn by smokejumpers.


Lead Plane

Aircraft with pilot used to make dry runs over the target area to check wing and smoke conditions and topography and to lead air tankers to targets and supervise their drops.



The process and procedures used by all organizations, federal, state and local for activating, assembling, and transporting all resources that have been requested to respond to or support an incident.

Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS)

A manufactured unit consisting of five interconnecting tanks, a control pallet and a nozzle pallet, with a capacity of 3,000 gallons, designed to be rapidly mounted inside an unmodified C-130 (Hercules) cargo aircraft for use in dropping retardant on wildland fires.


Operational Period

The period of time scheduled for execution of a given set of tactical actions as specified in the Incident Action Plan. Operational periods can be of various lengths, although usually not more than 24 hours.

Operations Branch Director

Operations Branch Director: Person under the direction of the operations section chief who is responsible for implementing that portion of the incident action plan appropriate to the branch.


People assigned to supervisory positions, including incident commanders, command staff, general staff, directors, supervisors and unit leaders.



Anything dropped, or intended for dropping, from an aircraft by parachute, other retarding devices or free fall.

Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE)

All firefighting personnel must be equipped with proper equipment and clothing in order to mitigate the risk of injury from, or exposure to, hazardous conditions encountered while working. PPE includes, but is not limited to: 8-inch high-laced leather boots with lug soles, fire shelter, hard hat with chin strap, goggles, ear plugs, aramid shirts and trousers, leather gloves and individual first aid kits.

Ping pong balls

Nickname for the plastic spheres that are filled with potassium permanganate used in PSD machines.

See also

Plastic Sphere Dispenser (PSD Machine)

Device installed, but jettisonable, in a helicopter, which injects glycol into a plastic sphere containing potassium permanganate, which is then expelled from the machine and aircraft. This produces an exothermic reaction resulting in ignition of fuels on the ground for prescribed or wildland fire applications.

Power on Landing

Also known as hover landings, are characterized by the necessity to maintain substantial amount of hover power while the landing gear of a helicopter is in contact with the ground.



A highly specialized, safe rapid method of aerial delivery of personnel and cargo in areas with limited landing sites.

See also


Technique of landing specifically trained firefighters from hovering helicopters; involves sliding down ropes with the aid of friction-producing devices.

Red Card

Fire qualification card issued to fire rated persons showing their training needs and their qualifications to fill specified fire suppression and support positions in large fire suppression or incident organization. Also, sometimes referred to as IQCS card.

Resource Order

An order placed for firefighting or support resources.


1. Personnel, equipment, services and supplies available, or potentially available, for assignment to incidents. 2. The natural resources of an area, such as timber, crass, watershed values, recreation values and wildlife habitat.


A substance or chemical agent which reduced the flammability of combustibles.


Severity Funding

Funds provided to increase wildland fire suppression response capability necessitated by abnormal weather patterns, extended drought or other events causing abnormal increase in the fire potential and/or danger.


To transport one or more persons suspended beneath a helicopter for a short distance.


A firefighter who travels to fires by aircraft and parachute.


In smokejumping, the person responsible for selecting drop targets and supervising all aspects of dropping smokejumpers.


The science and art of command as applied to the overall planning and conduct of an incident.



Deploying and directing resources on an incident to accomplish the objectives designated by strategy.

Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR)

A restriction requested by an agency and put into effect by the Federal Aviation Administration in the vicinity of an incident which restricts the operation of nonessential aircraft in the airspace around that incident.

Two-way Radio

Radio equipment with transmitters in mobile units on the same frequency as the base station, permitting conversation in two directions using the same frequency in turn.