"THEY SAID IT" ARCHIVES
After sending ya'll my story I went to check the snail mail, and
found a late arriving Christmas gift. Curious, seeing as I almost
never get mail addressed to me I opened it and found inside a copy of
Fire on the Mountain, it seems that our Camp Director from the last
summer shipped off copies to everyone who put out our small blaze.
Since getting the book, I've read it in entirety, and spent some time
looking over yours and others comments, reading for the first
time, the 10 and 18, and I must agree on a few things.
Mistakes were made on all levels, however the fatalities could have
been avoided on the scene by the supervisors. The offices, although
strained probably could have given more concern to the Storm King
fire. The thing I see here is a lack of communications... Maybe
you're right in that the fire arena needs more hands and journalists,
I feel a well worded report could have gotten better results from the
offices. I would like to say however Ab is that youmight have been a
little harsh on your review, criticizing the writer more than the
work. I stand along with those who say "He's a writer, not a fireman,
give him a break." If he was a firefighter though, I would have
expected a bit better out of him.. maybe I'll make that one of my
Best regards to all for the New Year and hopes for a safe season.
The aspiring wildfire journalist.
Thanks for the idea Ab, never thought about wildfire journalism, I
have helped to write a few statements for my local county fire
district for the papers, but never thought about wild fire.. it's an
I've never done this photo thing before. How many (how large?) can I
once? Is jpeg better than tif? Do you have any other suggestions? Guess
send these one at a time... Hey Doug, do you have a CPS for sending
Any watchouts or fire orders, Dave? (I hate these steep learning curves!)
Thanks for the photos Mellie, you did just right. Send the
photos one at a time in jpg format. If any of you don't have jpg
capability, I can convert just about any format. Try to keep the
files below 150k or so for download speed concerns. If they are
bigger, let me know before you send them so I'll know they are coming.
If any photos would make a good background for the desktop, keep in mind
that many folks are running at 800x600 or 1024x768. Any questions,
drop me a line. Mellie, your photos have been posted on the "Guest3"
||Abercrombie and All--Happy New Century, may it be a safer one...
Three of us spent Christmas day hiking Strom King. The day was
day on which people enjoy family and celebrate life. No one had signed the
since December 9. There were stickers on the register box lid of many
and other fire crew with whom I feel family. Only one adult-sized ski pole
the can, but 2 or 3 for little children. We'll need to see that a few more
adult poles get collected and delivered.
Some snow but no footprints, clear weather, not too cold. We hiked in
Hellava upslope wind when we reached the top of the canyon. Western aspect
would have been preheated fuel if there were any fuel left at all and if
had been summertime.
Actually, I'm rattling on because I'm sitting here crying, just as all
of us cried there. It is so sad. They shouldn't have died. Thanks for all
dialog about safety and methods for looking at fire behavior on this web
I took a few pictures. We felt we were climbing as emissaries for all
Thank you ALL for your good work in fire. A special hug for those of
fought and rehabed fire in Nevada last summer/fall and didn't get the
Mellie from Five Waters
I knew I should've clarified my statement about "not fighting fire
downhill"... I was speaking in general terms, and generally it
that fighting a fire downhill can be very dangerous.
Of course there are times when you can "fight" a fire by
Depending on fuels, expected behavior, topography, and weather, you may
the decision to make your line downhill. However, in reference to
specific event at Storm King, those factors were not requested or were
ignored. Make that decision using as much information as you can.
There are very few absolutes in life... except that no stretch of
worth losing firefighters.
Isn't it fun exposing your opinions and thoughts to the world, Doc?
Glad to hear from you, post on! Ab.
||When I click on the "They Said It" line this is the message I
get from the
Description: Unable to locate the server named
"www.wildlandfire.com" --- the
server does not have a DNS entry. Perhaps there is a misspelling in the
server name, or the server no longer exists. Double-check the name and try
If anyone else has experienced this problem,
it's my webpage server's fault. Seems they were having difficulties
this morning, but seems ok now. Ab.
Thanks for having a page with links, info, and probably the most
important of all, the forum. It is an excellent site and I only wish
more like these existed.
I am a youngster (16 if anyone was wondering) and I got interested
in wildfire the summer of 1994, when the Tyee Creek blaze burned
through the central Cascades in Washington State. My Boyscout troop
was on a 50 mile hike through the back country and I remember taking
night time fire watches on pourpose just so I could see the amber
glow across the ridges to the west of us.
This past summer I served at a summer camp for the Boy Scouts of
America in Okanogan (or maybe Ferry) County of Washington and I was
assigned as part of the Staff's motley fire response crew. As a part
of the staff of Camp Bonaparte, my offical job was that of Assistant
Camp Ranger, or more precisely, fix-it man, on the fire crew
though they gave me what were referred to as Bladder Bags. (Later I
found out they were originally called piss bags). I thought it was
cool, a giant squirt gun with a high pressure range of nearly twenty
feet if there wasn't wind and you arced the stream enough.
I, nor anyone else on staff this summer never thought we'd actually
have a fire to contend with, but as the Scout regulations call for,
we had practice drills every week within the first 24 hours a new
week of campers arrived. That was until the second to last week. I
had noticed everything was drying out, and insisted on making rounds
at night to make sure that the camper's had put down their fires to
an acceptable level, as night time winds in the area tended to be a
bit breezy. My extra pushing of the issue of fire safety paid off
when that Thursday, the Lifeguard at our camp was returning from
using the kybo and saw a column of smoke rising out of the forest
near the slope of Mt. Bonaparte.
Very calmly she asked if trees gave off grey colored steam, over the
2-way UHF radios we used to communicate in camp, when I told her that
steam wasn't likely this late in the afternoon she said then we have
a problem. Then our Camp Director, who had been a fireman for twenty
years or so yelled over the radio to get the bladder bags and
pulaskis up the mountain.
I don't ever believe I ran any faster than I did that day in my life.
It was a good hilly area so gettin gto the mess hall where my bag was
hooked convienently on the outside of the building was a bit of a
chore so I diverted instead to our camp Office where another pair of
bags were held, but I was concerned with taking another crew member's
gear, fortuneatley my detour turned out to be good because
the young man's bag that I had was closer to my bag at the mess
hall so we just switched for the episode. Once equipped I thought
back to a few words of advice: "Don't run with the bladder bags,
you'll get too tired before you reach the fire."
Those words were right, as I walked briskly the three other young men
with the piss bags ran to the fire, but as they stood gasping for
their breaths at the bottom of the hill on which the fire was
burning, I marched up the hill where the members with hand tools were
already working and I began giving assistance, it took the other
three about ten minutes to get up the side of the hill to be any
good. Thankfully the fire was close to Lake Bonaparte and when a bag
would run out the man carrying it would go down to the lake and fill
it. Also, the fire didn't consume so much as a small bit of brush
thankfully, and the impact was minimal. We will never know what
started the fire, for certain.
In hindsight, all the drilling we did should have alerted me to a
problem with our bags, and that was they leaked, slowly, from the cap
where the slide is attatched, however I was told we lacked teflon
tape to fix the problem, so each week I asked for someone heading to
the city to pick up a roll of tape to fix it with. It never came, so
I took it as meaning it was low priority and went about things like
reparing cook boxes, mending feces, and filling propane tanks. I
regret not having gone to the stores myself for the tape, for I am
willing to say that if the fire had gotten any bigger and the winds
were stronger our leaky bags may have hurt us more than helped.
Any how, that's my story from the lines if you can call it that.
Thanks to all of the wild land fire fighters out there, you ladies
and gents do a hell of a job, and probably don't recieve enough of
our (the public's) gratitude.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us Tiny! From the
quality and depth of your letter, I think you will be able to pick from at
least two careers, either journalism or a firefighting. The fire
arena needs both. . . why not a fire going journalist? Ab.
||Another thing to consider regarding the MEA, and I hesitate with this as
my knowledge is limited.
Within the past year I received a letter informing me what I owe the
gov't money to buy back my temp. service. In the letter, it described
why I could only buy back my time prior to 1/1/89, and anything beyond
that date could not be bought back and applied to my service
computation date. Huh? I started in 1985, and received my appointment in
1992. This means there is a small period of time which I served
the agency and will not get credit for it.
The relationship to MEA...... In the past year vacancy
announcements for demo and jac positions have been saying that an
must not have reached their 35th birthday. However, the application
describes that an applicant may decrease their chronological age if
they have previous service that qualifies. i.e., age 37 with 2+ years of
temporary service reduces their age to 35.
Now, one of the claimed reasons for the MEA is so that we all can
retire with 20 years of service at age 55, or at any age with 25 years of
service. IF, someone who is above the 35 year age limit has had their age
reduced by calculating temp time gained AFTER 1/1/89, how
can they retire at age 55? they can't! or atleast not without penalty,
because they will not have the minimum 20 years of credible service.
When I calculated my SCD myself, I in fact discovered that it does not
include the accumulated months of service post 1/1/89.
Does anyone out there have any more info on this? Not that it really
matters, but if the-powers-that-be have been reducing age by using
temp time served post 1/1/89, then there has been an abundance of
exemptions to the MEA by the FS. This could open a huge can of
worms, but could also help Pappy's friends' attorney. Someone, please
correct me if I'm wrong, I'm losing faith in this agency.
||Just wanted to know what is going on with the step test? is it in or
out? The rumor for the last couple of years is that it is next years
requirement and then next year comes around and it still isn't online. I
have been in fire since 1977, and personally, just standing in front of
the step, before I even start, sends my pulse racing... I like the idea of
the mile and half run, and even this pack test. I think that the
physical test should be one of unisex nature, with one requirement...that
you pass it at the same level as everyone eles. I am female and
lived through the U.S.F.S.'s Consent Decree in California...I worked in
fire and went to forestry school before C.D. hit the ground. If these
timed tests were implemented then, surely those, overweight and out of
shape would have been plucked out off the line long ago. (noname)
It sounds like it will be in place for the coming (if it's ended in
your area) fire season. Year 2000 that is! Abercrombie agrees
that the pack test should be implemented. Have you all seen how many
firefighters were felled by heart attacks this year? Ab.
||Moleskin, I would have to agree with you, if you don't know how to fight
fire while going down hill then you and your crew are better off not
starting. However, to make a blank statement that implies fighting fire
down hill should never be done is very discourging. There are times and
places where this is not only a very effective tactic, but it is the
safest also. Let's not start limiting our options, just learn the
correct time and place to impliment the tactic.
||The homepages for all the hotshot crews who have them
are listed at:
||Regarding the hotshot enquiry:
You can find the hotshot crews listed at
The Flathead hotshots are located near Whitefish, Calispell and Hungry
in NW Montana. A great bunch, they fought the Megram fire at our ranch in
CA this last summer. Small world, my uncle from Polson, MT delivered one
the crew and all of his brothers and sisters. Another worked with my
in Whitefish! Ya'll come visit!
The Entiat Hotshots are located 200 mi E of Seattle on the Columbia
The Bitterroot Hotshots are located 65 mi south of Missoula near Darby
The Helena hotshots are from Helena, Montana. Their crew boss is Larry
This group is also near and dear to my heart because they helped hook a
mi long slopover that extended 800 feet down below the containment line
above our ranch. Saving that slopover was the psychological turning point
the western (Denny) side of the fire. Thanks ya'll!
Mellie from Five Waters
||As a former CDF firefighter and a retired fire captain for a county fire
district in Califorina, I found your web site great!!
I can't wait to dig out some of my old fire photos to share with you.
I have since went into business for myself, owning
bulldozers and specializing in wildland fire control and prevention.
So I was wondering if you knew of any "dozer" re-
lated associations, web site, info, etc.. for us who fight wildfires with
bulldozers. Thank-you for your time and a truly
||Concerning the 12/29 request for web info/shot crew websites:
||Last week when the fires were breaking overnight in So Cal, I thought I
find a decent place to get the news on the web. SZ gacc, no luck, LA
County ,Nothing several other
places no new news. So I went to Channel2000.com, LA's CBS
affiliate, news with video, went to
nbc4la.com more news. Then RS's comments about
firefighter fatalities got me wondering so I looked at
firehouse.com it has a great breaking news site with excellent
pictures and links to other neat stuff.
Firehouse also had links back over to the Los Angeles networks.
want to add abc7.com to cover all the
stations in beautiful LA that I know of. So if you want the
latest news go to some of the sights listed.
Hey AB do you know of any other places we can get the latest info?
Not really. Ab.
||I'm am interested in working on a hot shot crew in the summer of 2000.
I'm having a little problem with finding a web site for the north west
area that I would like to go to is Montana Idaho region can you give me
||I wanted to really thank Kristin H. Kris you have been
the only one to
stick up for us after WF mag ran its article" Foam on the
Range". This mags
journalism concerning that article was extremely one sided. I know the
about the 1999 season in Nevada, I was there and so were you. The
started early with fires that we could pick up during one or two burning
periods and manage as type 3 incidents. That day when we recieved
Hundred Lightning strikes by noon. We prepositioned at the bunk
stayed there for 15 minutes before jumping to the first fire. Four days
when we returned for the basics ( MREs, Diesal / Gas, Drinking
Foam). the locals gave all of us dirty looks and mean comments. From
point on we had few friends in Central Nevada but you always stood by us.
A special note for those people who were not in the state for the seige
Please judge yourselves before others.
I HAVE NEVER, talked about incidents I was not at or Arm Chair
Quarterbacked crews on fires. You should not either. Yes we had
fires in rural areas. We went direct where we could to limit fires size ,
saved the threatend homes ( with no fuels clearence ) and valves at
We fought fire aggressively But provided for Safety First, we kept
the local residences and the economy ( Ranches and Cattle ).
Winter is here and were into the biggest fire rehab in history.
I bust my
tail everyday to get the work done, rehab is tougher than suppression,
racing mother nature.
The people who do not do our work can talk, bitch and cry. The feds are
screwing up our land. I done see the whiners out donig this work but I
Oh no words of thanks to any element of the fire community was ever
It was a sad situation. Not like in California were thankyous abound.
Thanks to everyone who worked on and supported our work during
Wildfires of 1999, We all made it home for Christmas.
||RS, mentions something about firefighter deaths on 12/27 and then takes
at us all that we
didn't make note of it. Maybe he could inform us as to the
reports, I remember
the folks up in
Worchester, Mass. At any rate I need more info from ol' RS so I can
of it. Last week at the
fire depts kids Christmas party all uniformed personnel wore
black bands on
their badges. We are
concerned about firefighters. By the way have your hugged a
Happy Mil-Looney-um !!
The top ten will not provide any further insight into CPS. All the quotes
directly from the cps book.
You are correct in saying that I am afraid of something, I'm afraid that
firefighter somewhere will
use some phrases from the cps new fire behavior language and no one will
understand what he is
Once again I will say that I believe Mr. Campbell knows his fire behavior
also believe that the
language needed to describe it is in place.
Like "6" says a couple of posts ago
"Regarding CPS, nothing will ever replace a heads-up
attitude and sound decision making process. S-290 and
CPS may or may not make firefighters safer. You can't
As far as needing a fire behavior analyst to predict your fire behavior .
don't wait for one of them
to arrive at your incident and I think this is where Doug's teaching can
most of us. The basic fire
behavior knowledge that will prevent you from doing a frontal attack or
to hold the ridge when the
fire may race towards you, this is what you need, not a laptop, not a
I believe that cps's philosophy is the same as any firefighter, reference
fire order that reads ' Initiate
all action based on current and expected fire behavior.' Doug and I
to achieve the same
goals, the prevention of firefighter death.
You may remember the struggle the fire services have had with developing a
standard nomenclature for
equipment and apparatus, why do we need a new language now?
Maybe we can just agree to disagree.
||Moc4445, f.g., Madhatter, ab, and everyone else,
I need to clear some things up. First of all, in
response to madhatters claim that "An applicant must not have reached
birthday" being printed on all of the outreaches, this was simply not
the case. The Outreach in question simply said "not over the
of 35". This is where the problem arose. My friend
questioned whether this meant the thirty fifth year before the age of 36.
review by our FMO, District Ranger, forest personnel office, AND the
provincial level, the general consensus on the maximum entry
age (MEA) interpretation was "not yet age 36"! She has
written documentation stating that this is how the interpretation was made
all these levels. It was then forwarded on to the regional level and
they agreed with the interpretation of the age requirements made
by both the forest and provincial levels.
Two weeks ago our district gets a call from our forest
personnel saying that they are about to receive word that this
was not correct according to the powers that be in Washington, and that
she is to be terminated immediately. This termination was
ordered to proceed without anything received yet in writing. By this
time she is already 15 months into the apprenticeship program
and has turned down two permanent positions in law enforcement. So
now at age 37, she is not only out of the two law enforcement
positions that she turned down outside of the FS, she is also no longer
eligible to get into law enforcement within the FS, which is
what her ultimate goal was.
In a letter dated April 24, 1997, from Jerry Baughman (
the gentleman that wrote the MEA rules) he says that BLM has made
exceptions. If we could find out under what circumstances these
exceptions were made it would show that precedence has been
set. I anyone could help us out here we would truly appreciate it.
If you could email any suggestions or comments about where to
look or who to contact I would be really grateful. All
correspondence will be kept confidential. Email me at:
I would like to thank both Moc4445 and f.g. for their
support. This is exactly why we in the FS need to really form a stronger
union. Until we start to organize and support one another we will
never get the type of respect (both monetarily and other) that other
organizations like CDF and most county departments do. Thanks for
your time, Pappy
||Thank you Pulaski for your comments about CPS.
It made me think that maybe some of the objections stem from
the feeling that CPS is a complete fire behavior course. It is not.
CPS was designed to be a piece of the pie. CPS is about using
made on the fireground to determine the tactics for engaging the fire.
idea is that no one will get hurt if they know when and where
fire behavior variations are going to occur. The book is an attempt
the experienced firefighters have done that in the past.
There area lot of very good firefighters out there. Among those
to the CPS are:
Redding Hot Shot Sups ,Charlie Caldwell, Craig Lechleiter; Los Padres Hot
Mark Linane; Marc Castellnou of Barcelona Spain; Kern Co. BLM Anthony
Ops Chiefs. J.W. Allendorf; Dave Provencio, FMO, Will Spyrison, Batt
Lance Cross, Division Chief of the LPNF; Terry Raley, Plans Chief, VNC;
Pat Shanley, Capt. LA City; J.P. Harris, BC LA County;
Drew Smith, FBA for LA County and many others.
From these people come the wisdom of successful firefighting.
CPS has been validated by these individuals. CPS uses their
to create an explanation of how to do it right. CPS enables them to
communicate their wisdom to others about, " how they know when to
and know when to fold 'em."
They can explain why the fire is going to change BEFORE it happens and
their actions on that knowledge.
Not scientific you might say?
You are right. If the fire changes from a backing fire to a head
fire because of slope change, is that where science is used?
I think not. That is where an observation made of the situation
before it changes slope alignment is a size up and it is not science.
If you know how to read the fire's signatures and apply that to
the tactical plan, then you predetermine the tactics based on
the potential fire behavior. What is going to make the fire change?
Is it changing slope, winds or fuel flammability change? What
difference does it make to nit pick the science of things?
Many times firefighters know the situation is getting worse but
have no language with which to extract themselves or others from
it. With a language to explain why their tactics may be an
for engagement but not a good fire behavior tactic, many experienced
firefighters have avoided the danger.
Observations, situation description, tactical choice and constant
are the ingredients of CPS.
Some have called it "in situ" training, meaning it is
Someone called it a BGO course, a" blinding glimpse of the
Most who take one of the CPS courses say, "I knew that but
just didn't know how to express it."
If you don't know what the fire is about to do in the way of change
should you be there? If you can't explain the fire situation before
sending troops into action. should you be in command? Can a
picked if you don't know what the fire might do?
Can you provide clear instructions and be understood?
CPS teaches how this is done and how it relates to tactics. Fire
not a stand alone subject. It is coupled with decisions that determine
the action on the fireground. The experiences that firefighters
have are important to use in teaching others.
To those who do not prefer or like CPS I would like to say thank you
for your comments and acknowledge that there are many very good
firefighters who can do the job without CPS's help. Its OK.
For those who find some support for what they already knew in CPS
I am here for them too.
The idea is to put your ideas forward so that the firefighting community
can pick and choose their way through the minefield of choice.
To all the firefighters, may you continue to be safe and continue to learn
from the lessons of the past. May you value the quiet, silent
who goes through year after year of safe and effective work. Why not
ask that group how they did it?
Learn from the past, predict the future...........
My best regards to all.
||Ab, I lie your forum a lot but does everybody live in a
were 9 fire fighter deaths this last week and not one word from anybody.
I would like to take a moment for reflection and hope this doesnt happen
any more. Ive been out of fire for a while but I still care.
||I know i'm coming into the discussion late, but I had to add some
about "Fire on The Mountain".
It's little wonder that it's the little fires that kill people... or at
the fires that start out as little. It's also no big surprise (to
anyway) that bureaucracy, lack of experience, and failure to stick to the
basics can kill firefighters.
We all know that effective Incident Management can help to mitigate the
dangers of firefighting. However, it (as has been said) comes down
div sup's, crew bosses, squad bosses, and individual firefighters to keep
their heads up and fight fire aggressively but with safety in mind.
I think that the South Canyon fire was a mixture of all those things.
However, I'm inclined to agree with the camp that finds fault in the
leadership of the fire/area. No matter how you boil it down, I feel
being the IC, it all comes down to me. It is MY responsibility to
safety of the folks on my fire. This starts with good a good
and leadership skills. If they don't make it then the responsibility
with me first, and foremost.
I've heard that a lack of resources is partly to blame. Well, as
firefighter, I look at the resources available around here that sit
unused in the summer months, and I highly doubt the vailidity of that
argument. If there aren't enough resources, then don't commit the
By blaming the management, I don't mean that there weren't mistakes
the boss and firefighter level. I also know that it's not easy to
guess our fallen brothers and sisters. However, we owe it to their
that we take a hard look at how the events transpired, create a dialog,
do our best to ensure that it never happens again.
Yet, even after the the lessons are discussed, they are ignored.
promotions come first, the "it can't happen here" statements are
people continue to die.
*I* promise to never make the mistakes committed in the past... I won't
a fire downhill, I will: post lookouts, get weather updates, insist on
escape routes and safety zones, and refuse an assignment that I feel is
unsafe. I also promise to look at that little 5 acre fire, and see
potential that it has, and never forget that ALL fatal fires start out
I would hope that anyone that manages firefighters would make the same
promises or they don't belong in that position.
||Even though Doug has stated and defended his philosophy fairly well,
since I helped start the discussion on CPS, I guess it is time I chipped
be honest, I haven't taken or given 190, 290 or 390 (or however they are
grouping them now) for a number of years and I haven't really read Doug's
book cover to cover for several years now and have done no research or
checking for my following comments. I say that to try and put you in my
perspective, that I am going on the fire behaviour evaluation tools that I
have with me when I arrive at a fire ...my mind.
Regarding Dave's top ten list, I didn't quite get it. While, granted
Doug's written presentation might lack that of a polished professional
majority of the statements of "questionable science" you
credited to Doug's philosophy are correct to my way of thinking. Maybe
you could try
again and explain why you think it is questionable science.
I have to admit I had the same question or curiosity as Doug, in that
it seems like you are afraid of something...be it change or a different
looking at something. If I am right or wrong on that thought I do not
know, however I have always felt that no matter what the subject, there is
room for improvement. What struck me so strongly was
that after I read Doug's book I sat back and said...well, yea this is
information, but it sure makes more sense now! ..why don't they present it
in 190/ 290/390 like this! To me the most important concept in
philosophy is that of "time tag tactics" and
"alignment" and I don't remember anything like these being
covered in the standard courses, at least in a
fashion that made it stick in my mind.
I never got the impression that Doug implied that the basic behaviour
courses shouldn't be taught. Nor did I get the impression that his
covers all possible behaviour factors in every situation. Obviously
it does not..and nothing does! The standard behaviour courses are
I wish they woud utilize some of Doug's way of putting things together and
terminology) and the Look up, down, around as well as the new Lessons
Learned courses are excellent! However, If you look closely at fire
fatalities over the years, you will find that a majority (but not all)
occur prior to any
established team with a fire behaviour analyst on scene to provide a
behaviour estimate for the ground troops...sooo...what are they to do? ..
sorry but I don't have a laptop or the old Twhatever calculator along with
me to tell me what I can expect the fire to do. CPS is (in my mind) very
philosophy, and if you are dealing with slope and predicted winds in
daytime situations it will save your butt. It is another tool, one
of many, to help
the firefighter in gauging / predicting fire behaviour AND when and where
to expect the most extreme behaviour.
We are all on the same team here, fighting for the same things. Keep an
||Fudgie, my guess is that the legal/liability issues
would sink that idea. (Ask your insurance agent about
the cost of malpractice insurance for that type of
activity!) I think the integration of retirees into
existing teams as ADs might be the best of both
Regarding CPS, nothing will ever replace a heads-up
attitude and sound decision making process. S-290 and
CPS may or may not make firefighters safer. You can't
Have a Merry Christmas!
Some of the fire type retirees have been talking about forming incident
management teams and making themselves available under contract to
needing assistance with managing wildfires. These teams would be made up
retired team members proven as top performers that held positions in all
functions and at all levels and were qualified under national standards.
We have been reading about team member shortages, teams not meeting the
needs of the local land managers, cooperators, and land owners, and teams
not deep enough in experience to understand what they were facing.
I know for fact there are some good incident management teams out there
if we are hearing it right there are problems and the field fire folks
better support than they are gettting.
Some of the issues we have been batting around are:
acceptance by the ground
can we contractually do it
and all the ramifications of the legal issues
would our mentoring on teams
made up of regular employees have value
only accept work that
wouldn't take experience away from regular employees
would we fill all team
command and general staff positions.
there are alot more issues and concerns connected with this idea. We
to hear from you folks that we would support in order to make go no go
I never have said the Romero fire was driven by solar preheat.
If you have ever listened to my story of the Romero fire you
would know. When you tell others what it is that I teach
at least get it correct.
I do not know what Bishop teaches, except that it follows
the S-course lesson plan I suppose. That is fine and dandy.
The S courses should be taught. I do not propose that CPS
should replace anything. Do you suppose that there could be
some more information packaged in a different way that could
be beneficial? Sounds like you wish to suppress information
not look at the whole picture.
Where is Jim Bishop working as an FBA? Jim, if you read this
I just pulled another FBA job on the Ranch fire on the Ojai RD
and did not see you there with the CDF team? I did not see
you on the Kirk fires either Do you do FBA
jobs any more? The solar preheating was nil here on this fire.
The fire behavior changes were due to wind the first night, then
the slope became the dominate factor of change. The night put most
of the fire out before cold trailing could be completed.
I would like to see a model that could represent this behavior.
The flame lengths were reported to be 300 ft. then the next day
the flame length went to 30 ft on the head fire and 2 ft. on the
backing fire. That night the fire went out.
I read your comments,yet i don't know what the Forest
Service policy is and I have don't have any idea how
old your friend is but I'm guessing over 35. Now if
you read any Demo or Jac apprenticeship vacancy
announcement that is for fire it states very plainly
" An applicant must not have reached their 35th
birthday" it's not hard to figure it out. I hate to
sound like an asshole but if someone does apply and
they are over the age limit and they have what
happened to your friend happen to them I don't feel
bad for them one bit it really irritates me because
the block the door for other people who would
qualify.Now I'm not talking shit about your friend I'm
sure she is good at what she does for all I know she
could walk on water.
As I sit here on forced vacation, (isn't use or loose a terrible thing?
NOT), I decided that I wanted to send a greeting to all of my brothers and
sisters out there. And to wish them well for the Holiday Season.
Keep Safe everyone and Best Wishes for the coming millennium.
I checked it out, thanks R5 Firecaptain, here it is folks: xmas
||Hi AB and Pappy,
I received my first permanent appointment (with NPS no
months before my 35th birthday. I started on the payrole with them the
day AFTER my 35th birthday. However, in the opinion of the NPS Personnel
Official, my 6.5 years of previous federal service in fire would not
count toward retirement because I did not contribute. I was told that if
I had prior government service in Fire (462, 455, 303, 301, and/or 081)
Series that it would count if it were before January 1988. I found in
the Federal Employees 1999 Almanac a statement regarding new permanent
employees who have had previous federal service (temporary, term,
career, or military) that it applies to your comp date and toward
retirement. Also, if you had time in, and as a temporary you did not
contribute to the federal retirement system (either FERS or CSRS) that
you could pay that amount for that time back on your own to get credit
for it. Because of a conflict in statements and opinions I am
challenging the personnel official's opinion. It turns out she has no
love for firefighters and screws them over on issues like this to get
back at everyone. If your friend has prior government service in fire or
other public safety areas her, particulary if she was a term employee at
some point, it is supposed to reduce the age limit by years of service.
Ultimately, if you disagree with the department's opinion, you can seek
a ruling through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) either by
e-mail or by contacting a regional office and speaking to an individual.
There is also an OPM Website that can help you also. Have her file a
complaint with the deparment and ask for a ruling either through the
Upper Levels of the Department (either Region or Washington) Personnel,
and request a ruling by OPM rules or by OPM itself. This summer I did
exactly that and won a DoD seasonal job when the Personnel Office of
that base decided (on her own opinion) said to me "there were three
qualified people on the list for the position, your number 3, and the
other two are veteran's." When I asked for ratings she would not give
that, and when I asked for qualifications all she would say was "the
other two were veteran's including one who was 30% disabled." What is
that, a one-armed firefighter? I advised her that I would be sending a
formal request regarding who is to be hired for a similar position if
one or more applicants are more qualified than the veterans who apply.
Two Weeks later she e-mailed me a reply with a note from her supervisor
AND OPM stating that if the non-veteran scores higher, even with the
5-10-15 additional points they get, then the non-vet is offered the job.
24 hours after recieving the reply I was hired for the job. Tell her not
to give up! If she was a federal cop she has time in. Good Luck!!!
||"Do You See What I See?"
Said the citizen to the Dispatcher......
Do you see what I see?
Up there on a hill dispatcher?
Do you see what I see?
A fire, a fire, burning in the night
It is giving off an orange light...
It is giving me quite a fright!
Said the Dispatcher to the Engine Crew..
Listen to what I say...
In your station warm Engine Crew...
Listen to what I say...
A fire, a fire is burning orange and gold
you will have to go out in the cold
You will have to go out in the cold!
Said the Engine Crew to the Dispatcher...
Do you hear what we hear?
Out there along the road Dispatcher...
Do you hear what we hear?
A fire, a fire is roaring up a hill,
We will need more help, yes we will....
We will need more help on this hill!
Said the Dispatcher to the FMO...
Do you know what I know?
In your cozy home FMO...
Do you know what I know?
A crew, a crew is out working on a fire
More help is what is required...
And they blew out their back left tire!
Said a Jolly voice on the radio..
Listen to what I say!
A happy elf announced on the radio...
Listen to what I say!
The fire, the fire is about to stop
A load of retardant, I am about to drop!
Tanker Santa one-one is making a drop!
Said the Engine crew to the Dispatcher...
Do you see what we see?
Way up in the sky Dispatcher...
Do you see what we see?
The sleigh, the sleigh, has dropped a split load
and the fire has now grown cold!
The fire is out now and it HAS...GROWN....COLD!!!
We need to rally together for her, she is truly being screwed, and
those responsible should be held accountable. Those responsible for the
mistakes in personnel should be terminated the same day she is, or atleast
suspended without pay for being "incompetent". Personally, I
think the MEA (maximum entry age) is a bunch of crap in most instances (I
said MOST instances, not all of them).
I think it would help to write to your representative, but only if a
solution to the issue is presented after the statement of the facts. The
solution -- suggest an exemption on the terms that a contractual agreement
be entered into by both parties, the student and the agency,
agreeing that they 1) retire as a primary ff at age 55 with reduced
benefits due to a tenure less than the required minimum of 20 years --
this is a feasible solution but unlikely that the powers-that-be will buy
into it; 2) and/or, suggest an exemption on the basis that she will
seek a position in a secondary ff classification or other p.d. prior to
her 55th birthday, which will cancel the maximum age limit. If she is
unsuccessful with #2, then the agreement falls back onto #1; 3) suggest
the MEA be increased to 37; it worked for law enforcement; 4)
recommend a repeal of the law which allows the MEA; 5) allow the employee
to contribute a higher percentage of pay into the retirement
system, greater than the current 1.7%.
And, of course, get a good lawyer. If all else fails, sue the pants off
the idiots who are responsible for the misinformation, and
misinterpretation of the law.
Read the following:
"This has nothing to do with an individual's ability to do the
work at age 36 or 40, but is justified by the need to move employees out
line of work in their 50's.
"Our experience is that there are many qualified applicants for
permanent positions. There are also some limited opportunities to enter
permanent employment in secondary fire positions or mixed fire positions
that have no maximum entry age. Finally, individuals are free to
continue to fight fire under temporary appointments at any age, as long as
they can meet the fitness standards." written by Dale Nelson
for Jack W. Thomas, and copied from www.rhubble.com © 1999 rhubble.com
******how is it that a temporary employee can fight fire at ANY age,
and a permanent employee cannot? Wouldn't this be an EEO
complaint? It's certainly unacceptable.
Even if it doesn't help to write congress, it sure won't hurt. Try this
site: http://www.nwlink.com/~rhubble/smokejumpers/write.htm. or
Good luck, and I'll provide a copy of my letter to you Pappy, or anyone
else who may be interested in helping.
Hey Ab, could you post this for me?
Everyone, I was wondering if anyone out
there might be able to help me out? The US Forest Service in Region
5 has an apprenticeship program that many of you might be familiar with.
Last year a friend of mine was picked up and signed an agreement with the
Forest Service to complete the Academy. The agreement simply says
that if she finishes the Academy that she is promised a job somewhere at
the 13/13 gs-5 level. She had previously completed a law enforcement
academy and had several potential law enforcement jobs (outside of
the FS) in the works when she was offered the wildland fire academy
position. After she was picked up and started the Academy someone
(in personnel I'm guessing) noticed that she had already passed the age
limitation for new hire (by less than a few months). The forest
wanted to immediately terminate her contract but since she was already way
program AND she had already turned down one law
enforcement position outside of the FS AND they decided to support her and
turn it over to the region. The regional office also supported her
so we thought that it was all over. Then someone from the Washington
office calls last week and says that she is to be terminated immediately
because there are "No exceptions to the age rule!". Has
anyone ever heard of this type of situation before? I'm sure that
there have been exceptions but I am not sure how to find out where and for
what reasons. I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions on where
to go from here? I have worked with this employee for several years
and she is truly an asset to the agency. Any suggestions that you
could help me out with would be truly appreciated. Thanks for your
||Couple things on my mind after reading through here & visiting the
Doug, Dave has a "GREAT" sense of humor! I share his points
Bishops & Beighley's & Sage (They Said Archvies 7/18/99) that your
encouraging firefighters to look at the whole picture. You can't use
only part of the formula. While fire behavior isn't rocket science,
it's a little more complex than than simple addition. When one reviews
Wilson's Common Denominators and then chooses a fire behavior prediction
system to apply, one has to ask. "Will the fire behavior prediction
system I choose consider all of Wilson's factors?"
Like the shape of the topography, size class of fuel, it's ability to
respond to moisture changes (timelag ring a bell?) and winds, (frontal,
t-storm or subsiding) and nighttime fire behavior, because yes we have
lost firefighters at night. To teach, learn and understand
interrelationships of all the factors is crucial to firefghter safety.
Failure to do so is ignorance.
Fuel temperature wasn't key to the Romero fatalities, it was the RAPID
drop in humidity and RAPID esculation of the subsiding wind, and it was
at night. And as you & I both remember, and it happened in less the 20
minutes. IT also happened again the night after the fatalities when shot
crews were almost sent into another hole, but fortunately saner minds
prevaied (and for those saner minds many of us are here today). That
fire is a key reason I became a student of fire behavior that considers
all elements and interrelationships.
CPS's claims of satisfaction, based on user reviews, is how magazines
and swamp land are sold.
On another track, I continually see references to the 18 Watchout
Situations being violated or broken. FOLKS, you can't violate a
watchout situation. If we did, you wouldn't fight fire! We are going to
make frontal attacks, the wind will change direction or speed, the day
will become hotter & drier, you will take a nap at night (or day) on
line, yada yada yada...
BUT, when these situations occur it is time to become more heads up,
dilligent, FOLLOW THE 10 STANDARD ORDERS, use LCES.
Haven't read FOTM yet, but hope I get a copy in my stocking, if not
head for the bookstore.
Be Careful Out There!
||I've had some dealings with reporters over the years, and I've got a
little advice for people that might find themselves in the company of
the media. You can interchange the word "journalist" with
Despite what Kelly wrote, remember that there are a LOT of things that
are worse than having reporters laugh and smirk at you. One of the
things that's worse is having a reporter with an agenda that takes
what you tell them and uses it in a way that doesn't do you any good.
It can happen, and has happened. Not all reporters are good people,
and if you aren't ABSOLUTELY sure that what you tell them will be
presented in a good way, then my advice is to pass up talking with
them. I can live with reporters smirking at me - they smirk a lot
This isn't to say that there aren't a lot of great reporters out
there. Many of them will help you get your message out in a positive
way, but you have to be really careful. Once I was interviewed by a
TV crew that asked me to talk about both sides of the "suppression
natural fire" debate. Without telling me what they had planned,
only used the parts where I talked about the need for suppression, and
spliced in an environmentalist talking about the need for natural
fire. It ended up looking like I was debating against natural fire.
That was totally unethical, and it's just one rather mild example of
Like I said, there are some great reporters out there and I've been
lucky to work with some of them, but you're setting yourself up for
trouble if you assume that they're all worth talking with. I'm just
saying that you need to be careful, particularly if there's a chance
that what you say could be used wrong.
But hey, Happy Holidays to everyone that reads (and maintains) this
great site and here's hoping you have a great New Year! How about
those LA Basin folks - Christmas Eve in fire camp? In the 75-76
season I was on the Bear Divide crew and spent the holidays working.
A raised glass to the folks out on the line - *clink*!
The Lurker FMO
Once again, R-3 gets screwed out of a great training program. Here in
Northern AZ, we were looking forward to Doug's CPS program in February
I have spent over 13 years in this game of fire, and not once have I ever
had an opportunity to take this program. Now with all the feedback that I
see here about CPS, I really need to sit down and take a good long look at
what's out there in the way of fire behavior classes.
My first exposure to the S-290 was at Redding when there was this big
upheaval between S-290/S-390 back in 1995. The program that we got was
the 390, even though they had to put 290 on the cert. I finally got into a
390 class last year in Tucson, and was a little disappointed. Mostly
for myself. I couldn't believe the large number of folks in this class who
had just taken 290 a week before and already in a 390 class. The majority
the people I talked too couldn't wait to get their cert so they could
their Strike Team Leader taskbook. Again, we are sending people out there
leadership roles that don't understand basic firefighting concepts.I sent
some of my guys to the 290 class in Sedona last spring, and again, based
what I heard from them, I was VERY disappointed.
Doug, PLEASE COME TO FLAGSTAFF!!!!! We want your class, we need
Merry Christmas to all!!
AZ Trailblazer, FMO
||hey all! i hope everyone has a happy holiday. did anyone spend 2 weeks
lovely kentucky? i went with the njffs and seen more fire in 10 days than
other trip i have taken! for the most part it was a good trip- one
crew-member ended up in the hospital with triple by-pass surgery( a reason
for yearly physicals) . the member had no prior history of heart problems!
personaly got separated with my crew's from the rest of the crew when the
fire blew up the slope. i never imagined the fear of what others must have
felt when they either deployed shelters or came close to deploying. we had
good safe zone but it was close none the less. we are a type 2 crew but
assigned to perform type 1 work. we completed all assignments and recieved
excellent reviews from management. although the terrain wasn't as high as
west it was as steep and as hazardous as anything i have seen. who says
from the east are not up to the task?! overall it was good and i am
forward to next season!
Actually I do have a great sense of humor, but I didn't realize that
about preventing firefighter death was a place for humor. Now
do your best to dig your toe in
the dirt and make that halo appear over your head and become the
much maligned and criticized Doug.
Undoubtedly some of your phraseology has seeped into the fire
behavior vocabulary but the ideas you
cover are the same as what already exists you have only changed the
jargon. Which to me can only
introduce more communication problems. But if only everyone would
use the CPS, I can here you
saying. That would be nice if everyone knew and understood the same
language, now wouldn't it? The
language is there for anyone to use. aspect, slope, time of
day, air temperature, relative
humidity, wind speed and direction, fuel type, mountain, valley,
ridge, saddle, chimney, chute, etc., etc.
No it doesn't bother me that you are trying to recover your expenses.
But why don't you teach the
accepted fire behavior courses? I think that everyone who has ever
predicted fire behavior has looked at the
immediate situation from every angle, taken everything into account
and made the prediction. Whether the
prediction was for the next shift, the next day or the next 10
minutes or for some time in between.
But the prediction has to be in a communicative style that
facilitates understanding. Maybe CPS will be
the guidepost for the future of fire behavior prediction. I don't
know, I certainly can't predict
So next time you decide to be funny put it next to a little (ha,ha) then
know your intent.
S-290 Intermediate Fire Behavior, is an approved National Wildfire
Group (NWCG) training course. For available classes navigate to
www.fire.nifc.nps.gov, click on fire
management, click on Training and education, click on Multi-Agency
Wildland fire Training schedule
and scroll down to S-290. Several places offer the course as a part
of their curriculum and it is
designed to meet training requirements for a Single Resource Boss.
Probably the best way to get more info
on this class is to talk to your local fire dept whether it's local.
state or federal.
There is good info at the wildfiremagazine site that you refer to.
Merry Christmas To All !!!
||So this is the best laugh I've had all week.
"... if you don't grant a reporter an
interview he/she will be out to get you. "
Man, what is that high-pitched whine I hear? sheeeeeeeeesh.
Though that statement is *not* true, this one is:
Post tripe like that to pages like this and reporters will laugh and
smirk at you.
||Ab, Just finished the book and as promised I have signed the cover and
passed it on, to another to read. I didn't learn much more from it that
I hadn't already got from the reports and my visits from those that were
there. I'll leave it at I liked "Young Men and Fire" better.
and your's have a good holiday season and a prosperous New Year!
I can't and won't comment on if the "Reporter" was out to get
and Blume, but if I had received and ACCEPTED a pay increase for my
actions during the '94 fire season I would not have a problem talking
with the "Reporter".
||Mark Sorenson, "I wish that everyone would support Mr
Macleam's book and build on it from personal
experience." The personal experience that can be
gained is that if you don't grant a reporter an
interview he/she will be out to get you. Ask
Robertson or Blume
||New helicopter photo on Guest 3 page: Lama
Whoops - just a little confusion here, The Type 1 *hotshot crew*
disbanded - it was the Type 1 *overhead team*. The IC and staff,
people at the top of the organization chart in the shift plan.
The Type 1
hotshot crews mentioned in the report did the right thing and didn't get
any trouble for it.
First off, don't worry about stirring the pot. That's how things
hashed out. You've got good questions.
Though only one person needs to screw up one of the 10 & 18 to put
at risk, the crew boss of the NPS crew wasn't the only one that strayed
outside of the 10 & 18 at the Sadler. Read the report - it tells
division supe, the branch chief, the ops chiefs, the plans chief, the
safety chief and the IC each made pretty serious mistakes. The
investigation team found that altogether those people broke all of the 10
and compromised 13 of the 18. That crew shouldn't have been doing what
were doing when they were doing it, and that wasn't just the fault of the
I'm not going to knock your source - if that person was on one of the
hotshot crews or the engines there at the safety zone that day, then what
you wrote would be an understandable interpretation of what your source
saw. But the thing is, the division supe and the superintendent of
the hotshot crews were the people that told me the hotshots declined the
assignment. If you read the report carefully, you can see how what
source saw fits in with what's written...but I'll go with what the
supe and hotshot supe told me. They were interviewed by the
team - just about all the overhead were.
the Lurker FMO
||This special season, as always, is a time for enjoying the company of
friends and loved ones. Let's continue into the New Year with the
to doing whatever we need to ensure that every firefighter goes home
safely from every assignment. We can glean the best from traditional
training, the latest research, Doug's CPS, investigation reports, and
MacLean's novel......and use that accumulated knowledge to reach our goal
safe assignment for all firefighters. Thanks to you "A"
for making this site available for continued dialogue. Wishing you
and all who visit this site
peace and joy.
Old fire guy.
||I just stumbled across the web site you have set up and would like to
nice job. It's the best set up to wildland fire I've seen I would like to
thanks and keep up the good work (noname)
Glad you found it and thanks for your encouragement. Ab.
||Apologies to all for the delay in posting, I recently installed a
firewall which caused some temporary interference with my ISP.
Things should be back to normal now. Ab
||I just discovered your web page and am very excited. As a 26 year vet of
wildland firefighting I am glad to see a forum like this. As for Fire On
The Mountain, I think that it is an excellent history book. Although
every question isn't answered, it gives a broad overview of what
happened and exposed some things that many of us might not have found
out. I have not read all of the letters yet, but it bothers me to read
some slamming John Maclean. He is a good journalist, but without
extensive wildland firefighting experience it would have taken many more
years to research everything he needed to know to give the complete
story. Even then I don't the complete story will ever come out. I wish
that everyone would support Mr Macleam's book and build on it from
||To Lurker FMO,
Thanks for clearing up a few things, but I still don't understand why a
1 shot crew was disbanded if they had nothing to do with the fire.
because they were smart and refused the assignment? I may be kicking
horse if this was already discussed here back when it happened, but I
recall it. Thanks for the info.
photo of a B-17 airtanker drop). . . taken in Arizona in 1979.
Just got off the engine this morning from driving Santa all over town
inticing the kids to come over to the station to get their picture and a
Hard to believe that it's December and winter here in Northern AZ.
The ground is dry, temps in the 60-70's during the day, and yes, fire
is between high and very high. Oh yes, our winter fire season in the
southwest always brings a hint of joy to me and my guys, especially for OT
and Chritmas just a week away.
Once again we are dealing with Mother Nature's ugly child, La Nina. If
computer models are correct and those guys in the weather office (who make
less $ than I do) are telling the truth, then we could expect another dry
winter and could expect a good season.
For those of you that are on furlough for the winter and still have the
bug in the system (ie, no job and not going to college this year) keep a
heads up for the Southwest. We have a good chance to keep things active
a while. A few local fire agencies will be hiring earlier than usual, and
our training programs will begin early January. For those who wouldn't
working as a reserve or partime firefighter in the souhtwest, let me know,
and I'll send you some information on local agencies. OPM has already
started posting for R-3.
AZ Trailblazer, FMO
||Good discussion going on. It is enlightening and if nothing
else, it sure
gives our fellow firefighters more awareness of fireline safety, certainly
edge over those that have been sacrificed.
To Lurker FMO: Yes, I admit some of the 10 and 18 were trashed,
but by an
overzealous, egotistical Crew Boss wanna-be, not anyone else that was
You wanted to know why I said the Sadler report was flawed.
because its not accurate, that's why. You don't see any
speculation in the
report? What do you call the analysis of the 10 & 18,
there was only 1 person who broke the rules? Who told you the
crews declined the assignment. I have it from a very accurate and
source that they were reluctant to commit because they're Supt's were not
with them at the moment and they had concerns about safety zones.
both those concerns were being addressed, both crews were diverted to a
another section of line. Does this sound like they declined?
Not in my
book. I think we're on the same side, just not on the same
To FMO & Maclean, I don't think it would have made any
Robertson had been there or not. Well it may have if he took
recon. Otherwise he wouldn't have seen anything different than
Speaking of aerial recon, yes Shepard and the Prineville Crew were
eyes, they were also the new kids on the block and its always difficult to
change plans already in place. Maybe if Shepard had not been denied
recon flight there might have been a happier ending to your story, John.
To firegirl, I appreciate your thoughts and comments, however, I can't
but think that if Maclean had shared his manuscript with anyone else
J.K. and his compatriots), possibly a hotshot or two, that the book would
a lot truer than it is, and would not be slanted so much towards our
that fall out of sky.
Hate to stir the pot, but can't help it.
||Ab, great comments on Maclean's book. I agree 100%!
To firegirl, why is it OK for Maclean to
"arm-chair-quarterback" fire and not OK to
"arm-chair-quarterback Maclean's...piece of work"?
Hotshots 50th Anniversary flier & Retirement Party for
"Supe" Mark Linane
I noticed on the discussion page that one participant said he
Fire on the Mountain at his local bookshop.
As a service, could you put a note in your discussion They Said
autographed copies of FOTM can be obtained through the Supply Cache,
Can and did. I purchased mine through amazon.com, here Fire
on the Mountain Ab.
That article in Firehouse.com is taken from a recently published AP
article. A few things were left out, but you can download the actual
report on the Sadler entrapment in Adobe format at:
The crew wasn't BLM - it was a Park Service Type 2 crew from
California. They were at a big fire on BLM land that was being run
a Great Basin Type 1 overhead team. Other than the fire being on BLM
land, BLM people weren't much involved with the events of the
Six members of the crew were overrun while backfiring a large
(+170,000 acre) fire near Elko NV. The rest of the crew was in a
nearby safety zone. Two hotshot crews had declined the assignment
because the line was not secured.
The AP article "paraphrased" a bit about the level of
report says, "There was a notable lack of experience on the (NPS)
crew, especially for the backfiring assignment....Of the 20
crewmembers, 17 were qualified only as firefighter (FFT2), and only
three were qualified as squad boss (FFT1). It was the first wildland
fire assignment for at least five of the crewmembers. No one on the
crew was highly experienced..."
The BLM field office manager (NOT the fire organization as reported)
at Elko was cited by OSHA, but there are no fines for the federal
government when cited by OSHA.
OSHA had a hard time deciding who should be cited - they considered
citing the overhead team members, but decided against that partially
because the team members were from several different states outside
that OSHA office's jurisdiction. OSHA considered citing the Great
Basin fire directors' board that is responsible for management and
oversight of the Type 1 teams, but those people don't have agency line
authority (agency line authority is people like district rangers,
field office managers, park superintendents, forest supervisors, state
directors, etc. - it doesn't have anything to do with fireline). So
OSHA ended up citing the manager of the local office - there's been
some discussion about if that was the right person, but OSHA generally
looks to hold the agency management responsible, rather than the
people working for them.
After the investigation, the Type 1 team was disbanded by the Great
Basin directors' board. The NPS has set standards limiting the
of inexperienced people on a Type 2 crew.
the Lurker FMO
||Ab, Dave, Doug Campbell--
Dave, Ab, what is S-290? Where can I go or who can I call to find out
I found some refs for Countryman, Rothermal, Albini, Burgan, and
your list, Dave. (For others who are interested, check out the references
of the articles at www.wildfiremagazine.com/safety.shtml). I'm starting to
through it. Pretty impressive science and seems like some of it provides
foundation for the CPM. But it seems to me IMHO that the CPM has the
of letting the firefighter facing the fire now have a logical, practiced,
communicable (ooooew, that sounds dangerous) approach to evaluating a
that might save her life.
Can't wait to visit the Intermountain Forest and Range Experimental
if they allow visitors.
To Doug Campbell--the term "flamomamanometer" (or whatever
it's spelling) put
me off a bit, too, when I read it; then I realized that you were probably
by a moment of whimsy (even at your age!). Personal stories and humor do
the "how to" and "why" science stuff more palatable.
Heading down to the Storm King memorial to hike the mountain with some
friends over vacation. Thanks for FOTM, Mr. Maclean. Thanks also for the
to refs that accompanied your post about FOTM, Ab.
Have a wonderful holiday everyone--
Mellie from Five Waters
||I guess Dave hasn't much of a sense of humor.
I lost 28 of my friends in predictable burnovers during my career.
me think that there was something more that needed developing. To
firefighterswho walked into Hell I dedicated my work. To those who
avoided the danger I take my hat off. They must know something worth
I found that the existing fire training could stand a little practical
so I wrote CPS. I made an offer to the Govt. to work on the ideas
service and they elected to pass.
The only way I could develop the course and book was to fund it myself.
initial investment I set the costs to recover the expense like any other
Does that bother you Dave?
The Ventura County Fire Dept. assisted me to that end. Since then
departments have adopted this training program into their training
Since 1995, 90% of 2500 students rated the course very useful. How
course evaluations of S-290 compare?
I am sure not everyone wants to look at things from a different angle and
Dave expressed his preferences loud and clear. That is OK with me.
Go ahead and confine your understanding of wildland fire to the
presentations within S-190, S-290 and so on.
CPS does not disagree with the course content of those courses.
It is just another take on how fire behavior was determined and the
were selected from the perspective of an old dog who accumulated a lot of
wildland fire experience. If you don't like that, fine.
While I don't know your circumstances here are a couple avenues you may
1) The Public Safety Officers' Benifits Act is compensation for in the
line of duty deaths and in 1999, paid $143,943 for the loss of life due
to a trumatic injury on the job. In 11/13/98, the act was ammended
also include Educational assistance. More info can be obtained by
calling the toll freee # 888-744-6513, or 800-688-4532. I also
recommend a word search @ usdoj.gov.
2) I believe in California there is a stipulation that survuving
children of a public safety officers, killed in the line of duty, are
entitled to a free education at a CA State University. I don't have
the specifics, just remember reading a couple months back about an air
tanker pilots son fighting to get it as his dad was a contractor not a
public safety officer, but I believe he ended up recieving it.
||Does anybody have the real story about an article that was posted on
Firehouse.com website on 15 Dec 99 about the BLM crew that was almost
overrun and the OSHA fines? The author said they were
inexpierenced...Is this true or was the author making suppositions?
||Well, it took me a while to think about John Maclean's reply to me about
the SC fire, and if he's going to leave the discussion I might be wasting
time, but I have a few thoughts.
Maclean's reply ignored my thought that the SC fire had some really
hands on scene and things might well have been so busy at the Grand
Junction office that Robertson may have been tending to legitimate
there. He also didn't give any reply when I asked him what reason he
to think that things might have gone differently if Robertson were there
(besides other fires on the district being neglected), especially given
expertise that was already on hand at the fire. I'd have liked those
things addressed, but I made the points to show that there were some
that Maclean didn't know about how things work.
And any fed that's ever given an award to an employee knows that it
be just about impossible give one to yourself. You'd have to forge
Maclean went on to accuse the Colorado BLM of stonewalling and hammered
them for stating that employees should not argue with him and should stay
on the high ground when responding to questions about his book. I
see anything to support the stonewalling accusation, but I don't think
a bad thing for the agency not to argue with him and to try to stay on
ground. There's nothing to be gained by arguing between Maclean and
BLM. I agree that it was appropriate that the state director and the
of BLM Colorado's fire program were both forced to retire after the SC
Maclean said that he wrote his book "for the Kathy Brinkleys of
not the Winslow Robertsons." I hope that my position that
suffered because he is unfamiliar with the way things work in the fire
world doesn't give the impression that I don't care deeply about the
victims of the SC fire and their counterparts across the country.
myself in my job to doing everything I can to prevent anything like the SC
fire from happening on my watch. But it doesn't do the victims (or
any good to pick a scapegoat in anger, based on speculation.
I would imagine that it's very frustrating to be deeply involved in a
project that is important to you and others, and yet find that some
possibly crucial information is withheld. But in this case, I don't
right to speculate that there are malicious or suspicious reasons that
Robertson wouldn't talk with Maclean. I can think of a number of
that Robertson might have felt he didn't want to talk any more; he's been
through a lot. He'd lost friends at that fire, he'd been heavily
scrutinized by the BLM, OSHA, his peers, his subordinates and himself.
may not have had a reason to think that there was anything to gain from
talking with Maclean. Maclean himself observed that Robertson is
be quiet and reserved. Maybe this is a cheap shot, but in
"Young Men and
Fire" Wag Dodge's reticence wasn't held against him.
I believe I've seen some speculation in Maclean's book and his posts to
this site, and I also think that Maclean seems angry at Robertson.
sure that Maclean would have been impartial if Roberston had spoken to
As I said before, that doesn't take away from the many, many fine and
accurate writings in "Fire on the Mountain." I guess I'd
just like readers
to keep an open mind, and remember that understanding what happened is a
difficult and complicated process - the SC fire was a difficult and
Wish that had been shorter,
the Lurker FMO
||can you tell me where i could recieve survivor benifits info. my
daughters father was a smokejumper and were estranged , she wants to go to
are there any funds set up for her aid. he had no life insurance or will
set up. thank you , M
Survivor's benefits depend on several issues and I'm not really
qualified to answer many of them, but here is the official Office of
Personnel Management's benefits site http://www.opm.gov/asd/index.htm.
I'm not aware of any separate funding established outside an individual's
retirement program. Here's a link to the US Fire and Aviation
Management page which has several smokejumper sites, http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/infodir.shtml.
You may also contact the personnel department of the Forest he last
worked, an index of Forests may be found here, http://www.fs.fed.us/links/forests.shtml.
||The Top Ten reasons why there is questionable science involved in the
Campbell Prediction System.
10. “ The sunlit fuels give off steam as they heat.”
9. “ they (firefighters) think that the fuel is not
changing flammability hour by
hour, and is not of varied flammability.”
8. “ The conversion of thermal energy in the atmosphere to
other forms of energy,
7. “ The fuel flammability varies over terrain, but the humidity is
6. “ Fuel temperature is as measurable as air,”
5. “ I have … written a fire behavior language.”
4. “ …on a fuels-type fire, it is quickly evident that the
topography and weather are secondary factors.” “ Wind forecasts are
important because a change in wind will dictate the direction of spread
and spotting distance.”
3. “(he) took temperature and humidity readings each hour logging
them in his notebook. He was looking for a correlation between the
humidity readings and the fire’s extreme behavior. He deduced that when
the humidity readings were in the teens, the fire behavior could become
On the other hand , I was looking for the time and aspect
relationship, trying to find the time and aspect when the fire became
2. “The smokes had increased as the peak burning period for the day
approached. I remember thinking , ‘ I bet the humidity hasn’t changed
much. ‘ “
And the number one reason CPS has questionable science is one word,
I have no doubts that Mr. Campbell knows his fire behavior. But
it is not new, nor is there a need for a confusing , confounding language
(unless you are trying to sell something) these ideas and languages are
covered in publications by bonafide research scientists. I invite
anyone out there to study Clive Countryman’s work, Richard Rothermal’s
work, Frank Albini’s work, or Jack Dieterich, Steve Sackett, Bob Mutch,
Bob Burgan, Deming, Cohen, Andrews, Bradshaw, the list goes on and on and
I regret I can’t recall them all.
Look at S-190, S-290, Look up, Look Down, Look Around etc. There is
already in place a way to communicate fire behavior changes, to determine
which slopes and aspects will burn the hottest and when they will.
My thanks to Mr. Campbell for his insights but I will stick to nationally
accepted terminology and prediction systems.
I haven't had a chance to read Mr Maclean's book,I would that I can
find it here in my area soon so that I might. I would like to
comments and add that with all the commentary that this has gotten(both
good and bad)it will make everyone think about their safety.If this saves
one life it is worth all the attention it gets.
As always,I would like to praise your site and say that I commend you
on the way that you try to keep it fair and openminded whether the
are good or bad.
Everyone please have a safe and happy holiday let's remember those that
have gone before us and the brothers that are still here having to deal
I just read your thoughts of "Fire on the Mountain" and found on
points you are right in my ever so humble opinion. As the book points
out there were mistakes made at every level on the incident, from those
on the line, who lost their lives for their mistakes to upper management
of the incident who have to live with the outcome of those mistakes
everyday of their life. I hope that we all do not have the need to point
fingers and place blame in one direction, there were numerous mistakes
made and no one person can accept the full blame. Bringing these
mistakes to light can prove to avert a tragedy in the future by placing
the ultimate responsibility for safety on each and everyone of us,
it on the line or in a position in overhead. We all play a vital part in
the safety of ourselves and everyone else on a incident.
For my second thought on your review my opinion differs from yours. To
attack the author for writing the book is wrong. At no time did the
author say that he was a authority on fire but instead stated that he
relied on the help of people that were either involved at the incident
or had a background in the fire field. He did offer his opinions on
certain matters but guess what, its his book and in so, he took the time
to research, and to find out what facts he could and deserves to stae
his own thoughts. The entire story will never be told because one can
only speculate what happened in those final moments. The only ones that
can tell the entire story are gone and there will always be questions
that we can only speculate about. The fact that it has drawn so many
different responses to your commentary speaks for itself.
NO, its not the final answer to all the questions evolving from the
tragedy but it has sparked many folks to take a look again at what
happened and my hope is that in the future it will be the catalyst for
folks to engage their minds before taking on assignments that go
directly against their training. Lets face it, at one time or another if
one fights enough fires, eat enough smoke, we all will undoubtedly find
ourselves going against what we have been taught. Yes, we all know that
we should not do it but to say that we have not taken on assignments
that went against one aspect of our training or another would be a
misrepresentation of facts and a lie to ourselves.
I applaud you for your remarks and thoughts regarding this subject. I
also applaud Mr. Maclean's book, his research and time spent to offer
some more pieces of the puzzle. The final word from myself on this book
and the remarks that it has brought about would be this. "Anything
is written that brings attention to the safety of firefighters is worth
its weight in gold!" It has done just that and in turn I hope that
everyone including myself thinks before going against what we have been
My only hope is that there is never another need for such a book
for that to happen would mean that more folks will have lost their
lives. I certainly hope that lessons will be learned and that future
tragedies can be averted by all of us continuing to train, practice what
we have been taught and that we never forget those that have lost their
Happy holidays to all and trust yourselves folks, its the one constant
that we can rely on, ourselves and our gut instincts. If it does not
look safe it probably isn't.
||Ab, my apologies if I've offended you with my remarks about the scanner.
My intentions were good, however the one-liner was obviously
misunderstood. Apparently, I should put more consideration into presenting
my 'serious' side, rather than attempting to humor you which
was my original intent. The scanner works fine, I've not had an inkling of
a problem; I'm a happy customer and now an owner (for the
second time) of a quality scanner. Lighten-up.
Thanks for the clarification. Ab.
||we just looked at your webpage. looks great.
Hey there rope people. Don't wear out your welcome now, hear?
||For dave..in a mesage 12/6 you stated :. "CPS is seat of the
pants and although a good tool has some questionable science behind
it." Was just
wondering what you are refering to in questionable science?
For John Maclean (and yea, I had to go back and check the
spelling!) Thanks for taking the time to comment here. No matter who, how
or if parts of
the government improves safety practices, at least I for one have
definitly improved my line safety awareness.
Ab, ...my copy of FotM I purchased is now on to its 4th reader.
||To Dave and Wp, I need to clarify some things so I'm not here under
Mellie is my real name, I am a woman, and Five Waters is the location
ranch on the New River (downriver from Denny CA). I am not a firefighter
you are. I did not have a crew leader to rely on to read the signature of
fire I fought. However, I feel a kinship with you who fight fire as your
calling. I have a strong commitment to firefighter safety. I also have a
to understand your situation to better understand the changes I have gone
since August. I, like some 8,000 of you, participated in suppression of
Onion/Megram fires. (Map at firegirl's link.) I was in its smoke for 73
most of it alone, except for my scanner and the firefighter friends I came
know and love. Again, I want to say thanks to you all.
The Big Bar Fires started on Aug 23 as a result of lightening. The
burned down Big Mountain (that overlooks our valley) to New River on Five
eastern boundary. It was always smoky. The Sacramento Hotshots from NM
burnout operations on Sept 6 that came onto our land on the eastern side
the river. As it turned out, that containment line of the Onion held and
Over the next weeks, the Fawn and the Megram burned together in the
Wilderness just north of Denny. Base camp for the complex was at Big Bar.
spike camp had been set up in Denny and then another camp was established
Orleans. (Later there would also be camps at the Hoopa Reservation and
Creek). Containment lines at Quimby Creek near Denny held for quite
But the fire, one that was mostly fuel-dominated and burning under an
continued to grow to the north, the northeast (site of the '87 Klamath
and northwest near Orleans on the Salmon River. Because of the inversion,
was almost as active at night as during the day.
On Sept 27, Denny spike camp was closed. Shots, crews, and equipment
to Groves Prairie and Grizzly Camp to be nearer to the blowdown on
Backbone. Others went to Burnt Ranch on the Trinity River and to Orleans
the north side. Late that afternoon, the Megram fire (now to the north of
Waters) blew up into the blowdown and spotted, some spots flying 2.5 miles
to the west into Horse Linto Creek and Tish Tang drainages. Scary
Grizzly Camp at the wilderness edge was evacuated. Groves Prairie was
in the middle of the night and a Hoopa man died from cardiac arrest. That
the fire's new and dangerous spread west and south into extremely wild and
country. My concerns for my friends' safety were heightened when the IAP's
to contain messages that the glue in fire shelter seams could ignite at
high temperatures. The message was clear--firefighters should not rely on
shelters, except as a last resort.
On Oct 6 we had a quarter of an inch of rain, and some thought the end
fire was near. Often by this time of year, the winter storm pattern has
with its drenching deluge. Many firefighters were demobed, including Larry
our Branch Super who had been with us residents since the beginning and
taught us all a lot about this fire and how people stay safe. On Oct 16
days of drying, we had another wind event. The fire came over Happy Camp
ridge, jumping the containment line at DP16 and into Five Waters
from the west. At this time, firefighters and resources were scarce, as
had been called up to Redding to fight the fast-moving fires there. A
friend who was a single mom died at that fire. I still find myself in
when I think of her young daughters growing up without her guidance. Then
think of the Colorado Interagency Crew who didn't know her but immediately
out a can for donations to help her family with expenses. The
of your fire family is moving.
At that time, not just the fire, but the whole situation felt
out-of-control-and ripe for more deaths. My brother came for 2 days to
mark off dozer lines that were made down our ridgetop (from DP49). Within
the first arms of fire backed down Bell Creek to the Denny Road, which had
the final containment line. Fire was encircling us. Our mailbox is the
where my brother and I fought fire for some hours one evening, as I
in the first post I made to this website.
Some of us residents called Larry Wright at home. He came back the next
Feelings of death receded, but the danger was still there. For a while,
situation was even more taxing as the fire backed down to the Denny Road
its 15-mile length, from DP47 (the "Onion Saddle"). Larry, Brian
Division super) and most of the firefighters (and camp crew) didn't get
sleep those days. Many worked round the clock. The 16 men and women
Strike Team with Ron Armstrong and engine 5771 from Klamath) who slept on
floors came in at midnight or one, if they were lucky, and were up and
by 5:30 in the frost and smoke. Some nights they brought home strays or
come back at all. One engine was decommissioned and another damaged in a
at Panther Slide before the road was closed above and below our mailbox.
engine stayed on duty all night to make sure the road stayed closed and
stayed safe. That night we had new people-those cut off short of Denny
by the road closures. I finally understood watchout 18, the one that had
so silly when I first read it--about taking a nap near the fireline. When
fireline is everywhere around, you don't sleep or nap, and you're
As you all know with your fire stories, this one goes on and on. Branch
hotshots hooking a slopover onto our driveway, fire heading for the
community of Hawkins Bar, experiences at Willow Camp with Team 3 after the
fire camp at Pooky on the reservation. BAER team efforts interspersed with
And then there's the end of the fire and trying to reintegrate one's
family, work, and the non-fire world. There's the edginess, the fire
the recall of the emotion I never felt before and don't want to forget,
the trivia that everyone else seems to think is important.
I walked through the mall last weekend and didn't have a fire thought
least 6 minutes. Making progress…
Thanks for the website, AB.
Mellie from Five Waters
PS To work off the edginess, I'm putting together a photoarchive
of the fire.
If you have some special photos and/or a story, e-mail me at
||I have not visited the site in the past few weeks and just took the time
catch up. Interesting discussion of MacLeans book, I will have to
But I saw a comment from 5 Waters Mellie that just got me going. In
(His?) posting of 12-5, Watch Out #13, she/he takes a shot at logistics at
getting food to a spike camp late. Yes, I know it happens, but from
has worked both ends of the fire, I can tell you that sometimes just
food to a spike camp is a major feat in it self. If you want a hot
the same time each night, then carry an MRE with a heater or find another
I was at Big Bar with the first team in, and for those on the line it
of seemed like every thing worked like it was supposed to. But I
you it took people working 18 hours a day and only getting paid for 16 to
make it happen. For all you ground ponders out there that think the
in camp have an easy time, think again. While all you have to do is
your shift and get a meal, shower and some rest. It takes a 24 hour
operation to make it happen. When I work a camp job I cover more miles in
camp then I would do on the line. Most camp folks work 16 hour days
longer, when you are sleeping we are working. We are up to make sure
kitchen will have breakfast at 0430, and the hot cans are ready at 0300 so
can get the trucks loaded and out. We are up till 2300 to 2400 to
that tomorrow's supply order is ready when you are. I could go on
and on, I
could tell you how it was in the "old days" but won't, but I
will say that
the way fires are managed today , the food and facilities provided are
greatly improved. I do not want to go back to the "good old
I do want to say that the food at Big Bar, for at least the first three
weeks, was consistently the poorest I have ever experienced in my 20 plus
years of fire fighting! I did express my opinion to the log chief
once but it did not help much.
||To Lurker FMO
Your informed speculation may be an adequate answer as to why
Robertson failed to go to the fire on July 6; the IC, Butch Blanco, was on
the fire and there were plenty of "fresh eyes" around, notably
Tom Shepard. I
have tried to check out this matter myself and have only speculation as an
alternative; I won't offer it because I can't prove it.
But it is a good question, one I would have liked to have discussed
Robertson. In one of his interviews with OSHA, Pete Blume was asked about
general practice in the Grand Junction district of an FMO visiting fires.
Blume replied that in past years he always went to fires of 10 acres or
himself to see if the IC was having problems, and to acquaint himself with
the general situation (FOTM, p. 157). During the 1994 sason, Blume was too
busy to go. Fair enough. (FMO: You refer to my estimate that by July 6 the
district had many troublesome fires; I would note as well the more
analysis earlier in the book, pps.20-21, showing that the number of real
fires on the district was a handful, nothing like the 40 later claimed by
So why didn't Robertson go to the fire if Blume was tied up? If
simple answer, why don't we have it from Robertson, and under
where he could be questioned on that and other matters?
Let's broaden the discussion for a moment so we don't get hung up
The general conduct of the BLM on this fire was sufficiently awful
Moore, Colorado state director for the BLM, was forced to retire as a
consequence: that's a solid fact (FOTM, pps. 225-6). Blume and Robertson,
the contrary, received pay raises and a congratulatory memo in public --
memo, FMO, was signed by Blume, among others, undermining your argument
Blume and Robertson simply had money and glory thrust upon them.
The Colorado BLM has refused comment on any factual matter
book including the disparity between the treatment of Moore and the two
others, and instructed its personnel not to comment (Blume, to his credit,
has taken several reporters' telephone calls).
Many people made mistakes on this fire. Some died for their errors;
sat down afterward and went over what happened with me, not an easy task.
Telling the story makes a difference.
"I don't think there's such a thing as healing," Kathy
Brinkley said five
years after the death of her son, Levi, on Storm King. "I think you
learn to live with it ... You think of it every day, but it's not that
gut-wrenching deal it was at first. It's there all the time. It's always
the back of your mind.
"For us, if they would have come out and said, 'We really
screwed up and
made a mistake; we shouldn't have done this; it was our fault.' We would
been able to go on a lot easier. But you know the government."
That's the difference: it would be easier for people to move on.
While some within the BLM took the consequences of their
Tyler and Butch Blanco come to mind), the Colorado state office of the BLM
decided in early August of this year, before my book was printed let alone
put on bookstore shelves, to stonewall it. They sent memos around accusing
the book of being nothing but "insinuations ... allegations ...
and instructed BLM personnel not to answer questions about it.
Barb Perkins, author of at least one of the memos, has been
quoted in the
Glenwood Post as saying the BLM learned about the contents of the book
"through the grapevine."
"We are aware the book names specific people and makes
insinuations/assumptions that are his opinion," one of the memos with
name on it said . "We do not want to get into the trenchs [sic]
him about his opinions and want to stay on high ground in responding to
questions about his book."
If I had a similar "grapevine standard" for Fire on the
Mountain, the book
would be in trash cans and law courts. Similar exercises in stonewalling
big-name cases like Waco and Ruby Ridge have led to unpleasant
for the federal government -- a loss of credibility, as Kathy Brinkley's
remarks show, and violent rage. I' m not violent, but I'm mad as hell.
I wrote Fire on the Mountain for the Kathy Brinkleys of the world,
FMO and Mike: I appreciate the remarks that you have addressed to
me, and I
have tried to take them in the serious manner they were offered. Now I'm
going to leave the discussion on this website to you and the others, at
for a while. You will make the difference as to whether the lessons of the
South Canyon fire save lives.
Sincerely, John N. Maclean
||The first thing I would like to bring up today is that we should all
moment of silence for the 6 firefighters in Worchester , Mass . The
I understand it is they were told they were homeless people living in the
warehouse and 2 went in for search and rescue, at some point the mission
went bad and they radioed out for help and the next 4 went in to help,
moments later the floors collapsed. The warehouse was a total loss
I'm sure it will be a while before any recoveries can be made. The
entire firefighting community feels your loss, our thoughts are with you.
1. yes the guvmint at any level , federal, state, county or city all have
own agendas and priorities and occasionally they don't include
safety. Firefighting is inherently dangerous enough without politics
2,3,4,5 you are correct.
6. People in operations tend to be hardheaded and whether we are going
west to east, or east to west there are different styles, priorities,
levels, being or becoming familiar with terrain and fuels and
weather at the
local level. " We don't do it that way here"
7,8 Some folks have an idea that that won't happen to me or anyone on
my shift, and as a result put tasks and timelines over the importance of
9. You have to use the right tool for the right job. Farsite is cool as
suggest but its uses are for long range fire predictions in basically a
beneficial natural fire scenario,' how long can we let this fire burn
before it reaches a boundary '. CPS is seat of the pants and
good tool has some questionable science behind it. Yellow meter and
shadow meter, OK. As you learn more about fire behavior and its
prediction you need to constantly monitor the fire behavior triangle to
assess when and where fires will grow. As to when to use the escape
routes and safety zones this can be communicated to you by the LCES
process . The lookouts could call you and tell you the fire is making a
at your position get to the safety zone, or you may see the smoke column
turning black and bending your way, the warning may come from air
attack or it may come from your gut. On the Butte fire in 1985 (70+
shelter deployments) several crews got to the safety zone when humidities
dropped below 21 percent.
Mellie, hopefully your crew leader has developed a sense for fire
by all means develope yours. It takes training, it takes experience
takes a commitment to
||Hello and Hi, This being my first year in fire was the best summer I
ever had. About a month before I reported to work I read MacLeans
book and kind
of freaked myself out. A couple of weeks into the season we as a
crew were given a synopsis of the south canyon incident. It was
stressed to us that
at any time should we feel that the situation was too unsafe that it was
ok to voice our opinions or refuse the assignment. I was blessed
with a kick
ass crew boss and did not once feel unsafe. It is to my CB's credit
and those who trained him that I want to be a career wildland firefighter.
there will be close calls but Watchout and Fire Orders are always in my
mind. I think that I worked for some of the best overhead the whole
long. I'm really trying to say that overhead like any other pool of
people will have the odd bad appple, and I was fortunete not to get any of
way thanks for having this page and if you can tell a guy named Dutt from
STF R-5 that he did a kick ass job. thank you ps I diddn't spell
||It hasn't been a banner headline on the national news, but 6 Mass.
firefighters lost their lives in a warehouse fire on Friday. Four
all in a search and rescue attempt when two of the brethren called for
||Abercrombie- more questions
What is IHMO?
These translations and questions are especially for Dave if he is
Good one about the camel.
So is this what the 13 watchouts mean in non-fire language?-
1. Politics entering into command decisions. (This might be a watchout,
might happen if the IC Team/US govt has to interact with another sovereign
such as with an Indian reservation. Does it happen in other cases?)
2-4. You're briefed on a plan then the line officer changes that or ops
that or you (and others) don't have a record of the plan.
5. Division super doesn't know what's going on first hand.
6. (Significant part of Operations overhead is two time zones or
Does this mean that Ops comes from a region that is so far from the fire
he or she doesn't know the territory? Or does it mean that Ops is located
other than incident command base leading to potential communication
If it's the first, is this a problem? I know, Ab, that you've said it
to have shots and crews experienced in the local terrain. I guess that
apply to overhead, as well.
7-8. (Your assignment includes obvious fireline "Watch Out!"
are not addressed during briefing. Your questions about how Standard Fire
can be observed in your assignment are answered in terms of important
tasks or timelines instead of firefighter safety.)
I never experienced these on the Denny side of the Megram. We really got
sense of safety coming from the top down.
But yeah, if these actually are true sometime, a cynic might think that,
those cases, the 10 and 18 exist so as to have something to point to in
to blame firefighters and avoid tort in the case of a screw-up or
9. I still don't understand how you know exactly where escape routes
zones should be if you don't know how the fire is going to behave--like
rate of spread and direction. I mean, Farsite is cool, but doesn't predict
fire activity on the ground during the course of a day except in a general
does it? And when do you decide to escape? Is there any other system
CPS that lets fire fighters evaluate fire behavior to determine these
I'd appreciate any references or links to alternatives…
10. Should this one bother us-except that training processes in unknown
11. Scary, a leader with no plan!
Thanks in advance for any insights,
Mellie from Five Waters
IMHO is an acronym for "in my humble opinion", there are
many more in use, mainly in the newsgroups. BTW, as another example
is "by the way". Here's a pretty good glossary which
contains the most common: http://www2.wave.co.nz/~douaine/glossary.htm
||Thanks for the 13 Overhead Watchout Situations, Dave (and Dean).
I have 12 and 13! I'll ask some questions about some of the other ones
12. The ops officer tells your night branch and division super (who
the day branch and day super all day long as the fire backs down to the
in many places) to be sure and get some sleep! (Now, isn't he supposed to
the one to assign overhead for the night shift?)
13.Logistics gets food to Spike Camp 2 hours late, resulting in the
being 2 to 3 hours late for shift change. In the meantime, residents fight
at their mailbox… (In hindsight, I'm glad we had the experience. Of
if I were dead, I might feel differently! Or not…feel.)
REGARDING THE DIALOG
I am still here-lurking and watching the current fireworks. PHEW!
I commend YOU ALL for the dialog. It's clear that you all care for each
and are passionate about what you think and do.
John Maclean, I thank you for bringing your father's book to press and
you for Fire on the Mountain. Many people I know were hurting because
had died. You opened the door to the current dialog, which, in spite of
fiery character, seems healing.
Abercrombie, THANK YOU for the forum. I REALLY like your writing, even
is a little less than PC at times! My emotions in reading this stuff have
between "Wow, this fire will help the woods" to "Shit, here
comes another snag
It's clear that participants in this dialog speak with the integrity of
experiences and understanding. Such a process can only illuminate the dark
for all of us. I feel honored to be allowed to lurk! Or speak! as the case
Mellie from Five Waters
I don't know if I would fit your definition of a fire expert, but I'll
a crack at your questions. I can think of a few reasons why
wasn't at the scene of the SC fire - but keep in mind that these reasons
are supposition...as are any faults on Robertson's part that you might
surmise. Neither of us has talked to Robertson about it - which is a
pertinent point if we are going to try and arm-chair quarterback about
he was thinking.
One thought that comes to mind is that Robertson wasn't the IC - Blanco
was, and Robertson may have had faith and trust in Blanco to handle the
fire. As you know, that SC fire wasn't the only one on the district.
because it was the number one priority doesn't mean it gets all the
attention - the other fires can't go without any attention. The
the radio, and Robertson's bosses (the FMO and the line managers) are
and perhaps they needed some of Robertson's time. I don't know that
happened, but for instance, the district manager may have wanted a
on the district-wide situation, or the FMO may have asked Robertson
stay there to coordinate the needs and resources between all the fires.
A fire staff member can't be everywhere on their turf during a bust
Grand Junction was undergoing at the time. That's why fires have ICs
oversee the fireline operations for the fire staff.
We have the luxury of hindsight to know how the day turned out, but no
I've talked with (and I've talked with a lot of those people) expected the
fire behavior that occurred. Whether people should have expected it
is a different topic that we can address if you want (and I'd like to).
But since no one expected it, I can see how Robertson may have been
into the office trying to sort out and deal with the millions of
coordinational and operational problems that existed on the Grand Junction
district at that time. From your book: "There were plenty of
troublesome fires on (Grand Junction) district on July 5,..." A total
thirty-six. Fire staff like Blume and Robertson are responsible for
those fires, not just the number one priority. I happen to think
erred big-time in not having ordered enough managerial-type help, but your
(condescending and presumptuous) question was "what was so
You mentioned that the fire "needed a fresh pair of eyes."
On the day of
the disaster, the Prineville Hotshots and a second load of jumpers arrived
at the fire. 28 fresh pairs of eyes - how much fresher can it get?
hotshot superintendent is generally acknowledged to be an astute fire
The jumper load had a spotter, who is virtually always a very experienced
and fire-savvy person (and that one was - you can take my word). The
spotter can be (and usually is) asked to stay over the fire and size it up
from the air for the troops. My point is that there was a LOT of
on scene at the fire, and Robertson may have felt that with all that fire
savvy there, he could attend to the nagging details that were undoubtably
hounding him in the office.
Look at it this way, there was a well-regarded Type 3 IC, two loads of
jumpers, a local helitack crew, and a hotshot crew on scene. If I
Robertson's place and wasn't expecting highly unusual fire behavior that
day, I can see how I would think that a roughly 125 acre fire had some
capable people with good fire skills looking after it. Given all
what reason do you have to think that Robertson would have had things done
any differenly if he were at the fire (besides neglecting all the other
fires on the district)? Hindsight is 20-20.
As to the awards, you might keep in mind that Blume and Robertson
give themselves the awards - the district management did. I agree
that Robertson and Blume made mistakes, but as I pointed out in an earlier
post, your lack of understanding of how things work in the fire world has
hurt your assessment of responsibilty and blame. And the tone of
questions about Robertson and Blume lead me to confirm my earlier
observation that you're looking for an easy focus to the blame.
also feel that doesn't invalidate your entire book - I thought it held
very fine insights and I appreciate the work you put into it. I tell
everyone I know to read it - I just think you got a few things wrong.
For the record, I strongly believe in accountability at fires...for
everyone. Scapegoating someone does not achieve accountability if
responsibility is overlooked.
||I've been following the dialogue on the J. Maclean book versus real life
firefighting and it got me thinking about the past.
The first wildland fire I fought as a rookie firefighter a young man
was killed. It was on the Logwood Fire on the Los Padres NF in July
or August of
1973. His name was Danny Himes (sp). He died as the result of
a terrible fall off a side slope down into Logwood Creek. He landed
hard on the rocks
in the creek and sustained major head trauma. That same night, I was
struck in the right leg by rolling rocks which put me out on medical for
weeks. I've carried that with me for 26 years. I've often, and
I mean often, thought about Danny. When I enter retirement, I plan
to propose a
memorial to Danny and the Logwood Fire. Even if I make something and
pack it in, I'll know he's remembered.
I applaud both Ab and J. Maclean for the guts to ask why.
||Hi Ab, I can't believe it, you sucker me into buying your scanner (and
at a great price!) and you don't even link my page to yours?
A few questions and thoughts:
1--I didn't read your review of Macleans book and I'm not really
inclined too either. Why not? I'm not interested in hearing someone
arm-chair-quarterback Macleans great piece of work. He did his homework. I
can say that because I recall countless phone calls from a
great friend of mine (J.K.), who was reading Maclean's manuscript and
assisting in all the ways he could, even meeting with John in DC on
several occasions. JK was almost as enthralled with the prospect of a
quality, well planned and written book as possibly Maclean himself,
and he was only one of many, many individuals and groups that Maclean
interviewed or seeked out for quality input. Having spent most of
his career in various aspects of Fire Mgmt. from the ground-pounding
jumper level and up the ranks, JK knows what he's talking about, and
was one of us unfortunate brothers and sisters to lose a close friend on
that mountain. We demanded answers. Logical,
as-true-as-can-be-expected, un-bureaucratically censored answers, and
Maclean set out to do just that. My hat is off to this man for
dedicating 5 years of his life, and his families life, for making an
honest acceptance of our unspoken challenge for answers. Sometimes,
IMHO, there are certain things in life that just aren't worth criticizing
or trashing, and Macleans book is a piece of work that I don't intend to
question. Sure, I have my opinions on some of the text, and there are
issues that were not addressed in the book that I would have liked to
gain more knowledge of, but given the dedication and commitment put forth
in Macleans work, I would much rather sit down with a relaxing
cheap glass of wine and read a good book rather than spend my evening
pouring through the pages in hopes to find an error or
2--I would like to hear more about the age 55 issue for arduous redcard
qualification in the DOI, anyone have any more information on this
subject? I work with someone although for a different agency, who has an
arduous qualification on his redcard, and he's 56 and in great
cheers and happy holidays! (((((:))))) firegirl
Yer buying the scanner wasn't linked to my adding your link.
But here it is. . . www.firegirl.net
and a permanent link is also been added to the links page. Is there
something wrong with the scanner? The word "sucker" infers
to me that ya don't like it. If so, ship it back and I'll refund
your money. Ab.
||Here's a serious but lighthearted view of some additional Situations
watch out. New
Here is an anecdote for Mellie from Five Waters:
Do you know what a camel is ?
It's a horse put together by a committee.
Thank you for your note.
I hope when you do read Fire on the Mountain you will see that the
for the fatalities, as described in the book, are many -- a long line of
errors, no one of which can be blamed directly for the deaths. It is a
fact that the majority of the fatalities -- 12 of the 14 -- could have
avoided as late as the time of the blowup on July 6 if the crew on the
flank fireline had realized how much danger they were in at that moment.
Eric Hipke, the only survivor from that group, says they
thought the fire
was going to cross Hell's Gate Ridge behind them; only as they retreated
along the west flank line did awareness gradually come that the fire was
chasing them. One man, Rob Johnson, died with his chain saw in his hand.
I still find it sickening that Pete Blume and Winslow
pay raises and a congratulatory memo, all done in public, for their role
that summer's fire season. Those actions are quite a message to send the
families and loved ones of the dead. Blume and Robertson made their share
mistakes, some of which have never been explained.
Let me ask all you fire experts out there, as one example,
Why was Winslow
Robertson in the Grand Junction district office on July 6 until the fire
up in late afternoon? Why didn't he visit the scene of the district's No.
priority fire, which he had looked at on July 3 and declared to be no
problem? Isn't that supposed to be an embarrassing situation for
experts, having a fire that was declared no problem come back to life, big
enough to be a No. 1 priority?
That fire badly needed a fresh pair of eyes. What was so
the district office on July 6?
Thanks again, Mike, for your polite interest.
Sincerely, John N. Maclean
||Ab, ok, Ive stopped laughing at all the flack youre getting about
the mclean remarks..you knew it was coming! *L* ..oh well, everyone is
My point here is that..THE positive thing here is to get folks to talk
about incidents like this. To give folks the knowledge and confidence that
can say no if they feel a tactic or situation is unsafe.
Today, I completed the new training package "lessons
learned". This is an excellent course and reccomend it to
everyone. The point is not to finger
point or find fault in an individual or agency, but to learn from their
mistakes. One comment from the class makes me wonder. While
his opinion was
not what is ment by the common phrase, too often I believe it is the case.
The public demands and expects alot from firefighters (or any emergency
service personnel for that matter) ...so, why is it that we say that they
were trained to the "minimum standards" or that all new
employees will be
trained to the "minimum" standards.
There has been much discussion in the past on the difficulty (amoung
other things) of getting more advanced training. To say that cost is the
is a cop out (to me anyway). Why should there be any "fee"
associated with a training session aside from fixed costs for books or
etc? If there is a demand for a class, let more folks attend or put
on another session! If its a travel distance problem, put it on
locally! It always amazes
me that when I put on a formal class and ask around to other agencies to
see if they have people who want to attend that I get a look of disbelief
I tell them there is no cost except for meals or lodging for their
||Whoo! Are we having fun now?
To Kelly: While you're right that a person doesn't need to know
just to write a book, I would expect someone that called their book
True Story of the South Canyon Fire" to know an awful lot about fire
at least enough so that they could understand and analyze complex events
that took place. Isn't knowledge the basis of truth?
Maybe Ab didn't write a book, but that doesn't mean he can't criticize
I'd say that anyone that believes that an author is uninformed doesn't
to write a book before they say so. I don't mean to put words in
mouth, but I think he was just saying that Maclean didn't know enough
how things work in the fire world to write a book about "the
truth" on it.
For what it's worth I agree with Ab. Maclean's strength might be
journalism like you say, but when he writes about fire (especially what he
wrote), he should know more about fire. IMHO.
Now, on to Spencer: In the Sadler Report, it tells how all
10 Fire Orders
were broken and 13 of the 18 Situations were compromised. Shelters
pulled, six people were trapped and treated at a hospital for smoke
inhalation, and three of them were kept overnight - two with second degree
burns. If that isn't "trashed," what is? I have
talked with people that
were there, and that's what they said. What did you see that was
from what those people saw?
I know the people that did the report and I don't believe there's any
speculation in it. Let us know if you have something to back up your
allegation. I'm also interested why you call the report
"flawed." As far
as "one-sided" all the overhead were interviewed as well as the
||To: John N. Maclean
(I) Read your dad's book- nice piece of writing. Great
not much in the way of relevance to today's fire management context.
With the exception of the safety factors which kill firefighters -which
pretty much timeless.
The firefighters and the society of the 1940's were a bit different from
I haven't had a chance to read your book, so I will have to cough up some
and get it.
In my ignorance I will have to say that I hope that we can avoid the
that mere bureaucracy kills firefighters. Bureaucracy is as much a
part of the wildland fire
environment as weather and topography.
It is the responsibility of every firefighter to read the bureaucracy as
would all the other factors which make up the fire environment.
Until each of us
take some responsibility for our own safety, books will continue to be
about tragedies which could have been avoided.
||There is certainly an abundance of thought provoking comments and ideas
flow from your discussion forum. most of them positive. I am
the knowledge and attitude your responders exhibit and I appreciate your
effort in hosting this discussion medium. However, with some of the
discussion I've seen here recently, I'm compelled to comment on what I
to as "gutter talk by Monday morning quarterbacks". In
regards to the South
Canyon Investigation Report, Macleans book "Fire on the
Mountain", and the
Sadler Incident Investigation Report, I offer this advice. Don't
everything you read. I'm not prepared to comment at length but I
this. To call Maclean's book "The True Story of the South
Canyon Fire" is an
equivocation. Granted, the storyline is fairly representative of
happened but many of the details and inferences are simply not true or are
misleading. As for the Sadler Investigation report and the Lurker
comments I am totally appalled. First of all, the 10 & 18 were
by any means. Ask anyone that was there (I was). The report is
flawed, absolutely one sided, and was wrought by sheer speculation.
I've offered you folks out there my advice. Its up to you
where the truth lies.
Spencer, my friend, your message is why I'm here. Cut the
bullshit, lies, and half-truths. Me and the folks here write about
what we see and what we hear. What we are looking for is the truth.
Tell it like you saw it, if you were there. Ab.
||Good thoughts of yours on the South Canyon tragedy. Some folks may
wonder how a
person can refuse an assignment on a fire. But I will tell you that
every firefighter out
there has the right to a safe assignment and you should not have to
worry about any consequences. A few years
ago I took the crew over to a lightning bust and we got to our 10
acre fire about 1030 hrs, we
got off the bus and walked down the road to our assignment.
The guy says we want you to catch this
slopover so I look down off the road at the tops of ponderosa, fir
and manzanita. The fire was
already doing some intermittent torching. I asked the guy if there
was a crew at the bottom working
this way, NO he says, I say Me and these boys ain't goin' down
there, But the IC wants you to. I say,
where is he, get him over here and he and I will hold hands and go
down in there and scout this thing
out. He got the IC on the radio and said if we didn't accept the
assignment to go sit in the burn.
Well we did that and within an hour the fire blew out of the canyon
and went to 5,000 acres. We pulled a 36
hour shift from a secure anchor point and although we had had a face
to face with threatened
disciplnary action, after the blow up that IC sorta avoided me and
YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO A SAFE ASSIGNMENT.
FOLLOW THE STANDARDS, LEARN YOUR FIRE BEHAVIOR.
PS Hey Abercrombie your gonna have to quit writing about yourself and
your ideas in the third person, it's unnerving. Later.
||On November 27, 1999 a Houston Helicopter crashed in Philadelphia,
Mississippi. Both the pilot, Bob Smith and the mechanic, Hank
killed. The week before they had been working fires in Virginia and
were in route to Texas to help there.
||Anyone know where I can get a hold of prints of firefighter art by James
Reed? If so , please e me at email@example.com
Thanks in advance
Here's a little of that heat that people have suggested you'd get over
your essay on Maclean and his book. What you wrote was well done in
terms of firefighter safety and individual responsibility. If you'd
limited your topic to just that, you'd have been in good shape, but you
took off into the old-growth poison oak puckerbrush with your attempt at
a book review.
You wrote that you'd give Maclean "credit for the research
reconstruction of the events leading up to the disaster" and that's
of you. Considering that he put 5-plus years into his research, you
could have maybe put a few more minutes' thought into your essay before
trying to paste him. "However, it’s my opinion John N. Maclean
know and failed to learn enough about the fire suppression organization
and firefighters as an entity," you wrote. How much do you think
have been "enough" for him to learn, and when he'd learned
then what? Then he was qualified to write a book? "I think Mr.
having a father writing about a similar tragedy forty years prior fail
to qualify him to write about this story," you wrote.
AB, BABY, YOU MISS A MAJOR POINT HERE. Your fire experience, while
important, does not qualify you to write a book. In fact, it's quite
obvious from your writing that you're not qualified to write a book. You
can't spell and you can't keep your basic grammar in line. Turn it
around now and consider this: Maclean did not apply for a position
Type I team here -- he wrote a book. You do fire. He does journalism.
"As part of my own investigation into the causes of the end
the South Canyon Fire," you wrote, "I’m unaware of anyone
existing 10&18 ... " jeeeeeeeeeeez, Ab, it's a good
thing you aren't
applying for any journalism jobs in the near future, because five
minutes of "investigation" would have shown you what several
now commented on -- the 10&18 are all over the fire investigations.
"Mr. Maclean wouldn’t know an anchor point from a pencil
right? AB, CLEAR YOUR HEAD of all that smoke you sucked all summer.
Think a minute. Maclean makes no pretense of being a firefighter. He
wrote a book. He's a journalist. Your attempt to dig on him personally
is way off base and outta line. That's like my saying that you wouldn't
know a subjunctive clause from a reflexive pronoun. So what? Your lack
of writing ability does not make you a lousy firefighter.
You wrote that an "excess amount of uninformed, misplaced,
filled far too many pages" of the book. So what would an okay amount
insinuations be? And which insinuations were misplaced? Do you have some
informed insinuations you'd like to offer us?
Okay, now I'm done beating up on you and it's warm-and-fuzzy time.
I don't totally disagree with what you wrote, you see. You make several
good points. "I believe adequate training was provided these people
prevent this scenario from happening," you wrote. Dead right. Some
armchair quarterbacks have said that the people on Storm King Mountain
laid all their training down in the dirt and walked right in and killed
themselves. That's brutal, but it's one way of looking at it. Others say
that individual responsibility for safety is crucial, and we need to all
remember to just say no. That's also dead right. Others say that when we
supervise, we are responsible for those we supervise. I believe that is
also right, and it's clear from your essay that you also believe that.
Think on this, though: The point of Maclean's book has
nothing to do
with his father. The point of his book has nothing to do with his
knowledge of fire compared to yours. The point of his book was to lay
out for us all the facts that are known about the fire and the tragedy
and the handling of both. The point of the book is to take a long, cold,
hard look at what happened -- in the hopes it won't happen again.
Whew! I’m gonn’a pull down my neck and face shield and put
on the goggles! But I ain’t runn’in away and I won’t abandon
As the intense heat blazing from my monitor slowly lowers, I take a
deep breath ( I knew this was coming). Even while reading your
missive Kelly, yet in the midst of your response, I admit to being
enthralled by the syntax of your punishing, yet somehow caring
admonishments. Your words seem to flow. . . "as if golden coins
into the coffers of my mind, to be treasured for ever".
Who sez I can’t write? OK, some of it's plagarism. Now
where’s my Strunk and White, damn it?
You are correct in one way Kelly, Abercrombie could never write a
book, at least not a book about something he never personally experienced.
I’m a firefighter who writes about fires, firefighting, and my intended
audience is other firefighters. I seldom use a spelling tool, my
grammar checker quits in confusion before it’s through the first
paragraph, and I suffer a distinct lack of having a third party to
proofread or a professional (human) editor to check my work for
embarrassing mistakes prior to publication. I live with that.
I encourage, accept, read, and publish all response, critical or positive,
for the content on this web site, grammatically correct or not. This
isn’t a site which punishes the readers for writing in all caps or
lowercase, for forgetting the correct punctuation, or for misspelled
words. Few folks here regard grammar as a priority, it’s the
subject matter that keeps this page alive.
While I maintain little hope or desire of becoming a journalist,
I’ll point out that I paid $19.20 plus shipping for the pleasure of
reading “Fire on the Mountain”. I feel every person, including
myself, who read the book has the right to express their opinion. I
know you do also. I don’t stray too far from what I know about,
that’s why I have a firefighter’s website and not a newspaper website.
I don’t write about the inner functions or working conditions of the
upper crust, department infighting, or peons of the Chicago Tribune.
As several readers have advised after my posting, I now realize
there are a couple more documents applying the 10 Standard Fire Orders and
18 Watchout’s to the South Canyon Fire. Some of them are far more
insightful than my own humble conclusions. I did not read these
articles prior to my own publishing and did not want to, lest they
influence or corrupt my own opinions.
Can Abercrombie write? Humph. . . how much has he written over
the last two years that you’ve avidly read? You don’t have’ta
love him, you don’t even have to like him. But if you keep coming
back you probably have a sneak’in suspicion he knows what he’s talking
About your paper on "Fire on the Mountain"; first, I'd like
you for taking a stand that was thoughtful and reflective, instead of
just falling lock-step into Maclean's point of view. You may take a
little heat about it, but it's easy to see that you're thinking hard
about things, and that's a trait that makes for good firefighters.
Keep thinking - it's something that's good to see in fireline
I should probably mention that a number of the people in the book -
both on the mountain and in the offices - are/were friends or
acquaintances of mine, and some might feel that affects the way I view
I think you are onto a crucial point when you say that the
firefighters and crew supervisors had a responsibility to take care of
themselves. Maclean's lack of knowledge about how things work in the
fire world hurt his writing. It is easy to blame the office people
for everything that happened, but it's a cheap shot. Lots of serious
mistakes were made in the office, and the friction between Grand
Juction District and Western Slopes back then was notorious throughout
the agency. But as you pointed out, serious mistakes were made on
mountain as well and it doesn't anyone any good to overlook that.
have to take everything into consideration if you want to understand.
And you have to understand if you want to avoid repeats.
My take on John Maclean is that he's a journalist, interested mostly
the story from a news aspect. There's nothing really wrong with
but he certainly lacks the insight, compassion, and involvement of his
father's writing. Norman Maclean's book on Mann Gulch focused on the
human tragedy and loss - instead of who screwed the pooch. Norman
Maclean had a much, much deeper understanding of the people, their
work, and their lives, and he tapped into the mystery and tragedy of
their passing. John Maclean lacked that - he just wanted to blame
Your analysis of the 10 & 18 was really good. But were you
the 10 & 18 were addressed in the South Canyon Fire Investigation?
wasn't completely indepth, but you can find it starting on p.30. And
the jumper Tony Petrilli did a compelling analysis of the 10 & 18 in
his 8/10/94 written statement to the South Canyon Fire investigators.
You can read it in the Appendix of the South Canyon Fire
Investigation. Comparing his analysis to yours is really
interesting. If you need a copy of the report, e-mail me and I'll
send one to you.
I'm intrigued at how often the analyses of accidents at fires turn up
major violations of the 10 & 18. I've come to think that if you
follow the 10 & 18 closely on the fireline, you're well on your way to
heading home safely afterward. They are probably as good a standard
of performance as we have in the fire world. For a recent example of
serious 10 & 18 trashing, check out the Sadler Fire Entrapment report,
which can be downloaded at:
the not-such-a lurker FMO
||Regarding your comments to "Fire On The Mountain". You
hit it on the head
Ab! ...Lots of things could have been done better eariler in the incident
management...BUT..the final responsibility in saftey lies on each
and the crew supervisors. Yet that is not to say that management should
off scott free either, I sure hope they have cleaned up their act.
I would add to your comments to order #2 however. Several times
mentioned how surprised the firefighters were at how well the fire was
burning during the night and early in the morning....hello??? how do you
think it is going to burn in the afternoon when the sun gets on it???
And also to order #5 and 8. ..and I have never heard of anyone
this question..why didnt they put someone on the ridge to the west where
they could look back at the big picture and more than likly down in the
canyon bottom?? It seems to me I have seen some photos taken from
ridge top and you can see the entire area of the fire top to bottom.
and lastly...a bit of advice maybe...CPS CPS CPS!!!
system. If you dont know what it is, and utilize it...YOU SHOULD!
) Dougs way of looking at things is
simple and effective, I find it difficult to understand why it isnt
If no one has taken you up on the offer I'd like to.
You've got it. I'll mail it out tomorrow. Ab.
When you are reviewing a book, and especially when you assign
someone you don't know -- i.e., "Mr. McLean used his father's name to
sell books" -- you should learn to spell the author's name correctly.
right there on the front of the book.
Sincerely, John N. Maclean
Right you are! Abercrombie is embarrassed, offers his
apologies, and has corrected the mistake.
Read your thoughts on the John Maclean book and South Canyon fire.
I am in
general agreement with your thoughts on the book and author.
also re-read the Causal Factors in the South Canyon Fire Investigation
Report, which clearly addresses the 10 Standard Fire Orders and 18 Watch
Out Situations (contrary to your claim that no one applied them during
analysis). Interestingly, your conclusions are strikingly similar to
in the Report. Comment?
I haven't really compared my conclusions to others yet.
Actually, I hadn't read any of the documents I listed at the bottom of the
page until after I had completed my own review. When doing a search
for other documents on the same subject to provide alternative opinions, I
did notice some similarities. I expect there will be those who agree
with many of my comments, and probably a bunch who won't. Such is
the nature of this site. Ab.
||Just read your review. I have not read the book, but have heard of
other's desire to emphasize the faults of upper management.
Certainly in a
tragedy there is sufficient blame for all to share......
What we need to instill in our firefighters though is an acceptance of the
ultimate responsibility for safety on a personal level. Most
certainly the fire will
impose the consequences on the individual.
Our "Standards for Survival" refresher training is
evolving to include more
participant scenarios. I'm anxious for the time when we present a
scenario in which
the participants recognize unacceptable safety situations, and "just
say no" is the
correct response. I still hear stories from folks
who have in the past accepted
assignments/tasks that they recognized as unsafe.....but were afraid that
would hurt their career. Until we move beyond that,
we'll keep bringing folks
off the mountain in body bags.
Again, ultimate responsibility for safety rests with the individual.
best intentioned and best skilled of overhead will miss or not be aware of
specific condition. Thanks for sharing your perspective;
expect to receive some
grief over it.
Thank you for your comments Ralph. Ab
||As promised, here's Abercrombie's perspective on the book "Fire on
the Mountain" by John N. McLean. Ab couldn't read the book
without offering his opinion on why he thinks 14 firefighters died on the
South Canyon Fire. Click the link below to see Ab's diagnosis!
Thoughts on "Fire on the Mountain"
Ab agrees with other readers who have said every wildland firefighter
should read this book, although perhaps not for the same reason. Ab
also sez he will send his copy, free, including shipping to the
first person who emails asking for it. All that he asks is that the
receiving person offers the same deal when they are done reading it.
Abercrombie is gonn'a sign his name to the front page inside the jacket
and asks that all who follow him do the same. He doesn't want this
book resting on some dusty shelf in some mountain cabin somewhere.
Ab thinks all young firefighters, especially those who are redcarded crew
supervisors should read this book. There are lessons to be learned!
Got the answers to most of my random questions about training. One
visited even gave me his old pink card. Are they any redder when they're
Interesting how categories just get added as one gets better qualified!
can never escape your past. When I asked what happened when they get full,
was told that you don't want that to happen or you never go home.
"Overhead" is defined in the red bible and, for gosh sake,
any thinking person
knows that PPE is personal protective equipment! Friends advised me to
up on my own a little more before I go posting questions to this site. (I
they're concerned that I'll make them look dumb if it ever comes out that
friends! Plus, I'd be wasting the dispatcher's time and that's a very
position.) I also apologise for the presumptive comment I made about
and quality control, especially the "IN THEORY" part. My friend
committees do work pretty well, in fact much better than the old system,
I stand corrected. I guess Thanksgiving is a day for eating turkey. Seems
I've eaten my share!
Hope you all are having a happy holiday! And to absent friends who are
in Georgia, come home safe!
Mellie from Five Waters
||I am trying to find good links to fire biogeochemistry. Any hints?
P.S. It's no fun being female on fire with all those flies
my bum while using the port-a-toilettes at base camp.
||The Members and Officers of the Mayer Fire District wish to send out a
very Happy Thanksgiving to all those that are out doing what we do
best . For those working shift today, please be safe and watch
yourselves and your partners.
In God's Speed,
The Mayer Firefighter's
||In (partial) answer to Mellie's (huge) 11/23 list of questions:
The 10 & 18 in English:www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/1018eng.shtml
The 10 & 18 in Spanish:www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/1018spa.shtml
Lookouts, Communucations, Escape Routes, Safety Zones:
Why are some hotshot crews training crews? What are they training
See the Redmond Hotshot website at
for answers to this.
What is PPE that information people must provide for media and VIP's
Most media types, in my experience anyway, get equipped with nomex
shirt, pants, hardhat, boots, and a shelter -- IF they are apparently
able to handle going out to the actual line accompanied by an IO.
Home units must support the fire system for it to work at an
interagency level. Do all home units care?
They obviously do not. I'm currently working on a R5 project analyzing
the 1999 season's unable-to-fill (UTF) resource orders, and one of the
common themes is employees noting that their supervisors did not support
their leaving for a fire assignment. The pressure's on for meeting
targets and getting the work done on the home unit, and many people have
apparently been told that they CAN'T go out on fires. My, how times
||Well I said 1999 would be the year fire season never ended. I just got
back from the Blood Complex fires in Ga. A couple of interesting points.
Resources are always in short supply. However, it took us two days to
get a type II helicopter, thanks to the IHOG requirement the helo's sat
at the airport until the full modules arrived. Something has got to be
done about this. Also, we finally got two type I crews from out your
way. The problem of not being able to carry saws with them is always a
hassle, but we got past it. One interesting comment overheard from one
of the crews, as the fire made a run up the mountain with 120 foot
flames, "I can't believe we came all the way to Georgia and got our
kicked". Just goes to show it can happen to you anywhere, so be heads
up. Hope everyone has a good turkey day holiday. If people are get to
bored there's still activity down south. Come see us!!
||New version of Firestorm simulation is available at
||Abercrombie-thanks for your web page.
To the "OLD FIRE GUY" (who probably isn't all that old by
non-fire people standards).
I did look up the 18 watchouts and 10 standard orders you mentioned. They
noted time and again in the IAP's from the Megram and Onion and I found
on the inside covers of the red bible you guys use (that my fire mentor
me). I also found them on a card handed out by Bacon's team at the
of the Onion Fire--So the info is out there--but do you think through
lists routinely unless you're a Safety or a Hotshot leader? LCES is
mnemonic that I heard, but I can't remember what that stood for-and that's
When my dad trained up his Boy Scouts to deal with emergency
always stressed having a logical process providing a mental checklist that
automatic when faced with a crisis situation. All I could think of with
snags coming down across the Denny Road (aside from the "wow"
and "cool") was
that there was some safety list firefighters used that I couldn't
I also thought that my dad would have been shaking his admonishing finger
me because I hadn't figured out my system prior to the crisis. So to each
I say (with the appropriate finger action--the index, you guys!) "Do
have a safety evaluation system that works for YOU in any situation?"
Thanks for the NWCG training info. It's 108 pages long! But answered
few questions and raised a few more.
A few random questions (and you're welcome to tune me out when you
Why are some hotshot crews training crews? What are they training for?
Who is a red-card holder? Obviously necessary but not sufficient, it
someone under 55!
What is a job aid? Some kind of training materials that accompany a
into the field?
What is PPE that information people must provide for media and VIP's as
Nomex under another name?
>From the dispatcher post: Is Overhead a particular type of
The fireline handbook (red bible) states that the IC approves the use of
Do IC's on small fires even think of trainees? I know from the IAP's that
big fires like ours, there's a certified training specialist (now from the
I know the name) who prods trainees to get their PTB's in, etc. Right from
start of the Onion, Larry Wright had a safety trainee (we called him
don't tell the human resources specialist! and it wasn't because of his
but because of his nimbleness), but I didn't start seeing info about
in our IAP's until about a month into the fires. Who makes the
inviting trainees when a call for Overhead first comes in? (I presume that
evaluator on the fire has to be willing to accept a trainee. For how long?
it have to be for 3 or 2 weeks? Are things chaotic enough at the beginning
an incident that trainees are overlooked until closer to mop-up? What is
incentive to have a trainee?) The committee idea sounds like a good
quality control in theory. Does it replace the home unit training
or the evaluator, or does it just act on their recommendations?
Home units must support the fire system for it to work at an
Do all home units care? Is this just more work for them in a time of
crunch? Is there any expectation or incentive from the feds (well, er, I
many of you are the feds, but, you know, the feds with the money.) Seems
downsizing would be a distinct dis-incentive.
To change the subject a little, isn't it unusual that there are
major incidents (4 fires and one hurricane) happening now. I heard toward
end of the Megram that, of the 17 Type 1 Incident Command Groups,
maybe 8 might
be able to field complete teams this late in the season. Now we have 5
incidents and 5 teams out. Right now it would take only one big earthquake
a few more fires to really land us in deep doodoo. And I see my dad's big
pointer finger being wagged at me (and us) again. Of course, this is
all common knowledge to you-but I'm a little shocked! (And God, please,
your biggest finger up there, I didn't mean that we should have any more
to deal with right now…)
I have more questions, but I mustn't wear out my welcome. Thanks
to Abercrombie and everyone else.
Mellie from Five Waters
As always thanks for the site. It is always interesting to say
least. In regards to Mellie question about fire quals - she can look
the 310-1 at http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/310-1
This site has a section on
training, among other things. It would be nice if we all played by
same set of rules. Every unit has a little different idea of what it
takes to fully qualify a person for a position. A lot of units don't
have a committee to look over task books or training records. Our
has recently put together a committee to look over training records and
task books, we make a determination on whether the assignments were
appropriate for the task. Just because the reviewer says they
that a person be signed off for the position, even if the task book is
complete, the committee may decide that the person needs another
assignment, either off district or in another fuel type. We need to
make sure that the folks that we sign off on are truly qualified for the
position that we are signing them off on. It is important that the
firefighters are fully qualified for the jobs that we are sending them
out there to do. We as an organization need to really come together
this, we need to stop pushing people up the ladder, when they are not
truly ready for the next level. We need to support the firefighters
give them the training and training assignments that they need so that
they can do a quality job out there on the line. Several times this
summer when orders came in for Overhead, we had trainees that needed
training assignments, and we were turned down when asked if the fire
would accept a trainee. I hope in the future that we will be sending
trainees with the qualified folks on a regular basis.
Enough of the soap box.....
||Here is a pic taken this summer 10/99 of Dan King (Burns Interagency
on the Stonehouse Fire. (OR-BUD-2205). Taken by Steve Morefield (AFMO
Suppression) Enjoy. J. Manski
Verrry nice. Permananet access available from the "Guest3
photo page. Ab.
||NWCG standards can be found at www.fs.fed.us/fire/310-1/310.1pdf
One perspective for a safe assignment: If any of the 18 "watch
out" have not been mitigated, if any of the 10 standard orders are
say no, explain why, and stay alive.---Old fire guy.
I couldn't get the web-site e-mail to work, so here it is when I send
I'm entirely new to They Said It , but I'd like to understand... With
to Dave's post on 11/17, where can I find a copy of the NWCG
the Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy and Program Review (1995),
the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture have the same policy
provides a formalized system to agree upon standards of training,
aircraft, suppression priorities, and other operational areas."
Is this policy
followed differently by these two groups? Do you know what the guidelines
about task completion?
What is OJT? Thanks.
I was on the Onion and Megram Fires (Big Bar Complex) as they
land on New River for 79 days. One night on shift change, my brother and I
a field observer named Fortunate were the only ones available to fight
at our mailbox. The mix of emotions I felt from "Oh shit, here comes
snag that's going to roll over the road" to "Wow, this really is
a good fire,
only 4 or 5 inches tall" still has me in its grip. In the last weeks
rain came, I lost a firefighter friend
Karen Savage during the Jones Fire. I love all you guys and want to
from the bottom of my heart for coming! Please be safe. No fire is
over. (If you get the chance, please learn the Campbell Prediction Method
reading the fire's signature. All mess-ups at the higher levels aside, I
that if this method had been used during the Storm King Fire, it would
It's really hard to adjust to "non-fire life", isn't it? If I
don't think of
fire for three minutes in a row, I'm doing well...
Mellie from Five Waters
Hi Mellie, glad you found the site, don't worry about being new to
it, there isn't a lot you need to know. Just state what's on you
mind and ask questions if ya need to know something. Regarding
Dave's letter, there is a feeling some agencies provide the required
training for red carded positions but are slack on enforcing completion of
the OJT (on-the-job) training assignments. For example, let's use
the Division Supervisor position which I feel is one of the most critical
line positions there are. If an individual was to attend the formal
training and then complete two trainee assignments where they were limited
to supervising crews on fireline improvement and mopping up, they're not
yet qualified to lead the same resources in direct attack on an escaping
fire. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, this same individual
may show up on their next fire as a fully certified Div. Sup. Two
situations I've observed wherein an individual may be rushed through
the process are the pressure for the trainee to become qualified due to
requirements for their non-fireline duty positions and situations where a
trainee is attached to their "buddy" on an assignment and their
"buddy" signs them off as qualified.
A quick search this morning was unable to find anything online
regarding NWCG publications, including the NWCG site which has a half
completed look about it. You can find it here: www.nwcg.gov
Hopefully some of the readers will have some ideas. Ab.
||Hey, heres a pic to keep us all warm as winter approaches.
Had this one taken on the GunII fire one night as I was doing some shovel
burnout and holding. Before the night was over we burned several miles and
not all by shovel!! LOL
Hope everyone enjoys this one. Happy Holidays
Thanks Cap'n, the new pic can be viewed on the Guest 3 photo page.
For those of you who are now sitting around watching the rain fall, let's
get some of those photos you took this year digitized and send 'em in!
||I just finished the book "Fire on the Mountain - The True Story
of Storm King Mountain Incident". I knew when I saw the report
come out from the government that it would be a political whitewash
and place blame mostly on the firefighters and not on the overhead
and administrative personnel. I was so suprised that more was
not done to punish the overhead personnel than what happened.
I want to suggest that you all either get, beg, borrow, or steal
a copy of this book before the start of next fire season, and
take the time to read it. This will really open the eyes to what
we all still have to put up with and ask questions about why
things can't be streamlined more.
After reading this book it left me more informed about what chain
of events happened which lead up to the loss of 14 firfighters,
what to watch out for other than fire line activity, and what
happened in the aftermath to those involved.
It made me think of creating the 19th Watch Out Situation:
19. You are placing resource orders to dispatch that you know
you need, but the district continues to refuse them stating "Thats
not our policy", "Committed to other fires",
or "We're saving it for a more important fire".
Everyone, please get a copy of this book and read it. Don't simply
accept the government's version of the event.
I've recently finished the book also and have some of my own ideas
of where the blame should lay. Stay tuned. . . Ab.d
let me ask you a question: The woods are burnin like hell's own inferno
all around me, and i work on a NF in VA southwest VA to be more specifc,
and im sittin home on the internet...aren't they hollerin for folks from
all around the country to bring in here? Wonder if they have forgotten
that they still have at least one resource on district?
i know, complain, complain.. but i want some hours, i havent been in
green and yellow for over a month!!!!!
Ain't that the way it seems to go sometimes. I was just
talking to an engine captain today who complained that as his forest
burned 55,000 acres this last summer, his engine and crew sat on their
asses and did nothing while hundreds of engines drove by his station.
All I can suggest is check your qualificationos as shown on your red card
against what's in demand. Apparently it's something other than what
you have. Ab
||I hope you dont mind but i took a few of your pics of your page and set
them as wall paper on my machine.
I not only don't mind, that's what they are there for. Ab
||Does anyone out there know that the Dept. of Interior and the National
Park Service are planning to implement, On January 1, 2000, a regulation
that will prohibit anyone age 55 and over from holding a "Red
arduous rating? This will prohibit anyone over 55 from being a
firefighter. It will not matter what kind of physical condition you are
Nothing really new about this, the mandatory retirement age for the
GS-462 series (poorly classified as firefighters) in the Department of Ag.
(Forest Service) has been 55 for as long I I am aware of. I don't
know of any non-fire, fire-going personnel, and I know them all, who hold
qualifications for any positions requiring ardous fitness levels. Ab
||Just to let everyone know...a lot of people from our area (Eastern Great
Basin) are headed down to the southeast. I've been told that they
trying to fill positions. If anyone is interested, check with your
Right you are Red, we've sent about 8 overhead from our forest.
I finally got a minute to speed read your page. In response to a
few inquiries, yes Pres of FWFSA, Kent Swartzlander, gave testimony at
sub-committee chaired by Rep Pompo in Sept. He was alone with rep from
IAFF at his side for support. The agency had three Washington types
attendance for Q/A. Kent did us proud and the sub-committee heard
the issues of low pay and inadequate retirement benefits loud and clear.
the record now. There will be a convention and newsletter out asap,
but, a few key players are on fire assignments in Kentucky and Georgia.
keep in mind, we are working stiffs and fit this stuff in on weekends and
A/L. The FWFSA is very much alive and working. Be patient and
your support for the FWFSA. Remember, the wheels of government turn
Thanks to all for the hard work on the firelines this last season in
the West. Thanks for the page Ab.
||Hey Abercrombie, How's it going ? I've been reading along with
everyone this summer and it's been good. Interesting dialogues this
year. I wanted to respond to to Jeffsz00tv from 11/10 about the
Firefighter Pay act of 99. Graniteman was tellin' me that all the
people who offered testimony at the hearing were in favor of or agreed to
what the act entailed, and it seemed to have no opposition in that
committee. So I guess now it is a matter of waiting for the Washingtonian
grist mill to vote and enact.
On another subject I think that the
FS and the CDF need to have a better understanding on what to expect from
each other, this summer I had a local red army BC (a forester, not a
firefighter) come into the camp where I was and virtually demand the
release of all red army resources. ( A total of 9 personnel) He
explained the direction was from the state office and it was meant to curb
the state people from going "from fed fire to fed fire" I told
him a majority of those on his list had come from a state complex and were
not going from fed fire to fed fire. He said, "Well I don't know
that", I said I did because it was info documented by the resources
unit. I suggested to him that if that was going to be red army policy then
their personnel should know and understand it. It also seems that they
can't figure out whether they are out for 14 or 21 and whether they work
12, 14, or 16 hours a day, while getting paid
for 24. It would also be very nice if they could get out of the
motel soon enough to get to morning briefing on time or at all. I
thought we would be better off without them, but someone said we need them
because with reinvention , etc we don't have the people anymore, my
recommendation is to use contractors instead. The outfit doesn't
follow NWCG guidelines with respect to task completion or OJT, they go to
a class and magically are qualified at that job. They don't invite (order)
any or very few fed resources on their fires and they flood fed fires with
expensive, mediocre, underqualified motel mongrels.
Well enough of that, the piles are burning
down nicely, couple inches of snow overnight and pretty soon the holidays.
Life is good but we have to keep a eye out. Dave
I think this fed vs state thing's been hashed several times over
Dave. I recall the consensus being there were excellent, high
quality, and yes, overpriced, worthless resources in all agencies.
As far as your recommendation for contractors goes, it's happening.
Seems nowdays each forest is assigned a couple of contract vendors to
facilitate providing the necessary inspectors and to act as a
dispatch center for them. Since most forests can barely cover their
initial attack responsibilities during high fire days, this has had
further ramifications of allowing forests to beef up their staffing for
red flag or predicted lightning days. As federal budgets continue to
decline I predict more contractors and less federal resources each year.
How about the feds just throw in the towel now and acknowledge that
Congress no longer has an interest in providing fire prevention and
suppression on federal lands. Why keep overworking and starving
modules financially as we try to cope with a shoestring budget? Why
not just turn fire protection nationwide over to the States and be done
with it! Leave the superstructure intact (GACCs & Boise) and
have the States run 'em. Let them share the costs based on how many
acres they eached burn yearly. Ab
||I'm so glad I found this site, it's made my day! I have just
returned from my District up in Washington after a wonderful summer of
I'm back in the "real" world and day dreaming about are next
When I was reading through everyones thoughts about if we should
have 14 term or 21, it's hard for me to agree with the fourteen dayer's.
being is not only do I love my job, but I'm also out their for the money.
Let's face it, this job is not always glorious, theirs a lot of down time,
mop-up, and if your as lunky as my crew, garbage picker upers. I was
working on a type-2 crew this last summer, we didn't have it hard, are
well taken care of. I was also the EMT for are crew, I dealt with
the injures, and more often then injures on 21 dayer's, the colds.
However we really
kept a lid on all of this by making people take a day off if they were
sick, and making shure they had all the med.s needed, also which is hard
but pushing the wash hands. I think that really helped.
Hell, mabye for type 2 crews we should only have 14 day committments, but
that means I'll
find me a good old Shot Crew that wants to make the money, and hell
raising memories, only lack of sleep, and spending excesive amount of time
the same twenty people can cause. Jd
I'm glad you found the site too Jd. There was a key point
regarding negotiations for assignments beyond 14 days for crews, engines,
helo's, etc. in the original message. One other purpose, not yet
mentioned, is a 14 day rule should help get resources released from shitty
assignments. I think we've all been on assignments where the host
was criticized for stockpiling resources for potential future events
(that usually never happen). By this I mean the host that keeps
hotshot crews mopping up for two weeks after the fire is controlled, the
engine strike team that sits in a staging area for a week doing nothing,
or the Type II exclusive use helo that spends a week hauling trash off old
spike camps. This new rule would allow the supervisors some
discretion in their release and become avalable for reassignment to a
I understand and haven't forgotten about the overtime issue, I still
depend heavily on the extra cash flow. If it's a slow fire season
and nothing else is happening, stay the 21 days, or longer (as an earlier
message suggested). Lord knows, during a dead fire season, a type 2
crew may only get one off district/forest assignment each year. What
the hell, if conditions are acceptable and resource demand is low, extend
the negotiations, take two days off every 14 days and stay for 35 days.
Ab understands the main purpose of establishing and maintaining fire
suppression resources is to have them fight fires, not stack sticks while
reading the Sit Report on the computer each morning.
||Regarding the possible NWCG guidelines from 11/13. I like, in
"theory" most of what is proposed as shown in the letter.
Three key points I see are; the ability of modules to negotiate 21 day
assignments, a reduction to an expected 14 day response for overhead, and
the documentation of the status and/or overall health factors of arriving
The first point regarding fire modules ability to negotiate length of
stay is very important and places a critical responsibility on the module
leader. I would take this a step further and allow them to negotiate
up to a 28 day assignment. This would need to depend on several
specific preplanned parameters during negotiations, but would allow those
modules experiencing a slow season a little extra opportunity. Over
aggressive module leaders, or those offering suspicious information
regarding their recent activity and/or crew health could be easily
verified through their home dispatch offices. Any module leader
reporting false information would need to face severe consequences.
Having spent a few years in a dispatch office, I know the first two
questions asked by most non-fire overhead. First, they want to know,
"Where is the fire?", second is, "How long do you think
I'll be gone?" Current reality dictates most non-fire support
resources can't afford to be gone from their jobs more than a couple of
weeks at a time. Although individuals may desire to accept all fire
assignments, they know they will not be excused from completing their
targets when it's performance rating time. I believe a reduction in
length of assignments could increase the willingness of acceptance by up
These proposals would have an impact on dispatch offices from the
forest to the national levels in increased activity and a higher cost of
transportation. But, I see it as a small price to pay for the
increased health and availability of the resource pool even as it is still
shrinking. Look what happened in the West this year as crew after
crew were virtually run into the ground towards the end of the season.
Due to exhaustion or sickness, stemming from inadequate rest and poor
living conditions on fires, many refused re-assignments, or were otherwise
unable to finish out the season.
||In response to FIRZ 11/13 post- I don't have a copy of the fire business
management handbook in front of me, but I believe that it states that a
minimum of 2 days R&R be given in 21 days or 1 in 14. Days start at
time of assignment. Remember, these are only guidelines and they are
interpreted differently by every fire team.
||I was wondering what you can tell me about guidlines for the length of
time a crew can work before requiring R&R? I have heard that it
the forest, is this true? I was under the impression that it was 21 days.
Would days count towards 21, if you to leave a fire go back to another
next day? Also if a supervisor were to purposely misinform the IC about
when the crew's last day off, what are the possible consequences?
Thought I'd forward this as fodder for discussion on your site.
Something like this direction will be issued from the NWCG through the
National Mob Guide:
"In order to promote safety as an interagency priority, to
the opportunity for widespread support for long term fire operations,
and for efficient incident mobilization and demobilization, the
typical and desired length of commitment on incident assignments will
be 14 days, excluding travel. Strong consideration and management of
firefighting resources must insure that back to back assignments are
considered into the health, readiness, and capability of the
resource. The health and safety of incident personnel and resources
will not be compromised under any circumstances. There may be
situations where life and property are so imminently threatened, or
suppression objectives are close to being met, that minimally longer
commitments up to 21 days, but no longer, are necessary to smoothly
allow for replacements. This situation as well as overall condition
of the resource at that time shall be documented by the Planning
Section and approved by the Incident Commander.
Military battalions are mobilized for 30 day commitments, by prior
agreement, as well as the Strike Team leaders and battalion liaisons
assigned to those units. Incident Commanders should give strong
consideration as to the health and condition of these crews by varying
the intensity and exposure of their assignments. Government and
contract pilots should adhere to the standards in section 24.13
Interim Flight and Duty Limitations, NFES 2092."
Look for this to be in effect for fire season Y2K. I believe the
NWCG's primary focus on this was to address problems with:
- Type 2 crew safety - BIA recently conducted a study that showed that
most accidents (by far) on Type 2 crews occur after 14 days on
- to a lesser extent, overhead availability - more and more agency
people claim they can not commit to a 21 day assignment because of
family commitments and/or workload.
As I read this, fire crews such as engines, hotshots, and helitack
should be able negotiate for 21 day assignments, but if they feel the
need to go home after 14 days, they'll be able to.
This should be interesting. One thing that shouldn't be
the impact this is going to have on dispatchers and coordinators - it
may greatly increase their workload, at least at the beginning.
However, it may result in greater overhead availability, fewer
injuries, and fresher crews with higher production rates. We'll
see... And of course it'll cost more...but fewer people should get
I have some opinions on all this, but I think I'll wait to see what
others think about it.
The lurker FMO
||The ashkickers link does not come up. If you are able to raise it,
you send me an email letting me know. my address is
thank you for your time.
Anyone know what's up with the Ashkickers site? Ab
||Great site Ab. I find alot of the comments quite humorous.
As a contract
firefighter, complaining about 3 days of R & R out of 35 days sounds
good to me since that is three days of pay with no production. In
world, private contract firefighters may or may not be paid for any R
that comes their way. How about a crew line assignment from Aug. 22
Oct. 28 with no paid R &R? Required days off after 21
days, at no expense
to the incident, then rotating days off for the rest of the assignment is
what happens in the REAL world. Upset? No way! Some of us are
have the opportunity to EARN our taxpayer's dollars!
Thank God for the rain! Stu
||Ab, just wanted to take some time to stop and say how much fun I've had
this summer and how much larger my bank account is. If you don't
mind, I'd like to use some space to give some thanks to those who made
Thank you God, for showing me some of the wonders of your nature,
including the resurgence of lightning storms, lately absence in the west,
which have allowed my and my crew to fully exercise our primary purpose
and utilize our extensive training. Thanks for the dry, hot, wild,
unpredictable weather and the erratic winds you've shown us this season as
we've struggled (and often failed) to enforce some of the bewieldering
land management plans as you (knowingly or not) reduced them to shambles.
Thank you for allowing me to observe some of the finest, as we call it,
most active fire behavior in this decade. I appreciate and will
always remember the climbs to the top of the hills you've provided and as
promised in my last prayers, have taken the time to stop (or at least
glance) in awe at the table you have spread. I again bow my knees
and spread my arms in supplication of the majestic (kick my ass) forces
you have demonstrated this fire season.
For my fat wallet and the higher taxes I will pay as a result, I also
want to thank the 1998/99 United States Congress as they completely failed
their constituents by declining to appropriate the funding for the federal
suppression agencies initial attack resources necessary to prevent the
tragic loss of life and property suffered this fire season. Oh well,
Sirs and Madams, I doubt any of you personally knew any of the victims who
died inhaling superheated air or get your loafers dirty assisting
survivors return to burned out shells of homes. I'm sure no houses
or people were lost in the neighborhoods where you and/or other members of
the Congress live. Don't worry about your jobs, this fire season
will fade from public conscious as they all do. . . won't it? Lest
Congress selfishly accept all my gratitude, I also thank all fire
suppression agency heads who lacked the courage to request, better yet,
demand a budget necessary to protect against loss of life and property.
Last, but not least, I thank those certain few members of the public
who always seem to know more than the common sense majority. You all
know who they are, it's that person who decided to mow the weeds on an
extreme fire danger day! The one who decided it would be ok if he
welded in the back yard, the one who had to try out the "metal"
blade for his weed eater, or the one who used a grinder on a pipe.
They all meant well, bless their little hearts and selfish minds.
Thanks Ab! Bear.
||Ab it's been a while since I've had time to drop you a line. Fire season
here in Texas seems like it just won't end. I'm afraid Keith hasn't seen
the worst of it yet in East Texas either. I just wanted to chime in also
on the kudo's, your "They said it" is always good for a chuckle.
latest is the on going battle over where the best fire fighters come
from. Years ago Bear Bryant was asked where he got the best football
players from, his answer was, "Good Mamas and Pappas". I think
could be said about fire fighters. In my short 22 years on the job I
have found that the worst safety hazard on the line is the fire fighter
that thought he or she knew it all. The way I see it, you either go
through life or grow through life. For those that have made it through
another safe fire season, congrats!!! The rest of us will just keep
Good to hear from ya Boo, we've missed ya! Whoa, I can't
hardly read yer message from all the noise of the rain a pound'n on the
tin roof here! The return to a "normal" fire season we've
been expecting has been here and thankfully, for now, gone. Now we
can start lighting those piles! Ab.
||OK! People have been busy, but there is a lack of information out there
for some reason exists concerning the FWFSA/ Wildland Firefighter Pay
Fairness Act of 1999. I know somebody out there has got some information
about Swartzlander vs. Washington so what's the scoop (legislation was
introuduced into the Senate and not a peep!!! Why???
I don't wanna comment. . .Kent? Ab.
||Some newly observed details concerning the Big Bar Complex (BBC)!
Seems a certain hotshot crew worked the Big Bar Complex for 21 days.
They. . . unlike some hotshot crews I've seen discussed on this page,
agreed to return to the BBC after two days of R&R. Upon
returning to the BBC, they were released after 14 more days on the line.
When finally released, they were given 1 day of administrative
leave after returning to their home forest. Since the authority for
allowing the amount of hours of administrative leave compensation rests
with the IC of any given fire, I would personally like to commend the IC
of the BBC for limiting this crew to three days off in 35. Way to go
IC, the tax-paying public would be proud of your penny-pinching.
||Archive time again folks. To catch up on the discussions, yer
gonn'a hav'ta visit the archives. There are some memorable
information exchanges in the September/October
page, so find some time, take a visit, and catch up, especially those of
you who've been lucky enough to be on fires and have been away from home
for awhile. Ab.
Enjoy the site! I am a 10 year volunteer here in east Tx.We may not have
the mt's and altitude that are out west but we
still have some pretty hot fires from time to time.This past week the
Counties we serve lifted the burn ban at 10:00 and by 2:30 we were
out on a 75 acre burn.sometimes Joe Public just doesn't realize the
danger.Just wanted to drop a line and praise "They Said".Thanks
and stay safe,Keith
Thanks for the info and the kudo's Keith. They are a big part
of why I keep on go'in. Ab.
||the big bar is turning into a big logging show. welfare for the
community. what a sick waste of government money and time. cut
and haul of wood products is being paid for by the fire and given to the
community. sign fed up in hoopa
Dear fed up,
Generic accusations without details invoke images of losers pissing
against the wind. Ab
||Hey guys! I need some help here. I just got back from the
Big Bar fire and my full time job here at home threatened to fire me if I
got called out to
another fire. Does anyone now the legality behind this? I read
somewhere once before that you can't be fired for the call of duty.
Is this right? I ahve
been doing Wildland for 4 years now and never had a problem before.
I need some advice. It doesn't seem right to me that they can do
that. What do
you think? This has been my life and I just got hired full time by
our local FD, but I don't start the academy until January.
This issue reared it's ugly head last year MP. It may depend
on what State you're from, but I don't recall any clear solutions.
Try a search
through the archives looking for volunteer and/or perhaps there's new
info from readers. There's been good, experienced comments from many
volunteers here in the past. Ab
My view on the east versus west
In my career I have fought fire in
every western state, Alaska, Michigan,
and Deep South. Every place I
went out of California had unique problems.
The black spruce of the Yukon Flats
starts running again 20 minutes after
the rain stops. The peat bogs
of Michigan's U.P. is a mop up nightmare. I
was a fish out of water in the
palmetto. Likewise fighting fire in the
sonoran veg type of Arizona (ouch),
or watching the fire kick our butt in
Yellowstone lodgepole while snowing.
I'll swear the wind blows across Great
Basin sagebrush three different
directions at once. The humidity (100
degrees, 100%RH) in Virginia almost
Every region of the country has
its unique characteristics that the locals
adapt to and leaves us 'foreigners'
wondering what the hell is going on. To
claim one part of the Nation is
tougher, or firefighters from different
regions are not as qualified, is
I learn something new every time I
take an assignment. And some of my best
teachers have been the locals who
took the time to mentor this 'California
Kid' on local conditions, equipment,
and tactics. I am a better firefighter
at home because of their efforts.