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"THEY SAID IT" ARCHIVES
FEBRUARY  2001

 
DATE
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02/28 Ab,

A few more thoughts on contractors.
Although the Federal scene MAY slow down for private fire suppression contractors due to an increased level of funding and a corresponding higher level of staffing no one seems to be addressing the lower level of fire staffing that states may experience due to their "emergency hire" AD types being "siphoned" off to the new fire positions being created by the Feds. Our statesí Dept. of Natural Resource "fire program" head stated that "weíll be stripped" when asked for his thoughts on what the Federal funding would do to Minnesotasí ability to find/hold onto qualified wildfire fighters.

I also seem to remember that when the funding first came through many regional managers were feeling that it would take several seasons before they could fully staff the new positions...has that changed? It would appear to me that the current "snafu" , if not simply attributable to bureaucratic inefficiency, works perfectly to "lateral" existing non-ADs into the best positions rather than opening positions up to everyone in a genuine effort to beef up our national fire suppression forces as the 100%MEL was intended to do.

Regardless of how the shells are shifted there exists a national shortage of experienced wildland firefighters...and there is no quick fix for that...experienced firefighters cannot be created as it takes seasons to accumulate experience. While a vast pool of experienced firefighters may exist in the former ADsí that have chosen to no longer fight fire...I see no effort currently being made to lure those folks back.

Someone please tell me I am wrong!

Fireronin

02/28 If you haven't tried the new *wildlandfire news page* (link at top of theysaid), I urge you to do so. Right now, one article (Seattle Times part 3 of 5 parts, "In Wildfire's Way: Keepers or Loosers") is about the Concow Fire that burned last summer in the Sierra foothills near Oroville CA. When you link to the current installment, go to the end and read parts 1 and 2 first if you havven't already. It's a well-written, gripping story, one the public and Congress (and GS-rating certifiers) need to hear in making decisions about how to make homes firesafe, at what level to fund fire, that all structures can't be saved, and how to acknowledge and pay firefighters fairly.

Mike-- Storm King weather (Go to the links page for weather, click on one of the programs, enter the location (Glenwood Springs CO in this case) and you've got it): -- www.weather.com/weather/local/USCO0162

Firescribe

02/28 Mellie, Rio Bravo is a Kern Co. Fire Dept. Hot Shot crew and as far as I know they are type 1 rated.
Ab here's an address for the Bear Divide Engine on the Angeles WWW.Beardivide.4mg.com/.
On another note about all the hiring. I did not hear a thing from the Forest Service on a job offer, but was contacted by the NPS on my interest at one of the parks I applied for and was told I was at or near the top of the list. Go figure. The day after I sent in the NPS application I was contacted for employment with yet another agency (non fed)for a position that is not totally fire related but is year round and better pay. It's nice to have options for once.

Options

02/28 Might I suggest Njine 19 { www.beardivide.4mg.com/ } in the L.A. River Ranger District @ the Bear Divide Station of the Angeles Nalt Forest? Super site.

Danny

02/28 Hey, Ab,

Here's a little "Mellie adventure" for ya, from last summer -- but just got around to putting it together...

Mellie
PS. I hope the desk audits for the GS-8 Engine Captain are going well with the classifiers.
<fingers crossed> <candleometer lit><vortex awhirl><sure to draw attention of the gods>

02/28 Have not posted lately, but continue to be impressed with site. Usually read right after fire weather forcast. Like all the new additions and upgrades. Keep up the excellant work.

adftr

02/27 Just wanted to bring you up to date on a few bullets about Florida --
  1. Florida has issued a burn ban for all types of open fires (including recreational) south of a line running from Jacksonville over to the south end of Dixie County - which means all of Peninsular Florida.
  2. Many areas in Florida have not seen significant rain since September - some none at all.
  3. Many cities are finding their water resources are now not only in short supply but simply gone - no water for lawns, bathing, and in some cases drinking (water is being shipped in containers to some locations).
  4. Organic Soil fires are becoming the norm - yesterday we had a 10,000 acre fire on the Brighton Indian Reservation in Broward and Hendry Counties.
  5. 12 miles of I-4 between Orlando and Tampa has been closed for over a week - opened today.
  6. Climatologists have indicated that we can expect below average rains through the summer (our monsoon begins on average about mid June).
  7. Fires and acres have already exceeded (by several orders of magnitude) the same time periods in 1998-2000.

James D. Brenner
Fire Management Adm
Florida Division of Forestry

02/27 Jobs page, Series 462 and 455 are updated. UT is looking for some flame-n-go type engine folk.

Ab.

02/27 It were back in 85 or 86, I think. Me and the crew were cutting some scratch line over the top of a ridge and down the other side of a not too steep point under some shady pines.

I was up front of the crew by about a hundred feet or so trying to figure how we were going to link into a rock outcropping. I heard a bunch of yelling and cuss'in coming from back of the line and turned to look. Here come one of my boys a runn'in to beat the band! Damned if there wasn't another of my crew a chas'in him. He too was yelling, but he was swinging a shovel like ta chop the other guys legs off.

I started heading towards 'em in a big hurry, but right 'fore they got up to me, here they went off in another direction. That guy in front was screaming like the devil was after him. Soon's I got close enough, I saw what looked like a piece a rubber or something a hanging off'a his boot. It was a flop'in and a dragg'in, but I then saw that it seemed to be a moving by it's ownself.

Right after that I seen what looked like a snake done attached to the guy. Well. . . I finally got the guy with the kamakazi shovel to quit chasing him and then got close enough to talk the runn'in man slow down a bit.

Turns out there was a little rattlesnake done got disturbed and tried to take a bite outt'a the poor feller. Christ, poor little rattler wasn't nearly a foot long. Instead of getting a bit of flesh, seems like the poor snake got its little teeth hung up in the nomex.pants. So, the guy looks around to see what hit him in the boot (yes, they still can hit ya hard), sees it's a rattler, and takes off running. So they guy in back of him sees his distress and thinks he's a go'in ta chop off the snakes head. So there they went, the poor little critter just a hang'in on and flopp'in all over the place. Must'a ran over a couple hundred feet fore they got to me.

Well, ya think now that everything is done after I came into the picture, that all is well. Not yet son. Now, a runn'in down the hill towards all of us is this other person a scream'in and yell'in. Who the hell can that be? Turns out, it was the Safety Officer who only saw that there was one screaming person chasing another with a swinging shovel.

One of the funniest things I have ever seen. I hope they read this.

Old Crewboss

Good one. Anyone else with a tale to share? Ab.

02/27 Mellie,
I believe RIO BRAVO is a Kern Cnty crew {7} located @ station 72 in Lake Isabella. They may also be a mixture of Federal & Cnty personel. I do not know if they are a flight crew. I also believe Kern Cnty Fire placed a new Helicopter in service last summer but I do not yet know where it is positioned. I also believe there is yet another crew located @ the base of the mountain @ the Keene station, I know there was a helicopter there last year, I believe BLM.
Danny
02/27 I am looking for any info. that anyone might have on hiking Storm King Mt. in a couple of weeks. How much snow should I expect, how long is the hike, etc. Thanks.

sec: I remember the milk drinking contest. I also have some good pics. I'd like to see yours as well. Were you with Baker or Bitt?

mike

Go to photos, then miscellaneous. Mellie and some firefighters hiked that hike Christmas of '99. If you click on the description under one of the photos she describes the trail length, steepness, etc. Maybe a reader can fill us in on current weather/snow depth conditions or point you to a number to call in Glenwood Springs CO. There's a memorial park there also. Ab.

02/27 BLM Bob,

Sooner is now. Contracts have already been signed for broadcast burning by private contractors on Federal lands.

Stu

02/27 Mellie,
Rio Bravo is a Kern County Hotshot Crew listed in the California Mob Guide as a Type 1 Hotshot Crew. They are configured the same as fed IHC's with a superintendent & two foreman, a supe rig, two crew carriers and lots of radio's. In the last few years they have been in the rotation for dispatched as the rest of the R5 IHC's. A hardworking professional crew.

Tony

02/27 Sorry to rehash this again, but could someone please clarify the date that apps must be postmarked and received by in order to be considered for yes, you've guessed it friends and neighbors....Round 2 of the hiring circus? I have heard 2/28 and I have heard 3/14.

Anyone? Anyone?

Thanks in advance and good luck to all.
K.

Depends on what category of hire you are. Here it is again. MELmadness Look at the top schedule for the permanent MEL and other jobs. A Job-FAQ page should be done in a day or two. This schedule will be available there, also. Ab.

02/26 Readers, we put in a link to our *new* "Current WildlandFire News" Page at the top of theysaid. This media firenews page provides links to newspaper articles on wildlandfire. It is updated every time you open it in your browser window, so it is always current. Click on it. It takes about 20 seconds to download. Catch a glimpse of that the media says is happening in wildlandfire around the US and the world.

We greatly appreciate the news reports and other info that Firescribe has provided so faithfully to the theysaid community over the last 6 months. We hope these contributions will continue and that this will make Firescribe's job easier.

Happy reading!
Ab.

02/26 To BLM Bob,

Great response to AZ Trailblazer. Your reply was good information and a well-thought prediction of fire contractors' future. These next few seasons will be tough on the private sector. Competition will be very intense for work. Many contractors have new vehicles and equipment additions coming into service this season, after a couple of good summers. The private sector has invested money and invested in more equipment to help meet the Nation's wildland fire suppresion needs, in a huge way, over the past 10 years. I hope that the powers that be realize the validity of contracting fire companies and that we are still able to fight fire a couple of years down the road.

Rock

02/26 Those of you who had trouble with the scannable Schedule C from Avuedigital on the FMO/AFMO/contracting/public affairs/computer specialists permanent positions, and were granted an extension until Feb 28 to get that in (even though the MELmadness schedule said earlier), there may be yet another extension in the works. The forms are not yet available in their complete form, so we folks may get a few more days before the final curtain drops.

Stay on top of it! Get your forms and get them in as soon as you can. Don't let opportunity pass you by.

Brinkley

02/26 Ab-

That list of Hotshots didn't include the Flame-N-Go Hotshots. They are no longer a prison crew. I think after the two members on the Flame-N-Go type 2 crew were killed last season- they have disbanded all of the Flame-N-Go crews...the Hotshots, the Engine Strike Team, and the Type 2 handcrew. The engines are being used throughout Utah, the Hotshots are still a crew, just not inmates, and I think the type 2 crew is obsolete.

They were a good crew- I worked with them on the Salt Lake Desert Complex, and on the Swain Fire.

Brett-

02/26 I do not know why it is always misspelled but it VANDENBERG HOTSHOTS, VANDENBERG AIRFORCE BASE. Any way my two cents.

Seldom Seen

02/26 Tim (who did the airtanker photos) please e-mail me. Someone's interested. Thanks Ab.
02/26 Here are a list of the new and old hotshot crews. The existing groups have a link. If you click on it, you get address and e-mail of the contact person. New ones don't have a link yet, but you can see where they'll be located. www.fs.fed.us/fire/operations/crews/IHC_index.shtml

I think there's another small group (Rio Bravo? maybe 13 people, not enough to qualify size-wise?) that's affiliated with Kern Co or Bakersfield. Anyone know about this group?

Mellie

02/26 Ab,

I don't see the Vandenburg Hotshots on the list of IHC's. They were the only hotshots on the Manter Incident for several days. They are located on the Vandenberg AFB in Santa Barbara County California. They are a national resource. In my past experiences with Vandenburg they have done a great job. Their Super, Mark Smith, is a strong leader and a great person to work with.

Hunter

Back from your hunting trip? I'll add it. Ab.

02/26 To AZ Trailblazer,

First, congratulations on the new baby. That's great news.

As far as your rumor about contractors, AZ State Lands is not likely to send contractors to federal fires because there is a provision in the state constitution that prevents deficit spending past a certain low amount. Because of the reimbursement time lag, ASLD went unconstituionally deep into the red sending out contracted resources to fed fires, even though the bills got paid eventually. They got called to accounts by the state beancounters and will not be providing contracted resources for the feds.

As far as the feds go, they will be signing EERAs as usual, but one of the side effects of the new fire money is that many feds aren't interested in contracting resources and will only sign up resources on EERAs. This is not to say that private resources won't be asked to go out, but they will probably be dispatched under EERAs rather than contracts. And there will be less demand for them as the ranks of regular federal fire resources is replenished.

This new National Fire Plan money will probably change the game for contractors. Since the feds are going to full MEL, there's going to be a lot less call for suppression contracts, BUT I think there's going to be a HUGE increase in fuels work contracts. There's going to be a lot of chainsaw work thinning and clearing, but sooner or later the feds'll be looking for contractors that can do broadcast burning. There are some policy/liability issues with that last one, but eventually... BLM has been told that we are expected to spend 80% of the new fuels money on contract work. There's some controversy about that, but the intent is clear.

BLM Bob

02/26 firepup21:

The ArcView symbol set named forestry.avp contains some of the ICS symbols. You will find it in the Av_gis30/ArcView/symbols subdirectory. The application mentioned in jw's response is the Incident Command Mapping Application ArcView 3.1 Extension. The version I have is 2.6 from April 16, 1999. There is a Users Guide developed by Ventura Co. Fire Department. I would suggest you contact them for a copy or the USDA Forest Service, Region 5, Fire and Aviation Management. Good luck.

rm

Firepup, if you find what you need and you think others could use it, maybe we could post it here at wlf.com. Ab.

02/25 I'm sure all who are interested must know that the National IHC Workshop is meeting Reno (the Nugget) from Tues to Thrus (2/27-3/1). It would be nice to have a report from someone who attends. The agenda is online:
National IHC Agenda

Here's a nice homepage provided by a hardworking engine crew, FS Engine 65 out of Dry Lake Station, on the Doublehead Ranger District, Modoc NF (northeastern CA). If you want to see the varied work that an engine crew does and where, take a look at their Crew Photos. (Also note their hard-earned GS ratings. Here are people in-the-flesh that a downgrade would affect. It seems logical that if the GS-8 engine captain ratings are reduced, so must the GS ratings of the other crewmembers: the "boss" does not usually have the same responsibilities or supervise those of equal status. As others have said, the implications here are staggering.)

Nice job Engine 65 and a very nice website (the only FS engine crew website I could find -- a "first" for the IMWTK list?):
Engine 65 Homepage

Firescribe

Here's one more, Laufman Engine 14 on the Beckwourth District on the Plumas. Anyone know of others? I'll be adding the shots and engine pages to the links page soon. Ab.

02/25 Hey Ab,

You forgot the Tatanka Hotshots (USFS) out of Black Hills National Forest.

Thanks-
Digger

Tatanka-- I added it. (We have your Tatanka Logo on Logo3.) The hotshot list will be a'changin this year. If we left anyone else out or we could add any new crews, let us know. Any new shot logos or others to add to the collection? Ab.

02/25 Diamond Mtn Crew Member ---

Were you on the crew last season? If so, do you remember the milk challenge on the helispot at Clear Creek? We got some great photos of the event......

sec

02/25 Re the hotshot crew list:

I would like to see the list for the new hotshot crews. If you can post the names on theysaid, I'm sure a lot of people would be stoked. Its hard to move up on a hotshot crew. Need to look into a new crew outside Region 5 to move up and have a good say in the rebuilding process.
Hawk

Send em in. I'll post them. Here's a list of the existing IHC. Ab.

02/25 Stung,

Just the fact that the agency would even consider downgrading an already underpaid wildland firefighter is enough to make me puke and wonder why anyone would stay with such a "professional" outfit. Or maybe that should read "dysfunctional"?

Tony

02/25 firepup21;

I can't pinpoint a source for you on ArcView symbols, but there is an ArcView mapping program used by CA command teams that have ICS incident symbols. It may have been developed out of L.A. County. I saw a demo some years ago at the FIREWEST conference in San Jose. CDF's Forest and Range Assessment Program (FRAP) in Sacramento is the lead GIS shop. The USFS research station at N. Arizona U. has an excellent GIS shop whose work I've seen, they may have some files available.

jw

02/25 Actually two new shot crews in CO. BLM crew out of Craig, and a FS crew on the Arapaho-Roosevelt in Ft. Collins.

Also the new Rogue River Crew. Some of you other old timers may remember the old Rogue River IR Crew. They were shall we say "colorful". Wonder if they plan to revive the old traditions? (Many administrative types are now saying "gawd I hope not".) Any of you old Rogue River Rats lurking out there?

bw

02/24 As of yesterday, the GS-8 captains problem expanded in to the GS-7 engine operator realm.... members of the GS-7 community were also called in for the "desk audits" by WO human resources and OPM classification folks...

Here we are, two days before the audits, and additional captains and NOW ENGINEERS are being called upon to give "desk audits" for their positions.... and are not prepared.... The results of non-preparedness are expected... We were led in to an ambush......

The next targets are the HOTSHOT positions, as they were graded on the same merits. All the upgraded positions of Helicopter Manager, Hotshot Superinendent, Asst. Helicopter Manager, Asst Hotshot Superintendent, Fire Engine Operator, AFEO, and Senior Firefighter are all graded with the same factor level 1 and factor level 5 requirements.... And some with the GSSG factor 6, item 4. This is a snowball effect and will spread to all areas of the wildland community if it continues....

The GSSG factor level 6, item 4 .... Physical Dispersion... should be a GIVEN....... How can you compare workers and a supervisor in a warehouse as GETTING THE CREDIT FOR FACTOR LEVEL 6 ITEM 4 when you dont equate the same dispersion exists with "a 5000 foot hoselay with employees of varying experience deployed over 5000 ft. from the supervisor performing a variety of wildland fire tasks in support of the forestry and fire management professions (ie. hoselay, spotfire suppression, equipment maintenance, etc...) exists...

All of these contested positions are members of a group of PROFESSIONALS that are rated as technicians or aids in the biological series (specifically 0462 - Forestry Aid and Technician) even though their duties are PRIMARILY wildland fire, prescribed fire, and visitor protection services. (GS-0025/0081 or a new Series to Be Determined)

The Forest Service mission is "Caring for the Land, Serving the People" ..... With the changes away from " multiple uses and sustainable yield" the FS in R-5 has basically become a national park system... "recreation and maintenance".

If I respond to someone's car fire, their accident, their medical treatment, or some other problem, AND I AM TRAINED AND MY CREW IS TRAINED AND EQUIPPED to abate this problem, is this not within the MISSION of the FOREST SERVICE of "CARING FOR THE LAND AND SERVING PEOPLE"? I value the knowledge and service my crew can give as first responders and emeregency medical technicians and in "....SERVING PEOPLE"..... I am sure the public feels the same way, at least in my area where we respond on over 100 vehicle accidents, several hang glider crashes, several medical aids, and a few search and rescue assignments a year as a FOREST SERVICE ENGINE and have HELPED HUNDREDS OF PATIENTS PER YEAR .....And have protected hundreds of homes and people from wildland and urban intermix/interface fires and problems...

"Caring for the Land and Serving People" http://www.fwfsa.org Support proper classification for the proper position in the Federal Service. Federal Wildland Fire Service Association.

~Rookie-Capt~

02/24 Re the hotshot list: as time permits would you send me a copy of your list of all shot crews including {new ones}?

Thanking you in advance
Danny
D952@mohaveaz.com

02/24 Re private contract crews and engines in AZ:

I have not even heard of this happening in any states, but if this is the case, they're going to bite themselves in the rump. Private contractors provide the same service as Hotshots or engine crews. Personally I have done both. Now I belong to the private sector and I wouldn't go State or Fed ever again. No disrespect, I just had a bad experiance with one State organization in which, as soon as the season ended, gave us no warning, no thanks, they just walked up to you one day and said, "See you next year, take the rest of the day off." And if all you were in that organization was a fire dog, well if you walked into the front office, the permanent people in there wouldn't even say "Hi" or give you the time of day.

I found this occurred in most places. Plus after 4 yrs with one organization, I was getting only 8.75 an hour as an engine boss... Well, needless to say, I went to a private contractor and he pretty much hooked me up. Now I basically make enough in any given summer to take the rest of the year off. GO FIGURE......

Sorry, I digress, as far as that new contract. If the fire season that they're calling comes to ground, I bet that AZ will allow private contractors to come in and help. They will just wish that they had done it sooner.

DD

02/24 About the hotshot crews, there is a new one in Cedar City -Utah, Salt Lake City-Utah, Elko- Nevada, and one in Colorado somewhere? In Salt Lake City the old prison Flame-N-Go hotshots aren't affiliated with the prison anymore. There are with the Utah Division of Forestry Fire and State Lands.

new crew member of Diamond Mtn.

02/24 Ab, Judd, and the rest of the gang;

Judd,
Sorry to have missed your request for an interview regarding the AZ State fire suppression delema. As some may know, the wife and I are now the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy. Of course with a new baby at home, my "real" fire job @ Camp Verde, and my "hobby" FMO for the BIA/Yavapai Apache Tribe, no real time to get on the computer and lurk. One of my firefighters gave me a copy of your article in the Republic. Nice job....a lot of questions are being raised by local fire departments regarding thier state cooperative agreement as a result of the article. Seems quite a few fire districts out there were not aware of the financial problems of the ASLD.

Another problem has arisen in the Arizona scene, and thought I'd throw it out there just in case some of our private contractor brother and sisters may be having the same problem. Rumor has it, and this is simply a rumor, but the word out on the street (being passed around by the USFS here in northern AZ) is that private contract crews and engines WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO SIGN STATE OR FEDERAL CONTRACTS THIS YEAR HERE IN ARIZONA!!!!!!! I have not had a chance to confirm this information with the State or Feds.

Has anyone else heard of this, and are the contract companies from other states going to have a problem with the feds this year???

AZ Trailblazer

02/24 In regards to the post from the WO on Feb. 20, 2001.... I am a federal employee of THAT agency and have not recieved THAT info as of 02/23/2001 and it was addressed to ALL EMPLOYEES.... and I am a directly affected group...

To Phyrodactyl: there is an item to replace the old probeye... its called the firefinder... it has its problems though....I have had two at my station and I have had to send both back for re-calibration since I bought them 2 years ago... They work great when working properly but then they go "basserk"... they are useless after that until fixed.. so far the company has fixed all of the problems at no cost..... They assure me that the new model doesnt have those problems..

R5-Capt

02/24 Hey Abe something simple and not cotroversial this time I hope. I am looking for a mouse curser file that is a drip torche. If anyone has one out there has or knows where I can pick one up I would appreciate it. Please send to dripptorch@yahoo.com
Thanks in advance,
Dripptorch
02/24 Hi all I just writing to let you know that it is a very confusing to me about how to proceed with applying for later rounds of hiring under nfp. I called boise today at 2:49 cst to ask them if I needed to apply again for round 2 if I did not get an offer in round 1. They said , "you do not need to reapply for later rounds."

The reason I thought Id share is because I have read from people that are doing hiring at the individual forest level that we should reapply for later rounds.

The place I called that told me that I do not need to reapply for later rounds is under this phone number in my application packet:
usda forest service
Automated staffing program
1249 s vinnel way suite #108
Boise ID 83709
Voice 877-813-3476

Im just a guy trying to break into the profession I figure the only way to get started is to get hired in the first place. Id be happy just putting coats of wax on fire trucks; but with all the contridicting info out there who knows what will happen. I would hate to think that even my slim chances of getting hired where messed up because I did what i was told and my application was dropped.

-confuused wannaba searching for enlightenment

02/24 Hawk --

I have a buddy of mine that just accepted a PSE on Rogue River - a new shot crew out of Southern Oregon. Other than that, I have a tentative list of all the shot crews, including new crews, I can pick out the new ones if you're looking for something in particular.

In my list I noticed they're adding a shot crew in Illinois -- thought that was a bit interesting.

Alan

02/24 For Rookie Capt:

The most complete documentation of wildfire fatalities is the "Historical Wildland Firefighter Fatalities, 1910 -1996" pub put out by the NWCG Safety & Health Working Team (NFES # 1849 thru NIFC Pubs).

For the complexity of the fire situation in California, they've had a remarkably low number of burnover fatalities over the past 30+ years (since Loop). The record doesn't show much specific to Engine operations.

All entrapments/burnover/deployments, both fatal and non-fatal, from 1976-1999 are discussed in the MTDC pub "Wildland Firefighter Entrapments 1976-1999" that Steve Munson and I did last year. (MTDC 0051-2853).

It shows that 22% of the entrapments involved engines of all agencies, no Type specified. There were 40 total events, with 19 of them in an Wildland-Urban Interface situation. Nationwide, the USFS and BLM had 44% of entrapments; CDF had 17%.

Looks to me that it will be hard to make a case for grade based on these numbers, except to turn it around and claim the numbers are so low given the total exposures BECAUSE of quaility leadership at the Engine Captain level?? Good luck with your effort!

Dick Mangan

02/24 WP..yes I would be interested in 330 ppt! ...am still interested in 290 ppt as well, what ever happened to that?

Pulaski

02/24 Old Fire Guy,

Thanks for the info on the hiring. I couldnt get that amount of info from my own forest, glad to see someone has it figured out, AND actually have something positive to say about it!

One question I have is the "quality vs eligible" issue, Who or What rates you as quality or eligible, is it the panel that actually looked at the resumes or the computer that scanned the form C's?

I was told by one person that the computer did it all and by another that the panel made the rating. Maybe you can shed some light on that, since you were doing the hands on work.

Example Question: A current GS-7 is rated as a GS-8, but indicates the willingness to lateral GS-7, wouldn't the GS-7 position garner a "quality" rating considering the GS-8 rating? these are successive positions, same function, ie. FEO vs SFEO.

To All R5 fire capt's, Good luck and thanks for your dedication to your jobs and all your crews, but as far as I am concerned with the downgrade, if it happens, there goes my next rung in the ladder, might stick it out for the 2 years to maintain pay, but with no promotion potential, I will look for a new agency to work for... sad, but loss of pay HAS to be considered with a mortgage and kids to feed.

Stung

02/23 Thanks for the info on the R5 engine incident. ~Rookie Capt~

If anyone else needs this information to address the "knowledge" and "scope and effect" of the engine captain's position, please e-mail and I will provide it to you.

02/23 For all of those involved in the engine positions fistfight, keep in mind a couple of salient facts here:
  1. Some people see this as a battle between R-5 and the rest of the country.
    • Q: Is the job different in R-5 from the "equivalent" job in other regions?
    • A: That is not relevant to this discussion. Don't let anyone tell you it is.
  2. Some people will claim that the upgrade some time back should be undone.
    • Q: If other engine positions in other regions do the same work for less pay, why should R-5 be special?
    • A: That is not relevant to this discussion. Don't let anyone tell you it is.
  3. Some say the California guys are not special and they shouldn't be any different from the engine guys in other regions who are doing the same thing for less pay.
    • Q: Should the California engine positions be downgraded?
    • A: The better question is, why weren't the other regions upgraded?

There are a lot of people out there trying to make this a California thing. What happened some years back (upgrade) was both valid and validated. This is a stupid time of year for a desk audit - not too many personnel specs can or will follow engine crews around to realistically see what they do. This time of year won't give them a realistic picture like August would.

But don't let anyone tell you that what's going on in other regions affects this. It does not. Rather than examine the downgrade in R-5, people should be looking at an upgrade in other regions and why that didn't happen.

R-OTHER ENGINE GUY

02/23 For those of you who do not think the Engine Captain decision affects you, here's a little parable for your consideration:

 

ďI must get this written and uploaded before itís too late. I hear vehicles in the street, the shouts of angry men, and the thumping of boots on the stairs.

When they came and took away those with brown eyes, I said nothing. Not my problem I thought to myself. My friends and I donít have brown eyes. I kind of thought those with brown eyes were arrogant anyway. Maybe they had done something wrong.

When they returned to take away those with green eyes I felt bad. I liked some of the green eyes. But I said nothing. After all, they still werenít bothering me. So I remained silent and thought of other things.

They have returned for the blue eyes. They knock heavy at my door. They have come for me.

There remain few to witness. Would that I and my neighbors had raised a fist and stopped them when we were strong. Who will protest for me?Ē

Blue Eyes

Two easy things to do:

1) Join FWFSA Only $10 a pay period.
2)Write, call or e-mail your congresspeople. (Get your neighbors, friends and relatives to do the same.) To find your reps: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ Go down to the zip code option. Fill yours in. You'll get your three reps.

Tell your congressional reps

  • engine captains should not be downgraded from GS-8 to GS-7.
  • the current reevaluation of engine captain rating is the result of an arbitrary reinterpretation of a decision that was made and validated in 1997 at the highest levels.
  • GS-8 was and still is the level comensurate with the knowledge, duties, authority and responsibility required for engine captains to do their jobs (if you want to get into it, review the SoCal-Capt post that cites the requirements on which they're being re-evaluated [knowledge and scope & effect] and provides links to documents).
  • evaluating engine captain duties next week in the non-fire season prevents those re-evaluating the rating from seeing first-hand what knowledge, duties, authority and responsibilities are required for this position.
  • at a more general level, pay for federal firefighters is already substantially less than pay for state firefighters doing the equivalent job.
  • such arbitrary decisions affect morale and hiring at a time when we're trying to attract and retain good people to meet Congressionally-mandated MEL staffing goals and fuel reduction targets associated with the National Fire Plan. We loose a lot of them already: www.wildlandfire.com/docs/recruit.htm
  • a reduction in GS captain rating will cause a reduction in GS ratings of positions below the captain level, making it difficult to hire and retain new people.
  • go back and read Mellie's post and, when contacting your congresspeople, cite Clyde Thompson (Deputy Chief for Administration) and Steve Nelson (Director of Human Resources Management) as the bosses in the WO who did not stop this arbitrary re-interpretation when it was suggested by a HR chair-sitter out of touch with reality.

You don't have to include all these points, but please contact your congresspeople. And join FWFSA!

Ab.

02/23 hey everyone,

I am looking for a website where I can download a set of GIS wildland fire map symbols for Arcview. Any suggestions?

Hey Ab, Maybe once we find them we could add the link to the programs page?

Thanks in advance,
firepup21

02/23 My personnal opinion is I would not trust NFFE to back me in the region 5 debate about the engine down grades. NFFE had a hand in getting the review started. I asked the question to two stewarts of NFFE and one stated "we are doing everything we can" and the other stewart had no clue as to what I was talking about. I put my buck behind FWFSA.

Brushboy

02/23

We get requests for photo use all the time, sometimes from abroad. Here's one from our south of the border neighbor. Ab.

How are you, a like to ask for authorization to use some photos of your web
site in our web site, I represent a Industrial Committee ( C.I.A.M.S.)here
in Mexicali Mexico. we dedicate to trainee industrial firefighters to help
each other in emergencies, we work under authorization of Mexicali Fire
Department.
Please visit our web site and tell us if we can use your photos.
tks
Victor

02/23 any info on the new hotshot crews throughout the nation. I know Klamath and Modoc in R-5, but what about the others?

Hawk

02/22

FMO's, AFMO's, Captains, Engineers, AFEO's, and ALL:

I am looking for information that directly affects the wildland fire community. I know the subject is touchy, but it may, in my view, have a real effect on the outcome of the R-5 Captains issue.

Can anyone please tell me or give me the location to find the last time that there was a fatality or major injury directly related to fire behavior, tactics, or strategy on a type 3 fire engine supervised by an R-5 (FS or BLM) engine captain. I am having a hard time finding any info on the internet or internally and it is directly related to the items 1-5 Knowledge Required and 5-3 Scope and Effect of the GS-8 Captains' Issues. The most recent info I have found is from the 1970's. Any help would be appreciated. Everyone -- thanks in advance.

~Rookie-Capt~

Does anyone have access to a database that contains this info? Does anyone remember such a situation? Please let us know asap and we'll pass it on to the Rookie Capt. Ab.

02/22 Next week, members of the R-5 Fire and Aviation Staffs, WO Human Resources, the OPM, and several captains will be meeting to conduct "desk audits" regarding the possible downgrade of the GS-8 SFEO (Engine Captain) position. The meetings will take place on Mon.-- Wed. of next week. I have been told that there are two main areas of discussion.

1) Classification of two items (mainly item 1-5 Knowledge Required and 5-3 Scope and Effect.) These items are graded from statements in the Position Decription (PD) and applied to standards found in the "Grade Evaluation Guide for Aid and Technical Work in the Biological Sciences" dated Dec. 1962. www.opm.gov/fedclass/gs0400.pdf

2) In the classification of the position under the "General Schedule Supervisory Guide" www.opm.gov/fedclass/gssg.pdf, the factor in item 6 subfactor 3 physical dispersion was being questioned.
Specifically, it was felt that there was not a "physical dispersion" producing a more difficult situation for supervisors. The Captains contend that they definately meet this requirement and it has been addressed THREE times prior to this issue and each time was afforded as a factor by previous classifiers. I'll just present one example but there are several others.

A Captain is supervising a type 3 engine with other engines on a rapidly developing wildland fire. They have been working the fire now for two hours and the captain is 5000 feet away from the engine on a hoselay and away from the supervision of the Fire Engine Operator. Scattered along this hoselay are members of the engine crew who are returning with more hose. Some of these members have radios and some do not. The engines run out of water and they begin to shuttle water from a source that is ten miles away. The engine captain is still supervising this whole operation WHILE HE OR SHE IS PHYSICALLY DISPERSED FROM THE WORK BEING PERFORMED but still responsible for that work performed and the safety of crewmembers performing it.. One example in the GSSG states "a supervisor working in a large warehouse or factory where physical dispersion makes supervision difficult". How could any classifier not realize that physical dispersion does exist with these positions. For anyone interested in the matters of the classification, please read the two above guides and relate them to your official PD. That is how these positions were classified and certified.

SoCal-Capt

02/22 WP and his crew have created a S-330 powerpoint. That's Task Force/STL. He says it's large and has several parts. He can zip it and send it to us. If we put it here, would anyone use it? (It takes up a lot of space, so it would need to be used to make it worth storing here.)

Ab.

02/22 Thought you would be interested in this story, which appeared in the Feb 21st, 2001 edition of The Arizona Republic online.

"Rule risks mutual fire assistance" An obscure section in state law may keep Arizona firefighters from leaving the state this summer - and may threaten part of the basis of fighting wildfires in the West.

www.arizonarepublic.com/news/articles/0220fire20.html

AZ Trailbazer mentioned this a few weeks ago. Good to see it in the "news". Ab

02/22 Hey Ab, I sent my application to Boise Back on January 1st. I never recieved a confirmation letter or anything. Finally after some dismay I called them to see wuz up? They said they were still assessing my qualifications, etc. Nearly two months later it is still "pending" Why did I rush through my app to meet the postmark deadline only to have it taking up memory/dust in someone's p.c. or serving as a coaster on someone's desk. And people wonder why they can't get any good help......................................... So anyway I need to go do a few things :
1) Check the telephone connection
2) Check the cordless battery back
3) Unscrew the antannae and put it back
4) Wipe off the foresaid antannae
5) Adjust the antannae in the base
6) Call myself and leave a message
7) Repeat steps 1-6

Rocky Mountain Reject ??

Hang in there, Rocky Mt. I can understand your frustration, try again, as Old Fire Guy said. There are glitches in the system and some of our qualified folks slipped through the cracks in the rush to fill such a big demand. It's worth trying again. Go after Boise much sooner. Don't think of yourself as a reject, but as a persistent and cage-rattling job seeker. We can all learn from the First Round. Ab.

02/22 after seeing the pic of my old nj rig, i had to send another showing the front and of our little sister brush rig. the smaller one follows the bigger one. of course the big one came from my station ! our sister station couldnt handle the "big one!"

bcdavis

I put it on the Engines2 Page Ab.

02/22 These are fun times, huh? I have a question for the group if we can take some time out from the good discussions on NFP hiring, GS-8 downgrades and union stuff.

My forest is looking to replace/upgrade our hand held-infrared units. We currently have Probeyes and a Zadar unit. I am interested in what this group knows about current technology in compact heat detection devices for wildland firefighing. What do people like, dislike, what are the associated costs in dollars and maintenance needs. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

I think They Said is a terrific forum for sharing truths, starting and correcting rumors, and staying on top of our fast moving profession.

Pyrodactyl

02/22 A reader sent this in. Maybe the engine captain question will be resolved soon.
This memo went out to all employees late on 2/20...

Ab.

02/22 Effective 2/16/2001, the Department of Interior lifted the hiring freeze for "Permanent and temporary appointments, reinstatements, promotions, transfers........to critical fire fighting, prevention, planning and management positions covered by DOI's National Fire Plan." Firm job offers are going out! Information about NATIONAL PARK SERVICE fire jobs can be found at:

http://www.fire.nps.gov/jobs/index.htm

A Parkie

02/22 tahoe ted --

From your last posting --
"Example: A Firefighter on the San Bernadino has a wife, 2 kids and a house he owns....wife has a "real" job....he want s a perm job, but because he used his 9 forest choices he gets screwed because he is only offered 1 position, at a location that is 12 hours from his home. If he want a permanant job...he has to take it....and try to get back....or uproot his family and life to move....This in itself will make a hardship claim fiasco. This process is a bottemless pit full of problems.....I would figure that 90% of the people that get jobs are planning on not staying there.....at least if youo have to apply for a particular station or forest chances are the applicants want to really work there. "

To my knowledge, there is no "rule" that says you have to make nine selections. If someone doesn't want to move to that particular forest, don't make it a location selection. Just pick the one location you want instead of all nine.

If anything, I should be unhappy (I'm not, however -- and I didn't get an offer). I really don't care where I work, and I'm allowed to ONLY pick 9 locations. I'd pick every location in the system if I had a choice.....

I may be the only one, but I actually think this is a pretty good system. It saves me from applying to 168 different locations.

Something that seems to have worked fairly well for me is the concept that I call everywhere I'm interested in, even if it is not one of the 9 location picks. If I find out I have a shot at one of the locations that is not on my list of nine, I simple email the crew at Boise asking them to switch my current location of XXX to YYY. Since I'm in contact with the individual forests, therefore giving my an idea of where I stand in their hiring process, I know which of my location codes are not benefiting me and which ones are.

I used this system last year, and it actually worked.
sec

02/21 Well, round one is over. Overall I was much impressed with how it went. Yes there were glitches, but with 15,000 applicants to be reviewed for 1600 jobs, there had to be. Had we had the old system of hand written applications, we would have even more mistakes. Here's the process I participated in.
  1. Forests received "certificates" of candidates ranked either "quality" or "eligible" (quality being a higher rating).
  2. Veterans had preference and would receive job offers for wherever they qualified.
  3. Forests had to choose from the quality list unless that list had less than three candidates.....then they could go to the eligible list.
  4. Each forest identified their top candidate for each position. Second and third choices were also identified.
  5. Forest representatives (FMO's) met to work out duplicate selections.
  • If candidates were selected for a higher GS position, that had priority.
  • Next, the forest with the longest guaranteed tour of duty (permanent full time vs 13/13) had priority.
  • Allowing a candidate to stay at "home" was next. (Why ask a candidate to move from forest "A" where they had worked 3 seasons to forest "B", only to hire someone else to take a position at forest "A".
  • Efforts were made to contact all candidates as to location preference. Not all candidates were reachable. Forests with duplicate selections shared this information so as to avoid every forest calling every candidate.
  • Once we had resolved any duplicate selections within a region, we repeated the process between all regions to eliminate duplication.

Q&A's

Q/Why didn't I get a call from every forest I applied to?
A/ You might not have been their top candiate, or you might have been a duplicate selection, and only one forest called to check your interest or preference.

Q/ Why did I get a job offer from a forest I did not want to work on?
A/ You asked for a job on that forest. Don't ask for jobs you don't want.

Q/ What happens if I didn't get a job offer (I'm highly qualified)!
A/ You may have been highly qualified, but there were more candidates than positions this round. All of my selections were seasoned, quality firefighters. I left on the table 9 additional firefighters that I would have been proud to walk the line with.

Please, don't give up! There are going to be more opportunities. More rounds of hiring are scheduled and you could well be within the next group.
FACT: Within a year, many of these firefighters will have moved into other postions as foresters, biologists, technicians, fisheries specialists etc....... Think about all the folks you worked with who have great fire talents, but are really looking for a foot in the door for another type of position. Now is not the time to throw in the towel in disappointment.

A big thank you to all who applied. You are still in the running! A big welcome to the folks who said "yes" to our recent job offers, you have a great adventure ahead.

Old Fire Guy

Well said. Ab.

2/21 D-Torch,

it won't really scre anything up...it is already there. Qulaity people are losing oout for unfair reasons....

Example: GS-6 seasonal.. with 10 seasons....4 years Army Jumper, 4 years Marines Jumper, Time in Helo, hotshot, and Engines. Not offered a position anywhere. I have seen his application and know his quals...

Class action lawsuit would force them to revert to the old hiring method.....you send an application if you are interested in a particular position....the present way will force some people to take jobs they do not want...I fell that is the case with most of the people..

Example: A Firefighter on the San Bernadino has a wife, 2 kids and a house he owns....wife has a "real" job....he want s a perm job, but because he used his 9 forest choices he gets screwed because he is only offered 1 position, at a location that is 12 hours from his home. If he want a permanant job...he has to take it....and try to get back....or uproot his family and life to move....This in itself will make a hardship claim fiasco. This process is a bottemless pit full of problems.....I would figure that 90% of the people that get jobs are planning on not staying there.....at least if youo have to apply for a particular station or forest chances are the applicants want to really work there.

tahoe ted

02/21 The original Ab asks a QUESTION upon reading the statement from the NFFE president below. He asks: WHAT ARE YOU and the "union" DOING FOR THE ENGINE CAPTAINS AND THOSE BELOW THEM IN R5???
02/21 While not regarding fire directly, this has some good observations about fed employees, salaries, and the new administration. Also, see near the end of this page, "End of Partnerships".

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/politics/fedpage/columns/federaldiary/A27460-2001Feb19.html

I actually agree with this decision. There were way too many meetings that included way too many people who did not understand the issues. Critical, time-sensitive issues were often delayed until another meeting could be held or all parties could make their X on the paper.

WO Watchdog

02/21 To all that are interested in the Captains/ Engineers/ and AFEO's possible downgrade issue, please don't rush to blame the Model 42 engine captains or folks in other regions. Their intent was not to have this problem develop but to get their positions better classified. It's the same process that we GS-8 captains had to undertake for our initial upgrade, with the exception that we had support from the R-5 Regional Office.

Probably one of the most significant classification appeals, as it is related to our current problems, stems from a valid complaint from R-3. You can view a copy of this complaint at www.opm.gov and go to "classification appeals". The appeal number is C-0462-06-01. Its under GS-0400 Biological Sciences and then GS-0462.

We are all working hard to remedy this classification problem and it hopefully will be settled soon. There are primarily three areas of concern and each of those areas has been reviewed time and again and the classification was certified on 04/21/1997 by an assistant director at the WO. After this next week, the positions will be reviewed and a final ruling issued by classifiers of the WO and OPM. Hopefully that ruling will be in our favor.

**SoCal-Capt.**

Thanks for the info, **SoCal-Capt.**. I simplified things. This is where the status of the appeal is located, the first one under General Biological Sciences (C-0462-06-01):www.opm.gov/classapp/decision/table.htm#0400" Right now there is "no change".

and here is the link to the pdf decision file itself: www.opm.gov/classapp/decision/1998/04620601.pdf
Ab.

02/21 In response to a previous message: The major Union in the FS is the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) which is affliated with the International Assoication of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM&AW). There are nearly 100 NFFE Locals in the FS. (There are also one or two AFGE FS Locals). The NFFE Locals form a "consolidated bargaining unit" which is governed by the Forest Service Council. The FSC negotiates with the FS on Service-wide issues. The FSC has Regional Vice Presidents as well as VPs for Research and the Job Corps. These VPs negotiate and address issues within their corresponding administrative units (Region, R&D, JC ). Locals are autonomous and deal with issues at the level of their administration (eg., Forest, Station, JC Center).

Through elections, NFFE has obtained the status of exclusive representative, which means that legally only NFFE can represent the bargaining unit. To find out if your unit is covered by NFFE, log on to the FS IBM system and go to the WO Human Resources intranet site at http://fsweb.wo.fs.fed/hrm/. Click on "Labor Relations"; then click on "Master Agreement August 22, 2000"; then click on "Master Agreement Between the Forest Service and NFFE"; and, finally, click on "Appendix A NFFE Consolidated Units". Once there, you can look at each Region and you'll be able to see if your Forest or unit is in the BU.

An easy alternative is to ask your coworkers or your Personnel Office. If you are not "Unionized," you have no formal or effective way to be heard on many workplace issues. If you want a voice, contact Mike Bunten (mbunten@fs.fed.us; 530 926 9626) Sec/Treas, FSC, for more information about the Union.

The matter of not exactly knowing the number of FS employees is explained in that FS management actually determines (by applying legal tests) who is in the BU. While each Local can ask for a list of BU employees, the FSC has not kept a running total. One reason is that the total number of represented employees (whether it be 12,000 or 14,000) has no bearing on labor-management issues. Also, the total is very much a moving target, as it changes every day when employees enter and leave the FS workforce. While it was stated in the earlier message that the FS has 40,000 employees, that is also a guess (and it seems quite high). Generally the FS does not talk about the number of its employees, but at the end of each fiscal year it calculates the number of "FTEs" used (FTE = Full Time Equivalent).

It is true that the FSC does not know how many firefighters it represents in the FS. It is also true that the Council does not know how many secretaries, foresters, chemical engineers, editors, carpenters, electricians, law enforcement officers, technologists, receptionists, computer specialists, laborers, statisticians, biologists, etc., that it represents either. The Council has never needed to quantify employees by occupation to fulfill its responsibilities. The Union represents all employees in the bargaining unit, PERIOD.

NFFE is very much a bottom up organization - the members call the shots. Elected officers serve at the pleasure of the membership and can be reomved or not re-elected. NFFE members care enough about the Forest Service and its mission to be actively involved in shaping workplace decisions through their elected Union representatives. I invite all non-member FS employees to join us to working with Forest Service management to improve workng conditions and to improve our Agency.

- John R. Obst, President, NFFE Forest Service Council.

Thank you for the clarifications. Ab (but not the original!)

The original Ab echoes the thanks for clarification but adds: What are you DOING FOR THE ENGINE CAPTAINS and those below them in R5??? Ab.

02/21 With regard to tahoe teds remark-

"I think everone that applied under the National Fire Plan should file a class action and injunction to halt all hiring under this plan as it is discriminatory based on the fact that the nature of the selection process was not even know by Boise (evidently) at the time of initial closing."

Please ted don't screw up a screwed up thing any further than it is or we will never hire anyone PERIOD. We have been looking this gift horse in the mouth until it hurts. I say feel greatful that you at least have a shot at what many people never had the opportunity to even try. Here's a hiring tip that you can bank on in the future.

IF A CAREER IS WORTH HAVING- IT'S WORTH APPLYING FOR WITH A NEAT HARD COPY- SUBMITTED ON THE FIRST OPEN DAY OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT, WITH PLENTY OF TIME FOR CONFIRMATION AND FOLLOW UP WITH PERSONNEL.

With regard to GP's comments on training and promotion- you are right on. This is a rebuilding time for the wildland firefighting profession as a whole. If we don't hire and create the future of our profession, we are HISTORY as a profession.

D-Torch
President of the
W.D.N.N.B.F.W.P.O.P.T Society
(We Don't Need No Bar Fly Winos Puking in Our Pumpkin Tanks) Society.

02/21 Ab, et all-

Well yer Pup is pleased to report that he and Mellie have updated your acronyms with newfound wisdom? There are some new links there also.

Slowly but surely the Pup is getting trained in FF1 certifications.. stilla while until the local county Firefighter Academy, but I think I'm making good progress.. Turnout/Bunker gear and SCBA's are fun.. but theres something just a bit more appreciable in the yellow and green Nomex of wildland fire.. Here's hoping for a safe season for all.. I might get to join ya next year, provided I can worm my way into the S-courses somewhere.

Take care all.

As Ever,
Tiny, the R-6 Fire Pup

Thanks TinyPup for your unflagging service (and I like the way yer practic'in up on referr'in to yerself in the 3'hird person.) Ab.

02/20 Jobs page, 462 and 455 series are updated. I've added photos to
Engine2 Page,
Handcrew3 Page and
Logo3 Page.
These are pictures of BC Davis NJ pine barrens brush truck, that he left behind when he moved to Nevada. Also put up a retardant drop photo on the Kirk Fire '99 and the non-pc sticker that used to sometimes be awarded after completion of FF1. Thanks contributors.
Ab.
02/20 The Grand Canyon National Park is offering a helicopter academy. Follow the link for more information. It is a great opportunity for folks to get quality hands on training.

www.ihogman.com/GRCA/

Jim

02/20 The existing Engine Captain GS-8 upgrade is not supported by the "union" (for a lack of better word) because those who are in the union are not able to receive this upgrade...either because they are management...Capt or better or they are in other functions/positions (patrol, fuel)...

As I understand it, in CA in 1996, the upgrade was based on span of control.... a type 4/6 engine does not have the span of control as does a Capt on a type 3. Captains on type 3 engines were given upgrades along with folks down the chain of command to reflect that they supervise 6 personnel. Type 3 engines in CA are 7 day modules with 5 people on per day.... I have always thought that other region personnel should get the same increase as they do the same work, but often with less crew....

I am not sure where this controversy started, but unless it came from a type 4 engine capt as was mentioned in another post, I doubt it came from a R5 Capt. Chances are it may have come from another region...

Also as I understand it, Big Brother will only be able to take the grade away. Future Captains may not get it... but those who have will keep, if only in increased steps.... their wages will be protected.

Also I would like to know, were only Very Qualified individuals contacted by forests when checking on interest? If this is so, why were we only contacted by certain forests and not by others.

Where were these ratings done?

If it is true we must reapply for round 2, why is it called round 2 and why was nobody told of this before?

I think everone that applied under the National Fire Plan should file a class action and injunction to halt all hiring under this plan as it is discriminatory based on the fact that the nature of the selection process was not even know by Boise (evidently) at the time of initial closing.

One final note....the JAC program....does it entail having a valid driver's lic.?

tahoe ted

02/19 Mellie,

Well, I suppose you can hear alot of folks snickerin at ya (all in good fun of course) but...FUBAR is an old military slang for "blankity blank beyond all recognition". Certainly you did not catch the movie Saving Private Ryan as it was one of the topics in that movie.

...and alex? ..thats alex trebeck (?spelling) of the game show jeopardy fame...guess youve missed that too:)

All in good fun of course, Im greatfull for your interest, concern and motivation on the behalf of the wildland fire community!

Pulaski

Yes, Mellie got a lot of mail on that one. I cut and pasted the responses and forwarded them on to her. Ab.

02/19 SOUTHERN AREA:

Fire activity is picking up in Florida due to a lack of precipitation, the KBDI values are between 500-700 through most of the state. Due to the fire activity in Florida, SACC is in the process of activating Tanker-12 and plans on placing it at the Ocala Tanker Base in Florida.

No precipitation is expected across the South today. The next chance of rain through the South will be on Thursday. High temperatures today will range from the upper 50ís in Tulsa, Oklahoma to the high 70ís in southern Florida. We can expect that the high temperatures in the South will be 3-10 degrees warmer tomorrow. The cold weather will return on Thursday were the highs will be in the 40ís and 50ís for most of the South.

The State of Florida, State Emergency Operations Center web page has reports on the current fire and drought situation as well as information on burning restrictions, weather and road conditions:
www.dca.state.fl.us/eoc/ .

As of February 9, 2001 the Regional Forester for the Southern Region (Region 8) of the Forest Service has temporarily suspended the work capacity test for all firefighters.

Arkansas is looking for miscellaneous timber positions to assist with a large-scale salvage sale due to a devastating ice storm that moved through the area. Please view SACC resource request list for open positions:
www.r8web.com/sacc/resourcerequest.htm

SACC will be staffed from 0700 to 1900 hours seven days a week.

For fire weather information for your area, check out:
www.boi.noaa.gov/firewx.htm

Jim

02/19 Thanks Kelly... What do you mean when you say you'll "take bureaucratic BS for a thousand"? I know the BS part, but who is Alex (a union guy?) and why for a thousand? Yeah, and while I'm at it, I don't know what FUBAR (post on 2/16) and PSE (Permanent Seasonal Employment? post on 2/18) stand for either.

Mellie

02/19 "Re the engine captain pay controversy: I heard that some "union guy" (I'm not including his name) on the Shasta T started all the stuff that got the WO- HR people riled up. Like did he threaten a suit or something?"

Mellie, if you can successfully chase & capture the paper @ the end of the trail on this subject, it might make for some very interesting reading! Keep us posted as to any results.

Da

02/19 ... Mellie surely gets the award for best question-asker in the fire community. [grin] I'm sure there are others more knowledgeable than I out there, but I'll take a stab at a few of the union questions.
  • -- What is the "USFS union"?
  • That would be the Forest Service Council, one of several councils under the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, also known as the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE).
  • -- Do they actually represent firefighters?
  • I asked the president of the council the other day how many people who work in fire are actually in the union and he didn't know.
  • -- Does everyone in the FS "have to" be in it?
  • Nope. Of the approximately 40,000 USFS employees, something like 10,000 are in the union. But they have an agreement that says that they can speak for all the employees.
  • -- How many fire people are in this "union"?
  • I don't know. The president doesn't know, either. Check the OPM listings for ff jobs for the statement "no bargaining unit status." Mary Lynn Waite, who died recently in Mississippi taking the walk test, was not in a bargaining unit.
  • -- Does the union speak for you whether you belong to it or not?
  • yup.
  • -- Can you say you don't want them to speak for you?
  • There's an interesting concept. I wonder how many firefighters were wanting the pack test suspended when the union asked for it.
  • -- Re the engine captain pay controversy:
  • The "union guys" I've spoken with do not support the existing GS-8 upgrade in R5.
  • -- If the "union" does not represent many fire folk but they do speak for fire folk with *HUGE* consequences, whatsup with that?!!
  • I'll take bureaucratic BS for a thousand, Alex.
    kelly.
02/19 TO: JA

Yes you only get one offer. Take it, your name is removed from the application process wether you do or not. You will need to reapply for round two also. On a CDL, it all depends on what type of engine you are on, some engines do not require them, but if they do you probably will. Hope this helped.

WL

02/19 Can someone clairfy somethings for me? What is the "USFS union"? I know they're not the FWFSA. I don't even know their acronym. I've heard from local ff that the "USFS union" doesn't really do anything for issues relating to fire folk. Do they actually represent firefighters? Does everyone in the FS "have to" be in it? Like are there automatic deductions from your paycheck made to it, as teachers must do? How many fire people are in this "union"? or what % of fed ff? Does the union speak for you whether you belong to it or not? Can you say you don't want them to speak for you? Can you say you don't like what they're saying? (i.e., can you tell them to shut up?) How are they related to HR?

Re the engine captain pay controversy: I heard that some "union guy" (I'm not including his name) on the Shasta T started all the stuff that got the WO- HR people riled up. Like did he threaten a suit or something? I guess I don't know what is fact and what is just rumor beyond a certain point. I haven't been able to research this because of the holiday. If the "union" does not represent many fire folk but they do speak for fire folk with *HUGE* consequences, whatsup with that?!!! Please give me some starting info so I can research this further this week.

Thanks,
Mellie, who thinks people should join FWFSA (link is the logo above) which I know *does represent* firefighters' interests and with an awesome persistence!

02/19 Ab - can you put this out on "They Said"??
We'd really like to get lots of well-grounded fire folks to talk and show their stuff at the Safety Summit. This is NOT a "research-type" conference!!
Dick Mangan

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Call for Papers

5th International Fire Safety Summit
Missoula, Montana
November 6-8, 2001

The 5th International Fire Safety Summit will be held in Missoula, Montana on November 6-8, 2001. The main focus of this safety summit will be to consolidate issues and concerns raised at previous summits, and develop actions to resolve them.

We are seeking the submission of papers and posters focused on the following topic areas:

  • Staying Safe on the Fireline (LCES, Fire Shelters, Avoidance, etc);
  • Safety in the Interface for Homeowners and Firefighters;
  • Health and Fitness in the Firefighter workforce;
  • Making a Safer Firefighter (training, lessons learned, human factors).

To submit a contributed paper, send a 1-page abstract including the author(s), affiliation(s), title and body of the abstract to Program Chair Dick Mangan at 11400 Kona Ranch Road, Missoula MT 59804; or by Email to: blackbull@bigsky.net.

Abstracts are due not later than May 1, 2001; final papers are due NLT September 1, 2001. The Conference Proceedings will be available on CD-rom format at the Safety Summit.

For further information, contact Dick Mangan @ 406-543-0013 or blackbull@bigsky.net.

Hey Readers, it's good to plan ahead. The WISDOM needs to be shared. Ab.

02/19 For T2crew: Yes, the USFS union did request a pack test moratorium. The chief said no.

k-bob.

02/18 JA,
If you look at that Mel Madness hiring schedule from AL a few posts back, you'll see that the last offers of Round 1 were made on Friday or possibly Saturday and that final decisions are confirmed on Tues. So there should be no more offers for Round 1 unless something has changed.
JD
02/18 Greg Eiden,

Go to Firewise I think you will find all the information you need.

WP

02/18 Greg:

re protecting homes from wildfire. Visit www.firewise.org ..more specificly go to www.firewise.org/pubs/fwl/ovw_frames.html for a direct link to the firewise landscaping page. Another item you can look for at the firewise is the "Firewise Communities" page (www.firewise.org/communities/) These are worshops that are being put on around the country. I was able to attend one last fall, very worth while. There are a few left scheduled for this year.

Pulaski

02/18 So I heard today that there's a moratorium coming on the pack test because of the death in Mississippi (someone taking the light duty test)? What's up with this? Didn't we go through this about 3 yrs ago? Is it me or is it dejavu? I thought this was settled.

If the feds do another moratorium, how's that affect state ff's?

T2crew

The woman who died wasn't even doing the pack test. She was walking. From post about Feb 8 Miss. death press release Ab.

02/18 I got the application and hiring timeline from a friend and decided I'd share. Here are the Timelines for 3 different groups of hires: Note that the Round 1 permanent positions are decided by this Tues 2/21, at the same time the two other categories of positions are being reviewed or qual'd and panelled. I guess I didn't appreciate the complexity of this multiple-stage process that I see when I look at this tentative schedule.

For the second and third rounds of hiring, does anyone know whether OPM or aview or someone else is handling the applications, whether the scanable forms are restocked and whether applying online is reliable? or should we go the hardcopy route (which doesn't help if a database failure bumps out a lot of quality people like happened ROUND1 for perm MEL postitions). Also, do we need to resubmit or do applications go back into a pool?

AL

02/18 I have until Tuesday to reply to an offer for a Senior FF position. Have all of the regions made their Round 1 offers by now? Is it best to accept this offer, though probably my last choice, or is there still a chance that offers may still come from other regions? If I should turn this offer down, will my name be removed from the list for further onsideration?

Also, is a Senior FF on a Type III engine required to obtain a CDL?

JA

02/18 Hi,
My name is Greg Eiden and I'm working on a book called "NW Basic Training."
It contains all kinds of useful information for Northwesterners. I was
wondering if you could tell me what the 5 or 6 keys to protecting your
woodland or prairie home from wildfire might be. For example, keep the brush
and dead grass clear around the perimeter of your home. Since we get quite a
few lightning strike fires here, particularly in our high desert country, my
readers would love this kind of information.
Thanks,
Greg
02/18 It's no wonder that Florida is burning. Look at this!
Keetch Byram Drought Index Map

IN THE NEWS:

Fire in Florida.
CNN - Fire threat
CNN - Fire today

It's not just Fire and it's not just the Forest Service with troubled personnel systems.
Washington Post

Fire crews face pay cutback.
Record Searchlight (Redding.com)

Firescribe

02/18 In regards to the mass hiring to fill positions for the NFP, we need to be patient and prepared to begin a two-to-five year intense training and employee development project to bring the DEMO candidates up to successful performance standards. I truely hope all supervisors and program managers realize the immense task that awaits us. Employee development needs to be a priority to invest in the future to ensure a qualified and SAFE workforce is ready to FFABPFSF. (see fire order #1 (of the 10)). I heard, through a very reliable source of two fine examples. An employee, with 5 part time seasons of experience on an engine module with a relatively low IA workload, has been offered a GS-7 full time handcrew leader position. YIKES!! Example #2, a DEMO candidate with a 4 year degree and ZIPPO fire experience is offered a GS-5 senior FF position. YIKES AGAIN!!

That's the current system, so, we need to treat the problem as a training and development issue and do our very best to ensure we all adhere to qualification standards and don't promote new employees until they are FULLY qualified.

GP

02/18 With all the excitment about the new positions (I'm convinced I'll get
offered a PSE when I'm 95 years old....also, on a similar note - if anyone
needs info on private health insurance policies and retirement programs, let
me know. State Farm looks pretty good, it only costs about $1,000,000 a
month for coverage.)

Anyway, I'm curious as to if anyone has some excellent off-season
workout/fitness programs that they have tried in the past. I am currently in
the middle of a program, but it feels like a dramatic deviation from what I
normally do and am concerned with what I'm going to end up with at the end.
Just wondering if anyone has or knows of some killer programs.

sec

02/17 Thanks for the PowerPoint training. I had to teach 130 last month and I downloaded the PP and looked & felt like a real pro giving the class with this kind of help!!! Thanks to all involved!!!!!

MG

Thanks to Pulaski and Hickman and some others for making the powerpoint programs available (programs page). They are slick! Ab.

02/17 I have read many responses in regards to the R5 possible downgrading from the GS-8 on down. I was at first concerned, seeing that I am a GS-7 trying for a GS-8 Engine Captain. But, after looking at all angles, I cannot phantom the thought of this ever happening. OPM would be opening themselves to the LARGEST grievance in history. Every R5 Captain, FEO, AFEO and Senior Firefighter would be involved. Just the cost factor on OPM would be tremedous in the end result. I do not forget however, that I work for the government (I'm here to help), so if this did happen, our wages would be protected, giving us time to gain ammunition. This is why we all need to be involved with FWFSA, we are seeking Pay Fairness, not going backwards!!

R5FEO

Ab sez, click the link and join up!

02/17 Many of you may have gotten this website www.concentric.net/~R5mc/, the Male Class Website through the mail system. It stirred up some controversy obviously. I have to admit, when I first opened up the site I too thought it was for White Males Only. But after reading into it, realized it had alot of facts non-related to gender but to firefighters. One example showed how a High School drop out could get a job that would pay the same annual salary of a GS-7, Scary! I am amazed at how many folks assumed and even found this site offensive, based on its name. Yet, if it was a different gender name it would have been accepted, probably even by the agency. Is Free Speech only for selected groups, and Hush Hush for others, even when fact based?

One of the Hush Hush!!

02/17 I applied for Jobs this year through both the BLM and USFS. I have to admit that BLM has their act together as far as online apps. go. It was very user friendly on the BLM side. The Forest service online application was a lot more complicated than it needed to be. One difference may be that the Circus incorporates OPM (Other Peoples Money) into the process. These agencies need to work together for the common good. Do the troops count for anything anymore?

As far as the private sector looking good right now, I disagree. The job situation the private sector gets bleaker every day. A government job is looking better and better.

-Earl-

02/16 Jobs page, Series 462 and 455 are updated.

Ab.

02/16 I received a call from a forest in R2 considering me for a perm engine assistant. They said they have contacted R6 where another forest was also wanted me. They left the decision up to me. With all my experience in R6 and never been to the other forest I chose R6. It has been three days ago and still no call. I am about to give up with circus and go back to school if this CF is going to go on the rest of my career.

WL

PS. Whites boots are wonderful to my feet, but I have to rebuild after each fire season. I haven't tried another boot yet. Goggles fogging up? There is no way around, go to bugeyes.

02/16 Ab,

After reading the comments on applications, hiring, downgrades, etc. for the last few weeks, the private sector looks mighty inviting!

Stu

02/16 This is in regard to the down grades that are being discussed. I am an employee of the BLM in Region 5 and from what information we are receiving we are also looking at the same fate as the Forest Service captains. We understand that the reason this was brought about was some other regions outside California are complaining about the upgrades in Region 5, because no other region has followed suit. What people don't understand it has to do with amount of personnel supervised and 7 day staffing, plus the fact that Region 5 fire program doesn't shut down during the winter. Engine Captains for both the F.S. and BLM have a lot more duties other than fire suppression, but not to say that we all don't deserve to get paid more, because we all no that the Federal wildland firefighter is way under paid. Good thing we love the job!

Cap3133

Yeah, I venture to say that this will end up being a HUGE issue, if not resolved immediately. The downgrade of engine captain will affect grades of engine positions below it, at least 3 or 4 GS levels, and will not be confined to the Forest Service. Just think about it. What if every administration that came into power reinterpreted the rules? Having the three branches of government (legislative, presidential, judicial) puts checks and balances on that happening in our country. But within government, what is the process to prevent arbitrary reinterpretations, especially when we cannot speak publically to the issue without it being considered lobbying? The public is already involved and that will grow. I predict that soon what will happen here is that someone will get the judicial/legislative branches involved. I see the steps leading to that... One friend asked the other day if I had any contacts with a Washington Post writer or anyone else who would lay out the issues and consequences of HR's action. I don't, but others in our fire circle do. Wouldn't be surprised if an insightful journalist hops on this story soon.

Just look at this situation for PUBLIC INTEREST appeal. Fires of the summer, Congress doing the right thing in funding at MEL, some peon in Forest Service HR making an arbitrary decision that fouls up a hiring process that would let us better protect against a repeat of fires next summer. His bosses continuing the course of action. (Why? Politics, defending their hiring turf, "to hell with R5", "to hell with the Forest Service fire folks"?) A look at the widening effects across positions, across regions and across agencies throughout the entire US of A. Unfairness to the mainstay of the "fire troops of summer". Yep, a lot here if HR continues the threat/actuality of the downgrade. I could go on and on. See my comments and letter to my Congressional Representatives and Mellie's comments. Readers, it takes very little time to make a difference, even if you just e-mail your rep and say, "This is wrong!"

Right now NO ENGINE CAPTAINS OR ANY OTHER PERSONS ON ENGINES ARE BEING HIRED. As you know, aside from helitack, this group of hires is OUR GREATEST NEED.

Ab.

02/16

As far as trying to get on AVUEDIGITALSERVICES.COM tonight... seems like every page (if you finally get connected) gives you the message....

Error 500 - Internal Server Error from RFC 2068 Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1: 10.5.1 500 Internal Server Error

The server encountered an unexpected condition which prevented it from the request.

Seems the solution as provided by ASAP for the lack of the "bubble scanable forms" has been a flop..

If you haven't been able to apply through the processes on the application, please send an e-mail to fsjobs@fs.fed.us and let them know that their system isn't working... I have sent a few messages and only get auto mail replies... Those auto mail replies will be of great help with my grievance and hopefully yours if you dont get your application in on time.... there is a big problem here and the FS needs to hold up the hiring on the FMO and AFMO jobs until there is a good system in place.....I have worked for the FS for 18 years and can honestly say I havent seen a hiring process more flawed... the e-mail letter I received even states that there is a problem but states they will carry on with the process.... my attorney loves it...

Chaparral Skeleton

2/16 What is going on in region 5?
I hear that all GS-5 and up positions are being held up due to the 7/8 question.

I also hear that since this is being held up they are going to lump togehter those of us who were on the ball enough to get our apps in on time with those of round 2. Nice to be rewarded for actually doing something right and on time.

guess that is whats wrong....some of us are just too good maybe.

Why doesn't mgmt see that this whole system is FUBAR and go back to individual or small group announcements.....then at leat you know you get applicants that are interested in working at your module or at least forest.....

Also if things are par for the course.....alot of the applicants that don't have prior agency experience were lied to like a recruiter lies to a 17 year old high school kid.

I know of one Capt. who flat out lied as to the activity and description of his station to a new out of state firefighter. This individual bailed mid season because of it.

lets get in gear here folks.....
tahoe ted

02/16 I heard a silly little rumor the other day.
The BLM may just forget this whole hiring thing, because they think that the funding will be mostly dried up by next year.
Evidently ol GW liked it better in the old days when anyone who ever dreamed of a career as a wildland firefighter were told to try the Army instead.
That light at the end of the tunnel that we have waited for could be a train after all.
Enjoy the wreck.
Old Dude Who Still Remembers
02/16 Just to clarify, avuedigitalservices.com is not a Forest Service internal enterprise. Avue Technology is a high tech firm in Tacoma, WA. I know because my brother-in-law works for them. They produce software for employers. I checked out the avuedigitalservices.com website when I saw it on theysaid, and it is a part of Avue Tech. I don't know their deal with the FS, but it is a private company.

Tim

02/16 Problem with Fogging Goggles:

Ab and all:
I recently purchased 5500 UFO Galaxis goggles made by Bouton for my entire crew. We all love the style, feel and functionality of the goggles but are now running into a problem since the temperatures are getting colder outside and they sit close to your face - FOGGING UP! I talked to a couple of friends who are underwater welders and each one had a personal preference for antifog spray. They suggested: KleerVu, Fog (by Onyx medical supply), and Z'Fogless. I was wondering if anyone out there has a favorite they use or can strongly suggest one of the above listed products. I've tried "over the counter" remedies and store brands but none seem to work! Any help ya'll can give me is greatly appreciated!
Thanks!
Anvil

02/16 To Hardcopy Hal and others:
The remedy to follow regarding submitting your application hardcopy would be great. The problem once again lies in the Forest Service didn't have enough scannable forms available. I received an e-mail today 2/15 from ASAP telling me to apply on-line since the scannable forms weren't available. I requested forms over 3 weeks ago. They did say that if you dont want to use AVUE then you can submit a hardcopy by Feb 16 and submit the scannable form by February 26 (I think that was the date) to still be considered.

Now how can I apply on-line if it isnt working and how can I apply with the scannable form if its not available. The only other way is the "old fashioned way" by filling out the resume and then addressing each KSA individually.

Looks like lots of problems are going to be coming down the pike.

Desert Phoenix

02/16 What I know about FS round one hiring, and answers to some of the questions and frustrations. Your right the system does suck. Or at least sometimes for some people. Some of my peers I have been talking to seem to think the system is working well. I have mixed feelings. It seems to be working well for the bases that are just hiring their own or moving people up within their own ranks. For me that is not the case and it has been somewhat frustrating.

I am very sure that I may be passing over some very good applicants. The problem is, the process that usually takes us a month or more to review applications and check past supervisors and references, was compressed into just a few days. We just did not have time to look at all the applications, much less check up on them. I had eight pages of names for just the GS 6 and GS 5 positions available on my crew. If you were not calling us before hand, expressing your interest level, or sending a copy of your application for us to look at beforehand we just did not have the time to consider you.

If you have not recieved a call about your interest from a forest you selected, you can assume they are not considering you. The final list is pretty much done and offers began today (tue). It took most of the day to make all the GS 9 and GS 8 offers. Offers for the GS 7 level began in the late afternoon. I would expect that the GS 7 and GS 6 offers get done tomorrow. The list for GS 6's and GS 5's is very long and may take awhile. You will have 3 days to consider an offer. As others have said, be carefull about turning down an offer. You can't count on round two, there is a good chance the the position you really want will already be filled. I think a better strategy would be to accept, you can still submit another application and reapply for round two. Keep in mind that there will not be as many jobs available in round two, mostly just the positions that forests did not get the request in on time for round one and the positions that became vacant due to round one.

The rules we are going by right now were developed by personnel with the input and blessing from the Union. If you do not like the results I am not sure what recourse, if any, an applicant may have. Contrary to a few posts, I am not aware of any decisions that have been made based on financial considerations. Mostly it has been based on which forest needed an applicant the most or, more often, who has already made a substantial investment in the applicant's developement and training.

The good news is that everybody realizes that the current system and rules are not perfect. ASAP office has been hammered and has not always been able to provide the level of service that they would like to, especially for the applicants. Some of the ideal that are being kicked around: Letting us still hire and make offers from the round one list until the round two list is out. Maybe even letting this happen at the local level. Also possibly hiring for round two at the local level. This does open the possibility of multiple offers, since job offers would not be coordinated between forests or regions. These are just a few of the ideal I know are being talked about.

WG. The information you got from personnel does not seem totally right. Avuedigitalservices.com was contracted by the Forest Service for the automated hiring process but only for certain jobs. They are doing the automated applications for the FMO and AFMO postions and certain non-fire postions. The automated applications for the GS 9 through 3 positions should have been through the OPM site.

Talon. If you were not contacted about the GS 7 position it could mean one of a few things; there was a problem with the system and your name did not show up on their list (though unlikey because you showed up on another one), you did not show up in the quality group and they could not reach you, that forest may have been a little slow or behind the other forest and already put you on their tenative selection list which would have removed you name from consideration on other list in the region. Though I would have thought that if you were very up front with them about your perferences they would have let you go. Anyway I wish you good luck.

A word of caution about those interested in helicopter positions in region 5. I have heard rumers from an HOS in another region that R5 is having funding problems with helicopter contracts. Because of some unforseen circumstances in the insurance industry, the cost of contracts has increased dramatically. In some instances $500 - $600 per day for a type 3 helicopter. Some of the cost I have seen for these has been around $2700 per day, in most cases we were planning about $2000 per day. My region has managed to come up with the funding for the increased cost. If your wondering why you are not getting calls form some of the forest you were counting on, that may be the reason.

A few last words of advice. Try not to get too discouraged about all this hiring stuff. All these new jobs means more opportunities for all of us, even though they may not come now. Sorry for those of you pushing 35 that really need a job now. Hopefully the 37 year limit will become a reality. Many of you should have been on the quality list but were not. Please resubmit your application for round two and give yourself the credit on the KSA's that you really deserve.

Name withheld to maintain
Plausible Deniability

02/16 About the Department of Interior hiring freeze..... Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton said today (Feb. 15) in a satellite conference that she had lifted the DOI hiring freeze (at least partially). There were no details given, and there's been nothing distributed in writing yet to the agencies.

An interested observer

02/15 Hey AB,
This is for Barbara regarding gear,boots, for wildland firefighting. The rule is quality not quantity when putting together a red pack. Just remember you're the one who has to carry it!! As far as boots go ...I had Redwings which I trashed in Idaho/Montana. They were OK but didn't hold up. Since then and the lesson learned last summer I have faxed my feet to oregon and purchased a pair of White's which were built for me. Putting them on was somewhat of a religious experience..I have never had anything so comfortable on my feet! They are pricey but well worth it. When you have been on the line for 20plus hours let me assure you the price becomes relative!! Your feet are your livlihood in wildland firefighting so be kind to them and they will not let you down!! Boots are one of your most important investments and I have found the White's to be great. There are also other well made brands which are comprable so go to the web site of Drews Boots or Nicks boots to find the right one for you.

Firebabe

02/15 Ab,

In response to Barbara's question, I'll go on record as one who is very fond of White's Smokejumper boots. Some folks swear by 'em, some folks hate 'em, but mine have been through a lot and are holding up nicely.

Also just want to echo Ab's appreciation of Mellie and her devotion to this page.
Thanks, Mellie.

Kibby

02/15 Chaparral Skeleton, NorCal Tom, WG,

The FS sent out letters on Feb 5 (USDA FS letterhead, Washington Office signed by Steve Nelson, Director of Human Resources Management) asking people to apply online with avuedigitalservices.com, but the ASAP staffing people don't have records of all the applicants who ARE in the system with avuedigitalservices.com.

Oops, disconnect! If the application is in avue's hands, it's supposed to be in the hands of FS Personnel and in the files of OPM... Not necessarily so...

Skeleton, you said you thought this is an enterprise outfit. It's not. I'm sure the FS did a contract with a "professional firm" to do the applications for this most current category of hiring (FMO, AFMO, a few non-fire). (We don't have the computer expertise/personnel to do it ourselves. OPM has done the first MEL permanent hire applicants.) I did a little research. The group doing the online application for this FMO and AFMO group is a private company in Tacoma WA www.avuetech.com/. They have a *very large* list of fed clients. Maybe they've done ok by the others, but they've got a major problem with this.

Those of you in this category of hire (FMO, AFMO, a few non-fire) who thought you were done with this application process, best reapply in hardcopy by tomorrow if you want in on Round 1.

WG, I heard some of the GS-9 (on down) applications didn't get to forests because of a database glitch. That's an OPM problem (I think?) Those folks (MEL permanent hire category) who fell through the cracks even after they were on certif lists and were called are supposed to automatically go back into the hopper for Round 2.

Hardcopy Hal
(My current littany is "trust in computers, but send in the paper, then use the phone to check with God" and you can tell by my moniker wherein lies my greatest faith...)

PS. By all reports, the BLM application process is a breeze.

02/15 I have heard from a few people that ASAP (Automated Staffing Application Program) has blown it bigtime. If you have sent in an electronic application on Avuedigital.com for a FS job that requires a postmark deadline of tomorrow, take the time right now and redo your application in hard copy and mail it in to meet tomorrow's deadline!

Do not take a chance on this!!!!
NorCal Tom

02/15 Dear Ab, please post my following to the person who talked about the AVUEDIGITAL SERVICES.COM and the Forest Service Hiring.

If someone at A.S.A.P. told you that 'Avue' was a private company they may be right and they may be wrong. Even though they told you that that Avue was not FS and there was nothing they could do about your application being missing, CALL THEM ON IT. IF THE FS UTILIZES A SERVICE TO PROVIDE AN APPLICATION PROCESS THEN IT IS THEIR PROCESS. If the FS does not acknowledge your concern and says that it's not their problem, they are wrong. If the Forest Service advertises a service (a first that I know of) in a VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT to provide an application to them, that service is a party to wit with them. As such, they have accepted responsibility for that party to provide properly completed applications.

I recommend an immediate call back to ASAP and a name taken for future reference. You have grounds for both an internal appeal/grievance and a Merit Systems Protection Board Appeal.

Now my personal opinion, even though I don't know its true, I believe Avue Digital Services is a Forest Service internal enterprise (an internal business within the Forest Service for streamlining and profit). FS internal enterprises have existed for a few years and looking at the quality of the site (its poor quality , poor reliability, and lack of true service to those who would like to call them for info) makes me believe that they are Govt. sponsored. I have tried for the last 8 hours to submit an application and am giving up. I cant believe that my agency has gone with such a screwed up product.

Anyone else who has used this application process, please speak up. So far, we are two application processes in a row that are a flop... how many more!!!!

Desert Phoneix

02/15 Hey how is everyone? I am looking for some information about getting on the contract list for Engines. I am interested in building a type 6 Engine within the next few years and I am starting to get info on everything I need to do to get on the federal list. I would be grateful for any help. Keep enjoying the down time fire season is coming soon.

ECS

02/15 I am truely in a state of shock....the FS is making
Apprentice offers to folks that have 5 and more
seasons in as temps in the GS-5 and GS-6 level....many
of these folks already have the training for single
resource boss but have not been placed on the training
assignment rotation due to their temp status..

Someone please tell me the logic in spending good
money to retrain people and reduce them in grade and
responsability....when Mgmt is crying about not having
qualified people at higher levels.

Tahoe ted

02/15 REMINDER: The timeline for Round 1, FMO, AFMO, Contracting, etc Permanent Positions (non-MEL) is this: applications must be postmarked by Feb 16, tomorrow, the regions will coordinate selections beginning March 12 and offers will be made no later than March 20.

One who doesn't want well qualified people to miss out.

02/15 This Dept of the Interior hiring freeze is getting old. Does anybody know
when they are going to get an exemption to start filling fire positions?
Also, to my brothers and sisters in the Forest Service....What idiot would
even THINK UP the lame idea to bump Engine Captains from 8's to 7's? People
in DC are so out of touch with what goes on in the REAL WORLD! Whats next,
bumping shot sups back to 7's? Sorry to vent but just had to get that off my
chest. I hope everybody is typing their fingers to the bone to keep this
INJUSTICE from happening.

Sign Me,
Fired Up

02/15 Greetings from the East. Been having some small fires back here in VA, not very big but enough to keep you on your toes. Anyway, I've been listing to the talk about jobs and the diffrent rounds of hiring and passing over people because they turn down a job. I have applied for jobs with the BLM and FS. I know that they are separate agencies but if I turn a job down with the BLM because I can't get out of college till May will my applications be passed over too?? Will I be demoted till the next round in hiring?? What kind of guidelines is the BLM using in it's hiring process?? Thanks for providing this forum AB. Just by reading over the archives I can get anwsers to questions that I would never have thought to ask untill it was too late and had to learn the hard way. Keep up the good work. Oh yeah, in response as to what to carry in a pack, try a small package of babywipes. They are a great Multi-Purpose cleaner :)

Matt

02/14 Greetings,
Thanks to Shooter and JW for you input on the Station wear issue. Still working on our uniform issue, and any input was welcome. Just curious, does anyone have any contacts with GSA? I heard a rumor that they were considering buying blue nomex and I would like to squelch it.

To Uncle Bob,
Here in Nevada, NDF (Nevada Division of Forestry, for those like me who like to abbreviate) we hire seasonal FF's, and will start to accept applications in late March to early April. Just go to www.state.nv.us and go to the personnel department page and look up the job listings. You should find the announcement and a downloadable job application with the address to send it to.

Thanks all, and stay safe......
Al

If you go to NV state url above, you can't use your back button! Here's the most direct link to the NV joblist and you *can* use your back button. The first category would have the fire jobs if they were being offered yet.
www.state.nv.us/personnel/joblist.html

I posted a group of firefighter jobs from Utah today on the wlf jobs board. Note that the Flame N Go have become an adjective for a certain kind of (good) firefighting module. Ab.

02/14 I live in Kelowna, B.C. Canada and I would like to know the procedures to demonstrate an inflatable tent (patent pending) for your firefighters.

Thank you,
Paul Dore

02/14 Good morning:
Last week I sent you a note requesting comments on a list of Wildland Fire Fighting Gear. Time is growing short and we would really like to have your thoughts and suggestions which we need by February 15th. <I snipped a reiteration of the request, click here for her original.>
Sincerely, Barbara

Barbara, if you want info on radio issues and what kind are used, read back over the last few days comments here. Sounds like the King is the most often mentioned. It's also what is provided by the Forest Service to fire people. Don't know about BLM or NPS or CDF or WDNR, etc... Standards for our wildland firefighter gear is mandated and often it's provided by our home agency and/or the NWCG for large incidents requiring an interagency response. Contractors have some discression but must adhere to agency standards when hired by the feds. This gear is researched by fire equipment professionals in places like the firelab in Missoula MT; San Dimas Technical Development Center, CA; and the research lab at Riverside, CA. Often it is chosen at the national (or regional) level as being the least costly while meeting the rigorous safety and performance standards. Of all the items you list (two-way radios and replacement batteries, helmets, goggles, boots, jackets and pants, gloves, first aid kits), the only one that wildland firefighters must have when they come to work is boots (vibram sole, 8" tops required). The rest may be and often are issued items, depending on the job.

Readers, I know we're all busy with many other issues, training, and scrambling to fill or obtain jobs. But does anyone have any other comments or evals for the lady? What about boots? Want to tell her survey group what you like? If you have comments, send em in. I'll post them and maintain your anonymity. Hey contractors, have any comments? Ab.

02/14 Here's a Washington Post article on FS hires:

A Raft of Hires to Fight the Fires

Firescribe

02/14 Happy Valentines Day all you wonderful people!

<chocolate kisses>
Mellie

PS. DEEFAMO, so what does DFMO mean beyond the obvious fire meaning? (that I learned at my Ab's knee in kindergarten <little simper><chocolate all over fingers and face>)? For you lurking pilgrims out there who might not know the obvious, see the Acronyms List!

02/14 Please somebody clear up this mess of a hiring process!!! I have talked to two of my nine locations for Forest Service, nothing else though. Does this mean I should not expect anymore calls, and hope that one of the two that called makes an official offer. Also what about the DOI hiring freeze? I have heard it is going to continue for 1 week to 1 month. I have talked to a bunch of FMO's and AFMO's from various agencies and most of the said they have announcements that were sent in to USAJOBS but have not been posted yet. What is the deal? Anyone with info please let us know. Also, any word on any Fire Ecologist jobs? Seemed like this fire season was going to be filled with great job opportunities, but so far it is not looking so good.

From,

BNAGZ

I posted three fire ecologist jobs yesterday on the jobs board for "the fire professor". Ab.

02/14 I think Mellie has it pretty much right on. However, the forests were given the opportunity to fill in right now for the folks that are moving up. What that means is if a unit was promoting a GS-6 up to a GS-7 position or if they lost one of their GS-6's they can fill that GS-6 this go round. And we are doing that on my unit. We can also fill more positions than we posted for the first round as long as they are identical tours and grade to jobs we posted.

If you get a job offer I would think it over real hard before declining. I know that will not be an easy decision for a lot of folks, but you are faced with the classic bird in hand situation. This is the only offer you are going to get this go round.

I have heard nothing about reapplying for the second round, or if you just leave your app down there. Again, I would recommend finding out what certs you ended up on and whether or not you were in the quality group.

It is correct that the applicant MAY end up in the situation where they have no say in where their offer may come from. Cost efficiency is one of the criteria to be taken into account. I am not defending that, it is just one of the criteria they are using. Good luck!

Gotta go, DEEFAMO

02/14 Can anyone tell me which states besides California, Oregon, Washington, and Utah hire their own seasonal firefighters? Which states hire full-time seasonal crews and not just a list of casual or EFF firefighters? (The Alaska and New Hampshire web sites only mention casuals, and most other states except the four I mentioned don't have anything on their websites at all)...I plan on applying to as many state agencies as I can, just in case the app I sent in to the Forest Service falls through.

Also, does anyone have a list of private contracters which hire seasonal firefighters? I know about PatRick, are there others? Whatever happened to Ash Kickers, Inc.? How does the hiring process work for the private companies - do they want somebody with prior wildland experience or will they train a newbie?

I'm itching to dig fireline this summer and want to make absolutely sure I land that job :)

- Uncle Bob

02/13 The earlier post about CALLING ON THE PHONE to make sure your application is in hand is very very good advice. I took it this morning, called up to see about status of my application, and found out I was not even in the system.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAck.

If you used the online application process at avuedigitalservices.com you need to know this: I was told by the FS personnel folks this morning "That is not our website" and "We have no idea what's up with that." My records on that website indicate that they have my application on file and the position is now closed. Yikes! So go here instead: http://www.fs.fed.us/fsjobs/ (some of the announcements have been revised and updated) and make sure you send in your application stuff HARD COPY to the address listed there. This *may* be the reason that some of you hirers are not seeing the people you expected on your quality and qualified lists!

WG

02/13 Thanks Mellie for the clarification. I'd love to hear
some more info about this second round hiring business
if anyone has some insight (how to resubmit apps, do
you send in another form c, choices of forests, resume
etc?). I am wondering what the strategy is if I get a
call from my #3 choice this week. Do I turn them
down, resubmit my app. and hope and pray #2 or #1 call
me in the second round? I have spoken to my number 1
and 2 choices with varying amounts of information
being requested. Some forests wanted to know basic
stuff that it seems should have been in front of them
(red card quals etc.) Other forests gave me a full
blown interview and wanted to have as much info as
possible to take to Vallejo with them. However it
seems to me that an offer will be made that suits the
forest rather than the employee. I guess we need to
remember that for some of us, these are "foot in the
door" jobs. Take them as they come, learn what you can
and fight like hell for your favorite spot in the
future. Good luck everyone, time will tell how this
all shakes out.

firepup21

02/13 It's ironic that techniques that work in business and industry to get the best person hired probably don't work with the Feds. Consider this. When good people are desired in business, businesses do much to solicit them and to make sure they're hired. There are incentives and often a lot of checking with the perspective candidate goes into the process so that no "t" is left uncrossed. Employers and candidates know upfront what the process is and how to play the game. (At least after one or two times if they're smart, candidates know how to play.) Business doesn't settle for less than the best candidate available. When the offer is made, the candidate usually knows they're wanted. At that time, they're in their best bargaining position to ask for what they want. (good computer and office space, a signing-on incentive, a slightly higher beginning salary)

What is frustrating about our hiring process is that no one really knows the rules. By necessity they're being invented on the fly. I can appreciate that, but IT SUCKS! Particular forests may want certain employees who have outstanding KSAs, who are not "grievance prone", are team players (read that "not whiners"), can supervise effectively and have been highly productive in the past. These are our good experienced people who are moving up. Yeah, but, did their applications get in with all the important info? Did that translate into appropriate ratings? Did they put 9 locations? (I did and I thought they'd think #1 was my favorite! Un-uh, they're all considered to be equal, as I understand it. I would have put only one location if I'd known that!) Did the application get sent to forests that were interested in them in a timely fashion? (I heard that some of the applications didn't make it and copies that the forests had weren't acceptable.) If two forests want the same applicant, will the applicant get to let their preference be known? (This might help in retention, duh.) And I'm not even getting into WO expectations for minority hiring...

I've worked hard, am well trained and well liked. I'm usually an optimist. This should be a time of excitement and expectancy for me. Nah, no excitement and optimism here... We don't even know what's happening with the engine captain GS-7/8 stuff. (BTW, I did e-mail my congress people.)

AL

For those of you who haven't, see my letter to my Congressional Representatives, use it or Mellie's points as a model and do your political duty.

02/13 FYI
Here's more regarding the South Dakota Governor's proposals:
"Wildfire coordinator a good plan"

Rapid City Journal archive

Firescribe

02/13 The new jobs listings are up. There are a bunch of new, and I removed many that closed. Also updated the Series 462 and 455. All you lurkers out there, take a look at the format of the jobs page. When you have jobs that are offered nationwide or regionally, you can send in a bit of info about the job on your forest or in your location and I can highlight your job so it doesn't get lost in the large shuffle of nationwide stuff. I like it if you can provide the link to the usa jobs or a location to get more info, but in a pinch I could help you out by getting that url and adding it to your post. At least I'd be willing until I get overwhelmed. (Yeah, I know some of you are used to only working in hardcopy.)

Ab. (But not the original.)

02/13 Talan,

If you go back and read the posts about the process, I think you'll see what will happen is this: Offers will be made by Friday or Saturday at the latest. This is logical. Applicants are supposed to have up to 24 hr to decide whether to take an offer once it's made. Monday is a holiday and the first round must be completed for the hiring to close on Tuesday and Round 2 to begin. When the hiring closes, the process starts all over again for your type of position (permanent MEL). That means the forests resubmit openings, people reapply and are selected. I'm pretty sure Round 2 doesn't just happen with existing applications, but I haven't researched this. The purpose of multiple rounds is to fill in behind people who are moving up. In Round 2, Forests will need to see where gaps have been left by the first round of hiring and advertise those positions. Again, without confirmation of someone who is on the scene, this is my best understanding as of the Div Chiefs Meeting instructions.

If anyone has better information, please chime in here or e-mail me (five_waters@hotmail.com) and I'll let folks know. Most everyone I know on my home forests who could answer this are in Vallejo and very busy.

Mellie

02/13 Ab, Et all Re Radios

FRS radios (Family radio service) tend to have a collage of benefits and defecits.. I've had the pleasure pf using such things in my role at camp as fire marshall and I think that maybe some insight from one of the youngest members of the ranks here could be useful.

FRS Radios are designed for family communications, yes. Therefore anyone within range of you can theoretically pick up your conversation and thus engage in it wit you, not too cool if you have an emergency going down..

Two-mile UHF signal: While this works great for covering our camp proper, there's no way this signal travels 2 miles in rugged terain and vegetation. This type of radio might be useful for firecamp coordinators and so forth.

14 channels 49 Intereference Eliminators: This is a nice little feature, you have 14 primary channels to choose from, plus the higher-end models have 39 different interference eliminators, thus not only do you get the built-in squelch from the unit, you get another sub-frequency to sort out all the mess. It should be noted that models without the eliminators can still hear all the conversations between units with the eliminators.

Cost: These little 2-ways can vary in price between $15-$80.

All in all, they can be very useful, if not somewhat limited. The alkaline batteries can die out rather quickly, and they are vulnerable to water damage too..

Tiny the R-6 Fire Pup

02/12 The Governor of South Dakota strikes again. His motto must be "Ready, Fire, Aim!"

"YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO PUT A FIRE OUT". On February 3, he was quoted in the Rapid City Journal, referring to the fires in South Dakota last summer: "I'm not doing it the federal way anymore. My line to the feds is simple. I may not succeed. I may fail at what I'm doing, but you've already proven to me you don't know how to put a fire out, either."

The state of South Dakota has cut their wildland fire budget so much in the last 15 years that they have only a skeleton staff left--and only a very few of those are upper level fire managers with any significant fire experience or knowledge. In other words, the Governor has no clue how to put out a fire, and is being extremely irresponsible in making such ridiculous statements. And, he does not have the staff left that could or would come to a conclusion like that.

THE MOST SOPHISTICATED SYSTEM IN THE WORLD: He was quoted as saying that he has $300,000 that he will use to "help create the most sophisticated system in the nation to fight wildfires". Maybe in the year 1890 that amount of money would have done that, but wake up and smell the smoke....in 2001 it could make a very small dent, at best.

He said he will build this system by spending his $300,000 this way:

  • Trunked radio system (see below!)
  • Two new state positions, a Wildland Coordinator and a part-time Fire Behavior Specialist
  • A new "fire command center for the Black Hills". The federal agencies and the state have been planning a new interagency-funded dispatch, or Communications Center, but it's worrisome that the Governor refers to it as a "Command Center". His extreme propensity for micro-management and his dislike for delegation comes to mind.
  • Satellite telephones. They have their place in extremely remote locations, but they cost $1,000 each, run $2.00 a minute to use, and will not work inside vehicles or buildings.
  • "A fleet of small wildfire trucks." At $40,000 to $80,000 each, how many can he buy along with the other items?
  • "Larger foam tanks that could be inserted into big trucks the state uses to plow snow in winter." This idea needs a little work.
  • And, he's going to "help equip volunteer fire departments to better fight wildfires".

So...that is his vision on how $300,000 can build "the most sophisticated system in the nation to fight wildfires". Obviously he has no clue.

TRUNKED RADIO SYSTEM: He said that he wants a "modern trunked radio system". This was tried in Australia with disastrous results. This type of radio system, when busy, makes you wait in a queue until it feels that the time is right for your transmission. This system can work very well for garbage pickup and road maintenance crews, but it has no place in emergency services. The following was copied from an Australian firefighters' discussion about trunked radio systems on the FireNet bulletin board at: www.anu.edu.au/mail-archives/firenet/firenet9712/

 

"We suffered so many lockouts, many of up to 5 minutes duration, that it became an absolute farce. Once we telephoned FireComs to advise them we were responding since the radio was continually locked out. This didn't just affect us, it happened to most of the brigades in my area (Gosford) and also was endemic in Sutherland last Tuesday. Even without major fires running all over the place, GRN (Government Radio System) is, at best, unreliable. Saturday we had 11 brigades responded to a major fire on the border of our shire. We were nearly 3km from the station before we were able to get through on the radio to advise Firecoms that we had responded etc."

But, instead of all this Governor, how about learning how to delegate, to work with other agencies, to negotiate, to listen, to make INFORMED decisions, to rebuild the state wildland staff back to the way it was in the early 1980's, and to trust those that have 20-30 years of hard-earned wildland fire experience and knowledge. And, quit trying to be the Incident Commander on fires. Take a couple of Incident Command System courses; try the "ICS for Executives" course as a starter. And, the hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal assistance to rural fire departments that you have hoarded for years..... we'll leave that for another discussion another time.

Sign me,
Amazed

02/12 I am going to jump in here real quick and hope to escape. I have to admit I am surprised there are not more posts relating to the hiring that is happening as I type. Maybe the word is not out, but the system does not work!!!!!! There are extremely well qualified folks not showing up on the quality list and we have to exhaust that list (well, down to two) before we can go to the eligibles. In many locations that will not happen and good folks (read quality) folks are going to be left out in the cold. Boise's answer is "it is their fault, we did not make a mistake". This whole thing is like an urban interface fire that is Class I in complexity and we are still in extended attack more than a week into it. If you applied, call Boise up and find out where you rated. If you believe that is inaccurate you better get yourself on record through the union or whatever so you have some kind of grounds on which to dispute the way you were rated. There are so many holes in this system if it was a boat it would sink in dry dock.

One little jab before I leave, I know the shots etc like their little secret radio channels, but come on, I routinely listen in on those channels and a lot of what goes on is pure and simple bullshit such as lookout the Division Sup is coming down the line. Sorry Sting, but you and I both know that is a fact of life. Is there too much chatter on the other channels, of course, they are overhead what do you expect. Is there too much chatter on the secret nets, of course, they are bad mouthing the overhead.

DEEFAMO - if you watched 60 minutes last night you know what DFMO stands for.

02/12 Any FS personnel folks out there, I need some advice about the hiring fiasco, I was contacted about my interest in a GS-8 Asst heli superintendent, I wasn't contacted about the GS-7 Helishot foreman that I was interested in (I am currently a GS7 who rated out as an 8 on the letter I received). Taking the 8 means Transfer of station or an 8 hour commute per day, taking the 7 means a 15 minute drive ( not hard to figure that one out). I told the forest I was interested in the 8 only because I didnt want to be thrown out of the first round. SHould I change my mind and opt for the second round? when are offers going to be made? after the second round or when they feel they have who they want? Also, why would I get called for an 8 and not a 7 when I have equal helishot/helitack experience? something stinks here and its not my 1 yr olds diaper...

Talan

02/12 RE: the radio freq's

COMT,

You are absolutely politically correct in your textbook answer to the communications problem on incidents.

I wish you could have been standing next to my radio on the Manter Incident this year. NOT IA...twas one of the last burning shifts. 1 branch director, 1 division supervisor, 3 safety officers who thought they were division supervisors, 5 hotshot crews, a couple of engine crews, 3 or 4 inmate crews, a couple of water tenders all on the same tac for an active burn show. If their would have been a need for an emergency message on tac the sender would have needed to take a number!

If each of the above mentioned resources would have thrown in their internal crew banter the confusion would have multiplied 1000 fold! Now I would certainly agree that we (fire folks) have a real need for more radio discipline, but I also think that a few radio class's on how to use the scan and priority functions of the King hand held radio's correctly would certainly alleviate any "safety" concerns with crew using other than Division Tactical for internal messages!

I agree with not using frequencies that are unauthorized for a particular area. There is a definite Communications problem on fires, but it is certainly not with crews, either engine or hotshot, using other frequencies than a jammed, overused tac frequency to accomplish internal crew communications.

Tony

02/12 Thanks Abercrombie.

Mellie

02/12 ab, here are some patches from nj (where i came from ) and where i am now, nevada ! just hooked up my scanner so i figured i would send these to ya. post them if you want. also, you are so right about mellie. she is one special lady and i am damn proud to have had the pleasure of meeting her. cant wait to see her again !

BC Davis

Thanks, BC. I put them on the Logo3 Page. Ab.

02/12 Reference the Point Fire court decision: It's a wonder we can get
anyone to take command at, & responsibility for, a wildfire with this
kind of backseat driving. What happened to "you are responsible for
your own safety" ? We're not talking rocket science here - some folks
get into trouble on fires because THEY are not paying attention. You
shouldn't expect someone to hold your hand, inform you of every
atmospheric event, show you where to drive your rig or pump in handline,
& otherwise monitor your every move at a fire to keep you "safe." It's
an emergency response, remember?!! If you're not basically capable of
keeping yourself out of trouble, don't respond to the emergency; we've
already got a wildfire - we don't need people stumbling around out there
trying to be somebody adding to the problem. If you get in trouble out
there it can't ALWAYS be somebody else's fault.

Been There

02/12 Ab wants to take a few bytes of your time and some space here to say a couple things.

First, I want to honor and pay public tribute here to Mellie From Five Waters. Eighteen months ago she was unknown to the world of the wildland firefighter. By now I know all of you who read this page have become familiar with her insightful and supporting thoughts, comments, and research. I can guarantee to you all that Mellie supports our cause across the United States and is not bashful about sharing her enthusiastic opinions with a variety of listeners. Some of you have had the priviledge of meeting Mellie, I know of one in New Jersey, two in Arizona, and many in California, including myself. You just do not know where she may appear. Thank you Mellie for becoming one of the wildland firefighterís best friends!

Iím sure most of you read Mellieís recent comments carefully on the GS-8/7 engine situation. I perceive this as an outstanding bit of reporting and perhaps a significant indicator. It should be obvious to all now that those who choose to lead, manage, or make decisions affecting others, may be unable to hide or suppress information. It is much harder to obfuscate the issues, divert blame, or use information distribution delays to ease or avoid responsibility for asinine decisions. Instant, cheap communications, available to all, keep us informed and allow us to quickly express our agreement or lack thereof.

I must admit the diversity of the questions and the number of willing answers among the 75,000 viewings of wildlandfire.comís pages last month give me a certain satisfaction that my original mission of providing a place wherein truthful information could be freely exchanged has borne fruit.

Thank you one and all for your contributions of thought, opinions, and photos. They are widely appreciated by all, even those still lurking. Use the tools at your disposal to make yourself known. Your opinion matters. Your thoughts count.

Abercrombie

02/12 COMT, your example of what happened to the engine folks last summer is a good argument for not using home freq's, though my experience is you dont use them for critical traffic, that is only done on tacs and command. I hadn't heard the "dam control" aspect of it, kind of sobering...

IA freq's are set and are not a problem in my area, I see the biggest problems on large incidents when a comm plan is in place and every yayhoo who has a radio does their BS on the division tac net, which literally forces us to break in or go to our old reliables. I think some counseling on proper radio etiquette is in order for a lot of crews from comm unit leaders.

What is the timeline for the regional transition to narrow band? what does this buy us? I know some forests have done it but not all.

We also have a cooperator on the 800 band, they have adapted by having our freq's in handhelds which makes it easier for us(feds)/them(county) to talk without us having to adapt.

I dont see the problem going away unless we get more freq's or we limit WHO gets radios. The FSC radios are an attempt to solve this, figures we cant use them.. what about those cell phones that have to two way radio feature? cell phones for all?

Sting

02/11 Ab, please place the following info about upgrades on "They Said"...........Thanks

The following documents were used to classify the 1997 upgrades to the type III engine modules.
-- GSSG (General Schedule Supervisory Guide)
-- FSH 6109.15 Position Classification Handbook
-- WO approved PD's N8017 (SFEO), N8018 (FEO), and N8019L (AFEO)

All of the PD's were certified by an Assistant Director at the WO as "...classified as required by Title 5, US Code, in conformance with standards published by the OPM or, if no published standard applies directly, consistently with the most applicable standards."

These were applied as NATIONAL POSITION DESCRIPTIONS and published as such. They were already reviewed by OPM and there should been no reason for R-3 to get an OPM ruling.

As a lay person, I took the GS-8 PD and went through the GSSG and FSH 6109.15 and applied the standards that are in the two qualifications guides. Even as a lay person, one can see that the PD is correct as written and meets ALL of the requirements of the GSSG and FSH. Some basic math is then needed to come up with the summary and the knowledge that the GS-8 Engine Captain has responsibilities as stated.

The rating will have a hard time being overturned unless there are some "underlying" political or personal issues.

Enough of that ramble though, what this really comes down to again is the classification of firefighters in a series in which they do not belong. I wish the folks that were looking at the Safety First Program many years ago could have seen this when they did away with the Wildland Fire Control Series. That's another discussion in its own.....

On the radio communication topic: Having been a wildland firefighter for going on somewhere nearing 20 years... I remember a guiding concept of common communications being addressed in the FIRESCOPE program... has anyone had any problems with the incompatability of 800 Mhz and VHF radio systems. I bring up this problem because in my area it is becoming a nearly daily issue during fire season and no one seems to take it seriously.... At a recent fire in January, I could only contact the Fed and State folks and none of the MANY local units assigned.... Is this only a California problem or is it a National problem. Is this problem being addressed???

Desert Phoenix

02/12 The discussion around the fed agencies and states and other fire outfits and
the volunteers/VFDs/vollies is a good and timely one. This is not something
that we'll all ever agree on, but no matter where you stand on the discussion,
you'll find the court opinion from the Point Fire in Idaho a good basis for
discussion. It's not a court opinion that is for or against VFDs or for or
against the feds, or for or against a lot of the other peripheral discussions.
It is, though, a bold and long-term standing statement for safety, for good
communications, for the value of fire weather information, for interagency
communication and protocol, for standards, for PPE, and for training. It also
happens to be written in plain english, and it pretty much covers most of what
you need to know if you ever get caught in any argument or safety issue
connected with wildland fire. I figure it should be mandatory reading for all
wildland firefighters.

It's here: www.wildfirenews.com/pointfire

This link takes you to a pdf file dealing with the legal ramifications of the Point Fire Burnover (Idaho, 1995). It takes about 30 seconds to download with Adobe Acrobat. It should be mandatory reading. Ab.

02/11 Regarding what to take in your pack, I have made a new Frequently Asked Question and answer for the FAQ Page. Readers, please review it and see if there is anything critical to add.

Also, take a look at my letter to my Congressional Representatives and write your own reps.

Ab.

02/11 Regarding Radio Use on Fires:

The problem of not enough channels comes up quite often. The main problem is that there are not enough frequencies allocated for use. NIFC also rations the frequencies to try to avoid interference between fires.

The main reason you should not use your home frequencies is that those are only authorized for a 60 mile radius. Outside of this other federal agencies have the license for it, ex. DEA, FBI, I know some dams use them to control flood gates. It is more serious than people realize.

The other reason for not using your own frequencie is a major safety concern. This last summer there was a couple of engines that were almost lost in a burnover because they could not be contacted because they were on thier own freq. Luckily the COML knew what it was and contacted them. If they were lost, we would really see penalties for using freqs not on the comm plan.

There is always confusion when you first arrive on an incident. It would be nice if there were set freqs that would be used for certain functions. But there would be interference from other fires using the same freqs. The freqs are juggled around to minimize this from occurring.

We have been told from the WO that FRS (FSC) are NOT to be used. They are a nice toy, but I would not depend on them for my life. They are not powerful and the UHF freqs they use do not go far, vegetation eats up the signal. They say it will go 2 miles, maybe with a clear line of sight. I know the VHF King radio in those same conditions will go 40 miles.

The subject of radio is usually ignored until there is a problem. It is good to bring it up and discuss it. Solutions are hard to find because most decisions are handled at a national level, and they are always reactionary and not pro-active.

COMT

02/11 The talk of the "problems" (there are many) with dovetailing volunteer depts. and Forest Service crews to work on the same fire has hit a hot button with me. Here in the East-Central part of Texas, the Texas Forest Service has been putting on Interagency Fire Academies for a few years now. They are open to all. I've never seen more than 10% VFD participants in any class. My dept. sends me to these whenever I want. They pay the tuition, but I must come up with room & board. That may be the key.

Many small VFD's just don't have much to spend on training. And their people can hardly get time off for a main vacation, much less a Fire training school. I don't know the answer, but it needs to be looked at. On almost any fire that gets big in our area, and I suspect, in most of Texas, the initial attack is volunteer. They and the TFS folks really NEED to be on the "same page". Our dept. seems to work fairly well with the dozer & helo crews that support this area, but I have seen other depts. pack up and leave when TFS support arrived! How about that? "We need help from you, but now that you're here, we're leaving!" With proper training, many of these "large" fires could be stopped, or at least slowed, by the VFDs. Then, if the support of the TFS folks was needed, we could all work together in a reasonable and efficient manner to control the fire. But, right now, that just doesn't happen very often. There is too much distrust and outright refusal to communicate on many incidents.

If we are all going to work together on these fires, there must be more joint training. Maybe the TFS could sponsor training for each VFD. I realize this would be expensive, but training is what makes it all come together at a fire. If both sides knew what to expect, things would work much better.

-Bob

02/11 Readers:

Ab has written his letter to his congressional representatives. Feel free to use it as a model and/or an inspiration to write your own.

If you send an e-mail, the following can be added as a PS:

Additional information on the loss of federal employees to other sectors may be found here:
www.wildlandfire.com/docs/recruit.htm

More specific information on the above situation and those allegedly responsible may be found here:
www.wildlandfire.com/theysaid.htm#crisis

02/11 This just arrived from Barbara Boxer, acknowledging the receipt of Ab's letter:

Thank you for contacting me to express your views.

As your Senator, I appreciate the opportunity to hear your concerns.

Your opinions have been passed on to my legislative staff, since they
represent the views of many constituents.

In the past two years, I have received over 200,000 personal e-mails
from concerned Californians. I view this statistic with pride. The
most serious problem facing a democracy is apathy, but the high level
of incoming e-mail demonstrates the determination of my constituents
to learn about and influence public affairs. Only with your
participation can we truly have a government of, by, and for the
people.

Again, thank you for your e-mail. Please visit my new webform, at
http://boxer.senate.gov/contact/webform.html for additional
information about legislation before the U.S. Senate.

02/11 MOC4546,
I agree with what you're saying, we have a dilemma here in that we have far more VFD's than we do Forestry Resources. This means that the chances that a VFD will be the primary responder will be almost 100%. If we do our best to train the VFD's up to the standards that everyone else is working to,it would seem that it would be a "win-win situation" for everyone.
The vollies win because perhaps we can instill in them that a wildfire will kill them just as quick as a structure fire if they don't know what to be looking for.
The Forestry Service wins because they have taught the vollies how and why they do the things that they do.Such as why they don't want that backfire that they set to protect those structures extinquished.Sounds kind of silly, but I have seen it happen.
In know that here, TFS and the VFD's can get along out of necessity, we even have a 130/190 course here next weekend that is open to any that want to attend.I've had 24 volunteers register so far.The course is being taught by Forestry Service Instructors.
Stay safe,Keith
02/11 MOC, I agree with what you said. The Forest Service needs to take the lead and there needs to be a generational change in how things are done.
Those people making decisions on resources leaving the forest are good managers I'm sure. That what the agency wants, savvy politicos who can keep things in suspension while somehow meeting budget restrictions. Unfortunately, people are prone to carving out comfortable niches for themselves. This is why training assignments aren't given out that much. People that are qualified for certain "Cush" positions like to keep the sweet deals to themselves because that's power.
Here's a suggestion: Make government employees justify their existence on a regular basis. Base continued employment on what they actually produce. Then clean out the barn, so to speak.
Or better yet, here's a radical idea. Require mangers to have at least 2 seasons on a shot crew. It would never float of course, but it would clean out the deadwood. At least you'd have leadership that had at sometime paid their dues.

To that young person in New Mexico that wanted to know what to stuff in their line bag? I'd recommend the following items: Space blanket, Canteen cup, instant coffee, Toilet paper, 24 hours of food. long johns, a rain slicker, waterproof matches, a good book, cigarettes, chew, first aid kit, a transistor radio, 50 feet of parachute cord, a camera, extra AA batteries, a map of your forest, compass, fusees, Letherman type utility knife. all encased in a plastic bag.
Thanks for the forum folks -Captain Crotchrot-

02/10 Hello. I currently live in Emporia Kansas. I am Firefighter One and EMT-B certified. I'm interested in obtaining information on what is required to enable myself to fight forest fires out of my state. Please provide me with information. Thank you.

Jamin

02/10 MOC4546

you hit the nail on the head !!!! in nj, the attitude with the forest fire is that volunteers have no buisness in the woods !!!! in some respects they are right. but how in the hell are the vollies going to learn the proper fire fighting tecniques if they are told, stay out of the woods?? there is one hell of alot of resentment between the vollies and the state. until they recognize that they need each other, this will continue.some fire departments get along with the state. only because state personel are members. a poor excuse if you ask me.all potential fire departments that might be involved with wildland fire should recieve all the training they can get. this would make them a viable resourse to the state. many departments are going with modern equipment. my old department went with class-a foam. they want to be involved in wildland fire. they want to learn. why push them away. no one is trying to take anyones job!!!!!

BC Davis

02/10 Ab.

In recent posts concerning the use of military personnel for wildland fire fighting I've seen the term "militia" used. I think it's worthwhile to point out there are important differences between the terms "militia" and "military". In today's clouded political atmosphere it becomes even more important to keep some "word manipulator" from sneaking up and biting you in the six o-clock because you innocently used a term you're not aware is getting it's feet held to the fire.

The U.S. Constitution includes both "militia" and "military forces", as do most state constitutions.

In a compact, descriptive, version, a militia is made up of individual citizens that are NOT directly under the control of government. Military personnel on the other hand are individual citizens that have SIGNED ON TO DIRECTLY TAKE ORDERS FROM GOVERNMENT for the purpose of defending the United States from foreign and domestic enemies.

Stay safe --- and watch your six o-clock.
The Honorable Mouse.

I agree that we shouldn't use the term "militia" to refer to the military who serve on fire. I don't remember seeing that done on theysaid. However, within fire, "militia" has also been used traditionally to refer to the (non-primary) fire folks who are essential to running the finances, etc of the Incident Management Teams. We need a new term for these much needed fire support folks, who make a critical contribution to the firefighting effort. Any suggestions, readers? Ab.

02/10 To Sting,

I can't offer up a solution to your radio traffic dilemma but I can illustrate what we have done here to try and solve our problem here locally.

We have always had the problem that our local VFD's could not communicate with Forestry and vice versa, so TFS finally approved us the priviledge of programming the command units with all of the tac channels so that we could somewhat function on an incident. About this time though,one of the counties we serve switched to 800 frequency communications. So that put us back at square 1. We resolved this so that we were back able to communicate by having our Firemens Association buy 2 800 handhelds and provide them to the RFCs that will be responding to all incidents.Granted, it is another radio that must be kept up with, but it keeps of our VFD chatter (who have a tendency to ramble a lot) off of the TFS channels while still providing a line of communication that allows us to have some semblance of reliable communication with all forces on an incident.

We had the opportunity to put all of it into place on a large multi-agency incident last year that involved 5 different VFD's, 2 police agencies,TFS,spotter aircraft and helo and support, the coommunication was never a problem throughout the response.

Here in the eastern half of Texas, we(the VFDs) are still fairly new to the NWCG way of doing things (but we are gradually coming around).

Hope I haven't rambled on too much,
Stay safe,
Keith

02/10 Jobs page, Series 462 and 455 were updated last night. Carry on. Ab.
02/10 Sting, good post on FREQs.

One thing that has been kicked around but someone on high will not allow, is the use of the FSC (family service channel) radios. You all have seen them, small palm size radios with about a 2 mile range, run on 2 AA batteries. These radios will fit into a shirt pocket and are perfect for intercrew communications, camp personnel and any where a group of people need to communicate. The FCC is quite clear that they are not to be used by government or industry. Is this because Motorola or King feels they would not sell as many radios to the government? On a hand crew not every one carries a radio but every crew member needs to know what is happening, these low cost radios are just the ticket. You can plug an ear piece into one and not miss a stroke with a tool. The mic is so sensitive it does not have to be removed from a pocket when transmitting to pick up your voice. The PTT button is large enough to push with gloves on. The advantages go on and on. For the price of one issue hand held, an entire crew could be equipped. The batteries last for several days depending on use.

I have heard that some people are using the radios on fires but I really don't know what would happen to them if the FCC caught them. Would they be fined and have their birthdays taken away? WP

02/10 To FIREDAWG83, KPC, Bear, Mellie, and OTHERS.

Thanks for the replies to the issues I brought up. Many of the answers and commentary cleared up a lot of miscommunications, rumors, and outright lies. My favorate and what I think the most important rule of the old 10 Standard Firefighting Orders is "Keep Informed of Current and Expected Fire Behavoir and Forcasts". But out of this order comes the single most important rule that should be added to any fire organization that should cover all aspects of Fire Managament. They are "KEEP INFORMED".

Not just about the fire, the weather, but on plans, projects, staffing, rumors, etc... By giving your people current and truthful information about what's going on it eliminates future problems by those who would assume things because of a lack of information. This website and this forum in particular helps to get the information out.

I don't believe that there is a "conspiracy" to screw everone out of a fire assignment or a paychack, but it has happened on many occasions where individuals start playing politics or will not inform us why a certain decision was made. A lot of the questions not only had to do with this last fire season but also from seasons over the last 10 years. Many of you answered those questions and the problem consistanly comes back to Manpower, Budget, Training, and Forests/Districts reserving resources.

These are all legitimate problems that hopefully this $1.6 Billion Fire Budget will help to solve. We all hear about the "Our Forest Policy is we don't let our home fire crews get below 50%" yet the rule is not enforced equally across the nation by each forest/district. I understand that you can't send everyone to the big fire, but I do have a problem when people go out and get qualifications to support fire ops and the home unit keeps them to do their 'regular' jobs. As I have understood it when a fire takes off everyone is to focus on suppressing the fire, and if Bambi has to wait for that hidden water trough for a few months then so be it.

My question as to the use of every available secondary crew and contractor was because I was seeing a lot of available AD crews around Region 5 being kept home in case of a fire, but not being 'brought on' to stand by in that they were earning a paycheck. Its hard to keep people when your told "Its gonna be a bad fire season with lots of OT" and when the big fires take off your then told "We need to keep you here in case we get fire, but were not putting you on the clock until you're called." In past years there have been cases where the military was called up for firefighting when there were crews and aircraft available from secondary and private resources.

As to the overhead/single resource/staff issue, I was qualified to fill several positions on my red card and a request was all that was needed for me to go out for two weeks but that didn't happen. I was available, there was plenty of manpower to backfill for me, but I didn't get a request. I'll not complaining that I didn't go anywhere, but I am trying to exemplify how many more people like myself were in the same situation? This goes for federal, state, or local government fire people.

We keep bringing up the issue of Qualifications. I understand that in order to fill an ICS position you have to have thosee ICS I- and S- courses and then the experience to back that up. I have no problem with this but looking through the Taskbook you can eliminate about 30% or more of the hoops you have to jump through to speed up the process. One thing everyone can do is open up more of these courses to more people, and not just to the permanents. Another solution is to encourage your permanent and seasonal staff to seek these courses out on there own through other training sources such as state and local fire agencies, the community college systems, and private fire education groups. Be supportive of your people who want to raise their qualification levels regardless of their status.

For example, recently an ICS-300 course was put on by a local fire department with a certified and qualified instructor. He opened it up not only to his agency but any fire agency who wanted to attend. The cost of the three day class was $35.00. I hear the permanent people being sent to these types of classes for 5 days, at a cost of $250.00 plus the person's salary and lodging. Don't give me that BS about "It wasn't taught by a Forest Service instructor" or "It wasn't a Forest Service Class". It doesn't have to be!!! Its that simple!! ICS is the same if CDF, USFS, BLM, LACO.FD, or the Plumas County Fire District were to put it on. You can find a few bucks to send them to a class, maybe work out a deal for trading shifts or shcedules so they can attend, or just lay it out "It will be better if you go on your own rather than wait for the Agency to send you." Find ways to make things work. My favorate US Marine movie has the main character saying "Overcome, Adapt, Improvise!!". The same goes for the Fire Service.

There is still a heavy protectionist attitude keeping people from getting the training and positions they want in order to keep themselves in a job. It needs to stop. We all need to take a step backwards and realise that if you want to move up you can't wait for someone to make it happen, you have to make it happen.

As to volunteer and other paid departments there is a valuable resource to be used. Many of these people in region 5 and across the Western US can perform many of the support functions that regular fire crews do. They can serve as EMTs on the line or at base, set up supply and staging areas, provide water tenders for line and support, do structure protection to make available more wildland crews, and they can fight the fires in their home territory or some distance away. As a volunteer I went down to LA County within 4 days of being laid off from BLM for the season and did active firefighting, burning ops, and structure protection. There were other volunteer engines with me and we were led by a paid fire chief. But more and more the locals and volunteers are being forced out of the big fires by the Forest Service and others in favor of using only paid crews.

The goal is to get the fire out, to control it. Not "you can't go because your not a Forest Service resouce". Remember 1987? Who lost a fire because they didn't want to use volunteers? Was $20 million dollars lost in supression costs, property damage, and lost marketable timber?

And contrary to popular belief, not all volunteers have patched together leftover fire equipment. They are getting newer engines and tenders than some of the paid federal crews have and have just as more training and experience than a contract crew doing the same position. Everyone uses ICS now, most everyone has the communications equipment, and the right tools. They generally don't leave there home districts completely uncovered, but send out what they can. Don't discount them because they don't do it for a career.

I like to hear other people's comments and information on the subject. That's the whole point of this website, isn't it?

MOC4546

02/09 Everyone,

I was wrong in saying that our Forest Service WO folks did not see the classification problem with the Engine Captains (GS-8) coming. Some WO Personnel and Human Relations Administration people did, but not those who were at the Div Chiefs Meeting. I thought that this was an OPM issue (as did Nedermeyer). It's not. I've done substantial research on this. OPM standards have not changed over the last four years since the Engine Captains in R5 were upgraded from GS-7 to GS-8. OPM has nothing to do with this problem.

In 1997 when the upgrades took effect, they were deemed to be in accordance with OPM standards, the same standards that exist today. The upgrades were reviewed and signed off by the highest authority in Washington DC at that time. Since then, R5 has done everything required by ongoing WO oversight to comply with the rules and regs. This can be documented, I'm sure.

So what caused this current snafu at so critical a time? The only thing that's changed since 1997 is that there are different WO people interpreting the OPM standards. The problem began with a Human Relations person in the WO who reinterpreted the rating standards for Engine Captain and decided there had been a "mistake" all those years ago. From his perspective, Engine Captains should only be rated GS-7. And yes, this is a matter of interpretation.

You ask: Who's his boss? Can't they stop this? Those above this HR guy are Steve Nelson who is Director of Human Resources Management and Clyde Thompson who is Deputy Chief for Administration. They have the authority to tie up the current hiring process and/or take action that will move toward rolling the ratings back to pre-'97.

How can we deal with this problem?

First, in addition to calling our congressional reps, we should be calling and e-mailing those two WO guys. (To facilitate this, I include their e-mail addresses and phone numbers at the end.)

Second, when we call our congressional reps, let's be sure and mention Steve Nelson and Clyde Thompson.

  • Perhaps you, like me, want to know how something that has been legal all these years could now be considered a "mistake", simply because these administrative people interpret standards differently.
  • Take a moment to educate your congresspeople as to what the implications of a hiring holdup and/or engine captain downgrade will be.
    • Our reps should know that this subjective reinterpretation at this time does not only hold up the current process of hiring with dire consequences.
    • It also is not conducive to retaining engine captains.
    • Point out to your reps that if we arbitrarily revert back to the pre-97 interpretation, more than 500 firefighters will take a cut in rating and pay.
    • Who wants to stick around for such cuts? Furthermore, if this is not resolved quickly, who will want to jump on board if when we make an offer?
    • Let your congressional reps know the timing sucks and can throw off multiple rounds of hiring (ahem, please use more lady-like or gentlemanly terms).
  • Reiterate that just when we need to hire more Engine Captains to meet MEL and fulfill the fuel reductions that Congress has mandated, we have some Human Relations people who are arbitrarily sidetracking the process (although it probably doesn't seem that way to them).
They should stop that! Right now! If they won't, they should be held accountable for the dire negative consequences!

Again, Readers, here are the names, e-mail addys, and phone numbers you need:

And everyone, my only other plea is this: If you're an engine captain or a perspective engine captain, please don't bail on us now. We need you! With those who are retiring, you're our hope and our future!

Mellie

02/09 Al,
Re: Station Wear
You need to get copies of the NFPA standards for station wear, wildland PPE, and structural PPE. They are on a sliding scale of protection as listed. NFPA standards are only recommendations that must be codified or adopted by the "agency having authority". There is interest from OSHA to adopt NFPA standards as law by reference. If Dick reads this, he may have more up-to-date info than I.

First, there is nothing that says one color is safer for the user. In the original wildland PPE standard, color was only addressed in the reference section as an ehancement to fireline visibility for seeing firefighters from the air, in smokey conditions, etc. When CDF changed to blue station uniforms the "blue is safer" statement was thrown around. Actually, the cost was supposed to be less because "everybody else wears blue".

Station wear clothing must pass the children's sleepwear flammability test, at my last recollection; wildland PPE has more stringent flammability criteria including thermal heat protection levels; and structural PPE basically has higher thermal heat protection, direct flame impingment tests and waterproofness.

In my interpretation you can wear wildland PPE as station wear because it exceeds the requirements of station wear. Most federal firefighters do this.

Protection can be provided by single or multiple layers of fabric. If you add up the weights of the material (oz/yd) and divide by 2 you get a rough Thermal Protective Performance rating as used in structural gear. My point here is that I see a trend in FFs who are urban/metro oriented who want more and more protection in the wildland arena which ends up being close to non-waterproof strucural PPE. Structural PPE requires a TPP rating of 25 (2.5 cal/sq.mtr. heat source @ 2,500 F, 12.5 sec exposure to second degree burns). The FS Nomex shirt is about 6 on the TPP scale and with a 3 oz/yd cotton underlayer about 9 or 10.

Be careful what you do to yourself in the name of safety, the protection needs to be appropriate for the exposure.

(Still putting the Rattlesnake stuff together.)
JW

02/09 Al
i can only speak for the blm on ppe requirments at the station. we wear the following.
leather boots
nomex pants
tee shirt (your choice but normally a crew or dist. shirt)
as far as osha or the nfpa go they have little to no influence on us. our bible is the fireline handbook. not to ding nfpa but they dont have a clue about wildland fires. much in the same way that wildland crews lack the training or experience in structure fires. i know that the cdf will take offense to this post but they need to read the first line and remember that i speak only from the blm side of the fence. hope this helps a little.
crisp triggers
shooter
02/09 MOC4546

I have been lurking on this site since last summer. But I must say your most recent rant has caused me to speak. I think that Bear has covered some of this quite well, but I thought I'd throw some numbers your way.

First of all, NICC alone processed orders for approximately 30,000 Overhead last season and was able to fill about 17,000 of those. There quite simply were not enough resources available due to the fact that several areas were VERY dry and were hanging onto resources they had. Can you imagine if North Zone and Northwest would have burned along with what was already going on? We just do not have the militia to cover the homefront anymore. Overhead from out of the country were not brought in until the situation had gotten desperate. Do you realize that there were also nearly a dozen outstanding orders for Type 1&2 Teams at one point? If you read the Sit Report you know that we had Type 2 Teams on Fire Complexes that normally would have stressed the abilities of any Type 1 Team.

Second, military crews were not brought in until, again, we had nothing left available. At one point this summer there were over 500 crew requests sitting at NICC and NOTHING available to fill them with.

Third, in regards to the great aircraft conspiracy. Everthing we have was being used. There were many fires in my area that may have been kept smaller had there been ANY aircraft available at all. I believe Bear backed this up as well. Had we had more fully qual'd HEMG's available anywhere we might have had more ships in the air. Again, the lack of militia strikes again.

The real issue here is number of available, trained personnel. Available according to your geographic area. Downsizing, not filling in behind retiree's and limited training budgets are some of the real culprits. You did not leave your region due to lack of requests, but rather, because like it or not when it's hot and dry somebody's got to stay home.

FIREDAWG83

Welcome FIREDAWG83, we're glad you joined us. Ab.

02/09 Hi Ab and everybody,

Another issue to throw on the table.... What can be done about the lack of usable tactical frequencies on large fires. We get slammed for using "private" channels, why do we use private channels? because we cant get in a word edgewise on an already cluttered tac channel, especially when things are romping. I have heard all the FCC reg stuff, but it seems the only ones "over using" tac channels could be better served if they just walked the line and went face to face.. for engines, hotshots, and folks who are full time fire, you know what I'm talking about.

I dont want to imply that the "clutterers" dont have anything important to convey, it just seems they take longer to say it, and it usually isnt important enough to tie up a division tac, which forces us onto our "reliable" channels so we can get our traffic across..

So, to avoid complaining without offering a solution, how about offering us assigned intercrew freqs per division, say no more than 3, assign them specifically to type 1 crews, engines, type II crews as the need may present itself. I know this makes monitoring difficult for DIVS, but it is new intercrew channels we need, not tac channels. This is a broad idea, begging for input.

This will probably open up a can of worms when we consider the radio caches, out of state crews, contractors, and the good ol' FCC who decide which and how many freqs we can use, but something needs to be done, after all, it is a safety issue.

So, for the forum, any comm folks out there? what do y'all think of this?

Sting

02/08 I have been working on FS hiring for the last few days now. Many of the applicants I have spoken with have no idea how the process is working. And from some of the posts here, I see more frustration and confusion. I received 22 pages of information and rules to follow in the process and must admit I do not understand it all myself but have to follow it anyway. These rules were not developed at the time you applied, so many of you feel misled. Some of it I am very concerned about.

For the last two days, the local forest or clusters have been developing their first tenative selection list. Many of you have already been receiving calls. It has been very difficult to check on applicants because almost all the fire staffs are away on meetings going through the same process.

We must consider the quality group applicants first. Most of the applications in this group I have seen, seem to truely be quality applicants. A few are not. If you have not received any calls yet, it may be that you are not in this group, which brings up the question of how the quality group was selected? To be honest I really do not know. It has to do with expert knowledge, skills, and abilities. This is somewhat of a problem as the applicants rated themselves on KSA's. I will let you draw your own conclusions. Mine is that my ideal of expert knowledge isn't the same as some of the applicants. It is also clear to me that some applicants who are not in the quality group, should be.

After the quality group, we can consider those in the eligible group. Merit Promotion or Demo does not matter, as they are both being considered concurrently. The next few days, the regions are meeting to determine their regional tenative selection list. In my region each forest is represented by the Forest FMO and the Forest Supervisor. The Regional Forester is there also, I think to referee. In the case that more than one forest wants to offer a job to an applicant, the decision is based on what would best meet the needs of the Forest Service. Some think that there is an informal agreement that the forest that now has the applicant, has first choice. This is not really true. If forests in the region can not agree, I think the regional forester has the final say.

After each region has developed their tenative list, then via a conference call, the regions will decide who gets those applicants that two or more different regions want to hire. If an agreement can not be reached, the WO has the final say.

Like Mellie said, they are starting at the GS-9 level and working down by specialty. If I remember right, it goes like this:

  • Helitack
  • Suppression crews
  • Engine crews
  • Prevention
  • Lookouts
  • Dispatch
  • Helishots
  • Hotshots
  • Smokejumpers
  • Fuels
So applicants do not have much say in the process. Yes it was a good idea to let the forest you applied to know your level of interest, but this may be a double edge sword. It will be hardest for those on the DEMO list who do not now have an appointment. You will only recieve ONE offer, it will be at the highest grade you are being considered for. If you decline a job offer, your name will be removed from further consideration for this round of hiring. This is not true for Veterans, who will basically be allowed to pick and chose from all the jobs for which they are qualified. I do not know what to say to highly qualified applicants that really want to be a Hotshot or Jumper. Chances are you will recieve an offer before they get down that far. Of course if you are really up front and honest about what you want to do, the forest may decide to let you go, then again maybe not. There are a few checks built into the system to ensure that diversity candidates are not being bypassed. A report will be run on each tenative list for this. If it looks like there is a problem the list could be sent back.

Only time will tell how well this process works or doesn't.
Name withheld to maintain
Plausible Deniability

02/08 Here's a new one, and NO, we won't do this again! But, I like it. Ab.

Well Ab, not to use your site as a classified section, but I'm getting
desperate :)

To any management in R-2 (Pike N.F. and Arapaho) Rocky Mountain Region:
If any management is listening I'm trying to land a job in Monument or
near Metro Denver. I have been unsuccessful trying to contact anyone so
maybe this works.

PLEASE PICK ME UP.
Fredrick Tate-Partee
e-mail: fdpartee@hotmail.com.

They say desperate times call for desperate measures and the early, creative
bird gets the work :)
Thanks Ab,
Fred

<chuckle> Good luck. Ab.

02/08 A few more links with telephone numbers for those of us who are more comfortable with a phone:

Current phone numbers of all members of the House of Representatives. You should know who yours is to select his or her phone number from the long list. http://www.saf.org/pub/rkba/wais/data_files/shell/federal/103/103c-rep.txt

Easier still, http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ the e-mail and telephone lists of both House and Senate members: go down to the zip code option. Fill yours in. You'll get three reps. Senators are listed first. Be sure to contact both. Your House of Representative member is listed third. Copy this off and send it to friends and relatives. Let's make it a chain letter thing.

Let me add here that I don't think our Forest Service WO folks saw this coming. I know RO management didn't. Let's not get into a big finger pointing session here. We need to be putting our energies into acting to suppress this spotfire and let our overhead work on quelling it with their full attention. Everyone I know feels we need to get on with the hiring and training tasks, the real stuff. This is frustrating for all at all levels. Please take any blaming you may want to do and put it into a phone call or an e-mail instead. Join FWFSA. Make a difference!

Mellie

Ditto on the calling your reps and the FWFSA suggestion. It's about time. Ab.

02/08 I am glad to see that I'm not the only one frustrated with the new hiring practices out of Boise. I have some 15 years in the fire service, all with an aggressive training and self improvement program . I have held positions as high as Bat. Chief. Boise sent my application back to me , stating I was not qualified to be an apparatus engineer . How can this madness continue ? Why can't people lose their job anymore for sheer stupidity ?

Bigwater, Elko nv.

02/08 Hi Everyone,

I have a few questions regarding P.P.E., and I hope to have a little feedback. I need to know what the USFS, BLM, BIA, and NPS have for a policy on station wear. Is it based on anything from OSHA or NFPA? Has there been any talk of changing color? (I know thats Blaspheme, but I was a little curious). My department changed from tan and green 2 years ago to the blues because of the NFPA standard on station wear, and since OSHA believes that everything NFPA says was anointed in holy water....and I was wondering if the federal fire services were being held to that standard. Don't get me wrong, as soon as my engine leaves my district, I change into the tried and true green nomex that can be found at every friendly warehouse and fire cache (mostly because I lay out very little in capital to aquire them, not to mention the fact that a pair of blue FFR pants cost around $80.00...). Any info on P.P.E. or duty wear would be a great help to me in my effort to tilt windmills.....

Thanks all, and stay safe....
Al

02/08 Sad news: Mary Lynn Waite died in Mississippi (Homochitto National Forest) on Feb 6, while doing the light level duty "walk" test to be ready to support the fire effort. She will be missed. Condolences to her husband, family, and friends.

Mississippi firefighter

We appreciate those who support fire at all levels and are saddened by the news. Here's the press release. Thanks. Ab.

02/08 Please Post:

Info on the retirement age bill introduced in the Senate. Click here: RETIREMENT AGE BILL

Thanks Ab.
A politically-active Lurker

PS. FWFSA, just do it!

02/08 To all Federal Wildland Firefighters,

By now most of you have heard of the stupidity of agency personnelist in questioning the validity of the GS-8 engine Captain's PD (position description) approved a number of years ago. At this critical juncture in hiring to meet short timeframes to implement the NFP (National Fire Plan) as directed by Congress & President, this is destroying morale & obstructing progress in our quest for MEL.

This has an immediate effect on hiring to fill about 100 Type III engines in R5, affecting about 300 folks. If the madness continues, it has potential to affect the 200+/- Type III's currently in R5 or over 600 positions & I'm guessing about 500 current incumbents -- about 1100 people total.

This is a classic case of career bureaucrats obstructing the wishes of Congress & the Administration.

So what have you, who are most affected by this, done about it? Many of you learned of the problem yesterday or the day before. We've had some brief time to clarify and share information. Let's not continue to sit around in a silo of concensus and just bitch. OK, that's part of the process.
But now, let's move on & quickly.
CALL or E-MAIL YOUR CONGRESSMEN/WOMEN & SENATORS!!!
(not w/govt equipment/time)
Let them know that staffing to MEL in 2001, may not happen with the current impasse & that understaffing puts us at risk for another summer of inadequate fire preparedness like the last one. That resources, homes and lives will be at risk.

To those of you not directly affected, please don't sit & wait to see who in fire is affected by this next, GET ON BOARD, CALL! We need solidarity among fire folk. If the tables were turned, we'd get on the wagon for you.

Maybe collectively we can change this. The molasses of bureaucracy will study it, but we need to act now.

When you call, don't hesitate to point out that not only will we not meet our MEL staffing, but there is potential to fall short of fuels reduction targets associated with the National Fire Plan. Delaying selection this round will mean at least 30 days until the next round, then filling in behind due to movement up (dominio process) will be delayed. So full staffing likely won't occur by fire season. We'll have spent millions on equipment and have no module leaders. National Fire Plan contingencies will not be met. Congress ought to like that.

Also, now is a good time to point out why you should be a member of FWFSA (click here or on logo above for info). Through their efforts, under Kent's leadership, we now have full OT pay (S-439) on incidents. There is more to work on, such as the issue of classification (from series 462, forestry tech). Now there is even more reason we need our own series to reflect the complexity of what we do and the training we have received; we need HP for retirement, and portal-portal (with real OT for more than an 8hr shift). For $10/pp you can strengthen our voice. In private conversations, I have heard all levels of management in R5 support FWFSA for its work.

ALL FED WILDLAND FF's SHOULD BE MEMBERS OF FWFSA.

torch

02/08 Ab,

Please put this in after Torch's post so people can see how easy it is to act.

Ya'll, write this down. Don't call from work. Follow the rules and regs, but ACT: Call or e-mail your congressperson. Sign up for FWFSA. I agree with Torch about the support from management: Everyone I talked to at the Div Chief's meeting was supporting FWFSA and the great work it's done. (Keep up the good work, guys/gals! Persistence matters in getting the ball rolling and in following the recent edict "just roll over 'em".)

It's very easy to let your representatives know what you want them to do -- I'm telling mine to let the GS-8 engine Captain's Position Description stand and sort it out later. We still must have time to hire and train people, to get ready for summer, to meet MEL, to deal with fuels, to fulfill the mandated National Fire Plan. The bureaucratic crap can get sorted later.

Here's how you contact the House and Senate:

House: www.house.gov/writerep/
Enter your State and your zip code, follow the simple directions, and you can easily e-mail your representative with your view.

Senate: www.senate.gov/contacting/index_by_state.cfm
Scroll down to your state and click on your Senator's e-mail address.

Remember to e-mail both.

Info on contacting the White House via phone or e-mail is here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov

The e-mail addresses for Pres Bush and VP Cheney at the Whitehouse:
president@whitehouse.gov
vice.president@whitehouse.gov

Let your voices be heard! Let's get past this and on with the hiring! and training! and working on facilities! Let's be ready.
Mellie

02/08 Here is just a few things I carry in my line gear that weren't mentioned:
-wool hat
-I get pretty cold on those spike outs, so, I carry a long-sleeve thermal and a sweatshirt
-couple of granola or energy bars
-extra boot laces
-I don't carry a full roll of toilet paper, mayber about a 1/4 of a roll and I put it in a ziplock
-a crossword puzzle that I put in my radio bra, great for those long waits at the LZ
-one pair of socks
-clear glasses, especially if you are a sawyer
-I don't carry this but I know a lot of people that do, a small mug and some instant coffee
-very small toothbrush and toothpaste (don't laugh). I've coyoted for 3-4 days and there is nothing like brushing your teeth!!

KPC

02/08 Bear:

REGION 3 took the GS - 8 PD to OPM, OPM sent it back! NOW the
Region 5 folks have a problem. YES, 640 adverse actions. Before you jump in
and throw dirt, size up the situation. The Regional Labor/Mgmt Partnership
will be having OPM at their Feb meeting. If you Know or have anything
written on the Complexity of the Captain-Engine positions, send em my way.
This is a classification issue where OPM has used standerds that are outdated
& do not reflect the Job "Forestry Techs" do today. If mgmt HAS no Choice,
pay retention stays for 2 yrs. 2 years to solve the situation thru
Congressional Law change. This was NEW Stuff Friday after the Division
Chiefs went home. Im sure this would have "ROCKED THE HOUSE" if the group
had Known. I think we stand a much better shot at pay/classification working
with Congress & FWFSA. Will post any info I get.......... "THEY SAID".

Neadermeyer

02/08 Well, I was not going to do this, but I could not resist. Hard to believe there is so much misinformation out there. My comments are predicated on the rules our selection panel is operating under as I write this and we are ready to post our selections.

On the Vet issue, the vets will get one job offer just like everyone else. Their advantage being they can basically name their spot, if they are on the ball and understand the rules and their favorite spot has a position to fill, their only competition is their fellow vets. That is it in a nutshell, there are a couple of other factors that come into play, but basically if a vet is in the quality group and you cannot play some game to get around them, they are almost assured a job offer at the place of their preference. Unless you have a multi graded position and can duck down to the lower or upper grades to avoid the vet. And, now I want to make it clear, I have absolutely nothing against the vets. They are entitled to a benefit for their service to this country, if I can not get my favorite son or daughter because of a vet, so be it, that is the rules of the game we are playing. I have hired a lot of vets over the years and cull vets are a much smaller group than the culls I have hired off the open market.

As for nervous at home, it comes down to how bad do you want a job at that level. And, if the dream unit has such a position and they are not calling, why not? If they truly want you and are ready to go to bat for you, then I think it will happen. Unless you are trying to get to Hawaii in which case you are competing against me, and I know I am the top one in the country. In an organization of 155 National Forests, how did you determine that you were the top candidate in the whole USA?? And that does not include the good folks in BLM, BIA, etc. Better think about it, if they are not calling, maybe you are only the #2 ranked superman in the whole USA.

Bear, we can select off the merit promotion side or the demo side and do not have to justify anything. It is an either or deal. We do not have to exhaust merit promotion to go to demo. I think the only difference is on the merit promotion side, the vets cannot carry their preference. Are there glitches in the process with quals, etc? You better believe it. In fact there are so many, you may find it hard to believe. I know I have. We are victims of a rushed process. There apparently was not the time to do a good test of the system to see if it would work, so we are doing the test and trying to make it work at the same time. Are good folks going to get screwed? Looks like it to me. Are some folks going to do better than maybe they should have? Yep, take it to the bank. Am I happy with the way things are going? - a qualified yes for the most part. But, we are in the game, so we either make the best of it or we go home and do not play right now and try to figure it out for round two or three. That is still an option. I figure I am going to get most of what I was looking for and look forward to having some good folks come to work in the next couple of months. Some of them will not be my favorite sons or daughters, but I bet most of them turn out to be damn fine hands. The tough part, of course, is explaining it to your favorite son or daughter (but that is why they pay me the big bucks right?) But, I figure all my eggs were not in one basket and hopefully I can get to them in subsequent rounds. But if I can't ....I do not remember a rule that said life is fair, and that is a cold hard fact.

The main thing I am trying to focus on is getting GOOD folks into the system. If they are not my own favorite good sons and daughters, then I owe it to those folks to select folks that I can honestly tell them were just a touch better. And that is what it is about. Otherwise we are back into the good old boy network or whatever you want to call it. If you are being forced or coerced by anyone to select or consider applicants that are not as well qualified for whatever reason, stand by your guns. There is not a court in the land that will support you for hiring a lesser qualified applicant over the good ones if it gets to that point, so don't get your name on there as the selecting official if that is happening.

Before I sign off, remember, all my comments are based on the rules our selection panel is operating with. If it is different where you are, that is a process problem. Please don't take a shot at me. Who knows what servicing personnel office has it right. Another scary thought, but I am not going there.

This got a lot longer than I intended, but thanks for the forum AB!

AJ

<HEH><snort> "They said it" and it got to ya, did it? Thanks for the input. Ab.

02/08 For those wondering what happens if you turn down a job offer? What I was
told, your name is removed from the list an you have to reapply all over
again. I know the rating system out of Boise needs improvement. I showed
a FMO my application an they couldn't believe where I was rated. I was
told by Boise the fuels work I did during fire season doesn't count as
firefighting experience, that it wasn't firefighting experience.

Hopefully a new recruit

02/08 Ab,
I have just become aware of an opportunity for young women age 16 to 19 to attend a summer camp sponsored by "Women in the Fire Service." It is called "Camp Blaze" and the goal is "to empower and build confidence in young women by: providing experience in team building and physical abilities, exploring their work ethic and broadening their skill set and problem solving abilities."

The camp is being held this year at the Washington State Fire Training Center in North Bend Washington. As I understand there is no charge for the camp for selected individuals, but there is a $25.00 non-refundable application fee. For more information go to:
Camp Blaze

If any of you know of any young women that are intested and would like to participate in hands-on fire training, this is an opportunity not to be passed up.

Thanks for posting this,
Mellie

02/08 I agree with nervous@home about he problems of this hiring process. The
problem is three weeks ago when I talked w/ Boise and asked if you would be
thrown out if you turned down a job they told me no, that you could decline
as many jobs as you wanted, thus it was a good idea to apply to nine forests.
But now, that if you turn down a job, your out until the next round, I wish
I would have applied to only one forest. I think this process is going to
result in a lot of jobs not getting filled with readily qualified applicants, and
a lot of people taking jobs they really don't want. But what do I know?

Mike

02/08 TO BEAR:

A great big H I G H F I V E S on your post!!!!

Regarding the daily costs for OES resources and comparative costs for state and fed resources, load this up www.fs.fed.us/r5/fire/1999 and read the report on why and who didn't or wouldn't or couldn't turn out for fire assignments. There was more than a little opposition from the R.Forester's office about the wording of some of that report, especially regarding the people who responded that "I couldn't go because my supervisor wouldn't let me" and "The pressures to meet targets prevented me from going." But be sure you read the part about the cost difference between sending fed resources and CDF resources -- on the same fire.

kb

02/08 Good morning:

I am the project coordinator for Galls University/How to Choose and Use Series on our website at www.galls.com.

Galls University/How to Choose and Use Series is designed to inform and assist public safety professionals by providing valuable information to help in their job performance duties.

We are currently researching a feature on wildland fire fighting gear. And we could use your help.

We are putting together a list of gear to include:

  • two-way radios and replacement batteries
  • helmets
  • goggles
  • boots
  • jackets and pants
  • gloves
  • first aid kits
We would appreciate any comments you might care to make on this equipment. For instance, what should a wildland fire fighter look for in a reliable radio? What kind of helmet works best? What features should goggles have? How should.....well, we're sure you get the idea.

Please don't hesitate to go on at length. We value your expertise. Your comments could very easily be the heart of the feature, and, with your permission, we'd like to quote you as needed.

By the way, if you think of other personal, replaceable supplies and gear (we're not covering the specialized equipment used to actually combat the fire, only personal gear) we'd appreciate your letting us know.

We're moving right along with this feature. In order to allow time to complete research, collate data and write the segment, we'll need your response by February 15th. So please try and reply by then.

Thanks for your assistance. And we look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Barbara Elliott
Galls Inc.
Copywriter
Project Coordinator/Galls University
859-266-7227 ext 1247
elliott-barbara@galls.com

Warning from Ab, the website requires cookies.

02/07 Re the quarter turn:
Management has chosen to ignore the field. They claim to have over 300
responses to a national survey that they sent out. Are 300 responses a
statistically significant sample for a national issue? I think not. Was the
survey stratified by geographic location? I have attached an OPEN LETTER that
came across my e-mail. Seems to me you all need to contact your managers and
let them know your views. Professionally and politely but if you just complain
around your lunch bucket you are just blowing smoke.

Fire Man

Thanks for sharing, Fire Man. Some good points. Ab.

02/07 MOC4546

Last season I worked on an organized Type II handcrew that was not dispatched all that often. Our crew came on early , because of the severity money, to head down to NM but our forest would not release us. We did get a few off forest assignments but the forest wanted to keep us around in case something broke out. We ended up only having one big fire (unusual for the area to only have one) and they did not dispatch us to that fire but kept us for intial attack. It turned out to be extremely frustratiing, especially since the state i was working in was up in flames. The motto of our forest seemed to be wait for the fire rather than go to it.

KPC

02/07 Bear sez he doesn't recall talking to anyone who complained of being "over-rated" in the hiring process. Final results are not yet in, but I used the online process to apply for a FS fire job, and the automated system spit me out a score of 98 on my application. I'm dying to find out, if I submitted the very same application for the very same job, to a real human personnel human, what the score would be. Why do I have this feeling that the online system over-rated me?

WG

02/07 Good grief MOC, is there anything that happens in your life not involving conspiracy at the highest levels?

From my perspective last year, the only people who didn't get fire assignments were those who didn't want to go or those whose supervisors wouldn't let them go. There are two primary reasons I've seen a supervisor put a hold on an employee. One might involve non-fire folks who have imminent deadlines in their primary occupation. Let's say you were a private contractor about to begin a new thinning or brush disposal project. Waiting around for 14-21 days for the agency rep to return from a fire to complete the contract could have serious effects on you and your company. Another main reason would be fire folks kept to maintain the IA capabilities of the agency. Everyone can't go at the same time. All right, one more reason, yer boss is a prick and hates the fire organization. Get a new job and boss!

I don't have any statistics regarding your 2nd and 3rd issues, do you? I do know when one large fire broke out in California in mid August, you couldn't find jack for aircraft and the only engine and handcrew resources available were CDF.

Your 4th issue is an obvious one. Volunteer fire department resources primary purposes are for local initial attack. I certainly don't want my local department resources stripped to fight a fire out of the area and would raise hell with the local department chief and the OES if it happened. Resources used for structure protection during wildland initial attack are a different story, of course. And, the OES daily costs are friggin ridiculous. I could pay for two strike teams of fed or one strike team of state engines for the cost of one OES engine and OES water tender.

Now here's some real scary subjects!

A personnel expert in R5 has determined the grade increase for engine captains from GS-7 to GS-8 a couple years ago was incorrect and illegal. Rumors of resolution are rampant, including reduction of grade back to GS-7. This would, of course, include the grades beneath the fire captains being reduced accordingly. As far as I know, R5 was the only region to promote the engine captains to 8s. Radiant heat from this hot spot has (at this writing) frozen the hiring process for all positions on new engines. Stay tuned. Now is the time for the heads of F&AM to demonstrate their leadership. Who was that who said at the Division workshop in Reno last week something like, "if the personnel department drags their feet or gets in your way, run over 'em!" I'm watching and waiting.

There are unsurprising glitches in the hiring process, at least in the data collection and distribution areas. I've personally observed or talked to those who have been seriously under-rated, were included on the demo list instead of the merit list, and have errors in their contact information such as incorrect telephone numbers. No, I don't recall talking to anyone who complained of being "over-rated". If you have an application in and have yet to receive a phone call, I advise you to call the forest you want a job on as soon as possible to check your application data. The forests didn't have copies of the applications as of yesterday, just lists of qualified people rated by qualifying grades. The person I talked to who was classified as a demo instead of merit wouldn't even have been considered until all qualified applicants on the merit list are exhausted. This current process only concerns those applying for permanent positions, not the seasonal or temporary positions (yet). Communicate folks!

Bear

02/07 -- RE: the MAFFS activation question, the objective of the program is to provide emergency capability to supplement existing commercial airtanker support on wildfires. The National Interagency Coordination Center at Boise can activate the MAFFS when all other contract airtankers are committed to incidents or initial attack -- or are otherwise unable to meet requests for air operations.

For more info see www.fs.fed.us/fire/aviation/maffs/

A request for activation is approved by the national MAFFS liaison officer, who is the Forest Service director at NIFC. The request is then forwarded to the director of military support at the Pentagon. Governors of states where National Guard MAFFS units are stationed (e.g. California) may activate MAFFS missions within their state boundaries when covered by a memorandum of understanding with the military authority and the Forest Service.

Every single stinkin' time that a military plane takes off, there's always raving and whining from someone out there who does not understand or is not aware of that last sentence. Keep it handy somewhere, Ab, because I guarantee you this question will come up again!

k-bob

02/07 To KEV, who wanted to know what gear to take: On Oct 27, 2000 Dennis R5 responded to DT's question regarding what ff carried in their packs:
In response to your question about what is carried in the packs?
Well everybody is different about what they want to take out on the line with them. The five things you do need are, water, food, jacket, fusee"s (flares)and of course, your fire shelter. This year in my pack, I had 2 MRE"s, a thermal shirt, 2 pairs of socks, (incase you have to cross a creek or two) a small 1st aid kit, a poncho and 2 emergency blankets, and most important: the roll or two of toilet paper. Those are just a few things you can have in a pack. Someone else may have their own ideas of what they would carry. My pack is Eagle gear and I have no complaints about it.

Readers, anyone want to add to this? I know there have been similar questions and answers in the past, including one response that listed all kinds of gear but very few pairs of underwear -- because "the underwear can be turned inside out". Maybe I should put the question about gear and answers to it on the FAQ page. If anyone can think of anything else of importance, send it in and I'll "FAQ page" a summary of suggestions. Ab.

02/07 FYI, story on the Martin Mars, "Two famous fire-fighting planes may be grounded" See: www.macleans.ca: Flying on a Wing and a Prayer
Danny

For photos of the Martin Mars with its 200' wingspan (2/3 the length of a football field), check the AirTanker2 Page. Ab.

02/07           Let me see if I understand this new hiring process. I put in my application as directed and the job I want is a specific GS-9 prevention officer on the Most-Best Forest. So here I am sitting by the phone on the week of the twelfth. The phone rings and itís the Butt-ugly Forest offering me a GS-9 on their Wasted-Desert District. I donít want this job, so I turn it down because I know I am a top candidate for the position I want. But wait, now Iím ineligible until the next round?

          What if the Just-As-Ugly Forest calls me during the next round? I wonít take their job either and my Forest may get someone not as qualified as me and have to pay them to move to boot. Thereís something seriously flawed here. I know the Forests are making preliminary phone calls this week to try and pre-screen applicants, but nobody wants to work on the Butt-Ugly Forest, so they will make job offers anyway. They have to! Oh dear, I just know they are going to call me and Iíve waited years for this other job to open. Iíve spent the first half of my career moving around. I have a wife and kids in school now, donít tell me it would be good for me to move.

          This reminds me of the old ďmeat-marketĒ days of old when the Districts would meet and take turns picking from the seasonal applications. Some districts would aggressively recruit and promote their jobs and others would sit around and take the cream of the crop after doing nothing to help. It was ugly and didnít work then.

          Nervous@home!

02/07 Re the Quarter-Turn Hose Coupling:

Greetings. I noticed this was a topic on your web site recently and thought it might help clear up any confusion.
[noname]

FAM and BLM Briefing Papers on the quarter turn hose coupling decision
Talking Points on the quarter turn hose coupling decision

02/07 Mellie,

Excellent summary, thank you. Additional note: The selection process
will be similar to the NFL draft. Each unit will have a list of candidates
ranked in the order they would prefer to hire. As such, while veterans
(different rules apply) may receive more than one job offer, other new hire
candidates will receive only one offer. If they turn down the job, their
name will be returned to the list for subsequent rounds of hiring. This
means if you seriously want in, don't hold out for a better offer, it might
not be coming. New locations can be scary and challenging......but you'll
grow from that experience. Good luck to all of the applicants.

Old Fire Guy

02/07 I was looking through the latest issue of Wildland Firefighter Magazine and was reading about some of the problems encountered on some of the largest fires of the 2000 Fire Season. There were things related to manpower and staffing that I briefly want to touch on that I hope can be answered for all of us in the field.

Last year there were cries that they did not have enough overhead staff that people were being brought in from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other places outside the USA. Looking over some of the personnel resource lists for Region 5's USFS, NPS, BLM and CDF I saw a lot of people who's names were in overhead and staff trainee slots but didn't get the opportunity for one reason or another to fill these slots. Can those of you in the higher overhead positions promise us that when positions come open for trainees to get there qualifications upgraded, that you will chose US Firefighters rather than bring in overhead from around the world? Can you take care of us at home first? I understand it was a good experience for those people and I am not against more exchanges of fire personnel like this in the future, but I am asking you to let those of us who are trying to move up take every opportunity to do so.

Second, in issue of the military performing wildland fire operations does not agency and federal policies state that before military troops be provided for firefighting duties that all Type 1 crews be committed, 90% of Type 2 crews be committed, and 50% of contractor crews be committed? Does this policy still exist or has it been changed? There were a lot of Type 2 organized federal crews that did not go out because the military was used in their place.

Third, in regards to military helicopters and C-130s being used for helitack and airtanker operations does not 90% of the CWN Copters and Tankers in the nation have to be committed before the national guard or military can be used?

Fourth, in regard to the use of local volunteer fire department water tenders which meet the USFS/CDF requirements, why are contractors called out more often for support on major wildland fire assignments? Is there a concentrated effort to force volunteers out of major fires now?

If more rain and snow don't fall within the next few months California is looking at another drought year, in that we are currently about 10% of where we should be for snowpack for the year, and with another drought year comes another Siege year. What is being done to negociate the exemption for the hiring freeze?

I would like someone with some direct information to answer these questions and better inform us all with whats happening. Thanks.

MOC4546

02/07 Here's one on western lookouts, including some old ones on the photo page:
www.firelookout.com/. Muck around in there for old tools and other equipment.
Seems I've seen another lookout site with old photos. Someone may have even
put the link on they said.

For some old photos of firefighters, take a look at the links page under
Miscellaneous Wildfire Pages . Click National Agricultural Library.
I don't remember if there are any tools, but there some cool old pics.

The R5 Engine Captains had a great display of old photos of engines
and equipment at the Div Chiefs Meeting last week. Maybe some of
those are available online. Anyone reading know who did the work
on that? It was a nice presentation.

R5 longtime lurker

02/06 Here's a bit of info on the hiring process for FS jobs:

Round 1, MEL Permanent Positions: Regions and forests work on selections Mon, Feb 12 through Fri, Feb 17. Offers will be made no later than Sat, Feb 18. If you've applied for a permanent job, you should get in touch with the forests that were your first, second and third choice of location and let them know where you can be reached by phone during that week. For DEMO, offers will be made first to veterans and then to non-veterans.

Hiring officials will begin with the highest grade, GS-9, and work down to GS-2. They will work through permanent full time (PFT), then 20/6, 18/8, 13/13, and permanent part time (PPT). Offers will be made first to people who listed specific location choices and last to those who listed code 999 (as was stated on the application). Simultaneously, officials will start with the most needed skills areas and work to the least (i.e., helitack, fire suppression-crew, fire suppression-engine, prevention, etc.) and proceeding to national resources (including hotshot, smokejumper) and fuels. The process is expected to take all week.

Round 1, MEL Temporary Postions are on a different timeline: applications must be postmarked by Feb 9, and offers to be made no later than March 13.

The timeline for Round 1, FMO, AFMO, Contracting, etc Permanent Positions (non-MEL) is also different: applications must be postmarked by Feb 16, the regions will coordinate selections beginning March 12 and offers will be made no later than March 20.

Hats off to those involved! I've heard that nationally there are 5000 applicants for some 1640 MEL permanent jobs. And this is only part of Round 1.
Round 2 MEL Permanent Position applications must be postmarked by March 14, so here we go again...

Exciting times! If you haven't entered this process already, check the WLF Jobs Page, the R5 FS Extended Outreach link, the Series 464 and 455 links at the top of the page, fire up, make some choices and get your applications in! To all of you who are comfortably sitting where you are, step up to the new jobs and let others fill in behind you. If you haven't noticed, you're the ones rising to the top of the experience heap these days. Don't let opportunity pass you by. We need you!

Mellie

02/06 Rick, re the quarter turn fitting issue: It's a done deal, a WO decision. Now we just have to figure out how to pay for it and make the timing work (sometime in the next 3-5 years) so all cooperators have standard equipment. Sounds good to me. We wouldn't want another Oakland Hills equipment scenario.

SoCal *Intermix* FF (yeah, and what's with that new name for interface?)

02/05 Old Fire Guy, Sorry for taking so long, but I just got back from the Fire Rescue East show in FL. I know I was not very clear on my post about 'firing the fellow'. What I meant to say was that he met all the quals for 310-1 as a helibase manager, but was not even close to being prepared to operate a type 1 helibase. I removed him because of performance issues and not the difference in quals or who he worked for. Hell, I have seen our folks with tons of training that just don't have the aptitude for the type of work they would like to do.

I personally would like to see the feds enter into an agreement with State and Local folks to get training and experience in exchange for a commitment to make them available for a fire assignment at least once a year. This does not mean they will actually get an assignment every year. It is cheaper than spending training money on folks who don't like to go on off district/forest assignments, and provides a reserve force of trained helitack.

MWC, There is in fact such an Association. Take a gander at the letter they sent the Secretary of Agriculture last December.
www.fsx.org/2glickman.html

Jim

02/05 Does anyone remember the details of the R5 decision on the 1/4 turn? Maybe it's not all resolved. Seems I just heard some more on that at the Engine Capts Mtg. There was also some info and discussion on standard radios, striping, color (white) of vehicles that are being purchased.

MM

02/05 Rick, I believe the 1/4 turn issue began on or about the 10th of January.

Danny

02/04 Ab, Here's a logo from way-back-when. Any of you lurkers out there remember this outfit? (early 70's)
Stu

Logo3 Page. Ab.

02/04 MWC,
For FS retirees, check out www.fsx.org.
L.
02/04 Hey all. I'm looking for some info on severity helicopters for 2001 season or new exclusive use helitack crews. I worked on a severity ship a few years ago and it was a sweet deal. Good OT, travel, etc. The best part was being a national resource. We weren't tied to any district, forest, region. We just went to wherever the fires were.

Anyway. I've been searching links in an attempt to find out where the federal agencies are placing new helitack modules nationwide for 2001. Not having much luck though. F.S. Fire & aviation websites are geared more towards pilgrims. ( An old south zone term for the general public) So there's not much info there.

Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.
-Ghoster-

02/04 The Jobs Page, Series 462, and Series 455 are updated.
Ab.
02/04 IM ENTERING MY FIRST FIRE SEASON IN APRIL DOWN IN NEW MEXICO. CAN YOU
RECOMMEND ANY ESSENTIALS THAT I SHOULD BRING. THANKS!!

Kev

02/04 I enjoy the emails each time I log on. I have learned much about the FS & fire fighting.
Thanks,
PF

You're welcome, I'm sure. Ab.

02/03 All you really old fire rangers:

I have heard there's an emerging National Association of FS Retirees. How large is it? What is its mission and vision? Is it planning to share any of the potential wisdom of its members regarding FIRE in the environment with the incoming administration? Anyone lurking? Please, can ya clue us in here?

MWC

02/03 Hey Gang!

Today (02/02/01), I received a letter from the Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) regarding out of state fire assignments. Seems that the state found out that they may have been violating state statutes when it comes to out of state fire assignments. Under Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 37-632.02, the state's wildland fire suppression fund can not exceed $2,000,000.00 annually. Also, the State's constitution limits the amount of debt the state can incure to $350,000.00 (I know that this seems like a low amount of money, considering states like California, Texas, and Florida).

Apperantly, due to the large number of out of state fire assignments that local fire agencies have been responding to onver the last few years, continuing to support out of state fire assignments have compromised both of the legal restrictions. Also, the ASLD continued spending on out of state fires could jeopardize the states ability to respond to fires threatening state and private lands.

Needless to say, local and state fire agency's from Arizona will not be responding out of state this summer. This comes to a big surprise and dissapointment to local paid firefighters who depend on out of state fires for over time, volunteer/reserve firefighters who need the revenue to survive, and for fire departments who have grown used to making additional funds for their provided services. With this information in hand, most of my reserve firefighters are now heading down to the local FS ranger station and picking up their apps. This will have a profound impact on the smaller combination or all volunteer fire department here in Arizona.

Now, those local private fire companies that are out there, not a problem. Privates do not have to sign on to the state contract to head out of state. They simply sign on with the Feds.

Thank goodness I'm working for BIA now!!

Be safe!!

AZ Trailblazer

02/02 Haven't checked lately but what is really happening with the 1/4 turn fitting issue. Anyone want to comment on it please do so, I have a letter from one of the capt's in R-5 with some interisting issues on it if anyone is interested.

My e-mail is rickandurs@looksmart.com
Rick

Read back over the last few weeks to see the hose fitting discussion. Ab.

 

02/02 Firegirl,

Information (electronic) should be hitting the forests today outlining the hiring process. The information presented before is correct. I'm on the road and will provide more info tonight when I get home.

I asked the hiring coordinator what applicants should do to ensure their best chance of being hired. She said that contacting your preferred forest to reiterate your interest and let them know they're number one is a good idea. Also, you might want to call your second and third choices as well. Leave phone numbers for them telling where you can be reached during the week of the Feb 12th. There will be a lot of calling going on.

All this is do-able, just needs some dedication and persistence on the part of those hiring and those being hired. We live in truely exciting times for the Forest Service. I salute you all and thank you for your dedicated work on behalf of our public and our world. I'm honored to be included in your circle and in the larger circle of the interagency fire community.

Mellie

02/02 Ab;

Re the Rattlesnake Fire: I've pulled my files and will work up a summary and put together some
maps. There are some originals that may scan well.

JW

Thanks. Ab.

02/02 Ab -

here's a link to info on the increase in retirement age : www.firehouse.com/news/2001/1/31_age.html

NPS Firefighter

At the Div Chief's Workshop, Kent Swartzlander, president of FWFSA, said that last year's bill authorizing that retirement age be extended to 57 had died in the Senate. However a new bill has been introduced and has already passed the House unanamously. Now for the Senate... Ab sez, Click on the FWFSA icon at the top of the page, go there and sign up! Send your reps to congress to inform them!

02/02 Ab...I noticed a pic of the honor guard in R5 Mellie had submitted...Could you ask mellie where they got the uniforms from and what the purchased....interested in doing this in R9! thanks for your help on this

CHRIS A.PETERSON
FOREST FMO/FAO
HOOSIER NATIONAL FOREST
E-MAIL: CAPETERSON@FS.FED.US

Mellie may be able to help with contacts, but perhaps there are some SoCal readers on the honor guard who can fill you in on the details. The Honor Guard made an appearance at the R5 Div Chiefs workshop and word is they're getting new (old? or formal) uniforms. Ab.

02/02 Hi !

The 112-911 webzine : www.112-911.com, devoted to firemen, emergency and rescue services, has been in existence for 2 years now!

Up till now it was only in French, an English version is now available with the 9th issue.
We welcome feedback and comments and will gladly publish them.

Thanks for your attention and patronage and with best regards
La Rťdaction 112-911 Magazinee-mail : infos@112-911.com

Any wildland or interface fire in France? Ab.

02/01 Re: the discussion on 310-1 vs IHOG vs agency requirements. As someone else pointed out, the 310-1 establishes the minimum standards to qualify for a position under interagency agreement. Each agency may set additional higher standards for their own personnel. Within the FS, the policy states that we will "Accept the participation in cooperative fire management efforts of personnel from other agencies or cooperators not hired by the Forest Service who comply with the minimum requirements specified by the NWCG Wildland and Prescribed Fire Qualification System Guide, PMS 310-1 (sec. 12 and FSM 5108)." I believe Jim, that if you are FS and "fired" a red-carded person from another agency that met the 310-1 quals with the sole reason that they did not meet more strict FS standards......you may have erred. Other circumstances were not apparent from your brief note.

Improvements? I'd like to see 310-1 standards listed for every mnemonic (tough spell) or at least every operations position. As to an AOBD signing off on someone after two weeks, that brings up a too common problem with misunderstanding of the system. First, the task book should only be issued by the forest training officer after verification that the individual has met all previous requirements in training and experience. Second, most task books will need more than one assignment to fully complete, simply because most incidents will not provide the entire spectrum of task opportunities. Finally, there is no authority for the AOBD to sign off on the red card quals. They may certify that tasks are completed, but again, the forest training officer must review and recommend final certification of any upgrade of quals.

Good discusssion, this is how we become aware of situations and have the opportunity to share our opinions. Thanks again Ab for providing this forum.

Old Fire Guy

 

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