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Michelle Ryerson, Chuck Whitlock
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Human Dimensions of Fire Management
Human Factors of Firefighter Safety
High Reliability Organizing
Decisionmaking & Sensemaking
Organizational Learning & Innovation
Psychological Safety
Organizational Culture & Identity

NRFSN number: 196
Record updated:

Accident investigators at any level are challenged with identifying causal factors and making preventative recommendations. This task can be particularly complicated considering that 70-80% of accidents are associated with human error. Due to complexities of the wildland fire environment, this is especially challenging when investigating a wildland fire-related accident. Upon reviewing past accident investigations within the United States Federal wildland fire program, many investigations stop short of identifying root causes of human factors that contributed to the accidents. This element of investigation is critical in accident prevention and can have a direct impact on wildland fire policies and standards.
We would like to present to the international wildland fire community a means of human factors analysis used in the United States—Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS). This model has been used primarily in aviation related accidents, and we are currently working towards implementing it for ground wildland fire accidents (and incidents) within the United States Federal wildland fire program. This model provides a tangible means of analyzing human factors, which often have many dimensions. After all, it is typically the actions or inactions of people that are directly linked to an accident, but we have failed to adequately account for this in past investigations.
The goal of our presentation will be to provoke thought and discussion, as well as sharing an extremely useful investigation tool with the international fire community, for the sake of improved wildland firefighter safety. We believe that when applied to wildland fire investigations, this model can significantly contribute to firefighter safety through preventative measures that may lead to improved firefighter training, wildland fire policy and/or standard changes.


Ryerson, M.; Whitlock, C. 2005. Use of human factors analysis for wildland fire accident investigations. In: Butler, B.W.; Alexander, M.E., eds. Human factors - 10 years later, 8th International Wildland Firefighter Safety Summit; 2005 April 26-28; Missoula, MT. The International Association of Wildland Fire, Hot Springs, SD: 1-6.