February, 2003

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02/28 Van driver Helm sentenced; Glenwood Springs Post, 2/27


The article said $200 fine and 60 hours of community service that was corrected to 50 hours of community service today.

02/28 To FF Eric re the Mtn Top Dist on the SBNF:

I work for the folks with the red engines in Arrowhead, so you'll have to check with your own agency about their hiring plans. My time on the green trucks was some time ago. I'll see you this summer, hopefully on a multi-agency drill, and not on a fire incident amongst the houses.

02/28 Thank you so much for your wonderful site! I know it is going to be helpful for the upcoming season. My Significant Other is a ff and heads out west as often as possible. In Virginia we are out of harms way for the big fires, but they head out there every year, keeping my stomach in knots. I just wanted to say thank you for all that you have posted on the site, and I look forward to becoming involved with your boards as he heads out again this summer!

Thanks a bunch!

Tonya T
Bedford, Virginia

Welcome Tonya, we do have a FamilySaid page that takes a break in the off-season. But people writing in there have some good comments and provide support and information when fires are a ripping. And if you have a question for firefighters, you can ask here. Ab.
02/28 I am saddened by the passing of Paul Gleason, but glad to hear his struggle is over. He will be missed. He was a fine person, a true leader, and an incredible advocate and a real professional. I am proud to have known him and felt his influence. We owe him much. Rest in peace Paul.

Sign me,
Mike DeGrosky
02/28 To NM Air Bear, thanks for the info!!!- FMR-RSIXER

The photo on Crews-7 is of the Carlsbad Interagency Crew, posted recently but mislabeled as the Carlsbad Hotshots. This T2 crew of agency regulars hailed from Carlsbad, NM, in R03. This crew was out there regularly from 1988-98 and was well known in R03.

There was one assignment in R06 where they were erroneously called the Carlsbad Hotshots but their now retired FMO went mildly ballistic and kyboshed that misnomer mid-assignment when he heard about it.

An unfortunate sign of the times is that this crew can no longer be assembled due to a general shortage of collateral duty line qualified personnel in Southeast NM.

02/28 I was cruising through the photos page, and in crews-7 came across a photo of the Carlsbad hotshots?? from 1998. I don't recognize this crew, and havent seen them around. Are they, or were they a training crew? What region? They aren't listed in any of the regional pages, or the IHC pages. Does anyone have any info on them?

Just Curious -
02/28 JB

I'm a seasonal on the Mtn. Top, hoping to transfer to the Arrowhead district where I live. With our new snow when do the white helmets predict to bring us back on? How long do the logging companies think it will take to get rid of the "red trees". I can't wait to get back to work, I just hope it isn't fighting that "Big One" in the backyard of my house.

02/28 Regarding the firefighter fitness testing turmoil:

I been out of the FS for almost two decades now working for an oil company......so my opinion about this might not count diddly to a lot of you.....but man, you can't help but think that this Pack Test thing has to be an improvement, you know? ANYTHING that promotes....okay, maybe even 'forces'....a person to get in real good shape before fire season has to be a good thing, doesn't it?

I was an R-5'r, and I did the IHC thing for some years, and loved it. Over my 13 FS years, I kept my red card up and kept my hand in the fire organization even though I moved into a non-fire part of the agency. I always used to razz the people who had trouble passing the Step Test. Sometimes I would even taunt them by drinking my coffee and smoking Salems while taking the test and then I would STILL pass. I realize now how insensitive and rude that was....but what the hell...it was the 70's and I was thin and young and cocky. The thing was....and here is the key.....during the eight month off-season, I was exercising regularly. Even despite my smoking habit, I'll bet it was a rare week that I did not have at least 5 or 6 workouts of one kind of another. I would jog, swim, bike, work the heavy bag, lift weights. It was not uncommon for me to jog 18-miles a week or so. A smoking jogger....I know, it made no sense.

Later on, though, things got tough with the physical conditioning. 'What goes around, comes around', we all know that. I quit the smokes, and dogged the exercise a lot and then heredity and poor eating and drinking habits also took their toll. The weight came on. Before long I was having considerable trouble squeezing my fat ass into those green nomex pants, and there wasn't a whole hell of a lot of slack in the yellow shirt either. But I STILL didn't have any trouble passing that Step Test and getting my red card. Then a year or two later, just for old times sake, I went out on a fire over in the San Jacinto's with my old IHC. They said they were short a man and couldn't make the trip without me. Sure enough, they drew a nasty hotline assignment. I kept up with the guys, but it was a struggle, and they knew it. I was a shadow of my former lead-sawyer self. They finally took some pity on me and put me at the back of the tool order behind the McLeods as an observer/weather lookout or something. Maybe they were worried I would keel over on them or something. Should I have really been out there in the first place? Probably not, if I am honest about it. Had this Pack Test thing been in place then.....I probably would NOT have been there, because I likely could not have passed it in the shape I was in.
Then a year later, they transferred me to a WET part of Region 4 where there really wasn't any fire to speak of and then three years after that, I left altogether for more money.

But hey.....the whole point about this is....you gotta work out and exercise to really do fire right and to do right by yourself. That is the bottom line. There is NO FREE LUNCH in life. Life is a struggle from the time we take a breath until they lower us down....and we might as well get used to it. It is not easy....it never will be.

Firefighting is a young person's game, really. It always was, and probably always will be. If you are not young anymore...or if you are hampered by slow metabolism and heredity-fat -- then you better put the odds in your favor and exercise like a scalded monkey. We all should do that. The alternative is weighing 300+ lbs., diabetes, heart problems, poor sex lives, shorter lives, and shot knees.

One of my old Hot Shot friends is still a Smokejumper up in McCall at age 53. He trains the young guys, but i think he still makes some jumps and fires, at least he was a few years back. He's thin as a rail, and fit, and you just gotta respect that. He could have taken the easy road and let himself go over the years like I did a lot of the time, but he did not.

I'm gonna keep exercising, just cause I need to do that. I don't like the alternative. I'll never never be back where I was when I was younger, but I don't have to compound the problem.

You guys all know this: being in shape can mean making the ridge or safety zone in time or not. It can mean hanging in there on the line, or going nipples-down. So keep in shape, or get in shape, and keep the Pack Test or something equivalent. Life is what we make it, and sometimes if we are not forced into making a goal, or going over a high bar, we won't do it. We never get there. So lace up those gym shoes and get your butts out there....you haven't got much time! Amen.

Semi-Frozen Ex FF
02/28 I did not know Paul Gleason as a firefighter, I knew him as a teacher. I work at Colorado State University and have often taken advantage of the "one free class a semester" benefit at the University. A year ago I decided to deter from the graduate level engineering classes that I had been indulging in for decades and divert into the Forestry Department to take their "Wildland Fire Behavior" class. You see I have been a volunteer firefighter "on the side" for 20 years and thought I would take the class and finally get my certifications.

On the first day of class, in walked Paul - full of energy, clearly truly in love with his chosen profession, but perhaps a bit nervous about the prospect of teaching 50-60 college students. Throughout the course of the semester he did a great job of conveying his incredible depth of knowledge about wildland fire behavior. With 20 years of firefighting experience I wasn't expecting to learn a lot and was just looking to nab the certification. Boy was I wrong.

I was really taken in by the science of wildland fire behavior. Frankly, I don't think a more "academic" teacher would have done as good a job of "sucking me in" to the subject. Paul was not always the ideal teacher - chiding us for not skipping class when he thought the day was too nice and we should be out snowboarding or just enjoying this beautiful planet. Paul's love of his job and wealth of knowledge about the subject came through in everything he shared with us and I will always be grateful for having him as my instructor.

It is always a great experience to learn from someone who truly loves what they do. I hope he is getting to do a lot of rock climbing in his "next life".

Thanks & Adios,
02/28 Lanky's (Craig Lechleiter) Retirement Party
Sorry about the short notice, folks-

We thought everybody had received this flyer through the distribution lists, but after reading MJ's post, apparently that wasn't the case. Everybody's welcome. RSVP to Terri Silva (tsilva@fs.fed.us) by March 6th.

If you aren't able to attend, I can pass along any messages to him at any time.

Robert Holt
Redding IHC
(See attached file: Lanky's_Retirement_Party_Invitation.doc)

Here's the scoop. If you'd like us to send you the msword doc with a map, etc, just holler.

NCSC Employee's Association
Cordially Invites You to
Craig (Lanky) Lechleiter's
Retirement Party

Saturday, March 8, 2003
3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Anderson V.F.W. Hall
3210 West Center St.,
Anderson CA 96007
Everyone is welcome

Tickets are $15 per person (covers meal, gratuity, and gift).
Meal will be Chicken, tri-tip, and rib BBQ. There will also be a no-host bar.
Please R.S.V.P. by March 6, 2003 to Terri Silva at tsilva@fs.fed.us or call 530-226-2720. Make checks payable to NCSC Employee's Association.
02/27 How about a Paul Gleason Award awarded annually to the person who made the most contribution to Firefighter Safety?

02/27 Hi Ab.

had the honor of working with paul a few years ago on the arapahoe
roosevelt , I will truly miss him ...

erik davidson

Paul Gleason was presented with the Golden Pulaski Lifetime Achievement Award At the 2001 National Hotshot Workshop

Hero of the Dude Fire, Father of LCES, and Much, Much More

“Paul Gleason’s contributions to wildland fire safety have not only been important, they have been life saving. Besides firefighter Jeff Hatch—who owes his life to Paul’s heroic actions on the tragic Dude Fire—I am certain there are many more men and women still going about their lives on this earth due to Paul’s unmatched leadership in wildland fire safety. On behalf of the thousands of women and men in fire management all across the United States, I thank you, Paul."

Michael Hilbruner
U.S. Forest Service’s National Applied Fire Ecologist

02/27 I was not fortunate enough to know paul personally. But his contribution to
the entire fire community cannot be understated.

Best wishes to his family and friends.

02/27 There have been some requests from folks who didn't know Paul that we tell some of his accomplishments. Here's some information from one of the nominations of Paul for the heroism award. Ab.

The nominating author writes:
I have worked as a wildland firefighter for 28 years. I have known no single person in the fire management community who is more dedicated to the safety of, firefighters and the public, than Paul Gleason.

My reasons for nominating Paul Gleason are many, but first and foremost I think that Paul deserves recognition for a lifelong commitment to safety and teaching firefighters how do their jobs effectively and with a passion for safety.

Attached articles on fire safety that mention Paul Gleason are written by Dale Cuyler, US Forest Service Retired and Paul Keller.

The article mentions the fact that Paul Gleason is the author of LCES (Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes and Safety Zones). LCES are the rules that firefighters nation wide are required to enact on every shift on every fire we fight. I believe that LCES has saved many lives since the 1994 tragedy at the South Canyon fire in Colorado.

In 1990 at the Dude Fire in Arizona, there were six fatalities on the Perryville Inmate Crew. Paul Gleason was the first one to get to the fatality site. I don’t have all the facts but it seems that he was instrumental in helping to save one of the Perryville Firefighter’s life at that time. That firefighter was Mr. Hatch I believe.

Paul Gleason is more than deserving of your award. Please consider him for this honor based on his service to the Wildland Firefighters around the world.
02/27 For those of you who are not familiar with Paul Gleason's accomplishments -- but maybe all of you are... Firescribe

On Paul Gleason, from the book “Fire Line – Summer Battles of the West” by Michael Thoele (on the firebooks page)
“At forty-four, though he would not have claimed it for himself, he ranked as one of the lesser fire gods. A Pacific Northwest hotshot crew boss, he was something of a legend in his own time, a tough, aggressive, intellectual firefighter who was the stuff of stories told in fire camps from Alaska to New Mexico. In the world of Western wildfire, only two or three hotshot bosses were seen as his equal.”

“He had marched through all the ranks in the infantry of forest fire. He had paid his dues and earned his spurs. He was known as a man who quoted Chinese philosophers, read books on the art of warfare, and, in the off-seasons, was a rock climber who took on the big walls all over the West. His was summoned often to teach fire tactics to others.”
02/27 To the family and friends of Paul, my thoughts and prayers to you. Our fire community has lost a light. this morning when I read the post from Merrill what came to mind is that resonating bell that is struck by the FS Honor Guard in their ceremony.

Merrill, thanks very much to you for sharing some of the details of his passing and for letting us know the supportive others and family who were with him at the end. I hope you'll also let us know about the memorial service.

I feel very blessed for having this fire community. Thanks to you Ab and to those who worked with purpose to get in the nominations for Paul for the Heroism Award.

Tahoe Terrie

02/27 I always felt honored to be part of Paul's circle of friends. He always
had the uncanny ability to be insightful and hilarious simultaneously.
Paul occupied the top notch on my leadership stick and always will. There
is so much I can say....one could write a book... but words are eluding me.
My prayers to his family. Goodbye Paul.

02/27 May God smile on Paul, now in a better place.

His legacy includes the many friends he left behind in so many quarters and the memories we all share of better times. Let us not forget the many solid contributions that Paul made to make the wildland fire profession a safer and more productive one. He will be dearly missed!

02/27 Sad news. Paul will be missed.

02/27 Our loss -- a blessing for Paul Gleason

To all who read and share this via email, I'm saddened to share with you
that Paul Gleason passed away just a few hours ago this morning. Clearly
he was suffering beyond what any human is prepared to endure, though I can
say that he lived through his recent illness with the same class and grace
we have all known of him over the years. It might interest you that his
never-ending desire to read and learn had focused even this week yet on the
commonalities between Buddhism and Christianity. While he wanted so much
to continue to enjoy many riches he felt here in his life, clearly also he
believed he would go to a better place.

Karen obviously is taking this very hard these first few hours. She has
been a true blessing to Paul, and her warmth and caring for him has been
beautiful to observe. Paul's brother arrived last night, and both of them
were with Paul when he died. Hospice people, with their wonderful
resources, are also there to help. Karen and I had talked about a memorial
service, and I suggested this morning that it need not be arranged
immediately to be held in the next few days, but rather might be held in
the next several weeks. I'm sure Karen and Paul's brother, and Sarah,
myself and several others who can contribute, will put together a plan in
due time, and word will get to everyone.

For now, I can think of no better thing we might do than to say a prayer of
thanks and blessing for Paul, and a prayer of comfort and grace for Karen
and Paul's family as they cope with our shared loss. And God's blessings
to each friend of Paul, who number many.


So sad that Paul is gone. He will certainly live on in the many significant contributions he made to our fire world. Please let us know details of any services. Readers who contributed to the various Stihl Heroism Award nominations for him, please consider sending in what you wrote so we can compile it as a tribute. Thanks. Ab.
02/27 Hello Wildland Fire --

I was on the El Cariso Hot Shots from 72' - -74 and worked with Harv Dabling, who occasionally appears on your pages. I'd like to get in touch with him -- do you have his email address?

Bruce Lymburn

We don't. Harv or anyone else, you reading? Ab.
02/27 JB,

Where you been? You sound surprised that there are dead trees in the woods.
Welcome to the forest health issue that has been around for about 25 years
or more in the Pacific NW, Rocky Mts. and most any other place that has

Loggers in So.Cal that is too cool, when they start hauling loads on the
Rim of the World get some pics and post them on They Said, I gotta see that
one. How far they have to haul logs to find a mill down there? Probably
chip a lot of it due to rot, but there should be some merchantable timber

Did you know that the San Berdoo was heavily logged back in the day to get
wood to build orange crates??

You're living history there, enjoy it and don't worry about the "Big One".
Just hope the dispatchers let your engine go when it happens and don't have
you standing by at Mormon Rocks or Devil's Canyon.

Been There.
02/27 SoCalCapt, I just found this as I was searching following your email. Thanks for the heads-up.

Readers, this post refers to Olddog's post of 2/22 on the Wildland firefighter series if you want to flip down to it for reference. Some good comments here SoCal Capt. Thanks to you and others I talked with at the Division Chiefs Mtg for fighting the "good fight" for us. Ab.

Olddog... excellent post and some good info.... but it raised some questions and concerns that I have.

The OPM did away with the Fire Control Series as a result of issues raised during the first "SAFETY FIRST" study completed by the Forest Service over a quarter of a century ago.

Olddogs post stated "Those series are established in part, to provide technical assistance in the protection and management of forest and range resource (according to OPM)". Once again he is right, but things have changed. The qualification and rating standards from OPM refer to technicians in support of the scientist. Nowadays, the scientist is at the GS-15 or SES level and, for the most part, has very little fire suppression or fire management experience. Those of us who were involved in the R-5 Captains Audit know all too well how screwed up the rating and qualifications standards are.

Question: Who is better to know Wildland Fire Science?

1) a recently graduated college student with no experience as a (0460 or 0401) professional GS-9 or GS-11, or
2) a GS-7 or GS-9 Wildland Firefighter who has twenty years or more of experience.

The answer is... the the former technicians have become the professionals and the former professionals have become the supporting technicians when it comes to wildland fire management.

Olddog, a quick comment about Title 5, FLSA as they specifically relate to your question (0081 series only): For the 0081 series, the following items are included in Title 5 -
-- Addresses Portal to Portal (you already mentioned this)
-- Addresses having to show that nasty little lunch break.
(no more arguing over that lunch break on the line)
-- Addresses what adequate lodging is (sure isn't a sleeping bag on
most occasions)
-- Addresses what adequate food is (usually not an MRE)
-- Addresses several other smaller issues.

Future things are on the horizon, "Federal Firefighters Presumptive Disability" and "Federal Firefighters Retirement Reform". These probably won't be the exact titles of the introduced legislation when it happens but close. Wildland firefighters could be left out in the cold again if their classification is not corrected and their rights not protected.

02/27 Looks like "Another J.W." drew out some lively responses to her/his comments about the Pack Test, but needs to hear some of the realities about it:
  1. First, Dr. Brian Sharkey developed the Pack Test while working as a USFS employee at MTDC, not under a "grant".
  2. The first step of the process was, in fact, a Job Task Analysis that was developed with input from hundreds of Federal and State fire managers across the U.S.
  3. It's true that fatalities have occurred while practicing and/or taking the Pack test. But would any reasonable physical exam have detected a brain aneurysm, or genetic heart problem that caused some of the deaths?
  4. There was extensive review by National and internationally credible Medical organizations during the development of the Test processes and procedures: a special study was done by Dr. Paul Davis, founder of the structural fire "Combat Firefighter's Challenge". Dr. Davis' study is available for anyone who asks from Brian Sharkey at MTDC.
  5. The Canadian "Par-Q" questionnaire is widely used for health screening in a normally healthy workforce - are we to assume that us wildland firefighters don't fit into that category?
  6. The Pack Test went thru numerous bureaucratic screens before approval and implementation, including the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the USFS Unions, the National Fire Directors, the legal beagles (OIG?), the AA/EEO folks, etc.
  7. If you believe that the Pack Test "has been used as a weapon to demote, discriminate and to harass folks"......put up your proof in writing. Some folks believe that the Holocaust never happened in Nazi Germany, but just saying it "don't make it so!"
  8. The "Administrator's Guide" and videos were available from the start; they've been modified and improved as lessons have been learned.
  9. And finally, accountability: I believe that if a supervisor fails to follow the processes for administering a Pack Test, they should be held accountable. But, how about the firefighter who lies on her/his questionnaire, or who fails to prepare correctly for the test as detailed in all the available pubs: should they (or their heirs) be held accountable, and not get any benefits, too?
  10. I know that there is an incredible amount of documentation available at MTDC on the whole Pack test development process, and its available to anyone who asks. I've read it, hopefully understood it, and I ain't no Medical Doc....!

Phe'w, good one. I had to go do a lil PT just to get in shape for readin' it. Ab.
02/27 Ab,

I work in Lake Arrowhead and we had a group meeting last week with the 20+ logging companies that are now working in the area to take out the massive bug kill timber. There are lots more coming in for the work. One guy estimated 10 to 15,000 truck loads of logs to get this stuff out of the area. Not all of it can be used for lumber due to the length of time that a lot of it has been standing dead. The logging experts all agreed that it is much worse than the Tahoe episode.

We just received our first sizeable snowfall of the season yesterday, so we can breathe a bit easier for a week or two. The snow adds a new factor, namely now we have the dead trees and limbs falling down. Power was out for almost 12 hours yesterday due to down electric lines and fallen trees. I almost feel like I'm playing the Lotto on a daily basis when put my gear on the engine. Is this shift going to be the day of the "Big One"? It's weird putting your web gear and brush clothes on the engine in the middle of winter.


Be safe in them thar woods. Ab.
02/27 Another JW

Give up your fight on the pack test. I will say that the pack test has no bearing or will ever tell you how good of shape you are in. However it is much better than what we had, the old test allowed fat and out of shape people to keep there jobs that had no business being in the job they were in. Have you ever taken a pack test if you have you sound like you failed or came close to failing, and you are misdirecting the point just to keep your job. You sound like a guy that will blame anyone else but yourself just because you are out of shape. Take up the old man on his offer you just might find out that working out is fun.

02/27 Another jw,

Dude give it a rest. If you dont like the pack test, quit. Im sure there are lots of other jobs out there for someone like you. Why worry about others that have a hard time with the test? Thats their problem. Do you really have some much time on your hands that you cant help but worry about them? Concern for others is one thing, but you seem to be taking it to a completely different level. Why dont you put some of your spare time to use, say jogging??? In any case no one wants to read about the pack test pissing match. Give it a rest!

driptorch d
02/26 Cpt Chip:

Look in NFPA 1977 (1998 version) for the national standard on wildland fire boots: 8" tall (minimum), leather, lace-up, non-skid sole; steel/protective toe NOT required/recommended.

02/26 Some recent noteworthy awards from R5, reported by Firescribe.

Congratulations to all.

Cal Yarborough Award, 2003 awarded by the R5 Division Chiefs to one of their own, the Division Chief of the year.
Hal Mortier

Regional Meritorious Service Award, 2002 awarded by the R5 Board of Directors to one of their own, the FMO of the year.
Dave Kohut

Fire Instructor of the Year Award, 2003 co-recipients:
Dick McCombs, a "go to" guy, instructs S-430, S-400, I-400 and many more.
Wes Shook who manages the Vandenberg Interagency Training Center in SoCal, instructs in aviation training, ACE training and many other classes.

The Horseshoe Bob Knob Award, 2003 awarded by Overacker to the most ancient of R5 hotshot supts.,
Bob Bennett of Horseshoe Meadows IHC.
Story behind it: Last season, Horseshoe Bob's crew buggie lost a dashboard knob, as these new crew buggies are wont to do. Overacker, having recognized the weakness and having ordered extras, had a spare and gave it to Bob. Now, over beers that night, Bob swears Overacker stole his knob and then gave it back, planting another one later - the "lost" one - under his buggie's seat so he could find it. Overacker swears he was no thief. He simply was prepared and thus had a spare knob to offer...
Words on the Horeshoe Bob Knob Award: "If Bob aint whining about his knob, he's whining about something."
02/26 Hey Ab,

We were in Big Bear a few weeks ago and could not
believe the tree kill. I would say a good 70% of the
trees were dead or dying. And this is in my opinion
from what the trees looked like from this time last
year. Since my hubby left the Big Bear in 2001 there
seems to have been more kill every year (We visit the
area often). Hillsides that were green now have a very
prominent Brown color to them. I would think that the
Mountain Top is going to have the potential of a
seriously dangerous fire situation.

firedog_0401's wife,

Thanks for the info firechef03. Haven't been south lately. Could be a rippin' season all along the Sierra. Ab.
02/26 Anyone out there know where I can find official CDF or USFS specifications
for wildland firefighting boots?

Captain Chip D
Newport Beach Fire Dept. CA
02/26 another JW

You seem to be well versed in all of the big words and legal terms. My question is, have you ever taken the pack/vest test and if so did you pass, or are you complaining because you can't? Like I said before, do about 3mi jog aday, 6 days a week and a little on the wt. machines and you shouldn't have any problem. Offer to come and do it with me next month still stands.

Old man of the Dept. 66 and closing on 67, but still fighting fire
02/26 Another JW,

Put the doughnuts down, back away slowly, and don't make eye contact.

02/26 another jw-

I don't know who put the pack test burr under your saddle, but it's beginning to fester. Let it go! If you hate the test so much that every post you submit consists of whining about it, perhaps you aren't really cut out to be a firefighter. Grow a pair (nuts or ovaries, just get a set of something)!

02/26 vfd capt,

Interesting article on the Challenger and implications for safety in the wildland fire world. More than the token and dominant stuff, I'm interested in the parallels for safety related to elite decisions (also Dana's rant) and the current federal competitive outsourcing. But you brought it up, let's talk about token/dominant relationships and implications for safety.

Vaughan (1997) suggests that relationships between "tokens" (minority in number, example minority race or gender, non-English speaker, less educated, temps, less experienced, less senior) and "dominants" may be harmful to safety on the fireground, but she doesn't really know. She says these relationships should be studied, given findings from research in corporate America.

For example she suggests we should explore how tokens and dominants relate to one another and what can be done to develop reliable working relationships between them. Sounds like a good idea. Another way to look at this is to evaluate and enhance crew cohesion and crew leadership. We're doing that.

She suggests that tokens might not get feedback (correction) that a dominant would get. Well, on a fire crew, I would bet the tokens get as much feedback as anyone else. Fire people don't pull any punches. The culture supports feedback and lessons learned. Honest feedback is not lacking in my experience. Heck, tokens might get more feedback. They stand out from the pack. Likely, what they do -- right or wrong -- is spotlighted because they are unique. Maybe Vaughan didn't think it PC to say that tokens might even be picked on or have to work at proving themselves -- that has happened too. In the past, some permanent part- or full-time tokens (woman friends in this case) were denied training opportunities on their home forests even after outperforming the men. They were held back from progressing in their careers. I think to some extent that has changed, due in part to their speaking out, but due also to their performing and persisting. Also, some of those dominants stuck in the old ways have changed and, well, if not, they eventually retire... Times do change, albeit slowly sometimes.

Vaughan suggests that tokens might be underutilized. Maybe some crews of contract tokens are. Maybe not. (Is a crew of tokens really dominant in that case??)

Don't we use the good contract crews well? Most of the time, I think yes. We'd be stupid not to. We just need a consistent standard and method for telling who's good and who's not. The smartcard that's coming soon might help to weed out the unsafe contractors, the poor performers, those with lousy equipment or equipment they don't know how to operate and it will likely help keep them from running to the next fire when sent home from ours.

These days, we have many excellent tokens on crews. I think it likely that some of these folks might have the inner drive to press beyond their ability or current resources trying to "pull their weight". On the good side, they help change the token stereotypes and up the bar. However it's conceivable their striving might occasionally jeopardize the safety of others.

Vaughan suggests that we study what happens "when a token gives information, instructions, or assumes leadership on a fire". Again at the crew level, I think what happens would depend on strength of individual crewmembers, crew cohesion, inclusion, and the level of leadership of the crew supt and squadies. Cohesion results from working together under a variety of circumstances and settings over a period of time so that you know and trust the strengths and recognize the current limitations of your crewmates. It's clear that some crewmembers are already leaders-in-the-making, regardless of whether token or dominant to begin with. Some others will be leaders-in-the-making once they have a chance to grow up a little. IMHO, not all can be leaders nor do they want to be. All should have equal opportunity. If a crewmember knows how to step into the leadership position from within themself and if the crew is cohesive and inclusive, that person will be heard -- and followed if appropriate, hopefully whether token or dominant. A leader helps who mentors and fosters input when appropriate.

My guess is that cohesive crews get beyond the token and dominant stuff to the real individual strengths and weaknesses, personalities and foibles and differences of their crewmates. They get to respect and community as a culture.

02/26 Large Passenger Vans:

I have driven large passenger vans of the type the ongoing discussion is about. Empty they are OK...but even when loaded "properly" and within designed specs they handle like a pig on ice. There is no possibility of taking evasive action and retaining control. They are simply not safe and have been acknowledged as such by a variety of stale laws placing restrictions on their use. Even when they are brand new they are very difficult to drive safely. Add a bit of suspension or steering wear and they quickly become unmanageable in any emergency situation.

They were a cheap modification of a regular van which was ill thought out. It provided a cheap alternative to a mini bus with an appropriate heavier frame and suspension and so Ford (and Dodge, etc.) made money by selling them to folks who assumed it was a safe alternative to the more expensive rigs. Are the makers of these vans responsible for deaths which occur due to their bad handling characteristics? Partly. That responsibility must also be shared by those trying to save money by placing their employees in these unsafe vehicles instead of a more appropriate rig.

The public schools were given a "heads up" years ago when they were held partially responsible for children's injuries and deaths from accidents in these vans. The fire community which apparently did not notice that heads up has now been given their own.

Ironically Ford (etc.) may escape liability since they lowered the GVW on these vans after the first spate of lawsuits. Take a look at the door sticker in one and then add up the weight it is possible to load into one of them...even without a roof rack...and you can see they are not designed for the task we expect them to perform SAFELY.

If you are one of the (un)lucky individuals who is offered the opportunity to ride to a fire in one of these units I suggest you do a quick load calc. and compare it to the GVW. It is illegal to exceed that GVW and ANY employer that expects you to ride in an overloaded vehicle is breaking the law. Turn them in to their insurance co...or better yet the state patrol. They should not expect to make money (lower their transportation budget) by exposing you to additional and unnecessary risk.

02/26 Another J.W.
You are right on the mark in your letter. Maybe the Office of General Counsel would like to comment on this.
02/26 Ab's:

Not sure if this has been posted on "They Said". May 22, 2003 at Capitol Park, Sacramento. California Professional Firefighters will remember those who have fallen. The members of Lassen Engine 11 will be added with other Department Fallen Firefighters of 2002. Event details at: www.memorial.cpf.org.

02/26 Has the IOSWT meeting for this month already been held? Well, some of us are wondering what the outcome of the discussions were in relation to Dr. Sharkey's concern about his test that he developed for Work Capacity. I agree with Dr. Sharkey, that his test was developed to be used for people in "actual line digging" jobs. You know, the folks who dig line every day... all day while at fires. I truly believe as do several others that the Pack Test has been used as a weapon to demote, discriminate and to harass folks... Sad but true. WCT administration procedures have been reckless, every year, since it's been in use... No one should die trying to get or keep a job, yet people have died every year since the Pack Test has been used, not to mention all of the injuries that folks have suffered while taking it. Look, the WCT Administrators guide isn't even complete yet, it should be around March or so... funny, well not really... because these tests have been being administered without an official review for safety, by the American Medical Association, or a Cardiologists' Association. I asked a while back about medical standards... no one ever answered, after doing a detailed investigative search... there are NONE to be found... Now I wish to take a little time here to thank those of you who chose to personally attack me for asking questions about this health and safety matter. The Medical Standards I asked about are just now in the process of being developed and piloted this year. Here's another question... I know that when grants are applied for, like for the research and development of this physical test, there were goals listed in the request for funds... was there a goal listed as "job task analysis"? If so, where can the results of the analysis or the references to meeting that particular goal be found? How much of the grant funding was appropriated to this goal? Was a "job task analysis" ever done? If so, does anyone know where to find them? Records are public, if public monies were used for such things. For those who don't understand... "job task analysis"... There really is such a thing as this... it's especially handy when trying to validate a physical test, legally. I'm referring to energy expenditures and strength needs evaluations for individual tasks that people in certain positions are required to perform. "arduous duty" used generically is not acceptable!!! Here's another and final question... since we're all really big on supervisor accountability for serious incidents and accidents... without using the folks who died or were injured during or shortly after taking this test as the scapegoat, since they're not here to defend themselves let's take a look here... Where's the responsibility to be placed for requiring people to take a test, either pre or post-employment, when the test used is fairly new and has not been reviewed for cardiac or functional safety, job task analysis' are not done, no medical standards are in place (a generic AHA questionnaire is not a medical standard, it is just a questionnaire, besides that, it's the AHA's Questionnaire and I am sure they wouldn't want their copyrighted materials to be used in the promotion of a potentially deadly activity) and last but not least, no Administrators' guide? (I bet that the deceased folks' families would be extremely interested in this information) Until all of these things are in place... Maybe human resources, forest and district supervisor and test administration folks should be held personally and professionally responsible for the deaths and injuries people suffer while attempting the Pack Test... Is the Pack Test a legally bona fide occupational test? If not, maybe the test could be considered as non-compliant with the law. If this could be the case... then maybe the definition of manslaughter could possibly be applied, this could have a devastating affect on one's career...or maybe Negligence, which could result in civil actions for compensation, neither of these even compare with the price that a deceased person or their family has payed. Also, I found it odd, that when folks are injured during the test, how employers engage in illegal searching for "old" medical records to try to combat and challenge OWCP claims, resulting from the Pack Test. Take care everyone, Another J.W.
02/25 Ab:

Since I authored the report that "BACKBURNFS" included in the comments about last summer's vehicle fatalities, I feel obligated to offer a few thoughts in response.

Once you start digging into the performance history of the 15 passenger vans, it becomes apparent that something is seriously wrong! Did you know, for example, that it is against FEDERAL law to sell these vehicles to elementary and secondary school districts? Have you looked at the number of college trips (for athletics, music, or field tours) that have ended in tragedy as a result of using 15 passenger vans?

As a Federal employee, there are many more requirements to operate a vehicle than are required by State laws; in the USFS, to operate a van carrying more than 11 folks requires an addendum to the operator's license. But...there is no special training that I've ever seen, including anything that discusses the effects to the Center of Gravity by loading all the seats, and using the roof racks. Yeah, the heavy engines and IHC buggies are special, and require CDL licenses to operate.

Most of the vehicle accidents that killed firefighters in the 1990-1998 period that I reported were the result of single vehicle roll-overs and collisions with others. These involved the larger engines that BACKBURNFS described, and were often driven by volunteer firefighters who, because of the lack of time and/or training $$, were less well trained than their Federal partners.

But.... the 15 passenger van has a well-documented history (see the National Hiway Traffic Safety Administration www.nhtsa.dot.gov) of safety problems, and last summer's fatalities are just another page in that deadly history.

I'm surely not recommending that we stop using crew buggies or heavy engines operated by well trained, highly qualified operators. Nor am I suggesting that pickups are the answer. I am suggesting that we always limit our road miles whenever possible (one National IMT made 3 one-way trips of over 1000 miles each in individual pickups in 2002), and that we consider alternatives to driving from Oregon to Colorado, or Arizona to Montana, just so that a crew (or IMT) can have their "own" vehicles. Road miles DO equal exposure, regardless of vehicle size, and this becomes especially critical when lots of folks are in a vehicle proven to be unsafe, with a less-than highly qualified operator.

I hope that suing Ford about their 15 passenger van will at least raise the awareness of its risks, and may in fact reduce vehicle fatalities, especially in the wildland fire community!

Dick Mangan

Thanks for the additional information. It's important for assessing risk. Ab.
02/25 Ab and all:

Just read the Denver Post news article about Brandon and the van roll-over.

I drove vans Ford, Dodge and Chevy for years on BD crews and Hotshot crews, just like many of you. I guess I am lucky to be alive according to the article.

Anyone who has ever driven a full size van knows that they don’t handle like a Porsche, but neither do Broncos, Tahoes, Ram’s, pickup trucks, engines, crew carriers or any other of the boxes on wheels we use.

Driving is one of the most hazardous activities that wildland firefighters encounter. It is, I think, where we have the greatest exposure to getting several folks killed or seriously injured at one time, as in last summer's tragedy. And one that we do a lot over the season. We Drove over 14,000 miles X 3 rigs packing 20 people, last year.

I included the chart from the web address below. www.esb.act.gov.au/firebreak/wildland_fire_fatalities.phpl

25% Burnover
23% Aircraft Accident
21% Heart Attack
19% Vehicle
  4% Snag
  4% Miscellaneous

Why do we always try to blame the people who build the things we ask for when something bad happens? McDonald’s is making us fat. Guns are killing people.

I would like to know what kind of drivers training any of the contract van drivers get before they start hauling people across the country. Federal Agency people have to take Defensive Driving training and refresher classes every 2 years and be issued a Govt. Operators License for the types of vehicles they are authorized to drive.

Additionally the drivers of heavy engines and Crew Carriers in Region 6 have to attend 36 hours of truck driver training, including 8 hours behind the wheel with a professional driver, and have a Commercial Drivers license. We don’t let just let anyone haul our crews around.

I am not saying the driver in the most recent accident wasn’t qualified, and I know that person is suffering badly from all they've been through. I just have some questions.

If we stop driving vans and pack crews into several pickups are they going to be any safer? Do more vehicles = more exposure? Are agencies and contractors going to get rid of all the vans they have? Are we going to take seriously the responsibility we have to make sure we have the best people with the best training behind the wheel?

I don’t have the answers, but I don’t think prosecuting the driver or suing Ford is going to stop people from crashing rigs and hurting/killing people.


02/25 The firejobs page is updated as well as Series 462 and 455. Ab..
02/25 Just catching up on They Said and couldn't resist a comment on Hickman's
post a few days ago where he planted a seed concerning the possibility of
NIFC going to the new Homeland Security agency......The folks at NIFC are
employed by all the resource agencies (FS, BLM, NPS, etc). Wouldn't it
make more sense to just take the plunge and move all federal firefighting
services from top to bottom, to an Emergency Incident Service under
Homeland Security? There could be the wildland division and the structure
division or maybe some other combo to include natural disaster management
(which FEMA depends on all of us to support anyway).

Training and equipping to deal with local non-fire incidents like structure
fires and vehicle fires is looked down on by our resource agencies because
it is not our "mission", not allowed by the "manual". But it seems to be
OK when we do it for national disasters and the agencies can put on the
white hat.

The recent Blue Ribbon report on aviation issues had a lot of findings and
recommendations that are just as applicable to the general wildland fire
business, including some serious organizational revamping. Nice that the
National leadership is taking the aviation fatalities so seriously. Too
bad they don't pay as much attention to the same broken pieces in the
larger fire service.

02/25 Ab,

One of the articles on the NWCG Fire Leadership site reading list is a 15-page article written in 1997 by Diane Vaughn about lessons from the spaceshuttle Challenger disaster. www.fire.blm.gov/textdocuments/VaughanWildfire.pdf

A couple of paragraphs mirror some of the recent discussions on TheySaid about contract crews, structural firefighters and non-English speaking personnel. Vaughan cites an earlier work in explaining how "dominants" (i.e., hotshots, full-time agency folks, etc.) and "tokens" (seasonal hires, contractors, volunteers, etc.) relate to one another, and how that undermines accomplishing organizational goals and can be harmful to safety on the fireground. It's worth a read.

She also makes a point about people pulling out their cameras in escape/deployment situations.
"Remember Navon, at Mann Gulch, who stopped to take pictures— a signal to others in the crew that all was well."

I recall one of the Thirtymile reports having a similar finding.

a vocal token,
vfd cap'n

02/25 Dear Abercrombie,

I don't know if you take e-mails from somebody like me who is not a firefighter. If you do, I want to say thanks. I live in the Lake Arrowhead area of southern Ca. We have lots of dead trees from bark beetles and a high threat of wildfire. One official said 80% are dead. I believe that from what I can see. I want to thank those who are making what they call the shaded break. They're going to be thinning out dead trees and underbrush.

My grandson Dick who is a city firefighter helped me make my property safer. He emailed me a couple of articles this morning and I thought your people should see them. I don't quite know what I should do with them, but maybe you can make them work.

Firestorm feared
Forest Service prepares to thin

Grandma Sara

Hi Sara, thanks for writing in. I entered your links and shortened them with words. There's some good and interesting information there. We appreciate it. Good for you for being a responsible homeowner.

Firefighters from the San Bernardino area, anyone know if Arrowhead is as bad as Tahoe? Ab.
02/25 Workshop begins today in Mesa AZ on a long-range climate forecast for the nation, followed by team breakouts that will plot how the fire danger manifests in their regions. Hope to see some of you there.


02/25 Here's the latest on the Van Rollover of last summer. Info from a survivor. www.denverpost.com Be safe out there. If you must use one, pack carefully. Minimize top heaviness.

In reading down the list of some articles on the fire news page, here's one about the Ukiah trial of the meth cookers that started the fire on which the 2 tanker pilots were killed. Amazing the defense some people will use. www.pressdemocrat.com

02/25 first one of the season:

heads up, everyone. had our first fire of the season last week (thurs, 2/20)
Rapid City Journal

02/24 Ab,

Thought this would be of interest. This was the Cannon Fire that T-130 crashed on. I understand there will be a memorial dedication sometime in June. I'll let you know when I get dates and times.



Links to this and other stories can be found on the fire news page under air tankers. Ab.
02/24 Hi,
I was just perusing your website (which I use extensively) and noticed
on your page about Fire Programs (2 and 4 year fire science programs)
that Cal Poly is not listed as a Forestry/Fire Science program.

We've got an entire fire concentration here (I teach 6 classes on fire
management), which is imbedded within the forestry major. Would you
please consider placing us in the "Forestry/Fire Science" category to
distinguish us from other programs in the state.

Keep up the great work,

Done. Ab.
02/24 How many Barons and Sherpas are there?

Just wonderin'

Here is a good place for some info and photos of air resources. Not sure if it's up to date as far as numbers go. Ab.

02/24 Here's a Question and Answer paper that might be of interest:

The Forest Service Preliminary Factual Report of Investigation
Airtanker N130HP – C130A Lockheed Hercules Accident, 2/11/03


02/24 Re 10 fire orders:

Believe it or not, I even use LCES and 10 fire orders in structure fire
fighting; a good part of both can be applied to any emergency response.

fire gimp

02/24 Some good reading here even if it is presented in pdf.

There's an article (page 2) on driving and wildland fires, and articles on crews and line overhead (page 3), and fire use modules in 2002 (page 4).

02/24 RE Jerseyboy's Post:

I think there is good reason to be concerned about the welfare of the National Forests. One item in the 2003 Budget is an item for the establishment of "Charter Forests", which are effectively removed from Forest Service governance, and placed under the jurisdiction of local "trust entities". There is little to NO information published on the National FS website about this effort!!! Combine this with outsourcing of natural resource employees, and my concern grows....

Some items regarding these "Charter Forest proposals":
  • In Colorado, the board of trustees would consist solely of county level personnel.
    No new wilderness could be declared within that particular county, and citizens cannot use the court system to protect their rights in these public lands.
  • Other proposals (e.g. the Central Idaho Ecosystem Trust) has the goal ""to provide revenue, net of operating expenses, for the beneficiaries each year, generated in a manner that recognizes public values and is sustainable over the long term", and the Forest Options group proposal, in which the emphasis would be on forest resources producing “the greatest net value”. The emphasis is to “discourage cross-subsidizing unprofitable activities with the receipts from profitable ones”.
As I understand it, all US citizens, not just local trust entities, have an interest in the management of our forests - and we have environmental regulations that require we manage sustainability for all resources, not just "profitable" ones.

This has the potential to affect fire, as well as other resource areas....I would suggest that research on Charter Forests is a good idea - and that you let your representative know if you don't like what you read (websites available upon request).

Tree Hugger :).
02/24 I don't know that you need to develop a leadership reading list at "They Said." I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that there is an extensive one that you could just link to at the very informative NWCG Wildfire Leadership site:

Specifically, the Professional Reading List is in the Leadership Toolbox at:

This is an excellent list, and everyone that reads "They Said" should spend time reading the materials at the Leadership site and the books on the list.


Thanks BLM Bob and BBTBDC. I was looking around for the bookmark I got at the Division Chiefs Workshop that had the url on it. Great site. That's what theysaid is about, alternatives to reinventing an excellent reading list... and so much more at that site too. The link is now up on the links page under training and education. Ab.
02/24 Flameboy

Here's the link to the NIFC Fire Leadership website:
http://www.fireleadership.gov/. Lots of good leadership stuff. Also, this
link to the professional toolbox:
http://www.fireleadership.gov/toolbox/toolbox.phpl will give you enough
leadership reading material to keep you occupied for a year or so. Maybe

02/23 jargon/slang, here's a few more

A.H.T- advanced hiding technique, used when you want
to shade up and not be seen by the IC.

Type II bleachers- the big snow fences seen along
stretches of open highway, we were on a fire and all
the shots got to go play but all of us on the type II
crew got to sit and watch from the bleachers.

02/23 Hey, Ab:

I just got a couple more words to add to the jargon list.

Build-Up: the appearance of cumulus overtimus on a clear, sunny day.

Build-Down: when cumulus overtimus clouds that looked promising a few hours ago suddenly evaporate.

Land Mine: The results of someone taking a dump in the woods or along the fireline. Also known as a Cornback Rattlesnake.


I added them to the terms and nicks list. Ab.
02/23 I've been trying to bring myself up to speed on the "TheySaid" conversations related to contract faller standards and certification. I conducted a search and had some "hits" in the July archives (specifically regarding S-212) training. I've been unable to find the posts. Ab, can you help "guide me in"?

Once I'm able to read the archives, I'd be very interested in discussing these issues. We are dealing exclusively with contract fallers on fires, developing REAL training and certification standards for professional timber fallers on wildland fire incidents, & developing a regional, and eventually a national, interagency faller contract.

Thanks for your help.

NTF, I remember discussions of falling issues from time to time in the past few years. Here's how to find something on an archive page. Once you call up an archive, position your cursor at the top of the month, hit the control (Cntrl) and F buttons simultaneously, type the search word or number in the box and hit Enter. You can progress down the page and hopefully find your target. Of course, you could just jump in and ask your questions here. Ab.
02/23 For those who do not know who Colonel Moore is, watch the movie We Were Soldiers. He was commander of the 7th Cavalry (Custers former group too). They were the first soldiers to use helicopters as rapid transports into and out of combat. good movie - great book.

eric - PW
02/23 woodsman20, re bodies on engines

All I can say is that there's some variation in regulations across agency. In R4 I hear you say that BLM requires 2 people per Type 6 engine. When BLM comes to R5, from out of the area, they provide 3 people. FS follows the FSH 1509.17 which requires 3 people. Other agencies follow the minimal standards of the PMS 310-1.

Woodsman, I don't mean this personally, but from what I have seen, when it comes to contractors there's also some variation in tolerance of performance mediocrity across regions. In my humble opinion, we need to arrive at a uniform level of standards of performance. Those who don't cut it should be sent packing.

02/23 Jumper,

The Barons are wearing out. We have 6, but only 3 have under 6000 hours, the flying limit. One of these has only 60 hours left. Other regions are down too. There's talk of rearranging where they're stationed. The key will be to not use the ATs except where they're effective, on IA and if available on EA. Large fire use is least bang for the buck.

Don't know about the Sherpa. Age is a factor there too.

With wings falling off the airtankers, we have to do something different. Whatever we do in the future to modernize will cost more. The questions are how much do we want to spend and for what? The cost of each new C-130J is 43 million. BLM is talking about using SEATS, but there's a problem with incompatible radio. MAFFs don't work in most fuel types we would need them for. We're trying to get more larger helos, but that's expensive too. It's likely we will have less and will have to do a better job with managing and moving around what we have.


02/23 Hey Ab, here are some for the list.

Thunder Hut or Blue room - Porta-pottie

Mystery Meat - the Green meat in your sack lunch that has sat out tooooooo long.

"Im hearing Banjo music" what you tell your Eng. crew when the folks that live in the house (the one Waaaaaaaay back out in the woods your protecting) remind you of the cast of the movie "Dueling Banjos"

Gator-aide Guard - USFS Cop at fire camp

thanks for all you do AB.


I added them to the terms and nicks list. Thanks. Ab.
02/23 Hey Ab!

I suspect after flameboys's post you may be considering adding "leadership" books to the book listings. If so, I'd like to inform you of the plethora of other "self help" books available and how much they've helped me. (Note: Please see my attached extensive list) I've read all of them, or at least the good parts. In fact, I even have a subscription to the "I Don't Know What's Wrong With Me" book club of the month. I consider myself a darn good leader even if others don't think so. I don't have any followers yet, but don't worry, I'll get some. I know the rapid rate at which module leader positions are being filled, so I'll get a job soon. In case you are wondering, wonder no longer, I've also read "I'm OK, You're Ok", so I know I'm "OK", it's just those crewmembers and all their personal issues I'm worrying about. I've even purchased many of the books in the "sensitivity" genre, just so's I can make sure I'm putting on the right appearance, even though I don't really believe in any of that stuff.

I can't wait to get some real honest to goodness people to follow me. I have to admit though, I'm not sure why it's taking so long (not that I'm sure where we'd go even if they did follow me). I've even gone back and reread some parts those sensitivity books to see if I was paying enough attention to people who talk to me.

I don't have any real life or leadership experience, but I might be. . .

Yer next supervisor. (ECC1)

HAW HAW seems I've felt the same myself from time to time. Hummm, now where's that book list yer talking about? Ab.
02/22 From Firescribe:
Here's the incident page for the Hawaiian Panau Iki incident.
Fighting fire in volcano-land is different.
02/22 Have been really interested in the Forestry Technician/ firefighter discussions. As one who was quite proud the day I was promoted form Forestry Aid to Forestry Technician while a primary firefighter, I didn't really care about the title nor think about it much. Technician seem much cooler than a mere aid though, sides it was about $0.35 an hour more.

Why are Forest Service, BLM, NPS, Fur and feathers firefighters in the Forestry and Range Technician series? Those series are established in part, to provide technical assistance in the protection and management of forest and range resource (according to OPM). Protection from wildfire, and use of fire as a tool, definitely qualifies as protection and management, of forest and range resources. The series is then broken into specialties, recreation, timber, silviculture, and fire. The OPM even notes that this series is likely to have very narrow specialization.

The Firefighter series (081)could qualify, I suppose, for the purely fire control and prevention functions, but protection and prevention of wildland fire in protection and management of forest and range resources is excluded (see the 462 and 455 series). This make sense to me, given history. Doubt that it is any kind of conspiracy to keep people down, sort of is just the way it has become and govmint has no real incentive to change. Bet if one of you left your position cause you just could not live with that durn Forestry Technician title, there would be someone to take your place. One of the problems with wildland firefighting is that while we are telling ourselves what selfless heroes we are (and mostly are) truth is firefighting, while not always fun, is very satisfying, and well, fun. We all wish it paid better (except CDF maybe, if had known then what I know now, oh well water under bridge). But till recently has not been a real labor problem. Times change however.

What happened to the Fire Control Series? Could be those fire control aids, wanted to work year round, and get promoted to those lofty GS-4 and 5 forestry technician positions, and fire control aid time didn't count as forestry technician specialized experience and vice versa, so they combined it. Bet it also saved OPM time and the agency money, by providing flexibility.

Well now a question. Folks comment that the 081 firefighter series has some extra benefits that fed wildland folks don't get. I can find any info on that. The only advantage I see is the extra OT one would get due to FLSA rules dealing with round the clock shifts that structural FF often do. Not sure how that would benefit the Gov as 5 day 40 hour weeks seem more appropriate for wildland. Also apparently the Vandenburg folks get Portal to Portal which is good. Believe P to P will come, as a safety issue to create a disincentive to stay out and on the clock, which is common. Nuff said.

02/22 The best book on leadership or the example there of is the book " We were soldiers once...and young" by Harold G. Moore. The striking thing about the book is his commitment to the troops to lead from the front and to be the first foot on the battlefield and the last to leave the battlefield. We should all strive for that same commitment.

Captain 180
02/22 Anybody know details about the barons and the sherpa?


02/22 Ab, letme try this...

The AT report at DivChiefs was that we could have somewhere between zero and all but 11 ATs this year, as the 11 C130As and PB4Ys were permanently grounded (probably). One stat Id not heard before was that if AT personnel were groundpounders the annual rate of loss would be 267 people per year on average. Unacceptable. Also heard we spent a quarter billion on aviation last year, that's is not an effective use of $$. Anyway, FAA (Sandia Labs) has been hired to look at the situation and make suggestions. What they suggest may mean no ATs if the criteria they come up with are extremely stringent and/or cost ineffective. There was a prediction that most will be back up after inspection. P3s looking OK. Even if all are back, we are still down to 33. We'll have to think differently to be safe on fires this upcoming season.

Hell of a spot and no safe way around it except going the inspection course...
We'll have ATs probably. How many? Don't know. How much will they cost? Don't know.

02/22 Don't Know Where to Start....

Something else for everyone to think about, if you haven't already. Something other than Tankers or Tenders, if a fire truck should be red or green, and which set of gear ya wear.

As I sit and reading the news and They Said, I set back and think now it was a couple of years ago. We now have a Homeland Security Agency, which has taken over part if not all of FEMA. Interagency IC Management Teams were sent to New York City to assist with the World Trade Center and to Washington to the Pentagon. NIFC assisting in coordination of personnel and equipment assisting with looking for parts of Columbia. Personnel assisting in Southern California, and parts of Nevada and Arizona catching birds trying to contain an outbreak of Newcastle Disease. All of these incidents are requiring a greater number of personnel and resources than the local area can provide.

Much like the Old Structural Firefighter of say 25 years ago, today the Wildland Firefighter maybe looking at a greater calling. I am not saying the Wildland is 25 years behind the Structural counterpart. I was one of those Old Sturctural Firefighters, all I did was fight fire. But look at it today, now I'm faced with: Haz-Mat, WMD, EMS, High Angle Rescue, Confined Space Rescue, Swift-Under-and Floodwater Rescue, not to mention all the Standards we never thought about back then. Two in - Two out, no more tailboards, 1 3/4 and 3 inch hose, Standards 1500, 1710, 1720, and the rest running out my ears. And the wonderful age of computer reports and access to resources greater than anything I could imagine..

The world has changed and we all will need to change also. As much as I hate to say it, could it be possible that NIFC maybe added into the list of Agency of Homeland Security. Where else can the government call for commands staffing, a large number of personnel, equipment and all the support to man a situation or incident? The incident may or maynot be an emergency and the Wildland Firefighter may or maynot be just fighting fire. The military used to be the resource, but we know where that will be going.

Now think about the upcoming fire season. Think we will see any military out this year? As I said, the world isn't the same as it use to be.

And I wear my yellow and green under my bunkers.
02/22 This came in last week from CD:

Boise, ID 02-18-2003

AVIATION RESOURCES SHORTFALL: Following the disastrous airtanker accidents that occurred during the 2002 season, a Blue Ribbon Panel was convened to assess the health and safety of the Federal wildland fire aviation programs. The Departments of Interior and Agriculture are taking the initiative to mitigate the sources of high risks in aircraft and operations. However, these measures will have some short-term effects on aircraft availability and place new limitations on certain operations that are worthy of notice. Thus the subject of this alert is to make you aware of the potential impacts on ground firefighting efforts.

AIRTANKERS: 11 large airtankers have been permanently grounded and will not be replaced during the 2003 season. The remaining 33 tankers are undergoing extensive inspection and repair to prevent the structural problems that have occurred in the aging fleet. There is not as yet a good indication when the fleet will be returned to service in its entirety. The expectation is that tankers will be late in returning to service as they complete the process one at a time. This means firefighters may have difficulty acquiring retardant support until well into the summer season.

LEADPLANES: Approximately half of the Federal leadplane fleet may be affected by a decision to retire USFS Barons due to aging airframes and lifetime limits. Replacement aircraft are being sought and once again are expected to be somewhat later in arriving than the normal start-up period. Early season tactical air coordination may therefore by necessity be provided through other resources such as ASM and ATGS platforms.

EMPHASIS ON INITIAL ATTACK: Within the Federal Agencies, in order to make the most of limited resources, emphasis is being placed on initial attack in order to minimize acreage lost. Limited availability of leadplanes and airtankers dictates that they will be reserved for initial attack and likely will not be assigned to large fire scenarios. The National MAC Group will provide updates on the status and availability of limited aerial resources as the season progresses.

RECOMMEND: FMO's, Incident Commanders and Ops Section Chiefs should advise firefighters that aerial delivery of retardant may not be as available to them as in the past and to adjust ground tactics accordingly. Operational risk management procedures should take into account added safety measures to account for the possibility of reduced aerial support.
02/22 Kevin-

Apply. USFS, DOI, State agencies... whatever, you just need to apply. There are seasonal jobs all over the country, so you might need to relocate for the summer. Fire is a curious thing- either it becomes a true passion in your life, or you hate it and move one to other careers. You've just got to give it a shot. Good luck!

02/22 From the video production company that produced the History Channel's "Fire on the Mountain" show.

Dick Mangan

Tuesday the 25th of February @ 8:00pm NOVA is running two shows dealing with terrorism; Dirty Bomb and Bioterror. Both shows were produced for NOVA by Lone Wolf Pictures. Dirty Bomb will be premiering. Bioterror is a re-airing of Lone Wolf Picture's Emmy winning examination of the threat of biological weapons.
02/22 Hey Ab

I was looking through your book section and saw nothing but fire books. In this day and age with all the leadership classes we take I was wondering why you don't have any leadership books on the book section. One book I recommend is Shackeltons Way. Hopefully you can answer this question because our jobs are more than just fire but also leadership.


We have a list of leadership books to add but we all have been extremely busy with our paying jobs and it takes time to set new books up on the books and reviews page. Giuliani's new book is excellent. There are a number of others. We would appreciate any more additions. Readers, if you've read a good one, send in the title and author and a brief review if you like. We'll check them out.

We also need to update the links page since so many urls have changed on the new FS web. To those of you who use the page daily and have commented, thanks for the prod. We be a'hustlin'.

Did get the firejobs page posted last night as well as updating Series 462 and 455. Never a dull moment, especially after a week of meetings for most of us. Ab.
02/21 Just heard on CNN that Terry Barton got 6 years in jail for setting the Hayman Fire.

Jeff G

Some articles about that on the Fire News page. Ab.

02/21 Ab,

The LP is sending a crew to Texas tomorrow (2-22-03) for shuttle recovery. Our flight leaves at 0800 from Burbank and should arrive in Dallas around 1000. From my understanding, we will be doing either a 14 or 21 day assignment, can't wait to help out any way we can.

When we get back, I will write back and share a progress report, the bummer thing is, we were told not to bring any cameras.

02/21 Following up on NorCal Tom's post:

To make donations for the memorial for Heather, Steve, and John you can go to www.almanorfirefighters.com/donations.phpl.
Last year in October a group of us got together and ran a relay in the Tahoe Marathon in Memory of Heather. Hopefully this will become a yearly event and it will continue to grow. If anyone is interested they can e-mail me at cara@robcara.us.


Thanks Cara. Nice page and good effort. Is this the fund for the Engine 11 Memorial on the Lassen National Forest? Melissa was the person collecting at the Division Chiefs Meeting. Anyone know how to reach her?

02/21 Re Competitive Sourcing:

Living in D.C. during the winter, I've followed the contractors/federal workers issue with a lot of interest. A few things that go on here that might be of interest:

The first is that competitive outsourcing has been going on for a while in many government agencies over a wide variety of jobs and professions. Some of it has saved money, while other times, it has been a disaster. For instance, the federal government decided about 4 years ago to outsource their computer programming work, rather than hire IT workers. The rationale given at the time was that workers and companies were plentiful and there was no need to for gov't to pay the "huge" human resources overhead. Then the dot-com bubble burst, tech companies in the washington area folded, and now the government pays companies around $100 an hour for programming work. So, consolidated companies who were able to survive the bust hire programmers at $45,000 a year and work them 1000-1500 hours on government contracts, and guess who is getting fleeced?

Second, there has been a large movement within the Republican Party for a smaller federal role on all levels. (This isn't intended to be a shot a republicans). Some of the fringe think tanks here in d.c. would like to see the federal government disappear from many roles, and one of them happens to be the ownership of land. One of the reasons that competitive outsourcing is now getting a lot of discussion is that it reduces the size of the federal government (even though it may increase its expenditures). And the Forest Service, along with the DOI, are almost natural targets because the ownership of land is so vast. This is not to say that competitive outsourcing will lead directly to the wholesale return of National Forests to the states, or to private ownership, but there are plans being circulated for certain federal lands to be "managed" by private companies. Again, this doesn't mean it will happen, but be aware that this sort of sentiment does exist, and does contribute to the debate.

How then does this affect contractors, most of whom are small entities? Image a "slow" fire year, like '97, and string a few of them in a row or 3 in five years. Many contractors will likely fold, and many contractors will inevitably fold or merge anyway as the contracts awarded get bigger and bigger. One line of argument i haven't seen talked about is this: what happens when -- and again it will only be a matter of time -- extremely large companies who have the resources, both financial and tangible, can " low bid" smaller contractors, effectively creating a monopoly? (Think of what has happened in the aerospace industry.) And though i realize fire is not yet the cash cow that public investors crave, the budget continues to grow and the emergence of a publicly traded fire-related company is also only a matter of time. Does it matter now? No. Will it? Possibly.

Anyway, i realize all this may be pessimistic thinking, but hey, i live in D.C., its hard not to think of these things-


Thanks for the stimulating thoughts. I'm always optimistic when information and ideas flow. Ab.
02/21 re: vfd cap'n

Ok, enough with the pathetic arguments. A TENDER is a TENDER because thats
what it has been designated. There is a safety issue here, as well as a
clarity issue. There was/is confusion in communication over Tenders vs.
tankers. So, in the effort to CLARIFY and PREVENT confusion, and subsequent
safety issues, the water carrying vehicle is designated a tender, ie. it
"tends" engines. A Tanker is an aircraft that carries and disperses
retardant/foam/water. The lack of acceptance to "change" for the benefit of
safety and less confusion is ridiculous. Its a WORD. Help take care of each
other, and make sure we all go home to our families, by trying to create less
confusion, less chance for injuries/death, and whatever other other issues
need to be straightened out by accepting a nationwide AGREEMENT. If its that
big a deal, maybe we could change the tanker name to "flying Keg", or water
pig with wings.

Another thing I read that upsets me is the designation of Neaderthals on crew
buggies. I am a city structural fire fighter in a major urban area, as well
as state wildland fire fighter. I have worked on engines on 5 alarm structure
fires, and big brush fires. to think city guys are any better than any IHC
is also pathetic. I have been assigned to Type II hand crews and worked way
harder than on any structure fire. I have complete respect for any hard
working hand crew, IHC, Type II or even DOC crews, who I actually think work
harder and more professionally than some "pro" crews. Please, again, we are
all here to do a job, professionally, and to save lifes, property and
resources. Dont change the goal to 'whos better than who', and 'we could do
it better than you', and this word is better than that word.

Be safe

Ab also thinks this is enuf of tender vs tanker and will not post any more of it.

02/21 Hello

I would just like to say that your site is very nice, especially the photo section layout (the photos are stunning). I was wondering if you might need any help with anything (for free). The reason is, that I am getting out of high school and I want to be a forest fire fighter, its just I have not experience or training. I talked to the person at my local forest service office and they said to "get your self out there". I know a lot about computers, especially Linux (I am a geek).

Thank you.
Kevin Faulkner

Thanks for the great offer, Kevin. We're OK for now, except for needing to do some more modifications on chat, but we heartily appreciate it.

We like paging through the photos, too. Like thumbing through a baseball card collection, only better. Firefighters write in to ask to use them for training and ppt presentations at meetings and students ask about using them for assignments.

Hmmmm, I think your local FS office meant get yer'self out to the woods on a fire crew. Firefighters, this enterprising young man is from Scottsdale, AZ; got any suggestions for how he can "get out there" or make steps toward a career?

Kevin, offering to help out is an excellent first step. Check the post from the professor, just below, and the university and college page. In addition to U. Idaho, Humboldt State U in norcal and Cal Poly San Louis Obispo in socal also have new fire degrees. Pima Community College in Tucson AZ has a fire science certificate program. Fire in summer, school in winter? Ab.

02/21 University of Idaho, the Place to Learn about Fire!

Dear Wildland Fire.com

The College of Natural Resources (formerly the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Range Sciences) at the University of Idaho has a long history of educating natural resource management professional about fire, fire ecology, fire management and how to use prescribed fire. www.cnr.uidaho.edu/cnr/

Up until recently we were the only university conducting hands-on education in prescribed fire. Our prescribed burning laboratory began in 1978 and continues today.

We can submit very interesting pictures to your photo page of UI students in action. One photo attached.

Want to know more, just write!!

Harold L. Osborne
Extension Professor of Forest Resources

Nice photo, thanks Harold. I put it on the Fire 16 photo page. I brought the info on the university and colleges links page up to date. Readers, you can find this page by looking on the links page under education. Ab.
02/21 Mollysboy:

While I do agree with you that some Team members are having their lives
disrupted even more than usual, I think the opportunity to expand their
knowledge base with "all-risk" type incidents out weights the negatives.
You're right, more and more of these all-risk events are coming forward.
With the world the way it is currently, we need to be prepared for anything.
The more exposure these teams have, the better off they will be when called
to manage, plan, etc. these non-fire incidents.

One solution may be to expand the team numbers with more alternates or

02/21 I wonder how many folks are actually aware that NWCG adopted the original
fire orders again in May 2002???? I had heard it was coming, but wasn't
aware that it was a done deal. I guess the next question is: When NWCG
does something, does it become agency policy automatically (for those
agencies involved in NWCG), or does each agency, then have to approve it

10_fireorders adopted

02/21 vfd cap'n-

What a jerk! As one of those "neanderthals", I am deeply offended. I don't know what your problem is, but we work extremely hard under the most arduous of situations. Our fires don't last three or four hours- they last for weeks. That's just as bad as a wildland guy describing a structure guy as some fat ass trying to pull his overfstuffed bunker gear onto the running board of an engine. Stay on the pavement- we don't need bad attitudes such as yours causing divisiveness within the wildland community.


I know you are just doing your best to get important safety info. out, but the memo posts some inaccuracies about cafiene's effects as a diuretic. It is true that caffeine is a diuretic- if an individual's heart rate is below 55% of max (i.e. in staging, in camp, off-time). Once working at a job like line construction, the heart rate raises, directing more blood to the various muscle groups used in the work, and diverting it from the digestive and urinary systems. This has the effect of putting the bulk of their work on hold. High level endurance athletes commonly ingest caffeine before work outs and competitions because of its benefits. Caffeine should be avoided when rehydrating (post-shift), cameling-up (pre shift) and during travel (especially when going from lower to higher elevations).

Just some excuses to keep instant coffee in my pack...

02/21 Abs,

I had a few thoughts on some of the points presented by vfd cap'n. I have worked in both wildand & structural departments during my 13 year career and it seems that there are always arguments about terminology and who does more or better training. I tend to agree that when you are playing in someone else's sandbox, you follow those rules. However, NWCG could find a way to become more accepting of NFPA and FEMA training certifications. Although, I agree that someone with no wildland experience should not be serving in positions like DIVS, structural experience and training should certainly be applied to NWCG courses and positions.

Both FEMA, NFPA, & NWCG all offer numerous courses in fire service leadership and incident command. However, none of these courses are approved to take another's place. FEMA offers IS-195 which is almost the exact equivalent of NWCG I-200, but cannot be substituted for it. Obviously, some courses would not be acceptable for substitute, but many others would easily cross over. Perhaps we could increase the numbers of line-qualified personnel in many positions if policies for reciprocity or substitution of similar courses could be developed. This could serve as big incentive for experienced structural personnel who would otherwise be turned off by having to sit through some very basic courses. Remember, that just because a department is primarily structural, it doesn't mean the department doesn't run interface or wildland fires and there may be a large pool of interested personnel with a little incentive.

In my part of the country, a tanker is a ground-based water carrier. However, when a large part of the nation is together on a type of terminology, I think the best option s getting the rest of the country to buy in, not change the whole thing. I'll call it a tanker here because that's what I'm paid to do, but when I'm wearing a yellow shirt and green pants, it's a tender all the way!

02/21 LP,
Doesn't sound like we're on the same department.

Yes, it is a great forum. I don't think I'm persuading many people on the
tanker issue, but it's fun anyway. Maybe a few of the lurkers are the
powers-that-be with NWCG, and they'll get the idea that instead of just
taking a handful of volunteers as seasonal hires, they need to aggressively
engage rural fire departments as a whole.

With a little help and depending upon apparatus/personnel, most departments
could qualify with some form of strike team or task force. Neighboring
departments should be able to create a standing type 3 IMT. As more
agencies undertake prescribed fire work, there's an opportunity to bring
departments on board as a participant.

Then, when the big fire hits close to home, the local fire departments will
be trained and qualified to play a meaningful role.

That's my hope, at least.
vfd cap'n

Unfortunately, I think that your posts that belabor terminology might have the opposite effect than the one you desire. Ab.
02/20 vfd cap'n

I have been reading the post that you have written for several days and I have a few thoughts.

The one on 2/13 about the NWCG rules hey if you want to play on our playground you have to play by our rules and the same goes for everyone else, I would imagine if we came to your playground it would be the same for us. I have worked hard to get the quals that I have and it is frustrating to hear that some city guy thinks they should be a division just because they have been on a city department for 20 years with no wildland experience. All I have to say to you is if you want to fight wildland fire and have no quals suck down your pride or your going to get some one hurt.

The next thing was on 2/18. A person on my crew was injured in the the line of duty, he blew his knee out. It took everything beyond the criminal to get workmans comp to take action, he actually called his local congressman to get help. Don't tell me that workmans comp will pay for injuries and be there for you because it's a load of SH*@. Do not talk of things you do not know of.

The next would be on 2/19 I was one of those "Neanderthals on crew buggies" for eight years. You have no right in labeling someone like that until you have done that. I am very proud of the work I did on the Hotshot crews, we also did alot of work that other agencies took credit for. You will never understand what it is to be a hotshot until you have worked for a crew, however that probably won't ever happen because you sound like you just like to sit there and complain.

And the last I won't even bother with because anyone one with half a brain knows a tender is a tender meaning a big water truck.


In my experience with workman's comp, it seems the duty of the first OWCP claim reviewer is to deny the claim. and then the claimant fights to prove the validity of the claim. It can take years. Ab.
02/20 I was browsing through your web site the other night and came across a letter to the Governor of CA. The letter is full of bad information. As I read the letter it didn't seem to serve any purpose other than to bash CDF.

We are all brothers and sisters in the fire service, we may kid each other but there is certainly no reason to attack. The letter was from the lightning series that went through in 1999. The worst part is that the fires the person is referring to are on Forest Service DPA. Regardless, there were fires everywhere and inevitably a few got big. These are decisions that have to be made when there are more fires than resources.

The person who wrote the letter did not even sign their name. I understand the forum that you have here, but that letter serves no other purpose than to bash another agency.
I enjoy your website but this kind of thing should not tolerated. Please remove the letter.

Mike H
Fire Captain CDF

Mike, this letter has been on the site for years. It was put up as part of a discussion on theysaid regarding perceptions at the time. As I recall it was kind of a spoof. We thought there was a disclaimer with it as to how a sender might be perceived, etc. Since this Ab is on the road, I don't have a chance to review it now, but will do so and clarify it as soon as I get home.
02/20 Ab, here is a partial announcement for a 0462 series job on a military base that is obviously A FIRE JOB and not part of natural resources..... how many bombs provide a "natural ignition source". DoD has wildland firefighters improperly classified just like USDA and USDI.

Two questions:

1) How come the Fed. govt. did away with the Wildland Fire Control Series? When the Wildland Fire Control Series was absorbed, did any one think that maybe Fire Protection was a better choice than Range Management, Forestry Technician, or Biological Sciences??

There was a Wildland Fire Control Series around the time of the original "Safety First" meetings. Any of you folks still around?

2) Can members of DoD bases join FWFSA?

Here's the job...

Announcement No: SCDW03143304
Opening Date: February 06, 2003
Closing Date: February 20, 2003
Position Title (Pay Plan-Series): FORESTRY TECHNICIAN (-0462)

Grade: 08

Salary: $34,936
Region: South Central
Organization: HQ 3D INF DIV (M) FT STEWART

Duty Station: FT STEWART, LIBERTY, GA 31314

Duties: The primary purpose of this position is to direct and conduct fire management operations for an assigned area of the Fort Stewart Military Reservation. Prepares daily, weekly, and monthly prescribed burning schedules, tower staffing, and burning plans for 45,000 acres of ranges and impact areas on Fort Stewart in accordance with the overall Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan and established priorities. Insures that there are sufficient supplies, equipment and workforce to accomplish tasks. Provides assignments, training and review of fire management work of assigned personnel. Makes adjustments, varies sequence of operations, and takes alternate courses of action as necessary to accommodate military activities within the area, changes in priorities, time frames, and special Contributes to the overall resource management plan by advising of activities needed and in what areas such as detection, aerial burning, fire suppression, coordination with the Georgia Forestry Commission and military units. Prepares maps and reports. Coordinates fire management operations in assigned area with the Timber Management Branch, Fish and Wildlife Branch, Range Control and the Georgia Forestry Commission. Works out mutual arrangements to coordinate activities so that common objectives are met. Periodically directs and conducts aerial burning with a helicopter and Delayed Aerial Ignition System on up to 5,000 acres daily based upon weather and fuel conditions, following a written prescription for each separate burn area. Monitors three automatic weather stations and insures service contracts are implemented on time, insuring continuous operation of the sites and an uninterrupted flow of data required by managers in making numerous natural resources management decisions . Determines fire detection and suppression assets required to protect 280,000 acres of military land from wildfires during all types of weather conditions and makes recommendations to supervisor. Performs other duties as assigned.

Sezno More
02/20 2003 is already proving itself to be real interesting: IMT's "chokin' chickens" in SoCal; an IMT on a fire in Hawaii; and now, the Columbia Recovery project.....! And its only mid-February!

Has our good work on wildfires become a monster that threatens to overcome our original mission?

I'm not downplaying the good work that is being done on all these projects, or the need for the ICS organization that we are so expert at bringing to the scene: rather, I'm looking at some of the longer term implications of the non-wildfire assignments that seem to be turning up with increasing regularity.

Look at our IMTs.....no, not just the ICs and OPS folks: how many Finance and Logistic folks are in full-time fire positions? Do they have other "real" jobs in our Agencies that don't allow them to be gone on all these new missions? And do they (and the fire folks, too) really want to be gone from home even more than our recent fire seasons have demanded?? In my world, high school basketball is entering the playoff stage, and Little League baseball is thinking about starting up: how many more of your kids' games are you willing to miss................?

Some State agencies are not allowing their IMT members to go on non-fire assignments: regular jobs at the home unit take priority, especially when you have a small agency on a limited budget, and your most skilled personnel are on the National and Area IMTs.

Don't know the answer to any/all my questions: just thought I'd throw the thoughts out for discussion.

02/20 Everyone,

Heather DePaolo's dad, Tony, gave a great speech at the Division Chiefs meeting today (yesterday now, Ab). For those who don't remember, Heather, Steve Oustad and John Self died when their LNF Engine 11 rolled over on the Stanza Fire near Orleans CA last summer. I wish our entire community could have heard Tony's presentation. He gave all who didn't know her a new sense of who his daughter was and reminds us how much we continue to miss Heather, John and Steve. Money is still being gathered for their memorial on the Lassen NF.


When accidents happen, we need to do better at informing families of the death or injury of their loved ones - in spite of our own shock and pain. We need to cut through the process of finding out who is the next of kin and let them know from us or from a compassionate other as much as we know. More of us need to know what is that process of getting contact info and making that notification. We need to educate ourselves. God knows, we want no more deaths. As Tony says, our profession is dangerous. Our families deserve it.


NorCal Tom

PS I don't have the memorial donation information right handy but will look it up soon as I get home... and put it up.

02/20 Ab, I just want to say thanks to Tony DePaolo for the wonderful talk today. Parts of it were hard to hear. Tony is Heather's dad. Heather and Steve and John died last July in Northern CA in an engine accident.

I know this is sketchy but I don't have much time before I have to give up this computer, just wanted to say a big thanks to you Tony. Heather was pretty amazing and she was so lucky to have you as a father!

You are forever a part of our family.

Tahoe Terrie
02/20 Woodsman 20

R4 pre season agreements require three person staffing, and have for many years. Regardless of what the govmit can do, thats what they required of us. I asked our district years ago why they staff a type 6 with two? Their answer was simple. They operate mostly day cabs - three firefighters in the front of a ford fill it right up, and no ones comfortable. Makes sense.

I was at a PNWCG meeting, it was recommended that private engines in R6 also staff at the three person level on the light engines also. That will be a requirement in the next solicitation. (so far)

eric PW
02/20 SZ and others:

It is age discrimination! I'm 41 and have hit the same wall. With over 16 years fed time on FERS retirement- I do not need the twenty years/early retirement. What I , you and everyone else should have is a fair and equal chance for all jobs. I too pass the WCT each year, stay in shape and perform the same jobs as anyone under the age of 37. I'm just not allowed to have a "fire job" per these regs.

Now, before anyone gets their hair rubbed the wrong way- I have nothing against anyone who has the enhanced firefighter retirement- primary or secondary. My bone of contention is with the Agency/OPM/Legisilature who allowed this discrimination to take place. Seems to me it would be easy enough that if you can pass the physical, WCT and met the requirements of and are qualified for the job- you should be given the job. If you are under 37 or have enough years to recapture to 37 and get the primary/secondary- more power to you. If you can't get the primary/secondary you have to settle for FERS like most of the rest of us. At least you have the retirement and benefits.

Least anyone get to wondering too much, I am in fire full time, do suppression, prescribed fire, helo, training and logistics. I have retirement and benefits- but am locked into a grade with no upwards mobility. Thus if I choose to stay- I retire 16 years from now at the same grade as I am now.

One last thought-I have talked to a lot of folks about this and you cannot imagine how little personnel/HR folks, Admin folks, overhead within and without the organization, legislators and OPM folks could care about this. Quite honestly, I think that most folks could'nt give a $&%@! Anyway- keep pestering folks, write you congress-man/women/person (representative?!). Maybe one day they'll hear the voices. It may not help me or you, but maybe somebody else will benefit.

Cache King
02/20 Re Crews: in the old days we only had to deal with IHC, IR, IA, same job different title, so whats the big deal?

SZ: I'm 42, Agency wont hire me back full time but, after working for them, seeing that I left their employ I can be a seasonal again. but they want me to start as a GS-3, I'm a carded DIVS, go figure? maybe I'm to old to teach any more? Still can pack the hill's.

Don't work harder, just smarter
X Sawtooth IR
02/20 vfd cap'n

I don't know what the particular situation you were dealing with was, I was just trying to offer an explanation from times I have found myself on the otherside. Personally you sound like someone with a chip on their shoulder and I don't think were missing much if you don't want to come play with us. I don't like to get into petty bickering and name calling so I think I've responded to you for the last time until I see an increase in the value of your posts. Good night and glad you're not on my mutual aid plan.

02/19 NorCalTom or anyone,
If: national contract engines I.E. type 6 have to have 3 people on board, why doesn’t R-4 BLM require this or is this just another hoop we have to jump through even though the BLM doesn’t???? whats up with that.??????? I've managed R-4 BLM t-6 engines with only 2 since 99. Ely, Battle mountain, Winnemucca, Parker AZ. YFO, Or is DOI exempt from this?????
you tell me

meko, I agree with you.


02/19 Ab -

I am not sure if you know yet about the event held in Buffalo, WY this past
weekend where Rep Barbara Cubin (R-WY) announced she would sponsor a bill to
extend PSOB benefits to airtanker pilots & crew. The link to the press
release, which you should probably post on the News page under Airtanker, is
- www.house.gov/cubin/

Bob Fish
02/19 Ab:

How is it the federal government can discriminate on the basis of
age for fire jobs? I just looked at a fire job announcement that said
if you were older than 37, you could not apply. I thought age
discrimination was illegal in the United States. Seems to me, if you
can pass the physical test (arduous pack test, jumper test...what ever)
for the job, you should be able to apply. As a 51-year old who has
spent enough time in the gym and on the road to be able to pass such
tests, I am incensed. What gives?

02/19 NCCrew,
"Another man's world"??? Are you talking about what Neanderthals hang in their crew buggies?

Funny, we don't put our bunker gear away in the summertime, cause folks still have house fires and drivers still wreck their cars. And we still have wildland fires in January and December around here in Colorado.

If you want to buy into the R5 "leader in all things fire" image, please don't let me disillusion you.
vfd cap'n
02/19 vfd cap'n

Do we work on the same team? Call station three if you do, this
is a great forum and I observe more than I reply.

LP, Mt. P, nickname (Jr.)
02/19 HJ

If you have information on someone selling red cards on line, you call the closest Federal fire dispatch center and tell them. They will get that information to the right people.

02/19 One trainer gave me a good example of how to decide if something should be posted in our crew buggy. He said ask yourself "Is this related to my job, my profession?" If the answer is no, the piece shouldn't be posted.
02/19 I had to send this one in again now that the national news is addressing an
issue relating to safety of people working in the outdoors (Death of Major
League Baseball hopeful Steve Bechler.) http://espn.go.com ESPN Article

Two years ago, I had an employee who "went down" while taking a combination
diet/performance supplement that has both ephedrine and caffeine while on
project work. She quickly recovered but the doctors evaluation said the heat
exhaustion was specifically related to the supplement. The supplement is
available nationwide in many forms and is completely legal. Several
professional venues have banned these substances (ephedrine) from their
players... ie - the NFL.

The NWCG Safety Gram accurately describes the problem but seems to have been
overlooked by many. In a spirit of safety, I reintroduce it again.

TO :
FROM : National Wildfire Coordinating Group
REPLY TO : NWCG@nifc.gov
DATE : 08/13/2001
SUBJECT : SAFETY WARNING : Heat Intolerance from performance pills

Several recent events have brought to light an evolving problem that could
put firefighters at increased risk of heat related injuries. A number of
prescription as well as over-the-counter drugs and treatments contain agents
that interfere with the body's ability to maintain normal body temperature
during work or under conditions of environmental heat stress. Therapeutic
agents include drugs such as: diuretics, laxatives, antihistamines,
beta-blockers, tricyclic antidepressants, vasoconstrictors and others. This
includes such substances as caffeine, ephedrine and creatine, which are
often used as additives in performance enhancing supplements.

In a recent incident four firefighters were treated for heat related
problems after taking over-the-counter performance enhancers. These
performance supplements are sold in stores under various names such as
yellowjackets, ripped fuel and metabolife (a weight loss supplement). These
supplements contain ephedrine or ephedra (ma huang), which react in the body
much like amphetamines. Problems with these substances are also being seen
in the military and professional sports.

Creatine is a natural substance that is often used by bodybuilders to
increase bulk. The downside to this is that it causes the body to retain
water in cells so it is not available to dissipate heat.

Caffeine is a diuretic, which tends to increase the flow of urine in the
body. This increase of fluid output, if not offset with an increased input
can increase dehydration. Coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks contain
caffeine, which also serves as a stimulant.

If you or any of your employees are taking any drugs or over-the-counter
supplements, please consult a physician or pharmacist about possible side
effects while working in hot conditions.

So much for what not to do, firefighters are encouraged to use sport
(carbohydrate/electrolyte) beverages (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) which
enhance fluid intake, help retain fluid, provide energy, and maintain
cognitive and immune function during prolonged work in the heat. And don't
forget the water.

02/19 Shuttle Recovery

I don't know what is taking place in the search area now but when we were working the area that we were in the first two weeks of recovery, the biggest problem was getting FBI and other law enforcement groups to play nice and coordinate coming and going with Command. Other problem, a couple of unnamed organizations had no idea what Incident Command System was nor even how it was beneficial. TFS was running the unit that I was working out of and everything seemed to run relatively smooth. I spent two weeks there and we are still finding debris in areas that were thought to be clear.

Stay safe,
02/19 another two cents,
i was the one who wrote about raising the bar. if you read the post
clearly you would have noticed i was referring to raising the bar for
other contractors not for shots or any other fed crew. we all know its a
sin to try and tarnish the image of fed crews. we are out of R5 and i know
that standards for contractors are much much higher here and i welcome
it. i would not be apart of the R6 debacle even though they seem to get
alot of dispatching not due to quality but shear quantity. it is
definitely a mess up there, one question comes to mind how did they go
from 150 crews to over 300 last summer? how did they come up with all
those srb's? they must have cloning figured out. is odf turning a blind
eye and just signing the papers? is anyone doing anything about this
before someone gets killed? i read on the oregon live site about a guy
who was doing some of the training up there and it was scary. he
commented that he was crankin out firefighters 7 days a week but he
definitely had obstales, he said it was very difficult to train these
guys cuz all the training was in english and 90% of the trainees spoke
spanish and of that 75% couldn't read either. how did he accomplish the
courses? i know from some of my experience most the training really
includes how to hide on the line. i even was told by a fed its almost
impossible to get rid of one of those crews cuz they run home and cry
discrimination or just change the number of their crew and return. does
the FS have any plans to increase policing of training or taking the job
away from ODF?

just meko
02/19 My 2 cents from the Division Chiefs Meeting: Contractors will have to have 3 people on board all Type 3 to 6 engines. National Contracts are being rewritten with heavy input from R5.

02/19 Hello All, I just wanted to add my 2 cents also.

To vfd cap'n;
I am a primarily a structure guy who works for two fire departments. I know what a tanker is and a what a tender is. I recognize the fact that when summer rolls around and my bunker pants are taken off and the green jeans/bdu's are put on, that I step into another mans world. This is where a "tanker" now becomes a "tender." I wouldn't tell the EMS world that they need to change the term "ventilation" in CPR to something else because a firefighters ventilation involves a chainsaw not a BVM. We all speak the same language, just different dialects. From my perspective the structure side of the house needs to get on the same level as the wildland agencies...do we have engines or pumper/tankers? water manifolds, water thief's or portable hydrates? deck guns, monitors, or master streams? The list of structural terminology can go on.

Also on the issue of a common language on the fire line. Me thinks it should be English for the same reason we require all firefighters to have undergone basic firefighter training. It is the same reason that bugles and horns were used on the fire ground years ago and those horns and bugles gave rise to radios...improved communication saves life, lives, and property.

In regard to all the talk about crew types...

When I was young I had it all figured out:
The Hierarchy of firefighters was IHC, then type 1, then type 2....BUT NOW, IHC, then kinda type 1, semi type 1, availability varies check with your local retailers for details on type 1 crews, then type 2 IA, then type 2, NOW we got a type 3
Oh, AB all how my head is spinning in this time of change!

02/18 Thanks everyone for the info on the Fountain Fire. We must have driven through 17 miles of burn. I talked to one hotshot form the Modoc today who fought that fire. He said it ran and ran. They kept having to outdrive it, but finally got to a position and with 3 or 4 hotshot crews dug line and held it. Hard for me to imagine that. I also wondered if it was private land that was replanted. Looked like it must have been. Thanks for that info too.

If any of you travel near this, come have a look.

PS Gelobter's team is in Australia and Raley's team is traveling on Friday to socal for the Newcastle virus detail. Busy time.

02/18 The Jobs page and Wildland Firefighter Series 0462 & Series 0455 are updated.
02/18 Todd, do us all a favor and keep all those folks down in California where they belong. While your at it and patting yourself on the back about being "leaders in all things fire" find that air valve on your neck and let a little out before you have to get a new hardhat. Killed any chickens lately?

Regions 1,2,3,4,6
02/18 Just a word of caution to all those would be early season detailers.......If you have the choice between the chicken disease and something else, opt for something else. I have been down in CA for a week now, and I must say, the work is disgusting. This is my opinion, and I know they need people down here, but so you know this is equivalent to a 30 day mop up assignment in a dump. You have to wear a full body protective suit, two pairs of shoe protectors, a hair net, a mask, two pairs of gloves, and a face mask. Gets pretty hot when your pulling chickens from their cages with three feet of chicken waste on the floor beneath you (slippery too!!!). There are plenty of temp agency people down here, and we are doing the same thing they are, so don't think that if the feds aren't coming it's not getting done. There's my two cents, if I save one person that likes animals from coming down here I've done some good.

"Don't feel like chicken tonight"
02/18 I have been reading with interest the debate over contract crews, and would like to add my 2 cents worth.

I was on a R-6 shot crew, and we were on a fire with many contract crews. One particular contract crew, who shall remain nameless, had one person who spoke english. And it was limited. They had decided to venture into another division, and try out their new husky saws, with a little sport falling. They dropped a tree into a small ravine, and almost hit several of us. We came boiling out of there, and some words were exchanged, which didn't do much good, since none of us spoke spanish. They left, and went off to who knows where. The div. sup. was notified, and that crew was sent elsewhere. To me, they are a big safety concern. In my experience, the language issue is common, along with other issues. Sure there are good crews, and bad crews, just like any crew, type 1, 2 , engines, helitack, etc.

The comment about raising the bar kind of struck me funny. You can't compare contract to shot crews, it's like apples to oranges. Another incident comes to mind where in one division, which was a steep, deep canyon, they sent in something like 8 contract crews to hold line IHC crews had already constructed. On the hike, in they ended up medivacing out all but 2 crews. So the shots had to hold up construction, because of this. Not quite on the same bar, as IHC crews.-

02/18 The reason R5 needs to be a leader in all things fire:

We're different. We have more people in Region 5 than in Regions 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 combined.


02/18 Mellie,

The fire you saw was the Fountain Fire, It burned in 1992.
Can't remember the amount of Homes lost but it was up there in triple
digits. Most of the burn was on private land and private industry was very
aggressive on salvage logging and reforestation. I remember the area being
logged while stump holes were still smoking. Had this been Federal land
it would still be a brush field.

02/18 Type 1 crews, IHC etc

My understanding of the "regional" vs IHC was only related to where the money came from to fund the crews.

IHCs are funded off the top, basically the money comes from the big fire fund before it gets divided among the various regions, forests etc. As a result when Boise calls the IHCs go since they are truly national resources. Much of the helitack program is funded in a similar fashion. A benefit to these crews is the "national" standard which provides the high GS grades nation wide compared to the GS5 through 8 you see with Type 2 crews and engines working similar jobs but pay being different from location to location.

The regional crews on the otherhand are funded along the lines of Type 2 crews and Engines, where the money is handed out to the agencies, regions and forests / districts and the money allocated to individual resources based on local perceived needs. Since this money is considered local the resources may be held or sent out at the whim of the local agency official, this is why you see some forests who's engines and local crews get out all the time and others who rarely get out. Also the Type 1 vs IHC seems to come up alot, if you look at the fireline handbook it is not all that hard to meet the standards for Type 1 crew, the Hotshot organization on the otherhand has very strict requirements to meet which far exceeds that required of Type 1 crews. So in fact there is a difference between a Type 1 crew and a Hotshot crew. Further confusion is caused when you include politics such as CDF insisting that its Inmate crews be called type 1, the same goes for smoke jumpers, both of these are called Type 1 and are very good performers but they clearly are not Type 1 crews by the definition from NWCG.

So really there is not any restriction on sending regional crews out of region and no reason that a Type 1 crew in R5 should not still be a Type 1 crew out of region (Type 1 uses the NWCG requirements and is a national standard). My understanding of the reason behind the Type 1 regional crews was to allow the local agencies more control of these crews and as a by product hopefully free up IHC's from standby assignments but not to restrict the regional crews to the region.

This is how it was explained to me, as I said before I'm into engines so I may be off on the intricacies of crew politics.

02/18 Mellie,

That burn is the 1992 Fountain Fire. Totalled @65,000 acres. Went from SW
of the town of Round Mountain and passed Burney on the NW side of town.

The three major wind factors were in alignment on the start day. Normal
upslope afternoon wind through the Hatchett Pass, SW gradient, and for extra
measure the jet stream was directly over northern CA in a SW to NE flow.

Local resources were drawn down due to fires in central CA. The fire looked
like it may be contained at about 300 acres when a very minor convective
band went overhead. Observers say that the there were three or four very
small cotton ball clouds in a band that passed over the fire. The fire
vented vertically and popped through an upper level inversion layer. It was
like opening the damper on a wood stove. The fire burned about 12,000 acres
over the next three to five hours. Most of the fuel was even age timber in
the 40-60 year old range.

02/18 SCC
Where are you? Not in Reno! Are you in Hawaii? Some of your folks thought maybe so.
02/17 Report From the Division Chiefs Meeting, speaker Michael Useem on Fire Management Leadership, 02/18:

Michael is from the Wharton School of Business and used some business examples, some examples from the Battle of Gettysburg (Civil War) and finally the story of Mann Gulch to develop points he wanted us to discover regarding leaders and leadership. Throughout, his approach was inductive with him posing questions, providing scenarios, and telling stories followed by questions - which we answered. At the outset he provided examples of individuals who have lead well(Mandella, King, Margaret Thatcher, Alfred Sloan, a leader in business, George Marshall, who created the Marshall Plan at the end of WWII, Mahatma Ghandi and Pope John #23). He then elicited from the Division Chiefs the characteristics that made them great leaders.
Some points that developed over the course of his interactive presentation:

A great leader should be
  • visionary
  • have strong confidence in themself and others
  • have the ability to communicate performance expectations and standards
  • be able to "walk the walk"
  • demonstrate personal sacrifice, determination and courage
These leaders lived and talked their dream on every occasion. Every occasion began with their vision. They always talked through the strategy of how to make it real.

Michael Useem showed that excellent leaders address the following:
  1. What is our objective?
  2. How are we going to get there? Strategy for reaching the objective.
  3. When working with a team, honor the people and the history of those involved.
  4. Personalize the message, show how the course of action will have a personal consequence for the team members individually.
  5. Say what needs saying in a way that they will remember it. [For example, tne CEO of a newly merged pair of companies was asked by a member of the company taken over if he would wear a dress to the meeting next year if a profit was made. He replied, "You show me 20% growth, hell yes!" Humor can help.]
  6. Communicate intent without micromanaging. Michael showed a clip from the movie Gettysburg in which Union officer Chamberlin was eloquently given an order to hold the line at Little Round Top by his superior Vincent. Because Chamberlin was not told exactly how to defend Little Round Top (was not micromanaged), he could innovate with a Union bayonette charge at the last (6th) charge of the day by the Confederates. The Union routed a Confederate force more than double the size of his company. Memorable filmclip to cement all the points made (It helped that Chamberlin with his drouping mustaches looked like 6 of the 7 hotshots sitting in the front row!)
One final point: Leaders make the greatest difference in a group's performance when the group faces an uncertain and fast changing environment. Great leaders surround themselves with an excellent team that shares the leader's vision. In business it is found that the quality of management team is a better predictor of company performance than the quality of the leader alone. What is vital is how good the team is, who is on it, do they share the leader's vision and can they communicate with those below them. This has implications for fire management as well.

Good meeting so far,
Reno Terrie
02/18 hey ab,

i have found a guy that is selling red cards on line .. i need to report him to someone. who is it that i can call? any ideas..........

02/18 To the mescalero hotshots, you've been the best help. thank you for the experience and knowledge. I hope to be back this year and start cutting some line. hope to see some of you on the line and to others- hs, sj, ht, eng, have a safe one

02/18 Fedfire,

Instead of using "our" or "proper" terminology, why not use common
terminology? Our department no longer use the 10-codes for radio traffic,
because only the dispatchers and scanner junkies could keep straight whether
"10-23" meant a unit was on-scene or en-route.

The arbiter of what is common in the electronic age is whether you can
Google it. A Google search for "tender shuttle" yields 58 webpages, but
only 11 of the top 20 were fire-related. A Google search for "tanker
shuttle" has 462 hits, with 17 of the top 20 being fire-related.

Yes, I agree that things like Nomex, positive pressure ventilation, and
compressed air foam are great changes in the fire service. But, calling a
tanker a tender is not an advancement in fire suppression technology.

Your arguments on the forest service engine are not persuasive.
Self-dispatching to a fire scene is freelancing. To then just stand around,
without reporting to the IC, until actually dispatched is plain laziness
("pay us to do this job, but don't expect us to work.")

Claiming that workers' comp would not pay is ridiculous. I guess you guys
earn the title "engine slugs" when you say an injury while putting out a
wildland fire is "not job related."

vfd cap'n
02/18 Mellie - you were likely looking at the "Fountain Fire" that burned in 1991 or 1992.

02/18 FFEric

I suppose it me not Fedfire you meant to respond too. I chose a bad handle with Fed since
there was already a Fedfire. Next time I'll do more research into my signature line. Enough
about that though.

I didn't say anything negative about the Mel crews or regional crews, just said they were
allowed to leave region. I don't know a heck of a lot about how there official charters are
written, but I'm pretty sure the name regional crew means something. There were many
examples of these crews leaving region before the IHC crews from the same forest. The IHC
crews were being released from incidents, being told there were no outstanding orders for Type
I crews and driving home to find the regional crews were traveling to Colorado and Arizona and
filling the orders. I think this all gets back to R5 hording resources in case of the big one.
If the IHC crews are being held to region to meet (hastily enacted) draw-down levels, then the
regional crews should be kept in region also. Regional crews should not leave before crews
that are supposed to be national resource. I don't have a problem with the crews, worked
with some that did a very nice job and were willing to take any assignment, then worked with
some that were, well, not so good. And yes I know that many former IHC folks are now working
on these crews. The ones I know were those that were stuck and not being pushed for promotion.
I also worry that all of these crews may be under the knife once the funding fairy runs out.
It was also kinda strange to see the brand new nice gear, buggies, etc. these crews were
running around with. They were like the instant Type I crew, just add overhead. The end.

I know the Type I thing has been discussed and beat into the ground over and over, but I'm
going to share my two cents. I'm not going to say anything about standards or the merits of
the issue, but that there is just too much of this Type I crap going on and too many divisions
of it. Type I IHC, Type I (trainee), Type I (regional), Type 1B (inmates), Type I blah blah
blah. Just need to re-evaluate this and come up with something better in R5. If you're
ordering resources and simply order a Type I crew, its anyone's guess to what you may get.
Many of these issues are being discussed as we speak at the Supt. Workshop, so maybe some
changes will be coming down the tube. Thanks for the space ab(s).

Sign me: AOLsucks (but its free)
02/18 FFEric,

From my understanding the R5 regional crews were what it says, a regional Type 1 crew. So while you were in R5, you had type 1 status. Once outside, you were considered a type 2 crew. Heard though that the regional crews were being dispatched out of region as a type 2 crew and then selling themselves off as type 1 once they arrived at the incident. Kind of circumventing the system to make it work in their favor. This in turn kind of irritates the IHC crews.

02/18 MOC4546,
There IS a requirement in the contracts for three individuals (squadies and crew boss?) on each
crew to be fluent in both languages. ( You R6 contract type folks can correct me if I am

I personally have no problem with only three overhead being fluent in both languages, as long
as these folks carry the Division Tactical radio and meet the fluency and operational
requirements of the contract. Where the problems arise is once again in poor contract
administration, and that is not the fault of the migrant worker. That problem lies squarley on
the shoulders of the land management agencies that administer the contracts.

As a division supervisor and osc, it is my responsibility to be sure all crews can communicate.
once again, I have no problem with three bilingual individuals per crew.. as long as I feel como
is working. I will assign crews according to their strengths and weakness's as always. We do
this constantly with all crews whether they be IHC's, RHC's, Type 1's, Type 1 inmates, Type 2
IA or whatever.

Please do not confuse a contract issue (three bilingual overhead required) with the common held
misconception you alluded to that anyone who does not speak English well should not have a job
in the USA. Nor should you muddy the waters by insinuating that all people who do not speak
English are an overall hazard, and work for fly by night operators.

I spent sixteen years as on the LP Hotshots, ten as a Captain, and had plenty of "white" kids
who could not put a decent paragraph together. We gave plenty of test's orally as reading and
writing skills were about the sixth grade level in quite a few great workers that passed
through our doors. (As always, counseling to improve these skills was liberal.)

You are correct in stating that the universal language world wide for aviation is English. I
know of nowhere in the laws of this great land that require everyone to be "fluent in English",
as you stated, on handcrews. If that were the case there would be plenty of pseudo English
speakers on all of our current modules without jobs! Just depended on how in depth you wanted
to make the "test".

And just which brand of "English" would you use...Canadian Ay, Aussie, East Coast, Boston,
Jersey, New York, Southern, Texan, West Coast, Inner city, surf city?????

02/17 JJ, I'm at the Division Chiefs Mtg. If you make it even for a day, look me up. Terrie.
02/17 Hi All,

Yesterday when driving east of Redding CA along Hwy 299, we drove through a HUGE area that had been on fire some years ago. Blew me away and I'm wondering what fire it was. Nearest town was Round Mountain and it extended east to near Burney. The thing must have burned really hot because it looked like it was a stand replacement fire. All the new growth of yellow pine and ponderosa are the same age, small trees that are maybe 4-5 feet tall. Every so often, at least near Round Mountain, there are standing hardwood skeletons but further west, for the most part, there is no mosaic indicative of a "good" burn. I have not driven that road for 10 years, maybe 12, so it had to have been a fire within that time period. Just amazing! Miles and miles of it!

Oh, re the forest practices thread, on the Lassen NF I also saw some logs being transported with huge piles of chips awaiting transport. Didn't see the actual site to observe whether there was slash left on the forest floor.


02/17 MOC4546,

You should be directing that question to the people who violate rules when doing the hiring for the contractors. In my opinion they and their bosses should be held accountable if anything happens to those people.

Yes, the government should be questioning these things and not allowing them to go to fires, but lets not start questioning the government for the BAD contractors' stupidity.


An-R5er, I agree that those breaking the rules when hiring should be held accountable. I also think that ultimately the government also should be held accountable if they set up a system that fails in its design to keep all safe. Policing is mandatory for safety sake. Unfortunately, I think the current push for privatization is meant to absolve the "government" (us) of responsibility that should be ours. Ab.
02/17 FFEric,

I think you have mixed me up with someone else. I am an engine slug all the way and have no real interest in the petty politics of IHC's, dirt darts, rotorheads and the new type 1 crews, I know that most of the real work gets done by the hose weenies and Type 2 crews who don't have to the time to waste polishing their halos every morning.

Seriously though I feel for the new Type 1 regional crews and the new Helishot programs, from what I've seen most of these crews are pretty good particularly when you consider how new they are, but from what I saw the first year of MEL these crews had the Hotshot organization gunning for them from day 1.

02/17 Here's a question to the Government Overhead people who are responsible for making rules regarding contract crews.

Why is there no requirement that contract crews be fluent in english so they can communicate with everyone else on the fire line? I was looking over the horror stories that were on the Net regarding a lot of the Contract outfits in Oregon and there were a lot of incidents where a lot of crews had only a few people who could speak english. That is a major safety concern if a division supervisor or adjoining crew cannot understand each other, especially in an emergency.

Going beyond the issues of discrimination, can't the government require that all the people on the contract handcrews be fluent in english, the common language spoken on the incident? Commercial pilots and control towers around the world are required to learn english so they can communicate in a common language, why can't the same standard be applied here?

I ask this question since reading several instances with Oregon and other contractors that they were hiring migrant workers to do these contract fire jobs and not paying the people properly, having them ill-equipped, substandard training, not performing assigned tasks, and overall being a hazard. It was indicated that there were overhead people who read this site, how about a direct answer?

02/17 AB,

Latest dispatch information (rumors):

Call will come out soon for 60 eight person crews to go to California and help "choke chickens." Something about CDF pulling out as fire season heats up in So Cal. I know some folks working the APHIS project now, and they say the work is OK but the management is a real CLUSTER.

Help is needed for the Shuttle Recovery, FEMA and NASA are not playing well together, NASA wants to dump FEMA's management and have the FS take over with an ICS organization. I hear my dispatch center sent 5 AD's to Texas today and will be calling for more overhead tomorrow.

Looming in the near future I am told is another agricultural disaster. I heard something about a "Mexican Fruit Fly" infestation in South Texas. Supposed to be bigger than the Newcastle virus. Anyone heard any thing, or is it just a rumor??

02/17 I am sorry but I must disagree with you Ab. You must be in a fair land forest. Where I live the slash is left in the woods. The type of logging that you are talking about we call short logging or cut to length logging. Here it is clipped and stacked. Then a harvester comes along, delimbs the trees, and then cuts them to length. They leave the slash on the ground , and drive over it to break it down. Then the forwarder takes the same tracks. Not only that P* Creek Timber Company has about 800,000 Acers of land in our area, and they in the last 2 years slashed most of it with out using any of the timber. That is the way it is here. I know I used to be a logger, and this is the way we did it.


Where I am in the Sierra the limbs are chipped and hauled off. Not many trees are cut, however. Ab.
02/17 Fedfire,

I'm interested in your opinion about the new regional type one crews in R5. Why are you upset that they can leave region?

I've been on one of those crews for the last two seasons, and we were on the Rodeo-Chediski complex from day one, which was out of region, and I believe we did a great job saving homes on that fire. Is it bad that we assist other regions? I understand that there is some people out there who don't like us because they think we take some of their overtime hours, but this past season it was very hard for any crew to not break 1000 hours of OT. It seemed to me that on most of the fires we were at they were screaming for more type 1 crews. Because we are a new crew, many IHCs don't like us, but when we show them we can work their opinions usually change. Don't forget a lot of our crew is made up of men and women that worked many seasons on other hotshot crews.

I'm not trying to start any kind of argument Fedfire, I am just interested in your opinion and the reason for it. I'm also asking the for opinions from anyone else on this matter…. Thanking you in advance.

02/17 Aussie Flame:

There may not be too many West Aussie's out here. but there are alot of us who know and/or care about your fire conditions; who have visited your beautiful land; who have appreciated your help in 2000 and 2002; and who have had a few VB's with Rick S and crew!! So we'd all like to keep the lines of communication open, especially since we're all crossing the Big Waters to help each other out on bush/wild fires! Stay in touch!!

02/16 Are there any other west aussies lurking out there? I have been thinking of starting a forum for west aussies to discuss fire matters. Is there any interest or suggestions out there? if so get in touch . AB if you could please pass on my email.

Aussie Flame
02/16 Ab

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the rider that slithered onto the
federal budget bill at the last minute. www.oregonlive.com/

If implemented, the rider allows timber
companies to cut timber on millions of acres of FS & BLM lands with no fed
oversight and no revenues going to the feds. This one is going to be a hot
issue in the near future...

So let's start the ball rolling. A lot of folks who have never worked in
the woods are pushing large-scale logging (call it thinning or whatever you
like) as some kind of magic cure for wildland fires. A very experienced
prescribed fire manager showed me some convincing data a few years ago that
indicated that thinning may actually increase the rate of spread of fires
in the short term, due to the slash on the ground. For those who are
unfamiliar with the term, slash is one byproduct that is produced when
conifers are logged. The loggers only take the trunk ($), the
needle-covered limbs are left in the woods and quickly cure into a
red-needled mass that may be several feet deep. If deep slash in partial
cuts (thinned areas) is burned without piling or other treatment, the heat
produced from the resulting fire (wild or prescribed) often kills many of
the remaining trees. Logged areas need to be burned and re-burned at
regular intervals to get the desired fireproofing effect that everyone
seems to want. The same airshed and fire management problems that restrict
prescribed burning today aren't going to just disappear overnight. Do you
think the same emphasis that is being placed on logging millions of acres
today will carry over to the enormous commitment and millions of dollars
it will take to clean up millions of acres of slash? Since the feds won't
get any of the revenues produced by the logging, will the timber companies
foot the bill for slash treatment and prescribed burning?


One minor clarification: the limbs are normally removed along with the trunk of the tree these days. They are chipped on site and trucked to generation plants along with the timber. Ab.
02/16 Dear Ab/s

Well Colorado is sending a twenty person crew to Texas to aide in shuttle recovery. we'll leave tomorrow (Mon) and are looking forward to a new experience. Talk to ya in fourteen...
Apparently two Type 1 teams are also ordered. Try to send some pics ........

Rocky Mountain
02/16 Thanks to those who responded to my firing question
I was sort of hoping for an idea of what you look for that keys you into how you are going to fire, pattern type, depth etc, but I have done enough to realize that I probably couldn't explain how I've done either, you just sort of feel your way through, typically I have limited myself to strip firing close to the line. Unfortunately when not on a wildfire my experience has been that firing goes to FUTA type crews or those with the pull to do the fun stuff (firing) and I haven't had much chance to play in such a "relaxed" environment (I've been part of the holding crew on probably 99% of the prescribed burns I've been on). On fires that are "calm" enough for me to not devote 100% to putting the fire out, I generally have wound up using the time to train others on the crew rather than experimenting with new skills of my own. Also unfortunately firing stuff when not on a fire tends to get people arrested :) Now that I am not with a pure wildland agency, it seems unlikely I'll get much chance for the time being. Although I occasionally eyeball type 2 crew positions the income issue snaps my brain back pretty harshly most of the time. Anyway thanks, I got a some new material to consider from that written.

more on contracting
As far as the contract specialists go, I agree 100% that poor screening is allowing bad contractors to enter the system. These range from unqualified crews to signing off equipment that does not meet specs. One crew I took out had a Stihl 021 with a 16" bar as their saw, the contract stated a larger saw was required (I have now forgotten the minimum size but I'm thinking it was around 028) with a 20" bar, however the crew had a contract for that saw signed off by a contracting official so the crew was legal according to the liaison I talked to. I've seen similar problems with larger equipment, water tenders with jury rigged small capacity portable pumps in place of the proper pump (cabled into place with a hose running up the outside to the top of the tank), engines arriving with bad tires leaving with brand new etc.

I am also curious to see how large scale contracting will affect accountability, if fatalities occur which can be traced to poor quality crews who will be blamed, the IC for allowing the crew to work (assuming the IC even realizes how bad the crew is, alot of people can talk themselves into places they don't belong), the contract specialist who didn't verify the crews quals, equipment etc or the crew boss with inadequate training (who may have believed the employer when told they were ready) or the contractor who skimped on the training. Personally I always hold the dead as #1 in the accountability chain (they let themselves get to the point that killed them) but there are often others in the chain that led to the dead individuals final mistake and there are always a few examples where the dead did nothing wrong because of lack of knowledge (what they knew could not have warned them of their danger).

vfd cpn
I'm guessing that you are not out west, might you be one of those areas that have wagons and pumpers, instead of generic engines? I had an instructor from MFRI and half the fun was trying to figure out what he actually meant or explaining what we were talking about when he didn't know our terminology. Entertaining in class not so much fun on the line.

A tanker has wings, rather than blowing off a large pool of resources perhaps its people who want to play not learning the proper terminology, as someone who has pulled a crew back from the line and strained my eyes scanning the sky for Tanker 28 that was coming in to my location only to see a tender with Tanker 28 painted on the side come around the corner a minute later, I know what problems terminology can cause.

We once wore canvas coats instead of PBI, Kevlar or Nomex, wore leather helmets instead of plastic (although leather is making a comeback yea!!) and performed trench cuts instead of strip ventilation, things change, those who don't keep up with the changes tend to run into problems. As far as the engine pulling up and waiting to be requested I understand that completely having been in that situation more than once, it seems silly but it goes along with the rules against freelancing, without local resources on scene that engine would have been perfectly capable of starting IA on that fire but with your presence that engine was prohibited from doing any work until requested, had one of the crew been injured without such a request they would not have been eligible for workers comp as it would not have been job related and the supervisor would have been negligent. By pulling up and telling you they were there, it allowed you to request a resource you may not have known was available, was it so terribly difficult to request them? In one case the volunteer IC tried to put the blame on the forest service because we IA'd their fire but once they were onscene we explained that for them to continue using us we had to be requested, the IC chose to send us home, the next morning the 1/4 acre fire grew to several hundred acres, required about a dozen engines, couple of hand crews and some air tankers. The IC told the press the forest service refused to come when requested, yet no request had been made. These are the problems when people won't follow the established rules. Dn't mean to preach at you but I find many volunteers like to take shots at the rules "the paid guys" have instead of just doing what we need you to do, in return I have always remembered my days as a volunteer and tried to take the unique needs of those firefighters into consideration (like remembering you actually have a real job that pays the bills, unlike those of us who get paid to do this).

02/16 I've been following the accident that happened with the GreyBack Co. Van that rolled last season on the way to the Hayman Fire. Before I go to that, AB, how about restricting that lurker who calls himself "and there i was"? Its one thing to be wrong, its another thing to place an uninformed opinion up that you have no knowledge of nor actually being there.

Shame on you! I just finished the on-line article Terrie posted and the past articles regarding the accident and the plea bargain that was offered to the 21-Year old driver. I have driven those model vans and they are unstable because when the van section was extended the rear axel was not moved back for greater stability. This was a cheap way for the Auto Companies to make a little extra while sacrificing safety.

As to the driver, I will say "I Wasn't There", but from what I have read in the media and what's been posted here on the "They Said" board I hope the driver doesn't take this "offer" of a plea with a fine and jail time. She pleaded not guilty for the serious counts (which I believe she isn't) and I have no doubt that those charges put pressure on the local district attorney that he made a mistake even bringing her up on those charges. The DA was out of line morally and politically. By reducing the charges as far as he did he knows he went too far and has to save face somehow by getting some kind of conviction.

The driver of the van, Ms. Helm, is carrying a far greater burden with her than what the Garfield Co. DA can ever do to punish her. To keep this up just adds more salt to the wound. You should be ashamed of yourself Mr. DA Jeff Cheney. Why aren't you bringing manslaughter charges against the CEO, designers of the van, and Executive Board of the Ford Motor Company for manufacturing a defective product? Ever heard of the Ford Pinto in the 1970s and what happened when the rear end was struck with the lights on and the gas tank ruptured? I guess Ford didn't learn the lesson.

To Megan, I know this has been real hard but as I understand it there have been a lot of people supporting you through this. I wish you the best in what you decide to do and hope you can go on.

And specifically to "and there i was there", Shut your Mouth!


Well MOC, there has been at least one time in the many years you have posted here that you were misinformed. We didn't ban you. HAW HAW. Of course as I remember I caught it before your post went up. The Abs think it's time for all to take a deep breath. Read the next post and what I added as comments and let's all just chill a bit. Ab.
02/16 Just wanted to say a couple things about a couple of topics that are of recent interest.
The fellow (and I was there) who wrote in about the unfortunate deaths of contract crews this year, I don't think he or she meant any harm, just asking? some questions. They didn't imply anything. And of course some of you were there, most of us have been there when something unfortunate occurred in the fire world, south canyon, 30 miles, Los Alamos, etc, but just take the lessons and don't threaten nameless people.

The contractor issue: There are a few good contract crews around, but it seems to me that the bad crews out-weigh the good. One has a long way to go to say that a contract can be Type 1 in R5, as said by an earlier post. I don't know anyone who left a reputable R5 IHC and went to a contract crew. The R5 hotshot program is all about experience and the ability to lead your people, probably things that most contractors truly lack. But then again, its not so tough to become type I in R5 these days, just ask the inmates and those so-called regional crews (who left region). If contractors replace the feds. it will be a sad day, and a day when most feds. will leave and find a new line of work.

Thats about it enough of my opinion. An old hotshot supt. (KL) once told me that "opinions are like assholes, everyones got one," I guess that would apply here. Always a pleasure reading the site and seeing experienced old school folks like "killer" posting.


Ab Note: I am sure AND THERE I WAS did not mean to imply that he/she was there at the accident in Colorado. This is an old moniker that appeared at the time of the Thirtymile tragedy and MOC, we Abs will not ban this person from dialog here. This person has been a valued contributor in the past. If you reread the post and substitute the moniker "Bob", the post carries much less weight, as you say above, fed, just another person asking some questions and offering their opinion.

As far as the "tone" of recent posts, many have been negative. We all know good and bad contractors. The good ones work hard to buck the reputation created by the bad ones. More power to them. Let me point out that we're all on edge with the current state of world Order and with the competitive Outsourcing pressures, even if we are Optimists with a capital "O". No one here means another ill. I'm sure AND THERE I WAS would have signed differently or I would have suggested it if either of us had anticipated the undeserved hurt the post would bring.

As far as the comment about there being a roof rack, if I had had any questions about the truth of that, I would have delved deeper before posting. (Ab's work never ends, even on a holiday weekend Saturday.) I'm glad folks wrote in with a correction. That's one of the strengths of this site. Dispelling rumors. However the issue of safe transport to an incident remains. There are more vehicle deaths on and to fire than from the flames. I too see many loaded and top heavy crummies. People sometimes do not wear seat belts. The rules/warnings for govt vehicles have changed as a part of lessons learned from that sad Colorado accident. For non-govt vehicles and with the never-ending commercial pressures to cut costs, van transport is indeed something to remind us about prior to the next fire season. Ab.
02/15 TO: and there i was

you just put yourself knee deep in chicken sh*t

I would like to start off by asking you where you found your info because your are wrong in every aspect. For starters, dont you dare try to single out the driver for anything. The charges have been dropped due to the fact that she is, was, and always will be forever innocent of the events that happened, and second the van that rolled did not have any racks on it. if you dont believe me, i'm pretty sure you can find a pic of it on the internet somehow. and where do you get off by saying it was probably overloaded? its quite obvious that you dont know our company policy on loading rigs. The only thing that was ever loaded on top of our rigs were handtools so dont ever assume anything.

besides that you are missing that whole point here. those extended 15 per death vans have been found to be extremely dangerous but has ford ever acknowledged this? usually when a product is faulty or deadly, it is recalled. ITs just like the deal with the chevys and their fuel tanks that blow up on impact. Ive spent the best years in my life working for this company and i was there in Colorado on that day. I would like to go on more but im so mad im tired of telling you how it is!!!!!

"spitting fire and veins popping out of my head listening to stupid people"
I've been a long time lurker this is my first post.
wish it did'nt have to be like this.


Thanks for setting us straight. Ab.

OK big mouth, here are some facts you probably didnt know. The van that rolled did not have any racks on top of it. I know this for a fact because I was there. And you have no call even talking about the driver because you dont know her. And just a little more fyi: if the charges were dropped, it is because the state of colorado had no business doing what it did. As far as im concerned and the rest of the company also is that what happened was an accident. It was nobodies fault. So before you go shooting your big mouth off again, you better know the facts, and remember that you just might run your mouth off to the wrong person!!!


Sorry for your and our losses of those great young people. Thanks for writing in. Ab.


I have friends from Eastern OR that were in despair over this accident and the deaths of their friends. I don't think the van had a rack on it. Look at the photo in this article. I also don't think the driver was at any fault. If anything the van companies should be brought to task.


Everyone, when you write in, think how members of our fire community might feel if you haven't checked your facts and you get it wrong.


Hear, Hear. Sorry I didn't catch it. Ab.

02/15 From Firescribe,

For Todd, questions and info on oversight but not the answer to your hypothetical question of accountability:
Fire crew crackdown proposed (1/29)

"And I was there",
Were you there? The van didn't have a rack on it. Check this photo:

Seems to me the accident is more a result of the those large vans being prone to rollover than any fault of the driver.
According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), rollover rates of "stretch vans manufactured by Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, and Dodge are three times the rates of regular vans when carrying 10 or more passengers."
02/15 Say someone dies on a contract crew (God forbid), and it's deemed the
crewboss lapse in judgment - who's likely to get blamed for that? The
weatherman, dispatchers, the Incident Mgmt Team? How will the bosses
of that crew be held to account? Letter of reprimand and "change your
behavior". What will be the lessons learned? How will additional training,
etc be mandated? Will the government have to face years of litigation
for hiring someone who wasn't watching out?

oooeeee, kettle of eels for sure.
02/15 meko9,

With those costs I can really see what a savings we will be getting by using crews like yours. Man it sounds like your crew is the saving grace. Yeah, I for one am glad you are in R-5 backing up LP Hotshots, Texas Canyon Hotshots, Tahoe Hotshots, Stanislaus Hotshots, Sierra Hotshots, and the list goes on.

There is a reason you're not a Type 1 Hotshot Crew, you're a contractor. List your quals and when you do so lets hear how you got them. Did you go through the right process? Do you meet the quals of a Type 1 Crew? and that's not just you, that is your 2 Foremen and 2-4 Squad Bosses also. There are standards that need to be met and committees to be reviewed by.

After seeing a video clip from a fire in R-6 (if anyone remembers, please chime in) from a guy I know who was flying Air-Attack, the bar you speak of being raised by contractors, in my opinion is only a couple of inches off the ground. I watched the IC from a Type 1 IIMT go ballistic over the poor performance of the many contract crews that were on this fire. The crews did not know any of the rules of engagement, fire behavior, line-construction specs, and basic firefighter safety, it was the most pathetic thing I have ever seen.

The only work and line that held was done by the 4 Type 1 IHC crews on the fire. Yes, you said a mouth full when you mentioned about ruffling feathers.

02/15 Re Fire Behavior:

the class is a base. just go out and play. watch the effects that you have caused. this is how you learn. there is no textbook answer. you have to see what it does. Just use caution. be heads up and have resources in place.

02/15 Hi Ab, here's an article of interest.

Bush budget too small to fight wildfires, Western senators say

Ab note: The Fire News page under wildfire links to this article, the rollover article and to one from Hawaii that mentions the California handcrews. There's an article from the Missoulan "Tanker crews air their concerns" on that page. Also under the airtankers option, articles reporting "Forest Service says plane's age, modifications could have played key role in CA. airtanker crash". If you have time and interest, there's lots to read.

02/15 Was just reading about the families of the firefighter
killed in the van rollover suing Ford. I had heard
earlier that the charges against the driver were
dropped because if she was found negligent there would
be no grounds to sue Ford. I also see them not winning
due to there being a added cargo carrier on top of
the Van that was not an option from Ford, and it was
probably overloaded. It does not take much to exceed
the max loading for them. After the accident all
Forest Service vans had them removed, but you still
see contractors' vans with cargo lashed to the roofs.

02/15 Backburnfs,
AMEN to your last sentence in your post dated 2/14!!

I would like to add, God forbid any firefighters get hurt or killed due to me not providing the
crew bosses & Capt's that work for me the proper training, skill level and leadership abilities
to make the correct judgment calls!

02/15 This week we have received a few questions on what
type of radio to buy for fire. The contract states a
Kenwood or King that is able to operate on Federal and
State frequencies. The states of OR and WA have what
are called interstitial frequencies that are so close
together they are actually overlapping, and only the
newer radios are able to operate on these.

We have been recommending the King GPH. The LPH, MPH,
EPH does not operate on these frequencies. The GPH was
introduced to be able to operate on interstitial freqs.

The problem with bringing a Kenwood to a fire is that
not many people are familiar with how to program them
and you will have to do it yourself.

The NIFC fire frequencies are not to used in radios
putting out more than 10 Watts, so a mobile is not a
good choice.

Digital radio is a totally different story, I know of
BLM folks hiding their old Kings so they don't have to
turn them in.

02/14 FF;
You're right, you probably will get hung if someone gets seriously injured or killed on your watch. That is the way it is today. And, no it ain’t right.

In the past if we did our job to the best of our ability and didn’t blatantly disregard safety or other regulations, your supervisors would, sometimes, actually fight for you. Somehow I don’t believe that that will happen now.

All the reasons you gave for a hasty conclusion to the 30 Mile investigation are probably correct. The investigators were under some extreme pressures from a lot of different sides, not the least of which were the families and friends of the deceased. I don’t know if taking more time to try to figure it all out would have had a different outcome or not. Like you say, there are other factors such as politics and management expectations to take in to account. Reality bites.

The fact that we can’t accurately predict extreme fire behavior effects, only makes me want to err more on the side of safety when I get into a situation I don’t feel good about. Is that why did the Entiat IHC disengaged when they did?

The fire behavior was not totally un-predictable, it had already run up the slope on the east side of the river and spotted up drainage following the topography. Everyone there had witnessed torching, spotting, running, and extreme resistance to control even on the smaller spots. Add in the fact that they were on a dead end road and it all adds up to a bunch of watchouts.

I still don’t agree with you about the lookout, there wasn’t one so we’ll never know. There is no need hashing that out here.

You mentioned Tom Leuschen’s work over the last year and a half. I am pretty sure that if Tom does not agree with the findings or the disciplinary actions, he will not let it lay.

I was addressing the fact that there was not much accountability in the South Canyon and that is why we are seeing the pendulum swing to the other side now.

I do know one thing however, God forbid any of my crew members get bad hurt or killed because of my poor judgment, I won’t blame the weather guy or the dispatchers.

02/14 All the firing techniques that I know are based on the principle of flaming zone depth and how much hostile fire is against your line. You use different lines and spots of fire to control the amount of heat that is impinging on your indirect line. If you have a favorable wind and slope you can set big, deep head fire. If you have favorable slope but adverse wind you light small depth fire and control how much heat you get against the line. Much depends on the wind more than slope. And it gets really sketchy if the wind is at odd angles (not 180 or 90) against your line. You use lighting techniques that will control the depth of the flaming zone accordingly. "Z" shapes, "7" shapes, "S" shapes, "V" shapes, spikes, all send a certain amount of fire toward or away from your line you want to hold. Ab if this paragraph makes no sense to you feel free to trash it.

Captain 180
02/14 Hey Ab,

I just wanted to remind everyone the Nevada Division of Forestry's Seasonal Firefighter Application process closes March 3, 2003. Take a look at the Announcement. NDF is hiring Firefighter I and II's with a high pay scale. I encourage everyone interested to submit an application. I look forward to seeing some new faces this summer.

Good Luck!

The Jobs page and Wildland Firefighter Series 0462 & Series 0455 are updated.
02/14 I need help getting some personnel trained in ICS 200 and ICS 300 classes. I heard that there was some training at the Big Tujunga Training Center on the Angeles NF. If anyone can direct me to that or help me out, I would appreciate it.

02/14 R3 Dispatcher talks about being released from a detail after filing a SAFECOM and suggests the release was retribution for the filing.

First off, R3 Dispatcher is correct -- there is not supposed to be any retribution. However, being released from an assignment is really kind of a gray area - fire assignments are not a right, like freedom from harassment at work is. Being released from a fire assignment isn't like an adverse action, and it doesn't enjoy the same protections as your employment status and conditions. R3 Dispatcher might have been released because the assignment was over, or because he/she was not doing a good job and/or was a general pain in the ass, and the SAFECOM didn't have anything (or much) to do with it.

I'd suggest that R3 Dispatcher directly ask the supervisor why he/she was released - and might learn something interesting in the process. Did R3 Dispatcher get a performance rating for this detail assignment? If not, it might not be too late to ask. If it turns out that R3 Dispatcher WAS released because of filing a SAFECOM, then the supervisor could be taken to task and perhaps given an attitude adjustment about SAFECOMs. But R3 Dispatcher should be ready to hear some things about job performance that might not be too nice ... or might even find out that it was just time to go, because the work was winding down.

02/14 TheySaid Community

Pappy sounded a bit surprised to learn TheySaid's audience includes folks
at the Washington offices and that TheySaid was an unlikely source of
information. It's been mentioned here before that our audience includes
those at all levels of many wildland fire agencies. We here at wildlandfire.com,
while trying to keep our egos in check, like to regard TheySaid as more
of an "obligatory" information source than an "unlikely" one for all
wildfire managers and administrators.

After all, where else are these same leaders able to view the thoughts and
opinions of the those affected by the policies they legislate, mandate, and
issue. It should come as no surprise to long time readers that not only do
these top level folks often read TheySaid, they also send in their own posts
which provide a much needed perspective. They are also a part of this

Original Ab.

This Ab would add that some of the issues that come up here may not have been considered by our leaders and some of the suggestions for solutions offered here provide a larger pool of options or solutions that they might consider.

02/14 Space shuttle recovery

Intelligence though EACC today (2/14)

-NICC received orders for 70 type 2 crews yesterday to support the Space shuttle recovery effort
-They expect orders for an additional 100 crews
-Several IMT's will be activated to be in place early next week
-Unclear which geographic areas will will the orders
-assignments are only open to Federal employees and AD's ("The Office of General Council for
the Federal Government in Washington, DC has determined that there is not an agreement by which
State Employees can be officially mobilized to support the Shuttle Debris search")

The Southern Area is replacing the National Guard troops who have been performing shuttle
debris searches. Crews will be gridding forested areas searching for shuttle debris. Orders are
being placed with an F code (FEMA charge code).

02/14 Fedfire,

THEORY - of how spacing of the ignition and the different patterns are SUPPOSED to affect the burn....

To answer your question, think about what you're asking first.... there is no one right answer because of all the possibilities including: fuel model, conditions, slope, wind, etc.... but here is one answer that I think most will agree with, its called "Experience". The way to get this.... figure out a position working for ops that will give you a front row seat on many fires.... emphasis many fires. Every situation is different. The class room stuff gives you the foundation to build on... but you knew that.

02/14 Backburnfs, and others:
I'm glad we're talking about this. I am all for accountability for
those who screwed up. The problem in the case of Thirtymile is that
many parts of the investigation are so poorly thought through, that it's
still not really certain who screwed up and how. No, I don't think
there's an intentional coverup, nor do I think the investigators were
incompetent. I'm certain every one of them was trying to do their best
in very difficult situation. But they were under a very tight time
frame, and trying to make sense of an event like this in too short a
time can lead to the kinds of conclusions such as I pointed out. There
may also have been some encouragement by management to make sure they
found who was at fault (I'm guessing here, now). This would have also
led to hasty conclusions. But the point I'm making, when you strip away
everything else, is the way the investigation said that all 10 orders
were violated could be applied to almost anyone on any fire. I return
to my example that, according to the language in the investigation, if I
post lookout, and that lookout's view is momentarily covered by smoke,
I've violated SFO #8. Let me give you another example: Suppose I
identify a safety zone that meets the size requirements in the "yellow
book" based on expected fire behavior in that fuel type. We all know
these size requirement acoount for radiant heat only, not convective
heat. Suppose then, a column unexpectedly collapses nearby and sends a
whole bunch of convective heat our way, and we deploy in that zone.
Suppose one crewman has a defective shelter and he dies. Am I at
fault? The interpretations of the fire orders are so fluid I could
either be exonerated or hung from the yardarm depending on - what? the
prejudices of the investigators? the political climate at the time? The
chief's inclination? Putting firefighters in this kind of bind worries
me a.lot.

There's another factor here, too. Tom Luschien, a fire behavior expert
in Winthrop, has spent the last year and a half studying the behavior of
the Thirtymile fire. He is finding that both the entrapment fire (that
cut off their escape down the road) and the fatality fire appear to have
been caused by columns leaning over in unexpected ways and at unexpected
times (I'm simplifying this for the sake of space). Neither of these
events could have been predicted with our current fire behavior
understanding. The deployment site, even the rockslide where the four
died, would have been a safety zone, given the fire behavior that they
were experiencing and was predicted. The reason the four were sitting
there was they fully expected to watch the fire burn past them.

Now there can be a lot of argument about whether Tom's findings have
merit or not, but they at least raise questions as to the accuracy of
conclusions in the report, (again, no disrespect to the investigators;
they had to do this in-what- 45 days, while it has taken Tom a year and
a half to begin figuring this out). Give these questions, it seems the
prudent thing to do would be to reopen the investigation in the interest
of tyring to understand what really happened. Yet, the Forest Service
brass flatly refuses to do so (I've got this direct from the Regional
Forester). I don't know why. But to answer your question about what I
would do, this is it. I would re-open the thing and spend the time and
resources to get the most accurate answers possible, then take the
personnel actions forward from that point as may be warranted.

P.S. The reason a land-based lookout would also have died is because
both sides of the canyon were completely crispy-fried when the thing
blew up. Any place from which a lookout could have seen the fire would
have been a deathtrap.

02/14 I wish there was more being told about the Associated Press story about the 11 USFS employees who were "diciplined" over the four young firefighters who died almost 18 months ago in Washington State on the 30-Mile Fire.

This privacy rule that our federal fire agencies and the Government can use when they take "personnel action" need to be changed when fatalities occur that show who got the blame for what and why, what punishment was handed out, and who didn't get action taken. In 1985 when the Butte Fire Shelter Deployment took place the original investigative video had the people involved discussing the whos-whats-wheres-whys and hows down to the details of the incident. If you have an original copy of the video when it came out in 1986 hold onto it. If you order either a new copy or the abridged copy every time a name or agency he/she worked for was mentioned it was edited out. This kind of action either with covering names or the minute stuff makes me worried about the truth and detain in all these incidents, and why so much 'Political Correctness' is allowed.

I want these secrets to stop. If you were there and witnessed or were part of the incident then everything should be laid out, especially the things that lead up to the very end results: disciplinary actions taken, terminations, or legal actions. We saw this with parts of Storm King (both the Government Report and the Book) where we saw how inappropriate or non-existent the actions were.

If a major crime occurs against the public or something else its all laid out in the press or in legal record for public viewing from start to finish, especially when the one found guilty is lead away to jail.

We all can learn from the incident report on how it happened, why it happened, and hopefully how to avoid something like this from happening again. Not knowing what the individuals actions were on the fire and what there 'disciplinary' action was worries me, not from a retaliatory or blame view, but more from who didn't get 'disciplined' and why. The reasons I bring this up should concern us all when the next incident happens and the upper level management needs "someone to hang out to dry". Will I get the blame if I'm doing my job, and Incident occurs, and someone needs a scapegoat to save a politically connected person? We saw what happened when Enron and WorldCom got caught "cooking the books" that cost investors billions of dollars and people's retirement funds. The people involved with it were named and their involvements publicly made known.

If we are going to have accountability, then it needs to be from the bottom all the way to the Top of the Food Chain. Right now the blame-game always seems to stay at the mid-level and lower, and reaches no higher.

Here we are today and I can't help but feel that it's still "Business as Usual". We can't keep doing this. Something has to change.


02/14 Old Fire Guy,

I should have been careful when saying my forest prefers "all"
requested resources to be self-reliant. In my post I was referring to
contract or agency resources, or at least that's what I meant to say.
My opinion is that if a contract provides payment for self subsistence
or if an agency employee has been issued a method of self payment, then
they should arrive ready to support themselves. Corporate credit cards
are easy to obtain and if paid within the allocated time there should be
no extra expense. Quite the opposite in some cases since a couple of
the engine crews referred to in my post, and others in the past, chose
to sleep in a nice, quiet, public area for free, but still received the
full perdiem rates.

Other agency engines and crews providing assistance, such as BLM,
CDF, and other FS are mostly all able to subsist on their gov't issued
credit cards. A large majority of them prefer to so they can select
their own sleeping and eating places. I'm unsure how our preference
means we are trying to transfer our costs or workload to the resources
home unit. Just because a resource would "rather" have us following
them around paying bills isn't a good enough reason to change my mind.
This is the main reason agency employees were given purchasing
authority in the first place. If a contractor is unable to meet the
requirements of their contract, they have a problem needing attention.

It is quite common for us when ordering resources to state on the
resource request that engine or crews arrive self sufficient. However,
regardless of our druthers, in the event a resource arrives and is
without means of self support we are still very happy to have them and
more than willing to provide the arrangements.

In a perfect world, there wouldn't even be the excuse of everyone
not wanting to use the PCMS program to pay their bills when they got
home. (PCMS = Federal method of paying bills, if you don't know what
it is, you are lucky!) My apologies if my prior post sounded callous
or abusive to those willing to provide a helping hand. It was not my

More than 'nuff said.
02/13 Here's the beginning of the Big Bar Complex, 1999 photo page. In addition to pics of Joe Stutler who just retired there are a few photos of Tom Hutchison whose retirement party is coming up. <chortle> how embarrassing, Flaps Down, Tom... Also one of Lanky and colleagues. Heh, Johnny, gotcha. You too, Rich.

I will work on this some more. You don't know how many photos there are. Kinda daunting. I have the photos scanned but sizing them, making thumbnails and writing description takes time... as the Abs well know.


02/13 "Backburnfs" talks about accountability for the overhead on the South Canyon fire that are still alive. How about accountability for the Grand Junction fire managers that: failed to initiate initial attack for several days as mandated in their Fire Management Action Plan, and as directed by their District Manager; didn't use existing resources such as air tankers that sat on the ground for several days; didn't request "outside help" in the midst of a critical fire season; failed to pass critical weather info (Chris Cuoco's Red Flag warning update) to ground-pounders; refused to provide a fixed-wing observer over the fire as requested by Don Mackey; and refused to provide requested air tanker support unless "structures were being threatened."

And, at season's end, these same GJD fire managers received a QSI (Quality Step Increase: the gift that keeps on giving, year after year, until retirement!!).

Accountability is a slippery slope that, once you get on it, it's tough to get off!! Let's hope that when these tragic events happen in years ahead, that the whole scope of accountability is addressed!


02/13 Did anyone attend the Sourcing meeting today at the Angeles S.O.? If so ....fill us in


02/13 a couple days back i saw a post that i consider cost ignorance. being in the private sector we have to know how much things cost us and yes we add profit margin. the post had something to do with a guy thinkin absurdly that his engine costs the tax payer 700 a day and was whiny that some contractor was getting 1500. I'm sure that the 700 was only the cost of personal being that would only be an average of 17.50 per hour for the 4 with a ten hour shift. next time buddy add in the 275k engine,400 per man ppe etc., 2400.00 in radios, 2500.00 per season in incidentals (batteries, tires, maint., etc) and you'll see that his price is not too far out of line. That is if he's taken care of his personnel.

by now i am sure you've figured out that yes i am a contractor and proud to be in R5. we are different in that we work all year. I also read a couple of posts back about the Natl Contract Crews contract on how that is supposed to make things more clear. well it didnt, i personally think that it was a step backwards from existing R5 contracts I'm told that its changing and I hope for the better, (i got a feeling someone up north helped write it) , anyone can say they are type 2 IA we can prove it, heck if there was a type 1 we could prove that too, (we meet the reqs. but that agency affiliation is a barrier) . i know that R6 has a huge problem with accountability (150 new crews in one summer is a feet the fs couldn't do nationwide, take it away from ODF!). down here we have had liaisons at all of our training sessions except a few in the last six seasons and the CORs pour over the paperwork, crews and vehicles, plus the mechanics have their say too. As things change to more contracting you fs guys need to be hammers on the bad contractors and get rid of them (if there is a will) let them plant trees or somethin other than fire. find out how the other gov agencies control there contractors. we got the best military built buy contractors, the best space agency built buy contractors (dont go there about the shuttle) and we have the best fire suppression with the help of contractors. but the fs is falling behind the others in their policing abilities. i know you guys can figure it out, we have set the bar high and if the other guys can come close your jobs will be easier. My opinion on contractors run fires is that its not a good idea without a tough watchdog.

this should ruflle some feathers

02/13 I am curious, has anyone had any "back-stabbing" or "retribution" for filling a SAFECOM.

Why am I asking? It seems to have happened to me, the first time and being a aircraft dispatcher it was not the first one I have done, but first one on this district where I am (was) on detail. I was taught no action can be taken against the inputter, but in my case, I got released.

R3 Dispatcher

02/13 FF,

What make you think that a land based lookout would have been killed
also? The only folks who died were the ones who picked the rotten
deployment zone.

After the South Canyon disaster everyone was crying for ACCOUNTABILITY,
all the overhead on that fire, that didn't die, are still in supervisory positions
in fire management.

Now there is some accountability in the 30 Mile case, people cry
headhunters and poor investigation. You can't have it both ways, people
screwed up, people died, people may loose their jobs. How would you do it?

It's not over yet I am sure there will be years of grievance procedures
and litigation before all is said and done, and by that time we will have a
new tragedy to lament over.

Anyone KNOW that there was any intentional coverup in the investigation or
that scapegoating is going on? If you do, please say so. I don't have that
information and I don't think you do either, it easy to say the
investigators are wrong, but they are the ones who have to live with it if
they are not acting with integrity.

God knows what the real truth in these matters is and someday maybe we will

As far as air attack being the lookout, I know and trust that individual
and I would have listened to him if I was in that situation. I do know
better than to rely on aerial platforms for anything and always have a
backup. Inevitably when you try to rely on air resources they run out of
fuel or get a chip light at exactly the wrong time, then you are on your

This brings up another problem for the coming season air tankers and lead
planes are going to be in short supply, so don't plan on getting your
usual amount of help from the aluminum angels.

02/13 Tahoe Terrie,

Lanky retired last year, and took a CDF Inmate Captain job at Intermountain Camp
east of Redding. I haven't heard of a retirement party for him, maybe I missed it!



I have a question about firing operations, I've done a fair amount of burning, nothing terribly complicated but I know which end of the drip torch to hold, but am by no means an expert.

My question relates more to the intricacies, techniques and theory. I have tried asking this question during S-234 and from Type 2 and hotshot crew leaders but typically get useless answers (well you see, it all depends on the phase of the moon and ... well you just have to try it and see what works), I don't mean to imply they don't know how to fire, clearly they do, but I haven't found one yet that could explain it. I understand that there are no hard and fast answers as fire is dynamic and what works right now might not work in 10 minutes, I am just asking in THEORY how spacing of the ignition and the different patterns are SUPPOSED to affect the burn, I realize that in the real world the theory may wind up having an opposite effect to the expected. To date I have not experimented much because as with most I expect, when the stress of a fire is on you you stick to what you know and don't take the time to experiment much. As I believe there is a wide audience of experience with firing in the They Said world I thought I'd try asking here in the hopes of finding a coherent explanation and I might even learn something new.


02/13 Nuff Said,

Sure can understand your frustrations with some of the units you received.
I wonder about any unit dispatched without contact numbers......both
dispatch and the engine boss seem to have dropped the ball.

On the subject of resources being "self reliant", I would encourage you to
revisit your local policy. While it is convenient to not have to deal with
housing and feeding, that responsibility does not go away with a "self
reliant" resource.....it merely shifts the burden to their home unit. So,
instead of setting up agreements with local vendors or bringing in
contractors to feed/house resources, they are left to their own. That can
be real cumbersome with seasonals or ADs who do not have the financial
resources (nor government credit cards) to foot the bill. Even for the
resources that can be self-reliant, that means a lot of paperwork for their
home unit......and why should their unit bear the burden and cost of your
emergency? Just some perspective that I hope you may again consider.
Ya'll be careful this coming season.

Old Fire Guy
02/13 Did Lanky retire? I see on the jobs page that Redding IHC is looking for a supt.

Tahoe Terrie

02/13 R5 volunteer,

Calling a tanker what it is to the rest of the fire service, doesn't give
volunteers a bad name.

Showing up to a brush fire in bunker gear does. Using private packsets to
talk on the air-to-ground frequency does. So does the recent USFA/NFPA
report that says over 40% of departments that handle wildland calls don't
offer any formal wildland training.

A lot volunteers never got red-carded because the rules used to be you had
to commit to 21 days to go out with a crew. Now it's down to 14, but most
still can't do that if they have a real job. Even the ICQS would have
company and chief officers as grunt labor (if we're allowed on-scene at
all,) because we lack the 310-1 classes and aren't signed off on taskbooks.

If so many fatality reports cite leadership and lack of crew cohesion as
causal factors, why do we remove proven line officers from volunteer crews?

NWCG rules are stacked against local fire departments, because they were
written by the agencies. That will change. The 10-year Comprehensive
Strategy implementation plan starts out with the line "Key decisions should
be made on the local level." The International Association of Fire Chiefs
has asked for a seat on the WFLC. Dale Bosworth touched on it in his report
to Congress last year. Second on his list of 3 main problems detailed in
the USFS Process Predicament was: "Ineffective public involvement—procedural
requirements that create disincentives to collaboration in national forest

Tanker vs. tender is a pretty minor issue, yet it is indicative of the
wildfire community blowing off a tremendous resource. Admittedly, the
volunteer side has shortcomings, just like the feds and contractors. Still,
calling us "vollie yahoos" isn't the answer.

proud to be,
vfd cap'n
02/13 Thoughts and info for all,

I have been reading all the information posted here lately about the outsourcing that the feds are currently pushing, and I recently had the opportunity to attend an agency meeting on the subject. They keep using terms like “Most Efficient Organization” and free market when talking about the federal fire fighting force of the future. It sounds eerily like the same arguments made in the late seventies and eighties with the deregulation of the airline industry and not too many years ago with deregulation of the power industry. On paper both sounded great! The reality is that both industries became unstable, unsafe, AND more expensive (just ask the people of California and Montana about their energy problems over the past few years.) But hey, I am an optimist and it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Awhile back, there was a discussion here about schools that offer degrees in wildland fire science. Well, it was decided this week that Humboldt State will be offering a Bachelor of Science in Forestry with a wildland fire science option, possibly as early as next year. It is a great school in a beautiful area.

I also wanted to take the time to once again thank Ab for the invaluable service that we all enjoy. Your site has truly become a critical source for information for our community. Last year I took a detail to the Washington Office, as I returned from lunch one day I noticed a group of people gathered around a computer talking about what they were reading. When I took a closer look I noticed that they were reading "THEY SAID IT" and were VERY interested in the comments that people posted. It was refreshing to know that they were getting the information from us ground pounders, especially from such an unlikely source. Thanks again AB for your dedication to this site and our profession.

Be safe,

You're welcome. Ab.

02/13 Pat Barling, who maintains the "Firebreak" website in Canberra, has put up a temporary web site with lots of pictures from the January 2003 fires in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory, the area around Canberra).


Dick Mangan
02/13 Is anybody else concerned about the gaping holes in the Thirtymile Investigation report?

There is a whole lot of circular logic and just plain poorly-thought-out conclusions in there. The bottom line of the report is that the fireline supervisors and others violated all 10 standard firefighting orders, but take a close look at how the report says they were violated. Example: The report states that fire order #8 (establish lookouts...) was violated because "No lookouts were established during the burning period beyond what could be seen from the road and air attack, who had limited visibility of the fire due to smoke".

Now let's think about this. By saying air attack was a poor choice for a lookout, they are saying, apparently, that there should have been a land-based lookout. If anybody knows how to position a lookout so as to 100% guarantee his/her view won't ever be obscured by smoke, could you please tell me? I sure as hell can't think of any way. Conclusion: It's impossible to be certain you will always be in compliance with this order, and yet, the Forest Service, apparently, expects exactly that. (And oh, by the way, had the Thirtymile team established a land-based lookout, that person would have died, too).

Take a close look at all the other orders and how the report says they were violated, and you will see circular logic and fuzzy thinking throughout. Now it's bad enough that the Forest Service is presently lopping off people's professional heads based on some questionable conclusions, but it sets up all the rest of us down the road. If you haven't read the investigation recently, read it again, and see what you think, and if you agree, let the powers that be know, and let's start a dialog on this subject.


02/13 Shuttle recovery

Dear Ab

Just a little info..... received a call from the FMO yesterday asking if I would be available for assignment to Texas for shuttle recovery. Orders are not officially in however the rumor mill states that GACC's are putting "feelers" out to see if they could fill an order for 100 crews. Sounds like gridding til ya drop.

Rocky Mountain

02/13 Heard this through the grapevine,

A request had been made by the President for up to 80 crews to be sent to Texas to look for pieces of the SpaceShuttle. No information on organization at this time other than FEMA will be running the show.

02/13 Good gawd, All we need is for fire to be overrun by vollie yahoo "cap'ns" who think that water tenders should be called "tankers". If this is what we have to look forward to, competitive outsourcing could do us all in. Interagency is important. The equipment naming rules are important as are training and other NWCG standards. Let's not have one volunteer giving the rest of us a bad name. Call tenders just that, not tankers!

R5 volunteer

02/13 Lefteye hysterically pounded the keyboard as his knees jerked uncontrollably and the words appeared on his screen. . .Interested observer said the world is going to stop, I'm broke. . .and more.

No, I did not say those things, nor did I infer them. I made several statements I consider to be true and relayed a story as I heard it. I also offered a couple of important issues to consider with any "competitive sourcing" studies. I rescan my own post and fail to read myself saying I am broke or I believe the world is going to stop. If Lefteye's bizarre comments are due to a sudden attack of Touretts Syndrome I offer my sympathy. However, if said comments are indicative of the cognitive skills possessed by Lefteye and others in his area, and if his NFMAS planner's interpretive skills are of like manner, I am able to appreciate the alleged disparity in fiscal allocations.

Then again, maybe Lefteye is underfunded just because he pissed someone off.

Still Interested

02/13 Anyone know who the person is in the Stihl add at the
top of the page?


02/12 If you haven't gotten you Stihl Heroism Nominations in, tool up. The deadline is Feb 15th.


02/12 Why don't you compile a list of private contractors across the US? Could be
another source for firefighters looking for work on engines and crews.

Food for thought.
Excellent site.

Hi Randy. How about somebody pay me to do this job I'm doing already?
On the other hand, why not encourage the private contractors you know to advertise on our classifieds or jobs pages and support our fire community's website. Those who have advertised have already found the firefighters they need. More ads coming... Ab.

02/12 NUFF Said,

Thanks for the insight.. Where were you from?.. I would like to say thank you all from california.. I spent all of August in the Small but Friendly town of Gasquet. I am goin to travel back thru there this summer. Just for a Visit.. To say hi to Nick, Sindy, Bob I could go on.. Oh yeah John and Jerry Garcia.. they all know who this is..

Till we meet again Peace..
02/12 Hey again Ab and All,

With my curiosity of Competitive Sourcing growing I decided to take a look into the OMB. While searching through some of their materials I looked into what the OMB had said about the Forest Service. Well, this is something I came across and was wondering if anyone knew what the implications of/for this could be: "To overcome inertia and an excessive decision-making structure, USDA will develop legislation in 2003 to establish "charter forests. This proposal would establish certain forests or portions of forests as separate entities, outside the Forest Service structure, that report to a local trust entity for oversight."


Go to google and search on "charter forest decision-making". More than you want to read. Ab.

02/12 The Jobs page and Wildland Firefighter Series 0462 & Series 0455 are updated. Some new jobs up on the jobs page.
02/12 Aircraft Dispatcher R3,

Yes, that tanker/tender lesson was reinforced for me last year as IC on a
stubborn peat bog fire last year. County dispatch had handled multiple
requests for "tankers" from a neighboring FD, county road dept. and local
construction companies. A type-6 forest service engine pulls up, 3 guys
jump out and just lean up against the truck.

I go over and tell them which flank I want them on, and they respond, "Oh,
no, we're not really here, we're miles away. If you want us to play, you
have to get our dispatch to send us here."

More than a little frustrated, I get on the radio asking my dispatch to
"request mutual aid from USFS." Next thing I know my dispatcher is telling
me the SEAT could launch immediately, but the heavy tanker would be 30
minutes out. Seconds later my chief is on the radio, his voice betraying
the dollar signs flashing in his head.

As a municipal firefighter jokingly told me, "They have maybe a hundred
tankers with wings, we have tens of thousands on wheels. By the numbers, we
should have first pick."

Our numbers will shape the future of wildland firefighting. I read that the
2001 fire season utilized 30,000 wildland firefighters. There are 800,000
volunteer firefighters and another quarter million paid. As more and more
homes are built in the WUI, residents demand municipal services and fire
stations sprout up right next to federal lands.

Even before competitive sourcing, wildland dispatch centers had thousands of
unfilled resource requests. Now, many more red-carded agency folks will
stay behind their desks. And, a lot of local fire chiefs now have dollar
signs flashing in their heads by contracting their rigs and people (we paid
for a new $50,000 type-6 last year and will order another next week.)

Circular A-76 will play hell on federal jobs, but for places like here in
region 2, where there isn't a strong private contractor presence, local fire
departments will pick up the slack. As agencies develop the "tenders" to
compete for their own jobs, they can mix in "existing contracts" for the
MEO. For many areas, that could mean utilizing the cooperative agreements
with VFD's, with our trucks/people getting paid more for IA and severity

vfd cap'n
02/12 Re wildland with Rural Metro:

I worked with Rural Metro's wildland crew a few times when I worked in AZ about 6 years ago. I remember one incident where they showed up, got flown in and then let they IC know that they all only had 1/2 gal. water each (in S. Arizona in the summer) and they had no food. I'm sure the cost for their crew went up quite a bit after they had to use the helicopter to bring them all of that stuff that they should have had. This type of thing was a regular occurrence when we worked with them. Their crew does not have any guaranteed hours, but when they did work I believe they made about $17 an hour, a lot more than just a crew member makes with the USFS. I'm sure these problems may have just been this particular crew, or that things have since changed, but that was my experience with them.

-former az gal
02/12 Thirtymile Administrative Review

Decision notices for disciplinary actions have been delivered to affected
employees as a result of the Thirtymile fatality administrative review.
These actions are subject to privacy act restrictions and specifics will
not be made public. Affected employees have been advised of their rights
to grieve or appeal these actions.

The Regional Forester has briefed U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Doc
Hastings, and the staff of Sen. Maria Cantwell, based on prior commitments
to keep them informed. Again, the briefings were subject to the
confidentiality restrictions of the Privacy Act.

Any news media inquiries are being referred to Regional news media officer
Rex Holloway at (503) 808-2241.


02/12 Contractors: Good and Bad

Last year I ordered a strike team of contract engines through our GACC in Northern California. The region had preordered and staged a large number of contract engines in Sacramento. These engines had allegedly been inspected and were ready for fireline assignments. Two days after ordering the five engines only three had arrived. We eventually discovered two engines had broken down enroute but were unable to contact us. In fact, all of the requested engines were unable to contact us since the sending facility failed to provide radio frequencies or telephone numbers prior to their departure. I suppose the engine captains could have asked had they thought about it. One of the three arriving engines failed our mechanics inspection due to a leaky fuel pump. They were able to get it repaired locally after another three days. It was a holiday weekend so shops were closed. Oh yeah, predicted lightning over the holiday is why we wanted them in the first place. Once the leaky fuel pump was repaired, that engine and their sister engine from the same vendor requested release because they had no money to provide for their own subsistence.

Apparently where they were from, the government provided shelter and meals, though in their contract it clearly states the receiving unit has the option to provide it for them or may choose to authorize supplemental subsistence payment. We honored their release request though I was inclined NOT to pay for their travel home. A kinder, gentler soul coaxed me in to it, not coincidently he happened to be a "liaison" or agency rep from the same region as the engines. We prefer to have our arriving resources be self reliant. This includes all requested resources, not just contractors.

The third day after ordering the original five engines I ordered another five. One of them broke down enroute and one failed our equipment inspections upon arrival and was released. Still no radio frequencies or telephone numbers were given them from Sacramento, though I clearly advised North Ops of the problem with the last order. Two of the engines, upon arrival wanted to return to their home because they had been on duty for their 14 days. They were immediately released. Another engine from the second order was released their first day because a crewmember selected the main entrance sidewalk in front of the district office to take a nap on. Another engine was released because it lacked adequate communications. No radio, wanted to know if they could borrow one of ours.

After all of the above issues, of the 10 engines I requested, four of them arrived on time, knew and met all the requirements of their contracts, were willing to stay as long as we needed them or the work/rest guidelines allowed, and were very reliable. They performed very high quality work whether initial attacking fires, mopping up, patrolling fires, or just doing project work. Their leaders were excellent, they were very safety conscious, very "low maintenance" (=self reliant), and a pleasure to work with. They also quickly gained the trust and praise of their assigned district duty officers, not an easy task. I would have them back any time and will name request them next time if possible. I hope they are reading this, so's they'll know again how much we appreciated their efforts. They'll know who they are. So will the others, who were sent pack'in.

This was not my first experience with contractors, I've worked with many, including helicopters, handcrews, engines, and water tenders. It was, however, a rather condensed experience with out of region contractors operating under an unprecedented regional concept of pre-staging large quantities of resources in a common location. The problem as I see it, is as fundamental as it is obvious. I don't blame any of the contractors whose engines never arrived or whom we sent home early. There are no BAD contractors. Or there wouldn't be if there were GOOD agency managers and GOOD contract inspectors.

Nuff Said

02/12 Private Sector Contracting:

I believe that the private sector is being unfairly amassed together under the title of "bad contractors". There is a regiment of private sector contracts with many, many years of experience in fire that strive to provide professional, safe and cost effective resources to the agencies. These are the same people that have pounded on the agencies to police its own contract requirements for the private sector. We want to see it cleaned up, but as a private sector contractor we have no policing authority within our industry. The only ones with policing authority are the people who issue the contracts, and to date we have not been very successful in getting them to monitor them.

In the state of Oregon, we were this close <____> to getting a new MOU that would have required higher standard and monitoring but just recently we were told that it will not be ready now for the 2003 year!! We worked to get a National contract so that YOU, in the agencies, would have some way to know what kind and type of crews you were getting when you ordered resources. We know that especially with the Region 6 interagency contract, where all levels of crews and engines are glumped together and dispatched based on closest resources and lowest price, you don't know what you might get - and one bad crew makes us all "bad contractors" in your eyes.

You have no idea of the work going on behind the scenes to create a better, safer, high standard for the private industry but we have no cooperation from the agencies to help us ensure that you get that. They appear to want cheap, not good!! Literally anyone can become a contractor overnight in the current system as long as they have insurance, business name and provide training documents (nobody monitors the training). Therefore our business has grown rapidly over the past two years and, due to the majority of the types of contracts and agreements out there, you get the ones that underbid the contract to make more money by being called to a fire first and staying longest. That is not what we want to provide. We want the best value market but we have to work with what the agencies offer to us, and then you get to deal with it on the ground.

Also know that the majority of contractors must survive on very little income the remainder of the year as there is no fuel treatment work making it to the ground in terms of contract work. So while we make money on fires we must be good business managers to make it through the rest of the year, as the contracts (alot of them) offer no work guarantee; it is on an "as needed" basis.


Thanks firemom. Some important points. We'd all like to know who will be monitoring the potentially increasing number of contractors and will the monitors do an outstanding job of monitoring. It's clear the job is inadequate now. Ab.

02/12 here is the Competitive Sourcing presentation--


02/12 To interested observer

You are only going to get "just 95% of requested MEL". You must work in Region 5. Try living on 65% of MEL like the rest of us. And yes, our facilities cost pools went up and the slice of pie that funds production resources is so small that we don't have any $$ to hire temps let alone fund folks that we hired in the last few years. It's amazing to me you make it sound like your broke, and the world is going to come to a stop because you didn't get 100% of MEL. WOW!


I didn't hear what you did. I heard observer raising the issues of budgeting for facilities and cost pools. I know these are issues in other regions as well. Ab.

02/12 GA

Exactly.... Rural Metro charges per firefighter. Therefore, if these
costs were to all be added together, and then throw in profit, they couldnt
be cheaper than municipal or USFS costs. I know much about their wildland
division, and I am sure the guys/gals do a great job. As I have stated, the
firefighters are always just the same as anywhere, its the company and the
philosophy I dont agree with.

Also, you mention a article in the Tribune. Well, didnt you know the
Tribue is in bed with R/M and the city of Scottsdale. You MUST have???
Thats been well known, and well documented. I havent guaranteed a victory in
Scottsdale going to public fire, just stating that from my perspective, I
hope and think it will happen. I stopped my Tribune subscription a long time
ago after reading so many over-written articles in support of R/M ( the
company, not the fire fighters).

Be safe

02/12 NorCal Tom,

For clarification, the "militia" positions (like Ruby's for example) that do have governmental signatory capabilities will not be reviewed. These are the truly "essentially governmental" positions the OMB is talking about.


02/12 Budgets, outsourcing, MEL, etc.
  • While the allocation committee in my region is currently slicing the MEL pie, the preliminary budget for my forest indicates we will receive just 95% of requested MEL funding. This results in our NOT staffing the equivalent of one 20 person handcrew and one engine. Some of the overhead for the two now unfunded modules have already been hired. They will be reassigned to other modules with vacancies. Just temporarily, of course.
  • Facilities financing for all the new resources was promised two years ago, then canceled. Some crews are being housed in temporary facilities whose contracts will expire next year. The temporary housing has been funded from savings from vacant permanent positions. As vacancies dwindle, those funds are unavailable. It is unknown how the needs for permanent facilities will be met as there are plans or contingencies are vague. I'm reminded of a story a past foreman relayed to me about how his engine and crew would leave a permanent station each morning and drive 40 miles away to be at their "assigned" duty station. They pulled their engine near a big oak tree in a small field, under which sat an old metal desk. Upon arrival, they would open a desk drawer, pull out a telephone and plug in the wire dangling from a tree branch, then set it on the desktop. They were then ready to respond. I think it was the Los Padres NF, but can't be sure. Any older firedogs remember a scenario like that?
  • With the above paragraph in mind, I have yet to see anyone mention the costs of facilities in their outsourcing debates. Another yet to be mentioned consideration here are the grossly swollen "cost pools" which allegedly are raked off to provide the necessary infrastructure for the fire organization. Infrastructure support such as information systems, human resources, etc. If these departments are outsourced first will the cost pools then shrink down to "competitive" levels? Somehow I think NOT, rather the rakeoffs will merely be reassigned to an outsourced service provider. I notice the quote "cost to the government" per employee bandied about here on TheySaid, but there are many more significant costs in the background in addition to hourly wages and benefits.
An interested observer.
02/12 VDF,

Water tenders are listed at "Tender", "Water tenders" or WT for the last 17 year I have in Fed fire. "Tankers" will and ALWAYS be in my mind and most other aircraft folks will be AIRTANKERS. Some fire department say "Tender" for Type 2 or 1 engines. Even SEAT stands for Single Engine Air Tankers. Sorry Water Tenders will remain "Tenders" to me.

Aircraft Dispatcher R3
02/12 More thoughts on the Competitive Outsourcing debate, not really a debate since the other side, has not yet decided to provide their input to “They Said”.

Just what is the real issue here, as a tax-payer and a public servant, I want to have the most cost effective, safest and most professional wildland fire management force obtainable. If contractors, the military or the alphabet soup of the existing federal agencies can provide the best service to the people of the U.S. is not really known by anyone at this point. And does it really matter who actually does the work if the product is the best we can get.

The Competitive Outsourcing, or what ever you want to call it, scares the hell out of people for a number of reasons. The main reason being people are afraid of change. The second reason is people want to keep their cool jobs, just like I do. The third reason is we are stuck in a huge rut of traditional ways of providing wildland fire management services. The rut includes the thinking that the federal government (agencies) knows the best way of providing those services. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t. Are we afraid to find out that we don’t? Or, are we just afraid to ask the question?

People blame the current administration for wanting to do away with or “gut” the federal agencies because, you pick the reason, (1) they don’t like us (2) they think we are a waste of time and money, or, (3) they really believe that private industry can do most things better than federal agencies. I think there is some truth in all three reasons.

Think about it, did the government invent the airplane, the automobile, the computer, the $3.00 cup of coffee, a better fire shelter, or any other monumental invention in the last couple of hundred years? I don’t know of any, do you?

I am not saying that I am not apprehensive about this whole outsourcing deal, because I am. I love my job and I think I do it about as good as anyone. But I also am not going to say I have a corner on the idea market, or that the way we do things now is the way we should keep doing them, just because its the way we do it.

This could be a really big and really painful change. But on the other hand it could be a change that could make things work better. Maybe contracting all the services we provide isn’t the best idea. Maybe this is a stepping stone to a better fire service, even a national fire service, I don’t know but it is going to be a wild ride so hang on and don’t give in to the negativism.

Hanging On
02/11 Mollysboy:
Until the NWCG pubs folks of the NWCG Training Working Team get off their butts and finish the revision of S205 that was supposed to be done last year, it's "Do It Your-self" Powerpoint. I suggest taking the info from the old overhead slides and putting those to Powerpoint.

I'm not sure which class you've been teaching. But the latest version of the Field Managers Course Guide (VERY LARGE 800+K pdf file), dated October 2002 shows S205 (S215) as a 24-32 hour class. If you're teaching it in just 2 days (16 hours) then you're shorting your people.


02/11 AZfirefighter

In regards to Rural/Metro I know that they charge a fee per FF and the customer decides and pays for the level of manpower for the fire truck that they want. I know that is the case in Snottsdale from public records and talking with people involved.

In the county areas is where they have been known to cut. But for the last five or six years they have been staffing 3 guys w/ 1 ALS provider and dispatch an ALS Ambo for transport…This has been the case in Maricopa county.. FYI And they have a very busy wildland fire division also. Don’t know their track record as a contractor. If anybody has any info on Rural/Metro in the wildfire setting let us know.


BTW AZfirefighter- Don’t be surprised if L3878 loses the initiative, disturbing news in the Scottsdale Tribune over the weekend. I truly hope they win but it doesn’t look like a landslide.
02/11 Reply to outsourcing/competitive sourcing comments:

There are a handful of military bases with contracted fire protection, these are the exception and they occurred prior to the moratorium on contracting DoD fire services. Currently DoD fire is exempted from outsourcing. The Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA has been the test case since the mid 1990's and it was recently determined that it is in the Governments best interest to keep an in house fire department, after several extensions the demo project were allowed to expire. The City of Monterey and CDF both offered bids at one point or another and both were more costly to provide the required services and both were trying to cut corners by providing services without adding personnel. As the Federal Government mandates that its agencies follow accepted standards (NFPA in this case) you can see it would be hard to provide services for less cost while still maintaining a profit margin. If you compare DoD to a contractor like Rural Metro it becomes obvious. DoD must staff a Type 1 engine with 4 bodies, typically Rural Metro staffs 2 (unless they have increased in the past 3 years). Personnel are the most costly aspect of a fire agency, a type 1 engine runs about $250,000 for a Fed special, a model 62 was $160,000 in 2001. You consider these run a minimum of 10 years and more typically 15, the yearly cost is a little of 10,000 for the type 3 and $15,000 for a type 1. In that same period you need roughly $600,000 per year for the crew, these costs do not include maintenance, training etc, just purchase price and salaries. So the only way a contractor can save money is by reducing personnel costs. I see some reference to the lack of need for personnel in the winter months. When I worked for the USFS I hated the winters, not because I had no work but because I was usually running ragged, going to training, responding to smoke reports and fires even in December and January, working on fuels projects and trying to keep the stations and equipment up and running. I easily could have kept all my seasonals working except for the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the government all but shuts down, when you consider most would have probably requested leave, it would not have been an issue.

I have nothing against the good contractors and agree they do provide a useful service, however cost savings is not one of them, I have yet to see an argument that can convince me that it is possible for a for profit company to offer the same level of service without cutting costs somewhere and adding the cost of a profit margin. Certainly a contractor could step in and offer identical services by following the governments model but then what is the advantage to the government and where do they fit the profit margin?

There are some contract companies that do provide a legitimate service to the government. Typically these use experienced retired firefighters who do not need full time work and supplement these people with inexpensive inexperienced firefighters who are provided with a good learning experience (which is really part of their compensation). These companies also are great for pre arranged projects as they can schedule their people in advance. IA on the other hand means they would have to pay to have people in place and ready to go at all times, just like the government. You can not run IA during high response levels by calling people in when a fire starts.

Unfortunately the current (and to some extent the last) administration do not seem to understand the government is not a business, it is there to provide needed services to its citizens, and should not be expected to make a profit. In fact even when some government employees do manage to keep costs down they are not rewarded, an example is the Vallejo Naval repair facility in California. This facility actually made a profit by working on non navy ships when they were not filled to capacity with navy work. When the base closures came around they were the only naval facility which made a profit but they were still one of the first to go.

Unfortunately the federal employees are stuck between a rock and a hard place, they are apparently supposed to follow business models to meet the most efficient levels, yet they are constrained by out of date personnel systems and are discouraged from finding alternate methods of funding (many federal grants specifically leave out feds) and it is difficult for feds to contract services to the outside because we are not supposed to compete with private businesses. Yet we must put our jobs out for competition with these same businesses who do not have to follow all the rules we do. The Federal "brain drain" has been a topic of discussion for at least 10 years yet really little progress has been made. I was hoping that after 9/11 showed the deficiencies in the CIA and FBI that it would wake up the politicians to what is happening in their agencies but the resulting actions have tended to show they do not understand that the feds are not really competitive with other sectors when it comes to rewards (salaries, benefits, working conditions etc). Instead of increasing benefits, allowing more flexibility in hiring and personnel management, we get snubs for raises, criticism and threats of losing our jobs so you good contractors out there who feel you are being attacked its not specifically you but you are being used against us which results in, fear, anger and resentment. Try turning the picture around and imagine that Bush wanted to end all public private relationships and start using the military instead of contractors when fires get out of hand. Oh and remember you are prevented by law to get too loud when trying to protect your jobs (read up on the Hatch act if you don't understand this last part).


02/11 Mollysboy:

I do have S205 on Powerpoint. Have taught the 2 day class before and it went well. If you are training new firefighters you might want to do a 3 day. The size is 215,000KB (Large)


02/11 Fedfire,

Thanks for the pros and cons on having a federal fire service. Maybe it could all be couched under the umbrella of "Homeland Security". That way the more commercial contractor functions could be contracted out as many are now (some handcrews, engine crews, food services, etc) and the essentially governmental fire functions could remain inhouse. Hope that's one of the "options" that we hear the Chief has on his desk.

What the Teams do is Homeland Security whether on the interface or in NYC / at the Pentagon. FEMA doesn't even know how to fill the Incident Management Team function. But, if we loose our computer and fleet people, we will not be so functional as a team. Teams have members that make decisions and sign contracts about resources, money and property. Those job areas may be reviewed at some time. If those "militia" have to cost out and justify their jobs, will they get to have the work they do on Fire count in their job descriptions? If not, we could loose them too.

Trying to make the agencies fit into a "business model" just doesn't mesh with the fire team structure and fire as it is now. If our function was separate from the rest of the FS, it would be easier to define what we do and to show we do it better than anyone else out there. Even so, we need new people coming up and getting experience. For that we need to not contract out all the fire ground jobs.


02/11 Subject: Arizona Wildland Fire Management

*** for any Arizona Fire fighters who havent written to show support!!!!!!***

With respect to our Fire Management Programs, the State Land Department supports the budget and allocations proposed by Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. The Governor recognizes that the severe drought conditions a d the growing urban interface into the forest could result in another significant fire season, requiring the State to expend equally significant resources. The Governor's budget maintains current funding levels that, given the present fiscal situation, is in the best interest of the State to address the upcoming fire season.

However, the budget proposed by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee ("JLBC") would reduce the available funds for fire suppression activities by 1/3, or $1,000,000. Given the likely severity of this coming fire season, the loss of this money from the budget will impact Land Department greatly.

In addition, as a direct consequence of the JLBC budget proposal, the Land Department would have to eliminate 10% of the existing fire management positions. Because we must maintain our priority fire suppression staff, we would no longer be able to administer the General Services Administration Program. This is the program that allows rural fire departments to purchase fire equipment and supplies from the Federal Government through the Land Department at significantly reduced costs.

Further, because of the proposed JLBC budget cuts, it would be impossible to continue the Federal Excess Property Program at our current level. Our ability to refurbish excess federal trucks into fully functioning fire vehicles and distribute them to rural wild land fire departments will be greatly reduced.

These proposed JLBC cuts, in addition to the loss of the federal fire fighting assets (air tankers, lead planes, helicopters, and crews) this year, will severely impact the resources the State has available to support all federal, state and local agencies that fight wildland fires.

Please be sure that the State will not abandon any fire suppression obligations and will continue to perform its statutory responsibility to suppress fires on state and private land. However, if funding is not continued at the current levels, as recommended in the Governor's Budget proposal, it will be further burden the State Land Department in the administration of its fire management programs.


Robert Burns Marhsha Arzberger
District 9 (Republican) District 25 (Democrat)
Senate Senate
1700 West Washington, Room 110 1700 West Washington, Room 313
Phoenix, AZ 85007 Phoenix, AZ 85007
602-542-5993 602-542-4321
602-417-3225 fax 602-417-3246 (fax)
rburns@azleg.state.az.us marzberg@azleg.state.az.us

James R. Carruthers Meg Burton Cahill
District 24 (Republican) District 17 (Democrat)
House of Representatives House of Representatives
1700 West Washington, Room 302 1700 West Washington, Room 333
Phoenix, AZ 85007 Phoenix, AZ 85007
602-542-5273 602-542-5896
602-417-3124 fax 602-417-3017 fax
jcarruth@azleg.state.az.us mbcahill@azleg.state.az.us

Andy Biggs Jack W. Harper
District 22 (Republican) District 4 (Republican)
House of Representatives Senate
1700 West Washington, Room 307 1700 West Washington, Room 304
Phoenix, AZ 85007 Phoenix, AZ 85007
602-542-4371 602-542-4178
602-417-3022 fax 602-417-3154 fax
abiggs@azleg.state.az.us jharper@azleg.state.az.us

John Huppenthal John A. Loredo
District 20 (Republican) District 13 (Democrat)
House of Representatives House of Representatives
1700 West Washington, Room 306 1700 West Washington, Room 320
Phoenix, AZ 85007 Phoenix, AZ 85007
602-542-5898 602-542-5830
602-417-3020 fax 602-417-3113 fax
jhuppent@azleg.state.az.us jloredo@azleg.state.az.us

Dean Martin Russell K. Pearce
District 6 (Republican) District 18 (Republican)
Senate House of Representatives
1700 West Washington, Room 308 1700 West Washington, Room 114
Phoenix, AZ 85007 Phoenix, AZ 85007
602-542-5284 602-542-5760
602-417-3163 fax 602-417-3118 fax
dmartin@azleg.state.az.us rpearce@azleg.state.az.us
02/11 As a volunteer firefighter, I don't want to get in the middle of the
contracting dispute. But, with all the agency personnel developing their
"tender" proposals to save their jobs under competitive sourcing and with
most of the air fleet grounded or off to war in Iraq, everyone in the
wildland community could come together in a show of unity and agree on one
thing.....for the 2003 wildfire season let's call all of our water hauling
trucks what they really are: tankers.

vfd cap'n
02/11 Looking for existing PowerPoint packages for S-205 "Interface Operations" and RX-310 "Fire Effects" (the old RX-340). Anyone know of any out there.......?

02/11 Re Raven and Outsourcing:

Seems to me all your gripes prove its just best to leave it all to a federal fire service. Its the same problem Rural Metro has. No fires = No money.

Fire fighters and fire equipment are an INSURANCE policy. You pay for it, and have it there when its needed. I see how hard it is to find someone to work when there is fire, but to send them packing when there isnt any. All these factors are why it doesnt make sense to have contract fire fighting for more than filling in the gaps when there are no more government resources. I may be shaking the bees nest, but coming from both a municipal and state fire dept., and having worked next to Rural Metro, I see how the two different versions of fire fighting either work or dont. For years, Rural had 1 or 2 guys on a truck. They can meet these requirements in Scottsdale, AZ because the city flips the bill. However, elsewhere, that isnt the case. They cut back on manpower, and response times. There HAVE to be cuts somewhere in a contract fire setting, because a PROFIT has to be made, or the company doesnt survive.

This in turn goes back to my original statement, the fire service is an INSURANCE policy! These are MY beliefs. I respect ALL firefighters, however, I dont believe in the contract "philosphy".

Be safe!

02/11 Lars Stratte and Larry Groff pilots of AT 92 and 87 died in a midair collision fighting a wildland fire near Ukiah more than a year ago. Two men were charged with the pilots' murder, arson and methemphetamine manufacturing in that the fire they allegedly began ultimately resulted in the deaths of Lars and Larry. The trial is ongoing. Here's an update.

Judge blocks pilot error defense in firefighter deaths; Ruling narrows scope of trial of alleged meth makers in 2001 air tanker crash


02/10 BBTBDC,

I am with you on that, only one catch to bringing back the BD Crews -we
gotta bring back the LOGGERS!

I worked on on BD crews on the Six Rivers and the Rogue River National
Forests in the 70's and 80's. What a great job for a young fire pup. If
we were not building line around clearcuts or snagging the units, we were
burning or fighting fire. Never had any trouble keeping up with the IHC's
and our sawyers were better. But back then nobody had to write an E.A. to
find some snags to cut for saw certifications. Oh wait, there were no saw

I guess the district Type 1 crews are the closest you're going to get these
days. If they can stay funded that is.

Thanks for jogging the memories.


02/10 Ab and all,
I know my place in this one is small so I will be short.

I just couldn't help but draw some similarities to outsourcing of firefighters to the rise of private security and private police. Which has recently come under attack in courts and "society." Time has proved that it's officers are not on par with federal/state/local officers. Their abuses of power and list of notorious guards is daunting, Timothy McVeigh applied to be a security guard and James Huberty was one. The motivation for private police and security firms is money the same for fire contractors...more fires more money. We already see a trend like this developing in our fire contractors... Correct me if I am wrong, but the handcrew that was burnover on the Toolbox fire, was contract, of which half the crew did not speak English and/or had no firefighting experience at all. The past has shown that private law enforcement in plagued with problems, early indicators show that fire contractors have similar problems...

Sorry guys, I am kinda dismayed, I had dreams of working for the FS, looks like they may not come true.

Hang in there. Ab.

02/10 Outsourcing:

I to am tired of the private contractors being trashed, I've been lurking awhile and I'm tee'd off!! Many of us are
working hard to provide a high quality product for a FAIR price. As a provider of contract engines and tactical
water tenders since 1986, my operation has seen all the junk and glitter in the spectrum of equipment available
out there.

There is a faction of us that hammer our fellow contractors on coming up to snuff on a regular basis. Yes, many
operations run lean on the equipment, safety and treatment of their employees…it all catches up with them!
Some run in the middle of the road trying to improve when they can. My company recruits many good quality
individuals that have worked with the above operations, we also recruit many government trained individuals
that we feel fortunate having on our team, my husband and I are ex-government employees. Something that
must be remembered is contractors do not have any guarantees, period…try planning for a long range budget
with that in mind.

Since the stock market fiascos and 9/11, contractors have been getting reamed (literally) by the insurance
market for liability, equipment and workers comp. insurance. We personally experienced a 150% mark up with our
liability and equipment insurance (many insurance companies went belly up, the competitive market is gone) and
a 38% mark up in our workers comp in the last year and 1/2, with ZERO claims in our company history! After
sucking up that hit (which ate up our plan for implementing a health plan for my guys) and upgrading all our
equipment (which we cycle our engines every four years…they take a beating out there), implementing a profit
sharing and production bonus plan, upgrade training for everyone, funding payroll (which is far better than gov.
rate) in house for two months (before getting paid for work done), take care of the year round bills for our
stations and then put put away enough money to operate for another year and a half…just in case of a slow
season. Try recruiting personnel with no guarantee of work, hoping that they have a flexible job that will allow
them to leave when we finally get going, or do not care about loosing, tack on long periods away from family
and friends (we all know about this). Try writing prescribed burn plans like a fiend to hustle work for 3-5 years,
wait for the bureaucratic paperwork to roll slowly thru its cycle, wait for the tiny burn window to open, plow
thru all the verbiage revisions in the plan then wait some more. Try telling your employees we have to wait
until…all the while not getting paid for any of this. So if the rate we charge seems high, walk twenty miles in my
shoes! This is just a small example of what it is like in the contracting world. Granted, this is the world we chose
to work in, but we love fighting fire, we love working with you…our fellow fire junkies!

Contractors are not asking for the whole enchilada, boys and girls, just a tasty bite. There is no possible way
that the private sector can provide it ALL. With many government employees being turned loose to fend for
themselves with government downsizing, there are many of us GOOD contractors that would love to have them
on their crews/engines…with the respect you have all earned…I expect the same from all of you out there! Be
picky about whom you work with/for, keep your eyes open. The National Contract Crews and National Contract
Engines are a sample of how good we can be, we've passed muster, you have worked with us and we pull our
weight. The government not having to fund for year-round positions will save substantial amounts of money.
Cross training personnel to do a variety of positions is smart…the private sector has been doing it for years. Tap
into the experience of the many fire managers that are moving into the private sector instead of crying about
the newbie managers that don't have the experience, we'll be out there to lend a hand willingly! We are there to
work with you and enhance your resources!

Take a big deep breath folks, contractors will always be here. We can mutually benefit from an economic
adjustment, still get the job done and stimulate the economy…which is the bottom line.


02/10 I would like to find some sites that would have clothing that some of my
firefighters could wear off the line and be proud of what they do!

02/10 Wanting to know

Margaret Pasholk is doing the briefings in the Northern Province. She's listed as the Regional Competitive Sourcing Team Leader. She or her office should have that information. We got the notice in e mail.


02/10 Does anyone know where and when the briefings will be in So/Central Ca?

"Wanting to know more"
02/10 Moc,

700 a day for an engine with four personnel?
that is only 175 a day and could not even cover their wages.
where's the crew transports (closer to 110K for a new one nowadays), fuel, mechanic, retirement, health care,
travel, hand tools, radios, diesel, sick leave, vacation and PPE fall into this 700 a day? Just to let you know many private firefighters make more than their federal counterparts.

thanks Ab, I know of nowhere else we can exchange dialogue like this.


02/10 Here's a schedule of the USDA Competitive Sourcing Briefings in NorCal:

today, Mon:
Six Rivers 1-3 PM, Humboldt Co. Ag Bldg, 5630 S. Broadway, Eureka CA

tomorrow, Tues:
Klamath 9-11 AM, Miners Inn Convention Center, 122 East Miner, Yreka
Shasta Trinity 1:30-3:30 PM, Red Lion Hotel, 1830 Hilltop Dr, Redding CA

the next day, Wed:
Mendocino 9-11 AM, SO Conference Rm, 825 North Humboldt, Willows CA

More on Competitive Sourcing:
Have people seen this, the key points of the NLT meeting? Contrast that with Childs comments.


02/10 Contracting Out: Here's my 2 cents worth, and I'll keep it short.

That was a great reply to the previous lurker regarding contracting out of wildland fire. I am a federal structural firefighter but started as a temporary wildland firefighter. I too saw some very good contractors who were to par with government crews, and saw the poor contractors that make everyone look bad.

Here is the heartburn I have with contracting for anything in the federal or state government regarding fire or anything else: Adequate Distribution of Wealth and Accountability. The Federal Government is notorious for being "Penny Wise but Pound Foolish" by creating programs that save $10.00 but cost $30.00 to maintain. Contracting does not save money in the long or short scheme of things but instead redistributes the wealth to fewer people creating more of an underclass of workers.

The Government spends $700.00 per day on an engine crew of 4 permanent employees (for argument's sake). That includes not only the wages for the four people but the benefits, retirements, and insurances for the personnel, plus the upkeep on the apparatus. A Contractor will bid the same capability engine with four people and charge $1500.00 per day but will only provide the crew with a base wage that is lower than the permanent government firefighter and only provide what the law requires for insurance. Say the apparatus cost the same to maintain as the government engine and that gives the Contractor a profit of about $600.00. That money goes into the contractor's pocket and the people doing the work get the short end. Not all contractors are like this, but a majority are running a business, and businesses have to make a profit.

We have to keep government firefighters to maintain both quality standard for the industry and keep wages at a level that allows for a person to make a living. More money into fewer hands creates problems for all of us. Look at the Central and South American countries where you have only two classes: The very rich and the very poor.

Secondly, the government cannot expect to just turn over control of Wildland Fire Management to a contractor with no solid oversight. It doesn't work. Here's a solid example: a private fire service contractor goes to the Department of Defense and bids a contract for fire protection at an Army Munitions Base. The government gives the contractor a 3-year contract for $17 million dollars (more than what it actually costs the government to provide) using government fire equipment, of which the government has to pay for. The contractor instead of providing equitable wages like those held by the federal firefighters instead hire contract firefighters with minimum training requirements and just above minimum wage with NO BENEFITS other than Workman's Comp. Two years into the program the contractor says he ran out of money and needs more to stay profitable, of which the Government gives him $3 Million more. The contractor is not fulfilling the contract but reaping a huge profit. The government sees the contractor's not filling the bill so they wait to the end of the contract and bring back federal firefighters. Out of all of this, only the contractor made the money, not his employees, and the government was ripped off. It would have been cheaper by almost 50% to have maintained a government fire program.

You want to see what could happen for wide-scale contracting? Look at a fictional series of movies called "RoboCop". Looking beyond the Sci-Fi of the robotic cyborg cop, the premise of the movies was that corporations became the providers of police and fire protection, EMS, prisons, and the military. They became more powerful than governments and with no oversight cut corners, disobeyed the laws that slowed "progress", were corrupt, and did everything to "maximize the bottom line" for the shareholders and company executives. You get in the way of a company's progress and you are eliminated. Although this was for entertainment, the background had a lot to do with contracting government services.

But Fire Services with the federal government, both wildland and structural, are looked upon poorly because they are always in the red budgetarily. They are the drawdown of a forest's or military base's budget because they do not produce a physical product or labor service. They are in fact an insurance policy in case of a fire be it in a 500 year-old stand of marketable timber or a warehouse containing $50 Million of military hardware. You have them incase you need them, and you cannot take them away to save money. If a base commander cuts his fire department staff below where it should be, and a fire occurs causing damage or loss of life, that commander will be held personally responsible and will face court martial and prison if found negligent. For some reason some forest managers and supervisors are not head to the same standard as the military. I wonder why?

Finally, to leave a contractor in charge of a government program like wildland fire management with no direct and strong controls in place is like leaving the Wolves in charge for the Henhouse. Why haven't some of these government co-ordinators of fire contracts been held accountable for how these bad private outfits are perform.


02/10 fedfire. there are many military bases that use contracted fire services. Johnson Controls is a major supplier of fire apparatus, and personnel on many military bases.

I understand your frustrations. People come in all sorts. Was wondering where you got your statistics on Arson fires? Terry Barton was USFS, The southern California arson Investigator - arsonist was a county firefighter, the Rodeo-Chedeski fire was started by a BIA employee. Any person that is caught starting a fire should be shot on site.

4000 a day for an agency hand crew is only 200 a day per person. What about the 65,000.00$ crew buggies, travel, training, overhead, uniforms, benefits, retirement, health plan, insurance, vacation, sick time, buggies maintenance, hand tools, King radios, diesel, chainsaws, etc. Where does all of this fit into your calculation? You want to see some really insane numbers, look at what Municipal fire departments charge to fight fires. Some engines are earning 200+ an hour for a brush truck! w/ portal pay at that! They see it as gravy, and an easy way to make some dough.

A contract crew rate seems steep - I agree. But that is because the employer has to provide every item needed. NO FIRE - NO Pay is correct, but when a contractor is not fighting fire they are still maintaining their equipment, training, and preparing for the next fire. Just as you and your crews are. Difference is you are guaranteed a paycheck, and all of the associated benefits with it.

Blaming your personnel's experience level dropping because of contractors is flawed. This was predicted decades ago when managers realized baby boomers were going to retire around the turn of the century. You want to know where your experience is going? It is taking their retirement checks, and going home. The current generation is not as big as the one that is leaving command and operations positions. Like someone suggested on They Said years ago, a mentoring program would solve a lot. Suck the knowledge out of the people that have done this for decades is a great idea.

Catastrophic fires were predicted also. 50 years ago a report was written about fuels loading and that it was going to lead to larger and hotter fires. Want to know who to blame? It is Smoky the bear, and the 60 year ad campaign that put the idea into homeowners, that fire in the forest is bad. Everyone that reads here knows fire was here millions of years before us, and will be here millions of years from now. Its just in the last 100 that we have been able to do something about it at a national level. Fighting fires is not an option now. It has to be done. Fuel loading rarely permits a fire to crawl through the forest floor like it used too. Now it races downhill, jumps interstates, and major rivers, and incinerates homes with a 200 foot flame front. How do you fight that?

From a meeting I just attended in Eastern WA last night

"6.6 Billion" has been spent on fires in three years since the national fire plan was introduced. 2/3 of it was intended for fuels reduction. that's 4.4 billion"

Now I ask all of the managers out there. Where are the massive fuels reduction plans and projects? There are a few large projects out there. 35-40k acres here and there. That will never equal the tens of millions of acres need to be treated. It will still grow faster than it can be treated. Also where are the 1000s of FF that were supposed to be hired?

You wont find them, With a shrinking pool of employees that want to do this its hard to recruit people for a seasonal job. If you offer more money where's the savings? If you employ them year round when they are only needed 1/2 the time where's the savings?

Fast Tracking personnel happens in all agencies. We have all worked for the bean counter that uses a college degree to be a strike team leader after 1-2 seasons. Red cards issued by contractors is true. County departments do the same thing, I am sure there is someone in your building that issues them. Someone has to issue them. Some people slip by, and some or overlooked. It happens everywhere. Is it safe? No - definitely not. That is one reason ODF would like to see contractor associations like the NWSA and the WCFA issue cards to their personnel. Then submit databases on IQS. These groups do that already.

Many companies out there run top notch outfits that provide a value to the Government. Much of our gear is newer and above what the feds use. The personnel have more training than a lot of federal crews. Sad fact is that there are some companies out there that make us look bad. They skirt the edges, and do the bare minimum to make a buck. What about the agency crews that are a little looser than the others? aren't they doing the same thing. I have talked to many team members on T1 IMT's that fear their own BIA crews. I have seen agency crews demobed for illicit drug use. Now what's that say about the agencies?

BBTBDC I respect your opinion and value your input, and intended no disrespect. I am not the greatest writer, and hope I did not come across as attacking you/

sign me
TOATCSAC Tired of all the cheap shots at contractors.

02/10 Hey Ab, The Six Rivers sent a Handcrew to the Big island of Hawaii today for a fire assignment.
Some of us didn't get to go, but it's nice for them! They will be flying to S.F., then straight
to Hawaii and to the fire. They left around 0830 this morning.


Did`ja tell them to watch out for the VOG? Ab.

02/10 Hey Ab

I have to agree with what has been said about contract crews, it's
very depressing. I wonder if congress does decide to cut us all, have
they considered the amount of unemployed people there will be? Not
alone think of the cost of retraining us all to do another job. I also
wonder what would happen to those older folks that are long in the
tooth and have no where else to go but fire. I think if they go to
contracting it will be a fatal blow to the fire fighting organization
as we know it.

I have worked with these BAD contract crews in the past and they
really suck, they talk it up like they are bad ass, but they suck. I
have seen them go down with drugs and I have seen them asleep on line
to name just a few of the shit they pull. They have no pride and they
will never know the meaning of pride. To sum it all up they are every
thing that is wrong with the fire community.


02/09 Dear Ab,

I'm a long time lurker, I can lurk no more. I have to express my outrage on the current administration's outsourcing initiative aimed at turning most or all federal wildland firefighting jobs over to contractors. I am dismayed that no senior managers in the federal wildland fire agencies are publicly stating that outsourcing wildland firefighting is a dangerous and poorly conceived idea. I will try to make that case here today.

To begin with, the outsourcing initiative is an idea that has been around for a number of years but received little attention until the current administration breathed new life into it. If our president is successful, all federal agencies, not just the ones that fight wildland fire, will be forced to turn over many or all of their functions to contractors. This administration is using outsourcing as a thinly veiled attempt to gut all federal agencies. The federal wildland firefighting agencies are just along for the ride on this juggernaut because they are part of the federal government. Thus far, no one from the Bush administration has shown one shred of evidence that wildland firefighting will be more efficient, cheaper, or safer if wildland firefighting is outsourced.

Recent statements coming from the Office of Management and Budget betray a dangerous ignorance of the wildland firefighting world. Saying that Forest Service employees are low-hanging fruit that need to be picked and that if anyone, anywhere is performing a job for the government then that job is not inherently governmental are indicators of this ignorance. They have placed federal employees, including wildland firefighters, in the uncomfortable position of having to prove that their jobs are "inherently governmental in nature". This is a concept that is nebulous at best.

Why am I so frightened at the prospect of turning over thousands of federal firefighting jobs to contractors? Let me count the ways.

First, we have an established and well-documented history of how contractors perform as wildland firefighters, and how the increased use of contractors has diminished the firefighting capabilities of federal agencies, especially the Forest Service. Region 6 has been contracting wildland fire crews and engines in increasing numbers since the mid eighties. When timber cutting took a dive, so did funding for the BD (Brush Disposal) crews who did much of the cleanup from timber sales. When BD crews began to disappear, fire managers were forced to resort to contractors to perform needed work.

Many of these BD crews were excellent crews, as good or better than many Hotshot crews. They pounded line, felled trees, lit and mopped up prescribed burns and filled many functions for fire managers. On wildfires, they were a valued resource recognized for their many abilities. Watching a good BD crew set up and run a water show on a growing fire was a joy to behold. Because they worked together day after day as a cohesive unit, they needed little supervision on a prescribed burn or wildfire.

Many good firefighters learned the basic crucial firefighting skills on a BD crew. It was a sort of apprenticeship; firefighters learned how to cut fireline, run a chainsaw and safely fell trees, run pumps and install hoselays, use driptorches and other ignition devices to burn units, and many other fire related skills. They had to prove their fitness for the job and dedication to their fellow crewmembers on a daily basis. The esprit de corps on a good BD crew was outstanding. Many good fire managers got their start on a BD crew.

When contract crews and engines first appeared on the scene, they were mostly viewed as a bad joke. Having junk for equipment and poorly trained people did little to gain the confidence of federal employees who were forced to use them. Mostly utilized for prescribed fire at first, they gradually were seen in increasing numbers on wildfires in the late eighties and nineties.

Concurrent with the reduction of the BD crews was a trend in the Forest Service for non-fire specialists. Where all Forest Service employees were once required to (and eager to!) participate in wildfire suppression, more and more employees declined to fight fire. The "militia" concept of rallying non-fire people to fill overhead functions and staff Type 2 crews on wildfires became less and less achievable. Again, contract crews and engines were used to fill the gap.

Federal agencies are just beginning to understand the negative impacts that the increased use of contractors is having on their own workforce. Federal firefighters have less opportunities to run chainsaws and pumps, use prescribed fire, and learn the many other basic skills it takes to become a highly skilled firefighter. Consequently, as federal firefighters become fire managers, their understanding of these critical concepts is diminished from that of previous generations. Many of my long-in-the-tooth colleagues feel that a serious erosion of basic federal firefighter skills has become frighteningly apparent in the past decade.

Consider for a moment the Thirtymile Fire; the unfortunate firefighters who were unable to establish a simple hoselay and operate a pump were forced to adopt a strategy of constructing handline under circumstances that a well-trained firefighter would have recognized as a loser. If they had been able to quickly establish a water show and contain the fire when it was relatively small, things might have turned out differently. A lack of basic skills meant that the firefighters at Thirtymile had virtually no chance of catching that fire at a small size. The ultimate result was, unfortunately, the deaths of four fine young people. The federal fire agencies have still failed to recognize this; their main response has been to enact a maze of checklists and other restrictions. Why isn't anyone crying for more and better training for our firefighters? Can't we recognize that contractors are depriving us of valuable opportunities to teach our own people? Can't we see that poorly skilled firefighters become poorly skilled fire managers?

The loss of opportunities to train our federal firefighters is just one reason why I am so adamantly opposed to the widespread use of contract firefighters. A long history of first-hand exposure to contract crews and engines has also influenced my opinions. I spent most of my fire career, going back to the seventies, in Region 6. R6 hosts most of the contract crews and engines used on wildland fires today. I have supervised many contract resources on prescribed burns and wildfires, and have compared notes with many of my colleagues on this subject. Having been "burned" on many occasions by contract resources has influenced my thinking.

Let's look at the training that contract firefighters receive. Supposedly, they receive the same basic training that federal firefighters receive and pass the same physical qualification tests. They supposedly subscribe to the same process that federal personnel do for becoming qualified at various ICS positions, using the NWCG standard. Why, then, is the Oregon Department of Forestry, who is responsible for administering the contract for contract crews in Region 6, currently pleading for almost a half a million dollars to hire investigators to look into widespread allegations of fraud related to the training and certification of contract crews?

The ODF now recognizes that allowing contractors to conduct their own training, perform their own Pack Tests, and WRITE THEIR OWN CERTIFICATION CARDS with almost no oversight by contracting officer representatives has been unsuccessful, has allowed widespread fraud, and makes a mockery of the system. In their defense, like many state agencies, the ODF is poorly funded and unable to provide anything close to sufficient contract oversight.

There are many documented cases of outright fraud already proven in Region 6, including one unscrupulous contractor who for years has cheated on training, forged documents, and done god-knows-what-else to field contract crews. When this contractor has been caught red-handed, he puts one of his relatives or cronies names on the contract and goes merrily on. No one who knows this contractor doubts that he is out of the business. He just uses a shill to mask his involvement.

Abuse of the training system is rampant among contractors. Several years ago, a 22 year- old man applied to work on my crew. His application stated that he had a total of 4 fire seasons of experience on a contract engine and that he was qualified as a Division/Group Supervisor. Funny, it took me over 15 years to get qualified as a DIVS. We threw his application in the reject pile.

How about Pack Tests? Contractors are currently allowed to perform (supposedly) their own Pack Tests. The Federal agencies place strict requirements on Pack Tests for their own employees. I have personally administered many Pack Tests since the feds adopted it as the standard, and have come to have a feel just from observing people take the test of who is capable of passing it. Like many feds, I feel that the Pack Test is a bare minimum standard for determining if a person can be a productive firefighter. I have personally observed supposedly Pack-Tested contract firefighters who I am positive could not pass a real Pack Test. The 60+ year old, obese, chain-smoking contract engine supervisor I worked with on a fire a few years ago is one example; he nearly collapsed after carrying two lengths of hose 100 yards up a gentle slope. I would bet my summer's overtime he didn't pass any kind of physical test.

A colleague of mine from Oregon told me last summer that he and a few other Forest Service people were given permission to stand in as observers for contractor-administered Pack Tests in the central Oregon area. When the contractors found out that this oversight was going to occur, many of the central Oregon area contractors supposedly traveled to a location outside of central Oregon to perform their Pack Tests, even though most of them had (again, supposedly) performed Pack Tests in previous years in central Oregon. The obvious conclusion is that the contractors didn't want anyone to see what was really going on.

Speaking of central Oregon, that area is the home for most of the contract engines used today by federal firefighting agencies. These engines are being utilized more frequently outside of Region 6. It is interesting to note that as more and more contract engines were fielded in central Oregon since the mid-eighties, more and more arson fires have occurred in the area. The arson problem has gotten so bad that central Oregon has a standing arson task force during fire season to combat this problem. The arsonists around the area are rarely caught. You can't blame all of the central Oregon arson on contractors, though I know of one central Oregon contract firefighter who is doing prison time today on arson charges. Is it just coincidence that the contractor capitol of the west is also the arson capitol of the west?

The problem is that contractors, by nature, are profit oriented. To make a profit, you need to work. If no fires are occurring, you don't make any money. Arson is one way to insure you get work. Federal employees are guaranteed a paycheck regardless of whether they are on a fire or not. Of course, they make more money if overtime and hazard pay is involved. And to be fair to contractors, fed employees have also been caught starting fires. But the motivation for fed firestarters is usually related to some sick need for recognition instead of profit. When contract engine owners have big bills rolling in and aren't making any money, arson is a temptation that is hard to resist.

Another troubling aspect of contract firefighter use is that CONTRACT FIREFIGHTERS HAVE NO VESTED INTEREST IN PUTTING A FIRE OUT. In fact, the sooner the fire goes out, the sooner you quit making money. I have become extremely skeptical of working with contract crews and engines because of the footdragging and lack of production that many of these crews exhibit. It is a pain in the ass to constantly have to cajole and prod contract resources to put the fire out.

Let's compare the cost-to-government between contract and government crews. A Type 1 Hotshot crew costs around $4,000 a day for an eight-hour shift. A Type 2 contract crew costs the government around double that. Which would you rather have working for you on your fire? The lousy Type 2 contract crew I got stuck with on a fire last summer had no fallers, had only 3 people who could communicate in English (and poorly, at that), and showed such an obvious lack of basic fire knowledge that they were virtually useless to me (the IC) on the fire. If I had received even one of the Type 1 crews I requested (my fire was a low priority at the time, I was told to make do with the lone Type 2 crew I got instead), or some of the fallers and felling bosses I requested, I am certain my fire would have been contained at a smaller size. The key to containing the fire was punching 15-20 chains of handline in an otherwise inaccessible area of heavy bug-killed timber and burning snags. It would have been useless, immoral and dangerous to put that Type 2 crew in there. My fire eventually burned several thousand acres of timber and some homes. Do I sound frustrated?

I want to add a caveat to my complaints about contract firefighters. To be fair, I do know some contract firefighters that I trust and who do an excellent job. Almost without exception, they are former feds who retired or decided to take another path. I don't want to paint them with the same brush as the others. And also to be fair, contractor equipment has generally improved since the mid eighties. Some companies are now fielding equipment that is the equivalent of the feds. But I have yet to hear anything that would change my opinion that contracting wildland firefighting on a large scale is anything but misguided. There are too many unanswered questions, and I don't believe there is an answer to be found. Are we to become a legion of contracting officers and CORs, wasting millions of dollars on an expensive, ineffective, boondoggle? I dearly hope not. If you think wildland firefighting costs a lot today, you could probably easily double or triple that cost if we went to an all-contract system. As a taxpayer, I find that disturbing.

Unfortunately, in spite of all of the known problems associated with the use of contract firefighters, Region 6 is getting into using contract firefighters in a new way. Contract engines are replacing initial attack Forest Service engines at the district level. Contract crews and engines are being staged during high fire danger periods as initial attack resources. I have seen the results up close, and it ain't pretty. In spite of this, managers who embrace this concept are receiving awards for their "progressive attitude". It disturbs me that our managers are embracing this concept and are willing to sell our beloved agency, still considered the best in the world at wildland firefighting, for an unknowable future.

The problems I have described above are just the tip of the iceberg. We have made quantum leaps since the South Canyon Fire in our understanding of human behavior, and of the crucial roles things like leadership, intra and inter-crew relationships, realistic training and many other factors play in firefighter safety. The proposal of the current administration to outsource federal firefighting jobs flies in the face of what we know is critical to firefighter safety. It is, in fact, a step back toward the days when we used to drag winos out of bars and put them to work on fires. From the perspective of cost savings, of safety, of contract oversight, of training the next generation of fire managers, outsourcing federal firefighters makes no sense.

We need to trumpet the strengths of federal firefighting agencies more than ever before. In the post 911 world, FEMA and other branches of government have come to recognize that our Incident Management Teams are an invaluable resource. It takes decades of training and experience for a person to become an effective member of an IMT. Relationships forged between fire managers over a career help create that strength. The magnificent abilities of the combined resources that are trained, equipped, and fielded by federal agencies will never be matched by a hodgepodge of constantly changing contract resources.

A wily old Hotshot Superintendent friend of mine shared an interesting insight with me a few years ago. He had just completed Fireline Leadership training; he said that the Forest Service has a lot of managers but few real leaders. That could probably be applied to the other fed firefighting agencies as well.

The outsourcing initiative is a danger like none we have ever faced before. Like no other time in our hundred year history, this magnificent organization (I say organization because USFS, BLM, NPS, and F & W folks are all in the same boat on this issue) faces virtual extinction because of the whims of some zealous and misguided people who happen to be running the government right now. We need our leaders to stand up and be counted, to resist this travesty in the making. The time is now to make your voice count; to be silent at this time is to admit defeat.

I hope my Hotshot friend was wrong. I hope our managers find their voices and become real leaders.

Ab, thanks for letting me vent. They Said serves a valuable purpose in these troubling times.

Sign me,
BBTBDC (Bring Back The BD Crews)

Welcome lurker. Your case is well made. Ab.

02/09 Ab,

As a municipal structure fire fighter, and a state wildland fire fighter, I
do NOT feel contracting out for wildland fire fighting is the answer. I work
right next to Rural Metro fire, and have NEVER seen the benefit of that
COMPANY. They have good firefighters, dont get me wrong, but there HAS to be
PROFIT built into the whole idea. Would we contract out police
departments??? No!!! What happened to hospitals and health care....has
contracting that out worked??? No...it's a mess. Rural Metro is soon going to
lose their flagship, the City of Scottsdale. It is going to become a
municipal fire department. The city already owns the fire stations and the
fire trucks. It will soon prove that a "for profit" fire department doesn't
save money. I don't feel any fire organization should be by contract. I
think it should become a Federal Fire Service, or a more efficient current


02/09 Ab,

Maybe you can clarify... just wondering how Forest Service - Forestry Technicians can qualify for Firefighter's retirement?
How can an employee who is not classified as a Firefighter be able to reap these benefits?
Don't you think that the job description or classifying people and the OPM people should get on the same page?
There has to be some sort of illegalities with one of the conflicting findings or classifications of these two departments.
I have worked for the Forest Service for a long time and have always thought that this is a bunch of bull.


02/09 G'day,

Just enjoying your site and I thought I would send you a couple of photos I have taken with regards to
helicopters at fires I have been in control of or present at...

I am the second in-charge of my District in New South Wales Australia and have have a number of
large fire in the last 3 years including one that lasted over 6 weeks and was 84,000 hectares in size.

At one stage we operated 12 rotary and 5 fixed wing aircraft from our Incident Management Team for
one fire.

In January 2002 we utilised remote fire crews that either rappelled or were winched into the fire
ground for helicopter pad construction and or mopping up.

Of interest this last 4 months was the use of a Bell 214B recently brought into Australia via the USA
by McDermott Aviation (AUS), it utilised a 3,000 litre water bucket.

An we now have five Ericsson Skycranes on lease to Australia this summer and predominantly being
used in the south of our state at present.


Inspector Andrew Veitch
Deputy Fire Control Officer
Singleton District

Welcome to theysaid. Interesting. We put them on Helicopters 9 photo page. Ab.

02/09 Hey thought you might like some pictures from Yerington Nevada.

David V.

Thanks. Put them on Helicopters 10 and Airtankers 6 and Wilson Canyon is on Fire 16. Ab.

02/09 Ab,

I am going to try and send some pictures from my new scanner. I dont know if
I am doing this right, but there are five of them. Bear with my while I try

These are photos from Arizona State Land Departments Engine 36. This is a
Type 6 engine stationed out of the Tucson district during severity season.
The pictures are from the "West Dome" fires southeast of Tucson, which burned
970 acres and was the largest "state" fire of 2002 I believe. E-36 was IA on
the fire, and was there till the fire was controlled 4 days later.


Got `em. Thanks for your patience. We put them on Fire 16 and Hand 7 photo pages. Ab.

02/09 Ab:

Being recently retired, I am cleaning out my archives and putting things where they really belong. First installment will be a couple of crew photos. The first one is the Alpine Hotshots in Alpine, Texas circa 1997. The second one is the Carlsbad (NM) Interagency Crew in 1998.


We put them on the Handcrews 7 page. Ab.

02/09 Ok, NorcalTom I'll play as I've given this some thought.

I have actually considered this one step further along than you suggest by combining all federal firefighters into one group, not just the wildland folks. I see this as being most efficient way to allocate resources. Take away the local influences and organize a Federal Fire Service. Now each individual Federal entity would "contract" with the Federal Fire Service, the "contract" specialist would consider the needs of the "contracting" entity, and compare them to the standards adopted (OSHA, NFPA generally). So for example a forest or military base needs fire protection, they go to the FFS and submit a list of their needs (fire occurrence, special hazards, recreation activities, values at risk, local agency capabilities etc), the FFS would then take this information and determine what resources are needed to provide adequate protection based on Federal laws and NFPA standards etc.

I'll break this down into the pros and cons from the employers and employees sides.

Employer Pros

  • Reduce redundant overhead (no need to have a Chief of Fire and Aviation for USFS, BLM, NPS, USF&W, BIA, Navy, Army, USMC, Coast Guard, Veterans Affairs, DOE etc) so off the top you have eliminated at least a dozen or more GS15 and SES positions, take this down to the regional level and you are talking about several million dollars in savings each year.
  • More effective management of resources (no need to have a BLM engine next to a USFS engine just because the land is managed by different agencies and each wants their own people to respond to their land, if one engine can do the job of two then you have one)
  • Resources are tailored to local needs, if you only have the need for wildland suppression or Crash Rescue, that is what you get, no EMT, SCBA etc in areas that don't have the need, in return those areas that have special needs have an easy way to get them as the FFS has the resources to provide them, no special working groups needed to provide a rare skill for a particular agency.
  • Budget goes for fire, if other shops want to use your people they have to fund the project, no free labor for non fire projects (this could be seen as a con by those outside of fire)
  • Reduction in costs by buying in bulk (buying 650 M62 instead of 400 M62, 150 M14, 100 Homebuilts etc) also creates uniformity reducing the need for retraining individuals when the equipment is the same nationwide.
Employer cons
  • Change
  • Loss of empire
  • Pay to play, no using fire budget to fund other functions
  • Organization of 12-20,000 firefighter into one group (employees have a large voice and have an easier time getting their way)
  • Fire run by fire people (makes it hard to cut corners when the individuals providing fire services have to follow ALL the rules and are not under your direct control)
  • Less local control (see above)
Employee pros
  • A large united professional organization run to provide high quality fire and emergency services.
  • Proper classification of all firefighters.
  • Organization of the nations 12-20,000 firefighters (makes our voice loud).
  • The above makes the possibility of creating a fire pay system more likely (dump the GS system and create something more functional for firefighters)
  • Qualified professional leadership based in the Fire Service, not outsiders who may or may not have practical knowledge of modern fire service needs and mandated to meet all accepted standards. Also not their budget so no reason to cut corners and find loop holes.
  • Easier to move between positions (currently there are some issues when moving from DoD to Land Management Agencies or even Air Force to Navy or BLM to USFS)
  • More visibility resulting in more respect and pride in the organization.
Employee cons
  • Change
  • Less local control (those damn faceless pencil pushers in DC don't understand what we need HERE)
  • Change of working conditions (those damn structure / wildland guys are messing up our organization)
  • Additional services might get pushed onto those who are happy with the status quo (might have to take EMT or Wildland training when you didn't have to before)
  • Change of schedule (go from 40 to 72 hour shift or WAE to PFT, or the other way around depending on actual needs)
Tax payer pros
  • More efficient fire protection
  • Improved safety as needs are filled instead of waiting for a death (deaths) as with the current system
Tax payer cons
  • None that I can think of
Well thats all I've got on that for now.

As to the contracting of wildland firefighters and those who think your title is simply a matter of ego, I think this is one of those things that proper classification of firefighters is all about, DoD firefighters are considered inherently governmental and are exempted from contracting (at least for now, there are some in congress who are trying to change this) Wildland firefighters (Range/Forestry Techs) are not. I think it is easier politically to cut forestry technicians than firefighters. Same goes for a PFT organization vs. a WAE organization. We might understand that a foreman with 20 years in who just works 6-9 months a year is still a professional but to most a "part-time" employee is not a professional and easily replaced by a cheaper 18 year old kid.

I hope that if this really goes forward that standards are set high for contracting, at least competitive to the agencies people, I've looked through some of the requirements for contract work and have seen the requirement for CRWB / ENGB to have 25 days on fires as though that is higher than most, I had more than 25 days on fires my first year in fire but I wasn't qualified to supervise anything at that point. I don't mean this as a slam against contractors but if the government seriously goes forward with contracting fire, the standards need to be high enough to keep out the riff raff just there to get a quick buck, the cheapies are ok when you have plenty of sold crews out there watching out for them but not on their own. If fire protection is not inherently governmental then I don't know what else possibly could be.


02/08 Curious:

VOG is a term for "Volcanic Fog" - sometimes used for hot gasses
(steam, etc) escaping volcanoes, but most often used for the steam when
lava flows hit water.


Sounds like it can have some toxic compounds in it as well. Ab.
02/08 Does anyone besides me wonder if this so-called "business approach"
to federal agencies and fire will lead to a national wildland fire
department? What would be the pros and cons of that?

02/08 Shep, do you know if VOG is technically an acronym for "volcanic air pollution"
or is vog a hawaiian language term for it? Something to be concerned about when
fighting fire in Hawaii. That Morning Report was moved to the archives.
Morning Report Feb8 Archives


02/08 JR, you asked who is the Leadership Team.

I presume MEO-lie is talking about the National Leadership Team (NLT). I think this includes the Chief of the Forest Service, the Deputy chiefs and the Regional Foresters. Dale Bosworth is the Chief. You can find out about him and his deputies www.fs.fed.us/intro/directory/wo.php. He's appointed by Bush. Harv Forsgren is R3's Regional Forester, Rick Cables is R2's Regional Forester, and Jack Troyer is R4s Regional Forester. I don't know about the others. The letters that have come down the tubes about Out Sourcing ("let's call it competitive sourcing so it is more palatable" they say) have been very threatening. Basically they say swallow this or else.

Here's something worth reading if you don't know what the Forest Service does and how it's organized. www.fs.fed.us/intro/meetfs.shtml

Hope this helps.
R3er bean counter

02/08 COMT, no offense meant here, but the reason it feels like contracting is a done deal in R6 is because our management has caved in to the contracting pressures without a fight and without raising the serious considerations we all should be raising. The result, in my humble opinion, is that in addition to paying more to contractors to do a cheaper inhouse job, we're going to have to fund management positions to keep them in line, make sure quals are met, etc. etc as R3 Flyer pointed out.

A world famous orator once said, "You don't get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate." Why do fire management who are raised in fire cave in to politicians as quickly as they do?

Biscuit and Dumplings

02/08 How does a Fire Dept. contract out? Id ask Rural Metro. I think
that they are one of the biggest fire contractors in AZ at least. any AZ
people out there with more accurate knowledge?

woodsman 20
02/08 hello all,
looking for info on contracting info for fuels treatments, contracts and how to put bids in for this work? Also how to
advertise for the work on regional and national contracts, or contacts on how to obtain this info. Any info would be
great and or a start for me to search. thanks.


02/07 Ab,

I was just reviewing the 30mile chronology and lessons. You can get to it via the FS T&D Center Publications and the passwords on the links page (under Federal), then T&D pubs, then fire, then lessons from the thirtymile. I always forget those passwords tho. Thanks for listing them there.

There are so many important points and references in that training material and it is very well presented. I wanted to thank those who worked on it. Tim Lynch and his crew.

I also have a request for some link updates so they will all be inline with the new FS web. Right now you get a number of 404 error messages if you go to the training and info resources and click on them. It is such an important resource that it would be helpful if ALL the links worked. It's very helpful that it is in html, also. Nice work.

One other great resource that's linked under training aids and resources : the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center. For those who haven't visited, you should go there and browse. Many great resources and the interagency flavor.

Tahoe Terrie

We have had a link to the Lessons Learned Center on our Links Page under Safety for some time, although it could fit in many more categories than that. The fact that it's the very "last one" on the links page makes it very easy for me to find when I need it. HAR, just pull my little scrolling arrow all the way to the bottom and click. It's a very useful site. Ab.


February 6 Update - Australia

Fire Situation
The www.nre.vic.gov.au/ website has updated fire information. I would suggest you look at it.
For those of you interested in community outreach during fires you might want to look at the page with that subject..
The USA photo gallery also has a few new photos, some of which I have included below.

Incident Management Teams (IMTs)
Both IMTs received a fire briefing in Traralgon last night. Today they drove up to Drago where they will shadowing the Australian IMT at Drago. Drago is the on the southcentral part of the fire. Aaron Gelobter's 6-person IMT will be working an 0700-1900 shift. Scott Vail's 3-person IMT will be working the 1900-0700 shift.
The picture below is Scott Vail's IMT in the Emergency Coordination Center in Melbourne. Scott is on the left. To his left are Steve Ryberg, operations Section Chief, Bill Swope, Planning Section Chief, and Ray Gilby from Australia. Ray will be the Logistics Section Chief on Scott's team.

Fire Crew
The fire crew continues to work near Delegate River on a swing shift 1400-0200. Tomorrow morning will be the end of their first 7 day shift and they will be on R&R for the next two days. The picture below is the crew with some of their Australian liaisons. The picture was taken outside of the Orbost Work Centre where the Orbost IMT is located.

Infrared Aircraft
The infrared aircraft did not fly today because of clouds. The following picture is of the two pilots of the infrared aircraft, David Holley on the left, Mike Cavaille in the middle. Woody Smith the infrared interpreter is on the right. The second picture was taken about two weeks ago when Australian Prime Minister John Howard came to visit the emergency coordination center along with the Priemier of Victoria, Steve Bracks. Woody Smith did get to visit a bit with the Prime Minister.

KC, National Interagency Coordination Center

02/07 MEO-lie,

An Oregon newspaper http://news.statesmanjournal.com
reports that state and federal agencies in that region are trying to figure
out how to come up with $445K to pay for three staff positions and
for-hire investigators solely to keep contract fire crews in line, after
their transgressions during 2002. I don't think that is a cost to be
factored in for in-house crews!

R3 Flyer

02/07 Ab,

Could you please post the following as it may be of interest to a number of your readers? Thanks!

FROM : National Wildfire Coordinating Group
REPLY TO : NWCG@nifc.gov
DATE : 01/31/2003
SUBJECT : SAFETY ADVISORY : 2003 Revisions, Safety Refresher Training Website

Revisions to the Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher Website (WFSTAR) will be launched on January 31, 2003. This website, developed under the direction of the Federal Fire and Aviation Safety Team (FFAST) was initially launched in March 2002.

The purpose of the WFSTAR website is to provide a one-stop shopping resource for the instructors of refresher training to obtain information necessary to conduct high quality safety refreshers. The site identifies topics for refresher training and lists a wide variety of reference materials that support refresher training, including
- Publications
- Videos
- Training packages
- Lessons learned
- Investigation reports

The website includes links to the refresher training polices of the federal fire management agencies and NWCG direction for refresher training. The website also provides the opportunity for instructors to submit abstracts of their refresher training programs for use by others.

The website updates for 2003 include a new National Emphasis Topic and current Hot Topics. The 2003 National Emphasis Topic is Driving Safety. Hot Topics include Revised 10 Standard Fire Orders, New Fire Shelter, Thirtymile Fire, and other topics. The address for the WFSTAR website is www.nifc.gov/safety_study/index.php. This address will get you to the NIFC Safety Page and then just click on the Refresher Training icon.

As a reminder, the NWCG has adopted language requiring annual fireline safety refresher training for all personnel who may be subject to assignments on the fireline, such as technical specialists and ground support personnel delivering resources to the fireline. This mandatory requirement applies to all NWCG members. The full text of the memorandum can be found on the WFSTAR website under "Policy Statements".

02/06 Everyone,

The last few days we have been overwhelmed with requests to connect people with engines, owners of other equipment displayed on the photo pages and to post jobs wanted. We also have a number of requests per day throughout the year related to photo permissions. We don't mind dealing with photo permissions, especially for training purposes or meeting presentations.

Regarding your other requests: if you have questions about engines or equipment photos on the site, like who owns them or how to get in touch with the owner, please send in a post with an email address where you can be contacted. That way readers can send information to you directly.

For those with experience who are seeking contract jobs:
  • Check the Jobs page under Contract Fire Jobs.
  • If you're interested ask us to post your 30 word "ad" on the jobs page under Jobs Wanted. Cost, $25 a month.
Any other ideas, let us know. Remember that the Classifieds page and the Jobs page are links pages of a sort. If you really need the commercial services you're requesting of us, please figure out how to post an ad and help support wildlandfire.com. We very much appreciate members of the community who participate there.

Thank you.
02/06 About the downsizing and outsourcing. I'm afraid it is
a done deal, it was decided at the highest level of
government without much input from the field. The main
idea is to stimulate the economy. There does not seem
to be much thought about Federal employees, we have
been told by management that contractors will be
looking to hire us to do the job we might lose. Like
they are going to pay GS rates and benefits when they
can get someone to do it for lower pay with no

Here in Region 6, the Information Resource Management
(radio, computer network, GIS) have recently went
through a reduction under the guise of MEO. This
process is to downsize to get prepared for the 30%
reduction of the Forest Service budget of 2005. It was
stressed that all departments will be affected, with
fire in bold letters. We have also heard rumors that
the funding might be even lower than forecasted, the
budget was figured before the Middle East became an
issue. There is a lot of uncertainty for the people
that are not shown on the future organizational chart.


For fire equipment try the Federal excess program.
02/06 A couple of new logos for the collection. We put them on the Logos 8 page. Ab.

Fireants: Here is a scanned image of Ft. Lewis, Dept. of the Army, Forestry and Wildfire Department's badge. Logo compliments of Mike.

Keene: This is the new Keene Flight Crew logo for 2001. The logo was changed due to the change of helicopters to a Bell 212. Contributed by Mike Spink.

Also new Keene helirappeller photos on the Handcrew 7 and Helicopters 9 pages.

02/06 Who is the Leadership Team?


02/06 Re Competitive Sourcing. This is what I've been able to find out... Please fill in more info or correct me if I am wrong.

Bush's Competitive Sourcing Initiative mandates a "competitive sourcing process" for each "non-inherently governmental" job area within Federal Agencies in the USDA and DOI.

This process begins with mandatory studies of specific job areas which lead to enumerating the duties and responsibilities of each one. These duties and responsibilities define the Most Efficient Organization (MEO). The MEO then pegs the duties in that particular job area and costs out what the government does the job for.

Jobs in a particular job area are then made available for bid. This could lead to contracting out that job if a contractor bids to do the job for less money than the government employee can. Thus the employee must bid for their job and if they get it, they must rebid for it every 5 years. If they don't get it, that position will go the way of "non-government" from then on, since there will be no one left in government to provide an alternative to the "contractor" process.

What is the main assumption underlying the proposal of this process by the Bush administration?
I think it's clear. David Childs is the Commercial Activities & Privatization Manager, Office of Management & Budget. From his comments posted on theysaid last week, he's working from the assumption that privatization (contracting) is better, more cost effective and should be the end goal. In addition, if you read his comments, it's clear that he doesn't think many federal jobs are "inherently governmental" and that includes fire jobs. In other words, the goal seems to be to take jobs away from government employees and award them to the private sector, eliminating any chance that the government will ever again have experienced people to compete for those jobs. You can see from the DOI's Outsourcing Goals, for example, that there are Target Reductions in their annual plans, for 5% reduction of jobs in 2002 to10% in 2003.

It would seem logical that a push toward privatization would be based on fairly substantial empirical knowledge about relative costs of federal and contract entities (as pointed out by M from CA last week) in functions where we might have data.

Can contractors (contract crews) do the job less expensively or are they more expensive than government crews?

What do we already know about contracting vs in-house (Forest Service, BLM, NPS, FWS, etc.) crew costs for a project? M from CA do you have data for particular projects? Anyone else? Calculate the in-house crew costs as "costs to government" so they can be compared as "apples to apples". That data must exist out there.

"M from CA" and fire managers I have talked with say, it costs 2 to 3 times more to run a contract crew on a job than an in-house crew.

As a taxpayer, here are some questions I have:

  • Why should the taxpayer pay contractors more to have a job done if the current in-house system can deliver the same services less expensively, if data we have shows they can?
  • What are the implications for efficiency for the Fleet and IRM people spending all their time getting ready to bid on their jobs?
  • What impact does that uncertain and time consuming process have on the rest of the agency people that are waiting for the ax to fall on their job area?
  • Why haven't the-powers-that-be (our Leadership Team) made the case from existing structure and data whether contractors can or cannot do jobs less expensively?
  • Under the competitive sourcing paradigm, public servants will never be done with this time-consuming and energy-consuming process. If they win their job now, they have to rebid in 5 years. The "ax" never goes away. What's with that?
  • What happens 5 years down the road when there is no longer the public servant (competitor) to keep the contractor costs in line? I know at least one contractor who will wait for that day when they have no competition from government and then jack their bids up exorbitantly. Don't argue that there will be other contractors to step in to provide the competition. We all know how the speed on freeways seems to average 5 to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, whatever that limit is.
  • Our federal public servants do many activities that come up at the request of the public. These jobs are not in their job descriptions. How will contractors provide these new and emerging services needed? How do we maintain flexibility?
  • What does the Public get out of this outsourcing process except more expensive, time consuming studies right now and a decrease in services?
I'd like to see some of that data on contracted fire services vs. in-house services. If someone has data one way or the other, please send it in.

One last thought: How do you contract out a national federal fire department? Our people, including computer people and fleet people, ON FIRE TEAMS work for 8 hours a day and are on call for 24 hours whether for fire, terrorist attack, newcastles disease in chickens, searching for space shuttle parts. This is also true of fire people monitoring and responding to IA on forests. No contractor is willing to do that without exacting a price, but how will that be defined in the competitive sourcing procedure?

I encourage all of you who can to go to whatever meetings are offered to learn about Competitive Sourcing. Think of how this process impacts fire and our ability to serve the Public. Ask the hard questions? How else are the "Business Types" going to begin to understand the complexity of the system as it exists and mitigate any negative outcomes - including substantial reductions in fire services on the Wildland-Urban Interface.

MEO-lie (The woman formerly known as MEL-lie -- think catlike, PUMA to be exact)

02/06 The native crews are out of Oklahoma and are under contract with the
Ouachita NF out of Arkansas. They have about 10-12 crews available and not
sure which crews went to East Texas. Four 20 man crews got to the incident
Tuesday. They are used quite a bit during the summer and are some really
good crews.

02/06 The "Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations 2003" has
been posted at www.fire.blm.gov/Standards/redbook.php
02/06 There are going to be Outsourcing Seminars presented next week in CA. Anybody been to those in other parts of the US? Are we the first? Impressions?

Backburnfs, can we use those eye worm images in training ppts? Ab thought probably Ok. They are gross.


02/06 Re Firecat, from the French Guy
Thank you very much for your informations !!!!
Gabriel Kaeppelin

WP, I think this THANKS is for you. Ab.

02/05 Oh my, there are a lot of THANKS in the mail this morning from my messages re use of photos, the forwarding of messages and answers to equipment questions. This Ab appreciates them.

I was wondering if anyone knows which "Indian troops" as CNN calls them are searching the east TX woods in the pouring rain.

02/05 Dear Sir,

I was wondering if you could tell me who’s truck this is so I can find out more
about it. We’re looking for something like it.


Readers, this is regarding that same "new engine 1&2" on engines3. I threw away all the e-mails with info the last time someone asked. Please someone, send in the info on Aces High again. I swear, I'm gonna start charging a commission on engines sold. Well, this is the last time. DM, tell these guys to place an ad (with photo) on the classifieds page. Ab. (OK, got it, thanks)

02/05 ab:

Article in "Nature" about Australian wildfires and wildfire research:


02/05 Ab,

AzFirefighter should contact Arizona State Land-Division of Fire

They do a lot of co op stuff and may be able to help.

02/05 Az Firefighter: Here is a link to FEMA they have a grant program that might assist you.


02/05 Does anyone know of any route to take as far as getting some wildland
equipment or grant money for wildland equipment for a municipal fire
department. My department does not have any major wildland or U/I areas, but
we are now a part of the state wildland system. However, due to budget
shortfalls, we wont commit to any wildland equipment purchases. I wondered
if anyone new of small grants ($1,000+) that might help us, or of any
opportunity where we could at least get some NH and NPSH hose adapters, fire
shelters, and some hand tools (Mcloed, Pulaski). We have PPE, fire hose,
etc. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Basically looking for a way to
get some very cheap or free/donated/grant equipment. Ive basically been
given NO budget for this program. Help!
02/05 Here are the photos of the Americans in Australia. Recognize
anyone? I do. Top photo. Back row... Joe Millar and Aaron
Gelobter to start with.


Start here, and click Current Fire Situation Update, then Photo
Gallery, USA Firefighters

Here's the page taken out of the frame format:
www.nre.vic.gov.au/Open Document
02/05 Today's NPS "The Morning Report" http://data2.itc.nps.gov/morningreport/
has an interesting section on firefighting in Hawaii Volcanoes National
Park. Learned a new term for acronym glossary - VOG.

02/04 The Jobs page and Wildland Firefighter Series 0462 & Series 0455 are updated.
Also- this email came in for the temp people who don't know the system. Ab.

This is the link you should be sending people to apply for forest service temp firefighting jobs. It explains the system and process to apply. The AVUE site is where they fill out their online application.


02/04 Jersey Boy

In regards to your TNT fire in Utah. The fire was near the BLM guard station called Muscrat in
the west desert. I was on the second IHC crew called to IA the fire. WE were told the TNT
factory was a ranch and we needed to stop the fire. After our third attempt to stop the fire we
finally succeeded with the help from a 212 with a belly tank. We did a recon and cement bunkers,
pallets of 55 gallon unmarked drums and infamous sign that said DO NOT ATTEMPT TO
not remember the fire's name, it was our first dispatch of the season in late may or early June.

former R-4 IHC
02/04 Columbia Recovery Incident:
As of Monday 49 FS personnel working on the location and GPS'ing of pieces
and remains. There are more today. A lot of the debris is on the
Angelina and Sabine NF in East Texas (over 300,000 acres). Don't know
about any on the Kisatchie NF in LA. Lots of gridding on the Sabine NF
with work on the Angelina NF to come. Could take awhile. Not sure how
work is progressing on pvt lands. This is a massive undertaking. At least
it is dormant season, once things green up it will be next to impossible
(about a month and a half away). P-burns and timber sales on NF have been
put on hold here with possible longer term impacts.

Need Info on obtaining an engraved pulaski:
Am trying to track down a company that does engraved pulaskis, or the like,
for a retirement gift for our FMO. Thought I knew of a place but can't
find it now. Tried the Wildlandfire classifieds but struck out. Anybody
know of anyone who does this? Thanks for the help. Pls post here or email
me at jcrooks@fs.fed.us.

Ranger Jim

02/04 FS is participating in APHIS battle against poultry infected with
Newcastle's Disease in California. About 1.5MM birds "depopulated" to
date. FS is also aiding in the location and mapping of remnants of
Columbia.....an emotionally difficult assignment I'm sure.

Re: Discussion on WCT. My opinion is it's a good test. I've taken it, and
also participated in the "step test" in its infancy. FS manual says
employees are to be tested for the red-card positions they either hold or
are trying for.

Old Fire Guy
02/04 Fire Gimp

As far as a LAW about riding the rear step, you most likely will not find one. Unless your department has adopted such a law. You could say NFPA Standards come as close to a law as anything. It's basically the "Law of the Land" for fire departments. Again NFPA is not the LAW, it's a guideline. If your community adopted NFPA Standards as a set of community codes or ordinances, then that's different. Some communities do use parts of NFPA Standards as codes. If your department uses NFPA Standard as a guideline, then look a NFPA 1500, Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, Section 6.3. This section deals with Riding Fire Apparatus. Again this is not a law, but NFPA are national standards which are recognized by the fire service. If someone is injured and they happen to be riding the back-step, there is a good chance that the lawyers will be a lot richer than the Fire Chief and possibly the individual injured. I would also bet that Workman Comp could even refuse to pay for injuries. Best CYA (Call Your Attorney), Insurance Carrier, and Workman's Comp. reps and see what they say. Not to mention, every apparatus manufacturer places signs all over the rigs: "DANGER" Do not Ride on rear step while vehicle is in motion. Death or Serious Injury may Result.". that's just to try and cover their end..

Good Luck

NFPA = National Fire Protection Association

02/04 Fire Gimp:

Ok, after a quick trip to the ER for major surgery to my tongue which I nearly
bit off after reading your post.... My god! Im sorry, but red flags are going up
all over the place when reading your post. Its not written anywhere that its
against the law to stand in front of a speeding truck is it? Would you do
that just because its not against the law? Seriously, I dont know for sure
if its written anywhere but I would say there is a good chance that it is.
This is a no brainer, I would stand up to your chief based on common
sense alone.

I was on a vol dept at one time that had similar attitudes so I feel your
pain. Good luck

02/04 Fire Gimp,

NFPA 1500 has all of the safety regulations regarding where and how one must
ride on fire apparatus, it is illegal to ride on the back of the truck..

MC fireguy
02/04 Can anybody tell me what is the present rule or law pertaining to riding on
the back step of and ETA or any other fire apparatus? MY CHEF and I had
a little chat about it last night. As Capt. I do not what anybody on the
back of a truck and he said show me where it is written as a law. In
other words if it is not law it is ok.

I belong to a small Vol. company in upstate N.Y. and the chef has been
chief for 27 years and the old ways die hard. But I would rather old ways
then a fireman.

Thanks to anyone who can direct me to written regs. so I can make my

The fire gimp

02/04 Here's AN UPDATE from DOWNUNDER (sent in last night):

Our American team completed their orientation briefings. The briefings included fuels, fire behavior, safety, communications, fire organization, maps, fire camps, general logistics issues, and work/rest schedules.

The team members all agreed that the training was comprehensive and professionally presented. The briefings certainly made them aware of the critical fire situation that Victoria and New South Wales are enduring. They repeatedly heard of the record breaking drought, drinks of the fuel conditions, the unprecedented fire behavior.

- A front is moving through which might give firefighters a bit of relief for 4 to 5 days with the expectation that things will heat up and dry quickly after that.

- As of 1700 today, two of the large fires had plumes that combined to form a huge convection column with associated lightning that apparently was starting new fires. Winds in the area of some parts of the fire were in the 40-60 mph. The news showed some incredible fire shots due to the wind with valiant efforts by the volunteer fire brigades defending homes.

Tomorrow's Activity

- The team will depart Melbourne at 0700 for the fires. At this point they will be sent to a fire camp in the Mitchell River National Park (www.parkweb.vic.gov.au). The park is now closed to tourists because of the fire danger and the total fire ban throughout the State of Victoria. The team will work in four 5-person crews. They will probably have a small (Toyota pickup) "slip-on" 100 gallon engine assigned to each crew. The Victorian fire suppression methods usually includes "slip-on" called "pigs" working with crews and dozers with a lot of burning out and holding of lines.

- The team will be assigned to the Bogong Fire Complex. They will work for the Aussie Incident Management Team (IMT) on the area called South Bogong. Go to the NRE website (www.nre.vic.gov.au/fires/) for updated information on the fires. I was told they are also going to upload pictures of the fires and the U.S. team.


Thanks Communications for the update and links. Ab.

02/04 Wear your eye protection.


The story behind the photos. NOT FOR THE SQUEMISH.

Always remember to wear eyeglasses or clean out your eyes thoroughly after working outside if you feel there are intruders...... this is disgusting..... Yikes! Is there a market for RAID eyedrops!

Subject: Why do you wear PPE ? Good training issue.

Its just like from an alien movie, be very careful when you get caught with dust...
The following photos will show effects of bad dust to a person's eye.
While a firefighter was walking he felt an eye irritation. Thinking that it was just regular dust, he started to rub his eye, in an effort to remove the dust. Then his eyes got really red, and he went and bought some eye drops from a pharmacy.
A few days passed and his eyes were still red and seemed a little swollen.
Again he dismissed it thinking that the pain will go away.
As the days go by, the swelling of his eye got worse: redder and bigger.
He decided to go see a doctor for a check up.

The doctor immediately wanted an operation, being afraid of a tumor growth or cyst.
At the operation, what was thought to be a growth or cyst, actually turned out to be a live worm.
What was thought initially to be just mere dust actually was an insect's egg.
Because of that, my friends, if you do get caught in dust, and the pain persists, please go see a doctor immediately...

...and always wear your PPE.

02/04 Confused federal firefighter:

Time in grade is... time in grade. There are no limitations to whether
experience is permanent, term, temporary, or excepted appointment. There is
even a clause for "equivalent".

If you are getting the runaround, ask for representation from your local
NFFE or AFGE union.

Cff, the battle you are fighting has been fought and won many times over...
each victory has been by the employee.

This is a battle I fought and won in 1988... Good Luck

02/04 Another JW,

Who are you kidding, engine, fuels, and other crews taking the 25 pound test? Don't know about that. Engine crews are not always driving around. Pulling hose, carrying pumps, packing in tanks, fuel cans, setting up lines, and diggin line are all done daily. I feel the pack test is the most realistic of the WCT tests. I am sorry to see anyone die, But I would have to say I would rather die taking the WCT and NOT risk the lives of other firefighters on the line by passing an unrealistic test, than collapsing on the line.

We are all a team on the line whether on an engine, IHC, helitack, jumpers, vollies, career, etc. A team is only as strong as its weakest link.

eric p-dub

02/04 Another Red Flag Warning possible in SoCal? Stay tuned!!

... from the NWS pages...


Going on 7 weeks now with NO rain or snow... A freeze could really screw
things up.... especially when combined with winds!!

El Nino seems to be El Ni... NO (rain)

A repeat of last years Socal weather? The views are mixed from NWS, to
Riverside, to the NASA JPL... who's to know?

02/04 -AK-

Bravo! Well said, compadre! I don't care what your position on fire is, just suck it up and pass the damn test!

02/04 Another JW

I was reading what you had written and read it carefully. I was
wondering what planet are you on? The bit you were saying about the
women, well a very good friend of mine just so happens to be 5'2'' and
a female and like most women I have met in fire she doesn't have a
problem with the pack test. The other thing you said about PT, BC & DIV
should get an easier test, I don't know about you, but the last time I
checked they hike the same hills we do it doesn't get any easier just
because of your gs rating. The part you said about finishing in 39
minutes was an unfair test, I have worked in two different regions and
3 different forests since the pack test came about. Every test was given
the same way. Some people can whip out the pack test very quickly,
others can't, it's a matter of how you walk it. I also worked on a
hotshot crew for a long time and for those people on those crews, they
can complete the test very quickly. The test itself is not the only
thing they use as a fitness standard, it's a whole bunch more that
people won't understand until they have worked on these crews. To sum
it all up, I strongly disagree with you.
02/03 AnotherJW

This isn't the first time youv'e bitched about the pack test. Buck up and shut up, get your fat lazy butt in shape cause the pack test ain't goin nowhere.


02/03 To Confused Federal Firefighter,

This may or may not help you, but I went through this before. All overall rules regarding how classifications, grades, and levels ultimately are governed by the Office of Personnel Management. If you feel that your Human Resources (HR) people are giving you the runaround or doing the "In My Opinion" or "My Interpretation Is..." Game you have the right to challenge a ruling made by HR first to an HR person above the local one, and if you still disagree you can ask for a ruling through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

I did that with a temporary GS-06 fire job where I was told that I was more highly qualified than the two people who were selected for the job but I wasn't selected. When I asked why, I was told the two people selected had Veterans Preference. I asked some more questions but was getting a runaround from the HR person. When I asked if I had outscored the veterans even with their 5-10 points added to the total they said yes, I had the higher score. Instead they offered me a lower GS-05 position. I asked to speak with her supervisor and was told that I couldn't and the decision stands. I said I would get back to them shortly on the other position.

I contacted the HR Office where I worked at the time with DOD and told them what I was told. They said I had the right to contact OPM if I wanted to question the selection process. I did that, spoke to an OPM representative, asked the question, and was told they would research it and get back to me. Shockingly, they did! OPM said the job has to be offered first to the person with the highest score, and even with the veteran's points if I had the higher score they had to offer the job to me first. They also informed me to submit my request to HR in writing and fax it to them. I called HR back on the phone, explained my position, OPM's position, and faxed them a letter with what we discussed. They called back and said they received it and would get back to me. Two days later they reversed their decision and offered me the job.

As to your appointment, were you hired under a JAC Program or hired directly? JAC is different in that it is a two-year training program. If you were hired directly by BLM for the announcement and in the announce it said "must have 1 year experience as a GS-06 for the GS-07 position, must have 1 year as a GS-05 for the GS-06 position". If you have cumulative of one year as a GS-06, even as a temporary GS-06, they have to give you the GS-07 slot. If you have less than a year as a GS-06 then they can do just what they did. If you have a few years as a GS-05 that won't count for the GS-07.

However, temporary time cannot count towards retirement, but it counts for annual leave levels and it can count toward experience requirements. Ask your HR to reverify what you have asked in writing to that HR office. IF your not satisfied with their answer contact OPM and ask for their opinion by the rules.


02/03 It seems a lot of folks that read this board have quite a bit of experience
with personnel issues on the federal level, so I thought I'd share my issue.

I was picked up perm. Under 0455 series (BLM) last april as GS-6/7 (13/13).
Qualified at the gs-06 level. But before I was picked up perm. I served as
0455 GS-06 for five months in the same job but on a 1039 temp appointment.
The personnel office says I can't use my temporary time as a gs-06 to count
with my permanent time to qualify for the gs-07 non-competitive upgrade. Is
this right? I don't understand how, when it is the same GS level, how it can't
count for the next level. Also wondering how advancement works for people in
similar situations that only work 13/13 schedules. Do you get your next
advancement (in my case gs-7) after one calendar year, or do you have to
serve 12 months of working time, and the 13 pay period layoff does not apply.
I'm curious because I've seen both situations happen. Thanks to anybody who
can shed some light on this.

Confused federal firefighter
02/03 In response to another JW's long winded spiel on the pack test.

Lets put it in another perspective. Ref all fire types taking the pack/vest test. Look at the Marine Corps, all Marines are considered a rifleman and have to qualify yearly. Not much difference with a fire fighter taking the pack/vest test yearly.

I'd like to ask another JW, what is your basic problem with taking the pack/vest test?

Come take it with me next month. I shouldn't be any threat to you as I am only a lonely Vol, age 66 closing on 67. But then I do jog 3 miles 6 days a week and work out on the wt. Machine.

I just don't understand all the whoop de doo over the pack test. Seems to me like people just don't want to get in shape and stay that way. But they want the job, the pay, but not the pain to get it.

I agree on one thing BE SAFE
Old man of the Dept.

02/03 Mid-West Fire Academy, it's out..

MidwestAcademy Training Schedule

02/03 JW-

The Fire Staff on my Forest (DFMO, ADFMO) are only required to pack test to the red card positions that they are qualified for. The ADFMOs are all duty officer/ICT3/DIVS, so they do need to be Arduous-level. The DFMOs are required to test at moderate, but they all choose to test at the Arduous level. I have found that the pack test is much more fair and uniformly administered than the step test, and have yet to see any abuses. My feeling is that ALL IA personnel (engines, handcrews, prevention) must be in top shape and should test at the highest level.

02/03 I have to kinda agree with J.W. Government agencies are way out on a limb using this test. To me, even if an applicant is honest on his/hers HSQ it's not enough, and the paper work for the physical is just a formality at the doctors office. A true "controlled setting" and a better test would be at a medical facility on a tread mill hooked up to machines that tell your true level of physical conditioning. I have worked for the outfit for 20 years and now where, no time have I ever routinely carried a 45 lbs. pack at a 15/min/mile pace (on flat ground), even when I was on a hotshot crew. Isn't there a 25# standard for the max amount of weight we are suppose to carry on the line or is that just for flights that we take to the line. I will continue to take the test and pass it, even though I don't think that we should use it. But as I said before some govt agency is going to pay the price and it will affect us all in a negitive way. Have a good day.. Lefteye
02/03 Re Recruiting:


I seem to be the guy who does all the recruiting/outreach or whatever you want to call it in our shop. Mostly I email our vacancy announcements to everyone I know including to Ab, (Thanks for all the help Ab!) Anyway, about a week or so ago, I received a call from somebody at the NPS Service Center in Denver. Seems they're doing some sort of survey to assess recruiting efforts. They emailed me a big questionnaire about using regional recruiters and how we recruit and all that. Maybe after seeing a large number of those Fire Plan jobs vacant for so long, someone is trying to do something about it.


Remember New York, Remember Kris Eggle, Remember Columbia.
02/03 Jersey Boy,
The pic is of interest. Funny thing is that the site you were at was a private factory that produces T-N-T and is not a military site. I would say the sign points out the obvious. NEVER FIGHT EXPLOSIVES FIRES. Words to live by for sure. Maybe the 1-800 number could provide a good MSDS for hazards.
02/02 There's one forest where at least 3 or 4 of the most experienced fire management people (PT's, BC's, ADFMO's and DFMO folks) are being unfairly and illegally discriminated against and they are receiving disparate treatment. They have been denied fire assignments, as well as have been made subject to removal of red card quals and position titles. It appears that they are being "displaced" from their positions, unless they are going to TAKE AND PASS the PACK TEST, at the ARDUOUS LEVEL... IT'S DO IT AND PASS IT, OR ELSE...

HMMM... let's see, even the SHWT report says there's fatalities suffered in correlation to the WCT, in the 2002 report. The 2002 report mentions 4. The ones from 2002 are duly noted... maybe the other reports should be amended by adding the "WCT-" to all the related incidents from the prior years. Also, add the words: Work Capacity Test and injuries, in the 2nd sentence of the preface statement, prior to the word: fatalities. Maybe that sentence could read," It includes serious vehicle accidents, WCT-fatalities and injuries, burnovers/entrapments and injuries associated with wildland and prescribed fire operations", instead of, "It includes serious vehicle accidents, fatalities, burnovers/entrapments and injuries associated with wildland and prescribed fire operations". I guess that's one of those Working Teams things, though.

I don't know that the Pack test itself needs to be re-thought. Why couldn't different levels of the test be applied more reasonably. If IHC's, have different physical standards, then why do folks in all fire positions, have to take the same test as they do. Wouldn't it be reasonable that engine, prevention and hand crew folks just need to take the 25lb test. Why don't the Fire Management folks take the light duty test. Aren't the physical standards to meet, supposed to be minimums? Couldn't one group's (IHC) minimum, the 45lb Pack Test, be another's (Engine/Hand Crew) maximum? By taking an honest and real look at ACTUAL and ORIGINAL JOB DUTY descriptions... I see that the Pack Test is not administered uniformly across the country, within the federal agencies. This is a legal downfall, when talking about D.O.L. issues. Take a look at jobs available and the duties associated with them, as well as physical requirements, for verification... Maybe a written intelligence and reading and comprehension test should be used as an evaluative tool. Some people think that muscle strength is more important than thinking, how can that be? The brain is the center for everything, even the lungs and heart.

Here's a Question, Where's the Medical Standards? USFS in particular, where are your's? I understand there aren't any? This important issue is just this year being studied and tested?... Only on IHC folks? What about Prevention Techs, or Fire Management people, why aren't they being included in health and safety studies. If they are or have been, then what's the ratio of them compared to IHC people. Are people other than IHC folks mentioned in reports? Hmmm... I don't understand the 39 minute thing either, didn't a rule apply to you in trying to complete the test in the 42-45 minute range for safety reasons? If the answer is no to this question, then here's more proof of a test that's not being administered uniformly across the nation.

The Pack Test is dangerous, it's not for everyone. It's unfair for others as well. Oxygen transfer takes place at a persons cellular level, women for example have 10-15% less hemoglobin than males. This could be an unfair disadvantage for some. Hemoglobin is the stuff that carries the oxygen around in your blood through your body, through the heart and into the lungs, for alveolar gas exchange. By the way, this has nothing to do with laying on the couch or eating donuts, either...grow up... Some folks have physical impairments that they were born with or have acquired over their bodies' aging processes. They can still maneuver and think, meet deadlines and provide guidance, but since they cannot for whatever legitimate reason carry a steel weighted backpack for a distance in a given time limit, they cannot think? maneuver? meet deadlines? provide guidance and experience? Something's terribly wrong, here.

Look, here's another thing to think about... can't jobs be made to fit people? Think about it, how much has it been said, there's a shortage of trained people... well, if someone (permanent) has 10, 20, 30 years of experience, an excellent safety record and satisfactory or better employee evaluations, like the folks I've mentioned in my opening sentence, then why were they stopped from being used? Why are peoples' careers and their retirements they've paid into for years being unfairly removed from them. Is it because a hypothesis on "Health and Safety" is in the works. That means BEING DEVELOPED, not ALREADY DEVELOPED... A friend of mine, who's a Chief at a municipal department asked, "Why are you giving your B.C.'s, ADFMO and FMO folks a newbie test"? Where's the respect for their lifetime achievements? Is respect only a Municipal or State Fire Agency practice?

Take Care,
another J.W.

02/03 Columbia,

My wife woke me with the news that there had been another accident with a space shuttle. Not again I thought. Words can’t express the amount of sadness that we felt for those families and friends that lost loved ones as the shuttle disintegrated (I wish the news services would stop using the word “exploded” with all incorrect connotations of bombs, etc.) on its in re-entry.

I watched with dismay as thoughts & images of Challenger passed through my mind and thoughts of the space program being delayed and effects on the space station and Mars mission.

Then as pictures showed the wreckage that had rained down, I thought of all of those wildland F/Fighters that would be drafted in to help put out with some of the fires that would have been started by the very hot wreckage and how they would also be the logical choice to search for debris. Just the shear amount of wreckage that would be scattered over such a wide swath of America would require the management structure that you FF’s have.

For those that are on search mission, please take care. Watch out for toxic exposure. If you want a souvenir, take a photo.

No doubt there will be an intensive debate as to whether the space program should be stopped or scaled down. All I can say is that we should respect the wishes of those that died in the Columbia, the Challenger, and the Apollo & Mercury missions.

This vital program must continue.

The astronaut’s knew the risks involved and while they probably wouldn’t have gone up if they knew they were going to die, they felt that the odds were acceptable. Lets us not make their deaths be in vain. Some people say that space flight has no benefits and has provided little return for the money invested. To that end I will paraphrase a quote of Robert Heinlein’s “ Investment in pure research always pays off”.

May their souls rest in peace and their efforts and sacrifice be always remembered.

Aussie CFU.

02/02 Last week Brian asked if anyone had videotaped or knew about crews who had filmed a fire "tornado". He's trying to get a copy for fire science study. I asked him for a bit more information. Here's his response:

Hey Ab, I was on a Fire in Fishlake National Forest which is located in
Southern Utah. A back firing operation took place, however a cold front was
moving in at the time and the fire exploded. The smoke column began to whirl
and actually turned into a tornado along with a fire whirl coming out of the
tornado's top. It was later called Tom's Tornado. The date was September
1st, 2oo2. The tornado was like nothing seen before.


02/02 dear sir
my name is Trent I live in the hunter valley in Australia and am keen to find a career in fire fighting all my mates think that I should try to go to America could you give me some advice please
yours in anticipation
Trent Wagstaff
02/02 Ab - from a CFA friend "DownUnda".

Current NE Australia Fire Overview Map fairly large, 273K

Dick Mangan

02/02 R-5 Recruiter & others,

Ever since I got into this business, I've found myself doling out more than my fair share of advice and instructions to acquaintances on how to get fire jobs. It seems like whenever I end up on the topic in conversation, an hour later I'm giving people web addresses and phone numbers of people to call about seasonal jobs. I end up sounding like a salesman. So i was thinking- is there any centralized recruitment or propaganda dept. in the USFS? I've never heard of any.

It seems that IF there is any tangible recruitment being done it's primarily at the crew level (typically IHC), or at best the Forest Level (the LP is the only place I've ever heard to have a Forest Level recruitment director).

But this begs a bigger question- is there even a need for Agency or Regional level recruitment? It seems like managers have more than enough people that are interested in getting into this profession, but I don't really know if that's true. Perhaps there is a need for targeted recruitment- more people of some group or other. Like more college students or something like that (don't have to pay 'em unemployment)?

I mean, I could totally see the FS or even a conglomeration of agencies put together some really slick commercials or even a website showing the world what we do. Sell the image, because damn it is a good one. The only thing that rivals what we do in terms of adventure & excitement is the military, but there you have all sorts of strings attached. With fire, you're guaranteed action every summer, you get to travel, and when the summer's over, you don't have to come back if you don't want to. That's paid adventure in my book, and that's an easy idea to sell- if you try.

And seriously, you wouldn't even have to hype anything up- just point blank tell people: grueling hours, little sleep, excitement, boredom, exotic locations, smoke, dirt, MREs and fire. No matter how you slice it, the Wild West is our workplace and there's a lot of people out there who would love the chance to go out, sweat their balls off and do what we do- if they only knew about it. (See, what did I say, I sound like a salesman!)

I mean, something like this could not just serve recruitment purposes, but also develop Fire as something noteworthy in the public imagination. I've done a fair amount of work with digital video production using fire footage, and I must say, it's not hard to put together something impressive, short, and sweet by just showing people what we do using basic editing tools.

So the question is- Is there a place for any of these ideas to be implemented in the federal fire service? And beyond that, should there be?

JB & friends,

I don't understand why you guys are getting so huffy about the CDFer getting kidnapped. If you read the article, it showed that she knew what she was getting into, went for it, and kept a cool head when things went south. If she hadn't "just walked into an ambush," they probably would have shot her & her party for running (in the article it said that they realized they were surrounded and being closely watched) By "acting like dumb Americans," they saved their own skins. That's good thinking if you ask me. Besides, it's not like she was crying about it saying "oh poor me" or anything like that. And should she have been there in the first place? Well, that's her call. She didn't risk anybody's butt besides her own, so in my book, if she wants to go and she knows the risks, then she has every right to do it.


02/02 After reading the article regarding Megan Smaker's hostage experience the following statements in the article keep standing out in my mind:

"The Americans' guides dropped their packs and ran. Smaker, Pelton and Wedeven didn't want to stumble through the brush and into the paramilitary group for fear they'd still be trigger happy."

"We decided we'd act like stupid, dumb, loud Americans and walk down the path slowly so they could hear us coming," she said. "Basically, we walked into an ambush on purpose."

In my opinion, this sounds like a scenario out of my recent Fireline Leadership class. I say they made the right decision. If it was a choice of running blindly down an unfamiliar trail in a strange country without a local guide or semi-controlling the situation by setting the stage for imminent capture, I'd go the same route that Megan and her companions did.

My hat is off to her for her cool headed decision making process during an extremely stressful situation.

- IA Dispatcher

So maybe a distinction needs to be made between decisions leading to Entrapment and decisions, once entrapped, to avoid Burnover. Ab.

02/01 Ab,

We have been out locating and confirming shuttle debris all day. We have
over 200 confirmed pieces so far, all confirmation sightings are being held
until daylight.

Be safe,

You too, Keith. I wondered if you'd be drafted for that task in East Texas. Ab.

02/01 In response to the seasonal CDF firefighter' hostage dilemma:

Let's apply some of her actions to a few of the 10 & 18:
  • "Base all actions on current and expected fire behavior". Duh! Those folks that grabbed her have a history of violent behavior.
  • "You are attempting a frontal assault on the fire". Well, she just sort of walked in on these guys on purpose.
  • "Fight fire aggressively, but provide for safety first". Not much explanation needed here.

Maybe CDF should re-examine the methods that are used to train their seasonal firefighters like her. If this is an indication of her normal thought process, I hope that she is never on an incident with my crew.


I don't think we can indict an agency for the not-on-the-job choices of one person, but I agree with your assessment otherwise. Ab.

02/01 For the curiosity seekers among us:
Re Megan Smaker, the CDF firefighter who was held hostage
in Panama... "Basically we walked into an ambush on purpose"

Brentwood woman talks about her time in captivity.


Why intentionally put yourself in harm's way? Ab.

02/01 FlameBoy

I was heartened by your post, but when I opened the pictures
that Ab linked, all the elements of the Helicoper LCES were
in each picture. I am so confused!

Will Puller

Oopsie, busted! HAW HAW

02/01 about the pack test:
Right now I am filling out the packet that comprehensive health sent me from virginia, they have also set up a pretty intense physical with a doctor that is contracted through the gov, they call it a baseline, you have to take it before you are cleared to take the pack test in 25 years of fire I have never heard of it until now, because of all the deaths of the pack test I guess, so it must be a interior department thing. Iam surprised that the FS union hasn't bitched about it like they did the pack test.
stay safe all

I'm surprised that if you did the work capacity test (pack) last year, you weren't required to do the health screen first. There was fairly extensive discussion on theysaid last year about the prerequisite screen. Ab.

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