Risk Management Assistance Teams

A test program designed to provide decision support for high risk incidents

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The growing complexity and duration of wildland fires continues to challenge the capability and expertise of U.S. Forest Service agency administrators and fire managers. As wildfires become more complex and the risk to firefighters, the public, communities and resources increase, there is a need to provide additional strategic support to administrators and managers engaged in management of these events. In December 2016, agency senior fire leaders tasked a working group to develop a process to enhance the strategic evaluation process that minimizes firefighter exposure while protecting values at risk and achieving incident and land and resource management objectives.

The group formed Risk Management Assistance Teams (RMAT). These teams tested an effort in 2017 on 15 wildland fires to assist line officers and incident commanders with the decision making tools, enhanced analytics, and alignment with response strategies needed for making risk informed choices when managing wildfires. RMAT’s role is to strengthen a line officer’s and the incident management team’s ability to examine alternative strategies that better consider the exposure tradeoffs, assess risk to highly valued resources and assets, and seek opportunities for realizing the beneficial effects of fire. The intent is to apply existing and emerging decision support tools with risk management expertise to improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Agency’s fire management responses. This year, RMAT will use small teams led by an experienced line officer and supported by fire operations and risk management specialists. Fire analysts will support the team on-site and virtually. Teams will arrive early to fires to better engage with decision makers at key decision points. RMAT will focus assistance to line officers around decision quality and accountability. This will include efforts to improve decision quality, explore decision support tools, use enhanced analytics, and identify response strategies needed for making risk informed choices and decisions.

For additional RMAT information, please read the RMAT Frequently Asked Questions

Drawing up a plan on a topo map


A Risk Management Assistance Team (RMAT) is a program that was tested on15 wildland fires in 2017. It is designed to provide decision support modules with specific skills to help line officers and fire managers throughout high risk incidents. They are available to work for the agency administrators in areas that are most likely to experience high exposure events. By engaging this capacity during the emergence and throughout the evolution of high impact fires with appropriate levels of capacity and leadership, the opportunities for improved development and shared ownership of high risk strategic decisions can be increased.

Single tree consumed by fire


Senior fire leaders recognize and acknowledge the importance and need to change the conversation around large fire strategies, one that does not expect all out efforts at all costs or approaches with low probability of success, given risk and exposure. The senior fire leader’s desired outcome supports decision making differently, aligns with the Chief around risk and strategies and inserts new tools and processes that encourage and provide space for new conversations. They believe we can reduce unnecessary exposure by implementing a process to share risk by providing oversight on large fires through a national process with appropriate decision support resources.

Wildfire Risk Raster


Fire leadership have formed teams of highly experienced line officers, incident managers and decision analysts to enhance our strategic evaluation process. These teams will assist the agency administrator and incident commander to more thoroughly develop and consider alternative strategies that more effectively achieve our incident and land and resource management objectives. Within the current environment, existing time constraints limit line officers’ capacity to thoroughly examine strategic alternatives. The RMAT will provide such capacity and analysis to ensure that the depth of our assessments and strategic planning efforts align with the potential risk posed by a wildfire to personnel exposure and resource commitments made.