National wildfire preparedness is typically described in five levels with regards to fire activity and resources committed.
The National Multi-Agency Coordination Group (NMAC) establishes preparedness levels throughout the calendar year to help ensure that firefighting resources are ready to respond to new incidents. Preparedness levels are dictated by burning conditions, fire activity, and especially resource availability.
The Five Preparedness Levels
Each preparedness level has specific management directions. As the preparedness levels rise, more federal and state employees become available for fire mobilization if needed.
PREPAREDNESS LEVEL 1—Minimal large fire activity nationally. Most geographic areas have low to moderate fire danger. There is little or no commitment of national resources.
PREPAREDNESS LEVEL 2—Several geographic areas are experiencing high to extreme fire danger. Wildland fire activity is increasing and large fires are occurring in one or more geographic areas. Minimal mobilization of resources from other geographic areas is occurring. The potential exists for mobilizing additional resources from other geographic areas.
PREPAREDNESS LEVEL 3—Two or more geographic areas are experiencing wildland or prescribed fire activities requiring a major commitment of national resources. Additional resources are being ordered and mobilized through the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC). Incident management teams are committed in two or more areas, or 275 crews are committed nationally.
PREPAREDNESS LEVEL 4—Two or more geographic areas are experiencing incidents requiring Type 1 teams. Competition exists for resources between geographic areas. When 425 crews or five Type 1 teams are committed nationally.
PREPAREDNESS LEVEL 5—Several geographic areas are experiencing major incidents that have the potential to exhaust all agency fire resources. When 550 crews are committed nationally.