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12/31 Ab,

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 
interesting prospect.

12/31 Hey Ab--

I've never done this photo thing before. How many (how large?) can I send at
once? Is jpeg better than tif? Do you have any other suggestions? Guess I'll
send these one at a time... Hey Doug, do you have a CPS for sending photos?
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" page.  Ab.

12/31 Abercrombie and All--Happy New Century, may it be a safer one...

Three of us spent Christmas day hiking Strom King. The day was auspicious, a
day on which people enjoy family and celebrate life. No one had signed the register
since December 9. There were stickers on the register box lid of many hotshot
and other fire crew with whom I feel family. Only one adult-sized ski pole in
the can, but 2 or 3 for little children. We'll need to see that a few more recycled
adult poles get collected and delivered.

Some snow but no footprints, clear weather, not too cold. We hiked in silence.
Hellava upslope wind when we reached the top of the canyon. Western aspect 2PM,
would have been preheated fuel if there were any fuel left at all and if it
had been summertime.

Actually, I'm rattling on because I'm sitting here crying, just as all three
of us cried there. It is so sad. They shouldn't have died. Thanks for all the
dialog about safety and methods for looking at fire behavior on this web site.

I took a few pictures. We felt we were climbing as emissaries for all who remember.

Thank you ALL for your good work in fire. A special hug for those of you who
fought and rehabed fire in Nevada last summer/fall and didn't get the recognition
you deserve.

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 is accepted 
that fighting a fire downhill can be very dangerous.

Of course there are times when you can "fight" a fire by moving downhill. 
Depending on fuels, expected behavior, topography, and weather, you may make 
the decision to make your line downhill.  However, in reference to the 
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 forest is 
worth losing firefighters. 


Isn't it fun exposing your opinions and thoughts to the world, Doc?  Glad to hear from you, post on!  Ab.

12/31 When I click on the "They Said It" line this is the message I get from the 

Unknown Host

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.

12/30 Abercrombie,

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.

12/30 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 applicant
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.


12/30 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.

12/30 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.
12/30 The homepages for all the hotshot crews who have them
are listed at: 


12/30 Regarding the hotshot enquiry:

You can find the hotshot crews listed at www.fs.fed.us/fire/operations/crews

The Flathead hotshots are located near Whitefish, Calispell and Hungry Horse
in NW Montana. A great bunch, they fought the Megram fire at our ranch in northern
CA this last summer. Small world, my uncle from Polson, MT delivered one of
the crew and all of his brothers and sisters. Another worked with my cousin
in Whitefish! Ya'll come visit!

The Entiat Hotshots are located 200 mi E of Seattle on the Columbia River. 

The Bitterroot Hotshots are located 65 mi south of Missoula near Darby in western

The Helena hotshots are from Helena, Montana. Their crew boss is Larry Edwards.
This group is also near and dear to my heart because they helped hook a 1/4
mi long slopover that extended 800 feet down below the containment line just
above our ranch. Saving that slopover was the psychological turning point of
the western (Denny) side of the fire. Thanks ya'll!

Mellie from Five Waters

12/30 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 
great site!!!


12/30 Concerning the 12/29 request for web info/shot crew websites:

Puffin II

12/30 Last week when the fires were breaking overnight in So Cal, I thought I could
 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.

12/29 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 crews. the
area that I would like to go to is Montana Idaho region can you give me any advises
12/29 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 truth 
about  the 1999 season in Nevada, I was there and so were you. The season 
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 over One 
Hundred Lightning strikes by noon.  We prepositioned at the bunk house and 
stayed there for 15 minutes before jumping to the first fire. Four days later 
when we returned for the basics  (  MREs, Diesal / Gas, Drinking Water and 
Foam). the locals gave all of us dirty looks and mean comments.  From this 
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 of 

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 catastrophic 
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 risk. 
We fought fire aggressively But provided for Safety First,  we kept in mind 
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, again 
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 hear 
the bitching.

Oh no words of thanks to any element of the fire community was ever uttered, 
It was a sad situation. Not like in California were thankyous abound.

Thanks to everyone who worked on  and supported our work during the Nevada 
Wildfires of 1999,  We all made it home for Christmas. 

12/29 RS, mentions something about firefighter deaths on 12/27 and then takes a swipe
 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 make note
 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 veteran today.
Happy Mil-Looney-um !!
12/28 Pulaski,
The top ten will not provide any further insight into CPS. All the quotes are
 directly from the cps book. 
You are correct in saying that I am afraid of something, I'm afraid that some
 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 but I
 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 
mandate wisdom."
As far as needing a fire behavior analyst to predict your fire behavior . Please
 don't wait for one of them 
to arrive at your incident and I think this is where Doug's teaching can help
 most of us. The basic fire 
behavior knowledge that will prevent you from doing a frontal attack or trying
 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 the
 fire order that reads ' Initiate 
all action based on current and expected fire behavior.'  Doug and I are trying
 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.
12/28 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 their 35th
birthday" being printed on all of the outreaches, this was simply not the case.  The Outreach in question simply said "not over the age
of 35".  This is where the problem arose.  My friend questioned whether this meant the thirty fifth year before the age of 36.  After
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 at
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 interpretation
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
12/28 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 observations
made on the fireground to determine the tactics for engaging the fire.  The
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 to
explain how
the experienced firefighters have done that in the past.

There area lot of very good firefighters out there.  Among those who have
to the CPS are:
Redding Hot Shot Sups ,Charlie Caldwell, Craig Lechleiter; Los Padres Hot
Shot Super,
Mark Linane; Marc Castellnou of Barcelona Spain; Kern Co. BLM Anthony
Ops Chiefs. J.W. Allendorf; Dave Provencio, FMO,  Will Spyrison, Batt chief,
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 experiences
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 hold 'em
and know when to fold 'em."
They can explain why the fire is going to change BEFORE it happens and base
 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 opportunity
for engagement but not a good fire behavior tactic, many experienced
firefighters have avoided the danger.

Observations, situation description, tactical choice and constant evaluation
are the ingredients of CPS.
Some have called it "in situ" training, meaning it is situational.
Someone called it a BGO course, a" blinding glimpse of the obvious."
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 safe escape
route be
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 behavior
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 firefighter
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.
Doug Campbell

12/27 Ab,   I lie your forum a lot but does everybody live in a vacum? There
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.        RS
12/27 I know i'm coming into the discussion late, but I had to add some thoughts 
about "Fire on The Mountain".

It's little wonder that it's the little fires that kill people... or at least 
the fires that start out as little.  It's also no big surprise (to me, 
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 to the 
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 that 
being the IC, it all comes down to me.  It is MY responsibility to ensure the 
safety of the folks on my fire.  This starts with good a good organization, 
and leadership skills.  If they don't make it then the responsibility lies 
with me first, and foremost.

I've heard that a lack of resources is partly to blame.  Well, as an eastern 
firefighter, I look at the resources available around here that sit largely 
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 few you 

By blaming the management, I don't mean that there weren't mistakes made at 
the boss and firefighter level.  I also know that it's not easy to second 
guess our fallen brothers and sisters.  However, we owe it to their memory 
that we take a hard look at how the events transpired, create a dialog, and 
do our best to ensure that it never happens again. 

Yet, even after the the lessons are discussed, they are ignored.  Budgets and 
promotions come first, the "it can't happen here" statements are made... and 
people continue to die.

*I* promise to never make the mistakes committed in the past... I won't fight 
a fire downhill, I will: post lookouts, get weather updates, insist on good 
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 the 
potential that it has, and never forget that ALL fatal fires start out small.

I would hope that anyone that manages firefighters would make the same 
promises or they don't belong in that position.


12/27 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 in.  To
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 writer, a
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 way of
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 always
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 basic behaviour
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 Doug's
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 philosophy
covers all possible behaviour factors in every situation.  Obviously it does not..and nothing does!  The standard behaviour courses are fine (although
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? ..   I'm
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 valid
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 open mind.


12/26 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
mandate wisdom.

Have a Merry Christmas!


12/25 Hola Firefighters

Some of the fire type retirees have been talking about forming incident
management teams and making themselves available under contract to agencies
needing assistance with managing wildfires. These teams would be made up of
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 but
if we are hearing it right there are problems and the field fire folks need
better support than they are gettting.

Some of the issues we have been batting around are:

        acceptance by the ground pounders 

        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 want
to hear from you folks that we would support in order to make go no go


12/24 Torch
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.
12/23    Pappy

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.


12/23 Greetings AB........
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.
R5 Firecapt

I checked it out, thanks R5 Firecaptain, here it is folks: xmas card  Ab.

12/23 Hi AB and Pappy,
    I received my first permanent appointment (with NPS no less) several
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 me
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!!!


12/23 "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 of that
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.php. 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 into the
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 time,  Pappy

12/22 Couple things on my mind after reading through here & visiting the

Doug, Dave has a "GREAT" sense of humor! I share his points along with
Bishops & Beighley's & Sage (They Said Archvies 7/18/99) that your not
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 the
line, yada yada yada...
BUT, when these situations occur it is time to become more heads up,

Haven't read FOTM yet, but hope I get a copy in my stocking, if not I'll
head for the bookstore.

Be Careful Out There!

12/22 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 "reporter."

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 vs.
natural fire" debate.  Without telling me what they had planned, they
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
my experience. 

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


12/22 Ab,
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 2000. 
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 truly 
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 review 
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 of 
the people I talked too couldn't wait to get their cert so they could start 
their Strike Team Leader taskbook. Again, we are sending people out there in 
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 on 
what I heard from them, I was VERY disappointed.

Doug, PLEASE COME TO FLAGSTAFF!!!!!  We want your class, we need your 

Merry Christmas to all!!

AZ Trailblazer, FMO

12/22 hey all! i hope everyone has a happy holiday. did anyone spend 2 weeks in 
lovely kentucky? i went with the njffs and seen more fire in 10 days than any 
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! i 
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 a 
good safe zone but it was close none the less. we are a type 2 crew but was 
assigned to perform type 1 work. we completed all assignments and recieved 
excellent reviews from management. although the terrain wasn't as high as out 
west it was as steep and as hazardous as anything i have seen. who says crews 
from the east are not up to the task?!  overall it was good and i am looking 
forward to next season!
12/21 Doug,
Actually I do have a great sense of humor, but I didn't realize that discussions
 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
 human behavior. 
So next time you decide to be funny put it next to a little (ha,ha) then we will
 know your intent. 

12/21 To Mellie,
S-290 Intermediate Fire Behavior, is an approved National Wildfire Coordinating
 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  !!!                                  Dave
12/21 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.


12/21 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. Hope you
and your's have a good holiday season and a prosperous New Year!
12/21 To 6,
I can't and won't comment on if the "Reporter" was out to get Robertson
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".
12/20 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


12/20 New helicopter photo on Guest 3 page:  Lama  Ab.
12/20 To Doorsmaurer:

Whoops - just a little confusion here,  The Type 1 *hotshot crew* wasn't
disbanded - it was the Type 1 *overhead team*.  The IC and staff, those
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 in
any trouble for it.

To Spencer:

First off, don't worry about stirring the pot.  That's how things get
hashed out.  You've got good questions.

Though only one person needs to screw up one of the 10 & 18 to put people
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 how the
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 they
were doing when they were doing it, and that wasn't just the fault of the
crew boss.

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 one 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 your
source saw fits in with what's written...but I'll go with what the division
supe and hotshot supe told me.   They were interviewed by the investigation
team - just about all the overhead were.

the Lurker FMO

12/20 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 commitment
to doing whatever we need to ensure that every firefighter goes home safely from every assignment.  We can glean the best from traditional NWCG
training, the latest research, Doug's CPS, investigation reports, and MacLean's novel......and use that accumulated knowledge to reach our goal of a
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.
12/20 I just stumbled across the web site you have set up and would like to say 
nice job. It's the best set up to wildland fire I've seen I would like to say 
thanks and keep up the good work (noname)

Glad you found it and thanks for your encouragement.  Ab.

12/19 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
12/19 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
personal experience.
Mark Sorenson
12/18 To Lurker FMO,
Thanks for clearing up a few things, but I still don't understand why a type 
1 shot crew was disbanded if they had nothing to do with the fire.  Was it 
because they were smart and refused the assignment?  I may be kicking a dead 
horse if this was already discussed here back when it happened, but I don't 
recall it.  Thanks for the info.
12/18 (New Guest photo of a B-17 airtanker drop). . .  taken in Arizona in 1979.  Ab.
12/18 Ab,

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 danger 
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 the 
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 fire 
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 for 
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 mind 
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

12/17 Good discussion going on.   It is enlightening and if nothing else,  it sure 
gives our fellow firefighters more awareness of fireline safety, certainly an 
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 there. 
 You wanted to know why I said the Sadler report was flawed.  Well its 
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, considering that 
there was only 1 person who broke the rules?   Who told you the two hotshot 
crews declined the assignment.  I have it from a very accurate and reliable 
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.   While 
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 page.

To FMO & Maclean,   I don't think it would have made any difference if 
Robertson had been there or not.   Well it may have if he took an aerial 
recon.   Otherwise he wouldn't have seen anything different than anyone else. 
 Speaking of aerial recon, yes Shepard and the Prineville Crew were fresh 
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 that 
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 help 
but think that if Maclean had shared his manuscript with anyone else (besides 
J.K. and his compatriots), possibly a hotshot or two, that the book would be 
a lot truer than it is, and would not be slanted so much towards our friends 
that fall out of sky.

Hate to stir the pot, but can't help it.        Spencer

12/17 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"?


12/17 Log Padres Hotshots 50th Anniversary flier & Retirement Party for "Supe" Mark Linane
12/17 Abercrombie:
  I noticed on the discussion page that one participant said he couldn't find 
Fire on the Mountain at his local bookshop.
  As a service, could you put a note in your discussion They Said that 
autographed copies of FOTM can be obtained through the Supply Cache, internet 
address: jfelix@firecache.com.

Can and did.  I purchased mine through amazon.com, here Fire on the Mountain Ab.

12/16 To Doorsmaurer:

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 by
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 experience.  The
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 number
of inexperienced people on a Type 2 crew. 

the Lurker FMO

12/16 Ab, Dave, Doug Campbell--

Dave, Ab, what is S-290? Where can I go or who can I call to find out about

I found some refs for Countryman, Rothermal, Albini, Burgan, and Andrews from
your list, Dave. (For others who are interested, check out the references sections
of the articles at www.wildfiremagazine.com/safety.shtml). I'm starting to wade
through it. Pretty impressive science and seems like some of it provides the
foundation for the CPM. But it seems to me IMHO that the CPM has the purpose
of letting the firefighter facing the fire now have a logical, practiced, and
communicable (ooooew, that sounds dangerous) approach to evaluating a situation
that might save her life. 

Can't wait to visit the Intermountain Forest and Range Experimental Station,
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 overcome
by a moment of whimsy (even at your age!). Personal stories and humor do make
the "how to" and "why" science stuff more palatable.

Heading down to the Storm King memorial to hike the mountain with some new firefighter
friends over vacation. Thanks for FOTM, Mr. Maclean. Thanks also for the links
to refs that accompanied your post about FOTM, Ab. 

Have a wonderful holiday everyone--

Mellie from Five Waters

12/15 I guess Dave hasn't much of a sense of humor. 
I lost 28 of my friends in predictable burnovers during my career.  It made
me think that there was something more that needed developing.  To those
firefighterswho walked into Hell I dedicated my work.  To those who have
avoided the danger I take my hat off.  They must know something worth while.
I found that the existing fire training could stand a little practical improvement,
so I wrote CPS.  I made an offer to the Govt. to work on the ideas while in
service and they elected to pass.
The only way I could develop the course and book was to fund it myself.  After the
initial investment I set the costs to recover the expense like any other business.
Does that bother you Dave?
The Ventura County Fire Dept. assisted me to that end.  Since then many
departments have adopted this training program into their training programs.
Since 1995, 90% of 2500 students rated the course very useful.  How do the
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 tactics
were selected from the perspective of an old dog who accumulated a lot of
wildland fire experience.  If you don't like that, fine.
Doug Campbell
12/15 To M,
While I don't know your circumstances here are a couple avenues you may
check on.
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 to
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 all
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.
Good Luck,j
12/15 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?
12/14 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 good
hands on scene and things might well have been so busy at the Grand
Junction office that Robertson may have been tending to legitimate business
there.  He also didn't give any reply when I asked him what reason he had
to think that things might have gone differently if Robertson were there
(besides other fires on the district being neglected), especially given the
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 things
that Maclean didn't know about how things work.

And any fed that's ever given an award to an employee knows that it would
be just about impossible give one to yourself.  You'd have to forge it.

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 didn't
see anything to support the stonewalling accusation, but I don't think it's
a bad thing for the agency not to argue with him and to try to stay on high
ground.  There's nothing to be gained by arguing between Maclean and the
BLM.  I agree that it was appropriate that the state director and the head
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 the world,
not the  Winslow Robertsons."  I hope that my position that Maclean's book
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.  I've set
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 anyone)
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 it's
right to speculate that there are malicious or suspicious reasons that
Robertson wouldn't talk with Maclean.  I can think of a number of reasons
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.  He
may not have had a reason to think that there was anything to gain from
talking with Maclean.  Maclean himself observed that Robertson is known to
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.  I'm not
sure that Maclean would have been impartial if Roberston had spoken to him.
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
complicated situation.

Wish that had been shorter,
the Lurker FMO

12/14 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 college.
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.php.  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.  Ab.

12/13 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,
 and vice-versa.”

7. “ The fuel flammability varies over terrain, but the humidity is considered constant.” 

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 extreme.
  On the other hand , I was looking for the time and aspect relationship, trying to find the time and aspect when the fire became extreme.”

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,

1.  “Flamma-namma-momometer”

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.


12/13 Ab,
  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 praise Mike's
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 comments
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 with
the loss.

12/10 Ab,
I just read your thoughts of "Fire on the Mountain" and found on many
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, be
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 that
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 because
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.


12/08 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.

12/08 we just looked at your webpage.  looks great. 
wasatch helirappellers

Hey there rope people.  Don't wear out your welcome now, hear?  Ab.

12/07 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.  :)

12/07 To Dave and Wp, I need to clarify some things so I'm not here under false pretenses.

Mellie is my real name, I am a woman, and Five Waters is the location of our
ranch on the New River (downriver from Denny CA). I am not a firefighter as
you are. I did not have a crew leader to rely on to read the signature of the
fire I fought. However, I feel a kinship with you who fight fire as your life's
calling. I have a strong commitment to firefighter safety. I also have a desire
to understand your situation to better understand the changes I have gone through
since August. I, like some 8,000 of you, participated in suppression of the
Onion/Megram fires. (Map at firegirl's link.) I was in its smoke for 73 days,
most of it alone, except for my scanner and the firefighter friends I came to
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 Onion Fire
burned down Big Mountain (that overlooks our valley) to New River on Five Waters'
eastern boundary. It was always smoky. The Sacramento Hotshots from NM conducted
burnout operations on Sept 6 that came onto our land on the eastern side of
the river. As it turned out, that containment line of the Onion held and signaled
its end. 

Over the next weeks, the Fawn and the Megram burned together in the Salmon-Trinity
Wilderness just north of Denny. Base camp for the complex was at Big Bar. A
spike camp had been set up in Denny and then another camp was established in
Orleans. (Later there would also be camps at the Hoopa Reservation and Willow
Creek).  Containment lines at Quimby Creek near Denny held for quite a while.
But the fire, one that was mostly fuel-dominated and burning under an inversion,
continued to grow to the north, the northeast (site of the '87 Klamath fires)
and northwest near Orleans on the Salmon River. Because of the inversion, it
was almost as active at night as during the day. 

On Sept 27, Denny spike camp was closed. Shots, crews, and equipment were moved
 to Groves Prairie and Grizzly Camp to be nearer to the blowdown on Devil's
Backbone. Others went to Burnt Ranch on the Trinity River and to Orleans on
the north side. Late that afternoon, the Megram fire (now to the north of Five
Waters) blew up into the blowdown and spotted, some spots flying 2.5 miles away
to the west into Horse Linto Creek and Tish Tang drainages. Scary situation.
Grizzly Camp at the wilderness edge was evacuated. Groves Prairie was evacuated
in the middle of the night and a Hoopa man died from cardiac arrest. That began
the fire's new and dangerous spread west and south into extremely wild and vertical
country. My concerns for my friends' safety were heightened when the IAP's began
to contain messages that the glue in fire shelter seams could ignite at certain
high temperatures. The message was clear--firefighters should not rely on their
shelters, except as a last resort. 

On Oct 6 we had a quarter of an inch of rain, and some thought the end of the
fire was near. Often by this time of year, the winter storm pattern has started
with its drenching deluge. Many firefighters were demobed, including Larry Wright,
our Branch Super who had been with us residents since the beginning and had
taught us all a lot about this fire and how people stay safe. On Oct 16 after
days of drying, we had another wind event. The fire came over Happy Camp Mountain
ridge, jumping the containment line at DP16 and into Five Waters watersheds
from the west. At this time, firefighters and resources were scarce, as many
had been called up to Redding to fight the fast-moving fires there. A firefighter
friend who was a single mom died at that fire. I still find myself in tears
when I think of her young daughters growing up without her guidance. Then I
think of the Colorado Interagency Crew who didn't know her but immediately put
out a can for donations to help her family with expenses. The big-heartedness
of your fire family is moving.

At that time, not just the fire, but the whole situation felt incredibly BIG,
out-of-control-and ripe for more deaths. My brother came for 2 days to help
mark off dozer lines that were made down our ridgetop (from DP49). Within days,
the first arms of fire backed down Bell Creek to the Denny Road, which had become
the final containment line. Fire was encircling us. Our mailbox is the place
where my brother and I fought fire for some hours one evening, as I mentioned
in the first post I made to this website. 

Some of us residents called Larry Wright at home. He came back the next day.
Feelings of death receded, but the danger was still there. For a while, the
situation was even more taxing as the fire backed down to the Denny Road along
its 15-mile length, from DP47 (the "Onion Saddle"). Larry, Brian Ramsey (Denny
Division super) and most of the firefighters (and camp crew) didn't get much
sleep those days. Many worked round the clock. The 16 men and women (Shasta-Trinity
Strike Team with Ron Armstrong and engine 5771 from Klamath) who slept on my
floors came in at midnight or one, if they were lucky, and were up and gone
by 5:30 in the frost and smoke. Some nights they brought home strays or didn't
come back at all. One engine was decommissioned and another damaged in a rockslide
at Panther Slide before the road was closed above and below our mailbox. Another
engine stayed on duty all night to make sure the road stayed closed and people
stayed safe. That night we had new people-those cut off short of Denny camp
by the road closures. I finally understood watchout 18, the one that had seemed
so silly when I first read it--about taking a nap near the fireline. When the
fireline is everywhere around, you don't sleep or nap, and you're exhausted.

As you all know with your fire stories, this one goes on and on. Branch and
hotshots hooking a slopover onto our driveway, fire heading for the retirement
community of Hawkins Bar, experiences at Willow Camp with Team 3 after the rain,
fire camp at Pooky on the reservation. BAER team efforts interspersed with logging

And then there's the end of the fire and trying to reintegrate one's life into
family, work, and the non-fire world. There's the edginess, the fire thoughts,
the recall of the emotion I never felt before and don't want to forget, and
the trivia that everyone else seems to think is important. 

I walked through the mall last weekend and didn't have a fire thought for at
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 five_waters@hotmail.com

12/06 I have not visited the site in the past few weeks and just took the time to 
catch up.  Interesting discussion of MacLeans book, I will have to read it. 
But I saw a comment from 5 Waters Mellie that just got me going.  In Her 
(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 one who 
has worked both ends of the fire, I can tell you that sometimes just getting 
food to a spike camp is a major feat in it self.  If you want a hot meal at 
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 might 
of seemed like every thing worked like it was supposed to.  But I will tell 
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 people 
in camp have an easy time, think again.  While all you have to do is put in 
your shift and get a meal, shower and some rest.  It takes a 24 hour a day 
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 or 
longer, when you are sleeping we are working.  We are up to make sure the 
kitchen will have breakfast at 0430, and the hot cans are ready at 0300 so we 
can get the trucks loaded and out.  We are up till 2300 to 2400 to insure 
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 days."

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 more then 
once but it did not help much. 


12/06 To Lurker FMO
  Your informed speculation may be an adequate answer as to why Winslow 
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 with 
Robertson. In one of his interviews with OSHA, Pete Blume was asked about the 
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 more 
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 searching 
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 there's a 
simple answer, why don't we have it from Robertson, and under circumstances 
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 on one 
  The general conduct of the BLM on this fire was sufficiently awful that Bob 
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, to 
the contrary, received pay raises and a congratulatory memo in public -- the 
memo, FMO, was signed by Blume, among others, undermining your argument that 
Blume and Robertson simply had money and glory thrust upon them.
  The Colorado BLM has refused comment on any factual matter regarding my 
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; others 
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 just, 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 in 
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 have 
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 actions (Rich 
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 ... opinions," 
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 Perkins 
name on it said . "We do not want to get into the trenchs [sic] arguing with
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 in 
big-name cases like Waco and Ruby Ridge have led to unpleasant consequences 
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, not the 
Winslow Robertsons. 
  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 least 
for a while. You will make the difference as to whether the lessons of the 
South Canyon fire save lives.
  Sincerely, John N. Maclean
12/06 The first thing I would like to bring up today is that we should all take a
 moment of silence for the 6 firefighters in Worchester , Mass . The way
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 and
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.

To Mellie,
1. yes the guvmint at any level , federal, state, county or city all have their
 own agendas and priorities and occasionally they don't include firefighter
safety. Firefighting is inherently dangerous enough without politics entering
into it. 
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, confidence
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 
firefighter safety. 
9. You have to use the right tool for the right job. Farsite is cool as you
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 although a
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 run
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 behavior, but
 by all means develope yours. It takes training, it takes experience and it
takes a commitment to
 firefighter safety.


12/06 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.  I'm sure
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 season
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 them.  any
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 check sorry
12/05 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 gave their 
all in a search and rescue attempt when two of the brethren called for help.

John Marker

12/05 Abercrombie- more questions

What is IHMO?

These translations and questions are especially for Dave if he is willing….
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, but
might happen if the IC Team/US govt has to interact with another sovereign nation,
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 changes
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 farther away
from home.) 
Does this mean that Ops comes from a region that is so far from the fire that
he or she doesn't know the territory? Or does it mean that Ops is located someplace
other than incident command base leading to potential communication problems?
If it's the first, is this a problem? I know, Ab, that you've said it helps
to have shots and crews experienced in the local terrain. I guess that could
apply to overhead, as well.

7-8. (Your assignment includes obvious fireline "Watch Out!" situations which
are not addressed during briefing. Your questions about how Standard Fire Orders
can be observed in your assignment are answered in terms of important tactical
tasks or timelines instead of firefighter safety.) 
I never experienced these on the Denny side of the Megram. We really got the
sense of safety coming from the top down. 
But yeah, if these actually are true sometime, a cynic might think that, in
those cases, the 10 and 18 exist so as to have something to point to in order
to blame firefighters and avoid tort in the case of a screw-up or burnover.

9. I still don't understand how you know exactly where escape routes and safety
zones should be if you don't know how the fire is going to behave--like its
rate of spread and direction. I mean, Farsite is cool, but doesn't predict local
fire activity on the ground during the course of a day except in a general way,
does it?  And when do you decide to escape? Is there any other system besides
CPS that lets fire fighters evaluate fire behavior to determine these things?
I'd appreciate any references or links to alternatives…

10. Should this one bother us-except that training processes in unknown agencies
is 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.php  Ab.

12/05 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 later.

12. The ops officer tells your night branch and division super (who have been
the day branch and day super all day long as the fire backs down to the line
in many places) to be sure and get some sleep! (Now, isn't he supposed to be
the one to assign overhead for the night shift?)

13.Logistics gets food to Spike Camp 2 hours late, resulting in the night shift
being 2 to 3 hours late for shift change. In the meantime, residents fight fire
at their mailbox… (In hindsight, I'm glad we had the experience. Of course,
if I were dead, I might feel differently! Or not…feel.)


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 other
and are passionate about what you think and do. 

John Maclean, I thank you for bringing your father's book to press and I thank
you for Fire on the Mountain. Many people I know were hurting because friends
had died. You opened the door to the current dialog, which, in spite of its
fiery character, seems healing. 

Abercrombie, THANK YOU for the forum. I REALLY like your writing, even if it
is a little less than PC at times! My emotions in reading this stuff have alternated
between "Wow, this fire will help the woods" to "Shit, here comes another snag
rolling over!"

It's clear that participants in this dialog speak with the integrity of their
experiences and understanding. Such a process can only illuminate the dark corners
for all of us. I feel honored to be allowed to lurk! Or speak! as the case may

Mellie from Five Waters

12/04 Mr. Maclean,

I don't know if I would fit your definition of a fire expert, but I'll take
a crack at your questions.  I can think of a few reasons why Robertson
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 what
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.  Just
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 office has
the radio, and Robertson's bosses (the FMO and the line managers) are there
and perhaps they needed some of Robertson's time.  I don't know that this
happened, but for instance, the district manager may have wanted a briefing
on the district-wide situation,  or the FMO may have asked Robertson to
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 like
Grand Junction was undergoing at the time.  That's why fires have ICs - to
oversee the fireline operations for the fire staff.

We have the luxury of hindsight to know how the day turned out, but no one
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 or not
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 augered
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 big,
troublesome fires on (Grand Junction) district on July 5,..." A total of
thirty-six.  Fire staff like Blume and Robertson are responsible for ALL
those fires, not just the number one priority.  I happen to think that they
erred big-time in not having ordered enough managerial-type help, but your
(condescending and presumptuous) question was "what was so interesting in
the office?"

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?  A
hotshot superintendent is generally acknowledged to be an astute fire hand.
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 expertise
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 were in
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 that,
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 didn't
give themselves the awards - the district management did.  I agree with you
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 your
questions about Robertson and Blume lead me to confirm my earlier
observation that you're looking for an easy focus to the blame.  However, I
also feel that doesn't invalidate your entire book - I thought it held some
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 others'
responsibility is overlooked.

Lurker FMO

12/04 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 three
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.


12/03 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
physical condition.

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.

12/03 Here's a serious but lighthearted view of some additional Situations that shout
 watch out.  New 13's
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.
12/03 To Mike
  Thank you for your note.
  I hope when you do read Fire on the Mountain you will see that the reasons 
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 simple
fact that the majority of the fatalities -- 12 of the 14 -- could have been 
avoided as late as the time of the blowup on July 6 if the crew on the west 
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 Robertson received 
pay raises and a congratulatory memo, all done in public, for their role in 
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 of 
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 blew 
up in late afternoon? Why didn't he visit the scene of the district's No. 1
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 fire 
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 interesting in 
the district office on July 6?
    Thanks again, Mike, for your polite interest. 

     Sincerely, John N. Maclean

12/02 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 entitled to
their opinion.

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 they
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 reason
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 classroom, meals
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 when
I tell them there is no cost except for meals or lodging for their employees. 


12/02 Whoo!  Are we having fun now?

To Kelly:  While you're right that a person doesn't need to know about fire
just to write a book, I would expect someone that called their book "The
True Story of the South Canyon Fire" to know an awful lot about fire - or
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 one.
I'd say that anyone that believes that an author is uninformed doesn't have
to write a book before they say so.  I don't mean to put words in Ab's
mouth, but I think he was just saying that Maclean didn't know enough about
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 were
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 different
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 crew that
was involved.

Lurker FMO

12/02 To:  John N. Maclean

 (I) Read your dad's book- nice piece of writing.  Great historical piece,
not much in the way of relevance to today's fire management context.
With the exception of the safety factors which kill firefighters -which are
pretty much timeless.
The firefighters and the society of the 1940's were a bit different from today's
I haven't had a chance to read your book, so I will have to cough up some bucks
and get it.
In my ignorance I will have to say that I hope that we can avoid the premise
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 they
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 written
about tragedies which could have been avoided.

12/01 There is certainly an abundance of thought provoking comments and ideas that 
flow from your discussion forum. most of them positive.  I am encouraged by 
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 refer 
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 believe 
everything you read.  I'm not prepared to comment at length but I will say 
this.  To call Maclean's book "The True Story of the South Canyon Fire" is an
equivocation.  Granted, the storyline is fairly representative of what 
happened but many of the details and inferences are simply not true or are 
misleading.  As for the Sadler Investigation report and the Lurker FMO 
comments I am totally appalled.  First of all, the 10 & 18 were not "trashed" 
by any means.  Ask anyone that was there (I was).  The report is terribly 
flawed, absolutely one sided, and was wrought by sheer speculation. 

 I've offered you folks out there my advice.  Its up to you to determine 
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.

12/01 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 the crew.


PS Hey Abercrombie your gonna have to quit writing about yourself and your ideas in the third person, it's unnerving. Later. 

12/01 On November 27, 1999 a Houston Helicopter crashed in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  Both the pilot, Bob Smith and the mechanic, Hank Landrum were
killed.  The week before they had been working fires in Virginia and were in route to Texas to help there. 
12/01 Anyone know where I can get a hold of prints of firefighter art by James
Reed? If so , please e me at kippmorrill@mindspring.com
Thanks in advance
Kipp Morrill
12/01 Ab,

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 completed and
reconstruction of the events leading up to the disaster" and that's kind
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 doesn’t
know and failed to learn enough about the fire suppression organization
and firefighters as an entity," you wrote. How much do you think would
have been "enough" for him to learn, and when he'd learned "enough,"
then what? Then he was qualified to write a book? "I think Mr. Maclean’s
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 on a
Type I team here -- he wrote a book. You do fire. He does journalism.
Get it?

"As part of my own investigation into the causes of the end results of
the South Canyon Fire," you wrote, "I’m unaware of anyone applying the
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 people have
now commented on -- the 10&18 are all over the fire investigations.

"Mr. Maclean wouldn’t know an anchor point from a pencil point." Izzzzat
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, insinuations
filled far too many pages" of the book. So what would an okay amount of
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 to
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. 

  Kelly Andersson

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 the line.

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.


11/30 Ab,

About your paper on "Fire on the Mountain"; first, I'd like to commend
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 the
mountain as well and it doesn't anyone any good to overlook that.  You
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 that,
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 aware that
the 10 & 18 were addressed in the South Canyon Fire Investigation?  It
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:

Work safe,
the not-such-a lurker FMO

11/30 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 by
management...BUT..the final responsibility in saftey lies on each individual
and the crew supervisors. Yet that is not to say that management should get
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 the book
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 addressing
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 that
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!!!   Campbells prediction
system. If you dont know what it is, and utilize it...YOU SHOULD!   (
http://www.dougsfire.com/Default.php ) Dougs way of looking at things is
simple and effective, I find it difficult to understand why it isnt required


11/30 Ab,
If no one has taken you up on the offer I'd like to.
"Boo" Walker

You've got it.  I'll mail it out tomorrow.  Ab.

11/30 Dear Abercrombie:
  When you are reviewing a book, and especially when you assign motives to 
someone you don't know -- i.e., "Mr. McLean used his father's name to try and 
sell books" -- you should learn to spell the author's name correctly. It's 
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.

11/30 AB,

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.  However, I
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 those
in the Report.  Comment?

Puffin II

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.

11/30 Just read your review.  I have not read the book, but have heard of McLean's and
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 saying no 
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.   Even the
best intentioned and best skilled of overhead will miss or not be aware of a site
specific condition.   Thanks for sharing your perspective; expect to receive some
grief over it.

Thank you for your comments Ralph.  Ab

11/29 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!
Ab's 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!

11/26 Hey AB--

Got the answers to most of my random questions about training. One friend who
visited even gave me his old pink card. Are they any redder when they're new?
Interesting how categories just get added as one gets better qualified! You
can never escape your past. When I asked what happened when they get full, I
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 study
up on my own a little more before I go posting questions to this site. (I think
they're concerned that I'll make them look dumb if it ever comes out that we're
friends! Plus, I'd be wasting the dispatcher's time and that's a very important
position.) I also apologise for the presumptive comment I made about committees
and quality control, especially the "IN THEORY" part. My friend reports that
committees do work pretty well, in fact much better than the old system, so
I stand corrected. I guess Thanksgiving is a day for eating turkey. Seems like
I've eaten my share!

Hope you all are having a happy holiday! And to absent friends who are still
in Georgia, come home safe!

Mellie from Five Waters

11/26 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 buzzing at
my bum while using the port-a-toilettes at base camp.

11/25 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

11/25 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
as appropriate?

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
  Kelly Andersson

11/25 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 ass
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!!
11/23 New version of Firestorm simulation is available at
John Daigle
Cricket Software
11/23 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 were
noted time and again in the IAP's from the Megram and Onion and I found them
on the inside covers of the red bible you guys use (that my fire mentor gave
me). I also found them on a card handed out by Bacon's team at the beginning
of the Onion Fire--So the info is out there--but do you think through those
lists routinely unless you're a Safety or a Hotshot leader? LCES is another
mnemonic that I heard, but I can't remember what that stood for-and that's only
four things. 

When my dad trained up his Boy Scouts to deal with emergency situations, he
always stressed having a logical process providing a mental checklist that was
automatic when faced with a crisis situation. All I could think of with the
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 remember.
I also thought that my dad would have been shaking his admonishing finger at
me because I hadn't figured out my system prior to the crisis. So to each firefighter
I say (with the appropriate finger action--the index, you guys!) "Do YOU really
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 quite a
few questions and raised a few more.

A few random questions (and you're welcome to tune me out when you reach saturation):

Why are some hotshot crews training crews? What are they training for? 

Who is a red-card holder? Obviously necessary but not sufficient, it must be
someone under 55!

What is a job aid? Some kind of training materials that accompany a trainee
into the field?

What is PPE that information people must provide for media and VIP's as appropriate?
Nomex under another name?

>From the dispatcher post: Is Overhead a particular type of resource? 
The fireline handbook (red bible) states that the IC approves the use of trainees.
Do IC's on small fires even think of trainees? I know from the IAP's that on
big fires like ours, there's a certified training specialist (now from the NWCG,
I know the name) who prods trainees to get their PTB's in, etc. Right from the
start of the Onion, Larry Wright had a safety trainee (we called him "goat-boy",
don't tell the human resources specialist! and it wasn't because of his smell,
but because of his nimbleness), but I didn't start seeing info about trainees
in our IAP's until about a month into the fires.  Who makes the decision about
inviting trainees when a call for Overhead first comes in? (I presume that an
evaluator on the fire has to be willing to accept a trainee. For how long? Does
it have to be for 3 or 2 weeks? Are things chaotic enough at the beginning of
an incident that trainees are overlooked until closer to mop-up? What is the
incentive to have a trainee?)  The committee idea sounds like a good one for
quality control in theory. Does it replace the home unit training specialist
or the evaluator, or does it just act on their recommendations?

Home units must support the fire system for it to work at an interagency level.
Do all home units care? Is this just more work for them in a time of budget
crunch? Is there any expectation or incentive from the feds (well, er, I know
many of you are the feds, but, you know, the feds with the money.) Seems like
downsizing would be a distinct dis-incentive. 

To change the subject a little, isn't it unusual that there are currently 5
major incidents (4 fires and one hurricane) happening now. I heard toward the
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 major
incidents and 5 teams out. Right now it would take only one big earthquake or
a few more fires to really land us in deep doodoo. And I see my dad's big admonishing
pointer finger being wagged at me (and us) again. Of course, this is probably
all common knowledge to you-but I'm a little shocked! (And God, please, with
your biggest finger up there, I didn't mean that we should have any more upheval
to deal with right now…)

I have more questions, but I mustn't wear out my welcome.  Thanks in advance
to Abercrombie and everyone else. 

Mellie from Five Waters


11/22 Ab,

As always thanks for the site.  It is always interesting to say the
least.  In regards to Mellie question about fire quals - she can look up
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 the
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 unit
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 recommend
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 on
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 and
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.....


11/22 Here is a pic taken this summer 10/99 of Dan King (Burns Interagency Fire Zone)
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.
11/22 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 violated.......then just
say no, explain why, and stay alive.---Old fire guy.
11/20 Hey, AB, 

I couldn't get the web-site e-mail to work, so here it is when I send it the
regular way:

I'm entirely new to They Said It , but I'd like to understand... With regard
to Dave's post on 11/17,  where can I find a copy of the NWCG guidelines?  In
the Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy and Program Review (1995), both
the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture have the same policy "The NWCG
provides a formalized system to agree upon standards of training, equipment,
aircraft, suppression priorities, and other operational areas."  Is this policy
followed differently by these two groups? Do you know what the guidelines say
about task completion?

What is OJT?   Thanks.

I  was on the Onion and Megram Fires (Big Bar Complex) as they threatened our
land on New River for 79 days. One night on shift change, my brother and I and
a field observer named Fortunate were the only ones available to fight fire
at our mailbox. The mix of emotions I felt from "Oh shit, here comes another
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 before
rain came, I lost a firefighter friend 
Karen Savage during the Jones Fire.  I love all you guys and want to thank you
from the bottom of my heart for coming!  Please be safe. No fire is worth dying
over. (If you get the chance, please learn the Campbell Prediction Method for
reading the fire's signature. All mess-ups at the higher levels aside, I feel
that if this method had been used during the Storm King Fire, it would have
saved lives.)

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.

11/20 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
R5 firecapt

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!  Ab.

11/19 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

11/19 ab,
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!!!!!
be safe

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

11/19 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

11/19 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 Card"
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

11/18 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 are still
trying to fill positions.  If anyone is interested, check with your dispatcher.  Red.

Right you are Red, we've sent about 8 overhead from our forest.  Ab.

11/18 Yo, Ab,

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 Senate
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 in
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.   It's on
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.  Please
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 continue
your support for the FWFSA.  Remember, the wheels of government turn S-L-O-W.

Thanks to all for the hard work on the firelines this last season in the West.  Thanks for the page Ab.


11/17 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

11/17 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 firefighting.  Now
I'm back in the "real" world and day dreaming about are next season. 
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.  Reason
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, travel,
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 crew was
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 to install,
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 with
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 "real" fire.

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.

11/16 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 resources.

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 to 20%.

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.


11/16 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 the
time of assignment. Remember, these are only guidelines and they are
interpreted differently by every fire team.
11/13 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 depends on
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 fire the
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?


11/13 Ab,

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 increase
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 overlooked is
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

11/12 The ashkickers link does not come up.  If you are able to raise it, could
you send me an email letting me know.   my address is kchri301@uwsp.edu.
thank you for your time.

Anyone know what's up with the Ashkickers site?  Ab

11/12 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 pretty
good to me since that is three days of pay with no production.  In the real
world, private contract firefighters may or may not be paid for any R & R
that comes their way.  How about a crew line assignment from Aug. 22 until
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 happy to
have the opportunity to EARN our taxpayer's dollars!

Thank God for the rain!  Stu

11/10 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 this happen.

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.

11/10 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. The
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 the same
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
plugging along.

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.

11/10 OK! People have been busy, but there is a lack of information out there that
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???   Jeffsz00tv

I don't wanna comment. . .Kent?  Ab.

11/07 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.  Bear.
11/07 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.
11/07 Greetings 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.

11/05 the big bar is turning into a big logging show.  welfare for the local
community.  what a sick waste of government money and time.  cut load 
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

11/02 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 thread 

       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 dropped me. 

       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 plain wrong. 

       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.

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