Forest Service Practice # 38

Washington Incident Management Team


Intent of Use: To provide essential services at or near an incident and to ensure the health and safety of the public and incident personnel.

Applicability:    The team's primary responsibility is ensuring the health and safety of the public and incident personnel.  The Washington Incident Management Team web site provides Forest Service personnel at the location of the incident and at home units by posting updated information including announcements, news releases, progress maps, official documents, and photographs.  The public web site is accessed by families of firefighters and overhead personnel who wish to check on the progress, severity and daily reports of all-risk incidents.  The site also provides contact information for individual team members responsible for contracting or hiring fire-fighting personnel and support services.

Key Words:     Washington Incident Management Team #4, Washington Incident Management Overhead Teams, All-risk incident management in the Pacific Northwest, wildland fire, safety


Description of Practice: 

In the fall of 1999, the Pacific Northwest Coordinating Group that is comprised of representatives of Oregon and Washington, the five federal wildland fire agencies, and fire service suggested that the Incident Management Teams (IMTs) within Oregon and Washington consider integrating.  In December 1999, agency managers from the wildland firefighting agencies and fire service in Washington began to integrate IMTs.  Five IMTs managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (WaDNR) (one of which was already an interagency team), the two area federal teams, and the five fire service teams were integrated into seven standing teams in the spring of 2000. Based upon resource and personnel availability, these teams were further refined in 2001 to the five teams that exist today. The complexity of fires and other incidents requiring IMTs has increased across the state and agencies responsible for managing these incidents have experienced budget and personnel shortages. By working together, these agencies can share costs and identify savings.

     The Washington Incident Management Team is a "Type 2" organization comprised of 55 government and private professionals from the states of Oregon and Washington. The team's primary responsibility is ensuring the health and safety of the public and incident personnel. The team provides essential services at or near an incident so that those involved can focus on the job of protecting lives and property.

     The Team uses the following principles of mindfulness” listed below as its operating practices: 


1.    Preoccupation with Failure.  This principle requires a wary and persistent attention to detecting and quickly responding to all errors and failures. 

2.    Reluctance to Simplify.  An High Reliability Organization (HRO) resists the common tendency to oversimplify explanations of events and to steer away from evidence that disconfirms management direction or suggests the presence of unexpected problems.

3.    Sensitivity to Operations.  By maintaining situational awareness and the big picture of current operations, an HRO integrates information about operations and performance into a single picture of the overall situation and operational performance.  Sensitivity to operations permits early problem identification, permitting action before problems become too substantial.

4.    Commitment to Resilience.  Recognizing, understanding and accepting that human error and unexpected events are both persistent and always present is an important principle of HROs.  The HRO recognizes that it will eventually be surprised; and develops the capacity to respond to, contain, cope with, and bounce back from undesirable change swiftly and effectively.

5.    Deference to Expertise.  An HRO loosens hierarchical restraints and empowers expert people inside the organization closest to a problem, often lower-level personnel, when operational decisions must be made quickly and accurately.


Some of these essential services include providing food, sanitation, equipment, communication and transportation. The team also provides leadership, supervision and strategic planning services to help fight fires or deal with other disasters. One of the many functions of an incident management team is to process payments for contractual agreements and payroll for ground personnel. Another is providing information services about the incident to media, communities and incident personnel.

     Incident command teams have specialists who manage air traffic, evaluate weather and safety conditions, and coordinate activities with other agencies. In 2010, approximately 15 team members were trainees who were learning the roles and responsibilities of their position while being directly supervised by qualified and certified personnel.


Critical Success Factors:




Costs:  The cost of enlisting a management team varies with the type, intensity, complexity and duration of the incident itself.  Disasters, such as the Hurricane Katrina incident, required WIMT#4’s logistical expertise to manage and provide for the living requirements of over 2,000 first-responders.  The team was engaged for more than 30 days.  In the case of the potential devastating re-activation of the Mt. St. Helen’s Volcano, a “short” team of planners and operations specialists was enlisted for approximately a week to assist in providing security, information and access restrictions for the area.  On the average, a week-long wildfire will cost $700,000 to $1 million, depending upon the intensity and location of the fire.  If a significant amount of air support is required to fight a fire, the cost can be much greater.


Software and Resources:  Members of the Washington Incident Management Team #4 are required to assemble the tools and resources they need to perform the tasks for which they qualify.  This assembly often takes several seasons during on-the-job training or while serving as journeymen under the supervision of a fully-qualified general staff member.  The team maintains a cache of equipment for use by team members, including plotters, computers, printers, telephones and radios.  Most teammembers area allowed to use their own vehicles and tools from their regular jobs at incidents.  Many types of software have been developed by the Forest Service (in cooperation with other agencies) for the use by management teams.  This software is used by team specialists to monitor and predict fire weather, fire behavior, create and print incident maps, order supplies and personnel, determine costs, make payments, and much more.  Some examples of software used by team personnel include I-Suite (finance/resource management), ROSS (resource ordering system), Barcoding (supply checkout), and GIS (mapping and plotting).  Most individual team members bring with them their own laptop computers, printers and external storage devices, digital cameras, etc.  The team members access home agency networks and help desks for support during incidents away from home.  Hence, all software programs provided by home agencies to their employees are available for use at incidents.  The WIMT#4’s web site is supported supported by the Northwest Coordinating Center*.


*The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) is the Geographic Area Coordination Center for the Northwest Region which includes the States of Oregon and Washington. Located in Portland, OR, the NWCC serves as the focal point for interagency resource coordination, logistics support, aviation support and predictive services for all state and federal agencies involved in wildland fire management and suppression in the region. Cooperating agencies include the: Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, Oregon Dept of Forestry, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington Dept. of Natural Resources and the National Park Service.



Website or Attachments:


Point of Contact:

Bork, Cynthia Marie

Incident Information Officer, WIMT#4

Chief Information Office, Region 6



Larry Nickey,

Incident Commander, WIMT#4, and Fire and Aviation Management Officer

Olympic National Park

Work 360-565-3121

Cell 360-808-3405



Compiled February 2011