MAY-JUN, 1999
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06/30 DR Moleskin, MP
You both bring up good points! I am a EMT-B and served my time checking out crew members smelly dogs. I guess my point was that as you check into camp ,the question should be asked if any member has any specialized training such as low angle/high angle rope rescue or paramedic. When they give you your assignment they know where you are and could be called to a specific area to meet and then transported to the location of the emergency. I personally bring 2 50ft pieces of 8mm rope and 4 carabiners plus a small pulley just in case. Some of the other guys that go out west with me are also rope rescue trained and bring similar equipment.

Yes what we do isn't as safe as siting behind a desk but a few small precautions can go along way.In my neck of the woods we do need a common word to clear the air. With the local fire departments MAYDAY is part of our Sops. With the state I had made the suggestion but was told that it wasn't needed. In my station alone we have 9 EMTs and 2 Paramedics plus the equipment to go with it.

The sorry exuse of a EMS kit the feds give us is a joke. At least put in a CPR mask! As I get higher up in the ranks in my fire  department, safety becomes my number one concern. Im not preaching doom and gloom, its just looking at what cause injury ( or death ) and looking for a way to prevent it or if something does happen what can be done to minimize the damage.

BC Davis

06/29 For Davis....

I think that MAYDAY is a universal distress call.... If I heard that on the radio, on the east, south, or west coast, i'd listen up! 

I started the training for Medical Unit Leader, and realized that i'd wind up stuck in camp, and wanted no part of that (I'm a firefighter first!).  However,  as the EMT on the crew who is also a registered nurse, I was usually the go to guy in the crew/strike team/etc who would act as the "doc". 

I know that the M.U.L. has to have different resources and their contacts as part of the medical plan (get out an old incident plan and check it out).  Usually, part of that is helicoptor resources, that would usually come into play in any kind of evac of injured.  We are dealing in remote wilderness  areas, so that it's either helo evac, or a long hike out.  I was involved in a few evacs in my home state, and we had to construct a litter out of what was  at hand, yellow shirts, saplings, etc. 

I was in Blackwell, and have a picture of a "wildland fire ambulance"....aka suburban with a star-of-life on the side. 

Basically, your screwed if you suffer a trauma or an arrest, even if there is a helospot a couple of hundred feet away.  By the time, you get a mission  flown to you, and you are airlifted to a medical center, it would probably be to late.  But hey, if you didn't know this was dangerous work, then we have  a problem.  Sucks, huh? 

I've talked with some counterparts from out west, and there is some discussion of having fireline medics, but they can pump all the fluids and drugs  into you, but without ED/ICU support, it's only buying time.  Not to mention, that most accidents happen when the fire is small, and there is no  organized "camp" or medical unit. 

The practicality of having iv fluids and drugs on hand in the field is a nightmare.  They have to stay at a certain temp (usually less than 85 degrees),  and are heavy/bulky.  For most arrests what you need in the first 10 minutes is a defib, and I know I am not carrying that freaking thing in the woods. 

I think the answer is to keep pushing for arduous physical fitness testing, a healthy lifestyle, and having EMT's (preferably Paramedics) on the fireline.  I would even go so far as to make it required to have at least one EMT-B on a crew.  That EMT needs to have some wildland ems training, and be able  to recognize problems before they occur (so should crew boss, and assorted overhead). 

When i'm the EMT, and i'm out with some green firefighters, i'll check feet every morning (physical inspection, and no it's not optional).  Not fun, but it  saves me trouble trying to find a ride out for that greenhorn with the new Whites and chopped meat for feet (i've had to do that more than once).  When the crew first gets together (especially type II crews who aren't together all season), the EMT has to chat with each person and find out if they  have allergies, medications, etc. 

One time a kid told me he was on prozac.... but that's another story 

Doc Moleskin

06/28 B.C. Davis- Good point I never thought of !!! Especially 
here in the West where the normal daily temperature is 106 
to 112 degrees in the summer. EMS is always a crucial 
problem for all of us. Luckily in my "first due" we have 
enough resources to where a medical emergency would be an 
easier problem to deal with, than somewhere out in the bush 
in the middle of no where. But then the problem arises what 
do you do if the nearest help is 2 hours away? On our hand 
crew, there are multiple EMT's (including myself) and a 
couple Paramedics who all carry med. kits; along with the 
EMS equipment we keep on ALL of our structural engines and 
most of our TYPE 6's and our one TYPE 3. I know its not as 
good as having a fully out-fitted rescue team at base camp, 
but its a reassuring feeling knowing there are competent 
people are on the line who could stabilize myself or my 
brothers if a emergency arises. 

In the south west helicopters have also helped us out 
drastically. In our area we are very mountainous and 
hilly(sp?). Therefore access problems are always a problem. 
The Sherrif's office in our county has several heli's who 
often assist us with not only water drops and 
equipment/personnel schuttles; but EMS rescues. If we have 
our patients stabilized, transport can be greatly expidited 
because precious seconds aren't wasted while the recsue/ambo 
or bird's on the ground waiting. 

What do you think?   mp

06/27 I have to agree with Pulaski on the gear issue.  One time, and you'll never get the name of the VFD out of me, but I entered the woods on a little 1 acre fire, and found them in full PPE including SCBA!  Let's talk rehab! 

Most local departments in my coverage area are lucky they can afford NFPA/OSHA approved structural gear, let alone nomex wildland gear.  So, we wind up with most wearing jeans, half boots, helmets, and gloves.  Usually they wear there bunker pants.  They do the quick knockdown and then scoot out real quick.  Mostly they are glad to hand off the fun stuff like mop-up, etc.  Just this afternoon I went out on a 1/2 acre fire deep in the woods and we were dealing with a lot of ground fire.  In this heat and humidity we're seeing, it will wipe out guys very quickly if they wore their full turnouts. 

On the major fires, they won't hike in, or bring their brush units into the woods.  This is especially true in the southern portion of the state, where more than one company has lost their brush unit to the red devil, and unfortunately, they've also lost men.  It's unfortunate that like everywhere else in this country it's not until we lose people that changes occur. 

If we don't get some rain on the east coast (hurricane type rain) we're gonna have a major summer fire season.  I know that my state will not be making crews/engines available for out-of-state assignment like they thought on July 1.... 

Doctor Moleskin

06/27 Its great to here from people like pulaski that play in the east! During wildland fires communications can get pretty trashed. In NJ, at least the southern part Ive raised the question of a distress call. We all know that when the sh__ hits the fan everyone has something to say on the radio and to that person its important. the problem is that the ones that are in imminent danger gets stepped on. In the structural side the , MAYDAY is the word used to clear the air so a emergency can be broadcast. IN south jersey the local fire departments respond to brushfires with the state and its hard to get a word in!  Common terminology is important to the overall communications on a fire ground whether its a 1acre fire or a 3000acre major fire. Lets hear some ideas on this! 
             As a wildland firefighter who goes out of state theres one thing that worries me. In 1994 I was in Idaho at the Blackwell fire and I asked the camp supervisor if they had a crew with rope rescue capabilities. I was told that a LOCAL department was about 2 hours away. 
Thats 2 hours plus at least another 1 to 2 hours to get to the site. Thats unbelievable! I was told that the best way to extract a victim was by litter where in the hell are you going to get a litter on a fire? How are you suppose to get someone out who fell 500ft down the side of a mountain with possible neck/back injuries? This secnario maybe dramatic, is it a real one? YES. IF someone has a heart attack what happens? How about anaphylactic shock? Any ideas? 
                                                                                 BC Davis
06/27 Hi; 
My name is David Wark. I volunteer at a small department in central Ohio. We are currently in the process of putting together a new grass truck. The old one had two pistol grip type nozzles that looked like heavy duty garden hose nozzles. They are black in color but have no identyifing features on them. Have you ever herd of such a thing, & do you know where I might find something like it now. These are 25 years old. 

David Wark 
Genoa TWP. Fire

06/27 Pulaski, 

sounds like ur dept has their head on straight. My dept just bought a 
brand spankin new F350, and put a 250 gal tank and a small engine on it 
and called it a brush truck. The had it delivered to the fire station, 
and to make a long story short, i had to stop by after work and show 
them how to get the pump runnin, draft H20, ....my chief was pretty 
embarrased....but we are better prepared, 2 1/2 inch hose on a brush 
fire is a bit much... 

as far as the nomex goes, some people have it. I earned mine..some 
people stole theirs... and most dont give a shit, they opt for the more 
sporty look of shorts, tennis shoes and a "Big Johnson" t-shirt. The 
guys that pull these kina stunts always wonder why the FS wont pick them 
up as AD when they take over the fire....These guys know better, i 
taught the wildfire section for them in Firefighter I...i know they know 
better. I live at one end of my service area, and the dept is on the 
other end, so i carry my turnouts and my wildland gear in my toolbox. On 
a brush fire, the first thing that goes on is the green and yellow.I 
dont know if i have the authority to hire these guys, but i would if 
they followed the rules, they're good. 

and to end on a positive note, Every single person, (even the girl on 
the JR. dept) has successfully completed Firefighter I!! 


06/27 Roscoe, 
   You may be right. I don't want to suck up but want to be hired based 
on merit and experience. As far as not bieng able to be hired this year, 
I called many of the people I have worked with in the past and had asked 
what was going on with hiring this year, including those who know the 
best, the personnel office. What was consistant was that there was a 
large number of returnees this season, and a very large number of 
applicants for very few jobs. In one Nor-Cal forest, there were over 
5000 applications for around 250 seasonal jobs, most of which were being 
occupied by returnring workers, including fire. 

I'm sure it has not helped that the Dept. of Interior took a 15% cut and 
Department of Agriculture took a 33% cut in fire. 

I was blowing off steam because I keep seing those who don't toe the 
line or become the boss's drinking buddy continue to get appointments. I 
will keep trying, but in this era of downsizing its getting harder.


I think your estmate of the DOA cut may be overstated, the final budget (at least in R5) was about the same as last year.  The resulting deficit each forest faced stemed from indirect costs, such as personnel step increases, administrative rakeoff, vehicle costs, etc.  Ab.

06/25 I would have to disagree to a point about eastern states fires. 

In my state (NJ) the terrain varies considerably.  In the southern portion the veg is dominated by Pinelands, and they see large fires (>1000acres) and use a combination of tractor plows, dozers, and engines. 

In the northern part we are mostly hardwoods with leaf litter fire, and consider a large fire to be >100 acres. This is because the amount of ground fire and mop-up takes up a considerable amount of manpower and time because our method of attack is handcrews and aircraft. 

The difference in vegetation and terrain is dramatic in such a small state.  NJ has 75 full time Section Wardens (100,000acres) and a part-time staff of 249 district wardens (15,000acres) and 1000 crew members.  We utilize a fleet of a 138 specialized fire attack vehicles (type 6 engines and 1000gal tenders), helicopters (huey and jetranger), and contracted ag-cat fixed wing bi-planes.  We are also lucky to have a network of 21 observation towers that are 
manned by full-time observers. 

I guess we're lucky that by law the Forest Fire Service has jurisdiction over all wildfires. This is helpful because we do deal with a lot of volunteers, and prevents a lot of problems.  We have a very active Fire Prevention Program, and a hazard reduction program that includes prescribed burning operations (10,000-15,000 acres annually), and fireline maintenance program. 

People don't think of NJ as being an urban state, however, the state is nearly 40% commercial forest land, 13% parks/recreation/watersheds, making roughly 53% or more than half of the state forest or open land.   We average 1500 wildland fires, with approx 7,000 acres a year.  A total of 3.1 million acres. 

NJ sends resources out-of-state as our fire seasons are early spring and late fall, which works well with the summer fire season seen out west.  Last year we sent resources (Engine strike teams) to Florida and Texas.  We've also sent out Type II hand crews in the past.

06/25 Ok, for those asking for a little eastern flavor, here is the report on a fatality in Arkansas last fall. 
It rasied a lot of questions in my mind. Would love to have some discussion on tractor plow tactics/use (while all you western boys are out chasin smokes and we are waiting for the call for the big one) 


06/25 To ZKP in VA 

       We have had the same problems regarding VFD firefighters dumping their turnout gear for whatever they happen to be  wearing to fight wildland fire.  The question i would ask..is there an alternative to their turnout gear? ..If not there should be. I would be very surprised if there isnt grant or cost share monies availaible to assist VFD's with nomex clothing. Nothing drains you faster than trying to fight wild fire with bulky turnout gear. You are probably safer (percentage wise) without it if you want to count heat exhaustion etc in with injuries.  If you havent been notified of grant programs, contact your state forestry/natural resource agency or local federal land agency.  There are federal monies availaible especially for this purpose (although the funds have dwindled in the last few years) Typically your state agency handles these. 

       On the vol dept I am a member of, everyone has nomex coveralls in their gear locker along with their normal structural gear. If the call is for wildland fire they simply put on the nomex and pitch the turnouts in the truck just in case. 


06/25 Its great to get some responses from folks from the east! Im a BC in a local vollie fd and a part-timer with the NJFFS. My department has a good relationship with the state boys. They handle the fires in the woods and we handle the interface. We have come a long way as far as 
PPE stands. No more structural gear! Also class-A foam has made a difference. We had a brush-truck built following the design of the state rigs. Many departments havent grasped the interface concept and that a problem. We are working to develop set strike teams and 
task forces in the county but most departments dont take it serious. We have been lucky, most fires only get to be a few acres but history has a tendency to repeat it self. 
 BC Davis  WTFD 

Good to hear more eastern feeds and I would like to hear more about how the vols & state agencies interface.  The federal gov't seems to be trying to reduce it's wildland suppression responsibilities to the western states as evidenced through the continued gradual decrease in funding.  At the same time they ignore the resulting increases in structures and  property lost each fire season (see "statistics" mentioned somewhere in the archives).  As we "feds" continue to disappear, alternative protection agreements need to be explored and instituted as the responsibility for the safety of the western dwellers and their properties continue to rely more heavily on the states.  I know, there are always "private contractors" and I'm sure the states won't mind assuming the training and maintenance of these folks annual training, certifications, legal requirements, contracts, and of course paying them for their services.  Ab

06/25    AE-MOC445,  Sorry to hear you're having so much trouble getting your 
single resource boss ticket punched as well as getting an appointment.  This 
leads me to speculate that one of two possibilities exist:  Either there's a 
giant conspiracy to keep you down,  Or,  Something you're doing is pissing 
people off.  I mean come on,  12 seasons?  I'd be thinking major career 
change. The upside is that once you hit 40 you can claim age discrimination 
and get a big cash settlement. 
        I also find it hard to believe that you cant land a temp job out of 
state. There are a ton of jobs @ opm.com.  BLM is a good place to get on as a 
GS-5 Engine operator.  Even if you're not engine boss qualified.  They would 
probably sign you off for single resource boss if you did a decent job.  Good 
06/25 Has anyone heard/experienced  anything good, bad, or indifferent about 
the Kestrel 3000 "Pocket Weather Station"?  I refer mainly to the RH 
measurement reliability.  Might be handy for quick ballpark updates if 
it works.  I realize that it is a new gadget.  But if any body out there 
has used one...
06/25 Ab, 

i'll echo mikes comments about eastern fires initial attack. they send 
us (yes, im on the vol fire department) out to initially attack a fire. 
Here comes another negative.. half the guys on my department leave their 
turnouts on the fire truck, go out there in shorts and T-shirts. What 
ive come to do is my pager goes off, then i go the the work center 
instead of the fire department, and get the jolly green giant, and get 
on the radio and get the word out. 
for the record, im in VA. 

be safe, i dropped a nice big rock on my fingers today, hurts to type... 

06/25 ok, my 2 cents worth.  I feel the big difference in the east vs the west (organized suppression wise) is that the responsibility runs the gamuet from rural VDS bearing all responsibility to a state organization being the responsible agency. In my state it varies through the entire range. In the ag areas wildland fire is strictly the fd's responsibility with the state only assisting in advice some training and grant programs to the pine areas where the state has all wildland responsibility. But even in this case we rely on the fd's to support us in structural protection. 

Where the terrain and ground type permit it the tractor plow is the cats meow and cut the occurrence of large fires to virtually nil.  Im my state organized state suppression (slim as it was) started in the 1910's and major fires (over 1000 ac or so) were an annual occurrence especially in the early 30's. By 1935 or so tractor plows were on scene throughout the state where the state had responsibility. Since then a incidents of that size (except large marsh fires) only happens about every 15 years or so. When they do occur they are typically a one day event of up to 10-20,000 acres. With the relatively level terrain we get a line around it before the second burning period (knock on wood). 

In my state (and I assume most eastern states) the fire organization is very small as hand crews are not really needed as they are out west. Consequently competition for full time jobs are fairly fierce. And since there is no seasonal type employment it is difficult for folks to get a foot in the door as you can out west. 

Since the fire season is typically short even the front line fire positions have a lot of other responsibilities in the forestry field. 

Well, thats enough for now.. 


06/25 Ab, thanks for you site and thanks for the everyones input regarding my 
comments about the problems we face. Many of you have made some very 
good suggestions and sound advice. I do aprieciate the comments, both 
good and bad, about the hiring problems that have and are still going 

Roscoe, those six comments you put were very good. The problem is, I 
have do exactly what you have suggested, for each and every one, with 
the exception of working for CDF. I tested for that agency years ago and 
came out very very high on the scores, but a guy I worked with in CDF 
had a very significantly lower score and received a score in the high 
70's (third rank) and was hired for a permanent job in Riverside County 
CDF, not because of his abilities, but who he knew, and who his family 
was. Over the last 12 years I have followed that advise about seeking 
out training, I've paid for it myself, I've used leave, sick time, 
swapped, and basically bankrupted myself to meet all those training 
requirements or as close as I can get that those forests or agencies 
want. But when I show "Hey, this winter I went through the State's (CA) 
Engine Operator Academy on my own, because you would not sponsor or 
recommend me, and I did the training you wanted, and I went to S-290 
through CDF, and I have I-200 from a few years ago, all I need is the 
the paperwork academy and single resource leader, can you help me out 
with the rest?" And the comeback is "Well, you did work hard to get the 
training, and you spent a lot of time an money for it. But, we don't 
know who did your training, even through it was done through, and it was 
not done through the Region 5 Forest Service, or even BLM, so we won't 
acccept it to help you move up. Sorry you lost out on the crew trip to 
Mexico this winter." 

I have done basically all of what you, and Abercombie, Sting, Ground 
Pig, and others on this site have suggested. How do you overcome this 
type of problem? How do you say to your boss "You told me to get these 
courses to move up, but you wouldn't sponsor me through the agency, when 
I tried to get into the FS class offered I was told that you had to 
sponsor me, the sponsor had to pay for it, and there were no acceptions. 
When I find an ALTERNATIVE way to get the training you asked for and 
commit to the time and costs to accomplish it, you say its not good 
enough! Are you blowing smoke up my ass when you make a suggestion that 
involves a significant and costly commitment that will help me move up, 
but when I do as you ask you throw it back in my face! I made the 
committment you suggested or asked for, and I let you know I did it, and 
you say 'Oh, thats nice. What do you want from me?' ". What can you say 
or do to show this person you are committed, you want to move up, but 
they won't budge to help you, or play the game "Well, we normally don't 
recommend people for the JAC program unless they have worked for our 
forest for at least four seasons" or "We know you've work at other 
forests and agencies for several seasons, but we don't know you that 
well, and you may get into the JAC program through us and then go 
somewhere else, and we have lost time and money on you." 

Stop working at outstations. How do you suggest I get to a busy station 
if the out station is the only place they will hire you for the season, 
and when you come back the next season they say "We don't have any room 
there this year, but your re-hire is back at where you worked last 
year." I have tried to get to that busy station through hard work and no 
complaining, going the extra mile by making sure the equipment is ready, 
arriving early and staying late, not getting thrown out of the bars or 
getting arrested, making sure my stuff was always ready to go, and 
making sure  I and my tools and equipment were always prepared for the 
day's assignment. And in the end I don't get the higher position but 
stay where I am or am not rehired because "Oh, we have a new policy, we 
now have decided that we will only hire firefighters from the local area 
because they are familiar with the area." 

The JAC problems are the same with BLM, NPS, BIA, and Fish & Wildlife as 
they are with the Forest Service. Who you know, not what you have 
accomplished, your skills and abilities, or your education. How are 
these positions selected then? Many of the Dept. of Interior job 
announcements state right at the beginning "This position will be 
selected based on experience and merit, and not on race, color, creed, 
religion, etc.," I want to know why we don't have a universally accepted 
standard for hiring that everyone has to adhear to. 

I have tried applying to other states such as Nevada and Arizona, and 
still have no success. I am not a Veteran, although I did try to get in 
but was not able to due to the documentation they wanted that I could 
not produce. I get the chain letter of non-acceptance or a score and 
that I am on the list, not the "we would like to offer you a job in fire 
based on your experience and knowledge" phone call or interview. 

I've kept my opinions to myself, but when asked a question about what I 
think I am not going to lie or be a Yes-Man. I've been to the party 
functions, the boss's invites to sporting stuff, the crew cookouts, all 
of that , but when it come to selecting it always comes down to "I know 
him better than you, so he gets the job." 

Again, the suggestions and comments are appriciated, but I need to know 
is how some of these selection and education problems can be solved. 
Thanks to all of you. 


06/24 Well said ab, i agree w/almost everything you said, i could go now (retire) and 
have to in 5 unless we stop this blatant age discrimination.  I don't 
even want to, if i have to work post retirement might as well do what i 
like and suck up some more OT.. I also want to say that we have hired 
some crew people over the last two years that are as good as i have 
seen, but that may change if the Region decides to let a single team 
hire for all the forests.  I  was going to say some more negative stuff, 
but there seems no shortage of that, so if ya like gettin dirty, slammin 
line, drippin fire and makin OT enjoy it, i sure do.. C Bork
06/23 much activity on here lately, enlightning conversation...!!! 

Ab, i'm back east, i cant be an advisor though, i dont know what the 
hell is going on!! I agree whole-heartdly with you about the lure of the 
fireline, and the friends ive made already. I like ur ideas about fire 
not being all money, new idea, i like that. No activity here...moisture 
recovery at night is good. The land is dry, dry dry, but no fires. 

I appreciate the honesty in your second sentence ZKP.  I know a few upper level managers who could say the same thing, but they won't.  The West was a little more active today with several fires requiring multiple airtankers in North Zone R5 and some of them trying to escape initial attack.  Burning indexes on my forest jumped up about 10-15 points.  More overhead resource order requests as anticipated, but no bodies to respond. . . Ab

06/23 Ab, First I would like to say that you hit the nail on the head with 
your comments, the good out weighs the bad when it comes to being 
involved in wildland firefighting. A little insight from some one from 
the east and how things are done here. Wildfires are handled by 
volunteer fire depts. first then the state gets involved usually when 
its time for the mop-up. Being from Pa and knowing first hand that when 
the state does get involved they are understaffed and therefore rely on 
the volunteer forest fire wardens to lend a helping hand. Many wardens 
have organized crews under their supervison that are available to 
respond when needed. The warden as well as the crews are not paid but 
compensated at a very low rate to offset their expenses for gear and 
wear and tear on equipment. The wardens are the ones that recruit 
members for their crews and make sure they are trained. The district 
forest do what they can to provide training and equipment but 
unfortunately their is a major lack of funding to provide what is 
needed. The major bright spot other then the dedication of the folks 
that do this is that through the state folks are able to be trained and 
be added to the list for out of state duty when the need arises. But 
along with the opportunity to be on the out of state crew is a problem 
of being left out on a limb to make arrangements with ones employer to 
be able to respond when the need arises. So with that said there are 
many well trained and willing folks with western fire detail experience 
left sitting on the side lines because their jobs are not protected when 
the call comes in. With the downsizing that has been occurring it would 
seem to me that a valuable resource could be had if legislation were 
passed on a federal level that would give wildland firefighters that are 
on call the same stability that is offered to the reserves.  Just a 
thought from the east side. With any luck I hope to bump into some of 
you folks on the west side this season. Till then, be safe and cover 
your ash.   Mike  Opps.......still searching for a updated list on shot 
crews.....i.e. addresses and phone numbers, and contact people..... I 
need to update the one I have at Wildland Firefighters Resource Page, 
http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Gorge/5561/index.phpl thanks 

My thanks to you Mike, I would suppose you know about this link http://www.umt.edu/globalfirenet/nationalpage.php since your site has much more info available.  Ab

06/23 And now, a word (or two) from your sponsor.   Occasionally (often?), the discussions here dwell on the negative aspects of firefighting:  how hard it is to get a job, lack of available training, poor leadership, lack of promotion, nepotism, etc., etc.  All these issues have merit.  They are, and will continue to be a part of daily reality in the wildland suppression field.  I have seen them all and dealt with them throughout my career and still do.  Along with my experience in these issues I've developed my own opinions, which is why I initially began and still enjoy maintaining this site.  I wanted to provide an anonymous  place for others (and myself) to express  their thoughts without fear of retaliation.  In this area I feel I have greatly exceeded my own expectations.  Being a person with an opinion on everything, I frequently find it hard to keep from answering every single comment while I wait for other readers to share their thoughts.  Especially when one of my own buttons gets pushed. . . But I try. 

So, with all the negatives appearing here the last couple of weeks, let me set the record straight regarding my own fire experience and career.  Lest the newer or the yet-to-be firefighters think they should be looking elsewhere for their future and there is naught but a lifetime of frustration waiting for them, let's get positive for a moment.  I have worked for CDF and the USFS for over 24 years and have loved every minute of it!  I wouldn't change my career decision for any other occupation in the world folks.  The experiences I've had, the places I've been, the things I've seen, the emotions I've felt, the close friends I've made, and the irrisistable lure of the fireline have given and still gives me a life I can't imagine having lived without.  This kind of life is only meant for and can only be enjoyed or understood by a select few.  To the new firefighters, if you don't know if you want to be a firefighter after your first year, get out!  This arena is not for you, it will eat you up. 

I've never considered financial rewards as a principle reason for adopting a career.  Nope, for me it's where you get to live, who you get to associate with, what you get to do every day, and the wonderful seduction of fire.  I still love the idea of going to work everyday without knowing what will happen, what crisis will appear, what decisions I'll make, what time I'll get home, for that matter, what time will I go to work.  Will I even come home that night, will I wake up elsewhere the next day, the possibilities are still alluring and endless. 

While its easy to focus on various negative aspects, I try to subscribe to a personal philosophy of challenging and if capable, improving my work areas, duties, and those in my sphere of influence on a daily basis.  Feel free to question your own authorities, challenge traditions in your own areas that you see as problems and offer informed solutions.  As Ramble recently said regarding sacred cows, "kill it".  Most sacred cows are merely traditions.  Webster's sez a tradition is "a custom so long continued that it has almost the force of law. . . the transmission of . . . opinions. . . passed on from generation to generation".  Abercrombie sez tradition is simply a process made sacred through thoughtless repetition.  Let's scrutinize all the sacred cows and see if they're standing on four legs.  If they aren't, let's get rid of them, let's kill 'em all and let the new generation party in the remains.  Many times the old guard loses the ability to "see the forest for the trees".  They may be unable to examine current policies in a neutral light or unwilling to instigate or promote new policies and procedures.  As many  people get older and more advanced in their own career, the less comfortable they are with change.  Changes bring challenges with them and many would rather focus on their nearing retirement.  These managers have lost their creative abilities that most likely allowed them their advancement in the first place.  To them I say, YOU are a roadblock, get the hell out of the way.  Take your pension now and move to a retirement community where you can swap war stories of how good it used to be.  Perhaps sympathy awaits you there amongst others of your kind. 

I've watched the motivational spark dwindle and expire in several firefighters over the years and have told myself repeatedly to watch for it in myself.  I sincerely hope I am able to see it coming. . . BUT it sure as hell isn't today!  I've around three years left before retirement eligibility at age 50 but as I prefer to regard it, I've just 8 years left before they have to kick me out at mandatory retirement age 55.  I've a lot of work to do before I'm ready for the scrap heap, speaking of which, I'd better get to work.  I was up late last night working on resource orders for the fire on the Angeles NF in R5 and many more orders are expected today.  To those of you who make the fire, kick some major butt!  To those of you who stay at home and attack the new ones, hit 'em hard and keep 'em small!  Forget all the bullshit you may hear about how decades of suppressing wildland fires are responsible for the increase of large devastating fires.  I've opinions on that also, but they are still half-baked and no time for them now.  Suffice to say I smell another political self-serving sacred cow wobbling on one leg that needs it's throat slit as soon as I find a big enough knife. 
Be Safe Out There!  Abercrombie

06/23 sage advice ab! (on 6/21)..wish I could have said it that well. 

Thanks pulaski.  It's true about hindsight being 20-20.  I can see all my past mistakes with sage clarity, just wish I could prevent the ones coming that I might make today!  Ab.

06/23 To all who offered advice, 
    Thanks. It's nice to hear a reassuring word when so many 
important things get very frustrating and seemingly 
un-ending. I know things will change for the better, if I 
"keep my nose in the ground and my mouth shut."; and that's 
exactly what I'm doing. I guess its just age and lack of 
life's experiences accompanied by impatience(sp?). A certain 
someone (just kidding) just hit a sore spot last week. I 
know this will all pass and one day "it" will happen. Lord 
knows I have plenty of time.  I'm not planning on leaving 
the work (FUN) that I live for. After pressing on it, I 
think I may finally get that operator cert. Thanks for the 
reassuring words, and the kick in the butt. To the 35 y/o, 
check out the S/W Area, we could use some good F.F's. mp
06/23 It would be nice to hear about fire fighters opinions here in the east! It appears that most state agencies handle their own fires. The 
problems you folks experience out west are going strong here in the east. I haven't been out west since 96 and even when we get the rare 
20000 acre fire its handled by that division. There isn't too many opportunities out here except for part time work. Rules change year by 
year and nepotism is alive and well. 
                 You folks from the east-Lets hear from ya! 

Ab agrees!  I"m very aware there is a distinct western flavor to this page and would like more participation from around the Nation.  However, I am also aware that USFS R5 and CDF (CA Dept. of Forestry) are two of the largest wildland firefighting organizations in the world, so the high volume of mail may just reflect the amount of employees working here.  Of course, my lack of knowledge regarding Eastern wildland suppression may reduce the amount of questions or comments from the East.  With that in mind, I would be willing to take-on an advisor to help address or promote any Eastern issues or problems.  Perhaps a retired person with a little time on their hands with range of experience in the upper management.  If anyone's interested, let me know.  Ab.

06/23    First of all, I like your website.  It addresses problems of people 
working in Region 5. 
 Although no longer employed in Fire, I spent 20 years in the business 
throughout the west working for various fed agencies  (USFS, BLM, NPS) as a 
permanent and Temp.  This included 10 seasons with the forest service in R-5. 
  Previous contributors offer some good advice for those trying to get an 
appointment. It can be a frustrating experience.  Therefore I'd like to throw 
my two cents worth in. 
  Here's what you can do: 
1)! Get the hell out of Forest Service region 5 as a temp.!  Although 
California is consistently the hottest area for fires internationally, 
getting an appointment can be like raking leaves in the wind. ( I'm not even 
going to get into that farce called the JAC program)  BLM, and NPS, and FWS 
offer many more opportunities.   You can always come back as a permanent, in 
which case you can plot your own course. While working in Region 4 years ago, 
I was sent to the R-5 north zone Strike team/task force leader class in the 
winter.  I wasn't paid, but hey, see if the Lassen Nat'l forest will send a 
temp. to any training. 

2)  Stop working at out stations.  Although out stations can be a lot more 
relaxed than a district office, this is a career dead zone with limited 
opportunities for off forest assingments and recognition. 

3)  Keep your mouth shut.  I relize this has been mentioned before, but it 
cannot be stressed enough.  Not everybody can go to the big fire in Arizona, 
somebody always needs to stay behind (Even if it's always your crew)  Try and 
put a positive spin on everything, You'll be recognized as someone who 
posseses maturity, a strong personality, and leadership abilities.  This wont 
happen overnight. 

4)  Educate yourself.  Chances are your supervisors didn't have to complete a 
task book in order to get their tickets punched.  That was then but this is 
now, it's a reality.  Take related classes in the winter at a community 
college. Not only Fire classes but supervision, business administration, 
psychology etc. Or better yet, Get a college degree and get a real job. 
   Learn all the paperwork you can at your station.  If you can convince your 
boss that this is not a threat to him or her, It can make their life easier. 

5)  Give up your life during fire season.  Sad but true, If you want to work 
in wildland fire you cannot expect to have a personal life for half the year. 
This may seem rather depressing in July.  Treat yourself to a trip to Mexico 
or some other exotic local in the winter.  In which case you can re-charge 
your batteries like the battle scarred warrior that you are. 

6) Ass kissing?  This is a vague area.  I wouldn't think washing the FMO's 
car on your own time would get you anything but the scorn of your peers. 
Just do what you are told unless it's something unsafe.  In which case offer a 
safe alternative.  Dont give your boss a lot of headaches by turning every 
order into a long discussion. 

7)  Finnally,  Work for CDF (They pay much better) or get a real job. 

06/22 *sigh* ..same crap different generation! *L* ..I remember when the decent decree came down and the infamous "they" gave a the seasonals a briefing on what it will mean to us and how in actuality it would help us in getting a permanent appointment.. Yea right. I would have to ditto Bears remarks though. Keep your nose to grindstone, work hard and you will eventually get what you want. While I understand where you are coming from (been there done that), remember that you cant go to every fire or every training session. Some poor slob has to stay back and protect the home front..and training costs money and slots in a class are limited. I know its difficult and frustrating but hang in there. If things are that bad, maybe it is time to move on to a different area or forest or even a different agency. Contrary to the R5 mentality that some folks have (and I was born & bred there) there is fire other places.
06/22 I wish I had some of the problems you folks have in the west! Ive been trying to get in as a fire fighter ( wildland ) for a few years! The opportunities are far and few . Its common knowledge that the higher-ups work hard to protect there jobs. Sometimes its who you know or who you ____ . The fire service is in a constant change, hopefully for the better!. Keep the faith and maybe before your time is up in the service you will enjoy the benefits of everyone's hard work. 
                Dont get me wrong, theres a huge number of problems in how things are being ran. It takes everyone to make change! Rome wasn't built over night! It will take awhile. Just keep yourself and your brother and sister fire fighters safe. 
               Look at the brightside, you still have a job fire fighting! My search continues. 
              P.S. it sucks trying to get a job when youre over 35! 

The problem I see here is that in the USFS, with a mandatory retirement age of 55 for firefighters, is that after 35 years of age you don't have time to get your minimum 20 years of work in.  Do you really want to subject your body to the demands of a firefighter, knowing you would be competing against a bunch of eighteen year olds?  Ab.

06/22           Heads up, the moment all you frustrated temps have been waiting for has arrived. In region 5 they now have authority to fly fire jobs as demo's. that means you can apply without prior federal service. Its time to  poop or get off the pot. I suggest sprucing up those resume's and making yourself look hireable, also I want to mirror the last comment about stop the public complaining and remember who is watching you. I came up in the middle of the consent decree, you think its bad now, you should have been around 15 years ago! ( I know things have changed since then, no more FAT rosters)  but I hung in there and made allies instead of enemies, and after 4 seasons as a temp got a permanent appointment.  I do have one comment about OPM, aka Other Peoples Money, they dont care about the welfare of the ground people, or about the fact that you only have a 13/13 tour living in LA, only about the statistics in the WO.  They need to change the job announcements to reflect the truth, when they advertise a position as a 13/13, why do  they still put down the annual salary as the per annum??  never quite figured that one out. Hang in there compadres and work twice as hard now that the door is open, show up those folks who are already perms, drive that engine even though you are a GS 2 or 3, take some initiative at a higher level and be willing to move if need be. Many are called but few are chosen.  There are currently 3 GS-6 AFEO positions flying on the Sequoia, just came out on Friday. Sting
06/21 AB, 
   I don't think Im alone on this, but i was just wondering what your 
thoughts are on this whole training things?? 

My thoughts on training, glad you asked.  Let's see, regarding the recent discussion here, they can be broken down into several areas.  Things may be different where you are, but where I am...

First of all, take ALL the training you can get!  As an old school teacher once told me, "if it's free, take it!  If it's not free and you can get it anyway, take it!"  There is a certain logical and mandated progresssion of training one must follow according to USFS policy (check with your personnel department to find yours) as their career evolves.  However, at the earlier career phases they aren't as limiting.

With that comment in mind, there may also be other reasons why a person can't seem to get the trainng they need.  In Region 5, prior to each years training there is a committee who selects trainees on a priority basis for each training class.  Since each Forest may have only one-two slots allowed the committee uses several different criteria during the process.  Yes, diversity plays a large role in this process, but there are other important items considered.  Each District on the Forest has a rep at the meeting to establish and fight for their own needs.  Let's use the earlier example of Ramble's message wherein one District has lost half of their engine bosses.  Let's say you were on an adjoining District, had been on the Engine Academy "training needed" list for four years and were certain that next Spring you would be going.  It probably wouldn't happen and you would be bumped once again.  The District who needs to fill their current positions with certified individuals will be given priority since your training application states that the training is needed for future skills.  And, there may also be other, just as or more deserving employees competing against you for the slots available.

Regarding the comments from AE-MOC4445 wherein he wonders if, "I went out for beers and lived next door", would increase his chances of promotion, I don't think so.  The type of leaders who promote this way will also be the first ones stab you in the back if they think you are beginning to rise too fast and perhaps putting their job in jeopardy.  However, since the days of the strong, silent, Gary Cooper type being noticed and promoted seem to have passed, there are several things you can do to help your cause.  I still believe the best way is performing in your current position in a manner that exceeds your peers.  Especially on fires!  Show up to work each day early, ready for the scheduled duties that day.  Stay a few minutes late making sure your (and others) personal gear and equipment is ready to go for the unexpected night calls.  Make sure all the tools and equipment used that day are ready for the next job.  Do these things with your mouth shut, knowing that you personally will always be ready for anything.  Don't whine about overtime, missed assignments, hazard pay, or anything else.  Whining will get you noticed, but not the way you want.  Your peers may begin to call you an ass-kisser, but screw 'em, remember, they are your direct competitors for advancement.

While you don't need to drink beers and party with your supervisor, other social functions within the department are an excellent way to get noticed.  At these functions, such as picnics, going away parties, etc., try and meet the supervisors or leaders who may be a little higher up the food chain.  You don't have to be an ass-kisser to converse with the higher-ups.  Get informed on the issues they face each day so you will have something intelligent to say, and perhaps even your own opinion on how an issue may be resolved, don't bore them with your personal problems.  Informal gatherings can be your opportunity to make yourself known.  Remember, it really isn't always what you know. . . perhaps the next time there is a training selection committee, one or two of them may remember your face instead of just looking at  a name on paper.  It really doesn't take a whole lot to seperate yourself from your peers.  Be a volunteer, accept duties or assignments outside your daily duties and consider it an opportunity to meet other people and become more informed and knowledgable of the "big picture".  Your fire job is just a small part of a large puzzle.  These types of activities will help other leaders notice you and you never know when your District Ranger will have the final say in a detail opportunity when the two highest qualified candidates may be you and one other with similar fire backgrounds.

I'm sure I've said this before, but you MUST separate yourself from your peers.  At the same time, you MUST also be a strong supporterof the "team player" concept and support those who need the help!  Be a leader first, the pay and promotions will come.  Ab

06/19 To AE-MOC445, mp, and ZKP:  I can sympathize with 
what you are all going through with sub-par, good o'le boy, 
or just plain stupid supervisors, I've been there.  But, keep 
your nose to the ground, your mouth shut, and don't feel 
the need to kiss anyone's ass to promote.  There are, and 
will be more jobs available in the near future.  One thing it 
took me a while to realize is that thre may be other people 
watching you to see how you react to these kind of situations. 
Point is, you never know who is watching you and don't 
burn any bridges behind you .  My best advice would be 
to endure this yearm honor your committment, and use your 
further experience to get a job somewhere else next season. 
If ya gotta move yourself or your family to do it, if you have 
to leave your family behind for a while, and you think you 
love the occupation enough, do it!  The grass is probably 
greener across the fence, at least it sound like it would be. 
Mine is, Bear
06/19 AE-MOC4445, 
    It's about time someone said something. Several times 
already this season I have missed several opportunities for 
shifts, and fires because I wasn't buddy buddy with a 
certain un-named crew boss.  I was passed by for a squad 
boss position by another firefighter who has a few years 
less experience and training that I have. Just because I'm 
not the type to go out of my way to kiss a lot of ass. When 
I asked why, I was passed by, I was told "I just wasn't 
ready." What?!?! If I went out for beers and lived next door 
would I be qualified? I know I am not Superman but I am a 
little more ready than a 2nd year seasonal. I also am an 
"uncertified engine operator". This one really confuses me. 
I can work shifts on a Type 6, pump a 6, drive a 6, by 
myself (1-man Truck). In town I respond to my own fires, 
pump and extinguish my own fires, make decisions on my 
fires; but when we have a fire out of town, I'm not good 
enough? I know I'm not certified on my red card because I 
didn't take all of the classes. Ya got me there. But, what 
is even more confusing is when I offer to take classes and 
even pay for them to better myself, I'm shuffled around with 
the "I'll get back to you."   I tell you one thing. Once you 
are trained in the field, use it daily, and competent with 
it, in my books 4 years OTJ is far better than sticking your 
nose in a book and watching videos to earn a cert never 
having the practice to use it effectively. All I'm saying is 
I agree many qualified people are being passed up for the 
jobs they not only deserve, but may be better at. mp
06/19 Ab, look what i did!! man, this is a roller coaster. I must have hit a 
lot of people where it hurt with the questions about training. Am i 
makin a mistake about a carrear(sp)? Sounds to me that this is a catch 
22 on training, was i just lucky to get red carded in my first summer 
with the forest service? 

let me throw another one out here for discussion: 
The buzz on my district is minority hiring. 10 people at the work 
center.....all 10 male, one african american...and 13 in the main 
office, 6 females, the ranger and assistant ranger are female.... 
...and here comes the point, the gov't talks all this equal employment 
BS, if they want to make it fair, why not delete Sex, or Race on the 
damn application?  It dont get any fairer than that does it? 

of course, i realize that i am a member of the govt, i joke with my 
friends at work that thinking is the kind of shit that gets you fired. 
we had a nice long safety meeting this week about how the So has all 
this new "ergonomic" stuff, CPU stations... chairs, keyboards, the guy 
even said they had a new ergonomic snow shovel. He said that we needed 
to replace all of our stuff with the new ergonomic stuff, but wont give 
us the new money to do so...ive never seen an ergonomic pulaski, or a 
hammer, or drip torch, how bout an ergonomic mist blower?????. Who sits 
in an office and makes this up? personally i think its funny, but this 
fellow was dead serious. 

penny for my thoughts: I dont think too much any more. None of it makes 

see ya'll on the big one, if my boss dont get a hold of the resource 
order anyway. 

AE-MOC445: Sorry if i hit a nerve, I'll probably be goin through the 
same things as you in a few years, wait until turnover hits and they 
suddenly dont have anybody in fire management, then you can show em! 


06/17 The last few messages left posted on the site have opened a wound. There 
are many qualified firefighters out there who can handle the job, who do 
have the experience to fill the engineer and captains positions, but 
cannot do it because of the damned bureaucratic nonsense that the Forest 
Service (I'm talking Region 5 here) in the ways of training blocks, 
qualification requirements, and the poor, discriminatory hiring 
practices that have occurred. I have worked in the federal wildland fire 
service since 1987, and trying to get into a fire management position 
from the outside with TONS of experience and education, skills gained 
from other occupations, and constant persistence have not gained me the 
goal of permanency, but it s alright for them to hire me with all the 
experience to fill in for a permanent person being detailed somewhere 
for the season, but not be given a re-hire because "You're filling in 
for a permanent, and if we give you re-hire then we have to promise you 
a job or make you permanent". Problem is, like everyone else, I have 
bills to pay and mouths to feed, and I have to accept whatever I can 

People are not getting permanent positions because of restrictions in 
hiring, i.e. opening permanent full-time jobs to qualified members of 
the public. The excuses ramble on like this: 

"Open to career-conditional, VRA, or permanent government employees." 

"Only those currently employed in Region 5 for the Forest Service will 
be considered" 

"You must complete the JAC Academy before you can be accepted." 

"You must have Fire Class A, B, C, and D to qualify for the position, 
but it will only be recognized if its done on our Forest", 

"Thank you for applying to our Forest, and as a requirement for your 
position none of your red card qualifications will not be accepted and 
you will have to do all of them over on OUR Forest before you can do 
your job." 

"Although OPM rules state that you must be a GS-03 firefighter for two 
seasons before you move up to a GS-04, we require that you work for four 
season as a GS-03 before you promote." 

"You are well qualified and can fill both the job requirements and have 
the skills necessary to lead the crews, because you did not have your 
training or experience done through Forest Service, but rather through 
other government fire agencies, we cannot accept those certifications, 
even if they are comparable or the same as the "I" and "S" classes we 

This list can go on and on and on. There are a tremendous number of 
people RIGHT NOW who could fill these positions who are temporary 
seasonal firefighters who have the skills and experience to fill the 
jobs, but because of the UNREALISTIC, and nearly Unobtainable 
educational goals and requirements necessary to fill these jobs, they go 
unfilled! The constant "Wait until next season, we'll try to get you in 
then" and "If you would apply yourself maybe you could get into the JAC 


This year as San Jose's Fire-Rescue West 99 I had the pleasure of 
meeting Doug Campbell, the creator of the Campbell Prediction System. I 
asked him what he thought about the direction the Forest Service was 
headed with all the requirements put on someone who wants to move up, or 
into, the organization. Through our discussion, it kept coming up that 
the requirements placed on Fire Management positions are way to 
stringent for the actual times you would use them in the field or even 
in your carrier. The downsizing is a small part of it, but it really 
comes down to too many requirements, too few training classes, and not 
enough support from the districts and forests to get people in classes 
they need, or put them on themselves. 

Take for example the primary requirement for Engineer, or Fire Equipment 
Operator for the FS Types. The main part besides licensing is the 
two-week Engine Academy. The only way you can get in is if you have a 
permanent appointment of some type. They will not allow anyone to come 
in from the outside of federal agencies when an academy is going to be 
put on, and they certainly will not allow temporary seasonals who have 
called and offered to pay for the class OUT OF THIER OWN POCKET just so 
they could fill the position or help to open a door for permanency. They 
want to move up so they try an alternate method of training, and get the 
same or equivilant training through an NFPA or State Fire Training 
approved course. California's State Fire Marshal's Office offers a 
tremendous amount of approved training from the prime fire 
administrations, including Driver/Operator IA and IB, a 80-96  hour 
course that involves driving fire apparatus and pumping operations and 
leads to a Certification of Driver/Operator, that exceed what the 
DOA/DOI Engine Academy gives. I was denied a job because one supervisor 
said to me "You have the training and experience, but your Engine 
Academy did driving first, where the regular engine academy does pumping 
first, and because of that I can't hire you." 

The job requirements have to be there for you to get the job, don't get 
me wrong there. You would not want to assign a first year firefighter to 
the position of engineer without him meeting the requirements of the 
job. But when you say "You must have Engine Academy, Paperwork Academy, 
S-290, Single resource leader, First Aid/CPR, plus the requirements for 
firefighter, but we will not pay for you to go and we will not help you 
get into those classes, even in the off-season, and if you don't do them 
through us, it won't count." 

This season a new station manager called me and offered me a position 
with a federal agency as a GS-06 FEO. He said to me that my experience 
and training was  getting hard to find and that I was a valuable 
commodity in fire. He kept on going with how he would like to hire me 
and it would be an active fire season. When I asked him did he look at 
my qualifications on the application he said yes. I asked him with my 
experience and training did he think I could run the crew myself, and he 
said yes. When I asked him would I be able to take the crew out, when he 
was not around, to a fire or emergency after hours, or even on a large 
fire, given my experience and education, he said that I could go out 
with the captain or other engineer. That told me right there that he was 
giving me a line to get me in the door, and that it was not a full 
engineers position, but rather an assistant, and under an assistant with 
less years in fire. If you want me for my experience, then it goes all 
the way! 

I know for a fact that the National Park Service for there wildland and 
structural firefighters accept training certificates other than that of 
federal agencies. The current FMO for Yosemite holds a California State 
Fire Officers Certificate, and that was acceptable training for the 

You cannot put the requirements with the job unless you can provide the 
training for everyone, regardless of status. And when you find a class, 
such as S-290, and you take it through a State Fire Agency and not a 
federal on, they will deny it because "You did not do it through the 
Forest Service, so it does not count." There are a large number of 
classes that are not I or S designated, but are combinations which reach 
the same or similar training goals stated. We need to start cutting out 
the fat of these training programs and concentrating on what is 
necessary, not what order it occurs in if it really, truely, is 

This is BS!!! Those that seek out this specialized training should be 
rewarded for thier efforts and experiences, not slapped down for it. If 
they get an S or I class through someone else, accept it. It is the same 
course if its given by the Lassen NF, or by the Lassen-Modoc CDF Ranger 
Unit. It comes from the same book! When you have no other means to get 
the requirement, alternate education needs to be considered and 
alternate training should be accepted when access to regular training is 
restricted. You cannot make these requirement stick if you don't make 
the classes and the training openly available and affordable to all, not 
just a select few. 

Lets talk the truth about the Joint Apprenticeship Academy. They keep 
encouraging you to apply and don't give up, they say if you want to get 
permanency you have to get into the JAC. The FMO's and Rangers/Area 
Managers say "Sure, you did a good job for the last four years, I'll 
recommend you for the JAC" and then you see the first year firefighter 
who joined last year get in ahead of you, or a minority with little or 
no experience walks into the academy off the street (MY DEEPEST 
APPOLOGIES TO THOSE MINORITIES WHO CAN AND ARE DOING THE JOB, THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.) Only those "favorite children" get those positions, and 
its not going to those with the most time in, or those with the most or 
widest range of experience, or those who came into a new position from 
another forest and haven't spent six or more years in the same place. 
The position are not being selected on factual and occupational 
experiences, but plainly on "Who's my buddy!". 

Its no wonder that the Forest Service, and BLM and NPS, are losing 
people right and left for better positions with state and local 
government fire agencies including allowing for continuing job training, 
better working hours or more flexible hours, and much better benefits, 
retirement, and pay, and far less bueaucratically empire-protecting 
nonsense that is happening now. 

The Forests need to stop the games of withholding resources from going 
to campaign fires when called upon. This continuous "Oh, we don't want 
our engines and people off forest because it costs us money, and we 
can't get other non-fire related projects done without the labor from 
fire personnel, but we'll send out our biologist off to fill an overhead 
position that the AFMO is qualified for, and it'll be all right." All 
right for who, the biologist? 

With the increasing number of private contracting resources becoming 
available, many which cost far more money to hire than utilizing 
existing fire-qualified forest personnel, it seems like our forest 
supervisors and regional directors want government performed fire 
management taken out back and shot in the head. This is a very plausable 
explanation for what has been happening. And the only way for things to 
change is if everyone in fire, both permanent and seasonal, get involved 
with what is going on, both during fire season and in the off-season. 

Things like this were supposed to be stopped a long time ago, but they 
still continue today. Nothing is going to change until there is major 
changes in those who are running fire management and those who are trying 
to destroy fire management. 

Finally, there are those in Fire Management who have made so many 
mistakes, waste large sums of money, caused damage and destruction or 
property because of biased and prejudiced views of other rival agencies, 
mislead others in information and personal advise, and continually get 
bailed out by their buddies regardless of the monetary, personal, and 
reputational costs. These people need to be held accountable for their 
blatantly wrong and/or illegal actions, as in being written up for 
their actions, demotions, transfers out of fire, terminations, loss of 
status and benefits, personal liability, criminal prosecution, and penal 
incarceration. But rather than what could happen to you or me given the 
same circumstances, these people have the incident forgotten, paperwork 
lost, the matter ignored because of their status or who they know (and 
what they know about), are transferred to a better location, or been given 
the "disciplinary promotion". We need to hold those who break the rules 
and the law accountable for their actions, and to be made into a harsh 
example to others. 
I am talking about things like "I didn't want anyone at the fire except
my people", even though there was a competent fire crew down the road
who could keep the fire down to a few acres, instead of thousands
of acres and dozens of homes that were destroyed. But you 
know, I know the forest supervisor, and my mother knows a lot of the 
retirees who can put in a good word for me so I keep my job, but dammit, 
I kept only my buddies and my agencies resources on the fire, and kept 
everyone else out because they don't do things our way!". These people 
need to be held accountable for there actions, and believe me, they are 
still there, still getting promoted, still pulling the bonehead mistakes 
that will one day get someone critically injured or killed, and God 
forbid it becomes a member of the public! 

I have had my say in this mess. Things can get better and can change if 
we all stop playing games and do the job. Everything I have mentioned 
here is fact, or strongly based on factual matters that I have seen and 
still continue to see and experience. I did hide the names and places of 
the guilty. The people are in place, spend a little money to finish 
those people's training instead of making everyone who come along to 
Jump through the hoops of your personal or forest's three-ring circus 
and torture chamber!! You want a pound of my flesh, then take the knife 
out and cut it off yourself! Hire me based on my individual experience, 
education, knowledge, and abilities, and if my stuff is higher than the 
guy who has been there for three years, then you hire me! 

I've blown out enough steam for one day. I can only hope that someone, 
with the authority and courage to affect change can realize what is 
happening to fire management, not just in California, but across the 
nation, and do something positive to effect change. 

You all have the power to make the changes. The NONSENSE HAS TO STOP!!! 


06/17 Anyone heard anything about the Federal Firefighter Pay Act of 99, it entered 
the House floor on June 9th can't seem to find out any information current 
good bad or otherwise!!! Jeffsz00tv 

Hmmmm. . . checked the FWFSA page and it sez nothing new.  However, a couple of weeks ago, I did overhear the national prez talking to a regional rep saying there was a snag.  Iit sounded like some or one of the sponsors were uncomfortable with the increased funding it would take to fund the proposed Act.  Ab.

06/15 to everyone who is talkin about the problem with finding fire fighters: 

I'm not meaning to sound like an asshole (and I'm not tryin to piss 
anybody off), but there are a lot of fire fighters on my district 
waiting on the call to go to ANYWHERE! I have two months left to earn 
enough money to put me through school next fall and spring, I hear Ya'll 
when you say standby doesn't pay the bills. 

Anybody who needs a regular run-of-the-mill ground pounder, I am 
avaliable, and waiting. 

By the way, my boss says that there have been no resource orders come to 
my office this week, but he left for a fire a few hours ago..... 

Bobster, if you need a hand, I'm ready, willin and able. 


What I'm see'in here is not a shortage of entry level firefighters ZKP, but a shortage of first to second level management personnel.  In other words, there really isn't a recruitment problem (that's a fallacy projected by the Washington office concerned with the statistics of "diversity"), but a retention problem.  Even without more downsizing, the shortage of these vital (unappreciated?) personnel will become even more evident as the upper management retires.  Ya can have all the logistical, statistical, and human resource specialists in the world on a fire, but without the squad bosses, engineers, and captains to run the crews, there won't be a lot of suppression action.  I've yet to see a wet line or hand line applied with a spreadsheet.  Ab

06/15 R-3 is off and running with a few starts this past week. The Rainbow Support Fire (who in the hell names these fires, I'll never know ;]) up on the Ft Apache Nation gave us local resources a run for our $ as far as urban interface goes). Here in the Grand Canyon State, most fire departments and districts are under interagency coop agreements with the AZ State Land Department (AZ State Fire Management) which allows us to go out of county to play with fire with the "big"   Federal kids. 

Like everywhere else in the country, and like I've been reading here in the "they said it" zone, the bad asses of the federal government is rapidly downsizing. I remember as a kid firefighter 12 years ago wanting so badly to be on the big green type 3 engine, I nearly quit my fire district job. Glad I decided to listen to my father who worked CDF for 25 years. "Don't go for the Feds, stay where your at. You'll see". Words that I lived by and never regreted hearing. 

Here in AZ, the majority of the forests and BLM fire programs are not up to par due to the ever increasing downsizing (oxymoron) of the federal fire programs. With our appocoliptic fire season getting under way, we as the local fire guys and gals are having to pick up the fed fires not as tasks forces or strike teams, but as initial attack and initial IC's. I will give the feds a break, though. A few years ago, if local resources were to IA a fire on fed lands, and request additional resources, they'd send a agency rep out first to evaluate the scene prior to filling our order. Now days, you want it, for the most part, you got it coming. Also, out communications are a little better both professionally and at the the bar. 

As we start busting a few fires a day here in northern AZ, we'll see if the feds will be able to keep up with the demand. I just wish that the federal fire monies were consistent every year, and not have to bring up "severity" funds to meet minimal staffing requirments. Stay safe, and I'll see 'ya all' on the big 
one on the Prescott! 

Tim Irwin, 
Dist. FMO 
Mayer Fire District, AZ

06/14 Im A Seasonal firefighter with CDF in the Shasta-Trinity ranger unit. Im 
responding to the fellow who was on the plumas national forest fire 
where the chopper was diverted from the fire near Lassen National park. 
I was on the fire the chopper got diverted from.  It was a small fire 
about five acres in heavy brush. The fire was not serious, but there 
were structures threatened early in the fire.  We also had a strike team 
of engines for structure protection, just in case.  This year seems like 
its going to be a hell of a season.  Fire season is open, but not all 
stations are manned.  My station does not open until monday.  We've had 
an unseasonably large amount of fires in this area, and a couple of 
times its been a close call for sufficient engines and personnel. I'll 
see you guys on the big one! 

Shasta-Trinity Ranger unit 
Northern Ca

06/12 And some news from my forest.  Three overhead resource orders for Alaska were received today and only one was filled.  Used to be, an assignment to Alaska only came along every 5-7 years or so and folks would jump at the chance to go, now we get around 20-30 each year and are "unable-to-fill" around 90% of them.  Why is this?  Glad you asked:  There has been a  huge reduction (75-85%) in our "militia" (people whose normal jobs are other than fire suppression) due to the overall reduction in the USFS organization.  Also, a large percentage of the remaining militia are getting older and seem to be losing the desire or financial need to participate in long distance fire support (and rightfully so, I suspect). 

Our current fire suppression organization is in such a constant state of transition that there aren't enough module leaders to support the existing crews and engines on a seven day a week basis, let alone allow any of the module leaders to accept an off-forest assignment where they may be gone for 21 days. 
For example, on one of our districts there are four engines.  Within the last month, right before our fire season kicks in; one engine Captain is resigning from service, another took a detail/promotion, and two Engineers took promotions to other forests.  With my math, that leaves just four qualified engine bosses to run four engines seven days a week for about five months.  And. . .  there aren't ANY qualified people behind the ones leaving to pick up the slack.  With an apparent calm and outward stoic acceptance, the district FMO confided he may be forced to shut down one of the engines on a daily basis for lack of qualified leaders.  This isn't a district that sees just a few fires per year, this is a very hot area that initial attacks around 95-120 fires and burns around 3000 acres in escaped fires each year.  Many outreach letters have already been distributed with a discouraging lack of response to those trying to fill these vacant positions (see the letter below for similar situations).  I admire this FMO and understand his frustration as he tries to cope in these difficult times.  I sincerely hope he is able to absolve himself from feeling or sharing any responsibility for the increase of property and forest resources loss due to increased fire escapes.  I know this is not an isolated case, it's happening across the Nation!  I can't wait to observe the full effect of the last 5 years of downsizing when the Pacific Northwest really begins burning again.  Will it be this year? 

Returning to the original point of a lack of qualified overhead, there is also a political ongoing process on our province (an grouping of three forests) called the Herger/Feinstien Act which is occupying the time of many of our fire-going overhead on a seven day a week basis.  A multitude of firefighters and militia have been sucked into this "tar-baby" to become unable to accept off-forest assingnments (or perform the jobs they were hired to do). 

There are still some militia who would love to go to fires and most of the fire suppression personnel want to go, BUT. . . most of them are members of  Type I or province Type II teams and are on a "do not touch" list.  This may be a necessary evil, however, I must consider the many years I've watched these valuable and scarce resources held in limbo waiting for what MAY happen instead of releasing them to fight the fires that ARE happening.  A majority of the time, as it turns out, these team members could have accepted other assignments and returned without missing a team assignment.  I would love to see the statistics on how many times individual overhead assignments for team members could have been filled versus how many times their team was activated during the same time periods.  It may be time to re-examine the Type I team concept.  I know it may be a sacred cow, but let's kill it.  It was conceived when there were more qualified overhead than there were fires to send them to.  Why not disband all the Type I teams and toss the qualified  members into a regional or, as needed, a national rotational pool.  When there is a new fire requiring a Type I team, just have the local GACC go down the appropriate list and take the first person available to accept the assignment.  It's kinda nice to work with the same people all the time, but is it really necessary?  Individual overhead can reach anywhere in the US within 24 hours and the overhead who have been unable to work with a team would get some valuable experience. 

Let's get the qualified people on existing fires and quit waiting for the sky to fall! 

Thanks AB for the space to offer my humble opinion. 

06/12 ZKP 
I can only offer a little advice. First, be a little patient. Your only 18 and have a long career ahead of you. 
Second, do what you can to help yourself. I went to more than a little training on my own. If I waited for everything to be handed to me I would not have gotten where I am today. I encourage the firefighters that work for me to do this. I run a 17 person helitack crew. I do not have the budget to send everyone to the training I would like them to have, and just do not have the time and resources to do it all on unit. As it is right now the first 4 weeks of our season is dedicated to training. We also set aside 1 day a week for training whenever we can. I also spent about $5000 this past winter sending folks away to training (aerial ignition, manager workshop, helibase manager, crew boss, and S-205). With all this my crew is still going to come up short on all the quals I would like them to have. 

The situation you describe with folks leaving and retiring is true almost everywhere. In some areas it is becoming critical. In the helitack world we are very close to critical right now. The supervisor job in Boise only had 3 qualified applicants. It took 3 announcements and about a year to fill the supervisor position at Lakeview. In 1988 there were less than 100 helicopters available on CWN contracts, now there are about 250 available. During the same time the Forest Service has downsized about 17%. Every season NIFC has trouble filling request for qualified helicopter managers and helitack. Right now I feel the situation is going to get worse before it gets better. Oh well, can only do so much. Hope you get to Florida soon, right now I'm keeping my fingers crossed for New Mexico or Arizona. 

06/11 Ab,suggest you put this link into your system. 
Thanks to Kelly Andersson, we can access Dick Mangan's recent paper on 
wildland fire fatalities, 1990-1998. Many of the other firefighter stats 
include municipal and wildland.  Recommend this for trends and info 
directly related to wildland fire training. 
Thanks  Noname

Here it is: http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/fatalities/  Ab.
06/10 Bobster, 
        Thanks for insite into the Rx burn thing. I think that the Rx burn time 
is gone on my district for the year, In the last 6 years my district has 
had one fire, and we have already had two in the last 3 weeks, no more 
lighting, all we doin is fightin now.. 
        I agree with you on the "practice" that Rx burns provide, would you 
call it on the job traning? Turnover on my district is going to be a big 
problem in the next 5 years. The folks that have been here for 30 years 
are going to take a lot of knowledge with them, and the young blood 
(like me) lack in both experience and training. Of the 10 people working 
out of the work center, 7 will retire in the next 5 years. 2 are under 
40. Of those 7 people you collectively have 3 dozer operators, 4 tractor 
operators, 5 chainsaw class B (all fire), 2 Rx burn ignition 
specialists, 4 crew boss qualified, all of 'em are squad boss qualified, 
3 have CDL's, 4 can drive ATV's and 2 are helitack members. It takes a 
lot of years to replace people like that, and the young bloods are 
recieving no training. I've been red carded and chainsaw A. Ive begged 
my boss and FMO to get me training for these things. I can drive a 
tractor and ATV (I live on a farm) and I cut firewood and timber for 
monetary support during layoff. Needless to say I want this training, 
but no one will give it to me, and someday I think this will come back 
to haunt them. What will happen on a fire on our district when there is 
someone who can operate a dozer (like me), but can not do so B/c they 
don't have the training. Will we wait till somone from who knows where 
shows up to do it for us? I'll hate to tell them "I told you so" but I 
have, they agree with me, but they dont do nothing about it. I guess it 
all boils down to my GS is to low to contribute to anything, my job 
description is "simple and repetive  (sp) tasks".. screw that, I can 
think a little bit too. Ogh well.. 

Just for the record Ab, let me say that over all I love my job. I know 
that some of these management problems are over my bosses head. I love 
the project work I do, and I get along with all my bosses, they give me 
all the hours I want and Hell, I'm only 18. I'm having a blast! Call me 
crazy, but I look forward to going to work every day, I like the yellow 
and green even more. Somebody get me on a fire crew to Florida or 

Be SAFE, I lost a beard last week on a little 1 acre arson fire, 

06/03 I sent a couple of pictures to some friends of the NASA photos of the 
Forks Fire of 1996 on the Mendocino National Forest,  at Upper Lake,CA. 
(where I grew up) and now I am getting complaints of the pictures not 
coming up for them.  I was asked what format it was under.   Can you 
help me?  I am unable to get a web site address for this site or the 
pictures page because I'm on webtv.  Could I get that from you also. 

All photos on this site are in standard jpg format.  I stumbled across the site which had the experimental photos of the Forks Fire a couple of years ago, but alas, I've not been able to find it since.  Course, ya could just send 'em here to have a look for their selves.  Ab

05/30 My sincerest apologies folks, I was attending a weeklong session this last week and 90 miles out of town I discovered I had forgotten my laptop.  Consequently, I was without communication until now, so here's the mail, just a little late!.  Ab
05/29 HI AB 
    As of last week the two type two crews on lower region 5 were staffed, trained, equipped and ready for dispatch. Now is the big test, will they use them this year or let them set at home and clean up the stations of units sent off forest.  It is harder each year to get a crew together when all they do is standby,  standby don't pay the bills, money is spent on gas going to and from work every day and buying stuff for lunch. I hope this year that the people in dispatch realize that if these crews ore not used on fires, soon and very soon there will be no crews. 

                                                                    stay at home 

I, and I suspect many other readers hope you get some fires this year, cause you really must get a new moniker!  Ab

05/27 I may be able to shed some light on the Rx issue. Yes, we are burning every chance we get. We have to. It is a Forest health issue that is bigger than all of us and congress has given us our marching orders. Congress is very concerned about suppression cost. We sold them on the idea of prescribed fire as a way to reduce suppression cost. Wildfires often have cost over $500 an acre to suppress compared to $50 an acre to burn it. In the Forest Service the goal is to increase our Rx acres by over 4 times by 2001. On my Forest we normally burn 10,000 acres each year, our 2001 target is 30,000 acres. Congress has allocated monies to do this right off the top of our appropriated fire suppression dollars. Each Region allocates money as they see fit, usually by some formula based on fuel type, cost per acre, etc.. As of now I am not aware of any projects that have not been funded. 

So it is easy to see that even if a District or Forest is short staffed there is some pressure to burn whenever you are in prescription. Personally I think this is a good thing. It provides excellent training opportunities and extends the length of our seasons, not to mention the money that comes along with that. 1000 acres with 6 people may or may not be a problem depending on the holding problems. I once helped my FMO burn an 800 acre unit with only the two of us, of course the unit was surrounded by snow. Last Monday we burned a 450 acre unit of willows and had 2 engines and almost 30 people. 

Right now I think the real issues are; Can we keep up the pace we started with current staffing levels and problems with turnover? Can we get enough people qualified in time to meet our targets? And will the next congress change thier mind, ie... will all this burning actually reduce suppression cost. 


05/27 In response to the observation that few FS resources were staffing a Plumas 
fire, I need to respond and say there were more FS personnel than CDF on 
the incident.  The CDF resources were there to allow FS personnel to get 
some sleep.  Thats why they were left on for night shift.  Make no mistake, 
it was USFS firefighters that hooked that fire.  True, an order was placed 
for helicopter w/bucket but what shows is no control of the incident. 
Additional air observer platforms were ordered to ensure a closed loop 
regarding LCES and again, it was USFS.  We may be shrinking in numbers, but 
we still have grit.  Can't do much about 40 mile an hour winds that are not 
predicted but let 'er buck. 

Ground Pig. 

Good to hear from you Pig, how's that new $5 mouse movin'?  Ab.

05/26 just what is the bottom line when it comes to camp support ordering ,location 
,cost,or good old boy cronism? 

Interesting question, I'd say about 50/50.  So get yer butt in the right place and show some of those good old boys what a hard worker you are.  Ab

05/26 i was just wondering if you could tell me where i could get a pair of 
whites(boots). if you can please let me know i would appreciate it 
Go Here:  http://www.advertisenow.com/whites/white.phpl
05/25 anybody out there know of any squad boss training, wildland powersaw, or 
helitack traing in the near future, in the eastern or southern area? 
Quite a few people on my district are wanting these class....I've asked 
around and got a lot of shrugs "no" from people. 

can anyone help? 


There's a few links to training on the links page.  Ab

05/26 This could be the year that I have been warning people about for some 
time now.Last year streched resources with things popping in Texas and 
Florida. But they weren't going at the same time. I've been saying for 
some time now that the wildland fire agencies would really find out just 
how bad off we really are if we had a bad fire season on two fronts at 
the same time. 
We just sent five engines from Texas to Florida. So it looks like they 
maybe in for another run of fires, if the West gets going at the same 
time it could get interesting. 

Let's hope it gets really, really interesting!  Ab.

05/26 With all this talk about getting ready for the fire season why do I watch the 
nightly news and see a bunch of brothers in Florida taking on a fast moving 
crown fire with inappropriate PPE or none at all?  I understand that the 
Calfornia wildland firefighting culture is different but why are these guys 
(and gals) going into battle unprepared?  And what kind of Chief Officer 
could send them and still sleep at night when he knows he just blew the 
Department's nomex account to buy some thermal imaging camera?   I'm not 
knocking Florida Firefighters, but I am knocking Fire Service management in 
this region for failing to protect thier people, lest they forget it is thier 
job to do so. 

Safety always takes a back seat until something very bad. . . and preventable happens.  Latest word of advice from a province Safety Officer sez that OSHA will soon have the power to levy fines against the Forest Service for any lack of adherence to policies.  We are talking big fines which I am sure would result in other disciplinary actions.  Let's hope so for those who deem safety anything less than the top priority.  Ab

05/25 Hey Ab, just a thought on the letter from the Angeles on permanent employees leaving for other agencies. They didnt mention the amount of seasonal employees who went to other agencies and other jobs outside the fire service for that matter, who got tired of waiting to be picked up, while people who were less qualified or had no interest in staying were chosen for the political reasons we all know about in region 5. Not to sound bitter but many quality people have been passed over when selections were being made for the apprenticeship program. The powers to be seemed to be more interested in choosing who is supposed to be in these positions instead of who should be in these positions. I talked to a few people who were chosen for the program who had no intention of staying. I am not trying to take anything away from anybody, I know people who were chosen that were good employees and to my knowledge are still there. There are a lot of us out there who could not afford to wait any longer for something that seemed would never happen and have had to move on. Most of us given the chance at a permanent position would jump at the chance to go back. I know I will have probably pissed a few people off, which was not my intent. I just think that at least in south zone the screening process could have been done better. Choose the people most qualified and who want to make the Forest Service a career. Regardless of race or gender. 


You're not going to piss anyone off here J.  Everything you say is true, but it ain't going to happen according to your last sentence!  Rumors and ideas are flying in R5 on how the next session of temp employment hiring will happen.  The most likely scenario I see will be one where an "enterprising team" will provide the hiring for the entire region.  Applicants will be able to select the Forest they wish to work for and all applications will be sent to one place for rating and distribution.  There is once again HEAVY pressure from Washington on diversity in R5.  Stay tuned, Ab.

05/25 Hi Ab! 
Great page, I check your "They said it" site when I get off duty each week and must say you folks in the USFS are getting the royal shaft. I had the privilege to work  a SCE control burn last week with some folks from the Blue Canyon station and a BC from Prather on the Sierra. As a transplanted county fire dept. engineer with 22 years experience (mostly in urban/ suburban and airport cfr), I was impressed with the skill and knowledge in the gentleman I worked with. They took me under their collective wings and showed me firing methods, fire behavior, fire weather etc., etc, etc. The project supervisor is an employee of Southern Calif. Edison ( the owner of the mountain we are burning) and a former USFS shot, helitac crew member, engine capt. and some other skills that escape me now. WOW! For a life long CDF employee, this was one of the best training experiences I have ever had. As to the crap you fire folks in the Feds put up with, my hat is off to you all. It can't be easy working under these conditions. My ranger Unit has always had a good relationship with the Forest Service , we count on them, they are on all first alarm assignments during fire season (by the way, we just went on fire season Mon!). They are a valuable asset to CDF In the Fresno/Kings Ranger Unit. Again, a tip of my smoke blackened  helmet to all of you hard working USFS firefighters.
Thanks again for a great web site, Ab. 
Have a Safe fire season. 

Engineer, Calif. Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection 
Fresno/Kings Ranger Unit 

Thanks for the supportive message, Emmett, after the first message I've seen in a week, (see below) I needed one.  But don't worry, they (whoever they are) won't EVER get us genuine, firefight'in piss-fers down!  Glad you got some cross-training burning experience with some good folks and I hope there is a lot more of that going on in the future.  Remember, 'cept for a little elevation and some veg types, there isn't really that much difference between us.  Ab

05/25 Ab, on May 23, 1999 at approximately 0645 Robert Culbertson was struck by 
lightning and killed. Rob was in his backyard in Palmdale CA when lightning 
struck a nearby cottonwood tree then struck Rob in the shoulder causing 
cardiac arrest. Rob was treated by paramedics, transported to a local 
hospital and pronounced dead. Rob was a firefighter for the Angeles National 
Forest for over 20 years and just recently transferred to a position at the 
Fox Emergency Operations Center as a Dispatcher. Rob will be missed by all of 
his friends and his co-workers. 

Sorry to hear about Rob!  Coincidently, I was at the Ops Center last month and I'm pretty sure I met him over a cup.  My (and our readers) condolences for your and his family's loss.  Ab

05/24 Saturday, May 22nd, was a VERY busy day for fire resources around 
Northern California. In my county we had multiple vegitation fires, 
including a few that were threatening homes. The Plumas National Forest 
had an all-day fire in which they had to call for a few CDF engines, two 
volunteer water tenders, another volunteer engine, and two CDF handcrews 
for a fire estimated to be a 40-minute drive east of Feather Falls. It 
started in the morning and lasted until late evening, with the Forest 
Service leaving a CDF engine to watch the fire all night. I don't know 
if this was a wildfire or a control burn escape, but there were few 
Forest Service resources staffing the fire. The same day another large 
fire took place somewhere in or near the Lassen National Forest, in 
which a CDF helicopter on a flight mission was diverted to that fire, 
the aircraft request was for A-6 (the sixth aircraft order). 
Winds have been in the 10s and 20s, with temperatures moving into the 
80's and 90's. The bad part is, it sounds like fire management is not 
fully staffed yet in a lot of places it should be. Does anyone know if 
the rumored 33% cut in Fire and Fuels Management reported at a 
Congressional Sub-Committee is true or not? If this is true, then we are 
looking at a busy and devastating fire season if our fire crews are 
being cut back....again. Everybody got those Red-Bags packed and 
Step-Tests taken? Here It COMES!!!!
05/23 good point about the more with less thing. 

The more with less also runs into project work, too. Just last year 
everyone had vehicles, tools, enough people to work with, and now we 
share vehicles and argue over who gets the tools and the help. 

One more question about a Rx burn: If a district has to call for extra 
resources to work a Rx burn, would that not tell them that they bit off 
more than they could chew? I went on a Rx burn on Beards Mountain a few 
weeks ago when the district had us on the mountain for 2 days mopping up 
spotovers. I thought a fire was escaped when you had to call in extra 
resources to patrol/mop up spots. The first night we were on the fire, 
which was a fri night,(after 40 hours that week), we were not released 
from the lines until 11 am sat morning. Simple math calculates this at 
27 hours on duty. Dangerous? Yup. We went back on the line at 4pm that 
day. Asking for trouble? Definally. The money is good, but man, this is 
crazy. My crew could not have lasted for three weeks like this, and this 
was just mop-up. Line construction would have been impossible to do for 
27 hours, im in good shape, but not that good! 

hope I get some of that money on the 1000+ acre burn six of us did! 


I hope ya do too ZKP, sounds like you've earned some of it.  I enjoy hearing your thoughts and comments, most of the posts here are from either wanna be's (how do I get a job) or fairly experienced firefighters.  Most of the issues you mention will hold little surprise from the more experienced readers here.  You haven't mentioned what type of crew you are working on, but I'll tell you that the hours and work you have described are very common.  If you are on a hotshot crew or any  variety of initial attack module, get used to it or quit now, it won't get any better!  Ya gotta love it!  And as far as I can tell, it's an inborn thing, you won't "learn" to love it.

Prescribed fire managers, when preparing a burn plan, must always show what type and amount of resources are needed to light, hold, and patrol the burn.  The wise managers show a buffer, allowing them to reinforce the burning resources (if necessary) beyond what the resources actually needed to ignite and hold the unit.  There can be a grey area between what constitutes acceptable extra burning and what will be classified as an escaped fire.  It can depend on the burn plan, the amount of extra burned area, the type of additional resources ordered, the quantity of resources ordered, or the duration of the staffing on the burn.  In any case, requesting additional resources from an adjoining district or unit won't be considered an escaped fire.

Have you been to your first real fire yet?  If you have, tell us about it, if you haven't, be sure to let us know what you think when you get back.  As far as long hours go, I think my longest shift on a fire was 52 hours.  Was that dangerous?  Of course, but it was the same hours as all other initial attack forces on that particular fire and I don't recall any serious injuries.  When we were finally relieved, we simply went back (yes we drove ourselves) to fire camp, slept for eight hours and returned to the line for another shift.

As for being "in shape" I can tell you that a really good firefighter is as mentally prepared as they are physically.  I would guess that I've immediately supervised around 150 different firefighters on handcrews, engines, and helitack crews and I have often been surprised at which individuals end up climbing to positions of leadership.  It ain't always the buffed out person, it isn't necessarily the one who can run the farthest or fastest, or the one who can lift the most weights.  It's the one who never thinks of quitting!  Ab

05/23 I may be a lowly GS-2, working my way through college, but do I see more 
and more Rx burns occouring and fewer and fewer personell (sp??) to 
patrol these burns? Last week, on my district, six of us tried to burn 
over a thousand acres....Was I the only one around that saw problems 
with this? I heard through the grapevine that districts get $22 for 
every acre of Rx burn. Is that why my district.. and others.. are 
burning when ever we get a chance? This same day, there were two other 
districts in the area burning, I know you have to burn when you get the 
weather, but what if one or all of those fires escaped? All the local 
personell would be doing their own thing. 

Any body else notice this happening, or have i just ate too much smoke? 

Any experienced wildland firefighter can tell ya that you'll eat more smoke on an rx burn than an actual esacaping fire.  There is always a lot of talk about staying out of the smoke in the pre-ignition safety meeting, but when the rx jumps the line there is always a lot of screaming on the radio to stop the spread.  It's inherent in the nature of the responsibility of a rx burn.  If the rx burn escapes, it's the burn boss's responsibility and they become liable for damages.  Iit may be private property adjacent to the burn, a young plantation, archeology sites, etc.

You are also showing insite at your young stage, all federal agencies are trying to do more with less, and there just ain't enough to go around.  I'm not a fuels expert, but you are correct in saying that a district gets money for prescribed burns.  The actual monetary amount per acre varies greatly depending on the type of burn.  There are mainly underburns, broadcast burns, and tractor or handpile burning.  The money for the burns also comes from a variety of sources, it may come from a timber sale or may be allocated in the annual budget to meet targets such as wildlife habitat or fuel reduction zones.  The source and type of unit also can determine the priority to accomplish the burn.  If it's  from a prior timber sale, there can be pressure to treat (burn) the area to allow new planting.  If it's allocated money for an underburn, the district may be counting on the money to help staff their fire personnel during the coming fire season.  If the targets aren't met there is a possibility of not meeting minimum staffing levels.

Many fire managers performance ratings are based in part on their fuels management.  If they don't meet their targets, they are held accountable.  Beginning to see some correlation here?  Yesterday was an active day here in Northern Region 5.  There were at least five escaped fires, two of which I know originated as rx burns.  Air tankers were totally unavailable in Northern Ca. and the couple of CDF helicopters were in extremely high demand.  Temporary firefighters are not projected to be on the job and trained until approximately June 9th.  Prior years had all the above mentioned resources staffed by mid-May.  I've wondered the last couple of years what would happen if there was a fire and no one was around to hear the call. . . I think I may find out this year.  Sorry if I got off topic a bit, but it kinda all ties together in the end.  Abercrombie

05/23 Abercrombie, where are you? I haven't seen any new updates in over a 

I'm still here Paul, there's just no traffic.  I've even sent myself test messages a couple of times to insure the email is working.  I suspect everyone's either lighting 'em or fighting 'em!  Ab.

05/11 An update on the status of the pack test!  pack test update  Although I gave four years of my life serving my country in our armed forces, I often shudder at what our democracy has become and what it takes to install new ideas or positive changes.  I wonder if some people might be more comfortable in a dictatorship, at least they wouldn't be faced with so many decisions!  They may even be able to provide constructive labor once the burden of placating the multitude of insignificant self interest groups was removed.  Seems to me the weak, lame, and lazy are riding in the wagon while the "never have beens" are arguing who's gonna pull it.  Ab.
05/11 If you think you have recruiting problems, check this out! recruit This is a real life effect of the pay equality act which never happened.  Abercrombie
05/07 Kelly, Ab 

Well, Ive got to start somewhere.  Talked to former supt Don Will today and he is willing to start over from what he personally has left at home.  All I have is a list of names by year who was on teh crew, that we started with last time and there were a lot of holes in it. Would appreciate it if  you would post this where appropriate.  I will also post this on the WLFF message board, firenet, IAWF message board (such as it is) and firefighters@onelist.com 

Heres the scoop...The Mendocino Hotshots held a 20 yr reunion in 1994. Over 150 former and current members showed up and a great time was had by one and all.  Unfortunatly since then all records have been lost.  Sooooooo we are starting all over again (damn I hate when that happens)  If anyone out there was a member of the Mendocino Hotshots or knows of a former member who may not see this, Id be obliged if you could jot down their name, mailing and email (if applicable) address,  years they were a part of the crew etc. and send it to me. 

Jim Gobel 
WI Dept of Natural Resources 
810 W. Maple St. 
Spooner, WI 54801 

05/05 Today (05-04-99) I recieved a call from the Vandenburg Hot Shots 
regarding a GS-04 position. For those of you who do not know, the 
Vandenburg Shots are the only Department of Defense Wildland Fire Hot 
Shot Crews. You may think that this was not unusual, however, the Job 
Description was listed as a GS-0081 Firefighter position. The 0081 
Series is the Federal Governments Rating for Structure Firefighters. The 
Vandenburg Shots used to be WG-Labor Series employees, but I was told 
that they decided on a conversion. When asked why they were not a 
Forestry (GS-0462) or Range (GS-0455) Series they said that the job was 
that of a firefighter. This should be some good news for those who are 
fighting for a Wildland Firefighter Series and to help get us out of the 
GS-0462 and 0455 groupings. I hope this helps. 
Paul Dahlen
05/04 Here's a couple (kinda skimpy) information links for the person who wanted info on a Decker Fire.  A couple of hours searching didn't turn up much.  Ab 
05/04 I'm suspect the word was out quick on this bit of news, but NICC put out a feeler early this morning inquiring how many FS regular crews are available for the South, Southeast,  Northeast, and Canada today.  Ab
05/04 The Decker Fire that I know of was on the Trabuco Dist of the Cleveland back in 
 the 50's . If this is the one a Dist. Ranger and some of them good old El 
 cariso boys got burned up when the late afternoon downslopes, (an unusual 
 phenomonom) created by the thermal low above Lake Elsinore, whipped the fire 
 downhill and trapped these folks. I can probably get more info idf this is the 
 Decker Fire the guy on 4/27 was talking about.  Later, Dave  How you doing, AB? 

Fine as frog's hair Dave, thanks for the reply.  There have been many Decker Fires, as late as late year or the year before, but you probably have the right one.  Ab

05/04 Reading the posting about the Appropriations Subcommittee has me asking 
questions regarding staffing for the season. As I read it, the Forest 
Service Fire Management Budget is down 33%, and support departments are 
also similarly down, but the Interior (BLM, NPS, BIA, etc.) Fire Funds 
are only down 15%. 
What is going on? I have seen all these advertisements for open 
positions in fire this year but very few new people are being picked up. 
Does anyone have an answer or could they clarify the situation better? 

Paul Dahlen 

05/04       Nice to see such an opportunity to add input for so many to see. 
     Just sending a note for some advice or what ever comes.  I am a 
     misplaced firefighter.  I seem to be a lost boy at a dead end.  I am 
     currently a federal employee (GS-7) not employed in a fire position. 
     I am a qualified single resource ENGB, CRWB, HCRM, etc., but I am also 
     employed at my agency's regional office.  I obtained all of my 
     qualifications prior to this permanent position, mainly on my own time 
     and expense.  Sounds odd but I'm still doing it.  I am still looking 
     for ways to be a better firefighter and ways to help by applying my 
     work related experience.  Now being a federal employee since June of 
     '98 I have applied for fire related positions with no avail and to end 
     it all, I have also reached my 35th birthday.  recently I have learned 
     of a secondary fire position in my region opening in the future. 
     Myself, deciding that I needed more and better experience for this 
     position I applied for a seasonal position with a different agency.  I 
     was informed that I was the most qualified person to apply and 
     verbally accepted the position.  A position that would give me needed 
     prescribed fire experience and keep my aviation qual's (which I am 
     about to loose due to time) up to date and current (I would rather 
     retain my qual's through experience rather than training).  I also 
     hoped to obtain policy and fire program experience to help with future 
     fire planning and facility programs.  This combined experience, in my 
     eyes, would hopefully put me in some kind of standing for the future 
     job opening.  Even though I would sacrifice my permanency, I am 
     informed that I will retain permanent status for future job 
     competition for 3 years.  My current position's type of work is not 
     that important as I can find equivalent private sector employment and 
     plus some. 
        I have tried numerous times to emphasize my desire to exit my 
     current position and continue with fire, but there always seems to be 
     a road block in the way because I am at the regional office and not in 
     a field position.  I don't want to prejudge, but it seems like the 
     current, and good, fire coordinators do not want to invest any time 
     and money into me.  I understand that my best interest is not their 
     primary concern, but having an interested and dedicated firefighter in 
     a permanent position and in a small pool of resources there might be 
     something coming my way.  I have mentioned numerous times that, with 
     my supervisors permission, I am available for any prescribed burns 
     within my region.  Even some of my time can also be covered through 
     training funds from my own department.  My supervisor is supportive of 
     my obtaining experience and retaining my qual's, so I'm good at my 
     end.  I only read of burns in my region after the fact.  I also have 
     had to obtain refresher training through an agency other than my own. 
     There were refreshers within my agency, but I am never informed on 
     there times and locations. I guess an alternative is to send a blanket 
     message out to all facilities about my availability and position. 
     Maybe I'm asking too much from my agency's fire program, so once again 
     I'm on my own even within the government.  I have contacted other 
     possibilities for experience, but another snag is the ethic and 
     ability to respond to request outside of my agency.  The most current 
     opportunity with burning has been on a volunteer basis.  Last year I 
     was called multiple times for availability for fire details from other 
     agency contacts, those which I have made prior to government 
        All this may seem a bit selfish, but it seems I must look out for 
     myself here and am trying everything. 
        I guess I'm looking for any advise to help me  or give me a 
     "talking to" to set me straight.  Believe me, I do have an open mind. 
     Some times I think it is the only thing that keeps me sane.  Thanks 
     for the opportunity to post something like this.  Hope everyone has a 
     safe season, but remember 

     "Make sure your head is loaded before you shoot off at the mouth" and 
     "Those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it" 


05/02 Picking up the scuba diver story. 

Out of curiosity and boredom one day I tried to trace the story to it's 
source.  I found a reference to a 'supposedly' true event about a swimmer 
being picked up by a helicopter bucket off the coast of Portugal.  This 
story was reportedly in a Lisbon newspaper in 1972.    Variations of this 
story have appeared as taking place off the coast of Southern Cal, Mexico, 
France, Greece, Finland and Lake Baikal in Russia.  Portugal appears to be 
the earliest date, so I'll call the Portugal version as the original.  I 
have been unable to locate a newspaper morgue containing the story to 
verify, and I can't read Portugese anyway.  So I guess my trail ends there. 
Anybody else want to run with it? 

05/02 Interesting opening statement by Chairman Regula of the House Subcommittee on Appropriations for Interior and Related Agencies during the The Forest Service Hearings.  Ab 
FS Hearings
05/01 Paul asked about the OF-612 form. 
The Navy's got it (and several others) online at: 
Kelly Andersson 
USFS Fire & Aviation Management
05/01          Hey Ab,  I grow more and more frustrated with this Pack test vs Step test crud.  When are we finally going to say " OK, if you cant carry a measly 45 pound pack without ending up on your back like a turtle, maybe you should stick  to a camp job".  why do we cater to the lowest common denominator? or in more plain terms, the people who are marginally fit to perform in this arduous job.  I have met many wannabe's,  they want the glory of wearing the yellow and green, the H pay, the OT.  But wont stop smoking, lose that extra 20 pounds or exercise regularly, they look unfit, they perform like they are unfit, they are an entrapment or fatality waiting to happen. I see this hangup with the pack test a crock, it is unfortunate that someone has died taking this test, but lets get it in place.  The jumpers have their requirements for fitness,  why is it all we have is this simple pack test, yet we cant use it because  people cant pass it???  DUH, I am not a rocket scientist, but that tells me that maybe its time to weed out the weak.  I am no prima donna, and I need to bust my butt to stay fit, but thats what I signed on for and that what I accept, If someday comes that I cant meet the requirements for my job, then so be it, i'll hang up my Whites.  I hope this sparks some talk,  C527
05/01 Paul, 

The OF 612 can be found at http://www.nawcwpns.navy.mil/recruit/forms/of612/ 
 and downloaded in pdf format. 

Tim Hoiness

05/01 The March & April messages in They Said have been archived, accessible by the link at the bottom of this page.  The most current messages have been carried over to continue existing threads.  Ab
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