Fighting Wildfires: Strategy vs Tactics

Athena Intelligence
5 min readMar 27, 2024

Bintel’s CWPP team has over 20 years of experience writing plans, and almost as many years analyzing and mitigating wildfire risks. This brings multiple perspectives to municipal disaster planning.

After hours of meetings with Bintel on Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP), as the representative of Athena Intelligence on the team, I have gained renewed appreciation for the perspectives of strategy versus tactics.

Athena Intelligence is a data company with the market leading analysis of future wildfire risk. The information is conditional and geospatial and needs a GIS platform to be fully utilized. Bintel has such a platform. They have pulled together a team with deep expertise to multiple areas, to write CWPPs for communities concerned with wildfire risk.

The namesake of Athena Intelligence is the Greek goddess of military strategy, Athena, daughter of Zeus. Listening to Marc (Fire Adaptive Solutions, from AnchorPoint Group), and Steve with deep experience with removing biomass, as well as thoughts from various firefighters we have spoken to in recent weeks, has caused us to reflect on the strategic view (the perspective of the Intelligence Officer reviewing the battlefield) and the tactical view (the battlefield perspective of a Colonel responsible for troops in a real-world conflict) in the fight against wildfires.

Using the military analogy, there is a dichotomy between military strategy and tactics which underscores the complementary roles of these two approaches to achieving objectives. While strategy sets the overarching framework for the campaign, the conditions of the battlefield or the land’s ability to host a wildfire, it is tactics which provide the means to execute those plans effectively. Athena has a strategic role, Scott Moore of Moore Stump Removal has a tactical role and Marc McDonald, with 20+ years of writing Community Wildfire Protection Plans and interacting with Fire Chiefs and municipal disaster planners is the seasoned veteran.

In the realm of military operations, the terms strategy and tactics often intermingle, yet they represent distinct facets of warfare. Strategy pertains to the overarching plan devised to achieve long-term goals, while tactics involve the detailed methods used to implement that strategy on the ground. Within this framework, the roles of Generals, Information Officers and Troop Commanders emerge as crucial components, each contributing uniquely to the success of military endeavors.

Military strategy starts with the goals formulated by the Generals to achieve desired objectives. This upper echelon leader is the role of the Municipal Disaster Planner, or the Committee that puts together the RFP for a CWPP. They convey the community need and key information about stakeholders, resource allocation, areas of responsibility, and important external agencies (ie. US Forest military bases, watershed owners, the local managers of national or state parks). They are also in the position of explaining the role of the sheriff and fire stations in a wildfire. The CWPP writers ask What keeps you up at night? What do we need to know? The municipal leaders focus on larger goal and overarching campaigns.

Athena’s role is much like an information officer, with a vital role in providing intelligence and situational awareness, with insight into the terrain and how it influences the probabilities of a consequential fire occurring. 90% of wildfires are small, 3 acres or less, but the large wildfires are destructive to the entire community with loss of life, property, jobs and a sense of safety.

In the age of information technology, the platform for aggregating information, communicating the plan to the public and disseminate insights, such as the areas with the highest and lowest risk, is also a key strategic component. Bintel plays a strategic role in the CWPP process as the Project Manager of the CWPP writing and providing the platform for the Living CWPP. This is the platform for community members to learn about escape routes, shelter-in-place locations, and the location of the mitigation activities which will reduce risk.

By synthesizing vast amounts of information into actionable insights, information officers enable strategic decision-makers to formulate effective plans and anticipate potential challenges.

In contrast, tactics deal with the execution of strategic plans on the battlefield. For the military, tactical decisions involve maneuvering troops, engaging enemy forces, and adapting to dynamic situations in real-time. Tactics are fluid and responsive, shaped by the immediate circumstances of the conflict. While there is a goal and a blueprint, tactics are the brushstrokes that bring the plan to life.

These strategic partners support the operational partners, working in the field, Marc McDonald and Scott Moore, who are on the ground looking at the spacing between buildings and the biomass that is likely to burn. Experience feeds situational awareness and addresses the concerns expressed by the stakeholders.

The experienced Field Operations Manager creates the meat and potatoes portion of the CWPP: An outside assessment of the risks of a consequential wildfire, and the mitigation actions that could reduce the danger, along with priorities. Just like a commanding officer responsible for the troops, the decades of experience that Fire Adaptation Solutions brings to the plan, is the key to decision-making and successful leadership response in a disaster.

The CWPP allows community leaders to proactively address wildfire probabilities and seek funding for mitigation as needed. The insights from the plan help with prioritization and communication with the public.

Thus, strategic partners and tactical partners, while operating in distinct spheres, are inherently interconnected in the CWPP writing process. Strategy and tactics are two sides of the same coin, with each relying on the other for success.

The Living CWPPs enabling municipal managers to make informed decisions with the help of insight from the strategic and tactical viewpoints.

Athena Intelligence is a data vendor with a geospatial, conditional, profiling tool that pulls together vast amounts of disaggregated wildfire and environmental data to generate spatial intelligence, resulting in a digital fingerprint of wildfire risk. (athenaintel.io)

Clients include communities, power companies, insurance and financial services — with Athena’s geospatial intelligence incorporated into CWPPs, wildfire mitigation plans (WMP) and public safety power shutoffs, property underwriting and portfolio risk optimization.

Bintel Inc (Bintel.io) is managing the process of writing the CWPP with the wisdom and experience of Marc McDonald and other members of Fire Adaptive Strategies (the former AnchorPoint Group), Scott Moore of Moore Stump Removal and Athena. The end result is a Living CWPP, an online map that shows risk, but interfaces with other information — like transportation routes, areas of higher and lower risk, electrical transmission equipment and natural gas pipelines and other information the community may want to know.

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Athena Intelligence

Athena Intelligence weaves vast amounts of disaggregated environmental data. Drop us a line (Info@Project-Athena.com), or visit www.athenaintel.io