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 line officers and fire managers engaged in the management of these events. In December 2016, the Senior Fire Leaders tasked a small working group (Large Fire Risk Sharing Group also known as Leapfrog) 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 Large Fire Risk Sharing Group have formed Risk Management Assistance Teams (RMAT). These Teams will test an effort to assist line officers and incident commanders with the decision-making tools, enhanced analytics and alignment needed for making risk informed choices when managing wildfires. The RMAT role will be to bolster the line officer and the incident management team’s ability to examine alternative strategies that better consider the inherent tradeoffs of exposure, risk to highly valued assets, and opportunities for fire benefits. The intent is to bring enhanced capacity, apply existing and emerging decision support tools with risk management expertise, and improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of our fire management response.

Read the full RMAT Communication Plan

An introductory webinar on the Risk Management Assistance Teams

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Drawing up a plan on a topo map


A Risk Management Assistance Team (RMAT) is a program that will be tested 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 ad hoc 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 fire 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.