May, 2003

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05/31 Ab, here's a good one. I had to write in. Got it in the mail from a CDF friend who is worried about being laid off. Don't know who wrote it. He's asking around. If anyone knows, please tell him or her THANKS! In the meantime, Laugh on! Cry on? GEW
Subject: Memo to all CDF Employees
Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 15:42:09 -0700

Memo To All CDF Employees

Dear CDF Employee:

As the result of a reduction of funds budgeted for departments,
we are forced to cut down on the number of personnel. Under this
plan, older employees will be asked to take early retirement, thus
permitting the retention of younger people who represent our future.

Therefore, a program to phase out older personnel by the end of the
current fiscal year, via retirement, will go into effect immediately.

This program will be known as SLAP (Sever Late-Aged Personnel).

Employees who are SLAPPED will be given the opportunity to look for
jobs outside the company. SLAPPED employees can request a review
of their employment records before actual retirement takes place.

This review phase of the program is called SCREW (Survey of
Capabilities of Retired Early Workers).

All employees who have been SLAPPED and SCREWED may file
an appeal with upper management.

This appeal is called SHAFT (Study by Higher Authority Following

Under the terms of the new policy, an employee may be SLAPPED
once, SCREWED twice, but may be SHAFTED as many times as
the company deems appropriate.

If an employee follows the above procedure, he/she will be entitled
to get: HERPES (Half Earnings for Retired Personnel's Early
Severance) or CLAP (Combined Lump sum Assistance Payment).

As HERPES and CLAP are considered benefit plans, any
employee who has received HERPES or CLAP will no longer be
SLAPPED or SCREWED by the company.

Management wishes to assure the younger employees who remain
on board that the company will continue its policy of training
employees through our: Special High Intensity Training (SH*T).

We take pride in the amount of S*** our employees receive. We
have given our employees more S*** than any company in this
area. If any employee feels they do not receive enough S*** on
the job, see your immediate supervisor. Your supervisor is specially
trained to make sure you receive all the S*** you can stand.

And, once again, thanks for all your years of service with us.
05/31 Regarding CDFMike from Arroyo Grande's post:

Federal IHC, Regional Hotshot, Type 1, and Type 2 IA crews are all equipped with 6-8 radios in R-5.

The reason they have so many radios is twofold. The first purpose is to help alleviate the "C" in LCES. The second purpose is that these crews can be broken into small squads under a qualified FFT1 and still remain in communication with the crew boss or supt. Since a CDF Type 1 crew cannot be broken up into smaller squads, obviously you wouldn't need more radios.

I have to agree with your post that some crews are always on their "crew" tactical channel and not on the assigned incident frequencies, but not just hotshots. I have lots of experience with other agency resources, including my own, using their own local tactical channels (engines, helitack, etc.) and being impossible to get ahold of.

05/31 Honorable Mouse

I am "self limited faller" (old school from the 70's) and for safety I use some flagging (plastic type) tape and a spotter, when dropping a burning tree. I tie one end around my neck (single layer will break before anything bad happens to you) and the other is given to my spotter who is back watching the top of the tree. A good tug will get your attention. Parachute cord, no matter where it is attached to the faller, can hang you up. The flagging will will break free, no matter which escape route you take or how it gets hung up.

Fyr Etr
05/31 Greetings All,
Can anyone suggest and/or recommend an urban interface video suitable for showing to the general public? I'm trying to increase awareness about fuels reductions in both the Home Ignition Zone and along access/egress routes such as private sub-division roads. Any info appreciated.

I'd like to throw in my two cents worth regarding the administration of contracts and what I suspect could be in our future. I operate under an EERA that is hosted by an Forest that shall remain nameless. The contracting office has decided that a contract EngB only has to have 230/231 & 290 to be qualified - this is their INTERPRETATION of 310-1. I have spent fair bit of time and money to take the training outlined in 310-1 and gotten my task books signed off over the last few seasons. I know that over the long haul I'm in a better position, but it sure is irritating to find out that the folks with three courses behind them are on the same roster as I am....As someone that has worked as a contract administrator, I don't envy them the job but why are the contractors being asked/forced to administer the government's contract?

As for the future and my suspicions, I feel that the current pool of fire suppression and support contractors are not your (read Federal Fire staff) enemy. I think that we, and by we I mean all of us that are involved in the current government/EERA arrangement, face a bigger danger. Unless we get our act together and start pulling for each other, we could all be out of the game. Eventually a Bechtel, Fluor Daniel, MDM, AT&T - Lockheed Martin ring any bells? - is going to see a multi-billion dollar opportunity that they can take over with relatively little expense. In the very near future there could well be a VERY large corporation running fires in our country.

Granted we could all apply for work with "THEM" but I, for one, like the flexibility of my current situation - which isn't to say it's easy. Most of us aren't looking for your jobs, we just want the opportunity to work WITH you on more projects. Unfortunately the latest Fuels Management solicitation was written in such a way that the little folks - that live and work on your district, know the area, the weather, etc. - aren't going to stand a chance of bidding.

If it's all going to Hell in a hand basket, isn't this the time to be creative and show initiative? Change is hard, there's no doubt about that - and you have to know that all your small business EERA's are constantly faced with it as well. Aren't they giving you the opportunity to act less like Big Government (BAD) and more like small government (GOOD) through the stewardship concept? If the idea behind the current administration is a return to more local control, let us help you look good, we can help you exceed your goals...Maybe a Federal Fuels Reduction Agreement which acts like project rate EERA?</soap box>

In NW MT it's raining today, snow pack is rapidly disappearing or gone, 10 hour fuels and bigger seem really dry based on sawing all week and burning two weekends ago.

Thanks folks!
Be safe,
05/31 Glad to see the parade issue was a joke, that was my first impression but many seemed to be taking it seriously. Just to play devils advocate for the WCT, how many firefighters died related to physical fitness issues on the line under the step test, compared to the number who have died taking the test and how many have died on the line since the pack test has been the standard? I'm in favor of the pack test and wished we used it at my department, but there are some areas I feel that the administration of the test has some ways to go before I'll consider the agencies as meeting their responsibilities to their employees / potential employees.

These discussions of the pack test tend to turn into childish shouting matches but there are some areas that I think the agencies are harming their employees and the abilities of the agency with the application of the test particularly in prevention. Many go into prevention once they can no longer perform at the level of primary fire positions due to physical disability. Many can perform all the tasks which go along with the duties of a wet patrol, but can no longer meet the arduous level of the pack test. I don't know what the answer should be to those people, but it seems harsh to boot them out of a job they are capable of providing good service for just because they can no longer do the job of a hotshot, engine or helicopter crew. Most wet patrols I've been around rarely act as suppression personnel on anything larger than a camp fire but provide many useful less strenuous fire line tasks, not dragging hose pack up a hill. I've also known older helitackers(?) (what's the plural for helitack) that are never used on the line but have great experience working in the helibase who have been forced out because they physically can't pass the test. The experience most of these people provide due to their experience is invaluable, it is a shame to lose that due to the inflexible application of a test of abilities that doesn't necessarily apply to their specific job.

Sure if they are expected to work on the line on occasion, or in other ways need to meet that level they should pass the test, but it should not be based solely on the fact their truck happens to meet the terms of an engine or they are assigned to a helicopter but the crew has no intention of using them on the line.

Again not suggesting that the test has to go, just that there is some need to tweak its application to eliminate as much of the potential harm or loss of qualified people who can not pass the test but are fully capable of doing the job they actually do. I realize this is a small number of individuals but most deserve the attempt, not all are lazy slobs. Unlike structure departments that tend to have jobs that those physically unable to perform suppression work can do and still provide a useful service, with the widespread adoption of the pack test most wildland agencies don't seem to have many of these positions left, dispatch is about the only thing left and that is a fate worse than death for most line personnel and tends to irritate those dispatchers who chose to enter that position for making it a dumping ground for disabled firefighters. I don't have the answers but if you don't take care of your firefighters as they get older it becomes harder to retain them when they are younger. The Forest Service used to be known to provide for its own. In the relatively short span I worked for the agency I saw it change from one that looked for solutions to its employees problems to an inflexible one that dumped them at the first sign of trouble. I liked the old one better.

Two bits,

I agree with you that the Task Book system needs some work, it is a great idea but is too reliant on subjective views, I worked with one excellent firefighter who had 20 years in fire with the USFS, had been a crew boss on a hotshot crew, and a captain on an engine, his DIVS was shot down after several assignments, the last being over a week from IA to mop up, yet his relief was less experienced and was passed as DIVS on his first assignment which was one shift of mop up on that same fire. Personally I've had my taskbooks held over my head in an attempt to influence my actions unrelated to the position and others were signed off as soon as I returned from class (before I know better) I've also seen a fair amount of favoritism as far as handing out training assignments. I think the Task book system is a great idea, far better than the take the class you are one most of the fire service uses but it clearly needs some tweaking to avoid passing people before they are ready or as a management tool to control people.

05/31 Yacatac

What gives you the right to come down on some folks who choose the extra
set of eyes? I worked a multiple seasons as a sawyer on a hotshot crew and
yes I do agree that there needs to be only one person at the stump but I
would like that extra set of eyes in case I need them. I was also certified by
D Dent and like some of the stuff he taught, however the more people looking
out for you the better.

05/31 Two Bits,

In Region 5 the forests have entire committees that have to approve each
task book. People here are definitely qualified before the task books are
signed off.

Maybe R6 needs a class action lawsuit or 2 to get them on the right road.
I wouldn't recommend it as the pain free route but if they can't be
professional about business, it opens the door.

Remember not all Regions dwell in the same pile of doo.

05/31 JerseyBoy,

I’m not sure why you think jumpers should cross-train as rappellers, when there are rappel units that do that job already. I don’t know why they can’t co-exist, and why you apparently want the rappellers to lose their jobs to jumpers.

I’ve never been a rappeller, but I think it’s a bad idea to try to mix the two unless there is a commitment to ensure enough practice; since I don’t think you can always get enough practice jumps as it is, I doubt there would be enough time or money to get enough practice time on jumping and rappelling.

You claim that you don’t think that cross-training would compromise safety. In my last post, as in this one, I’m trying to tell you why I think it would do just that. Not trying to rip you here, but what’s your basis for your statement? As someone who’s been there, I do think you would compromise safety by cross-training. You say that jumping can’t be that difficult because rookie training only lasts 6 weeks. Hey, if you become a jumper, you can go ahead and think that way, but you’ll be asking for trouble.

Anyone who has been a jumper can tell you that you learn a lot after rookie training, that you learn with each jump. Some jumps are relatively easy, some are very tough. You shouldn’t take any of them for granted. Some look easy from up high, or even if you do a low pass, but you still may not see all the hazards until it’s too late. I’m basing my comments on my experience, not on what I heard somewhere. Having ended my jump career with an injury, I sure wish I had mastered the skills better, and I know the hard way how tough some jumps can be.

Again, why get rid of rappellers when there is no need to? Have both, use them both. Certainly you won’t ‘improve’ jumping by taking away time to work on jump skills.

As for jumping not being perfect, of course it isn’t; just ask any jumper if you want confirmation. But neither using jumpers as rappellers not privatizing it will improve things.

05/30 We've added many new links to the Wildfire Education Links Page. Many thanks to those who took the time to dig them out and send them in. Educators are already appreciating it. We put a permanent link to this page on the Links page under education. Scroll down to the last slot. If the occasion arises, let those in your communities know about this resource.

We've updated the Jobs Page, wildland firefighter Series 462 and Series 455.

05/30 After reading the post on parades causing deaths in the fire service, I felt I needed to add my nickels worth. First off, what caused this ff to have a heart attack? I seriously doubt the "stress " of driving in a parade caused this. You go like maybe 5 mph if your lucky for an hour or two, right?

According to a recent article on firehouse, heart attacks are the leading cause of ff deaths. Why is that? Stress form the job, sure. Lifestyle? sure. physical fitness? sure. Parades, hmmm, probably not. My point is we as a brotherhood need to take better care of our selves, period. I know of no firefighter that considers parades stressful or hazardous to their health. Parades have been part of the fire service for hundreds of years. To try to banish parades because its dangerous is ridiculous. You talk to any youngster in America and ask them what they remember about parades in their towns, cities, villages, whatever, and I bet 95 % would say the firetrucks. The parades are a source of pride for the ff's and community as a whole. Its a chance for them to get out and show their support for each other. If we follow the train of thought about banishing parades, maybe we should do the same for our returning war heroes and veterans. It would certainly be stressful for them too.....I don't think so. I wouldn't want to insult them like that. And what about when there is a LODD? The funeral procession is a parade, in a way. Trucks driving down the road in a procession, with the public out on the sidewalks. Should we not do those too? My whole point with this rambling again is we, as a family- shots, jumpers, rappellers, volunteers, career, etc, etc, etc, need to take better care of ourselves.

05/30 Please post the information contained in the message below. I'm sure the Sawtooth Hotshots would like to see this.

We helped CNN Presents last summer in their efforts to film and interview the Hot Shots on the fireline along with other activities. It should be an interesting broadcast...tune in if you're interested.


A quick announcement. CNN Presents will finally premiere the television documentary we produced last summer with the Sawtooth Hot Shots and the Southwest Incident Management Teams that tackled the Biscuit Fire in Oregon.

The program was pre-empted by the ramp up to events in Iraq and the
extensive war coverage the network produced.

Here are the details on the airdates for the program:
CNN Presents: Summer of Fire
June 8
8 pm ET, 5 pm ET
11 pm ET, 8 pm ET
And later that night at 2:00 a.m. ET, 11:00 pm PT

The show will repeat the following Saturday, June 14th.

I'm currently in Kuwait, about to drive to Baghdad this weekend. I'm
reachable via email over the next few days, if you have questions about the

Craig Duff
Producer (freelance), CNN Presents

Here's a quick description of the show:

 · Summer of Fire: The summer of 2002 brought one of the most intense fire seasons in 50 years. Drought and overgrown forests led to infernos that raged hot and wild. Three states saw their biggest fires in a century. Tackling these blazes were thousands of firefighters and personnel, confronting the flames like an enemy on the battlefield. CNN's Bruce Burkhardt brings the audience to that battle, with an inside view from the fire line on the summer's biggest blaze. And our crew shadows a twenty-person Hot Shot squad for a two-week shift on some of the most challenging flames of a Summer of Fire.
05/30 Re Snake River Sparky's comments:

Just for some general info, this year Oregon is
charging each contract crew $60 a day per crew while
on fire assignments. This money will be given to the
state to help monitor training and qualifications of
contract crews. The state (if they do it right) will
be going threw records and sitting in on classes to
assure that everything is taught to the set standards
and that task books and red cards aren't pencil
whipped. But the one question I want to throw out
there is when are we going to do a better job of
reviewing taskbooks on the Federal side? I've seen a
lot of people getting signed off that have very little
experience. Some areas in south central Oregon have
done a very poor job of getting their people out on
fires but sign things off as kind of a way to keep
people happy. I personally have seen two crew bosses
signed off that never had more than a ten person squad
under them and that was just a mop-up show. So for me
at times it's hard to understand why we as fed agency
aren't doing a better job of policing.

well thats my
two bits
05/30 Hi all,

I am red carded for the first time as an EMT-B for this fire season. For
all you veteran EMTs out there what are the most common injurys I will be
dealing with and what type of equipment will I be issued? Any good tips you
can offer would be great. thanks

Stay Safe,
05/30 To all you sawyers,

As a class c faller & former sawyer on a hotshot crew I am appalled that all of you sawyers are looking for ways to depend on another person to keep you alive while cutting timber. I am a firm believer in D. Doug Dent's theory on keeping oneself alive by looking for aerial hazards yourself.

No matter which method of transmitting danger is used, by the time the "swamper" reacts, the faller digests the information and reacts, IT IS TOO LATE....The faller needs to be looking UP.. towards the danger so he/she can react!

Now using earpieces, air horns, etc to warn of changing fire conditions, incoming retardant / water, etc is a fine idea....

On Aerial Delivery of Firefighters,

As a current air attack, I am a firm believer in both the smokejumper and rappel programs. Both are fine tools in a well rounded toolbox.

05/30 Re: Lobotomy's post on CDF Crew radios,

I believe that ALL have a minimum of two regular handie-talkies. The swamper and Captain are always going to have one each, and some Crews will have more. The eight that Lobotomy mentions are on Shot crews seems almost excessive and might help explain why we are so often unable to raise neighboring Shot Crews on the tac net......

CDFMike from Arroyo Grande
05/30 FRS radios, it is the FCC that has ruled that the
FAMILY service radios are to be used by the general
public. Private businesses and government are not
authorized to use the frequencies. The USDA and
Interior are restating policies that are already in

The only radio frequencies that are to be used on an
incident are those that are listed in the Incident
Action Plan or authorized by the local fire dispatch
if an IAP is not in place.

Official stuff said, there is the problem of the
command and tactical frequencies getting clogged with
use. This can be caused by a number of things; not
enough tactical frequencies, folks that talk too much,
too many radios on the line. Everyone's need to pass
info is important and they need to relay it now.

A major consideration is that there are not that many
frequencies that are dedicated to fire that can be
used nationwide. The NIFC Radio Cache is always
running out of frequencies and has to go to Washington
DC to temporarily borrow frequencies allocated to
various government agencies. In areas with a lot of
fire teams operating this is a monumental task, it is
one of those behind-the-scene jobs that really goes

The frequency plans we use today were really
established before King radios came on the scene. The
radios had fixed frequencies that could only be
changed by replacing crystals. There were not that
many radios on fires, radios brought in with people
from thier home units were not able to operate on the
incidents frequencies. Quite a different situation
than what we have today with programmable radios.

A few years ago there was a proposal to get shot crews
some frequencies to use. The problem was the freqs
they proposed were only authorized for the general
public and a some businesses that had a license issued
in the past, the radio type authorized for this use
also needs to meet certain requirements that the King
does not meet (a non-removable antenna and very low
power). Using these in the woods would be no problem,
get near town and have a fire start interfering with
Walmart or Taco Bell and I bet the fire would have to
move off, we would really see who has more pull in DC.

Getting a new frequency usable nationwide is near
impossible. Most are assigned to be used within a 60
mile radius of the licensee's residence. So a units
home frequencies are no good away from home, be it
contractor, FS, BLM.

There have been a few incidents on fire of units not
operating on assigned frequencies that could have had
serious consequences. There has been several memos
from high up saying that using unauthorized
frequencies will result in disciplinary action, but
have yet to hear of anyone getting into trouble.

I know there is a need for more frequencies to keep
the info flowing on the line, and the FRS radios are
small and handy to use and do serve a purpose. But I
will get up during briefing and state the official
line of only authorized freqs to be used, as that is
what I am required to do. So keep your FRS radios
hidden and don't ask me to program freqs that are not
in the comm plan into your radio.

05/30 it seems i ruffled some of the jump wings.

in my original post i tried to make it clear that i
wasn't opposed to the jump program, but that there
might be some better, or more efficient ways of doing

i haven't been in fire that long, so i can't speak for
all the debates that came before me. but from the
people i have talked to in the fire world, folks with
many years of experience, seemed to echo one another's
sentiments - some of these people were former jumpers,
and some are current jumpers.

many believed that intensive rappel programs were
going to be the wave of the future - like the arroyo
grande helishot crew. i brought up the russian sj
article as a point of reference - the photos from that
piece showed 10 or so jumpers in a helo flying in to a
fire. seems as if the helishot program could be an
alternative to jumpers (better? the same? worse? in
different situations) i also heard comments that the
rappel program was being underutilized because of the
faith in the jumpers. this is good and bad in my
opinion: good that jumpers are so valuable that they
inspire such faith, bad that a better way may be

like i said in my first post - the rappel program is
still very much in its infancy, and running out of
flight time before rappellers, etc. is a problem that
needs to be solved.

and "fraternity", "tradition" and "resistance to
change" these are all words and phrases that have been
repeated to me many times by many people in the fire

personally, i think the jump program is excellent (5
of my former crewmates are jumpers now), but i don't
think its perfect.

i don't think that adding rappel duties to sj's would
necessarily compromise safety. i realize that jumping
out of a perfectly good plane and parachuting into the
woods requires different skills than sliding down a
rope. but this isn't rocket science - it only takes 6
weeks to complete rookie training for smokejumpers,
and not every second of that is spent learning how to
jump. why is the russian program able to do both?

is requiring u.s. sj's to be rappel qualified too
much? i can't say - i've been neither, but i don't
think i'm the first one to have thought this.

finally, my comment about public perception: sure, the
general public is appreciative of all the folks:
engines, ground-pounders and the like. how many times
have you told people that you're a wildland
firefighter only to be asked: "are you a smokejumper?"
or read an article about a fire that says that "the
crews working it include 8 smokejumpers." the public
thinks of wildfire and they think of smokejumpers -
its an image that is both natural (for the risks that
sj's take, and the quality of the job they do) and
contrived (from a misunderstanding of how fires are
fought). i don't mind explaining what i do - after
all we are all digging in the woods after arriving,
whether its by plane, helo, engine, or boots.

the contract jumpers comment was in response to a
conversation had on a long, long, mop-up shift last
summer. we were discussing outsourcing and someone
asked if cost were the only prohibiting factor to
having a contract jump force. it seems if all other
jobs were open to contracting, why wouldn't jumping?

thanks to all those for replying - i am still
relatively new to the fire game - and i like to ask
questions. this board is a great place to get answers.

05/30 Guess it's time to "fess up": my latest post about Parades Killing Firefighters was a feeble, and all too subtle, attempt to poke those folks so outspoken in their opposition to the Work Capacity Test (WCT).

Yeah, a 49 year old firefighter did die on Memorial Day while driving a fire truck in a parade; and yeah, others have died under similar circumstances, including polishing the engines in preparation for a parade.

I was not making jest of their deaths, but rather trying to raise the point (mostly unsuccessfully) that deaths from Heart Attacks can occur when we least expect them, but that we shouldn't condemn/eliminate the "precipitating event", be it a parade, the WCT, or walking up the steps to church on a Sunday morning.

Rather, we should recognize that ours is, by its very nature, a hazardous occupation/avocation. While no death in wildland fire operations is acceptable, the extremely low % of deaths from the WCT versus the numbers of firefighters talking it every year shouldn't keep us from expecting, and measuring, a level of performance higher than one would get from "Joe SixPack, the Couch Potato": Joe's Heart Attack on the fireline could put many of the rest of us at risk trying to effect a rescue.

So, I apologize for being so abstract/obtuse/vague.......... but not for believing that the WCT has moved us miles ahead of where we were in Firefighter Fitness just a few years ago.

5/29 Emmett,

It's not upper management who says that the use of FRS radios is not available... it's the FCC. The agencies are just following direction from the FCC.

Unless...um.. you can consider a crew a "family" ... you might be pushing the subject. I admit, we used to use them around the station but stopped when we were told they were against reg's.

I see CDF handcrews using them all the time and I don't report them. Maybe CDF could provide an additional HT for the swamper and maybe someone else?

Most Fed type crews have somewhere around eight radios assigned..... Most CDF crews have one or two.

Agencies are just applying the rules and reg's.

5/29 1800 Update on the Del Puerto Fire in SCU that started at 1130 today, 15 miles west of Patterson. It got up and ran right off the bat, like from 35 to 80 acres in 20 minutes.

It's now 500 acres, is 5 to 8% contained and is burning in grass and light brush, some timber.
Currently 10 residences are threatened.
Today's fire behavior: Rapid rates of spread, spotting, gusty winds.
Temp: 90 degrees.
118 personnel from CDF, state park, local fire depts.

Be Safe

SCU stands for Santa Clara Unit, CDF. Ab.
5/29 Al,
CDF prohibits the use the FRS radios. However, I've seen some Crew Captains using the little radios for comms between captain and swamper. I was briefly assigned to a station that has a Model 5 and we used FRS as an intercom between cab and crew seating. Against the rules but what are ya gonna do ;)

I don't buy upper management's argument that FRS radios could cause a problem on the line, I can tell the difference between my King HT and a little Cobra HT. But I'm only an engine Captain with many years experience.

I guess you could say I have issues with this little item.

Hope that helps,
5/29 Sad announcement:

We in York, Maine are mourning the death of David N. Hilton from a heart attack on Saturday. He died young, was only 42, was an easygoing guy, a good friend, and firefighter you could count on.

He also wrote one of the books on your books page: From York to the Allagash: Forest Fire Lookouts of Maine.

We're all going to miss him.

Condolences. Ab.
5/29 From Firescribe:

Brush fire burning in 500 acres in Stanislaus County

Oregon Firefighters battle first wildfire of '03
5/29 About the smoke jumper v rappeller debate, what Sign Me BBSMJP is saying is kinda off.

I am a rappeller and we have never run out of flight time before running out of rappellers. As far as being more expensive, who knows? there is an argument on both sides one helicopter or parachutes and injuries. I will say that rappellers can fill most of the jobs that Sign Me BBSMJP listed, but not all of them. Jumpers do have their place and are valuable in most places. I also have to agree that a Fraternity is good, it carves your place in this world. The jumpers jump the small fires as well as rappellers but during a large fire, the rapellers rappel potential helispots and sections that are hard to get to.

I reckon I'll stir the pot a little. We also have a small injury record as well as a very safe record.
5/29 Capt Emmitt,

I could have been clearer. I was thinking of Big Blue's post below, where he or she says, "The Department's of Agriculture and Interior have prohibited the use of Family Radio Service (FRS) radios". and gave the link

I left out the "frequencies" and "models" part of my post. Do CDF's specs match those of the feds? If a faller works on a strictly CDF fire, could they use what The Hon Mouse suggests?


5/29 Jersey Boy,

I’ll tell you why I don’t think jumpers should cross_train as rappellers. I think jumping is a demanding skill, and it’s hard enough to get enough practice jumps to stay current and sharp. When I was with the BLM we tried to jump every two weeks, and I think people would benefit from jumping more often than that. To try to work on another skill, rappelling, would serve neither well. Air time is expensive, and I doubt that there would be sufficient attention paid to either skill. Limited budgets would force compromises, and safety would suffer.

I do think that jumpers would object to becoming rappellers, and I don’t see why they should have to. I think the two programs can co-exist. As a former jumper I would rather have a canopy over me than a helicopter; no offense to rappellers.

I may get into trouble here, because I don’t have numbers handy, but my memory is that airtime for our jumpships was less expensive than for helicopters. If I’m wrong I’m confident that someone will correct me. Are jumpers too expensive for the service they provide? I don’t think so, not if you value initial attack and firefighters that can work without support once on a fire.

Is it inefficient to load jumpers into a ship and have us patrol an area that has been hit hard by lightning? I don’t think so. I remember a very long day that started in Ely, Nevada, in July 1996. We got on the Twin Otter early that morning, and in about an hour found a small fire and dropped two on it, along with their gear; we ended up returning to drop them a saw a little later. Stopped in Mesquite and later on in St. George, UT, for gas, cargo, and picked up some USFS jumpers there. By that time we'd jumped two more on another fire, and found a couple more fires. When I went out the door around 6 pm, we had dropped on three different fires, and we caught all of them while they were small. The one we didn’t drop was too big for us, and it was way too windy to jump.

I think that one day showed the benefits of the jump program: We were able to patrol a pretty vast area and respond quickly to smokes that had been spotted, as well as pick up fires that had not yet been reported; we got people on the fires quickly; we had sufficient supplies for three days on each fire, and had we dropped the saw initially on the first fire, we wouldn’t have had to return to it; we were able to pick up pre-positioned cargo in St. George, as well as smokejumpers from a different agency (Redmond folks, I think); we kept all our fires small.

I haven’t read the Outside article (couldn’t find it online) but I understand the writer said that sometimes jumpers can see a freeway from their fire. That’s certainly the case at Storm King, but let’s remember how strapped that district was for resources at the time; also, most of the time jumpers can get to a fire faster than anyone else, and it just may make sense to use them even if there is a road nearby.

Will there ever be contract smokejumpers? I hope not. I’m out of jumping now, and have no axe to grind here, but I doubt a contractor who has to pay attention to the bottom line is going to focus on practice jumps the way the government will (and as I’ve said above, they could spend more time on it). Privatization is not a cure-all, no matter what this Administration thinks.

Now a question for you: Based on what you’ve seen and heard, what changes do you advocate for smokejumping?

5/29 "We're Toast" - I haven't read it, but don't blame smokejumpers for carrying out 90 years of firefighting policy.

Jersey Boy (5/28) - In my opinion it sounds like you need to talk to more people to get more info on the smokejumper and rappel program. I'll try to help.

In your letter you write:
"…rappel… seems that this is a much more efficient way of transporting firefighters…"
A recent gov't study showed that during busy times rappel helicopters run out of flight time before they run out of rappellers. Rappel ships usually can carry 2-6 rappellers. On the contrary, they run out of smokejumpers before they run out of flight time. To make each program more efficient, the rappel base needs another helicopter (expensive), while the smj base needs more smj's (cheap).

"…wilderness areas…"
Of my 100+ fire jumps only a few were 2/4 person small inaccessible IA wilderness fires, while of ― of my fire jumps have been whole plane loads (8-16 smjs) to escaping/emerging fires, non-wilderness, urban interface type fires.

"…share its territory…"
In most regions, especially 4, 5, 6 smj and rappel have been used for years. R1 has a new rappel base on the Gallatin. The Panhandle or Kootenai would be a better place, but that's OK. In my opinion both programs are a compliment.

"…as with Russian smokjumpers, why US jumpers weren't rappers as well."
In the past 15 years, many smjs from WYS, MSO, RDD, and NCSB have been crossed trained in rappel ops. It has been tried, but it must not be very efficient or they would still be doing it. During the past few years, Russia and the US have been using a smj exchange program to integrate into each other's program for a whole season with many ideas exchanged.

"…vehemently oppose external change…"
Where there is a need, smj have changed. Smjs are very versatile. Ie. 20 person crew. Fire Use. Fire overhead - STLC, DIVS, FOBS, OPSC, ATGS, MCAD, EMTB etc. Prescribed burning all over the US during the fall, winter, and spring. Local, regional and national fire training. Fire Research. Technology and Development. Smj's learned and use arbor type climbing techniques to climb trees to help APHIS with the Longhorn Beetle problems in Chicago and New York.

A brotherhood… I see no problem with being a tight knit group.
IHC's, rappel, engine, district, all types of crews are proud of what they do and care about each other. I wouldn't want anyone to change.

"…public perception…"
I find that the public loves ALL ground level FF's, not just smj's.

"…tax payer…" more than a few rappel bases average less than 3 rappel fires per year. All that expensive training and risk for not much fire use. On the other hand it is not unusual for a plane load of smj's to "save the day" by catching an escaping/emerging fire. We all know big fires = big dollars. By catching these types of fires the smj program pays for itself many times over. What a great investment!

I didn't try to step on anyone's toes or rope, and I am not saying the smj program is perfect, but it sounds like Jersey Boy has been looking for smj program info. Come on out, take a tour and visit a while!

Sign Me
BBSMJP (Bring Back the Smokejumper Program)
5/29 Sounds as if Jersey Boy has a thorn in the side over Smokejumpers (??)

Got to throw my spittle into this fray. This turf deal with rotor and
fixed wing efficiencies has been going on FOREVER -- or at least since the
days of the Wright Bros. I remember drawing circles on maps and plotting
times of arrival, etc., etc. to see who was "fastest," who was "best."

I come from a family of Smokejumpers, Helitack, Pilots, Shots, regular ol'
ground pounders -- you name it -- and we've beat it to death at many
"wonderful" holiday dinner tables.

First, let's talk "Fraternity." Yep, that's right on -- but a better word
would be "team" -- and it fits or SHOULD fit every entity sent out of our
firefighting tool box -- that's what makes "efficiencies" efficient.
Believe me smokejumpers don't own the fraternity/sorority concept.

How about "tradition" -- the "stock" reason why smokejumpers don't try
different aerial delivery methods? Well -- I must dispute this one. After
seeing programs that work, vs. don't work, programs that are safe vs.
unsafe -- I think TRADITION is better described as SPECIALIZATION. Too
much diversity of duties and the emphasis on one resource doing it all --
just leads to trouble. TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN on ONE system -- and the system
becomes more efficient and safe. Switching between procedures, methods of
delivery and equipment is something that shouts WATCH OUT. Not sure which
poison I'd pick -- being attached to a hovering huge bird on a hot day, or
jumping away from a flying bird on a hot day hoping to steer away from any
number of "great" leg-breaker landing spots.

Speaking from the love-hate relationship with the smokejumping/helicopter
community that keeps life entertaining:


Hi Cache Queen. Actually the smoke jumpers came up because of an "Outside" article, but I agree with you about the entertaining rivalry between crews and maintaining a "variety of tools" to call on. Ab.
5/29 In case someone might want to know what the National Weather Service says
about the origin of a MICROBURST or DOWNBURST wind, here is the Special
Weather Statement for Southern Utah for this afternoon, along with a
definition of same. Think safety with every breath you take,


0936 AM MDT THU MAY 29 2003


5/29 CNN will be airing an hour long documentary called
"Summer of Fire" next week. It's a look at the 2002
fire season, and some of the issues that deal with

Its runs Sunday, June 8th at 8 & 11 pm (ET)


I think the producer of this piece got some help from theysaid behind the scenes in finding some particular kind of video footage. Might be interesting to see what the documentary is like... Expect a "test" the day after. Ab.

I am trying to find a job working as a wildland firefighter. I will be getting the basic training the week of June 16th. I was told that a man named Pappy had listed a link to all of the places that were still looking for crew members, and I looked for his name but I could not find it. I am willing to move anywhere in the states and can leave as soon as I am done with the training. If there is any information out there that could help me, that would be great. Firefighting is what I want to do with my life and I am trying to get the word out. I am also willing to start working when all of the students go back to school in August.

Thanks for your help,
R Ty O

Hi Ty, that post sometime last week was by Papa. Here's the url. http://wwwnotes.fs.fed.us:81/r1/hr/fstemphire.nsf
Good luck with continuing in your efforts. Excellent that you created an opportunity for acquiring the basics. Keep up your PT. Your name has got to be on the most recent "list". Your dogged persistence will pay off. Ab.

5/29 Hey Al,

What CDF radio rules are you asking about? We have a program text course that all new employees take explaining our system and the use of same.

I'm not really sure what you want!
Captain Emmett
5/29 Ab-

the latest out of washington on competitive outsourcing. we'll see how the fed fire agencies deal. to view the entire article, go www.washingtonpost.com

on a related note: will there ever be contract smokejumpers?

5/29 OOFG,

Thanks for the details on the PreAttack Plans. Reminds us all of the grunt work that went into protecting the woods from fire and all the knowledge that we might have lost with those retiring. I hope that whatever records remain get put on computer and backed up. Such information seems invaluable to me.

5/29 Anybody know what the radio rules are for CDF?

5/29 Ab;

Was I incorrect in reading the objection to parades as a joke?

But even so, one thing I’ve noticed in our area is that even though a parade may mean being in full gear (wildland or bunkers) on hot asphalt for several hours at a stretch, we tend not to prepare like we would if we were “working”. This results in firefighters on parade who are hung over (nah, that never happens), who aren’t paying attention to staying watered up, or who are otherwise not paying attention to their physical condition like they would on a fire line.

I think having firefighters on parade is a good thing…it may offend the dignity of some, but realize that we are part of the community, we are (largely) tax-payer supported, and getting our faces out there is a good thing. Especially as a volunteer, I think it’s a great thing to raise community awareness that these are their friends and relatives and co-workers who are protecting lives and property. People tend to think about all emergency response as sort of automatic. Something goes wrong, they call 911, something gets fixed. Getting in people’s faces helps them realize that there are a few extra steps in that equation.

Nerd on the Fireline
5/29 Parades are good.

I showed up to one in my area in nomex and had a little kid yelling, "Mommy, Mommy, look, a REAL firefighter." Made my day, my week, my parade experience! If I have a heart attack and die while on parade, St Peter will have to do that kid one better!

5/29 Ab,
Was just reading your they said section and found a subject dear to my
heart. Keeping a sawyer safe. My wife even perks up when I get new safety
info. So I just Wanted to post my two cents worth. Could you post the
following to mouse:

Honorable Mouse,

Over a few years I have used several methods for alert while running a
power saw. The best method until recently was pcord around my secondary
wrist. One tug and I'm removing myself down a predetermined escape path.
This works well but has no directives. If my swamper is trying to warn me
of a snag falling towards me via my escape path Ive just went from bad to
worse. If you think about it you could see lots of what if problems to this

I have recently purchased an ear bud for my BK radio that I placed inside
my ear muff. I contacted the FCC and received my own radio frequency (after
a $15 fee for a commercial application) and now use it with my swamper (your
agency may have a little used freq that you could piggy back on). This
answer works well for me after working out some very short commands for my
swamper. The drawback is that you must be familiar with your swamper and
work with him/her alot to know these commands. Full descriptions of the
problem tends to lead to the problem making itself aware to you before your
swamper does. The other drawback is that the radio parts are expensive and
not as hardened as could be. You also still only have one way communication.
I am always open to new techniques (especially those that make my job safer
and easier) So if you have any better ideas let me know.

Saw guy.

Glad you chimed in Saw guy. Ab.
5/29 To all:

Don't you find it very suspicious that the number of deaths from firefighters
participating in parades aren't included in NIFC statistics? I think this
information should be available. Many firefighters are ordered to take part
in parades, usually without adequate training or preparation. How can we keep
sending firefighters out on potentially fatal parade assignments unless we've
done the research and gotten a doctor's assessment of the medical threats of
parade assignments?

For that matter, what do parades have to do with firefighting? Why do we put
firefighters at risk for an activity with an unproven connection to
firefighting? What about firefighters that lose their jobs because they
can't/won't participate in parades? Where are the unions on this? I don't
care what Brian Sharkey says, we're losing too many firefighters. In all my
years of fighting fire I never had to take place in a parade, why now????

5/29 Honorable Mouse:

We used to use a very simple system of communication between faller and spotter: a piece of paracord -- however long it needed to be -- one end tied to the faller's arm the other in the hand of the spotter. One pull by the spotter and the faller is out of there (without the saw, of course). I personally witnessed this system save a guy's life as the top of a snag came down right where he had been working. Hope this helps...not as hi-tech as radios but definitely does the job.

5/29 The Honorable Mouse

The powers that be say you cannot use the $40 FRS radios.

Family Radio Service (FRS) Radios
The Department's of Agriculture and Interior have prohibited the use of Family
Radio Service (FRS) radios. FRS radios cannot be used by anyone associated with
federal wildland fire/incidents. This includes agency, military, and contractor
personnel. Contact Steve Jenkins for more information.


Someone wanted to know what kind of engine was on the Dillon District of the White
River NF. Last year it was a type 6X, FS model 52, 2000 Ford F-450, 300 gallons
w/foam known as Engine 610. I don't believe it changed this year.

Big Blue
5/29 To the Honorable Mouse:

I can’t comment on the use of the walkie-talkies with an earpiece, as I haven’t any experience. However in the construction industry they are now combining walkie-talkie type communication equipment right into a set of earmuffs. Most commonly used for the guy on the ground (name???) to communicate with the crane driver. They are fully integral with a boom microphone attached. Some even have the feature of taking FM radio broadcast (supposedly so that a single site broadcast would reach all the workers on a site in case of an emergency but is mainly used to listen to the local FM music station).

Down here 3M Australia was certainly evaluating them and they are sourced out of the States. Had full OSHA & NIOSH approvals on the accompanying literature. They also come in a model to attach directly onto a helmet without the head strap. Just remember that the use of an earpiece is not the same as wearing an earplug (or ear muff), which are designed to REDUCE the amount of noise that reaches the eardrum. Either one of two things will happen a) the ear piece will not provide enough sound reduction so that damaging sound levels still reach the ear drum or, b) the ear piece blocks out all sound which means the user can’t hear any sound coming from that direction i.e. a shouted warning or blast of a horn (can lead to spatial disorientation).

If 3M have them, then surely they must also be in the market from other manufacturers (check out these sites http://www.rahq.com/eartec.php . http://www.probuy.net/dir/42.phpl or http://www.envirosafetyproducts.com/html/Peltor.php#powercom )

Good luck
Aussie CFU
5/29 TO Aberdeen,

Its always sad when we lose a firefighter in the line of duty, but its even sadder when someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly from a routine activity such as working out, sweeping the floor, doing the Pack Test, or preparing for a public activity.

But to demand that all of the fire service cease parade activities because one man dies from a heart attack is unrealistic. You are getting out of hand with your demand, because predominantly volunteers suffer from sudden death more than any other group in both the wildland and structural areas.

I won't stop participating in parades because of a fluke accident. How do you know this wouldn't have happened before or after the parade, or what the man's physical condition was that night or morning?

In the words of the Immortal Sgt. Hulka: "Lighten up, Francis."

5/29 Ab-

Here's some info that might be of interest to some folks. There are outsourcing brochures that were shared with Congress last week during lobby week by the Union, during their meetings/briefings with Senators, Congressmen, and Congressional Committees. There is also information on health benefits and workman's comp for those who are interested. Thanks to the union reps who are tackling the outsourcing issue!


Ab formatted the info and here's the stuff on Outsourcing. If you'd like us to send you the info on health benefits and workman's comp, let us know.
5/28 Emily,

To further what Rotor2fire is saying. The primary mission of helicopters is to deliver firefighters and drop water on "initial attack" fires. "initial attack" meaning the first action taken on a fire. Helicopters have limitations on paylaod but they fly very fast and can land in some pretty amazing places. If no landing area is available, rappel crews can deploy and fight fire or build a landing zone for the helicopter.

Specialized training is required for working around helicopters, mostly focusing on safety and proper use of this valuable and expensive resource. Rappel crews go through extensive training on the ground and in the air to safely rappel to the ground. Rappelling is a tool in the toolbox, but it is only a way to get firefighters to the ground. Landing is the preferred method for deploying firefighters.

I hope this helps you in your research,
5/28 See, the Redding smokejumpers are in SoCal removing dead and dying trees.
5/28 Falling Safety

It’s always been a concern of mine when falling trees, especially on fires, that my spotter won’t be able to communicate "incoming danger" (usually falling objects from the tree) to me in a timely enough fashion to do the me any good. Nearly all fallers wear "hearing protection" of some kind, either ear plugs or ear muffs. This is a health issue plus in one respect and a safety hazard in another.

Has anyone out there tried using the small handheld walkie talkie type radios with an ear phone for improving faller safety? Like the faller uses the ear phone and the swamper the handset to communicate with him. The set I’m currently toying with costs $40.00 and has worked well in other applications of "near proximity" communications in high noise level environments.

The Honorable Mouse.
5/28 Emily,

There are three "types" of helicopters and each has particular minimum specifications for allowable payload, number of passenger seats, and water or retardant carrying capability, etc. If you want to see what those are, look in the IHOG (Interagency Helicopter Operations Guide, Chapter 6 on page 2. Here's a link to the entire manual www.nifc.gov/ihog/ with all the specifications and rules for helicopters. The Arroyo Grande sikorsky that Ab mentioned is a Type 1 or Heavy Helicopter and its crew is a Type 1 Flight Crew. They have to be certified in the Type 1 Crew requirements like hotshots.

Rappel crews usually travel on smaller ships. Before we get onboard, we have to enter our accurate weight and the weight of our gear and tools into calculations to make sure the load isn't too heavy, given the mission and flying conditions. Conditions change during the course of the day. The pilot has to constantly be careful we're not flying too high or too heavy when it's too hot - given the ship's flying capabilities.

On the photo part of this website, you should flip through the helicopter photo pages to see the rapelling and aircraft photos. There's even some photos of a descent taken through a helmet cam. I know what that feels like, sometimes rapelling from 125 ft. Yeow, what a rush! Fighting fire using helicopters to get there and back home is a fun career. Sometimes exhausting, we work our butts off, but fun with great people. Can't wait to get back up and out.

You can find training info for aviation positions on Ab's links page. Here's a good one: http://iat.nifc.gov/. Look down the lefthand list there, click "position descriptions" and see what classes people working with helicopters have to take. I did a bunch of ACE training this spring. It's terrific. You can do some of it online and some at the training site. I'd recommend it to anyone. One thing about all modes of firefighting - when we're not flying or fighting fire, we're training.


5/28 Emily,

Here's an old unofficial Malheur Rappel Crew site with some info.

5/28 These questions may have been asked (and answered) but I did not see the
results, so....

Why are the five Region 5 Type I IMT web sites down?
When are they expected back on line?


Hi Lasagna, nice mention, BTW.
The team pages have moved servers. Check our Links page under Federal. That will take you to the Type I and Type II Team pages with appropriate links. Ab.

Getting along with others

As crews are finishing training and "tooling up", thoughts turn to getting along with each other and working together as a crew. As we all know, many in their first season and beyond are reasonably qualified and capable. Often their success depends on whether they can get along.

A friend sent some advice to me. The original was transcribed from an Ann Landers column from some years ago. I've modified it in some cases. (The original column was entitled: The Ten Commandments of How to Get Along with People.) If anyone has further modifications relevant to wildland firefighting they'd like to add, please contribute. This bare-bones list could be altered in more true and humorous ways.

  1. Keep skid chains on your tongue. Always say less than you think. Remember your tone of voice and body language are part of your message. Make an effort to talk less and listen more. How you say something often counts more than what you say.
  2. Make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully. We need to be able to rely on each other.
  3. Never let an opportunity pass to say a kind and encouraging word to or about somebody. Praise good work. A well-placed comment may spur another to better themself. As one improves, so does the crew.
  4. Be interested in others: their pursuits, their work, their homes and their (other) family. We also are a family. As with family, make merry with those who rejoice: with those who weep, mourn -- unless what they really need is a kick in the ass. Let everyone you meet, however humble, feel that you regard them as a person of importance.
  5. Be cheerful -- well, at least no whining. Don't burden those around you by dwelling on your aches and pains and small disappointments. Remember, everyone is carrying some kind of a burden, and maybe more gear than you.
  6. Keep an open mind. Discuss but don't argue unless your safety depends on it. In general, think before you speak when nerves are frayed and conversation gets "hot". It is a mark of a superior mind to be able to disagree without being disagreeable, especially with your crew supt or squaddies.
  7. Let your virtues, if you have any left, speak for themselves. Refuse to talk about the vices of others, unless someone's life depends on it. Discourage gossip. Some of it is a waste of valuable time and can be destructive and hurtful.
  8. Take into consideration the feelings of others. Wit and humor at the expense of another is never worth the pain you may inflict. Weeeeeell, maybe sometimes it is, knowing the twisted humor of our fire crew. See the next "commandment".
  9. Cultivate a thick skin. Pay no attention to ill-natured remarks about you or your mama. Remember, the messenger may not be the most accurate reporter. Simply live so that nobody will believe them.
  10. Don't be anxious about the credit due you. Do your best and be patient. Ultimately your actions will speak louder than words. Forget about yourself and let others "take note of" your accomplishments. Success is much sweeter that way.

Tahoe Terrie

Ab, please add: PS. Thanks for the feedback on defensible space.

5/28 Hi, my name is Emily, and for school I'm researching Helitack and firefighting. I would like to have some information about the helicopters from someone who knows. If you could direct me to someone that could tell me certain types used for fires and training or if you know yourself, could you please email me back soon!

Thank you for your time,

We normally don't post these, simply reply, but if anyone wants to contribute, feel free. Since the AT's and smokejumpers got mentioned this morning, the helicopter folks might want an excuse to wade in. (Why not train smokejumpers to helirappel?) Correct me if I'm wrong, Emily, but you probably need some firefighters to quote in your report, right? And the report is due tomorrow? ;-)

You also might want to take a look at the Arroyo Grande Flight Crew photo page. Click on the words under any of the photos for the description of the crew and what the AG Heavy does.

Here's another informative link from the Forest Service web: Helicopters: Multitasking aircraft. Links there to more Helitack and Rappeller info. Ab.
5/28 For those following the tankers, here's an update from the Coloraodan and Rose Davis:
...only nine heavy air tankers are ready to go if called upon today -- five heavy P-3s and four DC-type tankers. Nine P2V Neptunes and two SP2Hs await inspection protocols ...before they are eligible for flight.

There are also going to be 8 MAFFS available, the article says. Ab.
5/28 Re: We're Toast

I think the author went to far in calling for the
elimination of the jumpers, but i think he raised a
relevant, if underdiscussed point: the jumpers are
incredibly expensive for the services they provide. i
guess this could be applied to many different aspects
of fire.

however, the question should be asked: are
smokejumpers necessary and desired? i think the
answer is "yes, but..."

the "but..." has to do with the rappel program, which
is still in many ways in its infancy. it seems that
this is a much more efficient way of transporting
firefighters, except for extremely long distances into
wilderness areas. it also seems that there is a lot
of resistance on the part of the jump community to
"share" its territory with the rappellers.

last summer's national geographic article on the
russian jumpers was interesting in that it noted that
their jumpers were also rappellers, and that only very
infrequently did they jump, most of the time they
rappelled. when i started asking questions about why
the US jumpers weren't rappellers as well, the stock
answer i got was "tradition."

most folks told me that the jumpers would vehemently
oppose any external change to their program, and that
since the jump community is so close (the word
'fraternity' was used often), and the public
perception of the jumpers was so grand, that the
program would never be cut - people would be left
wondering who would put the fires out.

i don't know to what extent what i was told is true,
but from what i've seen and heard there can and should
be changes made to the jump program.

my view as a firefighter and a taxpayer, is that if
we're doing things simply for the sake of "tradition"
and because of a mis-educated public attitude towards
the way fires are managed, we need as a fire
organization to start to re-evaluate our programs.

i certainly don't agree with the author of the outside
magazine article and think the jump program should be
eliminated. but the wildland fire world is going to
go through some major changes very soon - some that
will dramatically alter the jobs and lives of the
people who fight fires - and that may include the jump
program too.

5/28 We added a new Current Event category to the News Page: Bark Beetle and Fire. There are a whole new slew of articles under the standard categories as well. Interesting to browse through if you have time.

Updated the Jobs Page, wildland firefighter Series 462 and Series 455 yesterday.

5/28 Anyone know what happened to this alternative to (Bush's) Healthy Forests legislation? Did it just fall by the wayside as competing legislation?

Federal Lands Hazardous Fuels Reduction Act of 2003
Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)

NorCal Tom

I think so. Ab.
5/28 Another interesting few on the wildfire situation in the US: the May 26th issue of "High Country News" (www.hcn.org) has a detailed feature article titled "A losing battle" authored by Ray Ring.

JC - I too thought that the anti-SJ comment in "Outside" was a cheap shot: the author watched the pennies while the $100 bills burned up!

The whole wildfire issue has definitely got the limelight nationally: now's the time for knowledgeable, experienced professionals in the business to step forward and make your feelings known to those who make the decisions (and allocate the $$).

5/28 Tahoe Terrie-

The Public Resource Code says the minimum clearance is a minimum of 30 feet
or a minimum of 100 feet if the CDF Unit Chief determines that fuels, slope,
and potential warrant the decision. Some are a case by case decision and
some are a geographical area decision. In any case the landowner is given
no authority to continue past their property line, a problem in rural zoning
where 25 foot setback minimums are common. The USFS is responsible for
clearance inspections on private lands within the Forest boundary and Direct
Protection Area based upon the CDF Unit Chief's decision. USFS recreational
leases are a special case. The law requires that the clearance be provided
on lands that are leased, owned, controlled, or occupied. If the recreation
lease is only for the footprint of the cabin the leasee may not be
responsible for clearance unless otherwise stipulated. They leasee may want
to clear for 100 feet but may not have the authority. What happens if they
cut vegetation on the Forest without permission? Now back to the rest of my
bowl of esoteric dry cereal!

5/28 Tahoe Terrie

We're telling people on slopes especially to clear defensible space to 100 feet. With all the rain we've had there's LOTS of tall grass in CA. Northern CA has it thicker and taller than normal. Currently it's green, but all it will take is a few days of drying and "walla" lots of fine fuel. We're telling them to break out their weed whackers too and get to whacking.

5/28 Anyone else notice that the "clear the flammable veg and ladder fuels around
homes" has jumped from 30 feet to 100 feet? Heard a CDFer say that

Tahoe Terrie
5/28 Stu, were you able to procreate? Howz your memory? Maybe you didn't inhale.

Just wonderin'
Everybody, hit the ground poundin'. Be Safe.
5/28 We're Toast article:

Biggest ticket item in firefighting is the air war. Surprised
Gantenbein didn't go after the ATs and the heavies. Picking
on the SJs seems kinda underhanded.

Actually, a good article. Many of us could say the same,
except when looking in the faces of folks who are about to
loose everything. That said, the Public needs to get a clue about
protecting their own homes. Homes, just another kind of fuel
type if you get right down to it ... in the abstract. Triage, name
of the game. Hard as that is.

5/28 Aberdeen,

Ref the Parades, I think you have just had your leg gently pulled!!!

The message is, life is deadly.

A Kiwi FF
5/28 Dead trees... bigtime

Comments are escalating from "Oh my" to "Oh Sh*t" here in AZ. We've got some 50-90% beetle kill ponderosa on the Prescott National Forest south of Prescott down toward Mt. Union and Crown King. We have had a major thicket of ladder fuels, now this. Something gets going and we're set for a major rager, get out of the way already.

Heard about but didn't read that article yet, but "we're toast" might not begin to describe our situation.

Be Safe,
5/27 Mollysboy, what did you think of the lines
"One good place to start with the cost-cutting: smoke jumpers. They're brave, motivated and charismatic, but they're far too expensive for the service they provide... The deep-wilderness fires they're best-suited to fight are precisely the ones that usually should be left alone. Maintaining nine federal smoke jumping bases and 400 jumpers, meanwhile, sucks up some $20 million a year."
What would firefighting be without the smokejumpers? Regarding where to let fires burn and where to suppress, the article made lots of sense... in the abstract...

5/27 Meghan: Graduation Fire started by lightning on 5/24/2003 at 1100 near Ojo Feliz NM.
It's now 325 acres on state land, 90% contained.

Had about 90 firefighters fighting the blaze over the weekend, now has 35 state and private personnel working it, 7 engines, 1 type 2 handcrew mostly doing mopup. The fire burned in ponderosa pine and grassland. No homes or structures threatened.

That's about it. The season is underway...

5/27 Aberdeen:

What the hell are you talking about!!

Any Fire Service agency that doesn't participate in simple, good PR for the
department, out there being visible, interacting with the public; is living
in the past.
If you think the heart attack occurred just because he was in a parade;
Come on now!
Our job descriptions! It's your job to be in the public, visible, and
strutting your equipment.
Get that written into your contract

The STRESS you're talking about is your lack of comfort and progressiveness.
Yes it is a shame the firefighter died (god protect us all.. everyday)

Forgive me and correct me if I read your post wrong...


It's time for all of us in the firefighting business to stand up and end this MADNESS~!!


Yes, another fellow firefighter (49 years old) has died of cardiac arrest while driving a fire truck in a Memorial Day parade in Pennsylvania. And this is not the first fatality resulting from a parade: checking the records, we find other fellow firefighters dying while polishing their trucks IN PREPARATION for a parade.

Where in our job descriptions does it say we have to participate in parades? Has the stress of driving on busy streets in front of thousands of our fellow citizens ever been medically tested? We should have the drivers hooked up to an EKG in their engine cabs to get real-time readings on their heart rates and possible arrhythmias.

If you think the exposure once a year taking the Work Capacity Test is too much, consider all the Parades each year: Xmas, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor day, Veteran's Day, County Fair, Homecoming.........this list of high risk exposures goes on and on!

As a firefighter community, we must protect our fellow firefighters from this unnecessary risk: speak up now, to your Agency Administrators, Union Reps, County Commissioners, VFW officials, etc. SAVE FIREFIGHTER LIVES!!!

5/27 OOFG,
2-4-D + 2-4-5-T mixed with diesel, ah, those were the days. Thanks for the memories!
5/27 For those of you receiving the "Next Generation Fire Shelter", I pose a

Since the new practice shelters and video will not be out until July (hope),
are you using the old practice shelter as the tool to train with along with
the Next Generation Pamphlet?
Will you not train and distribute until the time the video and practice
shelter is in your hand?
other opinions?

Heatin up

5/27 Does anybody know anything about the Graduation Fire in Mora county, New Mexico?

5/27 T o: SM, DAS, Yactak & Mellie:

Pre Attack Plans are just that, pre attack, prefire starts. It entails a
TOTAL inventory (write ups) of fuel types, access routes w/ weight or size
limitations, water sources & availability by season, proposed helispots,
ports, staging areas + size, firecamp locations + size, plus aerial hazards,
etc,etc. All info collected was recorded and all FS districts used same data
collection methods and forms. Can't remember if data was ever duplicated for

FS districts were broken down in logical blocks of 10,000 to 30,000 acres.
Most were limited to smaller than 30,000 acres, depending in transportation
plan and limited by topographic features from a fire standpoint, mainridges,
secondary ridges, etc. Each district was assigned a letter, ie., district #
1 would be assigned A, #2 district B and so forth. Next step, each district
was divided into blocks as specified above with each block assigned a letter
designation, ie, A, B, C and so forth. So......if district 1 is A, their
first block was AA, next block AB and so forth. Each pre-attack block's
writeups kept in large three ring binders, now probably on computer. But, in
any case paper can be copied, computer may be down. Data can be used if IA
fails. Maps were kept in Pre-Attack Atlas by the individual block. Data can
take a lot of time to complete, by knowledgeable fire management people. On
the S-TNF, Pre-Attack used to set up automatic Dispatch. Was fast & easy.
System set up on Plans Green, Yellow, Orange & Red. All dispatch said was
initiate Orange plan for Block AB or what ever. Then checked off engines and
crews as they went in service. All IA forces knew where they to go. If you
didn't go in service, dispatch would gig ya. Cut down on a lot of radio
traffic. By gearing dispatch to pre-attack, eliminated everything else.
Course takes some thought by experienced folks to set up. Course can be
revised if need be.

Begin constructing signs (called targets). Targets are assembled, mark an
drill holes for mounting to posts, paint targets, construct needed
stencils, stencil data on target. Targets are equilateral triangles, 12
inches per side. Mounted flat side on top. These are stamped out of 12 or 14
gauge metal, can't remember which. Painted orange. Mounted on a metal post,
I think 8' length, so they can be driven into the ground w/post driver. Then
sighs are mounted w/metal screws or pop rivets. I have made them from
scratch, a pain. Find out how many are needed then contract out, the best
way. Whole block or district at a time, for cost. Course, when a fire goes
thru your area, new targets are in order. Have a spare or two.

Begin actual fireline (fuelbreaks) & helispot construction as funds are
available. Once this is started can be time consuming but can be well worth
it. Maintenance of these two items used to be done by muleback spraying a
solution of 2-4-D + 2-4-5-T + diesel about every three years. To kill brush
resprouting. Don't think chemicals are allowed now. An acquaintance of mine
came up with an alternative of planting perennial grasses in the fuelbreaks
as they are easy to zip down and clean out as needed, or a scratch line by
hand crews to fire from. Think that went under the guise as type conversion
as I understand it. This was done on the Cuyama side of the LP in the early
to mid 50's.

The onground writeups very important as fuel types, aspect, slope and
distance (chs) of line construction time elements, say geared to present day
crew size, also for dozers, during planning phase worth a bunch because all
proposed lines (ridges) have been walked on the ground and hazards as (rock
outcrops) (bluffs) that are not passable with machines. Better to know before
hand, as thats when you hear that little voice talkin to ya, your in deep
stuff huh?

If actual construction cannot be done, put targets at the beginning and
ending of proposed line construction along main & secondary roads or known
access, that way they can be located by folks on the ground that are not
familiar with the area. The writeups & inventories have been done at least.
A whole lot better than just stating out with a map and a dream in the dark.
Been there, done that!!

On the Shasta-Trinity, Shasta side on the McCloud District, we started
inventory and signing in mid 60's also on the Modoc NF. Don't know how any
of it finally turned out. Also did some Pre-Attack mapping and inventory in
R6 on the Willamette NF in mid 70's.

I can say I about fainted when I read in "TheySaid" that some of the old
data was thrown out!! That's hard to swallow as a lot of info and Blood
Sweat & Tears went into it!! By folks that are gone now and experiences of a
whole generation of fire evolution is lost!! I mean the Mansfield's,
Currants, Dillingham's and Barr and others. Think the only one still around
is Jerry Berry. Particularly on the LPNF. You know if one doesn't learn from
past mistakes your bound to make'en again!! Some time you don't get away
with it a second time if you had some trouble the first time!! I was an ops
chief that got smart and went into Safety my last 5 yrs. Think this is where
it is!! Always remember, you can grow more bushes!! Just follow the
"Established Safety Rules", there was a cost for write'em!!

Good Luck ,
Old, old fire guy=OOFG
5/26 Anybody out there read the article "We're Toast" by Douglas Gantenbein in the June 2003 "Outside" magazine?? Your thoughts.........?

5/26 Hi
I am a student going to Georgain College and taking a pre-service firefighting course. i have always been interested in the forest firefighting. i was hoping that you could send me some information on forest firefighting and if i could take any course that would help me get into the program.
If u could send me anything information that would be greatly appreciated.
Mike E
email: yoggiebear3@hotmail.com

Hi Mike, I am unaware of wildland firefighting training in Ontario Canada, nor do I know about 2 or 4 year Canadian universities or programs where you could train as a firefighter. We have pages of links to such programs in the US on the links page under training & education, bottom category.

In the US, people apply to be federal or state wildland firefighters and are trained on the job. Some go to schools that have firefighting programs or take vocational education classes in firefighting, like the Regional Occupational Program offerings in CA. Some volunteer and receive training. Volunteering can get you a foot in the door. Maybe there are Canadians reading who can answer your question. Have you asked at Job Connect at your college? Ab.

5/26 Hello,

Trying to figure out all of the IHC's starting dates (what
year the crew was established as an IHC). Any Help
would be appreciated.


Maybe you know about the Hotshot page, link on the links page under jobs related links. The first link goes to the National Interagency Hotshot Crew Page that has many broken links as the FS website has been redesigned. I don't know if the crew page will be updated. There is also a FS page called the Interagency Hotshot Crew List that links to hotshot crews across the US. Get into that site and you will get a page that has a link to the hotshot crew website if there is one. Most crew websites have a history narrative that has the starting date. There are many crews with no websites as yet. I suggest you do some research on the 91 or so crews listed there and then ask about specific crews for which you can't find a date. Ab.
5/26 Hello all,

I have a simple question that may require a not so simple answer. The sexual harassment stuff, that i know everyone and their mother has heard. My question is simply is there a list of Mags. that are "non-offensive" and "offensive" out there?........... Sigh............

5/26 From Firescribe,

This is good to see. Pressures from the market place tend to raise awareness.
Fire-prone properties could lose insurance coverage
5/25 Hi everyone,

I am a college student majoring in computer science. I am interested in the
position of Computer Technician Specialist for wildfires, but am not
familiar with the process of becoming an AD employee and getting called out.

I worked last year as a FF2 on a contract engine crew and have several years
experience in computer networking, troubleshooting, repair, and websites for
school districts, businesses and individuals.

Are there any FMOs or others out there who could offer some advice? One of
my questions is what classes might be required for this position? If any
specific classes are required, are there any scheduled for this year,
preferably in the Northwest? I have already completed my refresher class
and pack test for this year.

Thanks for any help anyone can offer! KC

I've had the experience of working several fires with a national team as their CTSP, so may be able to provide some insight. Region 5 has offered a CTSP training class for a few years now but I'm unsure of other areas. I'm also unaware of any formal training or requirements for the position. The R5 class (when I attended) provided some limited network training, but focused mainly on the ISuite software program. More information and downloads for I-Suite are available here: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/fire/i-suite/ Probably the easiest way to get experience with the program is to go to a fire or two as a CDER (computer data entry recorder). Other than general computer operation skills, I don't think there are any formal requirements for the CDER position and they are usually in high demand. Once you have a working knowledge of the software used, you will need to have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of networking various pc operating systems. Networking skills should include connecting Windows9x, 2000, and XP to each other, knowledge of access points both wired and wireless, servers, routers, hubs, sharing files/printers, etc. Best way to get the networking skills is to find a current CTSP and get them to request you as a trainee. Check the teams pages to find the CTSPs and make personal contact, there are some very good ones out there. They won't have time to hold your hand on a fire, so you should have a fairly strong working knowledge of networking before you start asking. Ab

5/24 Old, old, Fire Guy = OOFG
I have been a lurker for some years as I have been retired 8/88 but worked
as an AD for 8 more seasons.

Would like to try an answer some of the questions on Pre-Attack Plans for
SM,DAS,Yactak & Mellie. I personally worked on plans in R5, & R6. How do I
answer in "they said" Old, old fire guy

All anyone needs to do to get a message posted here is click the "Email Ab" button at the top of this or any other page on the site. Put your message in the content of your email and send 'em in. To avoid our trash bin, it's probably better not to include Viagra or XXX in the Subject line. ;-) Ab.
05/23 Updated the Jobs Page, wildland firefighter Series 462 and Series 455.
05/23 There are many old signs still around, at least on Lassen NF. Whether the
paper records still exist or not I cannot say.

05/23 Tahoe Terrie,

In answer to some of your SEAT questions. By 2005 all SEATS will be required to have a red and white paint scheme as well as bold i.d. numbers on the top of the left wing and bottom of the right wing. Those that don't change right away will have to have large black and white i.d. stripes on their wings. As I understand it there are 38 SEAT's on federal exclusive use contracts this year. There are quite a few threads on this subject on the message board at www.airtanker.com. I hope this helps.

nv 'yote
To all federal firefighters,

There are some big changes ahead for DoD firefighters. This is what they are planning to do to us. This is the proposal outline put out by AFGE on their federal firefighter web page. Its shows changes that will impact DoD firefighters and all DoD employees. If this bill is passed for DoD employees, then it will likely be adopted for many different federal agencies.

"The new DoD civilian personnel system proposal will change your job. Unless you stop Congress from agreeing to the Rumsfeld Plan.

Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has sent to Capitol Hill legislation which would place civilian DoD employees under a completely new personnel system. And DoD has asked for Congress to include these changes in the FY 2004 Defense Authorization bill, which will be considered by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees starting at the end of April.

The Rumsfeld proposal would allow DoD to waive approximately 12 major chapters of Title 5, United States Code (Title 5 is the section of the law which covers government organization and federal employment), and create a new personnel system in place of those chapters.

The major areas which could be waived by DoD under this proposal are:

Pay and Position Classification Systems (chapters 53 and 51):
Waiving chapter 51 means that both the General Schedule (GS) and Federal Wage System (FWS) or Wage Grade (WG) systems can be eliminated and replaced with a system that does not provide for the annual raises employees receive now. In addition, the new system would eliminate the within-grade step increases currently provided to employees who are eligible for them and who have performed at an acceptable level. Instead, they intend to put employees into a pay-banding system which allows supervisors to decide whether and by how much individual employees’ pay will be adjusted. In other words, goodbye to annual pay raises and step increases (within-grade increases or WIGIs). Your supervisor – not Congress – will decide whether you get a raise – and how much – or not. And if you don’t, you’ll be unlikely to have a chance to appeal your supervisor’s decision.

Chapter 53 covers the current classification system and requires that different pay levels for different jobs be based on the concept of “equal pay for substantially equal work”. A new system would not necessarily have to adhere to that standard. So jobs which are graded similarly now might be treated completely differently after the new system is in place.

Performance Appraisal System (chapter 43):
Chapter 43 allows management to take action against poor performers.

In order to ensure that workers are given a fair shake, the law provides employees with an opportunity to undergo a performance improvement period (p-i-p) before they are disciplined for poor performance. In a new system created by DoD, the p-i-p could be eliminated and/or the ability of the employee to appeal disciplinary action could be eliminated.

Due Process and Appeal rights for disciplinary actions (ch. 75 & 77):
Chapter 75 sets up a system for management to suspend, demote, or dismiss an employee. It also provides an employee with due process rights and the ability to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Under this chapter, an employee against whom a disciplinary action is proposed is entitled to: (1) advance written notice of the disciplinary action, (2) a reasonable time to respond, (3) be represented by an attorney, (4) a written decision by the agency listing the specific reasons for the disciplinary action.

Chapter 77 establishes the procedures for appealing to the MSPB, establishes the procedures for appealing discrimination decisions either to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the MSPB, and establishes judicial review of MSPB decisions.

Waiving chapters 75 and 77 allows DoD management to set up a personnel system whereby employees have little or no right to information about why they are being disciplined, and little or no right to appeal decisions against them. This “managerial flexibility” raises profound constitutional questions.

Collective Bargaining Rights (chapter 71):
Chapter 71 allows federal employees to organize into unions and bargain collectively with management over some employment conditions. Waiving chapter 71 allows DoD management to create a new labor-management system tilted even more in favor of management.

In addition, language in the Rumsfeld proposal allows DoD to bypass local unions’ bargaining rights, and eliminates the process by which disputes between employee representatives and management are resolved.

Currently, impasses are sent to the Federal Services Impasses Panel (FSIP), a seven member board selected entirely by President Bush, which acts as a binding arbitrator on all disputes. The Rumsfeld Plan would prohibit any bargaining impasses, no matter how routine or unrelated to national security, from going to the FSIP. Instead, the bill would prevent any third-party dispute resolution outside DoD. This is totally unprecedented and ultimately makes the whole process a sham.

Hiring and Examination (chapters 31, 33):
The Rumsfeld proposal would allow DoD to waive requirements against hiring relatives, as well as eliminate requirements for merit-based testing for positions in the competitive service. Supervisors would be able to hire and promote their cronies, relatives, and political favorites if these sections of the law are eliminated.

Reduction-in-Force rules (chapter 35):
The Rumsfeld plan would eliminate the requirement that reductions-in-force be conducted on the basis of tenure of employment, length of service, and efficiency or performance ratings. In other words, supervisors could pick and choose -- based on favoritism rather than performance, merit, and seniority -- which employees get the pink slip and which don’t. This “flexibility” is being sought by the Department even after it successfully downsized several hundred thousand civilians after the Cold War without loss of mission-essential efficiencies and capabilities.

Training (chapter 41):
It is not clear at this time what flexibilities on training DoD is planning to implement.

AFGE Position:
AFGE strongly opposes the Rumsfeld Plan to change the personnel system for DoD civilians."

If this proposal passes we, as DoD firefighters< are going to be up a creek without a paddle. Hope the same isn't in store for all federal employees.

05/23 Pulaski, that SEAT in your picture and all the other SEAT photos
on the airtankers pages made me wonder... Are all SEATS yellow?
Like all big airtankers are red and white? Are there more SEATS
this year because of the groundings of the C-130s and the PBYs?

Tahoe Terrie
05/23 SM,

I can't answer your question about whether information still exists that is tied to the old preattack signs. I imagine that there are some still working that may have an answer. However, I do know that it was much more widespread than the forests you mentioned. I have seen numerous faded preattack signs on other forests.

05/23 Lobotomy,

Just a note on the 0081 series for the DOD. That codes covers ALL aspects of Firefighting in the DOD. Wildland is but a sliver of the description. Although the Army has asked for a Vol. list this year. Maybe the fire line isn't that far off for some of us EX-"Wildlanders". You are correct though the Wildland FF's need to have a common series number.

05/23 SM,

On the LP we were keeping current and updating pre attack plans well into the mid to late 70's. 'Twas part of our regular winter work schedule. Pre attack fellout of favor in the late 70's and early 80's with line direction to remove all of the pre attack markers.

Some techs, read 462 firefighters, opted to keep the books around. In the early 90's we started scouting the old blocks on the LP and doing current size ups and write-ups of the old dozer lines, helispots, water sources, firecamps, etc. This was all done due to the foresight of one retired LP Hotshot Supe, ML.

The engine captain at Rincon Station, LPF, is currently collecting all the updated data and producing district by district udated electronic data with GIS maps for the LPF. It is an ongoing project with HUGE kudos for resurrecting the program going to ML and also to the current Rincon Captain for all his work in keeping it alive..... Also to the former Captain (now SQF) for all of his work in helping get the program off the ground.

05/23 Maybe someone will answer this in the course of the thread,
but what was the purpose of the "Pre-Attack Markers"? What
were preattack PLANS? If a fire starts here we'll do this and
this? Does anyone who ever followed one think it helped?
Were they for IA only or did they tell places where dozers could
go? Were they BEFORE dozers? Ancient history? <chortle>

What do the markers look like. Maybe I've seen one and not
recognized it.

05/22 When I worked for the Forest Service in San Bernardino, I remember seeing metal stakes with triangular metal plates attached at the top of the stake. I was told that these were "Pre-Attack Markers". Just recently I spoke with a person that was involved with this program in the late '50s to early '60s. He said that from what he remembers is that the Cleveland, Angeles, San Bernardino and the Los Padres were the only Forests that had this program.

Is there anyone out there that maybe able to give us some history regarding the pre-attack markers? Does anyone know if any of the information still exists and where one could view and or copy it?

05/22 Thank you Jim, for the link for the history of air fire fighting. I was born in Willows so I can't help but be interested. Although I am a generation younger, and I left Willows after my '65 high school graduation, the names are so familiar. My son is on an Arizona Hot Shot crew for the first time and I'll be reading this column every day.

Firegirl387 - others are giving you great advice; call daily. The FS is still filling positions because I get a couple of calls each week checking to see if my son is available.


Welcome Cog, glad you can join us. Things are heating up. Ab.
05/22 Some more photos up... on the Handcrews 8 photo page. More coming. Thanks to all contributors.

Flames and the Ventura County Fire Crew 1-1 from .............. Crew Guy Morton Salt

Some fire photos from Wisconsin where it's been a busy season already. Read the photo descriptions.

And some historical photos of Hot Shot Crews:
The El Cariso Hot Shots in 1972. Missing from the photo are Bill Gabbert (photographer) and Ron Campbell (Superintendent).
The Laguna Hot Shots in 1975. Missing from the photo is Bill Gabbert (photographer).
05/22 Some interesting info from the National Federation of Federal Employees
(NFFE- a union that covers federal employees) in a letter to the FS Chief
responding to a request for feedback on the plans for competitive sourcing.
Just a few more factoids for the conversation grist.


We put that up the week you were not online. Worth reading if you missed it. Ab.
05/22 Hello to all out there in Fire Land,
Here we are, yet another start to the summer Fire Season in the United States. Already this month we have had some good fire activity starting out in Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. According to the experts this year's Fire Season is going to be close to the severity of last year's season.

This is the time when many of the seasonal firefighters for the Federal Government (USFS, BLM, NPS, BIA, USF&W) start bringing on or have brought on the engine, helitack, and hand crews for the 2003 Season. To all of you, welcome, and have a safe fire season.

What I want to talk to many of the temporary fire crews about is not about fire safety, the 10 &18, or fire behavior. What I want to discuss with you today is your future in Wildland Fire. There may be a time down the road where you may choose this as your permanent career. What you do now to help yourself outside your on-duty time can help you reach your goals, or at least make things better.

What I am talking about is joining the Federal Wildland Fire Services Association (FWFSA). The website can be found at www.fwfsa.org. I can go into all the benefits of it but you can look those up on the site.

The best thing I want to get across is the support you give will help both the temporary and permanent in the areas of classification and compensation. Your brother Federal Structural Firefighters (Dept. of Defense, Energy, Veterans, Interior, and others) are members of the IAFF and have a small voice in the big picture as to federal issues such as pay, hours, benefits, and legislative matters that affect the federal fire service. By joining the WFWSA you become members of the IAFF and the California Professional Firefighters (CPF) if you are in California.

Its through these two groups that positive change is going to occur. If all of the seasonal and permanent firefighters in the Federal System were to join the power of the Federal Firefighter on federal fire issues, numbers would increase dramatically by bringing the current 4000+ membership in the IAFF upwards of 20,000. That is a significant voice that legislators listen to when it comes to supporting fire bills and appropriations.

What does it cost you? Its a $10.00 membership fee and then $10.00 per pay period (that's less than four meals at McDonalds, or 2 trips to the movies, a tank of gas, or a case of good beer per month). What do you get? Access to the benefits of the IAFF and CPF, representation on legislative matters which will lead to better working conditions, pay, and benefits for all wildland firefighters.

What will happen if you don't join? Nothing. No better pay or benefits, management will continue to force their will on you, no representation on legislative matters, etc..

Right now there are a handful of permanent wildland firefighters pushing hard for these better conditions that you all would want, but it takes money to make money. It takes strength in numbers to make change happen. The Wildland Agencies don't want you to join because they will loose that deathgrip control they hold over the people who do the work and risk their lives to protect the nation's natural resources. Who here in the Wildland Fire Community does not want Portal-to-Portal Pay when off forest/district on assignment? Its not going to happen when you sit on the sidelines and don't participate.

I encourage you all to talk to your local representatives for the FWFSA, ask them direct questions about what's going on, and you will hear direct answers. Mike Preasmeyer, Kent Swartzslander, and Denny Bungarz are good men who know the issues and are pushing hard for change. They are helped by CPF Federal Fire Representative Casey Judd in the legislative matters they are pursuing for your benefit.

So take a moment to decide this:
Do I want things to be better for me, or not? Benjamin Franklin most famous quote during the American Revolution can be applied here today:

"If we don't hang together, we will all hang separately."

05/22 Ab, Here are 3 pictures of the Jeffco Air Tanker Base operations and as per your request, a little information for each picture:

DC-3 - Taken March 26th, 2003 at Jeffco Airport (KBJC). From what the
guys working on it told me , it was here for some repair to the prop
governor. You may also notice some snow in the far off distance at the
bottom left hand corner of the picture. That was snow from the March
Blizzard of '03 that hit Denver from March 17th - 21st.

P-3 (Tanker 22) - Taken on April 27th, 2002 at Jeffco Airport (KBJC).
While normally this aircraft would be parked at the Forest Service's
Jeffco Air Tanker Base, it was on this day parked on the Airport's
terminal ramp. The tanker crews occasionally park them there if the
aircraft needs minor maintenance or as overflow parking when the Forest
Service ramp is full. That is the main Terminal building behind the
aircraft and the Air Traffic Control tower beyond that.

PB4Y-4 (Tanker 126) - Was also taken on April 27th, 2002 at Jeffco
Airport (KBJC). This aircraft was parked on the Forest Service's Jeffco
Air Tanker Base ramp area. Behind the aircraft is the Flatirons (the
bare rock formations jutting out of the mountain) which are located just
above Boulder, CO.

Well I hope that helps. I will try to send you a few more when I get some free
time. Until then.


Thanks Rob, I put them on the Airtankers 7 photo page. Ab.
05/22 Ab, Here's a nice history of air tankers: www.colusi.org/linked/html/history_of_agricultural_aviation.php
I know there has been some discussion of this from time to time, especially the part about the early days at Willows CA. Got the link off the AT message board.

05/22 Firegirl387:

There were 2 notices posted just yesterday for GS462-2 positions:
http://wwwnotes.fs.fed.us:81/r1/hr/fstemphire.nsf .
Are you calling the primary contacts listed on the notices?

05/22 Firegirl387;

If you’re having absolutely no luck, you might try introducing yourself at your local volunteer fire department. In my area at least, the fire departments often have thinning crews and even wildland hand crews that are paid or partly paid. They’re frequently short handed, and even if they can’t get you on a “real” fire crew this year, you can come away with training and names for next year… plus getting your face out there like sting suggested. And though some of the “regulars” might deny this, there are some very good vollie crews out there.

Nerd on the Fireline
05/22 Firegirl387 and all the others who didn't get hired this year,

You sound enthusiastic about getting a fire job but you have left the yeast out of the bread, did you call any specific stations, forests, units and let them know who you are? what jobs you applied for? any special skills you might have? did you fax any resumes or bio's to any supervisors? did you make any personal appearances to any units to place a name/voice with a person? If you answered no to all of these, then the people doing the hiring only saw a name with a SSN and a grade rating on a list with hundreds of other names. Unfortunately for you and all potential WLFF's, this is the hiring process we are stuck with.

If you really want a job, you need to MARKET yourself. You need to make phone calls, drive to stations you are interested in. Bring a resume, enthusiasm and a good, respectful attitude with you and someone is going to hire you.

It is not too late, call some units, tell them what they need to know and make yourself available for whatever they offer. Turnover can be high early season due to injuries, promotions or just plain old "flaking out". I only hired people who contacted and "proved" to us that they really wanted a job. If you only submitted an application and sat by the phone, you were just a name on a hundred different lists.

I hope you take this the right way, Good Luck.

Ab's advice: Do as sting says. You may feel like a pest, but you must be assertive and sell yourself.
05/21 JT,

Here's something: www.fs.fed.us/fire/wfsa/wildland_situation%20analysis.php
After you read what a WFSA is, you can hit the home button to find out some more.

I also glanced through the Northern Rockies Type I Incident Management Teams document looking at their teams and rotations. (Nice team pages Ab.) There's a fire complexity analysis checklist that starts on p19 with a list of conditions and you check "yes the condition exists" or "no it does not". You can see how the process works.

NorCal Tom

Oh, forgot this. Please add. It's in pdf...
www.fs.fed.us/r1/fire/nrcc/03_type1_team_plan.pdf page 19
05/21 JT

A fire Complexity analysis is part of the Wildland Fire Situation Analysis, that is done when any fire escapes initial attack ( or being used to meet resource objectives - but is called something else then). There are a number of things that are taken into account, in making this determination. If you're interested in specifics, you should contact your fire staff.

05/21 Anyone know how they do a fire complexity analysis?
Is it done when the fire escapes IA? gets to 100 acres
in trees or 300 acres in grass? I was reading something
that said one was done and didn't know when or how.
Why must be to know what type of team to get= Type
3 or 2 or 1...

05/21 Ab,

Thought folks might want to know there's going to be a memorial dedication for the T-130 Crew in Walker CA on June 14th at 1400. As I understand it this will be held near the crash site on Hwy 395 north of Walker.

nv 'yote
05/21 Lookit this. You can enter your availability status in ROSS by way or the SW GACC site.


Any other GACC's have this?

The only thing the SW site is missing are a list of the type I and II teams and links to their rosters, websites, team rotations. Ab I like what you've done with the team pages.


Look on Links page under Fed. I added the link to the Fire Use Teams site, too. Ab.
05/21 Ab,

I have been a fan of this site for quite a few months. It is very informative. I am trying to get a job in wildland fire, but I am really starting to lose hope. I have put in several applications with the Forest Service, NPS, DOI and BLM. I did tried to get them in early as recommended, most I did in January. A friend of mine who is retired from the Forest Service told me I am qualified for entry level. Well here it is almost the end of May and I haven't heard a thing from any of them. I did get a few confirmation email's from the Forest Service letting me know that everything went through but that is about it. I am just wondering if I should give up all hope and start the search for other summer employment. Is there anything else I should be doing to try and get in? Is it normal to wait this long to hear something? Any advice anyone could give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for the great site!

05/21 It is always good to know what is being said out there. It is articles like this which shape attitudes.

Wildfire Act Would Allow Clear-Cutting In National Forests

NM Fire Gypsy
05/21 California Firefighters Memorial

1st annual Ceremony at Capitol Park, Sacramento will be held this Thursday, May 22nd. Several Wildland Firefighters will have their names added from 2002. The Forest Service Honor guard will be there. Hope to see alot of Forest Service, BLM & Park Service folks in uniform. If you need additional info, www.memorial.cpf.org.

Mike Preasmeyer - President, FWFSA
05/20 Some Ab thanks go out to a group of folks (Mellie, Hickman, WP, Old Fire Guy, Tahoe Terrie, some folks from R5 prevention and Pulaski) who have come up with a new page of educational links for us:


We get a number of inquiries from educators regarding teaching kids about wildfire. It's taking more and more time to reply to them. This "page of links" seems a good alternative way to point them in the right direction.

If anyone has more non-commercial links to suggest, especially lesson plans and resources for teachers to use with elementary through high school kids, please send them in.

05/20 Re implementing the 401 series:

Here is the document we got concerning this. I also have background
documents, if you like, about what the requirements of the 401 series
are. This is enough to get the gist of what I was whining about. I
was off yesterday but got your message. Yes this is a big one. Im'
surprised it hasn't come up on theysaid already.....


Thanks. Ab.
Here are the additional enclosures:
Enclosure 1
Enclosure 2
Enclosure 3
05/20 Quick post:
From what I've been able to learn about the 401 series requirement coming for those GS9 and above... based on very incomplete information... (the main contact person won't be back in town until Friday) ... but I don't want the thread to languish and die.

What I have heard is that you are required to have 24 units in various categories. You do not need to have a college degree.

There's a Technical Fire Management program offered in the Pacific Northwest by a contract group. It's a good mid-career training that will get you 15 units and 3 more units if you do the final project = 18 total (of the 24 units needed). The problem is that the program will not be able to handle the hundreds of people who will need to get up to speed to keep their jobs when the WO implements the new requirements. Word is that they can only handle about 30 people per year.

Here's how I figure the numbers who will have educational needs for R5 alone:
Six Rivers has about 15 experienced fire people who will need the additional training. Our forest is smaller than the bulk of forests in R5, so 15 is probably a fairly conservative number. Multiply 15 by 19 (R5 forests plus Lake Tahoe Basin). That's more than 285 people who will need training like this (plus will need another 6 units of a specific sort from somewhere else) to retain their fire jobs.

I hope that someone in the WO has done an impact analysis. I also heard that it is likely to impact about 50% of experienced fire managers remaining.

I have a call in to the RO to get up-to-date complete information. I know that the Academy has been working on getting college credit for those taking training there, but don't know how that plays into this issue at the higher levels of fire expertise.

I'll try to update this topic definitively on Friday after I talk with the person who knows.
When I get a chance, I'll write up some more on the issue... having to do with knowledge and wisdom and professionalism... which are often not measurable by traditional academic institutions, especially when relating to WILDLAND FIRE.


PS Thanks to whomever sent in the info on Rick Lupe. I have my candle lit for him and his family and a card on the way. Be Safe, my friends.
05/20 Re: Fire crews used for non-fire incidents.

Personally I believe wildfire fighters have been part of an "all risk organization" since the beginning. In the beginning fighting remote wildfires was a largely unknown and experimental exercise. We will never know how many early firefighters died after being sent in to control fires without proper equipment or training. This tradition extended into the 1950s when (mostly Native American) fire crews were used by the Department of Defense to clear unexploded artillery rounds from its artillery practice ranges. Fire crews were even used to collect tons of radioactive debris from test areas at Los Alamos...and given only leather gloves as protective gear. Could the DOD have used its own "people" for these duties? Sure. But it was deemed more "expedient" to use fire crews.
(expedient, adj. 1.useful for effecting a desired result, convenient.2. based on or guided by self interest.)

We currently send tens of thousands young folks with very little relative experience into the fast changing and unknown risk (by them) of wildfires every year. We have gotten much better at training and safety consciousness over the past 5 years and thanks in large part to the public outcry over fireline deaths of wildfire fighters who may have been unnecessarily placed in harms way with inadequate support and training/experience. It seems the old emphasis on fighting fire aggressively but safely is slowly changing to fighting fire safely but aggressively. This is a very good thing for the individual firefighter.

Unfortunately the emerging improved "safety credo" is ignored when it is "expedient" to use crews trained in wildfire suppression as cheap labor sources for duty with unknown dangers. Loopholes in the Federal (and most State) fair employment practice and employee safety laws make the use of fire crews for duties with unknown dangers which must be quickly responded to very tempting to those "at the top".

Simply put we have very little recourse when our superiors place us in harms way... unless they can be proven to be aware of the danger beforehand. Unless they "knowingly" send us on missions with harmful consequences we are the sole bearers of the burden of any such consequences as a result of that duty. Ignorance ..in this case.. is a shield to those who benefit by having a ready rapid response force of crews willing to "go where they are sent and do what they are told" as cheaply as we are. And cheap labor is what we are. It is always "expedient" to use cheap labor wherever possible since going over budget is a career killer.

Compare what it would cost to mobilize a force of properly trained and outfitted crews to search for possibly toxic shuttle debris compared to what the bill was for crews trained and outfitted to fight wildfire. And then add the cost of dealing with long term heath effects which may be a result of exposure to unknown toxins. Unlike the relatively cheap and unorganized labor of fire crews the folks who are "properly trained and equipped" for going into "unknown danger" are usually well paid and belong to unions. Where they might be able to sue for compensation if they are injured by those "unknown dangers" fire crews will likely not even be aware that consequences might result from their duty and will certainly not have the organization or resources required to bring suit for compensation.

As a recent example of our use in "all risk" situations...
When inquires were made regarding the possible exposure of firefighters at the Los Alamos area fire to radioactive elements in the smoke the LANL (Los Alamos National Lab) response was "a certain range of radioactivity is present is all smoke from burning vegetation" and that "the level of radioactivity in the smoke from the forest fires in the Los Alamos area was within that range". The inference was fire fighter were not exposed to any greater danger due to radioactivity than in a "normal" wildfire. When further inquiries were made regarding how LANL knew this the response was essentially "because we monitor the levels of radioactivity in the air around Los Alamos continuously". However, when asked to provide the data from their air monitoring devices the period of time during which the fires were actually near the former test grounds was conspicuously absent. Looking at the available information it appeared that levels of radioactivity in the air was rising up to the point of missing data.. and on the way down when monitor data resumed. The obvious inference was that in fact airborne radioactivity exceeded the level at which some liability might attach and that data which might provide any evidence to a future legal inquiry was "lost".

To a skeptical mind it would seem that the "expedient" solution to decades of suits by fire crews was to simply destroy any evidence. Would professionals who were aware of the danger they were being sent into be subject to such shenanigan's? Of course not.. they would have been equipped with their own monitoring equipment. This would have not only provided an opportunity for such properly equipped and trained professionals to avoid exposure but evidence of exposure which could be later used to secure compensation for the consequences of such exposure. Fire crews in contrast had only a few simple Geiger counters which are simply not suitable for measuring exposure to airborne radioactive contamination. On the contrary... the indication from these devices would tend to allay fears of possible radioactive exposure.. to those with inadequate training in the specific risk of airborne radioactive particulate. Those with the proper training would know better than to rely upon this inappropriate equipment. They also would have known better than to take POSSIBLY contaminated equipment offsite after the incident. Certainly NO properly trained individual would have taken POSSIBLY contaminated gear home with them. Yet to have required fire crews to leave all their gear at the incident would have alerted them to the possible danger they had been exposed to. It was not "expedient" to do so.

I have been personally exposed to many dangers I was in no way trained to safely deal with during my duties on non-fire assignments simply because "it was an emergency" and I had some skill that was immediately required at the incident. Was I ever informed of the danger? Never. Would I ever have a chance of obtaining compensation for health consequences resulting from those exposures? Never. Could my superiors be held responsible for any consequences including my death on the incident? Of course not... they were "ignorant" of the specific dangers. And of course it was "expedient" to be so. And I am sure it was much easier for them to sleep at night not "knowing for certain" that they had unnecessarily exposed me (and others) to hazards with possibly fatal or long term consequences.

I was "young and dumb" then though...and when I got older/more experienced and started saying.. "Hey this is wrong...we need to be trained for this stuff".. it was the end of my career. Properly training and equipping equals the end of the cheap labor and no future liability. Simply put.. it is not "expedient".

I have a problem accepting use of fire crews on "all risk incidents" without adequate and appropriate training and equipment.
It seems to be a giant step backwards.

05/20 United States Department of the Interior
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Fort Apache Agency
PO Box 560
Whiteriver, Arizona 85941

Contact: Chadeen Palmer, Public Information Officer
928-338-5383 fax

Date: May 19, 2003
Firefighter Rick Lupe Update

[Whiteriver, Arizona]-Rick Lupe, Fort Apache Agency
firefighter, was seriously burned on May 14, when he
was trapped in a small flare up on the Sawtooth
prescribed burn near Whiteriver, Arizona on the Fort
Apache Indian Reservation. He was transported
immediately by helicopter to the Indian Health Service
Hospital in Whiteriver and then flown to the Maricopa
Medical Burn Center in Phoenix. He is reported to be
in stable but critical condition with extensive burns
over 33% of his body, most seriously on his head,
hands, arms and upper legs.

Evelyn Lupe, Rick’s wife, expressed her sincere
appreciation for the overwhelming support, prayers and
well-wishes from people throughout the state and
nation. She asked for continued prayers to help Rick
with his recovery and recuperation.

The 100 Club, a nonprofit organization established to
provide assistance to injured firefighters and law
enforcement officers, has established an account for
Rick Lupe and his family. Donations may be made for
Rick and his family in Account #468902 at the Arizona
Federal Credit Union. Many local banks and other
financial institutions will also accept donations for
the account. Credit card donations may be made in
Rick Lupe’s name on the Internet at www.azfcu.org

Thanks for the update. (To make a donation, click on Contribution Accounts under News and Info in the lefthand border.) Ab.
05/20 Updated the Jobs Page, wildland firefighter Series 462 and Series 455. Don't forget to check out the contract positions available.

05/20 Lobotomy,

Thanks. Your response helps and brings up some real good points. Now
I've got more things to give me pause to think.

For instance, you are right that we are becoming ever more involved in "all
risk"......911, exotic Newcastle disease, shuttle recovery, and ?????
How do we modify the ICS system to accommodate that? The foundation
of the system is that we assign only qualified people to an incident. When
looking for leadership/supervision on a non-fire incident (crew boss, STL,
DIVS) do we go with the current fire quals system?Is a fire DIVS at all
qualified to manage at that level on an anthrax attack? (obviously not).
Does one need to be "arduous" tested for a Newcastle assignment?
Do we need to revise ICS to include subset "quals"? ie DIVS/fire,
DIVS/disease, DIVS/bomb threats?

Back to the new fire "series".Historically, we tie grade to positions,
not qualifications. ie. an employee may be trained and qualified to
operate at a higher grade, but until a "vacancy" occurs, there is no
promotion.Would a new series recognize acquisition of quals and have
automatic promotion? Example: A GS-7 STL completes courses/task book,
and gets signed off as DIVS. Should that result in promotion?

Ab, thanks for this site.

Old Fire Guy

You're welcome. Ab.
05/20 Neptune... start thinking out of the box........

Wildland Firefighters of the various Federal Agencies would still be providing forestry, range, and biological sciences duties as they always have, but they are not the PRIMARY duty they are hired for. So, if your primary job title and responsibility is Engine Captain.... your job controlling factors are FIREFIGHTING duties and your "other duties as assigned" are forestry, range and biological sciences.

We would contend that firefighters would have their positions graded based upon their actual critical duties and not be based upon their collateral duties, ie. "the support of forestry".

If there are positions, such as you say, that only have 2 months of actual fire duties, maybe they shouldn't be included as primary or secondary fire positions for retirement. I spend every day of my year supporting fire management in one way or the other. I'd hate to say there was any Firefighter who had this stance.... but if there is... these positions should probably not be firefighter positions and only have their duties as collateral.

As an ex-Department of Defense firefighter, here's how I look at it..... I trained for 12 months a year to be a firefighter..... during that period I had "NO" fires...... NONE...... I still qualified as a firefighter even though my primary tasks were building maintenance, vehicle maintenance, and training.

I have to ask myself the following question... When the Forest Service level 4 LEO's started asking questions about their classification as Forestry Technicians (1980's), were they hit by these same problems. THEY WERE SUCCESSFUL at getting properly re-classified.


05/20 First off, thanks to the Abs for this site, it really is a great resource.

For those of you who have to wade through the sea of applications, what format do you prefer? 171 or 612??? I guess I have a soft spot in my heart for the tried and true SF-171. Anyway, what format would make your job easier/do you prefer and why?

Always looking
05/20 Ab, here's one special event for those in the neighborhood:

The Calaveras Big Trees Association is offering an opportunity for mountain residents to learn more about wildfire danger. A new play, "On Fire", explores the heroics, tragedies and triumphs of America's wildland firefighters. The association has scheduled only one presentation.

WHEN: 4 p.m. June 1

WHERE: Jack Knight Memorial Hall, with seating for 100, at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, on Highway 4, about four miles east of Arnold.

TICKETS: $5; to arrange reservations, call 795-3840 or e-mail info@bigtrees.org.

05/20 My Father called from so call MVU 30 acres in Santee Ca. I think it has
started out west. Oregon is drying quickly with some small grass fires
starting to occur.


Take a look at the News page under Forest Fire. Canada certainly has some blazes. Also, for SoCal starts and fires, watch the News and Notes. Ab.
05/20 THANK GOD that "trainer" is now no more ..maybe pvtscan now push upward.. years ago i worked for him and know what they are talking about.. also got dumped in a camp ground with no food......

05/20 Abs,
Just finished reading the KATU article on the contract trainer from Oregon that apparently got caught scamming the system. I see several points worth mentioning in the report:

First, contract firefighting associations have been begging the feds to enforce contract standards. Since these associations have no law enforcement authority, their only disciplinary tool is loss of membership. When these associations become stronger and membership is a company asset, not just an annual dues liability, then loss of membership will have real meaning. Of the present contract firefighting associations I know about and belong to, none yet have that type of organizational unity, maturity and clout.

That said, if the feds write specific training, financial, insurance and performance mandates in their contracts, they and they alone have the power to legally enforce them.

Second, with the amount of money that is disbursed to private fire resources by the federal government in an active fire season, there is a great temptation to game the system. For this reason--and since contract resources aren't going away any time soon--the agencies must do a better job of supporting honest, professional private fire resources with a fair and accountable system that rewards performance and safety. For this reason, I hope to see even more of the type of legal actions against fire scammers as reported in the KATU report.

Third, the myriad negative safety ramifications of this clowns' activities leave me in a cold sweat. How many others are there like him? How many engine or hand crews have no business being in the field? How many of the new engine bosses or neophyte crew bosses minted this spring (to fill the explosion of EERA hopefuls and expansions) have a sum total of "O" real experience and pencil whipped red cards?

My company is entering its seventh season as an R-4 engine contractor. Our greatest asset is not our engines or tenders, it's our safety and performance record and reputation as square shooters who accept responsibility for our actions as they relate to each other, other firefighters, the public and our client (the government). Our crews work hard, fly straight, know the company rules, and come back year after year.

I can't imagine doing it any other way. But perhaps I'm a bit naive, as my Mama taught me right from wrong and they still taught civics when I went to school. I'm not alone in this. I know of several R-4 fire contractors who operate the same way.

So, for those in the agencies who see a scammer behind every federal fire contract, be assured that there are more "Cal Ripkins" on the field than "Pete Roses." That doesn't mean there isn't a place for good umpires, though.

Snake River Sparky

Well said Sparky. Ab.
05/19 Wow is all that I can say relating to this story....

Wildfire crew trainer suspended due to safety concerns

05/19 Re: Old Fire Guys Post and Shirl's,

Old Fire Guy (OFG) hit on some pretty good points but needs some catching up. I'll try to make it a little clearer for all of us. As stated by several high up members (Regional Office and Washington Office)... the Forest Service is turning all-risk and supports all risk incidents as directed.

Shirl... right now, wildland firefighters are classified under the following series... 0462, 0455. 0482, 0401, 0460, and actually a sixth, 0081 for the strictly wildland firefighters of the Department of Defense.

WOULDN'T IT MAKE SENSE TO HAVE ONE SERIES? One set of classification standards? One set of grade controlling factors? One standard that applies to all wildland firefighters across agency lines?

Our mission hasn't changed "Caring for the Land and Serving People", our duties within that mission HAVE changed and our duties to support Homeland Security have been added.

The 32 PD's that OFG was talking about are the 32 national PD's. The national PD's as he stated do capture most of the duties of our firefighters with the exception of all-risk and grade controlling factors. The problem with the national PD's is that very few regions are using them. The second problem.... all of the Federal Wildland agencies don't use the same PD and people of one agency performing the same duties may actually be 2 or more GS pay grades apart.

My last thought, I've heard that the new DoD 0081 re-write will get folks properly graded based on many grade many controlling factors such as medical duties (EMT or Paramedic), HAZMAT (First Responder, Technician, or Specialist), incident command duties and others. Wildland firefighters don't have any grade controlling factors... they support the science of Forest Management and not Fire Management... so where does being a Division Supervisor, Operations Section Chief, Incident Commander, or Area Commander come in?

The simple agency answer is that those duties are "other duties as assigned or qualified" anddo not relate to proper classification. The OPM answer is that they are grade controlling factors and should relate to a proper position classification.

05/19 Old Fire Guy

I agree with ya, but it seems folks just get hung up on being called a
"Forestry Tech."............If position descriptions are wrong, then they
need to go thru process to get them changed with their supervisor.I'm
not sure that changing a series to just change a name or job title is the

05/19 Re: a new series for ff's

Ya know, in my 15 year tenure in Region 1, I have seen
Engine Captains progress from GS-5 temps to GS-5
13/13's to GS-6 13/13's and finally to GS-7 PFT's.
There's talk of GS-8's when the Model 52 program bites
the dust and we get real engines.
Now there are exceptions and oddities, but
realistically our fire season here is two months long.
How come we have PFT Engine Captains?
paint trees, shoot cones, inspect planters, survey
roads, update maps in the winter, and the list goes
on.You folks who want a series for firefighters
might just get what you want, along with a bunch of
reduction in tours, too.No thanks.

05/19 Been away for a while.I see some discussion on proper "series" for
firefighters.Some claim 462 series is "bogus" and does not reflect what
firefighters do......... I'm a little lost. I just reviewed several of the
Forest Service's 32 standard position descriptions for "fire" positions,
and it sure looks to me like whoever wrote these captured job duties pretty
darn well. The required KSA's (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) listed
also seems appropriate. What is it about the wording makes those pd's

Old Fire Guy
05/19 From what I heard from back East, OPM would like firefighters
to be reclassified appropriately. They are receptive of new series
that describes exactly what firefighters do. Where's the roadblock?
With the WO? And what about Series 455 range techs? That's
as bogus as 462!

05/19 For those who don't know, Series 401 is a general biology series.
It's better than the old 460, the timber series. Series 462 (Forestry
Technician) does not describe what we do.

Reread what Lobotomy said on 5/13 about FWFSA's position.
Makes sense to me.

05/19 Re the 401 Series thread:

As far as I've been able to find out, no impact analysis has been
done to determine the effects of implementing the requirement for
all GS 9+ in fire to be in the 401 Series. If this implementation
wacks 50% of our fire practitioners, as I think it might, I'd say it's
worse than a bad idea.

If the AGENCY has not asked "what are the effects of such
implementation?" or if it's not willing to say what it's found,

05/19 From Sean Carroll
Legislative Director, Congressional Fire Services Institute

Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefit Act Passes the Senate Unanimously

In the early morning hours of Friday, May 16th, the Senate agreed by
unanimous consent to pass S. 459, the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act
of 2003 which was sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (VT). The House of
Representatives is considering identical legislation, H.R. 919. The House
bill, which was written by Congressman Bob Etheridge (NC), has over 200
cosponsors. Congressman Etheridge originally introduced his legislation in
the 107th Congress. The bill passed the House by Unanimous Consent, however
Congress adjourned before the Senate was able to consider the bill.

The Hometown Heroes Act extends the current Public Safety Officers Benefit
(PSOB) Program to public safety officers who die as a result of a heart
attack or stroke within 24 hours of being on duty, responding to an
emergency, or participating in a training exercise. Heart attacks and
strokes represent a significant risk among public safety officers,
accounting for nearly half of firefighter deaths each year. The PSOB
Program currently provides financial assistance to families of public safety
officers (fire, police and EMS) killed in the line of duty, as well as to
officers permanently disabled while on the job. The death benefit is payable
to the survivors of a public safety officer who "has died as the direct and
proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty."

Unfortunately, in almost every incidence of death by heart attack or stroke,
it is ruled that the heart attack or stroke was not a direct result of an
injury sustained in the line of duty and the family receives no benefits
even though the deaths were clearly triggered by the rigors of the job.
05/19 Re the 401 series goofy stuff:

History of the positions going to series 401 dates back to just after the South Canyon Fire. For some time in the mid to late '90s DOI was pressing for 13 or 14 specific fire positions implicated in "bad decisions" on SC to be made series 401, like that was the silver bullet. They didn't get very far, so this newest effort is how the top-down control re-emerges.

Plate of toads.

05/19 The address I got for Rick Lupe is:

Rick Lupe
Maricopa Medical Center-Arizona Burn Center
2601 E. Roosevelt
Phoenix, Az. 85008

Cards and letters only - flowers are not permitted in the room.

05/19 Greetings All,

My brother is an RN on the burn ward at Maricopa County. I've asked him to look into an address for cards, letters, etc. If anything develops I'll post it to the board.

05/19 Rick Lupe, BIA fire manager and a DIVS on Humphrey's Type 1 SWA IMT remains in critical condition at Maricopa County Medical Center in Phoenix. He's expected to remain in a drug-induced coma for several weeks and possibly several months. The story on this was posted Friday of last week, but the short version of is there was a spot on an Rx burn that he went to check out and it flared up. He tried to deploy his shelter but the wind pulled it away. Major burns are on his arms, hands and face, as well as his lungs.

The official investigation is still going on, but it strikes me this is a good lessons learned. Lupe was a fantastic firefighter, and if this could happen to him, it could happen to anyone.

Early lessons:
1) Wear your gloves and keep your sleeves rolled down.
2) Ditch the old shrouds and get the new ones that cover around the entire face.

Just some thoughts to throw out there as the Southwest starts breaking the 100-degree barrier regularly.


Check article link posted on 5/17 for more details. Anyone have an address for cards for the family, send it in. Ab.
05/19 Whoa Steve, just a friendly discussion here!Not trying to minimize your experience, maximize mine or even "prove you wrong"... just trying to contribute to the conversation and express my opinion too. So enough about us, and back to the topic....

For clarification, the night medevac example I mentioned was indeed a heart problem, and resulted in both a high-risk operation and an ethical dilemma for the decision-makers (do you implement a high-risk operation that could endanger the flight crew and aircraft or do you take the gamble that, based on on-scene medical assessment, the victim could die in the six hours until daylight without evacuation?)

When we debate the merits of the WCT and the arguments made for and against it, I think it is important to remember that the WCT is a work capacity/conditioning test, not a heart attack prevention test or a way to weed-out people by making them have heart attacks. Still, since we've started talking about firefighter conditioning and heart attack, I'd be interested in hearing what others know about the heart attack argument. Heart attack is a huge problem in the structure fire world, but hasn't been a big issue on the wildland side. Have others seen heart issues on the line? Have those situations endangered others directly or indirectly?

05/19 Ab,
The CDF RUU Chief quoted in SacBee story:

A huge fire peril above L.A.


Article contains a history of what happened at Mount Palomar, Idyllwild, Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead that led to the drought stressed and beetle killed trees. Ab.
05/19 Most of the "debate" over the WCT is just everyone's opinion of whether they agree or not. Folks should know ALL agencies are required to COMPLY with certain regulations reguarding PROPER AUTHORIZATION & IMPLEMENTATION of EMPLOYMENT CRITERIA. ex. CFR (LAW) Title 5 Vol. 1 Sec. 339.202 MEDICAL STANDARDS:Standards established by O.P.M. or an agency must be: Established by Written Directive & Uniformly applied: Directly related to the ACTUAL Requirements of the position.

Forest Service Handbook 5109.17 Fire and Aviation Management Qualifications, chap.20: 23.2 PHYSICAL FITNESS MEASUREMENTS "METHODS" are established "ONLY" by the CHIEF OF THE FS.

To date several requests have been made under the Freedom of Information Act…also by a Senators office, for WRITTEN documentation showing APPROVAL of the WCT for use by the FS as the SOLE Physical Testing Standard for Primary & Secondary Firefighters. The only information received is a litany of "IMPLEMENTATION" Policy & Direction. The APPROVING Official had to be: The Director of O.P.M, Secretary of Agriculture OR the Chief of the FS(This would be the chain of command for approval of FS employment/qualifactions policy) Since the WCT is being used as the basis for employment decisions reguarding PHYSICAL QUALIFICATIONS of employees in fire, this type of approval would be necessary.Before ANY policy or direction can be implemented is MUST be Approved………….

IMPLEMENTATION IS NOT APPROVAL & the documents provided DO NOT provide evidence that the WCT was ever "OFFICIALLY" approved for use by the FS. Ask for the proof. Contact the American Medical Association, it is "implied the HSQ was developed for the WCT. Oh, the answers you get when you start asking. OSHA says they have no authority over testing, the union is TO BUSY with out sourcing. Exactly how many people have been injured AND DIED? And yet this is all taken so lax. Do those people know that LAWS and Policies apply?

But Hey………….it's easy to administer!!!!!!
Lion's Friend.
05/18 Steve,

Being one of the ones who has mentioned safety for others as an argument for a REAL test not a rubber stamp, I would like to point out that our whole concept of safety should be to consider all the potential risks and do what we can to mitigate them BEFORE they happen.

Many auto accidents in low stress mundane settings have been caused by heart attacks. Your logic of "hiking the person out doesn't diminish" is assuming you are in the position that the act of the heart attack itself doesn't jeopardize others. I don't think considering risks is using "boogy-man" tactics. Do we have to wait until someone has a heart attack on the line to see if it might be a bad thing???

And still no one has taken up my argument that 4 or 5 deaths a year while tragic isn't necessarily out of proportion with any other highly demanding activity done in the volume the WCT is.

I am totally in favor of a study that would consider how many hundreds of thousands (?) of tests are given each year, and how many critical incidents result, then comparing that with other tests. Does anyone know if such a thing has been done???

Flash in Florida

ps: I think it was Abe Lincoln who is quoted as saying "I may not agree with the next man's opinion, but I will defend to the death his right to have it."
Thanks ab's for a forum where we can offer different views and opinions.
05/18 Firenwater-
Where can we go to find out more information about your 5/18 post?
05/18 Ab,

Is anybody else besides Los Alamos promoting the "shelter-in-place" idea rather than evacuation this season? I had only really thought of it in terms of nursing home, hospital or high-rise fires, before reading about their plan today. The press release reads:
A 60-90 percent bark beetle kill combined with limited thinning in the canyon areas, has the Los Alamos area officials concerned that the beetle-ravaged trees, known as "dead and red," will burn faster and hotter than green timber, creating a scenario that makes mass-evacuation difficult, even unsafe.
The National Laboratory page www.lanl.gov has a link to the county site.

vfd cap'n
05/18 Re: GGFire,

As is often seen here, GGFire reads a post and then somehow concludes their personal experience superior to the original poster. They then go on to make presumptions and in this case GGFire suggests what I have or have not observed.

I will briefly say that I've directed night helicopter operations rescuing a CDF handcrew vehicle rollover, been sitting in the right hand seat in many emergency helicopter operations, and helped pack out more than one firefighter on a litter. Not one of the incidents I was involved in were instigated by a heart attack victim.

Let me reinforce what my main point was. What I said was "I am unaware of any historic examples of one person having a heart attack on the line causing further accidents or endangering others". I never said it's never happened, just that I'm unaware of it happening. Mr. or Mrs. GGFire then alludes to three types of incidents in an attempt to prove me wrong, but doesn't state the hypothetical incidents mentioned were conducted to rescue a heart attack victim. Nor is there evidence the incidents referred to led to additional personal injury to the rescuers.

Helicopters around the world fly at night. If it's unsafe to fly at night or they aren't properly trained, they shouldn't be doing it. Medevac helicopter pilots are trained and experienced in hovering/landing in tight places. If it's too dangerous to do, then it shouldn't be done. Most litter pack-outs I know about are based on dehydration, broken bones, or sprains.

Since GGFire was already taken to task for even mentioning the South Canyon Fire, I won't go there except to say that it's another example of someone trying to make a point with extremely poor logic.

As for GGFire concluding a message with a "What if you are exercising your escape route and. . .", I can only repeat myself by saying, "I am unaware of any historic examples of one person having a heart attack on the line causing further accidents or endangering others".

I support the WCT. I'm just not fond of unsubstantiated "truths" or half-baked idealism.

I'll conclude this response to a response by saying THANKS to Ab for providing the chance to voice my opinion!

05/18 Haven't checked in lately but must reply to Trucky and Lobotomy about the classification thread they started....

The WFSA is certainly pursuing proper classification of federal wildland firefighters but I am wondering if their efforts will bring results in time for those of us in the FS. Our agency (and it may be all fed agencies) in all its wisdom (and I use the term loosely) has decided the best way to increase fire manager's competency is by making them into "professionals" using 30 mile as the reason. They will do this by requiring all GS-9 and above fire positions to be classified in the 401 series, which basically requires the person to have a 4 yr college degree OR a combination of college and experience. The credits have to be from a 4 year college and of certain resource mgmt subjects. A very few 400 and 500 level fire courses will also qualify.

The kicker is that this will be implemented in a 3 year time period. Anyone still not with enough credits in that time will be removed from their fire duties and either placed in a non fire job or removed from service.

This is a done deal. The WO is just trying to figure out how to break the news to us. Big thanks to all of us "technicians" that have been managing the fire service for the last millennium. Guess the Washington politicos idea of "professional" simply equates to a college education.

Smacks of creating fire managers just to push paper for a completely contracted fire service once outsourcing gets done with us.

Join the FWFSA now.

aka: glad I'm retiring before 3 years.

The Abs can't agree more heartily. For those who do not see the writing on the wall, open your eyes! Kipling said, "The strength of the wolf is in the pack, The strength of the pack is in the wolf." Never more true.
05/17 We updated the Jobs Page, wildland firefighter Series 462 and Series 455 yesterday. Check out the contract positions available.

05/17 ab
i will be hosting a refresher which will include s-132,s-133,s-134,
shelter deployment practice and entrapment avoidance powerpoint. in
sisters,ore; have a few spots available. people may contact me at

the class is on 5-21-03
from 8am till 5pm

doc brown
05/17 More Mouse Stories:

I remembered another story concerning Allen "Mouse" Owen on the
smokejumpers.com site. I met him in Alaska though I can't say I knew him,
but it's clear he was a pretty inspirational guy:
www.smokejumpers.com Mouse Story #2

05/17 Here is a article about a prescribed fire burnover that happened on Wed. the
14th in Whiteriver AZ. Rick Lupe is in critical condition in Phx. He was the
Fort Apache IHC superintendent for several years.



So sorry. We'll keep him in our thoughts and prayers. Any address where we can send cards?

Be Safe All.
05/16 Ab said about Allen "Mouse" Owen:
"We should add it to the IMWTK page."

You could should read this:
www.smokejumpers.comMouse Story #1


Interesting, I hadn't seen that. Ab.
05/16 It's Friday night. I can't be there tonight, but maybe some others will get on chat. Hang out and see who joins you.

05/16 When I read the post where someone was making the point that the pack test should be proportional to weight, I remembered the stories my dad told me about "Mouse" the smokejumper. I looked up a few facts I could confirm, but most of this is smokejumper lore as told by my dad (a Cave Junction smokejumper in the 50s).

You see the late "Mouse" (Allen Owen) was only 4'10". When he was a young man he tried to enlist in the Marines, but they didn't want to let him in. His recruiter said he was too small. Mouse kept pestering him and finally said that if the recruiter could find anyone who could do more pushups and sit-ups than him, he would walk away. Well apparently Mouse put the best of the Marines to shame and was allowed in. He was a decorated Veteran and served three tours of duty in Vietnam.

After arriving back from the war, he applied to be a smokejumper and was again told that he was too small. I think this time he said if anyone could beat him on the 110 pound / 20 mile pack test he would quit. At 4'10" that pack had to weigh almost as much as he did! Once again he put them all to shame and was given the job. He died in 1981 in a skydiving accident, but he still holds the honor of being the smallest Marine and smokejumper ever.

It is folks like Mouse that remind me that fitness is as much mental as physical. We all need to be fit in all ways to do this job.

It is still raining and snowing (18" for Mothers Day) in the foothills of Colorado. No fire season yet... Take care out there where it is drying out.

Adios, CJ

Fine story. We should add it to the IMWTK page. Ab.
05/16 SR makes a good catch on my unclear communication (sorry, it was a quick post.)

I did not mean to imply that heart attack or any other fitness condition played a part in South Canyon. SR is right, fitness was not implicated as a causal factor in the South Canyon tragedy. However, it is important to note that travel rates over the escape route, the issue of dropping packs and tools and the lingering question "why didn't they speed up?" is all over the South Canyon literature. Was exhaustion or physical endurance a factor? Unfortunately we will never know, but i thik we can all accept that firefighting is physically demanding work.

However, my post was not about South Canyon, but the WCT and a statement made by Steve that "The act of removing the victim may reduce the effectiveness of the resources assisting, but they aren't going to burn up just because of it."

What I should have said was....think about exercising a difficult escape route over challenging terrain in a situation where time was of the essence. South Canyon provides an effective example of this kind of situation. Hope that is more clear.

Beyond that, I stand by my comments, an unfit person on the fireline endangers co-workers. Thanks SR for encouraging me to communicate more clearly.

05/16 Hello,

I have an addition for your web page (Wildandfire.com's 2 and 4 year schools in Fire):

University of North Texas (near Dallas)
course offering: www.ias.unt.edu/~llela/fireecol.php
student group: www.ias.unt.edu/~tc001/safe.phpl
firefighter photos: www.ias.unt.edu/~llela/wildfire.php


Thanks I added it. Ab.
05/16 GGFire,
In your 'what if' you say
How about a what if? What if you are exercising your escape route, time is of the essence (things have hit the fan) and a person goes down with heart attack, exhaustion or just can't plain keep up? Do you leave them? No, you stay behind and help them. Wouldn't this endanger others? Think South Canyon.
Are you saying that people died in South Canyon because they couldn't keep up or
went down with exhaustion? (I assume you don't mean anyone had a heart attack, as
there's no evidence of that.) Based on what I've read and what I've learned from
people who were there, fitness was not a factor in any of the fatalities. It seems to me
that the fatalities in the group cutting line downhill occurred because they simply didn't
have time to make it up to the ridge before the fire blew up. (Note: I'm not trying to
get into the decision to cut line downhill without a lookout; I'm talking specifically about
the amount of time they had once they realized they needed to get out.)

05/16 Steve said....
"Oh for Pete's sake, One underlying idealism here for those arguing for the WCT seems to be that if a firefighter has a heart attack on the fireline it somehow endangers others on the line as well. I am unaware of any historic examples of one person having a heart attack on the line causing further accidents or endangering others. The act of removing the victim may reduce the effectiveness of the resources assisting, but they aren't going to burn up just because of it. I believe the WCT is much better than the step test ever was, but stop using "boogey men" idealism to support it."
Apparently Steve hasn't seen (1) a night, helicopter medevac from a wilderness spike camp or (2) medevac helicopter maneuvered into a dangerous hover hole or (3) a team of people packing a person on a litter for a long distance over very difficult ground? I've seen all. All exposed directly others to risk.

How about a what if? What if you are exercising your escape route, time is of the essence (things have hit the fan) and a person goes down with heart attack, exhaustion or just can't plain keep up? Do you leave them? No, you stay behind and help them. Wouldn't this endanger others? Think South Canyon.

05/16 Ab, here's a fire imaging site that bears watching this
season. Neat stuff these 3-d renderings of fire. Some
interesting maps showing vegetation in the beetle killed
forests of southern CA, too.

USFS Wildfire Monitoring and Prediction

Tahoe Terrie
05/16 Does anyone know anything more about a guy who was badly burned on a RX in northern New Mexico, I have only heard a person was burned earlier this week and is in critical condition at this time.

SW area Dispatcher
05/16 Ab, someone told me there's a strategy that WO Human Resources has to deal with competitive sourcing (WRAPS, RIFS, Early outs and buyouts, etc) and it's on the "Competitive Sourcing website". Does anyone know where that website is?

05/16 Oh for Pete's sake,

One underlying idealism here for those arguing for the WCT seems to be that if a firefighter has a heart attack on the fireline it somehow endangers others on the line as well.

I am unaware of any historic examples of one person having a heart attack on the line causing further accidents or endangering others. The act of removing the victim may reduce the effectiveness of the resources assisting, but they aren't going to burn up just because of it.

I believe the WCT is much better than the step test ever was, but stop using "boogey men" idealism to support it.

05/16 Ab:

I am only an occasional visitor to "They Said" - just checking-in from time-to-time to see what people are talking about, and usually just lurking at that.

Imagine my surprise to see "Another JW" (and others) STILL talking about the WCT! A repeat of a previous discussion provoked by Another JW many months ago, with a few new red herrings thrown-in. I could "lurk" no longer. What can be said? If the pack test is a serious problem for people, for your sake and the sake of others, please stay off the fireline!

I'm 44 years old, too short, too fat, too out-of-shape and too stoved-up. However, with a little extra training each spring, I pass the WCT with no problem. Let's face it, firefighting is inherently dangerous and physically demanding work. It is not for everybody and we should not try to make it so.

05/15 Hi BW,
I have used the liner in a good pack (North Face) for the last two seasons. It's nice because you can add water a gallon at a time until you're up to weight. It moulds to your back nicely and if you bleed the air out doesn't slosh around much. The five gallons weighs 41.65 pounds & the pack makes up the difference...I wished the bladder bag liners were of better quality though as they seem to rip, tear and puncture from the slightest little thing...
05/15 Thanks Ab and everyone who responded to my question!
Stay safe out there!
05/15 BW,

When the WCT first came out, all most people used was the back pumps. The straps are very uncomfortable for this, and remember, if it leaks and doesn't weigh 45 lbs. at the end of the test, you are disqualified!

These days, most Forest Service units either use web gear or aftermarket pack test vests. Two brands that we use are a long one by " the bagmaker" company and the new short vests made by "weightvest.com". These are fully padded and adjustable packs that are much more comfortable than Back pumps, and can't leak because they use lead plates for weight. Eagle gear also offers a WCT pack, and theirs resembles a Back pump with more padding and adjustments. Whatever you decide to use, try it out ahead of time and make sure it it comfortable for you to use, as during the test is not the time to find out it's not!


There's a weightvest link on the Classifieds page. Ab.
05/15 Here's a post from the IAFF... some of it might relate to wildland firefighters

www.iaff16.org/news.cfm (must read this in internet explorer)

05/15 BW,

The NYS DEC occasionally uses fedcos as WCT packs... Sometimes filled with water, and sometimes (after removing the actual bladder) filled with a sandbag. Hope this helps!

05/15 A little article on fire and the Everglades:


the porkchop

Couple of nice photos and informative stuff on what yer burning and the ping pong balls that start it. Ab.
05/14 Ab,

We're having lots of fun out here at the Utah Wildfire Academy.
Halfway done. Wish you all were here. Can't wait for the live fire.

Here's an article I could find. That's Dirk dragging his tent. An
incident within an incident, finding his tent spot. Rowdy is his usual
driven self. Good instructor. I think we'll be ready.

The Salt Lake Tribune

05/14 Hey Ab just a quick question about the WCT, would a
fully loaded bladder bag meet the weight requirements
for the arduous level (45 lbs)? Anyone out there ever
use one for that purpose?
05/14 Has anyone heard anything about this Helibasket plus pumper
fire suppression system? Anyone seen it? They're beating their
own drum pretty loudly...


They say they've developed a self contained fire pumper that can
be delivered to the fire via truck, trailer or inserted into a basket
and delivered via helicopter. To hear them tell it's the answer to
all our fire fighting frustrations.

05/14 Greetings y'all,

Its' been awhile since I've posted, but I just havta weigh in on the subject of the WCT. Many times in the past when I posted carpin' about the Keystone State, I received replies that were positive and some negative. I took the positive and found myself a "real fire" job (Thanks Abs et al., this site was loaded with lots of useful info). Thinking myself in good shape after passing said WCT, I went to work. Well... I soon found out the kind of commitment it takes to do this job fulltime. At the risk of hurting feelings and maybe out and out offending someone, get in shape, stay in shape and you'll soon see how much more you'll enjoy your job! I now know for a fact that I would not care to place myself or fellow Crewmates in a position of jeopardy because I was'nt in shape to do my job. Just like anything else, we now have folks complaining about whats fair and whats not, but like it or not, this is the way it is so..... get in shape and commit to stay in shape!!!! You'll look and feel better and then you won't have so much time on your hands to carp about things like WCT.

TiredofitinPa (at least 6 months a year anyway!)
05/14 We updated the Jobs Page, wildland firefighter Series 462 and Series 455 yesterday. Check out the contract positions available.

On another note, we have spent considerable time researching and compiling all the info for the new and updated fire books and reviews pages. The list was so large that we split it in two, with a separate page covering books for children and young adults. Quite a few nice ones have been written in the last year or two. Take a look at what we have done. Please send in any new reviews and we'll update those. If anyone has photos of covers, please let us know. Get your kids and young friends to review the kids' books. Yeah... what a community.

Hopefully the job of listing new books is done for a while. Phew. Remember if you're buying a book (or anything else), enter Amazon through our portal and you'll help support the site. (Please don't bookmark Amazon, or we don't get credit.)

05/14 This Thursday starting at noon ET, the Forest Service and the BLM will be
presenting "Wildland Fire Update 2003 - An Eye Toward the Future". BLM
Director Kathleen Clarke and Fire Director Larry Hamilon, and Forest
Service Associate Chief Sally Collins and Fire and Aviation Director Jerry
Williams will be providing a look ahead into the fire programs. Other
guests from both agencies will appear during the show as well.
Topics will include expectations of employees and of the fire programs, a
Predictive Services briefing, a perspective on all-risk incidents and
homeland security, and ground and aviation operational and safety issues.

The broadcast will be live, and is available via satellite. It will also
be webcast with 200 participants able to view it live on their computer.
After Thursday at 2pm ET when the program is over, it will archived and
available for viewing via webcast for one month.

Please go to www.fs.fed.us/fire and click on Wildland Fire Update 2003 for
satellite downlinking and webcast information. Hope you can join us!

05/14 The NM Team (Raley) is being demobed today from the Walker Fire. 3434 acres
was the acreage, 3 primary/vacation residences and a bunch of outbuildings
and vehicles were destroyed. About 80% of the fire was crown fire in
PPine/PJ, total moonscape. This fire is atypical of fires in these parts as
it flanked out very well rather than being our usual long, narrow, wind
driven timber fire. This is testimony as to how dry it is around here.

Current ERC in the Sacramento Mountains is averaging in the high 90's (100 in
Ruidoso). Keep your bags packed. Resources responded from all over the west
to this one.

05/14 On the idea of using a ratio to body weight instead of 45#'s I am against it.
No offence to any slight statured people, but the load doesn't change just because you're smaller. A bladder bag still has 5 gallons water at 8 #'s per gallon. (it is 5 right????? memory hazy blocking out bad thoughts about leaky heavy thingy....)
You can pack ultralight if you want on your tent and gear, but the tree branch youre swamping still weighs the same.

And one more thought just to stir the pot, how many of these people who passed during the test had other health factors (heart disease, etc.), who knows if these same would have expired walking to their car at the end of the day anyway. Does anyone have a number on how many pack test are given by various agencies each year??? 4 deaths out of say 40 people tested would be cause for alarm, 4 out of 4 million not so bad. So for me to get excited and DEMAND a change I would like a fair study with the number of deaths placed in some kind of context. Because, take for example bagging groceries, if we checked nationwide how many deaths occur each year by someone who was preparing to, during, or had just completed bagging groceries (especially among the retirees here in florida) you probably have 3 or 4. So should we get all worked up about how horribly demanding that is ..............

If someone has a health problem it is better to have a test that will catch it, and eliminate that person from consideration before they get rubber stamped and shipped into a situation where many lives could depend on them doing their job.
I agree that testing should be held either at a fire station, or with emt/ paramedics standing by. Thats how we always do it here.

I hate that anyone died taking the test, but I don't think that means the test is wrong.

Flash in Florida
05/14 Most westerners might not be interested, but hey, I'll pass along this tid-bit.

Florida is not getting near the rainfall it should and we are at 500+ on the Keetch-Byrum drought index right now. Today we had 12mph winds and 24% humidity. We have not had any significant rain in weeks. It might not sound bad to you folks out west, but in Florida our fuels are getting fully cured. If we don't get some serious rain soon, we will be getting set for another possible 98' fire season. In that season, rain had shut off at the same time as this year, in fact, my last day off in 98 until late September was Memorial Day when things started hopping. I say this because for you detailers that might want another trip to the sunny state of Florida, start packing your sunblock!

Being a native of the state and 10 yrs in the wildland fire service, hope I am wrong. Heaven forbid you all have to come bail us out again, but look me up in central Florida (Ocala) if you're on a fireline.

DOF District 8
Sr. Ranger Dodson
05/14 Here's some legislation that bears watching,
Forest Bill H.R. 1904
This is what the bill says in part:


(a) AUTHORIZED PROJECTS- Subject to the remainder of this section, the Secretary concerned may utilize the process authorized by section 104 to plan and conduct hazardous fuels reduction projects on any of the following Federal lands:
(1) Federal lands located in an interface community or intermix community.
(2) Federal lands located in such proximity to an interface community or intermix community that there is a significant risk that the spread of a fire disturbance event from those lands would threaten human life and property in the interface community or intermix community.
(3) Condition class 3 or condition class 2 Federal lands located in such proximity to a municipal water supply system or a stream feeding a municipal water supply system that a significant risk exists that a fire disturbance event would have adverse effects on the water quality of the municipal water supply, including the risk to water quality posed by erosion following such a fire disturbance event.
(4) Condition class 3 or condition class 2 Federal lands identified by the Secretary concerned as an area where windthrow or blowdown, or the existence or threat of disease or insect infestation, pose a significant threat to forest or rangeland health or adjacent private lands.
(5) Federal lands not covered by paragraph (1), (2), (3), or (4) that contain threatened and endangered species habitat, but only if-- (A) natural fire regimes on such lands are identified as being important for, or wildfire is identified as a threat to, an endangered species, a threatened species, or its habitat in a species recovery plan prepared under section 4 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1533) or in a decision document under such section determining a species to be an endangered species or a threatened species or designating critical habitat; (B) the project will provide enhanced protection from catastrophic wildfire for the species or its habitat; and (C) the Secretary complies with any applicable guidelines specified in the species recovery plan prepared under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq

This is what at least one environmentalist stance says:
The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to vote on H.R. 1904, the deceptively titled "Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003" sponsored by a rogue's gallery of anti-environmental legislators. Using fear-mongering tactics, the bill would exempt clearcuts of up to 1,000 acres in size from all environmental review and citizen oversight. In fact, under this bill, 1,000-acre clearcuts could be placed end-to-end across our national forests.

The bill's sponsors claim that environmental safeguards must be abolished and citizens must be locked out of national forest logging decisions because bugs and beetles threaten the very fabric of forest ecosystems. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Insects play a crucial role in our forests, as food for birds and as recyclers of wood.

Please call your U.S. representative today! Ask him or her to oppose the "Healthy Forests Restoration Act." To contact your representative, you can call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Please call now. The vote on this disastrous bill could happen as soon as May 12. When connected to your legislator's office, say:

"The Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 is not healthy for our national forests. Don't undercut the environmental laws that protect our national forests. Vote against H.R. 1904. Putting the Forest Service above the law will not protect our precious national forests."

Later, Rudy

(Comment:: Where does the bill authorize clearcutting? And, given the conditions under which fuel reduction can be done (see above, taken directly from the bill), how could cutting be done "end to end" across our national forests?????

We need this kind of cleanup for overstocked, dead and dying forests. I may be myopic but the forests of the west need to institute large scale fuel reduction and prescribed burning projects or they will all die. Witness the forests of AZ and So Cal, let alone around Lake Tahoe and the Blue Mtns of Oregon, maybe nationwide. Call your congressman and ask him to pass this bill. Sorry, I meant to let you make up your own mind.)

Find Your Congressional Representative

05/13 Anyone know about an entrapment/deployment on the Coconino NF a couple of days ago?


Here's a useful site that has a report. Check out Lessons Learned. The deployment briefing paper is there under 2003 Reports: www.wildfirelessons.net Ab.
05/13 Trucky Re: your 0081 firefighter post,

In your post you asked.....
"It was brought up that all the firefighter from the USFS and BLM are going to be changing their series number from that of a forestry tech (0462 & 0455) to the firefighter series 0081. If this is true, what impact will it have on both the forestry firefighters and us structural firefighters?"
Trucky, here's the simple answer... no change for the current 0081 firefighters. No change for wildland firefighters.

Here's the facts:

Many wildland firefighters are seeking proper classification as firefighters. They are pursuing two separate routes.

One route is by having a separate wildland firefighter classification from entry level to wildland fire program manager (GS-2 through GS/GM-15). This is the easiest fix. Currently there are five different wildland firefighter series that I know of. Wouldn't it make more sense to have a single series like most positions?

The second route is by inclusion into the 0081 series as a separate branch. The 0081 series could be broken into the following branches for some simplification. Each branch has a specific specialty BUT each crosses over into an all risk mode of the others at some point.

In sections 1-6, a GS level would be applied based on normal duties performed. In section 7, "A Fire Specialties Determination Guide" would be used to determine the ultimate GS rating. There are already many special OPM guides available including the GSSG and GSLG.

1) Structural
2) Airfield Crash Fire Rescue
3) Shipboard
4) Federal Visitor Protection
5) Wildland

7) Combinations of items #1 - #6.

Each Federal agency has firefighters whose "primary" mission is determined as #1- #6. All Federal firefighters meet item #7. All firefighters are part of Homeland Security.

That's my thoughts.
05/13 RJ,
Helmets: Speaking from my Forest in Region 5.

The Captain wears a red helmet,
Engineer wears red helmet w/white stripes,
Assistant Engineer wears yellow helmet w/red stripes, and
all the Firefighters wear yellow helmets.

On our helicopters,
the Supt. and Captains wear red helmets,
the firefighters wear yellow.

The two Hotshot Crews wear different colors.
Our IHC crew wears all orange helmets and
the IRHC crew wears the same as the helicopters.

Our FPTS wear red helmets, and
all of our Chief Officers wear white.

You will find that all the different Regions will have different color schemes. Hope this help you out.

05/13 Who can explain me the different USFS engine models????
(Model 50, 51, 60, 61 ff. specifications)

Is the USFS engine shown on photo "FS Engine / E42 Six Rivers" under -Engines 2 photo page - & -Engines 5 photo page - "Helo support" what you call a Model 61????

Were all Model 51 engines so called "slip-on units"?

Thanks a lot
Thorsten from Germany (UmbachT@AOL.com)

05/13 Hi Abs!

Hope this helps, RJ........ helmet colors

Red= Captain
White= Chief
Yellow= Firefighter and Engineer
Orange= Inmate Firefighter

These colors are for CDF, but are fairly standard in Calif. The neighboring city FFs wear black helmets, Captains and chiefs remain the same (traditional leather is an option).

I think LA City fire uses Orange for Captains, possibly some other Southern Calif depts. as well. Some use Blue to denote Paramedics, City of Salinas comes to mind.

Stay safe remember LACES, 10's and 18's and hydrate!
Captain Emmett
05/13 2 questions for anyone

1. Are certain helmet colors used for certain positions or ranks, like on most structural departments?

2. What type of engine does the USFS run out of the White River NF Dillon ranger dist.? Any info would be great since I may be interviewing for a position there.

Thanks again,
RJ in MA_D-7

That's in Colorado, near Silverthorne, CO. Ab.
05/13 In "Another J.W."'s latest posting about the WCT, she/he asks a lot of questions that are easily answered, and throws out some numbers that are questionable at best.

Having worked as Dr. Brian Sharkey's office partner while I was Program Leader for Fire and Aviation at MTDC, I knew that some of the answers were hidden away in my musty old files (many of us old retired farts have "musty old files"; the rest of us threw all our work-related stuff into the Dipsy-Dumpster on our last day, and never looked back!).
Anyways - my "stuff" from the late 90's showed that the WCT was tested on 333 firefighters from 3 USFS regions, 3 Federal agencies and 1 State. It included men, women, Caucasians, American Indians, Hispanics, and "others" (Blacks, Asians, & unknowns ((Californians??)).

The performance standard was ICS 310-1, so the FPT's, FMO's and AFMO's weren't uniquely identified as having fire suppression responsibilities and tested as a separate group.

"Another J.W." alleges that 4 folks have already died in 2003 because of the WCT: my admittedly unofficial records don't show that. Who, what, where died in 2003 doing the WCT?

As for "alternative testing developed for folks who could be at risk for heart/back injuries or problems with age, height or other physical limitations": does a wildfire know the difference? Do we adjust their pay scale, too? Are they meeting the job description of wildland firefighter?

In her/his opening, "Another J.W." suggests a number of organizations like the AMA, NIOSH and OSHA be invited to evaluate the WCT. MY ole Irish grandfather (or was it a Chinese philosopher? No - it was Garth Brooks in "Unanswered Prayers") always said: be careful what you wish for: it may come true!

First, any Federal employee is free to call NIOSH or OSHA and report an unsafe work practice, and they may chose to conduct a review....and may look at other stuff, too and then put down some pretty heavy restrictions/requirements. Maybe they'll look at IHC's that work 800-1000 hours OT in a 5month period, and ask why we don't just hire twice as many IHC crews, and restrict them to 8 hour shifts?

The WCT has undergone an extensive "Peer Review" by Dr. Paul Davis: he's a Senior Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, and the creator of the "Firefighter Combat Challenge" for the structural fire folks that we see on ESPN.

If anybody wants to see the tons of documentation that details the development of the WCT, they can contact Dr. Sharkey at MTDC and he'll Email them "more-than-you-ever-wanted-to-know" about the whole process...... and it will be based on real, verifiable numbers, not wild statements made without any factual basis.

Dick Mangan
05/13 Fire season isn't starting out to good in the Southwest Area. The Walker fire, NM burned 18 structures the first day. The A-Bar fire, AZ burned over an engine, deployed shelters, folks are OK. Lets be carefull out there it is going to be a long season.

SW Area Dispatcher
05/13 Thanks to those who sent in info on the SW IMTs. We updated the teams pages. If anyone has info on teams from other regions, we'd appreciate the update. Ab.
05/12 I know, I know everyone is talking about the pack test - just a few words and then I will be quiet....I am a female crewboss - 46 years old , 5' 3", and approx, 135 pounds. I have been i this business since 91'. My question is where was it determined that each person regardless of size is required to pack the 45 lbs?? It would seem to me that there would be a ratio developed for each person. say so many pounds of sand for each pound of weight. I pass it every year the first time out but I tell you I feel like I'm carrying a VW on my back. It is a bit of a stressor due to the fact that people die just taking the test too. I would be so embarrassed to drop dead taking the test.!!

I have worked on Agency crews as well as Contract crews. I am here to tell you I have found working with Contract crews to be much more satisfying.. The attitude of the crews is far superior as well as the work ethics. I know that there are some not so good ones out there but I have seen that with Agency crews just as often if not more.....

I would appreciate it if the Agency's could show a little more cooperation with us. It is a total nightmare to go into "Supply" at a camp to get even the bare essentials like batteries without having a "permission slip " from my boss to get resupplied for the next days shift. How about a Forum for Non - agency firefighters ?? Cmon' fellas !!!!!!!

Thanks !!!

Squat aka Granny Basher( no, we don't want to go there !!)
05/12 Howdy!

I was wondering if I could bounce a couple greenhorn questions off of you. I'm sure you hear this stuff all the time but I've really been at a loss for finding experienced hands who can point me in the right direction. I am currently a low time helicopter pilot working toward my commercial and instrument ticket. I have a great desire to do contract helicopter fire support but don't quite know where to begin besides just racking up flight time. My flight base is Civic Helicopters in San Diego and they do offer limited Bambi bucket training in a Hughes 500 but I just don't want to begin throwing hard earned money away if there are other full blown and better aerial firefighting schools where I can gain not only bucket training but also fire knowledge. Any help you can throw my way would be much appreciated. Also, I just turned 30 and am considering pursuing a waiver into the Army's Warrant Officer helicopter flight training program as quite possibly the world's oldest W/O. Do you find that military experience places a pilot head and shoulders above the rest in this industry?

Best Regards and Thanks Again,

Gregory C. Winegar
05/12 Hi AL,

thanks lot for the explanation about model 60!!!

Little is written or publicated about these USFS units.

If you like a copie of the old Big Surīs E 18 of "LPF" let me know your address (sorry no scanner) and I will send it to you.

Greetings from Germany
05/12 I see it must be that time of year again with all this talk of the pack test. I only have two comments on the pack test, one pro, one con. As far as the difficulty goes, if I can pass it anybody with any business on the line should be able too, I'm not exactly Mr. Universe. I have taken numerous "physical agility" tests for fire departments and for wildland the packtest is a good test, far superior to the old step test. My only complaints with the test are the misuse and the way the agencies have tried to get by on the cheap, I've been out of the wildland side for a few years if either of these have changed since, then please ignore my comments.

As far as misuse I know of several crews who pushed their people to pass the test in less than the allotted 45 minutes despite the test literature advising against that, the test was designed to be done in 45 minutes not 40, 35 or 30. The second part of this is the pitiful medical screening done by employers, when it first came out we were given a form asking us to fill in the blanks for possible medical ailments incompatible with the test, like employees were going to willfully get themselves fired for not being able to take the test based on a paper, no doctors exam was done, the last year I took it there was talk of having employees over 45 get a physical. Medical screening should require an EKG for all employees and a good physical (actually these should be done annually anyway for any firefighters).

Finally in my experience the "medical" crews are usually first responders that might have a 10 person 1st aid kit (the little red belt pack), with the number of fatalities and the nature of the test, there should be at a minimum, a well equipped EMT with a semi-auto defib dedicated to evaluating the test participants as they go, or preferably a paramedic ambulance on site, there is no excuse to be killing people while they are trying to qualify for their job, sure it may happen but with the precautions I mentioned it should occur much less often, I wonder how many of the packtest fatalities would have been screened out or revived if these precautions had been in place.

Also from the post asking about the 0081 has there been a recent development classifying 0462 / 0455 "firefighters" as 0081's that I've missed or is this just based on the ongoing quest to get a proper classification for the wildland folks?

05/12 Thorsten-

I remember your visit to Big Sur, I was the Fire Engine Operator there at that time. That particular engine has long since been replaced (like me!). In answer to your question-the Model 60s had a hose bed the full length of the vehicle on top, while the door in the back held pre-connected hose lays and hose packs. That configuration has remained the same until the later version of the Model 62. The swing-out door in the back has been replaced by a roll-up door, and a hose reel is in the compartment. If you're looking for pictures of Model 60/61/62s in particular, the Engines and Engines4 photo pages on this website have some good ones.

Good luck-
05/12 For NorCal Tom and those of you following the airtanker/leadplane availablity issues: here's an interesting post on using cobra helicopters as lead, not to replace the Barons lead planes (of which we have few left) but as another option in the arsenal of aviation options on fire.


Ab, please add this... www.nifc.gov/fireinfo/nfn.phpl info on the MAFFS training at Boise.

05/12 themeat,

Where have you been? I lost your e-mail address and I need to get a hold of you. Just in case you have forgotten, let me give you a hint. The surf in SB has been pretty flat. Look forward to hearing from you.

An R-5er

The Meat... Ab will pass a message on if you've lost his contact info.
05/12 Why not request the WCT to be evaluated by the American Medical Association and the American Cardiologists Associations, NIOSH and OSHA... while we're at it, how about getting a civil rights impact analysis done. One was done when this test was being developed, back in 1997-98 (the WCT hasn't been around forever for you youngsters)Also, all the pilot phase testings for this test appear to have only Hotshot crew folks, oh yeah I think there was 1 or 2 trail folks involved in some phases of pilots, at one time or another... why not engine folks, handcrew folks, FPT's, FMO and ADFMO folks, heck how 'bout water tender folks? There are different physical requirements for each of these folks in all of these these positions, why must they all have to pass the same WCT at all the same level? There are some agencies, other than feds that have participated in some phases of pilot testing of the WCT, most all of them however either participated by answering questionnaires and mailing them back and some participated in medico/physical examination stuff, not actual physical ability testing, such as WCT... Here's another question... Where's the information on all of the accidents and injuries that have occurred over the years while using this test? By the way, last year in 2002, 21 Wildland Firefighters died, 4 of them died either preparing for, during or immediately after this test. One person was almost a 5th casualty from it. I think the 3.2 annual count is possibly incorrect... (What's .2 of a person anyways?) There's already been 4 people I think, this year that've died. Who's gonna be next? Why not utilize alternate testing developed for folks who could possibly be at risk for heart/back injuries or problems with age, height or other physical limitations...(Especially for folks who have otherwise been able to satisfactorily or excel in the performance of their job duties, prior to the sole use of the WCT.As for something to prescreen for Heart Health problems... how 'bout a cardiac enzyme blood draw. Also, why aren't there required annual or bi-annual written intelligence exams for red-card qualifications for fire folks? Just because a task book was signed off once and maybe a written test was taken once, doesn't necessarily mean one's still adequate or proficient in something. Later all... Another J.W.
05/11 Reading the news today I found the following story:


One statement it makes is, "Healthy, responsible nations do not send the mothers of small children to or near the front lines. . ."

At first I thought they meant the fire lines, but then I see they are focused on the military. But what if the organizations trying to make decisions for individuals did focus on wildfire? Seems like there's always someone else trying to force their narrow sighted viewpoints on others.

One conservative activist pointed out there were 3 women ambushed in Iraq who "did not volunteer for the Army with the ambition of serving in combat". First I wonder if they were quoted in context, or even quoted at all? If their opinions were reported accurately, I must then wonder what they thinking when they spent hours of classroom training becoming familiar with their rifles, then marching back and forth to the shooting range to fire live ammo at people shaped targets?

By golly, when I was first issued those yellow shirts and pants and was told that they were to help protect me from burning that there just may be some amount of danger to my new job. That there may just be more to it than riding around in a big green truck and collecting a regular paycheck.

No real big news here, just wanted to know if this kind of thinking pushes anyone else's buttons.

Happy Mother's Day Mom, it was nice to be with you this year! Thanks for taking the interest to follow this site and trying to understand what's been keeping me jumping outt'a bed each morning for the last 27 years! (And why I've missed being with you for so many of the past Mother's Days.)

05/11 Ab or anyone,

am currently a 0081 with the DoD. It was brought
up that all the firefighter from the USFS and BLM are
going to be changing their series number from that of
a forestry tech (0462 & 0455) to the firefighter
series 0081. If this is true, what impact will it
have on both the forestry firefighters and us
structural firefighters? Will we have to get all the
forestry certs and will the forestry guys have to get
all the structural certs just to meet full performance
grade? Just curious to find out if any of the forestry
people have heard this.

05/11 You requested information on Type 1 and 2 IMTeams….. Here is a link to the rosters of the six Fire Use Management Teams.



Thanks, Jackson. Ab.
05/11 Happy Moms Day to all the moms out there. Where would the species be without ya!?

Doc, You can find the info on the Annual Refresher Video - 2003 here: www.nifc.gov/safety_study/annual-refresh/
Look in the righthand box for the link.




To all the hardworking firefighter moms - from camp support and dispatch to the moms on the fireline. Best wishes of the day also to wives of firefighters, moms of firefighters, grandmas of firefighters, hotshot aunties and other strong support women of our fire world. We appreciate you all. THANK YOU for your contributions! The Abs.

05/11 FEMA is desperately seeking out their "Disaster Assistance" reservists for Tennessee and Missouri, even to the point of calling those that are listed as "not available" at home on a Saturday to see if they'd change to "available". Can a T-1 IMT call be far behind???

05/11 We've been checking over the Type II IMT page and wonder if anyone has up-to-date information on the Southwest teams or any of the other Type II teams. Please take a look and send us any updates.

For example, based on new info from the SW GACC (SIT300), the SW Type II teams list this year seems to include Oltrogge, Raley, Bateman, Philbin, Kvale. Last year there were 10 Type II teams, Bateman's team was Type I. This year there are only 5 including Bateman's team which is listed as Type II? There seem to be a lot of changes just in the SW... What about other regions?

We'd appreciate updated info from any of the regions. Or please send an e-mail letting us know who to e-mail or call for updated info.

05/11 BBTBDC - at the risk of offering some unwanted advice: slow down, take a deep breath, and re-read my posting of 5/8/03 about the WCT. When you do, I think that you'll find that we're on the same side on this issue!

I fully support the WCT. It's my opinion that those opposed to it: 1) are ignoring the arduous nature of fire suppression work; 2) don't want to look at the bigger issue of non-WCT deaths that occur yearly; 3) may have an anti-government/management bias that overrides the facts; and 4) don't have anything better to offer that makes sense, both practically and economically, in ALL the sites across the US that need to test wildland firefighters.

I DID say that I believed that wildland firefighters would accept a new test that met those criteria, and challenged them, and you, to offer a suggestion that's better thought out than a sarcastic comment about "a 50 yard walk carrying a six-pack of beer"!

If you'd like to carry this discussion further "off-line", ask Ab to give you my regular Email address and we can visit some more.

05/11 Hi BringBackTheBrushDisposalCrews, (think I got that right?)

Just a little note... Aberdeen is not against the WCT. If you read carefully, I think you'll find he/she is for it. Their question as I understood it was --if not the Pack Test, what other kind of universal test?--

Just my take on Aberdeen's post.

Tahoe Terrie
05/11 A few thoughts from a camp slug! I started in the
USFS at age 39, and greatly enjoyed the incentive to
stay in shape that firefighting caused. It just so
happened that the pack test arrived at a time my body
told me to slow down and let the young guys to the fun
stuff on the fireline. A ruptured disk and cardiac
diagnosis later, I've been very happy to see the pack
test replace the step test. With a naturally low
heart rate, I probably could still pass the step test
with ease. I also manage to stay in shape enough I
COULD probably also pass the pack test with ease.

My point is this. The pack test and related
fatalities keeps me off the fireline. At 51, with
congenital mitral valve prolapse and a history of back
surgery x1, I really have no business fighting fire
with the younger crowd. But if the step test was
still in place, I'd be tempted to take it and throw my
name in the hat into the fire ring. Instead, I trust
my gut and work in firecamps instead of endangering my
life and thus the lives of others.

I realize some folks may die taking the pack test, but
concur that some folks also die driving to take the
pack test in the same way they die driving to fires.
Some things are just risky. The risks of dying from
not staying in shape outweigh the risks of dying from

Doc tells me not to lift more than 80 lbs (good number
for both back and heart). So it makes sense to me to
just realize that I can stay in shape with LOTS of
walking, and still let others who are younger and
don't have life-long/recently diagnosis heart problems
hit the fire line! So, you can count on at least one
person NOT dying of the pack test (or firefighting),
and leaving those risks to persons who are at much
lower risk of problems than I probably am! Its a
personal choice. Nobody's twisting the arms of most

05/10 Dear Sirs,
I found your web side very very interesting. While visiting the US West coast- you must know I came from Germany - I visited stations of CDF and USFS.

With you web side I learn about the different USFS models like the model 60, I saw such a rig at Big Sur Station in 1992 on an International w. B&Z body I guess...

My question: on the photo I note that the model 60 at back side has its pump and pump panel , the hose bed seems to be at the top (above) in the middle of the back side of the rig is a door. could you let me know what could be behind the door? More hose, tools???

Thanks for helping
Greetings from Germany
Thorsten Umbach

Thorsten, tell us the photo name and the engine photo page so we have a photo to reference. Ab.
05/10 Panhandle Slim & Aberdeen,

OK, what kind of test do you propose as an alternative? A fifty yard walk
carrying a six-pack of beer? Or no test at all?

I'm getting sick of all this pack test bashing. The fact is that wildland
firefighting is hard physical work that not everyone is suited for. No
matter how much some folks would like to make it so, we cannot rewrite the
rules of nature so that skinny-armed sowbellies can be hard-charging
productive firefighters. During my career, I've had to help medivac too
many folks that had no business being out in the woods. It is no fun doing
CPR on a puking 280 pound guy in the hot sun, watching him turn blue while
you're waiting for the helicopter.

The sad truth is that many Americans are in woeful physical condition and
die of myocardial infarctions every day. They die at the library, they die
on the toilet, they die in bed, and they die taking pack tests. Marathon
runners, basketball players, and track athletes die of heart attacks. It is
a sad but immutable fact that even the most expert doctors with the best
equipment cannot absolutely predict who will have a heart attack. Something
like 3% of the people who take cardio-pulmonary stress tests in clinical
settings experience heart attacks.

Slamming Dr. Sharkey is pure crap. This man has dedicated 30 years of his
life to developing a worthwhile physical testing standard for wildland
firefighters. There was a mountain of work that preceded the development of
the pack test. Dr. Sharkey's work is highly respected by his peers. Most
of my firefighting colleagues consider the pack test to be no big deal,
really just a minimum standard and a walk in the park for a healthy,
productive firefighter. It takes dedication and commitment if you want to
stay in shape, and lots of folks, including most of the pack test
piss-and-moaners, just don't have it.

Panhandle, there is no conspiracy, there is no coverup. Give up your quest
to find the "secrets" behind the pack test. A few people out of the many
thousands who have taken the pack test have died, and people will continue
to die, training for or taking the pack test. Would you rather have them
collapse while taking the pack test, where an EMT is present and an
emergency medical plan is in place? Or would you prefer that they have a
heart attack while working on some isolated fire where their chance of
survival is near zero, and where they become a hindrance and danger to
everyone around them?

I'm not callous about death; it is very sad when people die training to
fight fires. It is sad when people die on fires. But the truth is that
those people were ticking time bombs and that some other event would have
eventually triggered a heart attack.

As for me, if I die of a heart attack while training for the pack test or
on a fire, it is my fault. I'll take responsibility for my actions. I don't
feel that it is right for my family to sue my employer because I made bad
lifestyle choices and ate too many cheeseburgers.

05/10 Chat summary: There was some discussion about how ill-prepared FEMA and the DHS are to handle emergencies, some discussion of the current tornado emergency situation.

For those of you wanting to follow the storm cells over the midwest, here's the place to go. www.noaa.gov/ You can enter a city name, comma and state abbreviation and get something like this: www.crh.noaa.gov/radar/latest/DS.p19r0/si.ksgf.shtml. Right now at least until the day heats up things seem to be fairly quiet. There were tornadoes near OK City well into the night last night, which is unusual.

I am told that info was posted at midnight on the Walker Fire, 15 mi from Cloudcroft NM. It's 3000 acres and at that time was staffed with 2 FS hotshot crews and 3 BLM handcrews, 3 ATs some 163 personnel in all. Evidently there have been a number of red flag warning days in a row. Things are dry. For more info, check the SW GACC's News and Notes. (You can link to the SW Fire News and Notes easily from our links page, under news, GACCs and southwest.) Please be aware that there is the existing Raley Type 1 California IIMT and, this year, also a Raley Type 2 southwest IIMT.

Be Safe,
05/10 For NorCalTom:
from Aviation Week & Space Technology - Another Tough Fire Season- more on the air support situation than you might want to know, but no exact large AT numbers.
05/09 Update 2033 PDT from NMAirBear in chat: Walker Fire on the Lincoln NF now 3000 acres, Raley's Type 2 Southwest team is ordered.
05/09 There is a new fire on the Lincoln NF in the vicinity of Mayhill/Cloudcroft. The ABQ TV news says it is over 100 acres, shot crews and T2 crews ordered. Most of our local Lincoln Zone resources including a T3 team is on the way.

05/09 Chat: I'll check in about 2000 Pacific time.

Sounds good, gotta go get a little libation. Ab.
05/09 can anyone tell me if and or how i can get a copy of the usfs entrapment avoidance video being used for this years annual refreshers

05/09 NorCal Tom

I was attending DIVS S-339 last week and there was a person from the USFS aviation office in Denver sitting on a panel for the class. He told us, as of that day, only 4 airtankers had passed inspections, and some had failed. (He did not say how many.) He also had doubts about any "repairs" that might be done to those that had failed. (Who wouldn't? Do the pilots get to see the results of the inspections?)

This time last year Colorado and other areas would have been hurting with only 4 airtankers! Sounds like 33 is probably optimistic.

wff jb
05/09 The deaths associated with the WCT are not all related to the pack test; some are related to the walk & field tests. Some of the deaths were associated to health conditions that the standard medical screening did not pick up on. I suppose the message is to get regular complete medical check ups, maintain good nutrition and regular exercise programs both at home and at work. The last thing I want to see on the line is someone who is not physically capable of doing the job.
05/09 Thanks to ALL for the answers on my smoke question. I will
look at the news with all new eyes. What a fine and interesting
forum this is. My hotshot was the one who "turned me on" to
theysaid. As a non-firefighter, let me thank the Ab (Abs?) for
what you do.

Hotshot's Auntie

The community here is terrific, isn't it. Cudos to them for their participation. Ab.
05/09 Morning All,
Had to go out and burn a few damp piles with and without diesel to look at the smoke. Didn't see any black in the burnout condition... Thanks Southern Ranger for the answer.

When I was balling up newspaper and getting my non-diesel pile ready, I came across a letter to the editor of the Eureka paper from last year. A Redding Smokejumper (or former sj) had written in asking why the smokejumpers in norcal had not been used on IA on the Biscuit (Florence) Fire.

When the Biscuit (Florence) began, I had heard that resources were in short supply. The Siskiyou Helitack was in Colorado, some said being held there, and no one else was available to IA. The fire start was in/near the wilderness area and fighting it was lower priority than fighting other fires started by the series of lightning busts. I assumed it was a situation similar to the fires of the Big Bar Complex which burned in and out of wilderness and didn't have resources on them for many days due to fires burning and manned more to the east in NV, eastern CA, etc.

The smokejumper's letter did raise questions, however. Were those resources available? Were they simply missed by someone in the fog of the IA moment? Or were their non-use the result of R6 not wanting to use R5 resources, R5 not wanting to let the smokejumpers go? Was it something else? As the letter pointed out, the smokejumpers are a shared national resource as are hotshots and airtankers... Was this the example of something wrong with the system of resource use or a one-time oversight? If it is part of a larger systemic problem, are the powers-that-be working to correct it? What is the plan?

Has anyone read the report on the Biscuit Fire? Is it available online? Does anyone know the story on the IA and the smokejumpers and/or IA resources in general? I know someone wrote in last fall with a number of questions about the use of resources from R5, including non-use of CDF resources. Most questions were not addressed, if I recall correctly. Does anyone have more info that can be shared now that the report is done? The California portion of the fire (Sour Biscuit) was contained fairly quickly all thing considered. Why not the Oregon portion? Was it their reliance on contractors, including some bad ones? (Not bashing the good contractors, just looking for answers.)

I guess what I'm wondering is whether the same thing can/will happen again this season someplace else. I know that the "going fire" gets the resources and that sometimes resources are held over by fire managers and line officers even when they're not actively being used. If the southern Sierra (San Bernardino NF) burns this summer and resources are already assigned in CO and NM and NV, how do we get them back? What are the Lessons Learned from the Biscuit?

In asking this question, let me remind non-fire people reading here that about 97% or 98% of all fires are picked up on Initial Attack. We all celebrate that great success rate. However, if there is a situation that shouts "watch out" that exists regarding sharing resources between regions and that influences the remaining 3% of small fires to go to large fires, we should know that and work to mitigate it. Actually, it's logical that people on up in the fire organization are doing that. Are they? And I'm especially concerned when I see the treekill on the San Bernardino and feel the inevitability of a small fire there on the interface not being picked up on IA and going to a large fire. As far as I'm concerned the houses don't matter so much as the lives at risk.

I have been up to see the results of the Biscuit Fire. Looks pretty good. Fire burns there regularly every 50 years or less. Like the Big Bar Complex it seems to have been a "good low fire" for the most part.

Should we be letting some of these fires that escape IA and EA just burn themselves out, protecting only the "values at risk"? Is this all we can afford to do? If so, who makes that decision? (The Big MAC? loved that one NorCal Tom!) Would the Public accept that decision? Just looking at another alternative from someone who tries to see the issues from all sides.

Mellie (PS. Thanks for the acronym info, Hunter. <smooch>)
05/09 Civil Service Curmudgeon-thanks for the input.

MTMike-ah, if only it were that simple!
However, it's not just about whether federal employees keep their jobs (though one might question the motives of an administration that moved airport security to federal status due to unsatisfactory contractor performance, then holds up contracting as the ideal for the rest of the federal workforce- I'm still puzzling that one out). It's also about the fate of all our public lands; something that most of us value for reasons other than, or in addition to, employment opportunities.

Think about it- an already strapped organization that is further reduced 30-50% to reach its MEO (Most Efficient Organization), how effective a steward can one be when buried beneath an already overwhelming workload? Or if a government employee with years of on-the-ground-knowledge and skill has been changed to a contractor who is only supposed to go where he/she is told, and do the work he/she is paid to do? That's a pretty effective way to undermine good land management. As government employees, we have some ability to act as land stewards, to both make and influence management decisions. And not to belabor the point, but what about charter forests, which attempt (in my view) to circumvent both FS mgt and env regulations?

I would like to hear just one WO official say that I may have to implement this $%@*&( program- but I completely disagree with it!

And thanks to all the Union Reps, who have the thankless task of keeping their fingers in the outsourcing dike.

05/09 If you log onto www.fpmi.com/FedNews/DailyNews.phpl
you should see the most recent articles regarding Competitive
Sourcing. There are two articles there worth reading.

The Anti-Outsourcing
05/09 Ab, I want to mention here that a wonderful young firefighter from our community of Lead SD has passed on from natural causes. He will be greatly missed. Please list this story as it says it better than I can.

Lost: a bright and shiny silver dollar

Remember to take care of and appreciate each other

05/09 RE pack test: Ive been biting my lip on this for a while, but finally gotta
vent. Fer cryin out loud people! This isnt rocket science. A) yup, its
tragic when someone dies while taking the PT. B) yup, whatever agency is
administering the test should be requiring pre-physical exam and have EMT's
on scene...or else they should taken on the carpet (or what ever that term
is). But, do you honestly think that the PT is more strenuous than you could
encounter on the line????

ok...thanks for lettin me vent a little

05/09 Can anyone update us on the Air Circus?

I think I heard here that we're going to have 33 of the 44 ATs available this year if they pass inspection. Anyone know what the latest count is going to be? I know we're not supposed to use them except on IA, or maybe make a request if needed but know it might be denied. Will the National MAC group (Big MAC, heh) be making assignment decisions? Does anyone know if we'll also have military? Saw this article and realized I still don't have the larger picture. Does anyone? Also, anyone know where we stand on Leads?

Military Planes Train For Wildfire Drops In Boise

Thanks for the News page, Abs.
NorCal Tom

Yer welcome. There are lots of articles in the News. Must be heating up. Ab.
05/09 Anyone for CHAT tonight?
Come with a good fire topic, something other than pack test. Yeah, yeah, I know you've been deep into training, all the more reason to kick back.
05/09 Been lurkin' out here, reading all the posts about the Pack test, and I'm reminded of the old saying about "a dog with a bone: they just won't let go!".

Looks like to me that some folks are really focusing on some pretty small numbers in the whole big picture of firefighter deaths. Yeah, it's a bummer when anyone dies. None of us want it to happen to us, or the others we work with.

But all the noise about how bad the Pack test seems to be is looking past all the other things that are killing us, like vehicle wrecks, aircraft crashes, non-Pack Test heart attacks and burnovers.

What do we do? Last year, 9 folks died in vehicle accidents; 6 died in aircraft wrecks. Its a pretty typical pattern over the past 10-15 years. Where's the outcry and rage to stop using vehicles and aircraft on fires?

And for all the postings, I've still yet to see any suggestions that would identify undiagnosed brain aneurisms or genetic heart defects that have led to recent deaths, yet would never show up in 99% of all physical exams.

I believe that all of us in the wildfire suppression business would accept a new test that could be used uniformly across the US, from the largest community in Southern Cal to the small towns of eastern Idaho and South Dakota, without needing a Regional Medical Center to administer an all-day, multi -hundred $$ physical exam.

So, fellow firefighters, what's the answer?


Welcome Aberdeen, glad ya joined the fray. Ab.
05/09 More info. in reference to the WCT administration,
from "Working Teams" pages... see IOSWT Oct. 2002
minutes, SHWT minutes for Oct. 2002, scroll down to
New Business, then read... I have to think back, the
quote from Dr. Sharkey, I believe was noted in the
April 2002 minutes, but for some reason, probably
archived or something, the SHWT's April 2002 minutes
cannot be viewed, heck, maybe it's because they're
over a year old and are now obsolete and deleted.
Anyways, there was also a death in Georgia about 2 or
3 weeks ago, a Fire Chief died preparing to get
"Red-Carded"... for wildfire responses, do volunteers
get counted in the tally as well? The truth is, only
the incidents that are reported get noted. There's
lots of incidents and injuries that occur that don't
get reported, especially back, hip and knee injuries.
If they do get reported, then I wonder where those
stats are... A whole 20 person crew was WCT'd recently
(in the last month), prior to ANY employees' paperwork
being completed and turned in. The only thing
personnel had on the group of folks that were tested,
was their applications, glad none were hurt or
injured... A.G.
05/09 Civil Service Crimudgeon,

The interesting thing about Bush's Competitive Sourcing Initiative is that
it was actually instituted by the Clinton Administration (or before?). It
actually took flight with a change in Administration. So it can work both
ways. CS has been around awhile but the FS took a "it can't happen to us"
stance while the Initiative was not emphasized for a number of years. Now
the FS is scrambling to position itself to be more competitive as the
various studies take place. The good thing about the upcoming study on
FF's (FY04/05?) is that we will have gone through a couple of studies to
learn how to compete better with CS and it won't be one of the accelerated
studies. Unfortunately, it's the computer folks and maintenance (fleet,
recreation, roads) folks in the FS who will take it on the chin first.

Your statement about taking pride in what we do (I'm FS) is correct. We
need to pump out our chests and wear our uni's everyday, not just start
wearing them more to show support in special situations. We come under
attack so much we don't realize that we are still the best in the world at
what we do.

Mellie - on the question about drip torch and smoke, I have never seen drip
torch fuel affect the color of the smoke. If anything, there is usually
less smoke from the drip torch fuel initially. The smoke is dependant on
the veg being burning (have burned hundred's of thousand of acres).

Southern Ranger
05/09 Ab,

I keep hearing all this about outscoring. I can see the bad and good of it. The one thing that I don't under stand is that people are going to loose jobs. This might be so for some but if you go your work and do it right you should not worry about your job. And if you get replaced by a contractor, Become a contractor and bid on the job. How knows if you are good at what you do you might become a big contractor and provide jobs for others. Of course if you need the security blanket of the Federal Government to make a living then hang on to it. You are negative, be positive and look at it as a great opportunity.

05/08 Hotshot's Auntie,
just to add to some of whats been said:

The chemical make up of plants varies drastically, and some plants do put out black lung burning smoke. One of those we hate in Florida is an invasive (not native) tree called mellaluca (tea tree family). That stuff burns like an oil tanker.

If you think of it, show your shot this site and I'm sure that will be a starting point for a good conversation. (Not to mention showing your personal hot shot your interest and support.)

Thanks for joining in,
Flash in Florida
05/08 Mellie,

OSD = Operational System Description.

05/08 Mellie:

Often the very dark smoke you see in fires along the Great Lakes is from cat tails and fragmities. These are both plants that grow in marshy areas. Even though their roots and lower stems may be in water, both the plants carry fire quite well. We have pics of them supporting at least 30 foot flame lengths when pushed by winds.

05/08 Here's the Union's response on our behalfs to the proposed 2004 and 2005 study "targets".

Union Response to the Competitive Sourcing Study Letter

No, No Bush's Plan
05/08 Does anyone know what the acronym OSD stands for? It was mentioned in the same breath as the 310-1 and the PTB so I assume it's some kind of NWCG standards... Also, what is the DAWG, some kind of working group of NWCG or someone's twisted sense of acronym humor (or both)?

Could the dark heavy smoke of the marsh brush on the Great Lakes be due to the oils typically found in the marsh vegetation? Look at the pic on the index page. Dark smoke there. Does a burnout involving a drip torch create dark smoke too?

05/08 Millie, Thank you for the response. But, you to failed to answer the Simple Question. How many people have died taking or preparing for the WCT since 1998? Sharkey says 3.2/yr. I looked at the same info you did. And came to the same conclusion. Lots of heart attacks. Someone out there has the answer, and if you do maybe you could spoon feed it to me

05/08 To Treehggr who asked- If the current administration is voted out in the
next election year, does the outsourcing juggernaut stop? Or will it
continue regardless of who is in office unless a concerted effort is made
by our elected reps to stop it?

It depends upon the candidate. However after working for five different
administrations it has been my experience that one administration's
initiative tends to dissolve when confronted with the new priorities of an
incoming administration. The bottom line is money. If the Bush
administration's outsourcing initiative is based solely upon ideology and
not upon any sort of economic sense, then it will be history when the Bush
Administration leaves office.

What may make the Bush outsourcing plan look insignificant is the projected
budget deficits of the future. Not only the wildland fire profession, but
the pension system that many old firefighters depend upon could be
threatened if Uncle Sam digs a deep enough hole while engaged in chasing

To "Green and Grinning"- God bless you and your uniform wearing family.
The spirits of TR and Gifford Pinchot are smiling down on you, rejoicing in
the fact that someone still remembers the reasons that the Forest Service
was founded in the first place! Duty and honor and the greatest good for
the most people over the long term. After being a political football for
the past couple of decades, it's about time that the federal civil service
rediscover it's roots and takes a little pride in itself. If America needs
a reminder as to the purpose and importance of an effective civil service
it need not look any farther than post war Iraq. Without an effective
civil service a nation has trouble finding it's a** with both hands.

The Civil Service Crimudgeon
05/08 Does anyone out there ,on the federal side, put "Keep Back 500 Feet" signs
on their type 6 engines? How about type 3?

This all came about as the result of a little 'mishap' during an interface fire.

I personally think it's a good idea. It's kind of a 'CYA' thing.

Thanks for the help.
05/08 My my, look at all this about the WCT. I'll try to address a few of the posts.

First, Let's carefully review the IOS WT notes that Atta Gal referred to - they do NOT say that "Mr. Sharkey had concerns about the way his test that he developed for 'Those in actual line digging positions' was being administered to everyone." I have to take exception to Atta Gal's use of the word "everyone" - the WCT is not applied to everyone. Here are the notes from the meeting:
The Safety and Health WT (SHWT) requests the IOS WT initiate an evaluation of some positions that require Arduous, due to the recent fatalities during the Work Capacity Test (WCT). Dr. Sharkey presented the history and development of the WCT. The average fatalities per year on the Pack and Field test is 3.2 and generally, those individuals were over 45 and had other risk factors and/or prior medical conditions. Dr. Sharkey and Chuck Whitlock have been working on the Administrators Guide for the WCT to tighten up the guidelines. The IOS WT went through the memo from SHWT and made some changes to the fitness levels.
Follow Up: Changes need to be incorporated in next 310-1 revision. Bob will draft a response back to the S&HWT citing the approved changes by IOS WT at this meeting.

As I read it, there's going to be a little tightening up of which positions the arduous rating will be applied to, at least according to those notes. That's different than what you might be lead to believe from Atta Gal's letter.

Another really interesting thing in the notes above is that generally the individuals that died in connection with the WCT were over 45 and "had other risk factors and prior medical conditions." Doesn't sound like those people ought to be on the line, though I think all agencies should screen carefully for medical problems before pack testing. For what it's worth, I support the Medical Standards Testing Program to help identify those conditions. But bottom line, it means some people that aren't healthy or fit won't be able to qualify for fireline positions and that's okay with me.

Darrin Dodson wrote:
"About the WCT, how many agencies even allow their employees to participate in a fitness program? NFPA clearly states that if a firefighter is required as a condition of employment to perform at a fitness level, the employer shall provide a fitness program to allow the employee to maintain the level of fitness."

To answer that question, I'd say most of the federal ones do. The interagency Red Book states that for the signatory agencies:

"Agency administrators are responsible for ensuring the overall physical fitness of firefighters. The agency administrator may authorize employees who are available and/or serving in wildland or prescribed fire positions that require a physical fitness rating of arduous, one hour each day for fitness condition. All other wildland firefighting personnel may be authorized up to three hours per week of duty time for fitness conditioning."

And for Auntie: Dark smoke means heavy fuels, like timber or heavy brush or
"oily" brush. Light smoke means light fuels like grass. Dispersed smoke
means light winds and moderate burning conditions, a column means high or
extreme burning conditions. Smoke tells you a lot about the fire...and the
wind, too.

hth (hope that helps),
05/08 Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to make shooting fireworks over their ponderosa pine forest an annual July 3 event----even though 18 fires were started by the fireworks there between 1999 and 2001, and two firefighters were injured suppressing the fires at night in very steep, rocky terrain. The tourist industry and of course the local newspaper are in favor of it because they think it brings in tourist dollars. But, at the same time, the newspaper published an editorial cartoon placing Smokey Bear among the faces on Mount Rushmore. Firefighter safety and responsible resource management be dammed.


05/08 Hotshot’s Auntie:

There are almost certainly more qualified folks out there to answer your question about smoke, but I’ll take my stab at it:

Fire (combustion) is an oxidation reaction: fuels (grass, trees, whatever) reacting with oxygen. Most fuels are a combination of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen; when they burn, they are converted to carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). This is called complete combustion. The smoke you see from complete combustion is mostly water vapor, with particulates of white ash (white ash being the stuff in the fuels that wasn’t carbon, hydrogen, or oxygen). White smoke happens when the fire is hot enough, and oxygenated enough, to completely combust whatever’s burning.

When the fire either isn’t hot enough to force the oxidation reaction all the way, or the fuels are cooled before they’ve completely burned, or there isn’t enough oxygen available to complete the conversion of fuels to CO2 and H2O, you get incomplete combustion. In incomplete combustion, instead of producing CO2, the fire produces CO, carbon monoxide, and instead of white ash, you get carbon particulates in your smoke. These carbon particulates are the black smoke you saw in pictures from the Cleveland fire. My guess would be that the smoke at the Cleveland fire was black for a number of reasons, including wet fuels (cooling burning material so complete combustion couldn’t take place) or fuels burning with limited oxygen (fuels packed together so that material was smoldering rather than really burning freely).

Nerd on the Fireline
05/08 Panhandle Slim,

I did a quick Google Search on "wildland fire" "heart attack".
Here's one place to find the raw stats on wildland firefighter deaths:

National Interagency Fire Center, Wildland Fire Accidents by year (since 1910 as available). Reporting and recording have improved through the years.

Quick figuring...
From 1953 on, deaths from heart attacks to all deaths was 84 of 618 or 13.6% (Picked that year, because it was the first in which heart attack deaths were reported. Probably deaths from heart attacks were higher. I would expect under-reporting by those on the ground. The point is, someone recognized this was an important category starting in 1953.)

In 1999 when reporting and record keeping was much better, 11 of the 28 deaths (39%) were from heart attack. YIKES... My guess is that this stat propelled the Work Capacity Test as the standard.

In 2001 and 2002, only 2 of 41 deaths were attributable to heart attack, that's 4.8%. Too early to compare two years of stats with years of doing the step test, but give it time. As Old Fire Guy suggests, people who are likely to die of heart attack might not be passing the WCT...

In 2001 and 2002, the category "deaths while doing the Work Capacity Test" has been added.

This one has some interesting summary stats on deaths on wildland fire:
Wildfire Fatalities - Who and Where, published Spring 2002

OK, so do your homework, Panhandle. Look around, call around. You want everything spoon fed?


PS Hickman, glad you and yours are OK and thanks for the personal contact work you're doing for members of our community who haven't been able to reach relatives "Back in the Midwest tornado zone". Please continue to Be Safe!

PSS Good job on the Wednesday Uniform Day, Green and Grinnin'.

05/08 Hello firefighters, I have a question.

What does the color of the smoke tell you about the fuel that's burning and what the combustion is like? On the news sometimes smoke's black, sometimes light, sometimes it's diffuse, sometimes a column. Is there ever a black column? Is there anywhere on the web that describes this, particularly what the color means? Those fires in the salt marshes near Cleveland shown on CNN had lots of black smoke. Any other characteristics of smoke I should pay attention to to know about the fire?

Hotshot's Auntie. -I'd have asked her, but I never remember when she's around.
05/08 I have a question about outsourcing that maybe someone on this forum can answer. If the current administration is voted out in the next election year, does the outsourcing juggernaut stop? Or will it continue regardless of who is in office unless a concerted effort is made by our elected reps to stop it?

05/08 Old Fire Guy

I agree with you that the test is a good gauge of physical fitness. But the point is, people have died taking or preparing for this test. The ones that have died have been in excellent physical condition as well in not so great physical condition. The main point again, "people have died as a result of this test". Look at the recent past in the fire fighting world and the sweeping changes that have happened since South Canyon, Thirty Mile, The Air Tanker tragedies. By using Dr. Sharky's ratio of 3.2 deaths per year. That equates to around 16 fatalities since the test was adopted in 1998...And No Changes!

Same Test! How many more people have to die before someone goes Huh, maybe we need to evaluate the path we are taking. I appreciate Dick Mangan's answer, but lets look at 1998-2003 (Just WCT at any level). Some one needs to come clean and let the world know how many people have either died, had heart attacks or been injured in some way as a result of this test. It's a simple question that no one seems to want to answer.

Panhandle Slim

Who have you called to ask? Ab.
05/07 About the WCT, how many agencies even allow their employees to participate in a fitness program? NFPA clearly states that if a firefighter is required as a condition of employment to perform at a fitness level, the employer shall provide a fitness program to allow the employee to maintain the level of fitness.

I ask all of you to look into our wildland discipline and ask yourself why should we be surprised at the lack of consistency in standards applications? The answer is COLLECTIVE BARGAINING, that's right, if you are not organized as a firefighting union, you will not have an effective avenue to question the feasibility of these new trends that become accepted practices. The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has a District Vice president that represents federal firefighters. If you are not a federal employee and collective bargaining is allowed in your state, then organize under the appropriate IAFF DVP.

California Department of Forestry is organized and now since April 2002, all state employed firefighters in Florida are now organized, which includes five state agencies (structural FF's, Forestry FF's, Fire Inspectors, Instructors). In our contract negotiations, we have an ability to research practices and disclose problems within them. We then work with management to find a way to mitigate it where all parties can accept it. Management will work with you if there is an identified problem and they know that individually we are weak, but if the union identifies the problem and recommends a viable solution, then management also knows they are in an official position of accepting the liability for not effecting the proposed changes.

I spent the last 6 years organizing our state-wide Local and it is because I came from a structural department and was shocked at the inconsistencies in the wildland arena. I truly believe we have thousands of wildland firefighters nationally that need to change our course of fate as we move more and more into part-timers and multi-role positions. I am afraid that if we do not organize nationally, my memories of the way wildfire programs used to be will be just that, a memory.

We must evolve with the times because labor rights that we enjoy now (vacation days, FLSA, etc...), which were established back in the hayday of unions, which all Americans take for granted nowadays, are up for reductions or removal by employers. I am asking that we become a little more patriotic and involved with democracy. The free 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's are gone. We can't complain individually and expect changes to happen in our favor.

Darrin Dodson
President, Local S20
05/07 Ab.

Wanted your readers to know that of the 12 people in our section 10 of us were wearing our green uniforms today since it was Wednesday and we wanted to show our support for the National Forests and for those fellow employees who are currently having their jobs studied for outsourcing. We are really having a lot of fun when people ask us why we are wearing our colors and we tell them it is our way of expressing our feelings about competitive sourcing. Hope to see more green uniforms next Wednesday.

Sign me "Green and Grinning"
05/07 Ab I am looking for some old fire shelter photos. I found them in archives Jan 02 but they will not open. Any chance of posting them again?

Firefighter training

Dont know about that old link to the gsa fire shelter safety alert. It doesn't work.
Photos and history from Dick Mangan of really old ones are linked here:
Some info as firefighters and families were asking for a new shelter:
Info and picture on new ones are here:

Here's a post to familysaid that came in last June '02:
Ab and families, here's some more fire shelter info for familysaid that one of my sister's friends e-mailed me. (Do you think it's ok to post this?)
from the fire people
Points to emphasize
Frequently asked questions
What it looks like.
Anyone know where there's a picture of last year's fire shelter? Anyone want to take a pic for us?

05/07 IMHO the WCT is a valid test. I've taken and passed it and believe it
reflects real world conditions better than the old Step-test. I also was
in on the early crew testing when the step-test was developed.

I do have questions however.......The WCT involves a series of events prior
to testing, including the HSQ, physical exam, certification by physician,
exercise preparation time, and finally, the WCT administered with the
presence of EMT.

Q: How many deaths have been prevented by the early detection of heart
Q: How many employees were refused the opportunity to take the test (thus
saving a heart attack on the fire)?
Q: How many folks benefited from the screening, and used this as
incentive to get into shape......thus avoiding a heart attack?
Q: How do the number of heart attacks experienced while testing for fire
compare to the number of heart attacks employees experience while seated at
their desk?
Q: What is the heart attack frequency among firefighters (WCT or while
fighting fire) compared to the general agency employee?
Q: Why must some always assume a sinister conspiracy exists.......?

Lastly, I participate and support this WCT because I believe in it. If I
felt there was a conspiracy, or that the testing put myself or others in
danger, I would choose to not participate. Those who say they participate
and believe the risk in unacceptable and use the excuse "they made me do
it", well......

Old Fire Guy

Thanks for the post. Some of these same questions came up in chat on Friday night and we haven't had time to summarize that session. Ab.
05/07 Ab,

I recently became Fire Information Officer for the upcoming New York Wildfire and Incident Management Academy. I would greatly appreciate your making a link from your site to our site www.dec.state.ny.us/website/reg1/acad.phpl since I'm sure many wildland firefighters come to your site looking for information regarding training and future employment opportunities.

In regard to training, I'm sure that the other wildland fire academies that I know of:
http://www.cowildfireacademy.com/ - Colorado Wildfire Academy and Great Plains Wildfire College
http://www.tamu.edu/ticc/training.php - Texas Interagency Wildfire Academy
http://www.ut.blm.gov/fire/fireacademy/intro.phpl - Utah Wildfire Academy

Keep up the good work on the site, it really is a great site.

Check the links page under training and education. We have your and other training sites listed there. Thanks for the cudos. Ab.
05/07 Ab,

One thing that people in small communities or large ones could do is to e-mail that story from the Missoulian (about small towns loosing jobs) to their congressional representatives. I hear that more members of Congress are waking up to the potential fallout from competitive sourcing.

Current wisdom says that following up with a fax or a letter is what you should do. Print the story off and send it in telling them your concerns.

Become a WOLF with some TEETH! Get your friends to join the PACK!

Tahoe Terrie
05/07 Ab, please post this.

It will give firefighters and others an idea of the thinking from the WO on Competitive Sourcing. You can see what the thinking is for fire. Scary. What are they thinking of?


Strategic Selection of Work Activities For Competitive Sourcing Study
Ab Note: This was labeled "Draft" and dated 4/23/03.
05/07 Concerning the Pack Test and Heart Attacks:

While at MTDC, I did a report that looked at wildland fire fatalities from 1990-1998. In that period of time, 28 fatalities occurred (21% of all fatalities); one (1) of these was the individual in Coos Bay, Oregon that died while practicing for the Pack Test.

In 1999, there were additional 9 deaths among wildland firefighters from heart attacks, and one (1) fatality from the Pack Test.

The entire 1990-1998 report is at www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/ref_material/index.phpl

Dick Mangan
05/07 Ab,

I've been viewing your site for a while and it's time for me to comment. Could you find through your sources exactly how many people have died taking or preparing for the pack test? In light of the recent fatality in N.C. I started looking back at the fatality statistics in the NIFC web pages and I think I only found 2 fatalities associated with the test and that was in 2002.

Now I know that there have been many! In fact, looking at the meeting notes for the latest IOSWT meeting, Dr. Sharkey says the average fatality/yr is 3.2. Now I think someone is "Cooking The Books" at NIFC or the Washington Office to hide the fact that this is in fact a deadly test and cover up is the best way to hide the facts. It is amazing to me that any agency, be it State, Private, or Federal is continuing to use this test. I think some one is going to get their pants sued off because of it! I hear tale through the fire world that there is a federal employee in Missoula Montana that has or is going to file an age discrimination suit because of the test.

There has got to be a better alternative than this test. I take and pass the test every year as a condition of my job, even though I disagree with it. And Yes, I tell my wife, if I die taking this test hire a good lawyer.

Have a good day.
Panhandle Slim
05/07 TB, AL,

I work for CDF and I was at an airport a few years ago sitting with one of the Assistant Deputy Directors who tell me that CDF was going to tell OES to shove CICCS, that we were going to continue to do what we have always done. Which is to say that the Unit Chief decides who is qualified and who isn't, based on ? who knows what, but only peripherally related to experience and training. The only jobs that CDF requires Task books and the 310-1 stuff is Division Supervisor and all the aviation positions.

And lets not even talk about physical fitness standards.
Fireball XL5
05/07 Shuttle support by State...
Cool map -Oregon comes in first, I think we sent a lot of contract crews.

Columbia resources 04/28/03 (89K pdf file)

05/06 We updated the Jobs Page, wildland firefighter Series 462 and Series 455.

Stu, we have that info for you re chat. Drop us a line. Ab.
05/06 Hey Ab,

Been getting several questions about what happened to the Region 5
web and team pages and where are they. Checked your links today and they
too are bad. All the Region 5 stuff was moved to The Washing Office Server.
New address start with http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/fire

The team page addressing has been changed from team1, team2, team3, team4,
team5 to ciimt1, ciimt2, ciimt3, ciimt4, ciimt5. New address would be
like this http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/fire/ciimt1

I don't know what happened to this text format in lotus notes, but it's
all goofed up, I'll send it anyway, but if you do copy and paste who knows
what will happen. Anyway, you might spread the word in they said it along
with changing the links on the site.

The Columbia Shuttle Recovery assignment in Palestine Texas was a real
cool assignment, lots of great dedicated folks we got to know back there.
It feels good to know that your task is for the greater good of all
mankind. Very rewarding experience.


Good to hear from you Pathfinder. I had heard that was going to happen. I updated our type 1 teams page. Looks like there's still a glitch with CIIMT 2.

Readers, you can access the Incident Management Team list via the Links page under Federal. If anyone has information on other updated team pages, please send it in. We'd like to have the most complete types 1 and 2 team information available. Thanks again, P. Ab.
05/06 AL;

310-1 has stated in the past that they accept documented State sponsored training that is at least equivalent to the NWCG courses; so there should not be to much problem accepting them on an incident. I think this is current under the new 310-1.

Anyone have a different take on this ?

05/06 Abs,

wondering if there has been any debrief or comments/papers written by the crews that visited Victoria during our summer. Would be interested in what they had to say in what they learned & what advice they have to pass on.

On another note our staff have been selected, with one of our Category 1 tankers (I'm told your type 4 equivalent) will be shipped over so our crews won't be so disorientated (although a right hand drive vehicle on the right hand side of the road will be interesting...)


I heard one 30 minute long powerpoint presentation that was quite interesting. As I recall, your system felt different from ours with lots more mechanical line building and fewer crews dig, dig, digging. Vegetation and climate looked a lot like southern California. Ab.
05/05 For Mellie and her ?? about the ''Nator

Yep.. Tor, Ralph's bastard brother, was in the neighborhood last night. He flew over our town and landed in a small town in the county east of us, Pierce City, about 20 miles down the road. He went right down Main Street and basically demolished the town.We responded to assist after we received the call and, on arrival, I ended up setting up a helibase for 5 medivac helicopters. Luckily we only had to transport 4, but there are several still missing. The town is largely made up of buildings a 100 years plus, brick and heavy stone, but it made no difference. Roofs that weren't removed, caved into the lower floors and store fronts fell into the streets.

We pulled our people out after there was a problem with "Who's In-charge?" It was dark and rescue/recovery efforts were hampered by high winds from other storms and building conditions. There were several agencies wanting to control the incident, but no-one wanted take command.

Town has a population of about 500 to 800 people. County Sheriff, County Emergency Management, State People were having a large discussion in the middle of Main Street when we pulled our people. May sound kind of bad on our part, but there were so many people in the town, the population signs could have said 5000. Our crew was able to search several buildings, but when it came to the Armory, where people were to have taken shelter, they didn't want us to enter the building. They then proceeded to drop the rest of the structure without doing any search... time to leave.

Made for one long night, we offered to return today, but our county Emergency Management said they didn't need our assistance today, maybe tomorrow. So we are basically watching over the remainder of our county, since some of the other local departments are working another area north of us in the Carl Junction area. They lost about 5 blocks, including police and fire stations. Haven't had a chance to watch the local news today, still trying to catch up from Texas and recover from the Pack Test last Friday...."I'm getting to old for this." Still made it in 42 minutes, a little slower than I wanted, but still under the 45. Guess that's the price for sitting on my (_l_) all day.

Well back to my civic duty...
05/05 Here's an issue with outsourcing that I have not seen discussed except in firechat last Friday:

Montana towns could lose jobs in federal plan

This article is about Montana, but points made also hold true for small rural towns everywhere that have FS, BLM and NPS ranger districts.

Sign me
No, No Bush's plan.
05/05 There are some new Job offerings up on the Jobs page under Contracting. Check them out.

There are also some new ads up on the Classifieds page under Consulting and also firefighter to firefighter. Check out the other classifieds while you are there.

05/05 Ab, here are some documents of interest regarding the competitive sourcing objectives, process, limitations and other effects.

Problems with Competitive Sourcing from a Forester's Perspective (has some parallels with fire and other professions within the Forest Service)
Competitive Sourcing Points
Did You Know these things about Competitive Sourcing?

05/05 AL,

Re: states not following 310-1,
Actually, there is a more significant problem right now concerning using state
employees on non-fire incidents. Currently the federal agencies don't have
legislative authority to reimburse states for the time their employees put in
in non-fire incidents (like homeland or shuttle disasters). As I understand
it, the agreements in place only cover fires and fire-related incidents. Not
all states can afford to pay their employees if they are called out to a lot
of non-fire incidents, and this problem will get worse if there is a lot of
demand for IMTs.

As far as 310-1, etc, I'd say that 310-1 and the FSH equivalent were developed
for wildfires (right?) so they probably wouldn't be required for non-fire
incidents. That's just my take on it, but I don't see the agencies with
non-fire assignments for IMTs requiring fire qualifications - they just want
someone to handle the crisis. A person wouldn't necessarily need documented
S-390 training to run a group or division looking for infected chickens or
shuttle parts, would they?

05/05 Dick Mangan,

San Bernardino is exactly what Ed Quillen is writing about. That, and the
trailer parks they build in Tornado Alley, and the beach front homes in the
path of hurricanes, and anything along the San Andreas fault.

"Stupid zone" is too nice of a term, at times.

I dropped and chopped a dozen beetle-killed ponderosa pine on my land
(bordering USFS) in about 3 hours a few weeks ago. An even ten grand will
be good enough for my check.

vfd cap'n
05/05 GN - those damned environmentalists again!! Where do they get off, expecting the Federal and State agencies to follow the laws that Congress enacted, anyway??

I'm curious how many mills there were in the SBNF area, and how long ago they were driven out of business by the "enviros"?

05/05 Ab, Thanks for letting us use the photos for our project.

Some of the links on your Fires on the web for 2001 and
2002 don't work any more. Do you know how we might
access them? We're doing some fires on the web research
for our senior HS project in CIS class.

We hope they aren't gone forever.

Sue and Catlin

Here's a useful search site to access archives. It's called the Way Back Machine. http://web.archive.org/collections/web.phpl
If you click on a link on the Fires 2002 page, for example, and get a 404 message that it doesn't exist, simply copy the fire url from your Subject Line of your browser, shift to the search engine above, click on the blank space that says "Take Me Back!" (delete the http://) and paste the url you want. Hit return and if there is an archive, it will come up.

All kinds of useful info is accessible there, including the old R5 GACC sites that were taken down without warning some time back. Good luck. Ab.
05/05 On chat a couple of Fridays ago we talked about Fire Teams coming
under the direction of FEMA/Homeland Security. There was also
some discussion this Friday that some states like CA don't follow
NWCG 310-1 or FSH 1509.17.

That got me thinking. There are some good and experienced IMT people
in CDF but they don't have the NWCG 301-1 qualifications. If the CICCS
certs and quals are more rigorously enforced under HSD, I wonder how
the lack of shared training/ certification will affect state participation.

05/05 Thanks to environmentalists there are NO mills remaining in
Southern California. So now homeowners must pay $1000
per tree for disposal instead of selling them to a mill for a
small profit or at least no net cost (and creating jobs and
consumer products while supporting local small businesses).

05/05 Hickman,
Tornadoes in your neighborhood, are you OK?

Be Safe.
05/05 I just finished reading the linked newspaper article from "thedesertsun" about the potential fire danger from dead trees in the mountains near the San Bernardino National Forest. Says that Kevin Turner from the CDF says that 4500 homes are at risk, and that there are 20,000 dead trees on private and non-Federal lands that need to be removed at $1000 per tree.

Congressperson Mary Bono says that these trees "are NEAR federal lands", so us taxpayers in the rest of the US should foot the bill for the clean-up.

Is this what newspaper writer Ed Quillen from Colorado is talking about when he writes about life in the "Stupid Zone"??

And a side message to Congressperson Mary Bono: I've got a 8-10 dead trees on my property here in Big Sky Country; but things are cheaper here than in California, so I 'll get them all fell and cleaned up for only $7500: when can I expect my check??

Dick Mangan
05/05 Well, I've been lurkin' for a while... just followin' posts. Sounds like folks are now beginning to have some concerns over the WCT that's being manditorily imposed, while it is still in some "development phases", no big deal though, maybe by the time all the kinks that are found in it get worked out, you may be unemployed, or even dead. If either of these happens, then you may think about contracting or working for an agency who employs on a "NEED TO FILL" basis, not a "who's physically stronger" basis. What a sad time it is when human beings are subjected to possibly deadly testing for a job, what crap. Check out the NIFC IOSWT's web page and read the most current meeting minutes, as I said before, Mr. Sharkey had concerns about the way his test that he developed for "Those in actual line digging positions" was being administered to everyone. Here's a couple of questions... why haven't folks had EKG's and inexpensive Pulmonary Function testing done? Why aren't AED's in the Federal Agency buildings yet, if they are, are people trained and certified to use them? Why aren't there ambulances at these WCTs? You know, I think an awful lot of you folks and I'm not tryin' to slam anyone, I have said all along that there was something wrong, yet I get my a** jumped by some youngster who can't sit still, yet alone comprehend the biological changes that takes place in people as they age. How 'bout wear and tear on one's ol' body from the years of service that one has given? It's a very sad time that we live in now, especially for families who've lost loved ones to this test. I still think some folks and their agencies need to be sued, someone other than a dead person deserves some responsibility, too. Should people really be subjected to the possibility of losing their life while taking a test for a job to put tree and grassfires out? I was always told that no burning land is worth a life, if this is the case then how can taking a test for this type of job be worth someone's life? A Civil Rights Impact Analysis was done back during the development of the WCT in 1998, but has there been one done since? Just an observation of NIOSH FF Fatality data, (NIOSH is supposed to investigate and review findings when FF's are killed in a LODD, or seriously injured), seems no incidents of Firefighters that died taking the WCT are listed, but other incidents and causes of death to wildland FF's are... Remember strength and speed aren't everything, the snails were on the same ark as the cheetahs. Just Wonderin'...
Atta Gal
05/04 Another Ventura Co photo from Lakers on Handcrews 8 photo page. Ab.
05/04 Hi Ab, just writing in to let you know I got hired and to thank you for the many questions you answered and doors you opened...

Start of the fire season and everyone's toolin' up. To all those who haven't been picked up yet, keep working at it. I called the ranger district of my choice once every two weeks for five months and my persistence paid off... I'm now on a type 1 handcrew. Exhaust your resources, there are so many people willing to help you. Get as many certs. as you can, keep your eyes and ears open and jump on prospect. Thanks going out to Ab for the feedback and support...

If you're on this website you're on the right track!

NorCal Rookie

Now the real work begins. Good luck with your career. As you say, persistence is the name of the game. You have that in spades... mcleods and pulaski's. Ab.
05/04 HI,

My name is James and i am enrolled in a fire science class which is a basic firefighting training class and through that class we get red card certified. But i have a friend who is not in my fire science class who is wanting to become red card certified, can you please send me a list or something with classes in the vancouver, WA area for red card certification.

Thank you very much,
05/04 From Firescribe:

California asks for help quelling fire danger
Removal of dead trees on the San Bernardino National Forest will cost millions
05/04 Sad news. In a helicopter crash in the far east of Russia yesterday, we lost 7 helo firefighting brothers, an FMO plus some Russian journalists and officials - 12 in all.

"The Mi-26 helicopter plunged to the ground after a cable for carrying the water container became tangled in the aircraft's rear rotor."


05/04 Hey Ab, upper Michigan had 12 fires yesterday. More today. It is dry here.

05/03 Good Morning,

Way back in the summer of 2002, I requested and received permission to use
one of Mike Holzer's photos in the Town of Paradise's Emergency Action Plan
for Wildland Fire Evacuations. This plan has just been recognized by the
Dept. of Homeland Security and FEMA as the weekly "Smart Practice". The
Press release is available at www.fema.gov/onp. Copies of the plan are
available at our Town of Paradise website at www.townofparadise.com, click
on the "Whats New" link, which will take you directly to the plan.

Thanks again for the use of the photo,

Dennis J. Schmidt
Public Works Director/Town Engineer
Town of Paradise

Good success story, Dennis. Mike did make a nice photo (Ponil Fire, posted on the index page for a while and on the wallpaper page). We get lots of requests for photo use, several to many a day during non-fire season. It is rewarding to see them show up in places that benefit fire. Keep up the good work, all of you who are getting out the word about being prepared. Special thanks to the photographers, too.

It's about time for a new index page photo of flames. Anybody got some special photos to send in that feature wildland fire flames (no people) and could simultaneously be posted on the wallpaper page? Ab.
05/03 my man.....

he's sittin home warmin
the couch
signed up signed on rehired
rarin to go...
but waitin now...
pissy itchy for fire
touchy sometimes grumpy
trained and outfitted
won't be long til he's gone
outta my hair
thinkin thank goodness
still in my thoughts
thinkin i'll be missin him
soon enough

his other love
05/03 Hi Ab, my first time writing in. Hope I do this right and that you can link to my article about Utah fire danger. tv.ksl.com

Some outside of the area may not know that Utah also has trees killed by beetles and heavy growth of grasses. Our local news station has been warning us about a rough season to come. The loss of the tankers is worrisome. They are a symbol of support and help like mollysboy says

Be safe,
UT Mcleod

You did it right. I made your link. You can also go to the links page under weather to check out the fire potential and fire danger maps from WFAS and the National Drought Mitigation Center. Utah has "extreme drought" and some areas of high fire potential, but not high fire danger yet. NM and AZ have higher fire danger. So do the shores of the Great Lakes where there were some dramatic marsh fires last week that some posters called our attention to. Ab.
05/03 I've been watching the trail surrounding the alleged wrongdoing and
coverup by Alaska Forestry on the Miller's Reach Fire (1996).


The public expects firefighters to save their homes and businesses
regardless of risk to firefighters and others. Some see fighting fire as
cookbook. I wonder if San Bernardino burns this season how many
lawsuits will come out of it.

CDF seasonals come on soon in spite of the CA budget crunch.
Are we all getting ready?


05/02 Chat? 2000 Pacific time.

05/02 RS

Men sentenced on charges related to deadly brush fire

Brady was sentenced to 12 years and 20 months for mfg methamphetamine, conspiracy to mfg methamphetamine, and for arson with great bodily injury. Mortensen, received a 7 year sentence for mfg methamphetamine.

Looks like CA handed down longer sentences than SD. Of course the old SD dude wasn't making drugs, just starting fires... Too bad those acts led to firefighter deaths.


05/02 Say Kellog,

I wonder if crispy fireline would be counted under the supplemental food
rules? Might cause a few bean counters to implode when they they to figure
it out........hmmmm.

05/02 The Big Bar Fire in California a few years back provided us with a yummy camp food story.

The camp at Denny had a BBQ pit and the cooks made fabulous BBQ all the time, I was out there whenever possible. While the food was good on the whole, nothing to complain about, one night it was a huge joke. It started with a really huge pretty floral arrangement greeting us at the front of the line. They had hay bales and plants and wildflowers arranged artfully (after about 50 days on the fire we appreciated the effort). Everyone was snickering when we saw the beautiful red plant in the arrangement. Yep, it was poison oak! I pointed this out (didnt want any guys getting a rash in fire camp). They put up a "do not touch" sign, until the safety officer came and made them remove the poison oak.

Next was the steak dinner I was looking forward to. We were stuck out on the line doing burn outs and were half starved. The steaks looked tasty enough, until you tried to cut them with those wimpy plastic knife/fork or spork! My steak flew off my plate an onto the floor. My crew man's steak then jumps off the plate. At this point we think it is some kind of steak escape mission going on. We look under the table for the steaks and just start cracking up. Mixed in the bark chips are runaway steaks! So we start counting them. In the whole dining tent we count 18 steaks on the ground! Everyone wonders why we are looking under the tables and they look too. It is amazing how funny this was when you are sleep deprived and starved!

We decided to fill up on salads and bread. To finish the fun meal off - we notice a dog that lives at the nearby helipad house come nosing into the tent. He had a meal fit for a heli-pad dog that night! The heli-dog had the best meal!

Red Army Wife
05/02 Jackson,

Some weeks ago those two Ukiah area men on trial for killing AT pilots Lars and Larry were found not guilty. They're supposed to be sentenced on drug manufacturing charges in Mendocino County Superior Court soon, maybe today.. Hope the sentence is a harsh one.

We'll see if they're harder on firestarters in SD than in CA. Bets anyone?

05/02 From Firescribe:

Wildfire Debate Sweeps Through Congress
05/02 Rayfield Wicks, the man who pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of firefighter David Martin in South Dakota in August of 2002, received his sentence Thursday. Wicks confessed to starting the fire that resulted in the death of the firefighter.


05/02 Announcement: Our new foam system for tenders/ concrete mixers

Hi Ab,

We have been working on our water tender new foam system for years and with the recent suggestion of the use of cement mixer trucks we have finally brought our dream to fruition. We call our new system C.A.R.C.I.T., or Compressed Air Rice Crispy In Tank system.

When we first started experimenting with Rice Crispies, we had problems with the induction manifold/ pump bypass valve clogging (sometime's resulting in large explosion). Now, since we have traded our tenders in for concrete mixer trucks, the problem has been overcome because now the Crispies are batched mix.

The fireline scenario goes something like this; a Dozer first puts in 3-pass wide line. Next, a grader, then a 10-ton vibratory compactor build a hard surface. After that the mixer truck comes into play; a long line of chip trucks are standing by (full of Crispies) ready to keep the mixer supplied at all times. Additionally, a long line of oil field vacumn full of water are on scene also. The mixer should be able to lay-out 5 chains of line an hour. The mix should be applied 10 feet wide by 3 feet deep. We have found that a stiff mix ""stands" better.

Fire fighters should all be issued shot guns to keep elk, bison and bears from eating the line and thus creating a weak point where the fire could break thru. Once the fire actually bumps the Crispie line a 10-person camp crew should be ordered. Working with pole saws, misery whips, and machetes the camp crew should be able to cut and package the line in plastic wrap. A 10-person crew working around the clock should be able to produce 700 tons of Rice Crispie Treats, per 24-hour shift.

These treats could be used for sack lunch snacks, thus saving huge amounts of money because the incident would no longer need to purchase snack food for hungry firefighters. A long line of refridgerator trucks should be on hand to help transport and store the Treats. If the Incident was unable to use all the Treats on location, a Distribution Center shall be established. The center will distribute the surplus Treats to the Homeless, whom can use the Treats for food, packing material, shelter or fuel.

Of course, everyone involved shall attend a safety and dietary briefing before any line construction could begin. Of course, all personnel working near the Treat line should be issued and will ware white chefs' style hardhats, dessert smocks and sanitary paper slippers. All firefighter shall also carry 10 pounds (minimum) of Stay Puff Mashmallows.

Keep up the great work and we love to read They Said every day!

Kellog B. Redwood

Thanks for the update on your system Kellog. Nothing like this page for sharing such technological advances. Ab.
05/02 Ab,

Here's a photo of the Ventura County Fire Crew 1-1, Chase '01
from .............. Crew Guy Morton Salt

Dramatic fire photo, lotsa flames, flashy fuels, interesting perspective, and the Ventura Co handcrew dig, dig, dig. We put it on Handcrews 8 photo page. Ab.
05/02 Re: Aggressively fighting fire...safely.

When I was a brand new smokechaser I was paired up with an old geezer that had been fighting wildfire "forever".
I was lucky. He told me he would pull hose for me and I could "do the fun part" of putting out the fire.
So soon there I was choking on smoke and spraying water on fire.. with a big dumb smile on my face. I loved it... and boy was I aggressive.

But after a few fires as I became more "comfortable" I was in a plantation fire..and suddenly "no more hose"!!!! I looked back at the "geezer" and he was standing on the it! I thought to myself.. stupid old fart...should be paying at least enough attention to avoid standing on the hose...
When he saw he had my attention he calmly pointed at a wind driven wall of flaming pines that if I had just kept going would have blocked my only escape. Whoops!

I got better over the years...and eventually became the "old geezer" pulling hose for a new guy. But like I say I was lucky...how do you teach "fight fire aggressively... but safety first" without the one on one with the "old guys"? It can't be done in a classroom.. that's certain. But there sure are not enough "old guys" to one on one tutor/apprentice all the "new guys". And there hasn't been for quite some time now.

Could this be the reason behind the reduced aggressiveness Paul Gleason perceived.

I think it is going to take some years before the level of aggressive fire fighting can safely rise. I vote for safety first...especially with all the "inexperience" on the line from the hiring push of the past few years.
To bastardize a recent war protest sign..."No Blood for Wood!"

And by the way...the new guy/old guy thing includes our sister firefighters too. I always just considered them "just one of the guys". ;-)

05/02 Ab, on a lighter note...

I was wondering... a bunch of new firefighters asked me this the other day when the comments on jerky came up...

..what is the worst thing people have ever eaten or refused to eat in fire camp or when coyote-d out?

...what's the worst food foul-up?

...what is the best thing you've eaten? any transcendent food moments, any "just one more time" stories relating to food...

I told them a few stories about the infamous "Blue Room" including one on tipovers and one on how it was labeled the DIVS "Office" as a joke... or maybe not.

Tahoe Terrie
05/02 Hi all,

I'm new to the whole firefighting thing. I live in Palmer, Alaska and I
just got my red card a couple weeks ago through the forest service. I'm
signed up for the EFF through the forest service where I got the red
card, but I think its only going to be a couple weeks worth of work
during the height of the season. I was wondering if anyone could steer
me toward any jobs in alaska, since I'm sure there's many of them. and I
could relocate and sleep in my camper pretty much anywhere but not sure
if I have the experience for any other jobs. also I applied to the
forest service doing other things such as working in the warehouse or
driving vehicles to kind of get my foot in the door, thanks for any
advice or opinions.

05/01 Some pretty good dialogue on "FireChat" Tuesday night about the Pack Test in light of the latest fatality in North Carolina, but only 3 folks were on-line.

Any interest in getting together about 9 PM MDT Friday night to discuss it somemore...?


That's 8 pacific time. Friday... Sure, one or more of the Abs will try to be there under some moniker or other. Haw Haw. Any suggestions for other fire topics? Ab.
05/01 The Jobs Page, Series 462 and Series 455 are updated.

We got in some nice photos and logo from "Lakers" at Ventura County Fire. Hmmmm... Check out their helicopters, crew and equipment on the Heli 10, Heli 11, Handcrew 8 and Equipment 5 pages. They sent in a logo as well, but we already have one from the "early days" on the Logos 1 page.

Also put up a patch on Logos 9 from Canada, from Todd C. from the Red Lake Fire Management Headquarters, Ontario; and an engine from Eric on the Engines 6 page.

And a nice snow photo of the Dave Rendek memorial, which I put on the Miscellaneous 2 page. Dave was the Sula Firefighter who tragically died when hit by a falling snag on the Labor Fire, Sept. 3, 2001. Thanks for that Ben.

05/01 Airtanker Use:

One of the problems we are having is defining Initial Attack. The day I sat in on the airtanker Blue Ribbon Panel there were at least three different versions of initial attack offered, including my own. It depends on how long your attack time is, what you consider "substantially augmented" resources to be, your agency's philosophy and anything else you factor into the decision. In my view, in a strict reading of the new airtanker use policy, once the IA forces need assistance in containing a fire in the first three hours you would stop using airtankers. This doesn't appear to be a practical use of the resource. I expect the IC will have to make a decision regarding the success of the attack, the prognosis for containment, the resources at risk, fire fighting resources available, and the strategy selected for containment.

One of the best uses of airtankers is alter a fire's growth during the first burning period to give ground personnel the smallest fire possible as it transitions, or emerges, from IA into extended attack. Too many of us forget that an aggressive extended attack, including working through the night, has a high success rate in containing fires in the "golden" first burning period. It would be ridiculous to stop using airtankers on a fire in transition.

Wasting aviation resources occurs on large fires being contained by long range indirect attack strategies, and too few resources are assigned and utilized. If airtankers are being used to pre-treat ridges far in advance of a fire's predicted spread someone else's small fire is being ignored. Multiple fire situations where fiscal restrictions limit airtanker use to a couple of loads per day and management decisions parceling out airtankers in limited numbers so that each fire can have an airtanker listed on their IAP is also a gross resource waste. Airtankers need to be used on fires, and portions of large fires, where the amount of retardant applied positively affects containment. This means assigning an adequate number of aircraft to provide a continuous flow of retardant to meet an objective. Fighting emerging (extended attack) fires requires about six to twelve drops per hour, not one per hour or less.

With the concept that large helicopters will be the workhorse on fires after the first burning period I'm sure that their availability will be lower than previous years. More realistic coordination of resource use is needed to make sure that aircraft assigned meet the actual need. Scarce resources tend to be sandbagged for any number of reasons. Management will have to be very aggressive in ferreting out actual versus perceived need. A paradox exists in helicopter/airtanker philosophy. If fire management plans and fiscal overseers determine that fixed wing costs are too high for the resources protected, how does the near unlimited use of helicopters equate on the cost/benefit equation? Fifteen airtankers cost R5 $15 million last year. Four Type 1 helicopters cost $16 million. Granting that the airtanker costs are undervalued, as the BRP study has shown, this remains a very large cost spread for the number of resources.

My philosophy? Use air resources required to attempt containment in the first burning period, don't waste time and money with a symbolic attack. Be selective after the first burning period and make their use positive, once your fire is too big for your resources keep some other fire small. Stay tuned, things will change as the fire season unfolds.

05/01 Hi Ab,

I wanted to comment on the NWCG re-establishing their version of the Original 10 Standard Fire Orders. Thanks, Its about time! While there are some minor wording changes, the intent remains the same. As a Risk Analysis Process, it provides all firefighters the opportunity to retain situational awareness and thus increase safety and productiveness. In this format, when one order cannot be covered, it leads you right back to the beginning to start re-evaluating the situation. That is why I call it a "process".

Before we lost Paul Gleason, he spoke of what he had noticed about firefighting that had changed significantly and that is the lack of aggressiveness. One facet of aggressiveness is closely tied with the individual feeling of safety that each firefighter needs. Understanding the fire environment and all of the dynamics of it is a career long process, but we need to give the kids a basis for building their understanding. The Original 10 Standards provide this basis, the rest comes with experience.

Another facet of "lack of aggressiveness" can be directly attributed to the lack of situational awareness. Gathering data (terrain, weather, fuels, fire behavior, fire history, local factors, escape/safety, adjoining resources, etc.) in the format of the 10 Standards, leads us to decide where and when to engage/disengage a fire. The myriad of "rules of engagement" all lead us back to the 10 Standards. LCES also leads us back to the 10 Standards.

A year ago, our crew adopted the Original 10 Standard Fire Orders as a basis for operating on fires. We saw the value in the process that leads to safe, aggressive firefighting, which is what we should all be striving for. Lets get back to the fundamentals, be aggressive, teach our kids well, provide them solid leadership, keep them safe and return them home at the end.

Thanks for your time,

What we have at wildlandfire.com:
Brauneis' comments on the original logic of the Original Intent Fire Orders from spring, 2001 discussion.
Goodell's issue paper
(pdf) on the Original Intent Fire Orders from last year, with arrows showing the flow of the logic, engagement and disengagement.

...They're permanently linked on the documents worth reading page and site map.
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