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About Planning Areas

A Planning Area is an area an Incident Owner or Editor defines on the landscape that includes all the land a fire might burn during the life of the current decision; it includes the area used for analysis and planning to manage the fire. Planning Areas establish an area of interest around an incident and accomplish two things:

Planning areas are required for documenting a decision and are different from a WFSA boundary or WFIP Maximum Manageable Area, two outdated and no longer used concepts. By limiting the planning area to just where you think a fire might go, you are limiting the decision support capability of the application.

Planning Areas and Jurisdicational Agencies

When you draw a planning area, the jurisdictions it intersects updates on the Incident Information tab and in the Incident History. When you shrink your planning area, the Incident History does not automatically remove the agencies no longer covered in the planning area. You must manually remove these agencies from the Information screen. To add one or more jurisdiction(s), manually add them on the Incident Information screen. Changes to the jurisdictional agencies can be tracked by viewing the Incident History.

How large should a planning area be?

Planning areas need to be large enough to include:

Drawing a large planning area may incorporate more FMUs or Strategic Objectives, which in turn may require you to address more Strategic Objectives, Management Requirements, and values at risk, but if your Planning Area is too small, you will have to create a new decision each time management actions occur outside of it. It's helpful to use an FSPro long term probability output as a general guide when trying to determine an appropriate Planning Area size; the outputs can help inform you of where the fire may try to move as well. Doing this ensures that the Values at Risk identified by an FSPro output are included in the Values Inventory (a product of the planning area), and addressed in the Incident Objectives or Incident Requirements and subsequently through the Course of Action. If your FSPro outputs are larger than your Planning Area, your Planning Area is likely too small.

No ramifications result from drawing a large Planning Area. If you are currently developing Management Action Points or contingency actions outside of your Planning Area, it should be larger to include those areas.

Who is Involved in the Creation of a Planning Area?

When developing an appropriate planning area for an incident, it is important to include input from various fire managers, agency administrators, and potential resource specialists or other staff. Proper sizing of a planning area is important to identify the area of potential incident impact. Local Fire Managers (i.e. Incident I.C., Incident Operations, and Duty Officer) can help identify the area of expected actions, Management Action Point (M.A.P.s), and containment boundaries. In the absence of local guidance, fire behavior modeling outputs can also help inform the creation of a realistic planning area.

Planning Area Examples

The following examples represent things to consider when drawing a planning area:

Table 1: Example of Proper Planning Area

The planning area to the right is large enough to contain FSPro modeling outputs and is sufficient in size. The planning area is not the same as a WFSA boundary or a Maximum Manageable Area from a WFIP. It is a planning analysis area. It is not necessarily where you want fire on the landscape, but where the fire may want to move no matter what resources we throw at it.

Planning Areas Example 1


Tables 2, 3, and 4: Improper Planning Areas

Table 2: Example of Improper Planning Area

This planning area is too small. The idea of WFDSS is to plan ahead—it’s a proactive tool rather than a reactive tool. By limiting the planning area to just where you think the fire might go, you are limiting the decision capability of the application. You are also creating more work for yourself because a new decision will be needed each time the fire burns outside the planning area.

Planning Areas Example 2

Table 3: Example of Improper Planning Area

This planning area uses tactical lines such as roads, ridgetops or drainages, which is not how planning areas are designed to be used. A new decision is needed each time the fire crosses one of these features. These types of features are best used as Management Action Points (MAPs) within a large planning area. Each time the fire thresholds and the decision is still current.

Planning Areas Example 3

Table 4: Example of Improper Planning Area

This planning area is too small because the FSPro outputs are much larger than the planning area. The Values are Risk, a list of values generated by an FSPro run, identifies known values that are located within the model outputs. When your FSPro outputs are larger than your planning area, values identified as ‘at risk’ may not be included in the planning area and ultimately, not addressed in the Incident Objectives and requirements.

Planning Areas Example 4

WFDSS user roles (Viewer, Dispatcher, Author, GA Editor, National Editor, and Data Manager) can optionally subscribe to planning area notifications for one or more units. When you draw a planning area and create a pending (but not published) decision, WFDSS users who have subscribed to planning area notifications are notified. These individuals received emails for each unit(s) they subscribed to, and were included in the planning area when it was drawn.

For more information about planning areas, see:

Last updated on 7/9/2020 10:43:17 AM.


In This Section

Maps and Shapes

Drawing Planning Areas Examples

See Also

About Maps

Using the Map View

About Shapes

About Analysis Shape Files (STFB, NTFB, FSPro)

Deleting Shapes

Drawing Shapes on the Map

Subscribing to Planning Area Notifications

Creating a Planning Area

Drawing a Landscape Extent

Querying the Landscape Data

Creating a Barrier

Creating an Analysis Ignition File

Merging Two Shapes

Uploading Shapes

Creating a Landscape Mask

About Images

Uploading Images

Capturing Map Images

Downloading National Data Layers

Downloading Incident Shapes

Downloading Fire Perimeters

Viewing Shapes

Viewing Unit Shapes on a Map

Viewing, Copying or Downloading Feature Information

Copying Feature Information

Downloading Feature Information

Viewing Smoke Dispersion Information

Viewing the Fire Danger Rating Graph

Saving Fire Danger Rating Graphs to Incident Content

Viewing Strategic Objectives


Field Descriptions

Glossary Resources

Spatial Data Reference

Landscape Data Source Reference

Relative Risk Reference

Organization Assessment Reference

Fire Behavior Reference

About the WFDSS Decision Editors