Damping down and turning over (sometimes referred to as mopping-up) involves extinguishing a fire completely once it has been brought under control, to prevent escape or reignition.
Once a fire has been contained it is important to extinguish all remaining burning material, especially near the outer edge of the fire perimeter, where burning material may be lying within unburnt fuel. Once the outer perimeter has been secured, personnel should work inwards, exposing and extinguishing hot spots or burning fuel as they go. Personnel must walk with great care to prevent them from sinking into holes left by the fire and also to guard against flames that might flare up.
To secure the area, existing control lines may be strengthened or new ones constructed. Pockets of remaining fuel can also be burned out using controlled burns (see Control Measure: Consider appropriate fire suppression tactics and develop and implement a tactical plan for further information). In cases of ground fuel fires, especially in peatlands, specially designed deep penetration lances can be used to suppress any remaining ground fires during the damping down and turning over stage. When using deep penetration lances, the nozzle should be jabbed into the smoking ground and water applied until the peat takes on the appearance of porridge – a sign that it is saturated with water. This ground piercing should be continued until the fire has been extinguished.
Excavation may be needed to expose the ground fuel fire or to create a fuel break. Depending on the depth of the ground fire this can be achieved by personnel using hand tools. For larger and/or deeper ground fuel fires, heavy machinery such as tractors or excavators may be required. If excavation is necessary, use only the width and depth needed to stop the fire. Personnel should not cause more damage than necessary, carrying out minimal digging and restricting soil disturbance to hot areas near the control line wherever possible. Any decision to excavate or create a fuel break to extinguish a ground fire should be made, wherever possible, in consultation with the responsible landowner or manager and, if appropriate and available, the relevant environmental agency.
Damping down and turning over may take a considerable length of time and, depending on the size of the incident and the vegetation involved, may continue for a number of hours or days. Therefore, it is recommended that fire and rescue services consider making arrangements to obtain assistance from other organisations.
At an appropriate point during the damping down and turning over phase, and when safe to do so, it is also recommended that the incident is formally handed over to the appropriate landowner or land management agency. Fire and rescue services should consider using handover agreement forms for this task.
Refer to the control measure of ‘Damping down and turning over’ in National Operational Guidance: Fires and firefighting.