November, 2003

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11/30 Here's an interesting concept for San Diego County

Some county politicians, firefighters envision single regional department

San Diego area F/F

11/30 Firesout,

Yea Buddy, I too have had a gun pointed at me by the local Federally's across the boarder from Lukeville AZ back in the late '89. Buenos Aries FWS lost a water tender to Mexico back in the day as well. Some very scary moments when all your trying to do is protect the boarder.

Nogales (AZ) City Fire does not respond into Nogales Sonora any more, and as a matter of fact, Cruz Rojas (Red Cross) Ambulance are no longer allowed to transport Mexican Nationals across the boarder to Holly Cross Hospital or local Tucson medical facilities. Seems that a short time ago, Cruz Rojas called the boarder indicating that they were working a full code and was transporting the patient to Holly Cross. After waiting for better part of an hour, the local hospital became concerned, called the local police and US Border Patrol to go looking for the ambulance, and found the ambulance 10 miles south of Tucson along I-19 running code 3. After the ambulance was pulled over, it was found that the patient had been dead for a day or so and that the unit's cabinets were filled with drugs......go figure!

Here in AZ, we as local and federal fire agencies will not respond into Mexico for fires. I would sure like to know what sort of "International Agreement" that CDF/FEDS/San Diego County has. Anyone out there from Texas or New Mexico? Do you folks have an agreement to respond into Mexico? I don't think that this falls under NAFTA ...........

AZ Trailblazer
11/30 AL and all, I read the article AL sent in and have to put my 2 cents.

I have never been in Florida or the Carolinas during a hurricane so I don’t know if after it’s over do they assemble blue ribbon committees and ask how they could have stopped that nasty old hurricane from devastating the towns that lay in its path? Seems to me folks down there kind of know that hurricanes are inevitable and act accordingly. Are the people who live in fire prone areas doing anything to help themselves or just counting on the firefighters to come pull their butts out of the fire every 20 years or so when a big fire comes ripping into town. Who are they going to blame when the next big earthquake hits and the power and water are out for a month?

I wonder why people think a Santa Ana driven fire is any different than a hurricane or a tornado or a volcanic eruption. Seems like they think that if we had enough fire trucks around the outcome would have somehow been different. Granted, we need to discuss things like the stupidity of having radios that the various resources can’t talk to each other on even when they are from the local area. I remember in the 70’s this was a problem that was supposed to be addressed by FIRESCOPE or whatever it was called back then. Come on guys, it’s been 30 years and you still can’t talk to each other on the freaking radios.

Bat. Chief Alder and the others in the PE article AL sent in are in the fish bowl right now. I hope they can work it to their advantage and keep the public attention for more than a couple of months. Most of the people around there have the attention span of a gnat and unless they were directly affected by the fires they won’t even care 6 months from now. I hope I am wrong but somehow I don’t think so.

The burning idea is good, just try to implement it though. It’s hard enough to get a burn window where I live and it’s not in a densely populated area where the air quality is already so bad that some cities down south won’t allow gas powered lawn mowers or bbq’s. And what about the liability if you loose a burn? Remember Los Alamos?

Mechanical treatment could be an option in some areas. I don’t have any answers either, just trippin’ on all the stuff that is going on these days. It’s getting kind of strange.

11/30 What "international agreement" do we have with Mexico for fighting fires south of the border? Last time I got that close to crossing on a fire assignment we were told not to cross the border at all. The only agreement then was that the Mexican military would put a gun in your face, take your equipment (complete fire apparatus) and make you walk home. I guess something new has been developed since then.

11/30 Hey Gang,

Hope all had a fine Thanksgiving Day.

The Science Channel is showing a fairly decent 1 hour fire "ecology" program Sunday at 0900 PST and most likely will run it again later in the afternoon. Saw the last half hour of it Saturday night and wished my son went to bed eairlier :o)

Also, for all you paramedic/firefighter wannabe's, CDF has once again completely exhausted their FFII/Paramedic list, more specifically for Riverside Ranger Unit. Positions post again on/about December 18th at thier website http://www.fire.ca.gov. Rumor from the "emerald office" states that RRU is still shy 7 positions and they want to hire an additional 27 by July 2004.

For those who want an early start, temp positions known as "TAU's" will be offered. You can get ahold of the EMS office (Captain Strumretter) at the Ben Clark Training Center in Riverside @ 909-486-2800 for more info!

AZ Trailblazer
11/29 Ab,

Fire in Mexico was about 1200-1500 acres started Thanksgiving night around 5:30 with a strong 30 + MPH Santa Ana wind. Fire was just on the Western outskirts of the town of Tecate. Bomberos made an attack on the fire that night and next day. We monitored the fire from the US side that night. The next morning after the IC flew the fire it was determined that we would enter Mexico with a Strike Team of CDF Type III's and San Diego Helitack crew per the international agreement. We cant use inmate firefighters in Mexico for obvious reasons.

Once in Mexico the strike team formed up into a firecrew and joined the Helitack crew in making a direct attack on the Northern side of the fire in an effort to keep the fire from crossing into the US. Winds were predicted to change to the Southwest which would have aligned with some of the topography sending the fire to the Northeast into the US. The fire was on average about 1/4 mile South of the border in Mexico. Later in the day El Cariso HS went into Mexico and continue the direct line heading Southwest. Next day they did it all over again with the Helitack, Engines, and El Cariso. If not for the great relationship with the Bomberos and the international agreement, this fire could have had some significance and run hard into the US near Barrett and Hwy 94. Great job by El Cariso and CDF firefighters.

Wounded Turkey

El Cariso guys will get it.
11/29 From Firescribe:

Chrisman prepares for new CA post
Fresno Bee

Update on that Mexico border fire that SoCal CDF brought to our attention the other day
CDF Firefighters deployed to help extinguish blaze in Mexico
I heard it was the El Cariso Hotshots and the H404 crew, but don't quote me on that.

11/29 We've updated the Jobs page, and the wildland firefighter job series 0462 and 0455.
11/29 Norcal Tom:

Excellent points. How many resources would have been enough to stop the Old fire? How many would have been enough, given the number of fires going at the time? Remember, starting that same day, were the Paradise and Cedar fires, and by early am on 10/26, they are screaming for resources as well.

I talked to an OES region chief during all of this, and his thought was that the OES system was tapped to record levels. Again, how many resources would have been enough, and where are they going to come from?

These are age old questions, as the second guessing is now going full speed. Easy to do, in 20-20 hindsight!

blue zebra
11/29 Re the Problem #2 referred to in the article:

"California's incident command system, which provides out-of-town reinforcements during multiple major blazes, can't supply additional fire crews quickly enough to cope with a blaze that moves as fast as the Old Fire."

The Old Fire began at 0917 on Saturday 10/25/03 on Old Waterman Road. Temps were in the high 80s, winds were Santa Ana 20-25 mph, RH was 10%. Fire behavior was extreme wind driven with long distance spotting. A Type 3 IC was in charge.

By 1157 it was estimated at 3,000 acres and had 367 firefighters fighting it, including
2 CDF single resource (SR) inmate crews and 3 CDF inmate strike teams (ST),
2 Fed Type 2 crews,
36 SR engines and 3 ST engines, (about 51 engines)
3 dozers and 9 water tenders,
9 helicopters and 9 ATs - even though ff aircraft were unable to operate due to the Santa Ana winds
plus, San Berdo City Fire and Police Depts, San Berdoo City Parks and Rec, San Berdoo County Sheriff, CHP and many others.
Pretty amazing for 2 hours and 45 minutes later!

By 1830 it was estimated at 10,000 acres with 775 personnel on it:
2 CDF SR inmate crews and 7 CDF inmate STs,
2 Fed Type 2 crews,
36 SR engines and 20 ST engines, (136+ engines)
3 dozers and 17 water tenders,
9 helicopters and 6 ATs
plus, San Berdo City Fire and police depts, San Berdoo City Parks and Rec, San Berdoo County Sheriff, CHP, Cal Trans, SoCal Edison, Red Cross and numerous others.
Not bad for 9 hours and 15 min after it began with many resources already committed to other SoCal fires (Grand Prix, Roblar 2, Happy, Verdale/Simi, Padua, Piru).

By 0600 on Sunday 10/26 Walker's Type 2 IMT had taken lead in unified command with San Berdoo City Fire, San Berdoo County Fire and Crest Forest Fire. 200 structures had been destroyed. Thousands had been evacuated.
The fire was estimated at 12,000 acres and 917 firefighters were fighting the fire:
2 CDF SR inmate crews and 7 CDF inmate STs,
2 Fed Type 2 crews,
30 SR engines and 26 ST engines, (160+ engines)
4 dozers and 20 water tenders,
9 helicopters and 7 ATs
plus, San Berdo City Fire and police depts, San Berdoo City Parks and Rec, San Berdoo County Sheriff, CHP, Cal Trans, SoCal Edison, Red Cross and numerous others.

Major concerns and emphasis was stated as follows on the 209:

"Weather and fuel conditions are in alignment to present explosive, extreme fire behavior. Winds are predicted to be 50 MPH today. Mandatory evacuations, 200 structures lost and civilian fatalities are major factors in the management of this incident. There is the possibility that a wind shift in 48 hours or less could direct the fire towards communities with drought/disease stressed timber intermixed with thousands of homes."

Could there have been a quicker, bigger response? Maybe - but only if more resources were available locally. Did the fire outpace the response? It did, but that is not necessarily a problem of the response, simply a reality of fire in thick socal intermix forests.

I find it amazing that in that time period no one died or was injured. My thanks to those who worked so hard and fast.

NorCal Tom

11/29 NorCalTom, belated backatcha; hope yours and everyone else's holiday celebration was just that! thankful for what we have, a celebration of life, AND a remembrance of those who are missing regardless which arm of the FF community.

AL, is it safe to presume your post focused on engine strike teams deployed via a local government or state mutual aid deployment? please don't forget many groundpounder crews on the Old and other southzone fires: from northzone, plus many out-of-state resources.

don't forget the "teams" of resources that showed up in overhead & support capacity - not only to play traffic cop, but to do all the unseen things that ensures FFs on the line are fed, paid, etc. oh, and those DOZERS that were trucked in - any fire last month - never forget any FF, especially one in the air that "slimes" you, or cleans the windshield of that engine.

<grins> as the "AB" reminded me more than once, consider the readers/audience, before hitting my send button

Northzone 5

PS, Funny thing is, AL, I agree with most of what I "think" you were addressing -stupid zone, planners and home buyers.
11/28 Ab,

Here's another one on the OLD: www.pe.com

"...the 91,000-acre Old Fire illustrates at least three major problems, said Alder, of the San Bernardino Fire Department. He says that:

1) Commonly accepted firefighting tactics don't work on wind-driven wildland fires that race deep inside urban areas and ignite multiple buildings.

2) California's incident command system, which provides out-of-town reinforcements during multiple major blazes, can't supply additional fire crews quickly enough to cope with a blaze that moves as fast as the Old Fire.

3) Political and environmental concerns have hamstrung the ability of fire agencies to set "prescribed burns," controlled fires designed to thin the massive buildups of dense brush that make the foothills a chronic fire threat to nearby homes."

Read the article. A gripping account. What do you all think about the second "problem"?


11/28 From Firescribe:

The origins of the OLD Fire revisited:
Dispatches provide glimpse of arson

Fighting fire rekindles culture:
A Big Bear firebreak gives archaeologists a chance to study Indian sites

CDF Fire chiefs reflect on Cedar fire battle

Happy Holidays.

11/28 New fire in San Diego Co.

There's a new fire, started last night near Tecate, CA. It's burning in
heavy fuels on both sides of the border and was 150+ acres when I
heard about it. Winds are 20-25 mph from the NE. Recipe for spread.

Be Safe!
Another SoCal FF

I'm just getting this up. Here's what I can find: Ash, soot from wind bedevil the region Ab.

11/28 That new tax on rural parcels... I heard Ahnold put a hold on all new taxes.
Does that mean CDF will have to cut services? If so, when will we start to
feel the pinch?

11/28 Happy Thanksgiving to you all. And a Happy 51st anniversary to my parents, way to go Mom and Dad.

FMS good on you for getting back on the page. I too have a lot to learn about fire but not much time left to study it. I have promised my family some summers together and I am looking forward to keeping that promise.

I would like to have that discussion about how many ways we can define firefighter, since we obviously agree on the basic safety issues and the fact that everyone is responsible for keeping everyone else and themselves safe.

The point I was making about the interface vs. any other fire that involves the wildland, is that if you work for a wildland agency in the 2000’s we are all “Interface” firefighters, we don’t have a choice. My job as a federal firefighter working for the FS is to be ready to go wherever and fight fire. It doesn’t much matter if you call me a firefighter, or a forestry tech. the job is the same. I wish I could pick and choose the assignments I get, if I could I would spend the season on the side of a hill beating the ground with a blunt piece of metal and spiking out every night. The days are gone when the majority of our fires were in the roadless or wilderness areas and all we had to do was worry about how many trees or how much brush we were gonna save or send to the carbon cycler.

I guess that is one of the great things about working for the feds, kind of like F. Gump’s box of chocolates analogy “you never know what you are going to get.” Stupid but that is what just went through my head.

Everyone has their own level of expertise when it comes to dealing with extraordinary events like the recent fires in Cali but then who would have ever thought that Dayton, Wyoming would have had an interface problem on 11/20. So maybe it is not so extraordinary after all, just a function of magnitude. I got a whole lot of new data crammed into my head on the Cedar fire real fast. For a while it felt like my hard drive was going to crash.

So what is the answer? My thought is that we have to be ready to deal with the situations we find ourselves in.

If we stay aware of the situation and remember the basics of our strategies and tactics we can help keep those in our charge safe and deal with those kinds of events when they happen.

Gotta go play a game with my daughter.

11/27 I smoked/grilled the turkey again. It was good. Thanks for the recipe.
Best wishes to all. Mellie
11/27 Remembering the Cedar Fire with SignOnSanDiego:

We have much to be thankful for.

11/27 As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let's remember to give thanks for all we do for each other and especially for those who provide extra support for our Fire Fighting Community. In addition to our "at home" fire families, let's remember those who have lost loved ones and those who have helped them in their loss. Special thanks to Vicki Minor and the volunteer folks at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, to Bruce S. who helps so much in R5 -- and to the Abs who provide this forum.

NorCal Tom
11/27 Lobotomy,

I support the creation of a wildland firefighter series, and I agree with the grades you listed on your last post. I am wondering how non-engine folks would be classified. For example, squad leaders on hotshot or helitack crews, IA crew leaders, etc. Also, where would fuels crews and prevention officers fall into the mix, as wildland firefighters or as forestry techs? I realize that some of these details have not yet been hammered out - but does anyone have any thoughts?

11/27 Best Wishes for a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

11/27 Backburnfs, thanks for your reply!!

I think we agree on the issues but presented them differently. By the way Backburnfs, I am a Forest Service manager with over 20 years of experience in fire in Regions 4, 5, and 8 (Not local or state). I'm still a young pup with lots to learn and a little to offer.

My post was directed at three things: Safenets, "Real World" 30 Mile Abatements, and supervisor responsibilities.

1) I think Safenets are a great tool for finding safety trends. The specific trend that I have noticed lately is attacking management teams and shrugging an individual supervisor's responsibility in complying with the 10/18/LCES/Downhill etc. If a supervisor has problems with how things are being done on a fire they have three options: FIX IT, REFUSE IT, or IGNORE IT. If a supervisor ignores a safety problem only to come home and "complain" about it - I say again, they have failed as a supervisor. Nowhere on the safenet did it describe (as requested) how the current and existing hazards were mitigated. They just "fell in behind..."?

2) 30 Mile abatements need to be addressed. I've heard that there is lots of internal discussion going on regarding how to make them more "real world". This has been prompted as many managers have retired and many others have been planning to leave since the current version is unattainable.

3) The core firefighting principles - 10/18/LCES - are firefighter, supervisor, manager, and line officer responsibilities. The responsibilities work from the bottom to the top. If a firefighter or supervisor doesn't maintain safety, how can a manager or line officer be held accountable?

That was my point on the safenet bashing... I guess that I had a little axe to grind of my own.

Oh, by the way, yes Backburnfs I do think there is a difference between an interface firefighter, a forestry technician, a wildland firefighter and a firefighter. I'll save those comments for another post.

Take care my friend, I love the discussions I've had with you over the last several years with my old moniker... I call our discussions "Learning Synergy".

11/27 Region 3 gains my STANDING applause..... they have had a GS-10 ADFMO position classified and advertised. They are the first successful Region to have an ADFMO position properly classified under the antiquated "Forestry Technician" series. But it is a victory to everyone who works for the USDA and USDI.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The position: R304-008-04


Supervisory Forestry Technician (Assistant Fire Management Officer)


The incumbent plans, coordinates, and directs the execution of a highly complex
fire management program on a district having unique and diverse fire management
challenges. Prepares and develops comprehensive long and short range plans for
suppression, presuppression, and prevention activities. Participates as an
interdisciplinary team leader or member in the preparation of NEPA (National
Environment Policy Act) analysis documents. Provides on-the-ground supervision
and direction in order to safely meet the resource objectives by conducting burns
in a variety of conditions.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My thanks to the Managers and Employees who STOOD UP AND FOUGHT the battle for this position to be properly graded under the current classification standard.

Under a "Wildland Firefighter Series".... this position would probably be a GS-11.... But thats another battle to be fought (and FWFSA is fighting it). Congratulations!!!!!

This is how the wildland folks would pan out under the new 0081 series guidelines or a new specific wildland firefighter series (NOT COUNTING WILDLAND QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED, but still to be addressed):

GS-2,3,4 - Entry Level Firefighter
GS-5/6 - Senior Firefighter (First Responder Medical or EMT or HAZMAT FRO)
GS-6/7 - AFEO (First Responder Medical or EMT or HAZMAT FRO and ICT5)
GS-7/8 - FEO (First Responder Medical or EMT or HAZMAT FRO and ICT4)
GS-8/9 - Captain (First Responder Medical or EMT or HAZMAT FRO and ICT3 or DIVS)
GS-10/11 - ADFMO (Battalion Chief and OSC2 or any command staff position)
GS-11/12 - FMO (Division Chief and OSC2 or ICT2)
GS-12/13 - Forest AFMO (Deputy Chief and OSC1 or ICT2)
GS-13/14 - Forest FMO (Chief and OSC1 and ICT1 or two type 1 staff positions qualified or Area Command)
GS-15 - Region and National Staff Chiefs
ES - Executive Service - National Office Staff and Directors

ONE SERIES.... ONE SET OF CLASSIFICATION STANDARDS... GS-2 THROUGH GS-15..... The court rests in the hands of wildland firefighters..... They can either support it, or reject it.


11/27 HAPPY THANKSGIVING, ALL. may you have a safe and happy holiday. Northzone
11/26 Our website could be of incredible value to structure & wildland
firefighters and other emergency responders in the state of Florida. Please
consider our website to be added to your “links” page.

The Florida Wildland Academy is a non-profit organization that was formed to
provide quality wildland fire and Incident Command System training to
firefighters and land managers that will improve their ability to protect
and preserve life, property and natural resources throughout the country.
FWA is a cooperative training effort consisting of paid firefighters,
volunteer firefighters, wildland firefighters, local and state agencies.

The website address is: www.FloridaWildlandAcademy.com

FWA is holding a great session of classes in January 2004 and your website
visitors might find them very useful and informative. For more information
on that training opportunity you can visit:

Thank you for your time.

We don't add many links, but since we often get questions about eastern and southeastern training, I added this one to the Links page under training. Ab.
11/26 Greetings to everyone in the fire community. I have only just discovered
this forum and I am FASCINATED! I have been reading posted messages with
great interest. I hope to continue using this forum quite frequently. All
of you appear to be very valuable sources of information and enlightenment.
I hope that I can be the same for all of you. I recently visited some of
the burned areas in California. Terrible devastation down there.
Communities there are really coming together to help.

I have some questions,

I read some messages about a National Wildland Firefighter
Memorial/Monument, where is it located?

I've read some messages about engine contracts and crew contracts that are
not EERAS. Can anyone please tell me about these? Is this something new?

Who can I contact to learn about requirements for aerial retardant dropping

Thanks for listening, hope to hear from some of you soon.


Memorial/Monument: Click on the Memorial/Monument list at the right hand top of theysaid and scroll down to ID.

Best go to the AirTankers Message Board for questions about ATs. Sometimes you get answers to those topics here, but maybe not over the holidays. Ab.
11/26 Respirators:

Some of the recent postings concerning the issue of respirators for wildland firefighters (from Nerd, Dave, Jim, JW and Another TC) have really given this old retired Fart a warm feeling on a cold Montana night (yeah, the fire in the wood stove and the red wine helps, too!): some folks ACTUALLY READ the stuff that we did at MTDC back in the 1990's.

I can't claim much credit: my office partner Dr Brian Sharkey did a great job from 1990-1997 coordinating lot of research efforts looking at the effect of wildland fire smoke on firefighters.

The main thrust came form the 1987 fires in NorCal and Southern Orygun, then the Yellowstone fires of 1988: we looked at the short term, long term and really long term effects of smoke, tried to come up with some monitoring device recommendations, and published our findings every 6 months in a newsletter that got widest-possible distribution to the field. The Project was finished in 1997 with the Conference in Missoula in 1997. The proceedings are available on the Web at www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs under "fire".

Our bottom line findings: yeah, the smoke ain't good for you; Carbon Monoxide is the really bad stuff; it can't be "filtered" out by Hot Shield, Whoofs, or a red bandana........but its effects are fully reversible IF YOU DON'T SMOKE and live a healthy lifestyle.

If you think more work is needed, go to www.fs.fed.us/fire and submit a proposal to the T&D Program that they re-look the issue; your input is due by December 12th. If you don't submit a comment, don't bitch about the lack of effort by Dr Sharkey and the MTDC folks!

Dick Mangan

Check the Links page under Federal for info on accessing the T & D publications site. Once there, go to "fire", then scroll down to Sharkey in 2001. Ab.
11/26 Re: Respirators

It has been a few years so good luck on my finding the article but I read a study that tested several of the filter masks marketed for wildland fire and the tests found that the filters actually increased the levels of CO and some other hazardous gasses in the test subjects blood because they removed the smoke particles that would normally trigger the bodies protection mechanisms.

This has made me wonder about the interface, I know that the USFS in So. Cal. carry SCBA for some of the crew (I guess FEO's don't need to breathe) but most crews have no respiratory protection. As impractical as it would be to use SCBA throughout wildland operations, it does seem like it should be available to all during an interface fire even if it was rarely needed. I know I have been in situations where I should have had one, one in particular while firing we came across a large plume of bright green smoke, probably a stash of chemicals dumped off the road, guess I'll never know for sure. There was nothing we could do but pull back and avoid it as much as possible but if I had been issued with SCBA for my crew (R3 at the time) they would have been in them. I've heard of similar incidents with other crews. I know how much this structure stuff bugs some of you, just a random thought that popped into my head.

11/25 The Jobs page plus the wildland firefighter job series 0462 and 0455 are updated. For those looking for jobs under Series 462 or 455, you can get the DETAILED listing at the OPM site by clicking on the Detailed link at the top of each of those tables. OPM has added some nice features to their search algorithms. Nothing like a website as a functional database. Powerful.

Readers, take a look at the Classifieds page under personal gear and browse for a "filter type of apparatus" that advertises there directly and via several companies.

For those of you catching your breath and recalling events of the SoCal fires and other fires this season, think on the actions of your fellow firefighters for which you are thankful. Nominate someone who went "beyond the call of duty" for the Stihl Heroism Award. Click on the banner at the top of the page to see what the process entails. Take a bit of time and do it. If anyone wants editorial help - someone to read and critique and spellcheck - let me know.

For those of you going on holiday a little early, Have a Thanks-Filled Day. We are so lucky as a nation and in our personal lives to be able to live as free people.

Be SAFE as you travel.

11/25 I’ll try to put my two cents-worth in on the respirator question…

I think ‘respirator’ is simply a term for anything designed to aid in breathing. I’ve heard it most commonly referred to a filter-type apparatus. The most obvious drawbacks on these are that they will restrict the minute volume of air reaching the wearer, because it’s the wearer’s lungs doing the work of pulling of the air through the filter. This goes for anything from a bandana to a self-rescuer apparatus (which has a reagent in it which converts CO to CO2, rendering potentially fatal atmospheres, well, not safe, but survivable for long enough to get out of them) to a gas mask. This makes them pretty much unsuitable for severe aerobic effort, like firefighting.

The next step is obviously a positive pressure-type apparatus, which stops being a respirator and becomes a breathing apparatus, more or less because it sort of breaths for you.

The two kinds of these that I’ve played/worked with are positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus, like the Scotts and Vikings that structure folks know and love, and closed-circuit breathing apparatus, like Draegers (BG-4 and BG 174-A are what I’ve used) and BioPaks used for mine and confined space rescue.

  • Scotts and Vikings basically count on air pressure (they’re a compressed-air type apparatus) to blow contaminants away from your face so you’re breathing good air…they’re good for high temperatures (some are rated to over 700 F) and are very good at compensating for high aerobic demand (long live the lung demand valve). They’ll weigh in at about fifteen to twenty pounds and last between fifteen minutes and an hour at a work-level demand.
  • Draegers and BioPaks carry O2, so you’re breathing oxygen, and a reagent, to sequester exhaled CO2. Nothing in, nothing out. They’re high maintenance (expect ten to twenty minutes, per apparatus, per month just to keep them legal), heavy (twenty pounds if you’re lucky, forty if you’re not), but they’ll last you up to four hours. They’re like breathing out of a hair dryer for the last bit of your four hours, though, unless you get the nifty new self-cooling ones (sigh, gear lust). They’re also not great for very high temperatures (I think they max spectacularly at about 300 F) or really high aerobic demand.

Really, I don’t think there’s anything out there that’s really applicable to wildland; a self-rescuer or SCBA will help with or keep out CO, but they’re heavy, you’re going to breathing hotter air and dehydrating faster than you would without them. I think the added dehydration would be a greater threat than the CO itself, until you hit some very unusual conditions for a fuel-regulated fire. Filter-style respirators…well, for excluding smaller particles you’ll get lower and lower minute volume, so it’s a trade off. Break out the old damp handkerchief…I’ve tried using just those white mask-things to exclude smoke, and all I got was blisters on my nose. I’d rather have fire boogers than blisters on my nose.

Nerd on the Fireline

11/25 The publication everyone is thinking of is:
Health Hazards of Smoke
Recommendations of the Consensus Conference
April 1997
published by NWCG
NFES # 2557
84 pages.

11/25 IAFC News Alert
Contact: IAFC Government Relations

USFA Reauthorization Passes Congress
Bill Restores the Position of the U.S. Fire Administrator

Fairfax, Va., Friday, November 21, 2003...This morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that reauthorizes the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) through fiscal year 2008. The bill passed the Senate last night and now proceeds to the White House for the President's signature.

Among the provisions of the bill is the reestablishment of the U.S. Fire Administrator position. USFA has technically been operating without an administrator since Congress approved the authorizing legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security, which inadvertently eliminated the U.S. Fire Administrator position.

IAFC President Chief Ernest Mitchell applauded the passage of the legislation. "The IAFC has worked closely with our allies on Capitol Hill to move this important piece of legislation. By reestablishing the position of the U.S. Fire Administrator, we ensure that the fire service will continue to have a prominent voice in the Department of Homeland Security," he said.

In addition, the bill includes the Firefighting Research and Coordination Act, a measure sponsored by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI). This measure requires the Fire Administrator to work with other federal agencies, consensus standards development organizations and the first responder community to evaluate new fire fighting technologies and develop appropriate standards for that technology.
11/25 Ab,

Here is a link to some info from The Nature Conservancy including how to
request a copy of the report from MTDC.


11/25 Arkie FMO-

Articles like the one Firescribe linked to are written after every major
fire effort The "Health Hazards of Smoke" study done in the 90's (way old
for some!) involved industrial health experts from around the country.

The study was sponsored by NWCG and administered by MTDC, Dick
Mangan chaired the committee. To the best of my foggy recollection some
of the main results were:
  • the chemical compounds produced by are nearly unmeasurable due to their
    extremely volatile nature.
  • 10 micron and larger particulate matter (PM10) is the big stuff that gets
    caught in the nose and throat making "fire boogers".
  • PM3 particles are the ones that get into the lungs causing a lot of the
    short-term respiratory problems.
  • tests of wildland firefighter lung capacity over a season showed a
    decrease in overall tidal volume that was recovered after removal from the
    work environment (winter).

The fire line is our industrial worksite. The basic steps we use to
mitigate a work hazard are to use engineering developments to eliminate the
hazard (no fires), remove the employee from the environment, or provide
protection to the employee through safety equipment or limiting exposure.
One rule of thumb offered is if you cannot see 50 feet you should leave the
work area, hard to do when the fire comes to you.

All styles of respirators were tested; half face, full face, powered and non
powered. None allowed the worker enough air flow to meet the aerobic
demands of fire fighting. As far as I know none of the "bandana" style face
masks are certified as respirators by NIOSH. The component materials may
meet other standards for flame resistance and other criteria. The filters
on the masks are intended to trap PM10 particles. The PM3's continue into
the lungs. The filter material may trap some volatile compounds. What
isn't stopped is carbon monoxide.

Too many PM3's have left me with limited memory. Do some research starting
with MTDC files on the Health Hazards of Smoke. Before buying any product,
investigate performance claims and know what you are getting into. If you
find new information please share it with us all.


11/25 Arkie Fmo

Yes, they have looked at developing a respirator for wildland fire. The
problem is respirators would have to meet NIOSH standards (ie fit tested
which would means having it all the time). A true respirator provides oxygen,
it doesn't just filter out the particles as does the stuff you see out there now.

The problem with those that just filter is that they do filter the
particulates but do nothing for carbon monoxide. This leads to people
building up large levels of CO2 in their systems because they don't feel
the need to get out and get some fresh air. Actually hacking, gagging
and eye watering is a good thing in a sense; it's your body telling you to
get out and get some clean air.

The other problem is weight. For any true respirator, you would
have to carry your O2 with you. It would only be good for about 30
minutes and would add significant weight gain to how much you are
carrying. I think the structure guys could give you more info on that

MTDC does have a paper out on the effects of smoke and the
decisions of why a respirator is not needed. What I have told you are
the basics of why there is no respirator that fits NFPA 1977.

Another TC
11/25 Hello AB,

I'm in the process of figuring out which forests to apply to when the jobs are posted in the next few weeks. I was hoping your readers might be able to help me out. I've come up with a list of forests and am looking for FMOs or other contacts who are hiring and any information on their fire programs.

Medicine Bow

I greatly appreciate everyone's help and the information you have gathered on this site. For the last seven years fire has been an interest of mine and how that I've got the chance I'm gonna give it a shot. Safe travels to everyone during the holiday weekend.

Dave A

Here's a good starting place: www.fs.fed.us/contactus/regions.shtml. This link is on the links page under jobs, "National Forests by Region" and lists all the phone numbers. Having names is helpful too. Ab.
11/25 Ab, Ty O here again.

Yes you can post from Brazil. There are Internet cafes here - the keyboards don't have have all of the same grammar, but I am using one right now and you can obviously understand me. The Internet cafes don't have coffee but at least in this part of the country they are everywhere and cost less than an American dollar per hour.

I am living with friends and a girlfriend of mine here. It would be very possible for you to take a trip here and still do the Internet thing. My mom wants to come but she's not here now.

As far as series and grade, thanks for the info. I was more wondering about the job I already worked and what to put on the job history there but I can just call to to my old employers and ask them, unless you know. I was just on a Engine and worked as a grade 2 seasonal.

Thanks for the help. I will probably be writing again at some point and if you have questions about Brazil you can E-mail me.

Ty O

P.S would it be a good idea for me to write something for your " wanna be" directory as well? It seems to provide good information.

As you get answers to your questions, remember what they were. Others have the same questions. Don't be having too much fun. Ab.
11/25 Howdy, Abz! Cold enough for ya?

Blue Zebra,

The Prez was standing in Utility 1724 from CZU, assigned to the Corralitos Station.

Yeah, I know a silly nit-pick, but a BC would not ride around in a mere utility, now would they? ;)

Captain Emmett
11/24 Is there any comprehensive list of
hotshot/interregional crews - sort of like a history
of the crews - including crews that were

just curious -


Maybe NIFC has some record. Fire history for the most part has been fairly patchy, however. We envision this as a historical repository. Just the other day a hotshot supt wrote in to have us update a link to a hotshot page I had forgotten about from 2/25/01, before MEL buildup. Compare this to the current list at www.fs.fed.us/fire/people/hotshots/IHC_index.phpl (link on the links page under jobs) and to Steve Karkanen's Hotshot Crew page. That's been out of date for a while, but we still have a link on the links page...

Anyone wants to send in the crew names, locations and dates they were in existence. We'll organize a list. Doug C, you remember any? Any really old timers out there? Did we run Old Timer Bob F off. Maybe he remembers some... if he's still speaking to us here...

There are lots of shot logos on the logos pages. Ab.
11/24 Mellie:

As one who has "bitten the hook" so many times I have three mouths- plenty
to stick all of my feet in and then some, I thoroughly enjoyed your story
about the dictionary. Is it really true, or did I bite the hook again??? Oh,
I think I feel pain in my cheek again!!!

Thinking back in my rapidly fading memory I recall there was a local gov't
"quint" type 1 engine and a CDF type 3 used as the back drop to Bush. I saw
both of them drive on to the runway and position themselves, under their own
power. A CDF Batt Chief's pickup was placed in front, and decorated to be a
podium, as Bush stood in the bed of the pickup.

What Bob may have seen was several local gov't engines from Montana, which
were transported to and from their home towns on transports, two engines on
each transport. I assume this was done to save wear and tear. Also, the
Novato engine involved in the burnover was returned to Northern Calif on a

blue zebra
11/24 Ab, reading the article that Firescribe sent regarding health problems and
the lack of breathing gear brought up some questions. Are any of the filter
masks currently available certified for use by Federal wildland
firefighters? Has any research been done by MTDC on the effectiveness of the
masks that are currently available? Is MTDC working on a wildland fire

Several folks on my District have asked about these masks during the past
several months, and so far I haven't been able to provide them any answers.

If I recall correctly, one of the papers that Dr. Sharkey wrote in the late
90's on the health hazards of smoke suggested that a wildland fire
respirator be studied/developed.


Arkie FMO
11/24 Has anyone researched whether or not the Hometown Hero's Survivors
Benefit Act will apply to wildland firefighters that are Forestry Techs, or
Range Techs.???? I doubt very seriously if our agencies will apply this
legislation to us, as we're not in a firefighter job series................

11/24 It's good to see folks in the House of Reps supporting folks who die on the fireline. But........ since there is a presumption that EACH and EVERY heart attack and stroke that a firefighter suffers is "job related", is there any expectation that firefighters will not use tobacco, will exercise regularly, and will meet generally accepted height/weight standards?? A little individual responsibility can make a significant reduction in firefighter deaths, too!

11/24 Though I appreciate the shout-out from Mellie (I think) about being a
prankster, I want to be serious here for a moment. I'm a bit disappointed
with the tone of the back-and-forths concerning SAFENETs here on They Said.

FMS - While I see your point concerning the SAFENET you referred to, I
believe you're overlooking the intent of SAFENET - to report unsafe working
conditions. You are right that each supervisor is responsible for the
safety of the crew, but if I read the SAFENET entry correctly the engine
crew encountered significant safety issues at the Old Fire. The report on
SAFENET fully meets the intent of the site - "to report a valid concern
about unsafe situations in wildland fire, prescribed fire, or all risk
operations." What someone does about the problem doesn't have much to do
with the fact that the problem existed. You seem to want the conditions and
problems overlooked, based on what someone did (or didn't do) about them.

Rogue Rivers - Got an axe to grind bro, or what? Starting a one-sided
argument about a *two-and-a-half* year old SAFENET doesn't seem very
productive, especially when you only bring your (scant) version of the facts
and get personal. For what it's worth, I met Wini a long time ago
and it was - yes - out in the field. I'm curious about what you base your
statement "By a WO employee... with little field experience" on? Because at
one of the fires where I ran into her, she was an Engine STL - it was during
the 88 Yellowstone fires and she'd been out all year.

So I suggest that if you insist on bringing up old stuff, you make your case
based on a fair discussion of all the facts, maybe suggest an alternate
workable solution, and above all don't make it personal (especially when it
looks like you might just be wrong about someone's background).

Let's try to keep the true intent of SAFENET in mind, and keep our personal
beefs out of it. I really don't think that the best use of this site is to
take shots at people personally, especially when you're posting
anonymously. Unless you're taking shots at me, I guess, then have at it.


Yeah, Posters, Ab's been slackin' on the snippin'. I just went back and did that. Please, no personal attacks unless you want to sign your real names and take the heat.
11/24 From Firescribe:

Crews' health problems point to absence of breathing gear
11/24 Here's the CDF Green Sheet on the Cedar Fire
Cedar Fire Investigation Summaries of Novato Engine Crew Entrapment, Fatality and Burn Injuries

and accompanying
Cedar Fire Maps (1443 K pdf file requires Adobe Acrobat)


Thanks for keeping us informed. Ab.
11/24 Congressman Bob Etheridge, North Carolina

Date: November 21, 2003

House Passes Etheridge’s Hometown Heroes Legislation for Firefighters, Police

WASHINGTON - This morning the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge's (D-Lillington) Hometown Heroes Survivor Benefits Act, S.459. The legislation extends federal benefits to public safety officers, including police officers, firefighters and other first responders, who die of heart attack or stroke while on duty. Heart attacks and strokes represent a significant risk among public safety officers, accounting for nearly half of firefighter deaths each year.

"This is great news! I am very pleased that the House has taken this action on behalf of our hometown heroes, who sacrifice so much for our communities," Etheridge said. "This bill is about doing the right thing for the folks that we depend on day in and day out. Our police officers, firefighters and emergency workers deserve our gratitude and support. It is fitting that these hometown heroes who work tirelessly to protect our families receive our promise to protect their families."

This legislation is rooted in North Carolina, born out of a letter written to Etheridge by Mike Williams of Bunnlevel, who works as the assistant chief of Flat Branch Volunteer Fire Department and in the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and inspired by the death of a North Carolina firefighter. Williams wrote to Etheridge about the story of the late Thomas Earl Brooks, a Lumberton firefighter who died of a heart attack on January 31, 2002 whose family was denied federal benefits.

The current federal Public Safety Officers Benefits Program provides financial assistance to families of public safety officers (police, fire and EMS) killed in the line of duty, as well as to officers permanently disabled while on the job. Unfortunately, in almost every incidence of death by heart attack or stroke, the family receives no benefits even though the deaths were clearly triggered by the rigors of the job. The Etheridge bill would correct that deficiency in the law.

Etheridge's bill has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the International Union of Police Associations and the Congressional Fire Services Institute. The legislation now moves to the Senate.

The following is a brief legislative summary of H.R. 919, the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act.

The Public Safety Officers Benefit Under Current Law:

Provides financial assistance to the survivors of public safety officers (including police officers, firefighters and EMS workers) killed in the line of duty, as well as to officers permanently disabled while on the job.

Assists 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” with a one-time death benefit payment (currently $262,100), which is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice.


Makes it difficult for families of public safety officers who die of a heart attack or stroke to qualify for benefits because the implementing regulations for the benefit specifically exclude stress and strain as eligible causes of death. While it is possible for some families to receive the benefit, they must go to great lengths to overcome the burden of proof and prove that the heart attack was “direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty” to do so.

The Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act Allows the families of public safety officers who have died from a heart attack or stroke resulting from law enforcement, fire suppression and emergency response actions.

Presumes that a public safety officer who suffers a fatal heart attack or stroke died as the direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty absent competent medical evidence to the contrary.
11/24 To Nemesis,

I hear what you are saying. We realized, in the private sector, we needed to take care of ourselves because nobody else will. We started a 501c3 charitable Non-profit org and collect money for private sector EMT and Paramedics injured on the job. We hold car wash's and bake sales. Do anything we can to help our brothers and sisters. Maybe that’s what you should do.

11/24 Ab,

I know people have sent in Barbeque Turkey Recipes with
instructions for smoking it on the grill. I looked in the Archives
from last year but didn't find much. Any ideas?


There were some good tips, I think WP sent some in. Lem'me look around. Firecookie has a recipe on the Familysaid recipe page.

OK, back again. I summarized the turkey cooking tips from Donna and WP and put a link to them from Firecookie's recipe and the recipes links page.

If anyone has a favorite recipe of any sort, send it in. Ab.
11/24 Have to jump in on the retirement topic.

My experience with Marsha S. has always been good, prompt response and fair treatment. All of my DOI seasonal time was accepted as creditable for fire retirement.

I did have some major issues with the USFS when they tried to tell me that my twelve years as an IHC Superintendent were "non-rigorous/administrative". (Try telling that to my knees!) Marsha was able to give me accurate retirement information when the USFS folks did not have a clue, and this while I was a USFS employee.

11/24 blue zebra

You mean I should have heard the sound of the CHUM hitting the
water on that CDF transport and engine story. Seems I heard that
from a FS person, and it wasn't BLM Bob, oh right, he's BLM,
but a terrific prankster. Oh my, was I really set up and by one of
my main buds? Hmmm, I am usually sooo careful with my research...

Just can't trust anyone these days, can ya?


ps. On a trip across the country once, we were playing word games
(inbetween reciting the 10 and 18s, LCES and Common Denominators).
The person with the dictionary (yep, we often travel with one of those!)
yelled from the back, "Hey Mellie, look, they took gullible out
of the dictionary!" I immediately yelled back, "Hey lemme see that!"
People were rolling around in laughter on that one! Same hot trip I
got handed a cooling freshwater spritzer bottle that had a small amount
of vinegar added to the water. Like always, I sprayed that trustingly on
my face. Bad enough to smell, not so bad that my eyes watered. I was
NOT driving! With friends like that, who needs enemies, right? O'course
I've handed out my share of pranks, too. <little madonna smile>
11/24 Saw the article and post about the CA Governator's appointment
of Mike Crisman to head the Resources Agency. His son Josh is
with CDF. Both are stand-up guys, so maybe some real good for
California will come from Mike's appointment.

Another SoCal CDF
11/24 Abs, here's a conundrum for you:

Last night's local newscast stated Steve Rucker's family has rec'd over $250K in donations, his partner has rec'd approx $100K to date. no clue if it is correct, but I'd bet it is. before any workman's compensation benefits kick in. as a tax payer I don't even want to consider the deep pocket thing although I know the loss of a loved one is without measure.

No offense to anyone, but what about a poor groundpounder or contract crew FF who was injured: is he struggling to pay bills with no pay check? are his doctors hounding him for payment? is he getting a run around from his employer or the insurance company? is he is overwhelmed by the red tape with no resources & being advised to hire a lawyer who will take a percentage of his maybe "award"? what about the family of a dead WFF that struggles to pay for a burial?

the MEDIA is only interested in news stories that are "hot"

inequities abound; we need to provide and earmark our $$$ support to those who are most needy and someone needs to grab a media ear that will raise public awareness.
HARSH? think about it


Steve Rucker is also recognized and named "FIREFIGHTER" as he should be. Fallen groundpounding FIREFIGHTERS who are called "Forestry Tech" or "Range Tech" or "Biologist" or "Faller" are not so likely to garner the same media attention. Ab.
11/24 DOI works to screw firefighters out of rightful retirement:

I have been in wildland fire since 1977 and was a seasonal firefighter for 13 years—including being on the Arrowhead Hotshots and on a BLM fire engine—and the DOI has denied my claim to have the time covered by these positions added to my firefighter retirement. The DOI so-called Merit Systems Protection board is anything but……They said that I did not get my application in within 6 months from when I moved over from the USFS to the DOI in 1998. I had my firefighter retirement package in for 9 years with the USFS until my USFS seasonal time was approved. When I moved over to the NPS in 1998, I was unaware and not informed by any NPS personnel staff that I had to re-apply for positions as obviously primary firefighter as hotshot crew and engine crew.

The lawyer I retained to help me fight the DOI said that the DOI is purposely trying to deny inclusion of seasonal firefighter time for firefighters. Marsha S<snip> is the woman who is behind all this, as well as Michael G<snip> on the Retirement Team.

Be forewarned DOI firefighters who have transferred from another agency.

So much for all the 9/11 hero crap—this is how we are really treated by our agencies when it is time to reap our just rewards.

Mary Kwart
FMO—Tetlin Wildlife Refuge
Tok, Alaska
11/23 So here is one for those who fought fire in the '70s and '80s. AC, not
BC, for those who know what I'm talking about (Don't get me wrong, I
have the utmost respect for BC guys. Four man brush hook teams -

Do any of you remember any of the songs that shot crews used to
sing. You know,

"We're the Little Tujunga Hotshots,
The raiders of the night.
We don't know where we're going,
But we'ld rather f... than fight."

This is going a ways back to when shot crews did sing. If you
could send some of the lyrics to this site or to eestey@amphi.com, it
would be appreciated. Also, I would like to hear from anyone who was
with Dalton Hotshots or Apple Valley Helishots.

By the way, is it just a legend, or did the Chilao Hotshots have to
have the seats of their crew buggies face towards the inside in the
early '70s so they would not make cat calls to the girls on the
streets? Hotshot lore and legends....


11/23 hey maybe someone out there can give me some guidance.

I have a problem, well lot's of them, however the main one is I am a federal firefighter w/ the dept of defense in Ohio ! I have 11 yrs. experience in SoCA, carry a current red card and my Chief does not want to hear anything about me going out as a GS firefighter wa-wa !! I have gone out the last 2 yrs as an AD, had a good time, however I burned up a bunch of a/leave. The Chief talks about this thing called manpower, however we all know one monkey don't make the show. oh I know I could get in trouble for going out on a/leave but I have been a firefighter for 27 yrs and if this is the the case, bring it on!!

Am I missing something here? I go out at my advanced age of 49 and don't have a heart attack, don't whine, is there anyone out there with some ideas on how to get some satisfaction ? I have gone out out with the state type II crew, however I want to try to go out as a GS F/F !!! someone please help me

11/23 Way to go CDF Jake!

Jake says-

"We are asking some of our fellow firefighters from agencies who primary mission involves very little wildland fire suppression to perform some of the most dangerous aspects of wildland fire suppression even for full-time wildland agencies and that is structure protection".

Here's a quick primer on structural firefighting in the urban interface as understood by many structural firefighters.

Step 1: Drive Type 1 engine on unpaved, narrow road without hydrants that lies in the path of a rapidly moving head fire.
Step 2: Park engine somewhere in proximity to what is perceived to be a structure, but is in reality just another pile of wood which lies in the path of a rapidly moving head fire.
Step 3: Jump out of your engine (leave the engine running of course) and deploy and charge a short hoselay (it's important to stay mobile) especially when you have just parked your Type 1 engine in the path of a rapidly moving head fire.
Step 4: As the rapidly moving head fire slams into your apparatus and the wood pile that you are protecting, take cover on the opposite side of the structure. Use your water to walk the advancing fire front around the structure. If it gets too hot go into the structure until the rapidly moving head fire passes.
Step 5: When it is safe to do so step outside and mop up whats left.

With this easy 5 step process any structural firefighter can be a wildland firefighter. In fact many wildland firefighters have been educated that we just don't have the skills and equipment to do this sort of structural firefighting. (It must be our lack of knowledge regarding SCBAs and hydrants.) Perhaps wildland firefighters need to practice frontal attack with engines on rapidly moving, plume dominated fire fronts just to get up to speed. When will the madness end?

I am well aware that there are plenty of sharp wildland firefighters within the structural community.

However we in the firefighting community, whether we be structural or wildland, weren't the idiots who built these houses out on nature's fuel bed. We should not act like idiots in defense of idiots when the odds are stacked against us.

Backfire Billie

11/23 Re: First Strike Seeks Dismissal of Charges

First Strike Environmental’s request for independent toxicology tests led today to the revelation that their employee, driver Mark Ransdell’s blood alcohol level was NOT in fact .13 % as previously reported by Malheur District Attorney, Dan Norris.

Re-testing yielded startlingly different results. Two (2) additional samples of Mark Ransdell’s blood taken from his heart yielded blood alcohol levels of .05 % and .07%, even though the blood was drawn at the same time and from the same location as the blood yielding the earlier result.

I'll drink to that!

11/23 The Jobs page plus the wildland firefighter job series 0462 and 0455 are updated.

11/23 Firefighters:
A RED FLAG WARNING is in effect from 0600 to 1800 PST Sunday


San Bernardino and Riverside County Valleys- the Inland Empire
San Bernardino County Mountains-
Riverside County Mountains-
The San Bernardino National Forest-
Santa Ana Mountains and Foothills-
San Diego County Mountains-
San Diego County Valleys-
The Cleveland National Forest-

A RED FLAG WARNING is in effect from 0600to 1800 Sunday for strong Northeast winds and very low relative humidity affecting all of the mountains and inland valleys of Southwest California.

11/22 Ab, I'm going to jump into the SafeNet discussion. Here is the SafeNet Corrective Action Taken... By a WO employee... with little field experience. Amounts to little more than BS.

Corrective Action taken by : Wini <snip>

Date : 01/17/2001
Originator Notified by :
Date :
Email Address : <snip>

What do you suggest to ensure this does not happen again?

"In initial briefing of resources communications should be addressed. Radios from other resources could have been distributed to the STL of the engines to insure proper communications. If this was not feasible the 3 strikes of engines should not have been deployed to the fireline. Refer to Watch Out Situations # 7 and Standard Fire Order 6 dealing with communications."


Lets get "REAL WORLD" and stop playing games... a dissection of Wini's reply... an example of the WO not listening to the field...

REAL WORLD: Get out of the office and into the field.

..."In initial briefing of resources communications should be addressed. Radios from other resources could have been distributed to the STL of the engines to insure proper communications"...

EXPLAIN TO ME HOW I COULD HAVE DISTRIBUTED RADIOS to the 200 plus fires engines responding and assigned? Even best case, I'd have to carry a NIFC cache with me just to give the radios to the strike team leaders... Nope, good try...

..."If this was not feasible the 3 strikes of engines should not have been deployed to the fireline"...

Nope... THIS WAS UNIFIED COMMAND.... They had jurisdictional and legal responsibility to be there even though it was a FED fire... They deployed resources as needed under their responsibility.

..."Refer to Watch Out Situations # 7 and Standard Fire Order 6 dealing with communications."...

we did, and mitigated them... BUT THE SAFETY ISSUES WERE BROUGHT FORWARD... AND NOT CORRECTED for future fires.!!!!

Rogue Rivers

11/22 Greetings,

I was hoping that you might add a link from your website to ours.

Thank you,
Jeff C
11/22 the Associated Press today reports that the Governor of CA, Ahnold Schwarzenegger

"tapped Southern California Edison executive Mike Chrisman to head the agency that oversees departments charged with protecting forests, wildlife and fighting wildland fires.

Environmental groups were pleased..... Chrisman is "the kind of conservationist, environmentalist Republican that used to be prevalent in this state, but you don't find much anymore," said Sierra Club regional director Carl Zichella. "He's not an ideologue and he's open-minded," with an environmental bent to his votes on the state Fish and Game Commission."


Tahoe Terrie

11/22 Hi Ab,
R Ty O here. I hope that all is going well with you.

I am in Brazil and enjoying it very much.

I am writing to try to find some information on the application process.

I am wondering what the pay plan is and series and grade. <series is GS 462 or GS 455 or whatever the announcement says, more info at OPM>
I worked as a GS 2 and I think that is grade but I am not sure. <it is, but see if you qualify higher now based on more experience>
I was just a seasonal employee for my first season.
Under Employer name is that the Federal government or is that the forest or the name of my Supervisor? whatever else might it be?
Under Job Title do I put Firefighter or Forest Technician? Whatever is it that I am considered on paper?
Under References should I use my supervisor, or should I use my acting captain. I only worked with my Captain for about two weeks the entire season. I was always working with the Acting Captain and, beyond paperwork, he was my Captain and taught me what I know. <you can ask anyone you want to be your references, but you should ask them if they're willing>
How many forests should I apply to without getting on the wrong cert? Also is it a certain number of forests per region or is it nationally? I remember you said not to put "will go anywhere" or I would get last choice and end up in Timbuktoo or OZ.
Under Duties and Accomplishments should I include such things as "ran hose lay" or is that kind of stuff considered to be part of what I learned with a season of experience.
I did some burnout operations and that is something I should put down, I would think. And what about sharpening tools and other duties around the Engine Bay. Is this even worth mentioning?
What sort of stuff are they looking for as Employers

Anyone who wants to take the time and give me some pointers or some information on this process it would be greatly helpful.

P.S thanks for the response on information on getting a hotshot crew my second year i don't remember the name of the person who gave me the information but thanks.
Thanks ya'll you've been a good help in the last year.


Hi R Ty O. I wouldn't mind being in Brazil. Think I could post from there? You have internet access. That's hopeful? Coffeshop or staying with some friends of your mom?

Readers who want to contribute some answers, I could add them to the Wanna Be list of Q&A. This set of questions comes in fairly regularly. The application process could use some guidelines. Maybe OPM or one of the Agencies has such questions answered somewhere? Here's a useful site on lingo. I know I linked to GS pay requirements at one time, but can't find that now. Ab.
11/22 Ab, Thanks for the forum.

Safenets and Safecoms are all great and good as long as everyone is on board and wants to play. A couple of years ago several Fed crews and overhead submitted Safenets on a Oregon Dept of Forestry fire for serious violations of 10 and 18, LCES and Downhill Line Construction Guidelines.

The end result was that ODF said thanks but no thanks and will not recognize Safenets or accept any Safenet recommendations.

Unfortunately it appears that Fire Manager and Supervisor (FMS) is treading down the same path.

I can only assume that FMS is either a state, or local govt. firefighter who thinks that there is a vast difference between an "Interface Firefighter" and a Firefighter. We fight fire wherever it is, in the wilderness or in the city.

It ain't rocket surgery dude.

It seems harsh to admit the truth but structures are just another fuel type, we firefighters need to recognize this truth and act accordingly. Granted there are huge investments both financial and emotional tied up in this fuel type, and as such there is a great temptation to risk firefighter and civillian lives to protect it.

We cannot compromise firefighter safety because of emotional or financial investment in an inanimate object. I am sure that Engineer Steve Rucker's family and the owners of the property where he died would agree with me.

LCES and the 10 + 18 cannot be violated or firefighters get hurt or killed. There can be no argument to the contrary.

I have no problem violating the work/rest guidelines when the situation is extreme and peoples lives and property are at risk. (I think the federal work/rest guidelines should be just that, guidelines and not set in stone as they are because of a bureaucratic overreaction to the 30 Mile incident.) I will not however compromise LCES or the 10 +18, too many firefighters have been made heroes (killed) by ignoring the basics.

FMS, you seem to think that California firefighters are the only ones who take the individual fire- fighters responsibility for safety seriously. I can assure that is as much as a myth as the thinking that they are better firefighters than anybody else in the country.

I have fought fire all over the U.S. and guess what there are good, safe firefighters in every state and they face the same types of complexities in Anchorage, Alaska, Missoula, Montana or Phoenix, Arizona as they do in San Berdo or San Diego. God Bless 'em all.

11/21 Here's a new website for people looking to get onto a very good so cal
flight crew. www.flightcrew528.com

11/21 Season's not over till it's over....

Wyoming: Wildfire forces evacuation of most of Dayton
Associated Press

DAYTON — Hundreds of residents were evacuated when a wind-driven nighttime wildfire rushed down a tree-lined river that runs through town.

The fire burned about two blocks into the six-block long community of nearly 700 people, but no homes or major buildings in town were burned, according to Dayton Fire Chief Eric Lofgren.


11/21 Mellie:

Some funny things happened on the way to George W.'s visit to the Cedar Incident Base, but I don't recall seeing the trucking in of engines on lowboys. I was there and survived!

The area was adjacent to the eating area and MKU. All inmates were removed from the food serving/preparation area the night before- on that date, food was prepared and served by CDF firefighters. Believe it or not, the inmates were a happier bunch!

A number of tractor trailer/"reefer" trucks were arranged to provide shelter to the area. Porta-Potties were taken outside of the security parameter. Metal detectors, wand searches and pat downs became required to eat breakfast. A number of released resources from local agencies returned to the base, either to see the President, to flesh out the Incident Base (which was winding down), or both. And, a ton of local politicos decided MKU breakfast wasn't all that bad, and showed up.

It was fun, but not all that great.
blue zebra

P.S. Thanks for your earlier story on Aberdeen's formative years.
11/21 To my friend from BLM that seems to have an axe to grind on the "Old" fire...... here are my concerns with your SAFENET ID # 5T3KT8SAFE ..... I disagree with you, but you are still a friend... a firefighter. But you were out of your element. Interface firefighters deal with these issues daily. You obviously don't.

Some of YOUR comments from the SafeNet....

The following safety violations occurred.

"1) Engine was never briefed on assignments, strategies, tactics, fire behavior, fire weather, or any other incident information.
2) Communications with the supervisor were never established and the supervisor was never identified.
3) The number of engines, tenders, emergency vehicles and media traffic along HWY 18 compromised the engines only escape route back to the safety zone. Observed and predicted fire behavior indicated that there was a high potential for entrapment along that road. If this had occurred, incident resources would have been stranded in a traffic quagmire.
4) Safety zone was too small to accommodate the number of vehicles and personnel assigned, should they have had to use it.
5) Engine crews were assigned to a 33-hour shift. This fire was clearly not in the initial attack phase. Shift length guidelines were not adhered to."

......"In their zeal to accomplish this mission, they were willing to violate at least 3 of the 4 LCES standards, and a majority of the 10 Standard Fire Orders. Nearly all the watch-out situations were apparent on scene and many of the recent Thirtymile action items were totally ignored."

MY SIMPLE AND SAFE CORRECTIVE ACTION>>> YOU FAILED AS A SUPERVISOR AND SHOULD BE REPLACED. Your crew's safety rests with you. If these items existed and were not mitigated, you failed as a supervisor.

Nowhere in your safenet does it say that you withdrew or mitigated your concerns. As a supervisor, IT WAS YOURS, and nobody elses RESPONSIBILITY, to ensure your crew's safety. Crew supervisors from several agencies mitigated and addressed their safety issues. You just seemed to have logged yours... A supervisor acts.... a follower follows.

The safety mentality starts at the bottom and works up..... don't blame the management teams for your carelessness for doing your job. Safety starts at the bottom.

Your most meaningful post...... "Based on personal experience, and after lengthy discussions with others who have experienced fires in southern California, the general feeling is "well that's how they do it out there. Therefore, if that's how they do it out there, my corrective action is to not send any more of my personnel into that situation."

IN CALIFORNIA, the CREW AND ENGINE SUPERVISORS ARE RESPONSIBLE to provide for the safety of their crews........not just the management teams and I.C.'s....... I think that might need to be addressed before you return...... If you cannot address that, please do not return.


Readers, you can look through the SafeNet files yourself. We have a permanent link to the site on the Fire Links page under safety. Ab.
11/21 Unfortunately, Proud to be Green, it takes a bit of marketing to have as
many photo ops as CDF manages to make happen. I heard that when
the Pres went to Southern CA, CDF brought in some big RED vehicles
on a lowboy at the last minute so the President would have some fine
"background". You know that takes planning! I think CDF is "all over"
presenting themselves in the best possible light. They must have a marketing
guru in the back office. It's all about managing information. Good for
them for stepping up to Jay Leno. Their web information is not so great
but they have the Hollywood Factor down pat, and I mean that in the
most complimentary way. The Forest Service could take some lessons
on sharing info with the public. The motto could be "pride goes hand
in hand with modesty and professionalism". Forest Service I challenge
you to kick the marketing up a notch. It's the professional thing to do.

11/21 AB,

I am watching the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Tonight they are doing a tribute to the firefighters who fought the fires in So Cal.

Hey Jay Leno, "were are the folks from the USFS?" I have not seen one person who works for the Feds. It may sound trivial to some, but I would have liked to have seen some folks from the Forest Service.

Proud to be Green
11/21 Another review of Jumping Fire

also enjoyed the book, Murray did what I thought was a most accurate job of describing how SMJ's/FF'ers view work and life, the good, & the Bad, but I took something from the book the other reviewers didn't mention. Murray does the best job of describing the stress of fighting fires and enjoying it, but missing out on alot of aspects of his personnel life.

C. Bork
11/21 as predicted, this forum is "heating up" lots of postings subsequent southzone fires - please, no one spout off about what you presume from your perspective: distance, gossip or second-guessing..... if you were THERE, you saw a piece of the big deal; if you wanted to be there, think about it and research the WHY you weren't deployed.

CA "bosses" should be complimented for calling in the FEDS to run the show. does it really matter much which color engine or groundpounder crew made herculean efforts to save some homeowner's "stuff" in stupid zone? consider the weather conditions, terrain, etc. last month; all on the fireline need our recognition /acknowlegment for a JOB WELL DONE!

yes, some staff took part in "lessons learned" forums; there will be a mandated CA "after action" report, eventually...
me thinks the time is ripe for all of us to personally research many FF inequities and address those issues professionally

11/20 SoCal Captain.

I didn't send in a Safenet. I felt my comments were too general for that format. I do hope people send in safenets on specific incidents and more specific safety issues. There were more than only communications problems. Think about what you saw in combo with the contributing factors topics. We were doing the best we could under the circumstances AND we can do it better and more safely next time.

Has anyone ever sent in a more general Safenet like my "mockup".
Thanks for the Question, SoCal Capt, and for the full Safenet format, Lobotomy.

sign me...
HOPING for some MORE dialog and REAL Lessons Learned

Ab added from the earlier post...
Contributing Factors
: Fire behavior, communications, equipment, environmental, human factors, other

  • Human Factors : decision making, leadership, risk assessment, fatigue, performance, situational awareness
  • Other Factors : Factors relating to "real world" implementation of the 30 Mile Abatement
11/20 Regarding Lessons Learned and Repeated:


From San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob "The supervisor said she wanted an independent investigation of the circumstances of the Cedar fire, the largest in modern state history. The investigation, she said, would examine the response to the fire and how emergency agencies had difficulty communicating because of incompatible radio systems."

... back in 2001 this communications issue was addressed........ with no true action taken....

See the Safenet below describing incompatible radio systems on the Viejas Fire, Cleveland National Forest, 01/03/2001.

Wildland Fire Safety & Health Reporting Network
Report unsafe situations in all wildland fire operations.

Name : (Optional)
Phone : (Optional)
EMail : (Optional)
Date Reported : 01/06/2001
Agency/Organization : USFS
State Agency :
Other Agency :

Event Date : 01/03/2001
Local Time : 01:00 PM

Incident Name : VIEJAS
Incident Number : CA-CNF-00022
State : CA
Jurisdiction : USFS
Local Unit : CNF
Incident Type :
Incident Activity :
Stage of Incident : Wildland
Initial Attack; Extended Attack
Position Title : Division Supervisor
Task : Structure Protection, Line Construction
Management Level : 2
Resources Involved : Various

Brief description of concern/condition or potential issue:

During the initial attack and extended attack phases of the fire, prior to the Type 2 team's arrival, communications were non-existent between overhead and mutual aid resources in many locations. The problem stemmed from the conflict between 800 Mhz radio systems and VHF radios systems.

Contributing Factors : Communications

Human Factors :
Other Factors :
In California, many local agency departments have converted their radio systems to 800 Mhz. Most federal and state fire agencies still use VHF radio systems. The two sytems are not compatible.

Mutual aid resources in many instances had only the capability of communicating on the 800 Mhz radio. Some resources had VHF radios but were not capable of field programming to incident frequencies.

After the Type 2 team and radio caches arrived, the problem was abated.

Describe: (Weather, Fire Behavior, Fuels, Terrain, Footing, Road Conditions, etc.)
Weather: 74 degrees, RH 7%, wind NE 25-30
Fuels: very low live fuel moisture due to moderate drought
10 hr. fuels: 2-3
Fire Behavior: wind, slope, and fuel driven fire burning with rates of spread up to 100+ chains and hour.
Structure protection, poor road access, extreme smoke conditions.

Describe in detail what happened including the concern or potential issue, the environment (weather, terrain, fire behavior, etc), and the resulting safety/health issue.

I was initially assigned three Type 3 engine strike teams, one Type 1 engine strike team, two Type 1 crew strike teams, a type 2 dozer and misc. federal engines. The assignment was to provide perimeter control and structure protection. The fire was actively running and spotting and numerous structures were being protected.

During this period, I did not have the capability to communicate with 3 of the engine strike teams. This created an extreme hazard due to the fire activity, access, aircraft use, and topography.

Reporting Individual: please list anything that, if changed, would prevent this safety issue in the future:

Revisit the philosophy of common communications as first addressed in the 1970's with FIRESCOPE.
1) Ensure that all mutual aid engines respond with the capability to communicate on VHF systems, and/or
2) Ensure that all federal resources have the ability to communicate on 800 Mhz systems

Reporting Individual : Please list anything that, if changed, would prevent this safety issue in the future.

Please document how you tried to resolve the problem and list anything that, if changed, would prevent this safety issue in the future.

Communications systems for all agencies involved in wildland mutual aid should have the capability to use both VHF and 800 Mhz.
. . Supplemental Corrective Action - 4T3NPPSAFE
. . Supplemental Corrective Action - 4UTVLESAFE
"" Identifies which document you are currently reading.

11/20 RadioGirl;

I really appreciate your input, and I didn’t take it as an attack. The dispatch center in question dispatches for four police agencies, five EMS rigs, approaching seventeen fire departments (structure and wildland), and coordinates with three other dispatch centers for various federal wildland fire groups, working with about 2,400 square miles and a population of close to 45,000…with two dispatchers per shift. I think this an outrageous scope of control; dispatchers are expected to know how to dispatch all of the above, so basically none of the above gets dispatched well. I’ve been fighting structure fire for six months now, going on forty fires, and we have yet to have one dispatched remotely properly…usually we have to page our automatic aid ourselves. The current motion on the floor is combine this dispatch as it currently stands with the utility and federal dispatch centers, who are over staffed and under-trained (and underpaid, which means high turnover, and that we lose our best dispatchers as soon as they get good). I’m not at all opposed to getting the latest greatest facilities and equipment, but I don’t think that’s the most important thing that has to change here. We’re getting predictions for a doozy of a fire season next summer, and a pretty scary holiday EMS season…and a dispatch that’s an asset instead of a liability would be a real nice thing to have.

Nerd on the Fireline
11/20 Ab, over the last month or so, I have had many requests from folks asking how they could support the efforts of the FWFSA regarding H.R. 2963.

Federal Wildland Firefighter Emergency Response Compensation Act of 2003

Here are my replies:

1.) Join and BE AN ACTIVE member.

2.) Start grassroots lobbying.... begin with your local congressional representative.... thank them for their support.... if they are not currently a co-sponsor of the bill.... explain the bill to them and ask for their support. http://www.cfsi.org/writingcongress.phpl They would prefer both a personal e-mail AND hard copy letter. DO NOT SEND A FORM LETTER. Send a letter from your heart and explaining your personal experiences.

3.) Spread the word that the bill is progressing..... and gaining momentum!!! You'd be amazed at the efforts behind the scenes to support the Federal Wildland Firefighters and keep the bill moving forward. So far, Representatives from Oregon, California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, and even Guam have signed on as co-sponsors.

Interested folks can keep track on the status of the bill by going to: http://thomas.loc.gov
or by visiting the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association home page at http://www.fwfsa.org.

Ken Kempter
Southern California Chapter Director
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
11/20 to: HOPING for some dialog and REAL Lessons Learned ,

How come your full SAFENET was not entered on the SAFENET webpage? and the only things we can see from it are from wildlandfire.com? There is no record of it on the NIFC link? Has it been censored?

11/19 To the person wanting a drip torch pointer:

If you unzip and save this driptorch file, then go into the Start file, to settings, to control panel, then to mouse, under pointers and browse find the file and select torch.ico it will replace the pointer with torch. I haven't had time to figure out how to make a flame drip like the pointer mouse trail.

If someone can figure it out, go for it. I make the torch, but haven't had time to play with it or add it to the clip page. The tip of flame is point.


Good directions, Greg. We got it to work. Ab.

11/19 Rating Murray Taylors Jumping Fire: A smokejumpers memoirs

One of the best wildland firefighting books I have read since Young Men and Fire
by Norman Maclean. His style keeps rookies, snookies and veterans interested.
It is good for the general public to give them a glimpse in to the world of
wildland firefighting, in easy to understand terms. This will be a re-read for
me for years and I have recommended it to a lot of people.
Way to go Murray!

I put it on the Book Reviews page. Ab.

11/19 Hi Fred;

Yes it is me and so nice to hear from you. We worked hard and fought a lot of fire at Camp 9, they were the best years of my career. We had excellent crewmen and foreman with a Camp Superintendent that was the best. We pioneered helitack and the use of chainsaws for line construction. I wish the new chief would let you work the way we did.

Thanks for the nice e-mail. I would like to find a way to send you my e-mail address.

Bob S

Let us know if you want us to pass your email on. We put people in touch behind the scenes fairly frequently. Ab.
11/19 Dear Nerd,

The first question I would ask is what does your center dispatch? EMS, Police
and wildfire? If only a primary Wildland dispatch center, then I am sure that
your dispatchers can handle whatever is thrown at them or call in help to answer
phones so they can dispatch. That is what we do....I don't think or have ever
heard of a standard. If a mix of the 3, that could present problems due to the
nature of EMS & police calls. I can only speak for myself, as a wildland

I have been a dispatcher for 7 years and involved in structure and wildland
firefighting since I was 18. I have been on the radio since I was 8--I am now
ALMOST 30.(for perspective) The nature of the beast with wildland fires is you
never no how many or when....you just deal and get people there as soon as you

There also is a nationwide system in place called resource ordering thru GACC's
and the like. If you can't fill an order you say so.....or you should. Don't
try to beat head against the wall to dredge someone up if they are not there.
Plus you are wasting time for another dispatch center that does have the
resource to fill it.

As far as agencies we cover 4 counties and dispatch for the state and USFS
engines as well. We constantly get requests to send overhead from our agency
and fire service to state and fed fires.

You have to let the dispatcher decide when the don't feel comfortable handling
it by themselves.....then call in help. What I would feel comfortable with
could/would be a lot different than a newer dispatcher.

While on a fire assignment in Colorado in 2002 I had 52 fires pop in 1
afternoon. The dispatch center I was working in covers from the Rocky Mts. into
Kansas and Denver to New Mexico border. We are talking a huge area. They have
one person on the IA desk to cover all that. I felt comfortable with that
because I had local knowledgeable dispatchers there for back up when I got
stuck. That is the key.

We just had our center remodeled last May and have new narrow band digital
radios, I love it and I am much MORE productive. As far as your argument
against a new center and consoles......I would have to ask why are you against
it? Maybe you need to improve the training or quality of the dispatchers you
have. It does make a difference having a nice, comfortable office to spend 16
hours a day in. Organization and experience is the key in ANY dispatch center.
Not whether the building is new or not.

We are dispatchers, that is what we do. We get requests, we try to fill them,
if not we move on or call in help. Personally, The more stuff coming at me the
better. I thrive in chaos and confusion.....like I expect most dispatchers do.
We are problem solvers.

To improve dispatch quality I think you might need to look at your staff, not
the building. I am not attacking them as I do not know how they work, but I do
have a lot of dispatch experience all around the country, on the fireline,
Helibase and communications on fires. The field stuff is the best experience I
have ever received. It challenged me, got me out of my comfy box (office) and I
had to step up and do it. If they are good dispatchers they will know when to
ask for help. Get a contingency of people to call on to answer phones and help
with stuff. Train them and then you have a good local expanded dispatch staff
to call on. This helps IA dispatchers a lot.

The other thing I can recommend is getting your dispatchers to other agency
dispatch offices and possibly out to fires to do radio's.

I hope this helps you and was not meant to attack in any way, but to offer
perspective from a dispatcher. Hope you all have healthy and happy holidays,
surrounded by loved ones.

11/19 Can anybody tell me anything about scope of control from a dispatch perspective? Are there any guidelines out there for how many agencies/individuals/incidents a single dispatcher, or a two-person team, should be expected to handle? We’re currently looking at restructuring our dispatch, and I’m looking for ammunition to support my argument that a spiffy new building and console setup isn’t going to help improve dispatch quality as much as decreasing the scope of control each dispatcher is supposed to handle.

Nerd on the Fireline
11/19 Are there steps to evaluate the following aspects of the SoCal fires at the groundpounder and management levels? Here's what I think in the form of SafeNet categories...

Contributing Factors : Fire behavior, communications, equipment, environmental, human factors, other

  • Human Factors : decision making, leadership, risk assessment, fatigue, performance, situational awareness
  • Other Factors : Factors relating to "real world" implementation of the 30 Mile Abatements

A complete review of the Southern California wildfires should be completed by an interdisciplinary team of firefighters, crew supervisors, managers, and agency administrators. There are some really valuable lessons to be learned.

Complete an interdisciplinary comprehensive study of the initial attack through the control of the Southern California wildfires.

After a comprehensive study, implement "real world" changes that would affect firefighter safety and productivity in the "wildland interface - intermix" fires of the future. Leave political and social considerations out of the study and decisions processes.

Sign me:
HOPING for some dialog and REAL Lessons Learned

11/19 Big Chief Article:
If I could I would like to ask people to quit sending
this article around, unless it's for a joke. This is
probably the most ignorant article I have ever read.
I can honestly say I'm not a big fan of the
contracting world, but this article isn't fair or
realistic. I think Big Chief should rename himself
Big Stupid. And what kind of paper is this Portland
Mercury, this is the worst journalism I've ever seen.


I agree with the stupid part. I removed the url from the last post. Ab.
11/19 Ab,

Is anyone looking at lack of internet fire info access during the SoCal Fires? There was a big hole in evacuation and fire information when the southern sierras incident control.com website fire pages went down. Why was there not federal or regional site for the fires at that time? The OES site went down for a while too. Shouldn't this be addressed along with other fire issues during After Actions Reviews?


I understand that the problem has been identified and some people are putting their heads together over this. Ab.
11/19 Can California continue to support 5 Type I and 5 Type II Incident
Management Teams? Some ICs will be retiring or tenuring out. Do
we have enough people moving up?

SoCal FS

Type I Teams
Type II Teams
11/19 I just wanted to state that I am appalled by the comments made by Mr.
Gantenbein in his article. I know he is entitled to his opinion as I am
entitled to have and share mine. I have seen many things during my career
that I would not want anyone else to have to look at, been many dangerous
places that I wouldn't want anyone to be, but that is the job of emergency
response personnel. As for the hero term... well that is a never ending
debate, but as for the dangers of the job both MENTAL and PHYSICAL
...well, that is undeniable.

11/19 Wildland Firefighter Foundation

I would like to echo the comments regarding the tremendous effort put forth by the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. I have personally seen how the foundation has stepped up immediately when a firefighter has had a major fire line injury requiring extended hospitalization, been killed in Line Of Duty, or lost a home. To see and hear how the foundation is constantly helping in areas where the government cannot help due to various reasons is outstanding. It is my hope that you will not need their assistance, however if you do, they will be there. Just because fire season may have indicators to have slowed down or be over, does not mean we should not continue to support the "Wildland Firefighter Foundation". "Please Keep up the Great Work". Maybe in the near future there will be an opportunity to donate directly from a payroll.

So.Ca. FF
11/19 Bob S

If this is who I think it is, I worked as a crewman for you in 1970 at camp 9. We were on a fly crew and Bob put a new meaning to cleaning up your line, he would fire out in front of us and we would have to scratch line to keep up with his burning. Bob's name still comes up in conversation. Ya it was sure a lot nicer working in cotton shirts and levis. Now there are too many lawyers out there . I'm now a crew supervisor pushing convict crews wearing double layer nomex, shroud, 2 radios, gps, night vision, head lamps without wires hanging down, gloves that go halfway up your arm, super scoopers, and the fires still get just as big as in 1970. Do you remember Sept. 25 th 1970.

Fred S
11/19 Ab,

http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/Cedar/ has various interesting things related
to the recent Cedar fire in San Diego. Though most of them are
rather large files.


Thanks, I added the link to the SoCal Fires links page. Ab.

11/19 AB(s)

maybe my question is best directed to the CA Blue Ribbon Panel:
will the CA state mutual aid plan be reconsidered?

why is it any engine bought & paid for by CA (general fund) citizens'
tax dollars isn't a real LOAN? aka loaned to strategically located &
carefully selected local gov't entities that guarantee to train crew who
MIGHT be deployed for mutual aid response elsewhere in the state.

11/18 My cousin Lonnie Charbonneau was injured in a bad car accident. He
loved Wildland Firefighting. He dispatched from Belcourt ND. Im sending
his picture
for you to share on your website, and requesting prayers for him.
God Bless All of You. Lonnie is one the right.


I posted it on the Handcrew 10 photo page along with some Turtle Mountain crew photos. We hope for the best. Ab.

11/18 Here are two photos from the Cedar fire on 11-14-03 at the Ramona
airtanker base. My crew came out of the trailer in the morning and found
the truck this away.

Washington has rain and floods, but this is Southern Calif.

Bill H

Posted it on the Engines 8 Photo page. Ab.

11/18 Some engine photos for the collection:

On cape cod, in massachusetts, they use these things... they go through
pretty much anything you put in front of em.. or they go over it .

Fire BPM.

I posted the brush trucks on Engines 8 and Engines 9 Photo pages. Ab.

11/18 Ab and all:

This link to a story about a contract firefighter. I
know the debates about contractors have been an
important topic on the board - and I don't want simply
to rehash arguments - but this should open a lot of
people's eyes. I can guess the can of worms I opening



This one keeps popping up as people get home and discover it. Tonka sent in the first post with link on 11/13 and some comments followed. In my estimation, it's another case of really slanted journalism, based on an interview of one. Ab.
11/18 re: Wildland Firefighter Foundation fundraising:

Jim of The Supply Cache makes some good points on fundraising for the WFF.
This summer I had the opportunity to attend a number public meetings of the
various complexes in the Northern Rockies. At almost every meeting someone
in the crowd would ask what they could do to help firefighters. WFF was
always on my list of options of things they could do to help. We even made a
small poster on the topic for display at meetings and the incident
information officers. There is no reason we cant take this idea home to our
home units. Collectively how many fairs, prevention/education programs do we
do in a year? Lots I would say. It doesn't take much effort to develop a
small poster asking for support. If nothing else it raises the awareness of
the Foundation.


Nice looking poster. I did the best I could on saving the word file to html, but the program jammed it to the left. If anyone wants the original word document to use as a template, we'll send it. (Update: this seems to be a popular mini-poster in Word. They're flying out over the ethers like hot cakes. Let me know if it prints out. If not, maybe we can modify it. Thanks, Pulaski and All.) Ab.
11/18 Ab,

Here is a subject for discussion amongst some of the subject matter experts that visit this website. The topic is structure protection and levels of training. The USFS and CDF along with municipal agencies that have wildland fire protection duties train often and intensely on structure protection tactics. We have developed numerous guidelines to assist us in our duties to safely execute structure protection.

Take a moment and think of one of the most hazardous jobs in wildland fire suppression. Or how many times in your career have you had that uneasy feeling about the job you're about to take on. It probably involved some form of structure protection or being indirect of the main fire. We are asking some of our fellow firefighters from agencies who primary mission involves very little wildland fire suppression to perform some of the most dangerous aspects of wildland fire suppression even for full-time wildland agencies and that is structure protection.

I believe it is time we look hard at the training and experience levels of our local government cooperators before placing them in a tactical situation that exceeds their level of training and experience. As a wildland agency, would your engine company be comfortable or able to conduct a search/rescue operation in a high rise fire?

We might consider the addition of an ICS typing classification for structure protection. It maybe based on the agency's level of training and experience in this area.

There are many ways to improve upon this such as training with our volunteer and paid departments on a regular basis. Teach our local government cooperators about fire behavior, bump and run tactics, situational awareness, LCES, etc. It should be a manipulative drill and done more than just once a year. We as wildland agencies must extend this training invitation to our neighboring agencies so when they do show up to your incident and you place them at the head of the fire, you can be confident that the outcome of that decision will be a safe and positive one.

For those that currently have this type of interagency training program you are to be applauded. For those that do not, it should be a subject of discussion and consideration.

CDF Jake
11/18 Hey Ab, I found a picture of this crewboss on the FS WEB site, it reminded
me of " THE CREWBOSS" Bob S who retired from the LACOFD the year
after I started fighting fire.

Bob S it's easy to sit around and "monday morning quarterback" about who
should have gone Direct, Indirect, Parallel or HOME, based on some news
footage of firefighters on a road someplace. I saw a bunch of crews
engines and dozers go direct on and hook a large portion of the Cedar Fire,
keeping the fire from getting into an area with several hundred homes.
Too bad they didn't make the news. Maybe you would feel a little better
about the young'ns who are out there now doing the job you so obviously
miss. Getting old sucks.

The tactics haven't changed. The fire orders are back to where they
started in 1957. And some day I hope to be able to kick back and remind
myself about how we used to use brush hooks and shovels instead of
chainsaws and rhinehardts. And by the way we were the toughest, most bad
to the bone, firefighters who ever walked the earth. HA, HA, I guess
Forrest's Mom had it right ,"Stupid is as Stupid does."

It sure was fun wearing cotton fire shirts, Frisco's and chrome plated
Bullards back in '75. I am glad I don't have to buy my own pants anymore,
now if the FS would buy my White's for me I could live with that.

Thanks for the memories Bob S.

11/18 HI,

I read your book reviews and really enjoyed reading thru it all. I wanted to ask, would you Recommend any books in general for my son? He has worked two years with wildland fire fighting in Idaho and Washington and I was looking at a few books.

One was Fire Line, Summer Battles of the West. That sounds good from the review site here.

The other was "The Big Burn." I didn't have the authors name but this is what it says about this book. 1910 in Idaho and Montana was the year "when the mountains roared". A series of 1,763 fires ravaged three million acres and killed 85 people that year. Most of the damage occurred in just two days.

And this book also Under Fire--The West is Burning .

I was wondering if you knew of these two books and would recommend them? And with under Fire the west is burning OR Fire line Summer Battles of the west. IF you would recommend one over the other. I was wondering if they kind of are the same thing in different books.

So just in case you could help with any suggestions on other books or on these...I'd sure appreciate it.

11/18 Just a note on fundraising, the National Wildfire Suppression Association used our general membership meeting last year to hold an auction to benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. We asked our member companies and vendors to donate items to be auctioned off. We had a great time while raising over $10,000 for the foundation from the contract firefighting community. We are repeating this effort again this year at our annual meeting in February in Reno. So if you have any items you would like to donate to be auctions please contact NWSA by visiting our website at www.nwsa.net. We all in the fire community benefit from these efforts.

11/18 Ab,

We have a saying in our fire district: "Old firefighters never die....they just retire here and fill a seat on our board of directors."

We haven't had any quite the vintage of "Bob S." who retired from LACoFD 27 years ago. But, we've had more than our share who seem to have quit learning a decade before they turned in their gear.

Thus, Bob could be speaking from experience as recent as the Nixon administration with the comment "fire shelters....are killers."

My personal belief is that the best and safest way to fight fires is with one foot on the fireground and the other in mitigation. Our fire district is nearing the end of a month-long tub grinder project to reduce slash piles to wood chips.

We are helping subdivisions and towns handle the product of their defensible space clearings. We are working with the USFS to possibly supply 50,000 tons/year of beetle-kill ponderosa pine to a nearby cement plant to fire their production kilns. We are supporting the efforts of a neighboring county with their demonstration project of converting wood chips to hydrogen. And we're just getting started.

It's too soon to say that we are doing enough to prevent disaster. Yet, just last week a board member - retired from San Bernardino FD - said he was wrong to not support bringing the tub grinder here initially. There is hope.

vfd cap'n
11/18 Ab,

I want to contribute to the update on the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and the ideas for fund raising. First a short disclaimer, for those not aware of it. My wife Diane and I own The Supply Cache, and I serve on the Board of Directors for the Foundation. The Foundation struggles every year financially to be able to provide service and assistance to families in time of tragedy. The wildland firefighting community is tremendously supportive of the Foundation when the individuals understand what it does. Often people outside the "wildland firefighting community" are also very supportive. But getting that message out to as many people as possible is quite a challenge. So while "thinking outside the box" to help us raise funds, also think of ways to spread the message of what our mission is. I know this sounds very basic, but I feel there are hundreds of folks out there wearing the memorial t-shirts and the ribbon pins or wreath pins without realizing where they came from and what they support.

Here are some ideas I have used to help raise funds and spread the word:

1) Last year, our company was sponsoring a softball team of wildland firefighters. When Tanker 123 went down on the Big Elk fire, we dedicated the season to the pilots and used it to raise funds and awareness. I requested corporate sponsors from our manufacturers and vendors and the firefighters chipped in a dollar each for every run we scored. At the beginning of each game we would let the other team know why we were playing and request donations. From this experience I learned that the local community and the industries that exist for supporting wildland firefighters will get involved and support the Foundation financially. So softball teams, tournaments, bowling nights, dart tournaments, 5k races, or any activity in which you may be able to generate local interest, activity and support is worth the effort. Especially if these activities are already in place, or if you participate in them for fun and you just need to do a little extra leg work to generate sponsors.

2) Sales of Wildland Firefighter Foundation merchandise. Not to toot our own horn, but here is another way to help. Our company sells T-shirts and pins for the Foundation. We purchase them from the foundation for exactly what we sell them for. That way the Foundation gets the money immediately and gets the full proceeds of the items after production costs. This year we have had people ask to be able to sell the items at a conference, or training they are attending. So we sent out informational brochures and merchandise "on consignment" for those folks who wanted to help spread the word. If you are attending a wildland fire conference or event that we are not able to get out to ourselves, we can make arrangements for you to be an ambassador for us.

3) T-shirts. It has been one of my uncompleted goals this year to produce a new t-shirt for the Foundation. While the memorial shirt has raised a tremendous amount of money and awareness, and will not be discontinued, I think the community would respond to a new design and message. If there is anyone out there who would like to donate their creative talents and ideas to this project, let me know.

4) Corporate support. I don't know how to express this without sounding somewhat self serving, but the wildfire community needs to ask for help from the companies that manufacture and distribute the products that wildland firefighters use. (I say "we" because I am also a firefighter.) I have had some response to requests but it is often the smaller companies or even the reps digging into their own pockets, while the larger companies tend to ignore the requests. The Foundation has had some success garnering corporate response, but could do better. So if anyone out there has any close relationships with the principals of such companies, fill them in on our needs and ask them to support our efforts to help out in times of tragedy.

Let me finish with a note of thanks. Thank you to all the firefighters, businesses, business owners, government agencies and community members who have supported the Wildland Firefighter Foundation through donations, fund raisers and purchases.

Also, thank you to everyone who has supported our business over the past 13 years. It is our pleasure and pride to serve you and give back to the wildland firefighter community that has supported us so much.

Jim Felix

Jim, thank you for the many hats you wear and for your support of wildlandfire.com with your banner on the links page as well. Ab.

11/17 Readers,

There are a whole BUNCH of new photos posted on Fire 20, AirTankers 9, Engines 8, Helicopters 12, Handcrews 10 and Grand Prix/Old photo pages.

There are some outstanding photos in this collection; one that comes to mind is the East Fire burning on the Yellowstone National Park with bison in the foreground, compliments of Burns. There are a few taken by autocam at Ramona and Mt. Laguna. Be sure and take a look at the descriptions of the photos and see who took them by clicking on the words under the thumbnails.

We also posted a new wildlandfire.com Index page photo and larger Wallpaper. It's the Davis Fire, compliments of Firepup 91.

Thanks everyone. Ab.
11/17 The editors comment to my e-mail about 80-100 ft. flame lengths and santa anna winds. We never carried tape measures to measure flame lengths and santa anna winds have been around forever.

I worked fires with winds in excess of 100 mph and flame lengths were not even discussed. The safest attack is a direct attack with "one foot in the burn", and this has not changed. This attack controls the fire as you go and gives 2 escape routes, your line going in and the burned area. Helicopters work well supporting the crew by cooling the fire as the line progresses. It is very important that the crew as well as the foreman are well trained in fire behavior and fire safety.

Now days the crews are over protected with clothing and fire shelters. We wore levis, long sleeve shirts and aluminum helmits, gloves and goggles were a matter of choice. When your clothes got hot it was time to move out. We could feel the heat of a spot fire before it got big. Burning brands landing on your neck meant look up and look around. People think that fire shelters are a safety zone, instead they are killers. In the time it takes to pull the shelter out and set it up, I can take action that is much safer, but you shouldn't be in this position to start with.

The safest way to fight fire is be aggressive and use a direct attack.

Bob S retired LACoFD
11/17 From Firescribe: A news article from News Review and a news release from First Strike:

First Strike Seeks Dismissal of Charges

First Strike Environmental
For Immediate Release
November 17, 2003, Roseburg, Oregon:

First Strike Environmental’s request for independent toxicology tests led today to the revelation that their employee, driver Mark Ransdell’s blood alcohol level was NOT in fact .13 % as previously reported by Malheur District Attorney, Dan Norris.

Re-testing yielded startlingly different results. Two (2) additional samples of Mark Ransdell’s blood taken from his heart yielded blood alcohol levels of .05 % and .07%, even though the blood was drawn at the same time and from the same location as the blood yielding the earlier result.

Furthermore, it was discovered that Mark Ransdell’s urine, a more dependable indicator than blood, yielded an alcohol level of .07%, under the legal limit in Oregon.

FSE Defense Attorney, David Terry expressed outrage over the fact that the prosecutors had not acted to test all of the samples before filing charges and commencing Grand Jury currently scheduled to begin November 20, 2003 in Malheur County.

Terry said, “Oregon Law is absolutely clear regarding the DA’s obligation to provide any exculpatory evidence tending to show innocence.” Terry said, “I was shocked to discover that the Medical Examiners Office has been holding on to the urine test results for weeks”, Terry went on to say, “It is truly unfortunate that the DA leveled these accusations before doing his homework. Our research has demonstrated that it is impossible to obtain reliable blood alcohol levels when bodies have been subjected to what occurred in this case. Particularly when that blood is taken from the heart, as was the case with Mark Ransdell.”

“I hope that Mr. Norris will take a long, hard look at the toxicology in this case before continuing with this prosecution.”

11/17 Hi

Could you recommend some books for wildland fire fighting, I'm looking for
a gift for my son and am not sure which would be good. He has worked as a
wildland firefighter for the past two years. Thanks. If I could only pick one
or two which would you recommend?


You could take a look at the Fire Books page and click on over to the Firefighter Recommendations. Five chainsaws are the best recommendation. If you purchase them through Amazon, it helps pay the bills here. Ab.
11/17 Re: Funding for the Wildland Fighter Foundation

Anyone who does Scouts or a Church group or School service groups could use raising funds for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation as an activity. Combine fundraising with an educational unit on wildland fire, Rx burn, and firefighting. There are walk-a-thons and ride-a-thons that kids always seem to be doing in my community. Why not for wildland firefighter families? Projects don't have to be HUGE to be successful altho getting donations from business always helps. Kids can do that too.

How about hotshots in nomex with big red cans working the traffic for donations like the local fire depts do? Get it announced as a community's public service announcement.

Tahoe Terrie

11/17 Where can I find a drip torch cursor (pointer), a friend said he saw one
on an instructor's laptop at the NY. fire academy?


MoHick's SITE has a couple of driptorch cliparts. Ab.
11/17 "Ol Timer"

Agree with your observations 100%! You are exactly right. What has changed since you retired is a whole bunch of "abatements." The abatements have created a culture of extreme caution in which the only winner is the fire itself.

People standing back analyzing cards and giving all kinds of reasons why something can't or shouldn't be done. I suppose we should blame them, the system has created it- "sue the supervisor."

How is it you can check into a Base/Camp and the first question from the recorder is, "Have you had entrapment avoidance training, and if so, when?" Isn't that an activity for the spring training program?

Yes I have, but what if the answer was "No?" Do I go home???

I believe the phrase goes something like this.....


(I know, it changed a bit for the PC crowd) AFTER PROVIDING FOR SAFETY FIRST

I like the original and we need more guys like Bob on the firelines.

"Another CDF BC"
11/16 A disposable camera was found during the "Old Fire" in Southern California
near Highland. If you, or someone you know is missing such a camera, please
feel free to contact me.

W. Field

The images indicate that it's a firefighter's camera. If it's yours, Ab will pass your message along to W. Field.

11/16 Hi,

I have just left university having finished a geography degree and would really like to pursue a career in disaster management and monitoring. I have some flying experience and would love to combine this with such a job. I'm outgoing, fit and very enthusiastic about what I set my mind to. I was wondering if you could answer some questions for me and help me get started though...

1. My first question is do I have to be a US citizen? I live in the U.K and there doesnt seem to be much need for aerial monitoring or firefighting around!

2. How can I find information on how to get started - as you can imagine, being all the way over on the other side of the pond that is the Atlantic, it is rather hard to find someone who knows about these things.

I would really like to hear from you on how to get started,
Thanks for your time,
Lucy Williams

Readers, anyone know what kind of fixed wing aerial monitoring of fire jobs exist for someone like Lucy, whether US citizen or not? Ab.
11/16 I retired from the LACoFD, 27 years ago. Prior to that I worked for the USFS on the Angeles for 5 years. I was a Crew foreman my entire career.

I watched the constant news on the recent fires in So. Cal. I never saw a hand crew, working a direct attack, but I did see them standing on a road watching the fire. I saw LACoFD PIO's saying that the area involved was "too steep" or "inaccessible". I only saw 2 tractors working "hot line". I realize that the reporters are not on the line, so can't show everything, but I have had fire fighters tell me that they are not allowed to work with "one foot in the burn" anymore, as it is too dangerous.

I saw areas in the Running Springs area, where a good direct attack would have worked well. Instead forces were Marshaled on the highway above waiting to "back fire". The fire jumped the road and they started over.

Fixed wing and copter drops aren't any good without a hand crew cutting line on the edge of the burn. The new philosophy of "surround and drown" is not working. Structure protection without perimeter control only endangers more structures. The Fire Service needs to get back to direct attack.

Bob S

Not if firefighter safety is compromised by 80-100 foot flame lengths, 60 mph Santa Ana winds and then erratic shifting winds as the weather changed. The public needs to make their homes firesafe. The fireground has changed and the interface is much more extensive since you fought fire, Ol' Timer. Ab.
11/16 AB
I would like to thank U.S.F.S., CDF, helitack crews from all over the west,
the personnel working at the helibase and the people in and around Romona
Calif. The support of the Cedar Fire crews and the Community has been the
unexpected and will be remember the rest of my crews life. We are proud to
serve all of you.

Bill H, Flame Busters
11/16 My compliment to DF, he has the best perspective to date!

The enemy is the fire, if we cannot figure out ways to work with people with different colored trucks or different shoulder patches than ours the public interest is not served!
Rather than write about how things were fouled up, write about how things could go better! There will never be a large fire that cannot be done better, even those done by a single agency! Let's all work to better fire protection, not continue old issues! (and many of the interagency issues are older than I am)

Ole Ed
11/15 It's been a week since I got home from the Cedar Fire in San Diego County. A lot has been written here about the recent fires in California, and the efforts that were made to stop the damn things.

I have not yet reconciled with myself the things I saw and heard or the "what if's" that accompany a disaster of the magnitude that the Cedar fire was and still is. the mudslides.

As a DIVS at the Cedar Fire, I was at the transition briefing given to the National Incident Management Team by the FMO of the Cleveland NF and the Deputy IC of CDF Team 5 on Tuesday 10/29.

While we were being briefed the FMO's phone rang and after a few minutes he returned and stated; "Something real bad just happened on the fire, we just lost the town of Cuyamaca." About that time 14:30 or so the sky was as dark as it should have been at 17:30, it was very eerie and sinister looking outside.

After the briefing I was asked to recon the north east side of the fire along with a Branch Director. We got into Julian about the time that the fire was a mile away. Engine crews, Dozer Operators, Hand Crews and Overhead many of which were on the line constantly for the previous 72 hours were doing the best they could with the resources they had. These firefighters had been in the bump and run structure protection mode for 3 days with no end in sight.

As I traveled on Hwy 79 at about 22:00 I saw flames over 100 feet high pushed by a 30-40 mph west wind, about a mile northeast of the highway. By 22:30 the fire had crossed the highway near Julian.

There was so much fire around so many subdivisions built in the brush, it was a miracle of God that more civilians and firefighters were not seriously injured or killed.

The next morning was Wednesday 10/29, and the fire was still moving in and around Santa Ysabel, Wynola and Julian. The fire crossed Hwy 78 east of Santa Ysabel and was making a head run at Wynola by 10:30. An anchor point was established just west of Wynola, Hotshot crews and dozers started flanking the fire to try to keep it from running through Wynola and into the west end of Julian.

Engine crews were still attempting to protect the structures along Orchard Road when the radio chatter of crews doing their jobs changed to medical emergency and evacuation traffic. Less than a quarter mile from where I was standing, Steve Rucker of the Novato F.D. was killed while attempting to reach his "safety zone" which was the home he was trying to save. That house and the one on the next lot were both burned to the ground as the fire came out of the drainage and though the saddle where Rucker's Engine Company made their attempts. There was a house 100 yards north of the fatality site that sustained no damage from fire due to topography and the fact the the owners had cleared a defensible space around their home. About 200 feet down the driveway and across Orchard Road there was a grazed field of about 50 acres that was a real safety zone. The structures across Orchard Road were also spared of any fire damage.

The transition of command for the eastern side of the Cedar Fire was not scheduled until the shift change at 0700 on Thursday 10/30. The forces on the fire were still in what I would call an Initial Attack mode even after 4 days and 200,000 acres. This was incredible to me but I don't know how it could have gone down any other way.

After the victims of the burnover were treated and transported, all personnel on the division were placed in a stand down mode so that every one was accounted for and, as far as possible, allowed to decide if they were fit for duty mentally and physically. The investigators showed up, as well as some fire service Chaplains. I think everyone on the division made the decision to continue to work on the fire at least for the rest of the shift.

The crews continued to chase the fire north and east of Wynola and, with their sustained efforts and a change in the weather, they were able to keep the fire from hooking back around though Wynola and Julian.

At no time during my 12 days on the Cedar Fire did I experience any of the un-professionalism or agency bashing that I have read in some of the posts on They Said this past week. Every agency and contractor that I worked with did an exemplary job without regard to what color shirt they wore or rig they drove. They all did their best to make a confusing and dangerous assignment into something that made some kind of sense tactically and in regards to safety.

Yes, there were over 3500 homes lost and over 20 lives but no one ever says anything about the 35,000 homes and multiple thousands of lives that were spared, some by a fluke of fire behavior and many by firefighters and residents who were determined to do what they could to help.

Mistakes were made, some were fatal. I will not make any further speculations until I see what the investigation shows or doesn't show. We can all look for the lessons learned in detail after emotion has run its course.

We need to support all the victims and survivors of the Cedar Fire any way we can.

11/15 hi,

i belong to a small brigade in the south-east of new south wales Australia. it is at the moment a high fire risk, but beside that we are looking to make contact with another brigade for exchange of ideas and a bit of fellowship. if anyone is interested i would like to hear from you.

all the best,

Ken, feel free to write in here with the intention of fellowship, humor, questions and concerns, whatever strikes your fancy that is fire-related. As your season heats up we have quite a few Aussie posters who share their experiences with us. Some have sent wonderful photos. Folks here are interested to hear about what's going on down under. In the last few years, the US has had Australians visit and some of our federal folks have gone to Australia during the height of your season as well. If any ranger district or fire department would like to form an exchange relationship with ken's brigade, we'll put you in touch. Ab.
11/15 Re the SRA fee:

In CA every year after the state budget is passed, legislators introduce what is referred to as a "budget trailer bill" which contains all the unfinished business issues. this year's trailer was SB 1049. SB1049 included the SRA fees for fire protection. that is a $75 first year, $35 subsequent year FEE to property owners who live in State Responsibility Areas.

article 3.5 state responsibility area fire protection.
would you like a link to read it?


11/15 gordon is not listening (reading). The hole in the CDF budget is
coincidentally the size of the assessment. In order for CDF to continue,
those funds must appear. The budget hole will not necessarily be equal for
each Unit, because each unit has a different ground and air attack
capability (Toulumne Calaveras has 28 engines, Riverside has only 14, get
it?). In Chief Hanes's posting, it says "The fees will be deposited into a
new fund, the State Responsibility Area Fire Protection Fund, created in the
State Treasury."

I am not a fan of taxes, but I am a fan of CDF and we are already deferring
expenses. The engine I drive is a 1986 with 140,000 hard miles. The pick
up in our battalion is from 1994 with 200,000 miles. Neither is slated for
replacement anytime in the next 3 fiscal years. The cabinets in my station
are worn out. The linoleum in the bathroom needs replacement, the driveways
need sealing. No money is available for any of these jobs, nor has it been
for the last 5 fiscal year budgets. We are not a frivolous outfit, despite
what you might think from some of the bad press from the Woody days.

I hang my ass out each day for you folks that live in the SRA. Our tactics
and strategy are totally centered around saving your houses rather than
putting the fire out efficiently and rapidly. You need to pay for that

11/15 Lobotomy -

The "Firefighter's Blue Ribbon Panel" for lessons learned in firefighter safety
is convening next week in Toronto: it's the 7th Annual IAWF "Wildfire Safety
", and has been addressing your concerns since it's inception in 1997.

There's still room available for folks to attend......! See you there.

Dick Mangan
11/15 I know of the fire and the crew that chief was talking about. However NOT EVERY CONTRACT CREW IS LIKE THAT. Not only will I FIRE any firefighter DOING DRUGS, OR ALCOHOL ON THE JOB INCLUDING TRAVEL but as a former boss for First Strike, I have done so in the past. and will always do so. And sure, I like the money but I also love the wildlands. and do all I can to save them without crew sacrifice. and would LOVE to tell my kids I helped save the wildlands for them and everyone else to enjoy. As well as all the houses we saved along the way.

So if CHIEF lets his crew do drugs, especially on the job, HE SHOULD BE FIRED!!!! and EVERYONE that he worked with should DRUG TESTED because it's not just his crew's safety that's at risk, he's putting everyone on the fireline in danger!!!

in my book CHIEF is not a real "chief", he is only just an "indian". (I'm not prejudiced, i have indian in me and my family.)

11/14 Regarding the SoCal Fires and the "Lessons Learned"........

We have all heard that the State OES and politicians have set up a Blue Ribbon Panel... (Link)


Since non-fire professionals are setting up Blue Ribbons Panels to evaluate the success and failures of the recent fires, ..... are local panels being set up by the true fire, law, and emergency response professionals directly involved in the management of the SoCal fires.... I don't mean to slight anyone.... but primarily the USFS, CDF, LaCoFire, VCoFD, SBCoFD and associated law enforcement agencies? Thanks to all of the cooperating agencies.....

What were the lessons learned from the Panorama Fire, Oakland Hills, Harmony Grove and countless other fires of the past that mirrored the recent fires... were these lessons used...? avoided? implemented? What were the effects of agency regulations and the dreaded "30 Mile" abatements?

I've been a Federal Firefighter (Forestry Technician) for twenty years and I've learned alot over the last four weeks..... I am sure everyone else involved did also and have some lessons learned and stories to tell. It would be a great opportunity for us to share the "Lessons" learned in a FIRE SPONSORED "Blue Ribbon Panel" and not a politician sponsored one..........

Just my thoughts.....

11/14 RE fund raising for Wildland Firefighter Foundation:

I know a lot of the local FD's have turned to golf tournaments to raise
funds. It is a lot of work though. The local FD here makes about $5000.
after expenses on their tournament (and thats in a small rural town of about
2000 population). You would need a pretty big group to pull it of on
tournament day (at least the way they do it). Some of the added things they
do to draw funds are have businesses "sponsor" holes and have some other
misc games at specific holes like hitting a marshmallow, closest tee shot to
the pin, etc. With all of these if the person wants to play they kick in so
much for each thing that the person with the best result gets half the pot.
One hole was set up that if you got a hole in one you won a car (and ya, one
guy did it one year - bet the dealership wasnt real happy) At the same time
when folks signed up on tournament day they could buy raffle tickets for
items that were donated to the cause.

11/14 George H.

My concerns are the same as Gordon's. In your Q & A link it mentioned a panel of stakeholders to review the States Fire Protection system. How does one get an appointment to this august body, if it has been formed where can we get a list of members?

Retired L.A.V.E.
11/14 Hi Ab,

I want to up-date folks on what has been happening at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and to ask for some help.
  • Early this week we sent a statue and a 1000 pins to the Steve Rucker memorial service.
    • We will be sending funds later this month to Steve's widow. (I used to send funds the day I heard of the accidents, but have found that people in grief are usually in an emotional blackout, and do better with funds received just a little later.)
  • We will also be assisting Captain Doug McDonald who was critically injured in the same incident and who is still recovering in the San Diego burn center.
  • On our web page www.wffoundation.org we have set up a link to a new donation page to help 4 wildland firefighters with special needs resulting from the southern California fires.
    • Two accounts have been set up. One account will help 2 wildland firefighter fallers who were injured while working on the southern California fires. The other account will help 2 wildland firefighters who lost their homes in those fires.
    • We have already sent out some moneys to the firefighters who lost their homes because their financial need is so immediate.
    • We are sending funds to both wildland firefighter fallers. One faller is still in the hospital. He signed on as a Contract Faller and will be receiving no benefits to help with medical expenses. The other faller was an AD Hire who will receive some Workman's Compensation to help with his bills. My experience with Workman's Comp is that they are very slow to send funds. In both cases, we are assisting our fellow firefighters as best we can.

I want you as a community to know that when we send our wildland firefighter memorial statue to be presented at memorial services, or when we send funds to a firefighter or their family, we always explain the following to them in our letters:

"This statue and these funds are from every wildland firefighter across the nation who cannot get to you and let you know how much we care about you."

We have many who applaud our efforts, and we have some who reach out and help with donations. We could use more help.

I would like to see if there are more of you who can give a hand to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation to help our wildland firefighting community. It takes donations to help our community members in need.

We invite you to join us in whatever way you can.

  • For some of you, it will mean making donations and getting family, friends and service organizations to donate.
  • For some of you, it will mean brainstorming and coming up with a workable idea for a funding project, maybe something you've seen done before in a different context, or maybe something entirely new and "outside of the box".
  • For some, it will mean creating an event or project in your community.

Most of us who work here at the Foundation are volunteers. We love what we do. We'd like more company. What are you willing to do to help our fellow firefighters in need?

Vicki Minor
Executive Director
Wildland Firefighter Foundation

For those with ideas and/or a willingness to help, please share your ideas with us.
For those wishing to help ALL wildland firefighters by making a credit card donation to the Foundation, click HERE.
To make a credit card donation to help the 4 firefighters Vicki described above, click HERE. There are TWO donation buttons on this page. Don't overlook the bottom one.
The donation process is simple and convenient. Thanks for caring and acting to help our community. Ab.

11/14 The Jobs page plus the wildland firefighter job series 0462 and 0455 are updated. Some new jobs up.

11/14 George H:

Thanks for the link, but I still have not had my question answered.

How will the funds in the State Responsibility Area Fund be distributed? Back to the Ranger Unit where collected or doled out to the counties where some legislator needs votes in the next election?

i.e. If Siskiyou County collects $5 million I want $5 million given to Siskiyou Ranger Unit, not $100,000 to Siskiyou and the rest to San Diego.

I hope no one here is naive enough to think the money will remain allocated to its stated purpose. It's a given that the fund is permanent and over time it will be diverted to to other uses. CDF assurances this will never happen are uncomforting. It only takes a few obscure legalese sentences buried deep in an unrelated bill at a closed committee hearing.

First, the legislature will 'borrow' a few million to balance the state budget. It may even pay it back, in the first year. Then it will 'borrow' and never repay. Followed by 5% diverted off the top for 'administrative expenses', then 10%, then 20%, then raised to $50 per parcel...

We have all seen this before and we will see it again. There is no such thing as a temporary tax and earmarked funds never stay earmarked very long.

11/14 Here's a summary of the Southern CA fires from Nov 4.


11/14 Nice one Ramble. Welcome back to theysaid ol'timer. Your
ramblings (? not ramblings !) are always a welcome read. We
do all have our occasional dufus characters. Glad this one wasn't
one of ours.

NorCal Tom
11/14 Re: CDF Fire Captain

I must applaud the many positive and restrained responses to CDF Fire Captain's self serving accusations on 11/9. I was truly impressed with the firefighters from a variety of agencies who were able to hold back what must have been a significant knee-jerk response. I know I forced myself to wait, to stop foaming at the mouth, and wait for other responses before attacking the keyboard. While most of my initial objections to the original post have already been identified and voiced by others, a new post by iafftr on 11/13 caused me to consider a couple other issues and raised a question or two.

Rather than me having to keep typing in “CDF Fire Captain” when referring to the author of the post being discussed (because I don’t like to hold down that darn shift key to type caps) and due to the fact that many other responsible CDF Fire Captains post here who appear embarrassed by and don’t want their good agency's name to be associated with this person, I shall hereafter refer to the poster as the “dedicated and undereducated firefighter under stress”, or dufus for short.

Iafftr said, “Now that it may (be) you and your crew stood fast and succeeded, and (that?) is commendable”. Please allow me to put on my Gantenbein style hat for a few paragraphs as I explore this grudging concession from iafftr. I propose it may not only be an erroneous statement that dufus’s strike team is to be commended, but I question if they deserve any praise or respect at all. I instead wonder if dufus and the entire strike team should instead be facing charges of ignoring orders to leave and re-engage elsewhere and be facing civil suits and tort claims from a variety of other homeowners whose properties were destroyed..

In going back and re-reading dufus’s post I see that his strike team was under orders to “prepare homes in the Pine Hills community for the coming fire front”. Dufus further goes on to say that many times USFS personnel stopped by to tell them the area had been written off. Those words of advice (or were they orders?) meant little or nothing to our wann’a be hero, he and his strike team leader chose to stay and do their own thing.

It is no secret, with enough resources and enough time, you can save darn near any individual, or collective group of structures from an approaching fire front. The problem as I see it may be the strike team dufus was on had a limited perspective and inadequate information to justify their own conclusions. Since any real facts from dufus were in short supply and I’m not familiar with the local areas of the Cedar Fire, I can only wonder if the resources and time dufus’s strike team put in to saving the number of structures they did wouldn’t have had much more potent impact if deployed elsewhere, as suggested.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that the strike team saved 5 homes that had been written off. Good job? Well done, you think? What if while saving those 5 homes, there was another area that had better defensible spaces, better access routes, and faithful adherence to prevention policies. What if had they relocated and saved 20 homes? If 20 homes aren’t enough, what if it were 30 homes destroyed that the strike team could have protected. In my supposition, it isn’t the ratio of how many more homes may have been saved, it’s the fact of ignoring those in command and acting as a separate entity.

Since I don’t know what agency was in charge of the fire at the time dufus and his strike team did their own thing, I can’t say that there was any defiance of a direct order, just that there appeared to be others knowing what was going on and following a plan of action and at least one dufus or strike team who wasn’t.

As for the El Cariso Hotshots allegedly losing a burnout operation, I can only wonder was it really a burnout, was it a backfire, was there enough support to do the job, did the potential benefit justify the risk, does dufus have all the facts or know the difference? I wonder at the significance of losing a small burnout or backfire when there are a hundred thousand acres of fireline screaming your way. I do know that if my home is ever threatened, I invite the El Cariso Hotshots or any other hotshot crew to help defend my space.

On 11/13, THE PYG asked, “After 20 years why are you just an engine captain”? Sorry PYG to interrupt, but I’ll answer this for you as there are no shockers here I can see. The next promotion is Battalion Chief. Battalion Chiefs experience a higher demand on their communication skills, wisdom, decision-making capabilities, and even require some degree of understanding in “political correctness”.

And, as for dufus saying he started, “my career with the US Forest Service then promoted to CDF”, I am reminded of a long time mentor from Oklahoma who was fond of saying, “yeah, when I left Oklahoma and came to California, I raised the IQ of both states”. Heh, heh. Get it? Heh, heh.

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. It’s a joke, just a joke. I didn’t wish this dufus on CDF or on any other agency. I can’t wish him away either, but we all have our share, so it balances out. We, who try so hard, to do an impossible job, with inadequate resources, sometimes just have to sit back and laugh at ourselves (and the occasional dufus).

Anyway, that’s how I see it. Better say goodbye before I


11/13 Blue Zebra,

My guess is that Aberdeen ALWAYS asks those kinds of questions. I heard tell that the first words out of his mouth as a child occurred when his mom burned his oatmeal back in 1928.

He said,

Mom, haven't you taken Basic Wildfire training? Standards for Survival?
Where was your PPE this morning? Oh, not invented yet? We must do that forthwith! Don't you need a fire shelter on your hip while you're cooking? What if something unexpected flared up, as it just did? Must we move to Missoula and agitate for a Forest Service fire lab? Maybe meet Norman Maclean and that Judge Lentz.

Mom, you didn't even post Dad as Lookout. There was no Communication about how cooked was "cooked enough" or "cooked too much". You and the oatmeal should have had an Escape route with hotpad that lead directly to the sink Safety Zone when it was done.

Mom, if I can't count on you to Supervise fire under my oatmeal, then who?

To which his mom replied, amazement welling up out of her eyes,

Aberdeen, my son, you speak! We had almost given up. Why did you wait until you were in short pants? Most children speak soon after toddling.

To which Aberdeen replied,

Mom, you've never burned anything before -- all fires have been fine up until now. No blowups, not even in flashy fuels, not even during mopup, no breech of safety rules and regs, no investigation necessary. This is a different story. I feel my "calling" coming on.... Now let's get to sorting out the Lessons Learned!

And so young Aberdeen was off and running (running off at the mouth among other things) and we haven't been able to shut him up yet, and especially not when there are new questions to ask.


11/13 Ab,

I see several questions related to the CDF’s SRA fees in “They Said”. Hopefully, the SRA Fees Q & A’s I’m including here can help answer some of the questions I’ve been seeing.

George H

Thanks for sending that in George. Ab.
11/13 A recent article on contract crews - maybe scary is the word. -Tonka

This is "a story" based on one person's perspective. What the "Chief" attributes to contract crews in the article may simply be reflective of his personality and the few crews he's worked with. He and the journalist interviewing him could be "doing a Gantenbein" on contract crews. Nothing like basing your story on a "sample of one" person who clearly has an attitude. Now that's scary. Maybe some letters to the editor are in order. Ab.

11/13 Contract County Guy,
Thanks for the information.

Retired L.A.V.E.
11/13 CDF Engine Captain

I can't believe with all the hard work that the fire
organization put forth in Southern Cal, that someone
like yourself would have the nerve to attack fellow
firefighters. It's apparent that you have harsh
feelings about an organization you used to work for,
but this isn't a good way to express those feelings.
Every person who was down there was trying to do what
was right, and maybe if you would get off your high
horse you could see that. Sure there were probably
mistakes made but that's a part of our job, that does
happen. Personally I think if you have an issue like that
in the future don't come to this forum, go right to the
people you have issues with. I'm sure the Supt. of the
Hotshot crew you were slamming wouldn't have a problem
discussing these issues. If you would like I could
send you his phone number.

My last comment goes to AB, thanks for keeping this
forum so professional and informative, it's still the
best wildland fire site there is.

P.S. Sorry one last comment to CDF CAPTAIN. After 20
years why are you just an engine captain?

Your truely
11/13 To CDF Fire Captain,

I have been a Firefighter for 14 years now, and in my career I have learned
that all Agencies involved in Wildland and Suburban interface have one
thing in common. In the past we as multi agencies have had different
agendas when it came to suppressing wildland fires whether it was
different strategies and tactics or a different way to command an incident.
My point is that all Agencies involved today or striving to be as
successful as we possibly can, we now have standard protocol in management
teams' strategies and tactics. I have seen that when we have multi agency
incidents the objective is clear to all involved that we will follow the
book to a "T", we will work together and we will succeed. We will have the
same objective for everyone involved and that is to provide safety to
firefighters and to the public.

Now to the truth:

As far as the little green men that in your eyes have "abandoned their post
and moved on to another", that should have been a red flag alert for you and
your crew. Not just one, but several resources had written off those structures
(Ab note to the Public: "written off" is firefighter terminology meaning
"found them unable to be safely defended"
) for a reason and the reason
is lessons learned in the past Now that it may you and your crew stood
fast and succeeded, and is commendable. You are a leader of young men
and woman, don't let your arrogance be a lesson learned.

Sincerely Yours,
11/13 The proposed parcel tax for CDF was proposed to replace a multi-million
dollar budget cut that has ALREADY happened. In other words, the 03-04
budget agreement had the parcel tax included as part of CDF's funding, even
though at the time (and even now) there is no such thing. If for some
reason the parcel tax is not implemented, we will be in a major shortfall,
with positions and facilities at risk.

FC 180
11/13 For Aberdeen:

I can assure you that the crew involved in the burnover had all current and
relevant training. While I am not privy to their personnel files, I am very
familiar with the department and it's training standards. Their equipment and
PPE are top flight. They go to as many IA wildland fires as anybody in this

I am sure all members of the crew had 130 and 190. All had 230 and 290 as
well, as Novato Fire has a certified instructor in those classes, from whom
I have taken classes from. Additionally this instructor (just recently
retired) and a deputy chief were both on IMTs (1 fed, one CDF) in high
operational posts.

To meet CICCS standards in Calif , a Captain must be ENGB/CRWB. Most of the
criteria are covered above. I seriously doubt Novato Fire will be found
deficient in this area.

Just curious- did you ask this question of any other recent LODD incidents?

blue zebra
11/13 Multiple choice, pick one!

The enemy is?

A) The people on the RED trucks?
B) The people on the GREEN trucks?
C) The people on the WHITE trucks?
D) The people on the LIME YELLOW trucks?
After reading the posts lately I dare not say more!

Ole Ed

And I thought posters were doing fairly well in sticking to issues... Ab.
11/13 Just jumping into Hycatal and Fireronin's posts. You both bring up very good
points. What do we do with the state of our wild lands now? As for the chunk
of land I am responsible for, we have studied how many acres we think we can
prescribe burn each year, added mechanical treatments to that, and found out
that we will never come even close to treating all the land that needs to be
treated. If we keep putting out all of our fires, we are basically putting off
the BIG one until the day no one will be able to stop it, and many of the
problems that Fireronin mentioned about "let it burn" fires will be multiplied
exponentially. I feel it is very irresponsible to not do everything we can to
put fire back onto the landscape in any way we can. This includes wildland fire
use, as well as modified suppression tactics; backing off to the next natural
barrier and letting areas burn. What we have to realize is that EVERY fire is
different, and EVERY fire should have the "appropriate management response" All
fires do not burn on 98th percentile days. This leaves a lot of time during
the year to allow fires to do our fuels work for us. It is a lot of work and
it does take resources. But many resources these days are solely hired on
fuels dollars, and what do you think congress has in mind for those folks. it
is not suppression work until we are in PL4or5, it is fuels related work.
Wildland fire use can be counted as treated acres, so that is fuels work.

As for severity of fires these days? Well, you have a good point there also.
Of course many forest types need to burn hot...stand replacing. But for those
others...my personal feeling is that they are just going to get worse. I feel
we can still salvage many areas, even if that means a few more exotics, and
maybe some old growth burn. It's almost like triage these days.

These are just my opinions and would love to hear how others feel on this,

ML from CA
11/13 CRW (AKA SAC)-
Give me a call.

TD (AKA Killer)
11/12 With all due respect to Steve Rucker and his crewmates.......I'm looking forward to see how the Department prepared their folks for this wildland fire assignment: did they have Basic Wildfire training (S-130 & S-190); Standards for Survival; S-205/215; NFPA 1977 compliant PPE, including a fire shelter; were they taught about LCES, including the need for a competent and qualified Lookout; did the on-site supervisor have any quals above FFT2?

I know its tough to ask these kinds of questions when a firefighter is dead and his family is grieving. But......if we don't ask, we'll never know where we have to make changes so that others don't die in the same way. It's the only way to make something good come out of a tragic loss.

11/12 Jim,

You can contact the Socal dozer group thru Capt. Al Fortune,
LACO FD Heavy Equip. or Conrad Damon, Ventura Co. Fire.
He is currently the Pres. of the So Cal dozer group.

D. Crow VNC Dozer 3
11/12 Retired L.A.V.E.

The CDF parcel tax will be collected by the County tax assessor for any
parcel which is partially or completely within State Responsibility Area
(SRA). This applies to all California counties where SRA exists, whether
they are directly protected by CDF or "Contract County" fire departments.
(Contract Counties = Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Marin,

The area we discussed the other day "CDFLWC" is a special contact for CDF
protection of local responsibility area (LRA). Its terms are set and defined
by the contract and its associated fee. These areas (and there aren't to
many of these) are not subject to the parcel fee.

Contract County Guy
11/12 Hi,
I've been doing quite a bit of looking for clip art that is wildfire oriented.
And have found some sources, but have not found a whole lot. Do you
have any sources, or perhaps know of a company that has wildfire clip
art for sale?


I only know of MoHick's clip art site: He has the best and only site I know of.
Wildfire Clips and Other Fun Stuff Any other suggestions? Ab.
11/12 Fire Captain,

I was in the Pine Hills Subdivision doing structure protection when the
fire front was coming and wanted to fire out the Eagle Peak Rd. in order to
save those structures. Upon talking it over with a CDF captain he agreed
that it would be a good plan even though it might not work. It seemed to be
the only option. After talking to Operations minutes later, we were ordered
to abandon the road and come out to Pine Hills Road and start firing from
there because the homes on Eagle Peak would be unsafe to save. I then called
the CDF S/T and told them what our plans were after following orders from

I do not know if that was your S/T. However I can speak for one USFS
S/T that did not run but followed orders and then went to a subdivision on
Deer View Park where we spent the remainder of the shift and saved every
house in the subdivision. As far as your comments about El Cariso, I can't
vouch for them but I can say I had my crew and other USFS Engine crews put
down a lot of fire because that is what the approaching fire dictated, and if you
know any thing about doing structure protection you would know that firing out
is the only safe way to defend a structure or fight a fire on your terms
and not on the fires terms. Therefore, I would assume that what the Hotshot
crew was doing was probably the right thing to do.

I may not have as much experience as a Type 3 engine captain as you do, but
I am a Division Supt and Type 3 IC who has done a lot of structure protection.
My experience comes from Hotshot/Smokejumper background and I believe I
have a good variety of fire experience. My experience leads me side with what
Mr.CRW said, more than what you had to say. Please feel free to contact me
if you have any questions.

CS, USFS Forestry Tech (aka ENGINE CAPTAIN)

Ab will pass any message from CDF Engine Captain along to CS.
11/12 I asked a question back on 11/4. I'm hoping people are home from the
socal fires now and some dozer people may know the answer.

Does anyone know how I could contact the California Dozer Operators
Group? I think it is either an association or local group. I would appreciate
any help.

11/12 I have a question regarding the $35 fire tax in California. Maybe one of the many CDF readers can answer, since my local bat chief was not sure.

Will the fee (tax) go to the local ranger unit where collected, or will it go to the general fund and distributed to the squeaky wheel (southern Cal) via the political pork process? If it is the first, I support the tax 100%. If the second I will oppose it vehemently and actively seek its overturn. I do not mind paying extra for local fire protection. I am not in favor of raising my taxes to subsidize the other end of the state.

Also, exactly how much money will it produce net? Raising property taxes via the fire tax also increases the property tax deduction on both the state and federal income tax returns. This is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

11/12 CDF "Fire Captain"

First off, spell check is a little icon that is at the top of the screen.

I have had the pleasure of working with many "PROFESSIONAL" firefighters from CDF in the past twelve fire seasons. I'm just wondering, how does it feel to be perfect? It probably feels pretty good knowing that everything you say, do and think is flawless. It warms my heart knowing that we have a true leader like yourself out there directing us and guiding us during fire season. It sounds like when it gets stressful, you are the "man". Must feel good to know how to handle any situation that arises and foresee any and all problems that come up in a urban interface situation. Twenty years of firefighting time sure sounds tough. It must really be hard knowing that you have all the answers. It must be exhausting to carry that burden. I only hope to have half of your knowledge, professionalism and team oriented attitude when I become a CAPTAIN some day.

OK........ Who do you think you are? I pity the crew that is underneath your reign. I pity the other firefighters that have to be in your presence on a daily basis. Mr. FIRE CAPTAIN, I think that you should take a hard long look in the mirror once you pull you head out of the place it seems to be lodged. CDF amongst other agencies have been embarrassed by your comments. I for one am proud to work with other agencies. In view of the multiple large scale catastrophes that have occurred throughout the United States in the past five years, you would think that all idiots like yourself could keep their mouths shut in times like this. I hope to god that AB will post this on FAMILY SAID so that the TAX payers (People that lost everything) can see what type of ignorant @ss their tax money goes to.

I personally was not in southern California for all the devastating fires. But, many of my friends that I respect and love were. They were asked to do some very difficult tasks and witnessed some very sad things. For that I salute them and all members of our fire community who fought those fires. Sleep well at night bro's, you all did a great job and did all that you could do....Welcome home. Fire Captain, go back to school it sounds like you need to... to hone your communication skills and your spelling.


Ab replaced the name with initials.
11/12 Hello Abs and All,

After reading the "Smoke and Mirrors" article, I had to send a letter to Outside Magazine. If you chose, you can post my response on "They Said" for all to read. I hope it makes sense as my blood was boiling and tears were streaming down my face while I wrote it. Thanks for keeping up such a wonderful site and posting board, even as we bicker amongst ourselves all to often. Keep up the good work!


I am writing in response to Douglas Gantenbein's article entitled; Smoke and Mirrors, Stop Calling Firefighters "heroes." I wish to counter some of the claims made by Mr. Gantenbein's article. I am and have been a wildland firefighter for the past thirteen years and during that time, never had the opportunity to work 24 hours on with 48 hours off. Again, I state I am a wildland firefighter and may not enjoy some of the more generous shift hours allotted to my structural brothers and sisters as of which I do not fault them for having such shifts. I do however; in slower fire months work a standard 40 hour shift, which I enjoy because I am able to go home each night to my family. This is in stark contrast to the many days and months I may work upwards of 100+ hour work weeks and never see the comforts of my house and family for several weeks. I find it terribly offensive that Mr. Gantebein's article generalizes the whole firefighting profession and in one article lumps "all firefighters" into the same category. We all (structure and wildland firefighters) each have a job to do and go about it proudly and professionally. Mr. Gantebein may not call me a "firefighter" since I work for the Federal Government and am classified as a "Range Technician" or a "Forestry Technician" under my current job description. The proper terminology or job description classification is an ongoing battle within the federal system and won't change anytime too soon. Why you ask? Because unlike our structural brethren, we are not heavily unionized (as referenced in the article) and unfortunately do not have the political standing to affect such changes to our classification and yes, ultimately our pay scale.

As for the rest of Mr. Gantebein's article, I am not able at this time fully rationalize my feelings into coherent sentences on his other statements concerning fatalities, the cause of such fatalities, and over-the-top funeral processions because I am seeing red through my tears of frustration and hurt. Mr. Gantebein further demeans my profession by saying it isn't all that dangerous because it falls somewhere lower than pizza delivery drivers on the Most Dangerous Job listing. I suppose you can tell that to the numerous families that lost a loved one this past year, due to heart attacks or by some "stupid mistake" and that will make them feel a whole lot better. Mr. Gantebein is allowed his opinion as I am mine; however I do pose a challenge to Mr. Gantebein. I challenge you to spend a few days or weeks with any wildland fire crew during a busy fire season and then write an article on firefighting and heroes or lack there of. How's the old saying go? "You have to walk a mile in someone's shoes (boots) before you truly get to know them." Mr. Gantebein, I have a pair of boots waiting for you.

Please sign me as, Never Claimed to be Hero!

11/12 Dear Ab,

I am a avid reader of your site and on a daily basis find coming
here a rewarding adventure. I love the issues and the views of all who
contribute to this site. I really appreciate the way it is set up for loved
ones and families as they keep track of us when we are on the road, I love
the way our brothers and sisters voice their opinion in all matters whether
it be political, religious, out raged or concerns. Your site has been very
informative not to mention professional, you have links that links us to
sites that we use as tools on a daily basis. I could go on and on about
your site but will leave it at this. I really enjoy your site keep up the
great work....

To all our fallen Brothers and Sisters,

May their Journey be on the Wings of an Angel, and may their path be smooth
and gentle.

God Bless.

Thanks for that, MR. This is OUR site.

A reminder to all that Steve Rucker's memorial service is this morning, beginning in about half an hour. It will be televised on SF stations. For more info: Novato Fire Protection Website. My thoughts and prayers are with Steve's family and friends. I am thankful for the help to the family that the Wildland Firefighter Foundation is providing on the behalf of all wildland firefighters. Thanks Vicki for your hard work representing all of us on this. Ab.

11/12 County Contract Guy:

I read your post and will reread it until I understand it better. But my question is in line with the new "fee" that will be charged to land owners in CDF responsible areas, will the owners of these lands be charged the state "fee", or will they get the services of CDF for free since technically they are in the City of Anaheim?

I am trying to make sense of a bill passed by the State of California to charge $35 per parcel for anyone who resides in CDF service zones. My stock answer is that everyone receives benefit form CDF's services due to the protection of said Water Shed Protection. Last time I looked almost everyone uses water from the state water shed.

Thanks GIS Girl for the data, again I am still trying to comprehend the meaning of all the figures.

Retired L.A.V.E.
11/12 Hycatal:

I agree that fire can be (fine tuning your use of "is") a part of Nature, or to take it a step further, a natural process. One of the points I'm trying to make in the "Burn of Snuff" question is that we have meddled around and created excessive fuel loads that are unnatural. My take is "we" created the problem so "we" should correct the problem.

I can’t answer your last question until I know what you mean by "deal", as in "Nature can deal with wildfire on Her own".

This is quite a departure from our first few posts that dealt with wildland fire fighting. I’m not sure TheySaid is the place to discuss basic ecological viewpoints and I think that's the direction we're headed here. There are plenty of other sites that hash and rehash those subjects. Ab or others have an opinion on that?

The Honorable Mouse.

Ab is watching.
11/12 CDF Blue Sheet on the Engine Crew Entrapment with Death and Injuries (pdf file) -- the incident within the Cedar Fire in which Steve Rucker died and Doug McDonald was critically burned.

Another Local FF
11/12 Hycatal,

To answer your question:
"Fireronin, you said the after effects of a fire can be more damaging than the fire itself. Will you explain? Are you referring to the higher potential for flooding?"

Yes, that is what comes to my mind first. And not just the direct effects such as lost homes, businesses, and crops. Contamination of water supplies is also a major consideration.. especially in the "west". The economic effects of a few years of recurrent flooding can devastate local economies far from the site of the remote fire which causes it. Consider for a moment the tertiary effects of a large cites (like LA) water supply becoming unsafe. This would create a regional economic depression... and possibly precipitate a national one. This scenario might seem unlikely... but not impossible.... and is used mainly to illustrate the long chain of events that a large "remote" fire can trigger. Who can say where the effects end?

And although you do have a good point about some species actually needing fire to propagate themselves...many cannot do so with the aftermath of fires that scorch to the rock as the (too long protected) forests now often tend to produce. Letting a forest burn now is very different that it was 50 years ago in a lot of areas. And we can't ignore the fact that there are lots of plants and critters that will die and/or fail to reproduce successfully due to the changed habitat far down the watershed.. and at the fire site itself. Or if newly introduced species of plants/insects/diseases will be more able to take advantage of land so cleared than the exiting ones. There are no guarantees that a wildfire will 'bring back" a habitat that remotely resembles anything that existed previously. In fact that seems like a long shot to me.

We agree on several things among which is the difficulty in understanding why we interfere with nature in what appear to be remote areas that might benefit from a cleansing fire. Having seen evidence of these small "creeping" understory fires being whipped into raging infernos due to a small change in weather I can also understand why those who make the decisions up higher (possibly too) often decide to play it safe and try to put them all out while they are small enough to.

We do not have the options of 50 years ago. Too many people and resources in the forests to "let them burn". In fact we have too few firefighting resources to take the risk of not "jumping" on fires while they are small enough to put out... rather than try to herd them around when they get big. The buildup of fuel over the past century has trapped us into the policy of putting out all fires we are not absolutely certain we can control no matter what. And the importation of "exotic" bugs that create huge patches of dead trees in forests (and "exotic" humans that create patches of expensive homes in many of the same forests) makes the "let it burn" decisions even harder. In fact the decision is near impossible...and I think I too would choose to err on the side of caution...as most wildfire decision makers do.

As to your statement in a later post:
"I would hazard to say that nature can deal with wildfires on her own."

I agree. "Mother Nature" has been around a long time. She was here before humans existed...and will be here when we are all gone. She is the ultimate firefighter since she can put out even the fires all Human resources cannot. And Fire is one of her tools for managing the wildlands. But time and human life is of no concern to her. Indeed, left to manage the forests she will once again create a natural equilibrium...but it may take millions of years...and million of lives lost to do so. As a human I find that option a bit hard to gracefully adjust to.

11/12 As a current dispatcher, this is what we use for our terms.

Our EMS patients are classed according to their priority, 1,2 3, or 4. 4 meaning they are deceased. So if we have a dead person on the scene they are a priority 4. If you add an X on the end of the priority it means they are unruly and you need the assistance of law enforcement. So if you have a priority 4X you have an unruly dead person. For the "Nut Case" we use either a "violent MO" (mental outpatient) or a "non-violent MO" This stays away from the confusion of "10 codes" and still makes an attempt at keeping the general nosey public away from your scene.

11/12 I've been considering getting Structure Protection in the I-zone by George Bradford a retired Firefighter from the San Jose FD. Now that things are slowing down I thought I'd ask if anyone is familiar with the book? No disrespect intended but San Jose is not well known for their wildland program (I live near them and know they have an interface but I've never heard good or bad about the department). I'd be more comfortable spending $40 if he was USFS, CDF or even one of the big SoCal county departments. This looks like the only book on the subject. I've already got several good general books including Teie's FF & FO handbooks and Perry's Wildland Firefighting, plus a stack of NWCG manuals. So any reviews for this one or suggestions for another interface book.

I'm also curious about the new NWCG Urban interface class S-215, I took S-205 and thought it was the worst class I have taken (too oriented towards the structure guys who don't do wildland, 1/2 the class was S130/190 review). I was wondering how the new class is, thought I might take it at some point if it was a big improvement over the old one.


Bradford's I-Zone book on Books page under reference, scroll down to the Ss.
Teie's book on Books page under training and education. Ab.
11/11 Gantenbein's Outside article was pretty good. He did suggest getting rid of smoke jumpers which doesn't make sense to me, but I agreed with a number of his other points that were logical, reasonable and backed up with supporting information. Too bad he didn't bring the same degree of professionalism to his latest writing.

11/11 There seems to me to be a weird sense of irony reading today's posting from "Pete" to "TheySaid" about boycotting "Outside" magazine because they occasionally publish articles by Doug Gantenbein: it's Veteran's Day, and I spent more than 3+ years on Active duty, and 25 years in the Army Reserves, defending Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press, even though I was (and many times, still am) often in violent disagreement with what is said/published.

Hell, if I "boycotted" things that had material I didn't agree with, I couldn't read Time, Newsweek, the Missoulian, Field and Stream.........hell, I'd boycott "TheySaid".

Accept that folks like Gantenbein are out there; try to figure out their thought patterns, and then work to influence their audience with the ideas that you believe are right and more correct.

Remember George C. Scott in the movie "Patton": "Rommel, you bastard, I've got you now! I read your book!!" If Patton had "boycotted" Rommel's book, what would have happened to the 3rd Army that day.....?

As we whine and moan today on "TheySaid", remember the Veterans who died so that we can have these discussions........!

Dick Mangan
11/11 Hello Honorable Mouse,

I am enjoying this discussion because we have different opinions... I appreciate your opinion.

I hope you don't mind if I don't respond to all your points at the moment - it's not that I don't think you had some good ones. But your last statement is what interests me the most -

I said "Fire has been here longer than we have." you replied "Nature has been around for awhile too."

In my opinion (I won't say anyone other than me believes this) Fire is a part of nature. Not always, but often summer wildfires are started by lightning. I would hazard to say that nature can deal with wildfires on her own. What do you think?

11/11 The Jobs page plus the wildland firefighter job series 0462 and 0455 are updated. Some new jobs up.

11/11 To So. Cal FF,

If I am correct, protocol, is that you are to use probable 11-44 when it is
determined that the subject is deceased. A confirmed 11-44 is when it is
obvious and confirmed by a local SO unit or by County Coroner. Another term
used in the medical field is called Code Blue. On the 5150 issue you would
be safe by saying that the subject is incoherent or their alertness is X1
or X2 depending on the subjects condition. Or the other correct way is to
just say the subject is 5150. If these terms do not come to mind just be as
politically correct as you can be and speak what's on your mind. Keep in
mind we have to be sensitive to what is being said on the radio airways
because every one in the world has a scanner and most likely the one
reporting your bad etiquette is most likely a relative listening.

Sincerely yours,
Old dispatcher released back to pasture.
11/11 We do both FF and emergency medical, and we most commonly use 10-7 to indicate a dead one, and 10-48 for a combative subject. I know we’re not supposed to use ten-codes, but those (and 10-29 for a wanted person, 10-80 for armed and dangerous) are usually too touchy for plain talk. They’re the only things we use ten-codes for. We also use “the item” rather than “the subject” in searches, body recoveries, and OMI (Office of the Medical Investigator) calls. We also fall back on department slang (“Ms. Smith” for mentally disturbed, “Dr. Strong” for combative, “Gummi worm” for deceased). Now, before I get my rear chewed for being disrespectful to the patients and their survivors…these never get used publicly or within earshot of the friends and family. We’ve got a pretty scanner-happy community, and not even ten-codes are much good at keeping things discrete.

Nerd on the Fireline
11/11 Communication. Lessons Learned?


Residents Question Fire 911 Response
Muth Valley Residents Told Not To Evacuate Early On

Some good photos at this site too.

11/11 I know the radio codes are still used by EMT and many local departments.
With the ICS move to clear text a few years back, I was wondering what the
official wildland terminology is? Like the other local ff said, I have also heard
coroner's case for 1144. Mentally disturbed seems right for 5150.

More often (not on wildland fire) you still hear the radio codes, probably to
minimize catching the attention of the listening public?

local SoCal firefighter
11/11 This season I overheard US Forest Service law enforcement use;
out of service, to indicate a dead employee. It was understood in
context of the incident.

11/11 Hello all.

I’m not a wild land firefighter. I’m a city firefighter whose only brush with wild land firefighting is large lots full of weeds. That aside, I respect you guys immensely. I’m sure you’ve all seen the letter written by Douglas Gantenbein in MSN’s slate forum. If not, here’s the link:


Strange how Mr. Gantenbein felt it was ethical to use your Steven Rucker’s death to catch the attention of readers, just before tearing down firefighting as a profession.

Please join me in a boycott of "Outside" magazine.

Also join me in boycotting the "Away Network," an affiliated group of websites including "Outside Online" (www.outsideonline.com), "Gorp Adventure Travel" (www.gorp.com), and the "Away travel network" (www.away.com.)

The Away network employs Douglas Gantenbein as their "Gear Guy" (who according to their web site is an "equipment guru") to write a regular column in their "Outside Magazine" and well as on their online site "Outside Online."

I invite you to share this with your emergency service co-workers (and your family, friends and others in emergency services outside firefighting) and hang it on your bulletin boards next to Doug's article.

I believe that decent publications would like to employ decent journalists. Gantenbein's inflammatory, self-promoting article goes far beyond the gray lines of ethical journalism; it's nothing short of hatred.

If you wish to let the editors of Outside Magazine and Outside Online know how you feel about their "equipment guru," please drop them an e-mail as I have done. Please keep your message concise and professional. Let's show them that the millions of outdoor enthusiasts who happen to work as firefighters or emergency professionals don't need to read anything from hate mongers like Gantenbein.

Here is the contact e-mail address for Outside Online:

Keep the faith!
11/11 The definition for 1144 is "Coroners Case" and 5150 is "Mentally Disturbed". We still use the codes...... Media knows what they are but the majority of the public does not.

Another local SoCal FF
11/11 Does anyone know what 11-44 & 51-50 are in clear text? How do you say
a "dead person" or a "nut case" over the airwaves without using the old radio

local SoCal firefighter
11/11 From Firescribe:

Thousands expected at Steve Rucker's memorial on Wednesday at 11AM. Of you're going, read this and plan accordingly.

Investigators look at where blazes began Going after the socal fire starters

Fire-resistant landscaping can protect a home Good article on making your home Firesafe.

California-like fires could happen in Texas where topography and interface conditions are similar.

11/11 Regarding the post about "Direct Protection" in California and what is "CDFLWC"?

CDFLWC is California Department of Forestry-Local Watershed Contract, or for example, within Orange County are lands within the City of Anaheim for which the City contracts directly with CDF to provide local watershed fire response within Anaheim's "Local Responsibility Area".

Even though Orange County Fire is one of six "Contract Counties" for State Responsibility Area and protects lands that otherwise would be protected by CDF, and the City of Anaheim is located within Orange County, the CDF contract does not require Orange County Fire to respond with wildland resources into Local Responsibility Area (incorporated cities) that the State is not responsible for. This special contract allows the State and its contractor (Orange County Fire) to respond to these lands as if they were state lands because they pose watershed fire risks and are located immediately adjacent to State Responsibility lands.

All this sounds confusing, but the deal allows for immediate and strong response without bureaucratic hesitation into a canyon area of City jurisdiction which is within an historical fire corridor and needs first rate protection. Response is automatic and doesn't have to wait for a mutual aid request.

Contract County Guy
11/11 Regarding the recent discussion on "They Said", the president of the IAFF replies to the Gantenbein article HERE (167 K pdf file).

11/11 "Just what the hell is an owner/occupant trying to achieve by battling the flames upon his house for four solid days?"

You got me there Mollys Friend! I have NO IDEA why someone would want to save everything they have ever owned for four days, four months, or four years.

"I give," you win.

Another CDF BC
11/10 Well, I tried for a couple weeks, but can't stay away.

On 11/1 (or around that date) someone had a problem w/
supervisors, employees etc. I have some knowledge of
Dept. of Ag. procedures on solving this problem
"out-of-the loop" -- contact me via ab if you still
need help.


Welcome back AXE, glad you returned. MOC4546 was the one wanting that info. Ab.
11/10 This question is for the "brave, proud motto":

How many dead firefighters have you seen? Yet, not in coffins, but in the
And how many spouses have you held while their hearts cry from crazy
because their love was taken by a "brother?"
And how many times does "thank you" carry a lot more meaning then saving
just homes?"

This is the answer, and I hope you can share: It's when one of your own
thanks you for making not just the "right and the "best" - but sometimes -
the ONLY decision. (And you know what? You both get to go home.)

Got it? Think about it? And then there is this?

Just what the hell is an owner/occupant trying to achieve by battling the
flames upon his house for four solid days?
Shouldn't there have been a better decision made too, only sooner?
How many civilian brothers and sisters died?

Walk a mile first in another's boots, because, "sometimes what we all need
to see and shoot for, is not in the scope nor are we ever in range -
especially when brave, proud mottos block the horizon."

Why do you think they call it smoke?

- Molly's Friend
11/10 Hello,

I'm sure that after all the fires in Southern California you are getting a lot of request for pictures. Well, here is one.

They showed on the news a live shot of a fire tornado with an engine off to the left of the tornado and the engine had an American Flag flying on it. Is there any chance you or someone you can put me in touch with that would have a picture of that shot ? I would like to buy a copy of it.

Thank you for your time,
11/10 Hycatal:

You wrote. "I find myself with the crew on a fire feeling that we are doing more harm than good." --- I’ve already questioned your reference to what other people think and then assumed it fits your own perspective. Did you and the crew have a de-brief or chat session on this topic? If so, I’d like to know the outcome, the "how comes" and the "whys". How uniform were opinions of the outcome? How knowledgeable is the crew? This is the kind of information others can weigh and judge the merit of. If it is your perspective only, they can learn from that also, but it is very limiting.

You mention working in remote areas where fire behavior is low and appears to be beneficial. In response to that comment I have to ask if we are in any sort of agreement about the "let it burn or put it out" judgment call I wrote in my earlier post? It has a bearing. I do think you should ask yourself how knowledgeable and experienced you are to judge such things, and do you truly want to expand the effort to learn more? For example, you wrote that the fire "appears to be beneficial". Did you follow up and confirm this "appearance"? Questions from a firefighters point of view like predicted weather patterns, nearby terrain, how stressed the FF resources were, etc? (the Burn of Snuff question again). And then from an ecological point of view, how knowledgeable are you of the soil, plants, animals and watershed (to name a few) of the area? There are a lot of information sources out there (some accurate, others not-so-accurate), from your immediate supervisors to the internet to coffee shop talking with other people.

Possible one of our departing wavelengths is what you consider valuable and what I consider valuable. I have my affliction for dollars and cents, but they are low in priority when compared to the over-all scheme of things from Nature’s perspective. One is a man-made commodity and one is a guidance system.

In closing, you wrote "Fire has been here longer than we have." My reply - Nature has been around for awhile too.

The Honorable Mouse
11/10 Regarding Acreages for Direct Protection: (L.A.V.E., for you?)


Please find the attached 1 page .pdf that gives the (GIS) acreages for the
different counties in Southern California. Note: I only did 10 counties b/c
they seemed the hardest hit. Acreages for Direct Protection (54 K pdf file)

Please realize that this query was done with the following method:
Intersect Counties with the Direct Protect Areas
Query (by County) the Direct Protect Group.

This means that a few acres might show in a county that an agency protects
which is not "True" on the ground. In example there is no CDF in Kern
County but CDF showed protecting a few acres there.

Direct Protect groups are the actual agency except for:
CNTYSR= Land Contracted by the State to the County (called Contract County)
CDFLWC= Protected by CDF (I don't know what the special designation is)

I was going to do more research but I figured I'd send it out and amend it
if need be.

Also note there is a statewide review of DPA by the agencies currently
underway and this data is showing delineations as they were made in 1998.
Numerous things have changed since then so this is simply a snapshot. And
yes, if you like I can make a map of it.

And in response to a previous post: If a group is ordered by the incident
to obey work/rest ratios and they are following the Incident Command
System- it is their obligation to the incident to follow the chain of
command as well as being their responsibility to themselves and their
fellow firefighters. Without a chain of command and people following the
rules, firefighter safety is risked. We're all in this together.

11/10 Ab, 

I have worked on fires with CDF folks and many are very well qualified, BUT I have also worked on fires where "field promotions" have placed Engine Strike Team Leader Captains as Branch Directors when the day Branch directors go to their hotels halfway through their 24 hr shift so they can work the next shift. I question whether certs or quals were part of the equation when this was done. Safety was not. I have seen a Captain working in charge of 3 branches on 2 frequencies and most folks under him did not know the change had happened. It also was not anywhere on the IAP. I hope CICCS will fix this. 

A Ranger in CA .
11/10 After a numbing two weeks of the worst fire conditions anybody alive in Southern California can remember, to see some people offering some lame observation here regarding their brothers and sisters because they drove red or green engines is beyond ridiculous. 

I have worked a 31 year career. I've proudly worked for the Forest Service, for CDF, and now with a contract County. I served with firefighters from everywhere in God's green earth for 12 days straight at two major fires myself. Nobody got much sleep or food, and it's a sure bet everyone gave their all, some even gave their blood. Its true some backfire better but others protect structures better. You would think such a demanding and historic experience would bring us all closer together! Thinking people KNOW we need each other. If we ever have any hope for our profession to grow from this experience we had better all pull together now to be sure. 

I applaud those who have written in to express their appreciation and support of other firefighters no matter what agency they work for. We ARE on the same team. For those of you who still don't get it and still require more personal attention, think again.

Contract County Guy
11/10 Having just returned from the Old Fire I was taken back but not really surprised by the comments of the CDF Fire Captain.

Being a Federal I enjoyed working with CDF and with all the other agencies charged with controlling the fire.

For the most part everyone seemed to understand their mission and did a great job of working together to get the job done (which is quite an achievement for individuals who, for the most part, had never worked with each other before). Having worked for CDF and with many other State and Volunteer Depts., I have come to understand that there are many Heroes who work amongst us. Nothing wrong with being a Hero, our society needs Heroes- just read all those spray painted bedsheets from a grateful public draped on the fences of Southern California. Having fought fire for over 26 years I have come to the conclusion that it's the dead Heroes that the profession and society can do without. While I understand that our dead deserve their due, and that s..t happens sometime, I believe that if we can save a life and live to help society again (and live to be our children's father or mother) then we have multiplied our benefit to society. 

If your Dept. measures professionalism in how close that they can push the envelop to disaster then perhaps the time has come to reexamine your department's operating culture. If martyrdom is the SOP of your Fire Dept., then may God bless you. But please -keep your heroism to yourself, don't lead my firefighters to their deaths for the sake of a spray painted bedsheet- as I love them all too much. 

Old Chicken Firefighter 
11/10 For those who have time/interest, would you please scan the Acronyms Glossary for inaccuracies or omissions. The acronyms on the list have been mentioned at some time or other through the years on theysaid or in conjunction with some other page created on wildlandfire.com. We may have overlooked one or two as we update every few months or so. If there's an acronym that isn't there that you think should be added, please let us know. Ab.
11/10 Pulaski,
I signed off the task book because they met the "Objective" in the box. It is
the quality of the objective I am talking about. I think you know where I'm
coming from....

If not, the point is being missed.

When you leave a shift for base/camp while active firefighting is going on or
fail to engage at all, there is a lack of heart and will.

Sometimes in this business we must get the job done instead of strictly adhering
to the work/rest guidelines.

The southern California fires were a once in a career event for many. With
houses burning down and a firefighter's ability to do something about it in a
positive way (factoring in safety), you had better make the right choice.

I know, because we were told several times over and over to return to base,
while we had work to do and NO ONE to replace us.

Tell that to the homeowner who has been battling the flames for 4 days with
no help when you arrive, that your shift is up and it's time to go. This is how
you look like a fool in the eyes of those that matter the most.

This is what I mean by HEART, ATTITUDE, and NEVER GIVE IN.

You have your opinion, I have mine.
24 Hour Shifts!

"Another CDF BC"
11/10 EA Wright,

Glad you caught the scam. Hope they catch the sob's.

NorCal Tom

11/10 R3 Dispatcher

Don't know anything about flying at night with NVG's in a fixed wing or
air tanker, but I am a pilot and know quite a bit about flying helicopters
at night with NVG's, and on fires too!!

11/10 Abercrombie......I figure by now you have received dozens of posts regarding " CDF Fire Captains" little ditty. Please understand as a fire fighter ( former state, current Fed ) I felt a need to respond to his insane rant.

CDF Fire Captain,

I'm not sure if you are who you say you are, based on the insane remarks I can only hope you are some little kid with Internet access. Inter-agency ego issues will always be a part of wildland firefighting ( I've done a little smack talking in my day) but to say CDF can handle all is as crazy as saying USDA FS can handle ALL ( remember FEMA Mandate 4? ) You try to use a burn show as an example, a burn show conducted by some of the best burners in the country as "proof". Is that to say the "type 1" (convicts) crews from your agency are better?

Your comment to "step aside" actually made me laugh out loud. What kind of arrogant person would believe they ( their agency ) can "do it all". Call me crazy but the few hundred fires I've been to over the years have each been perfect examples of inter-agency cooperation and proof that it does not matter who you work for...we all have the common good as our goal. I feel that pride in ones agency and mission is admirable, I also feel your remarks are irresponsible and as divisive as any I've ever seen on " They Said". Self promoting s&it talking will take place in every station until we are gone from this earth, but there is no excuse for it in a public forum such as this. Next time you are on a wildland fire and thank god USFS is there (because of the monster hose lay that needs to be punched in....yes you will feel that way, I am a former CDF'er and I've heard that said aloud more than once) look at the faces of those young men and women and realize the folly of you post. We all have the same mission, for the same reason, working for the same people. Next time you are on a wildland fire...challenge the green engine next to you to a race... punching in hose, we all know who would win... just think if a green engine tried to manage a derailed train with leaking cars containing hazmat... Lets try to keep it fair in here... save the smack talking for the bar.

\ James
11/10 Fireronin and Honorable Mouse:

Thank you for replying. I realized I should have given my questions more of a context, so here goes. I have completed nine fire seasons, working mainly on hand crews but also a little bit of helitack. During this time I have worked for three different federal agencies and one contract crew, as a seasonal and permanent (with furlough). I've also followed this site for several years, although I just recently contributed for the first time.

I find that I really enjoy fire - the work, the camaraderie, and earning a living while being outside. But more and more I find myself with the crew on a fire feeling that we are doing more harm than good. I'm trying to decide whether to continue in fire.

Honorable Mouse, you said there are more valuables to be saved in wildland fire than homes and timber. I'm curious what you are referring to... habitats and watersheds come to mind, which I agree with to some extent. But I also know that many plant species thrive because of fire - serontious cones, killing off other species that invade, creating new forage, etc. Fire has been here longer than we have.

I find it difficult to be in remote areas, cutting trees and digging line, or following a dozer putting in line, especially when fire behavior is low and appears to be beneficial - reducing fuel loads and understory.

Fireronin, you said the after effects of a fire can be more damaging than the fire itself. Will you explain? Are you referring to the higher potential for flooding?

As for the pack test, I support it. My suggestion for a new test however would be to do a lactate-threshold test. It takes from 45 minutes to seventy-five minutes and needs a heart rate monitor (30$ at Wal-Mart) and a treadmill or track. I can't give the specifics of the test (I don't know them), but I took one. It involves monitoring your heart rate on a treadmill, making the intensity harder every two minutes until you absolutely can't go anymore. A graph of your heart rate shows at what point you went anaerobic, which is a good indicator of fitness. www.heartzone.com has more information, especially under the "heart rate calculator" link.

11/10 everyone has an opinion.... Opinions are like body parts, some stink!

seems lately many contributors are sounding off with only a small piece of the big picture; maybe some post as part of their grieving process or fears; who knows?
TY to those without a personal-axe-to-grind for answering questions asked by those seeking SPECIFIC information.
<snicker> bet me, that Capt who signs off on (even) a time sheet for anyone best hope his yellow britches don't get caught! sorry Ab I couldn't resist that pun...


None of us have the complete big picture. I hope people keep "sounding off" here. Theysaid provides a valuable glimpse into more of the pieces and different perspectives. I have learned a great deal from our community of posters through the years. Having a personal-ax-to-grind is also fine in my book. We each foster our own priorities, Ab included (mine: safety, freedom of speech, professionalism, interagency understanding even if we differ in opinion). I believe people can have only a small picture piece and a personal ax to grind and yet communicate well and learn quite a bit, if they try to stick to the issues. Thanks to those who try. And posts that get to the truth when there is no other way to get there, we welcome those. And yeah, an occasional flame or vent is also understandable. My guess is that most of us in fire know some truth or other that will never hit a forum such as theysaid. <haw> Ab.
11/9 RC,

I applaud and appreciate your post. I am usually one those people who gets fired up and starts venting my opinion about the other agency. After spending some time on the Paradise Fire I have a new respect for CDF and I think the people I worked with could say the same about us in the FS.

That fire -- I saw some of the most incredible and destructive fire behavior I have ever seen in my short career and I can honestly say it was a great learning and humbling experience.

For the others out there, look back at your experience -- if you were in San Diego or on one of the other fires in the Southern Region -- the mistakes you know, use them as a learning experience and put them in your files of "what not to do" on the fire line.

Please don't be like CDF Captain and shame and embarrass your respective agency by getting into a p#@*ing match with the "They Said" community.

11/9 A few clarifications from the best of my knowledge

Task Books: Completing a task book is more than just getting it signed off in the field and its a done deal. The home unit supervisor must initiate it (meaning they think the individual is ready to jump to the next level) and the same home unit supervisor must sign it off when it is complete, which means (or should mean) that the home unit supervisor is comfortable that the individual is fully competent in that position. Along the same note, the individuals that are signing off tasks should not do so if they are not fully comfortable that the individual could do the task on their own. Sounds like a decent system of checks and balances if done objectively and properly from start to finish.

"another CDF BC" said (and Im not trying to antagonize here, just making a point)

"...the real check and balance of an individual's "qualifications" rests with unit management, not some task book that was signed off on maybe a dead shift or one with little complexity. I know it, because I have signed such books."

Now I agree with the first line of your statement completely, but you go on to say (or thats the way I took it) that you have signed off when the complexity of the situation did not present an opportunity to judge if the person could do the job. I would ask you why did you sign them off then??

The failure comes from those who put our name on the dotted line because its easier than telling someone they cant cut it or need more experience/training.


11/9 CDF Fire Captain

Your arrogance is profound. I played many roles on the Cedar fire. From Structure Group to Branch Director. This fire required a great deal of initiative and creativity due to the lack of available resources. All agencies performed above and beyond just because we had to. In each and every case I worked with the USFS, they conducted themselves in an exemplary manner.

Most of the communities of Descanso, Guatuay, Pine Valley, just to name a few had major USFS participation and would not be standing today if not for USFS personnel's valiant efforts. Rick Marinelli, John Truitt, Acree Shreve, Jeff Robinson and his strike team are heroes in this humble CDF'ers opinion.

I hope to god you really are not a CDF employee because frankly your post embarrasses me as a CDF employee and should you as well. A lot more maturity and maybe a little more thought before you post something like this again.

For that matter anybody working on the Cleveland during this siege deserves a lot of recognition at a National level for what they did. I only hope they get it.

11/9 Firescout,

Are you a pilot? Have you ever flown a/in an airtanker, airattack, lead plane or helicopter? Better yet during a fire situation??? As said on the airtanker pilots page.. "Sure a tanker could fly at night, once per plane " Think about it and talk to pilots and you will get a true understanding about flying on fires and flying on fires at night!!

R3 Dispatcher
11/9 Been back home and feeling pretty mellow after a couple of good weeks chasing the Muleys and Wapiti around the woods; a good hunting camp with long-time friends helps me from getting "hot" over some of the comments that I read on "TheySaid". Then, "Another CDF BC" went and set me off with her/his comments about the job of wildland firefighting entailing "....brains and a lot of attitude and heart to never give in."
I strongly DISAGREE!!

After 30+ years of wildland fire suppression, I strongly believe that we wildland firefighters need to be more professional and less emotional about the jobs we do. It ain't an emergency for us - it's just a wildfire; the woods/brush have burned before, they'll burn again. Look at the Storm King Mountain area today, after 9 years; Look at the chaparral already trying to come back into the SoCal areas that burned only weeks ago; been to Yellowstone since 1988?? Seen the Oakland Hills since 1991?? But more importantly ........ ever seen a dead firefighter come back to life after dying 'cause she/he had " .... alot of attitude and heart to never give in"???

The concept of using the Task Book to prove one's competency in the heat-of-battle thru review by a qualified superior is an important screen to assure that folks are more than "book smart" when they hit the fireline in increasingly responsible positions.

Whatever CDF chooses to do on their protection areas in California is their business. If they want to work with the rest of the National fire community, either inside or outside of California, they've got to meet the agreed upon National standards that the NWCG has set.

But, for this discussion, the bottom line from my perspective is that "giving in is OK" if it means insuring firefighter safety.

11/9 Paddlefire:

Region 7 used to exist. A consolidation of Regions (early 1960's?)
resulted in that number being dropped. I believe the old Region 7 got
split and merged into 8 & 9.

11/9 Ab-

Read the post by MJ on the CDF "perk" of no task book required. How about this concept...

In CDF, you must be placed in the local unit's ERD (Emergency Resource Directory) before you can be call by the command center for an "Out of County" assignment.

In CDF, just because you HAVE a task book signed off doesn't mean squat. In order to get the call, you have to be blessed by the unit management. In other words, you must prove competency among your peers and supervisors. Being a cull doesn't cut it.

I would bet it safe to say the real check and balance of an individual's "qualifications" rests with unit management, not some task book that was signed off on maybe a dead shift or one with little complexity. I know it, because I have signed such books. I have also worked with other very competent firefighters on tough assignments that were never signed off. They are no less of a firefighter though-in fact in many cases, they are far superior.

In CDF there are some ICS positions that require sign offs and some that don't, strike team leader is not one of them. DIVS is.

There are two sides to every story, so don't start bagging on CDF because we choose not to adopt certain protocols of other agencies or working groups.

I recently worked along several individuals down south that touted lots of "credentials" with lots of task books signed off I'm sure, and I must say you could have fooled me. What this job entails is brains and a lot of attitude and heart to never give in.

I'll take that over a piece of paper any day, and so will a lot of CDF'ers. That's probably why the task book isn't that big a deal in our organization.

"Another CDF BC"
11/9 to PT from Down Under:

I've only been in this fire gig for the past 5 years, but here's my take on the best states to work in for fire during their respective seasons:

First...to make life easy I'll refer to the Regions the Forest Service has developed to break up the country.

Region 1 or Northern Rockies: Montana, Northern ID and North Dakota: Best time to find fire to fight in these states seems to be the end of July through the beginning of September

Region 2 or Rocky Mountain: Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota: The seasonal drying and weather patterns afford this area a June and July fire season. Monsoonal moisture often, not always comes in at the middle/end of July and slows life down a bit. The shoulder seasons in April and May and October sometimes are dry and can bring a fire bust when you are least expecting it.

Region 3 or Southwest: New Mexico, Arizona areas: EARLY. March through Early July in these areas. Again, all depends on moisture moving through the area during Monsoon season

Region 4 or Western and Eastern Great Basin: Utah, Nevada, Southern ID: I haven't fully figured this one out. Seems like June through September there could always be activity, but it's a real crap shoot.

Region 5 or California: California/Hawaii: North cal often has activity in August continuing through October. As this year has shown us, South Cal and have High fire activity all summer, as late as the end of October. Even later some years for what I've seen and heard. Other posters could fill you in better on this.

Region 6 or Pacific Northwest: Washington/Oregon: July and August seem have the most starts and the greatest fire activity. Like Region 1, you are starting to get farther north and both states have Higher inland drier areas as well as the coastal rain influences.

Region 7: Doesn't exist. I don't know why and no one I've talked with can fill me in on this. Anyone have any answers?

Region 8 or Southern: Southeast US: Often a late fall through winter area. October through Feb? I haven't fought fire down there yet. It's on my list.

Region 9 or Eastern: Northeast US: Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and New Jersey seem to have the most activity during the late winter early spring time (March through June).

Region 10 or Alaska: Alaska: Another destination I'd like to travel to with my Red Bag. Definitely seems like Spring time up there is the best time to fight fire. Most of the Shot crews and jumpers can be found in the lower 48 in July and August, so I would guess the April May and June are the prime burning seasons.

Well, That's my take on it. Anyone else have some better info? I'm always looking to learn as well.

11/9 Time for the Truth:

I have been in the fire service for 20 years now. Starting my career with the US Forest Service then promoted to CDF. Recently I was on a S/T of type 3 engines on the Cedar Fire, Wear we were staged in the Julian area. Our job was to prepare homes in the Pine Hills community for the comming fire front . During this time several USFS personal stopped by to let us know that they had written off this whole area , Wynola and surrounding areas . Knowing this we stayed and saved many of these homes that the little green men had decided were not worthey of ther help . My feeling is if the USFS does not plan on doing there job to save homes in rural Calif. GET OUT and let CDF do the job.

Now let’s talk about putting fire on the ground. I have never seen so much unnesassary fire put on the ground. In one instance the El Corisso Hot Shots where burning out in the Pine Hills area and lost it. The day before we had three CDF engines helping them and had no problems. This time they did it on there own and lost it. This would be one of the fire fronts that hit Pine Hills and then Julian. I hope this will be brought up in any investigation. I could give examples of many more but I think I made my point. CDF is California’s Fire Department, We are Professional Firefighters. From what I saw on the Cedar Fire USFS is not. It’s time for the USFS to step aside and let CDF do the job.

CDF Fire Captain

Posters, before you start slamming each other's organizations, I hope you remember that we're finishing up a stressful time here in California and that scapegoating commonly occurs when people are stressed out, as Mellie reminded us last week. Please stick to issues as much as possible and do not make personal attacks. This is a website where people communicate with each other civilly. We Abs will not let this forum devolve into the tit-for-tat garbage that appears on some unofficial firefighter websites. Before you post here, ask yourself "what is to be gained by posting?" If there is a safety issue you think should be investigated and you can't bring it up via your chain of command, post here. If you are simply venting, maybe you need to find some useful place to put your energy, like polishing that engine or hitting the PT extra hard or getting some sleep. Do not forget, we are all in this together. Communication between state and fed firefighters helps us to understand each other's perspectives and systems. But we will have no fighting, no biting. Ab.
11/9 Re: pumps

I've seen this too, I don't know who signed off on this rating of pumps at different pressures but it shows the typical ignorance of engine operations by the Federal wildland agencies.

Fire pump capacities are rated at 150 psi, they are also required to maintain 75% of this capacity at 200 psi and 50% at 250 psi, so if NWCG wanted Type 3 engines to have a 150 GPM rating at 250 psi, they should have specified a 300 gpm pump.

Unfortunately it is common for this level of error to occur, it is (or at least was when I left the USFS) a common belief that the Model 62 was rated to pump 400 gpm @ 400 psi, this is completely false, the Model 62 has a 500 gpm pump but due to plumbing issues with the foam unit it is restricted to a practical flow of 400 gpm. It is true the pump can reach pressures approaching 400 psi (i found it impractical to go much over 350 psi since at that point hose typically started bursting) but the flow at that point is reduced to about 25 gpm (IIRC). It is amazing what happens when people read the manual.

I can understand specifying a high pressure pump (multi stage) for Type 3 engines since they typically pump some insanely long hose lays (1000-1500 ft lays were quite common) up steep slopes which could explain the 250 psi # but I do not have any idea where they got the 100 psi figure from.

I just hope some day engines start getting the attention they deserve since they are one of the most effective resources during IA, and are extremely versatile when motivated to get away from the engine when needed for other tasks. They are also very useful for providing support to crews, helicopters etc. At least the USFS site finally acknowledges the existence of their engine crews, which is a start.

Fedfire (and cranky supporter of engines)

Thanks Fedfire. Yeah, engine crews are now officially considered People in Fire. Engine crew folks, create a good webpage and get listed with that Engines page. Ab.
11/9 So Cal CDF:

I read with interest the article about Gov. Davis' Blue Ribbon Fire Commission. Being a DoD Firefighter the following excerpts caught my attention:

"Federal Partners: Jerry Williams, United States Forest Service; Larry Hamilton, Department of Interior."

Ok, so far so good. Then I get down to what the Commission will evaluate.

"Reducing and eliminating jurisdictional and operational barriers that prevent the expeditious response of military resources necessary to combat wildfires."

But wait! Something is missing!! If military resources are to be used, wouldn't it make sense to include a Department of Defense representative in with the Federal Partners? Someone with enough stars on his/her shoulders that can make this happen? I didn't see any listed. Then again, I'm not a rocket surgeon.

sign me ChRET (I shoulda retired when I had the chance)
11/8 Could anyone tell me the pumping capacity that is required for a Type 3
engine? I see on the NWCG chart it requires 150 gpm at 250 psi. The 1998
Fireline Handbook shows a Type 3 needs 120 gpm with no pressure listed. The
250# pressure seems too high when Type 1 and 2 structural engines only
require 150 psi. The Types 4-6 only require 100 psi. Is this a misprint on
the chart? If it does need to be 250#, what is the reasoning for it?


Pump stumped
11/8 Fireball XL5, Another perk of CDF is no task books needed. You just attend a
class and you are fully qualified!! For example, go to STL class, and you are
one!! Very simple.-MJ

Now, now, just because one CDFer wrote in with a concern, let's not all jump on CDF with what we perceive to be other similar concerns. I appreciate Fireball XL5's honesty. Ab.
11/8 Abs,

A while back I ran a classified ad in Wildlandfire.com. I received a response from a "Mark Garner" who said he wanted to purchase the item for $2,250. So far, so good. He said he was from overseas and would have the item shipped, and that I would be receiving a check from someone in the U.S. who owed him money.

I received a cashiers check via FEDex for the amount of $4,800. The buyer wanted me to send the balance of the money to him via Western Union. My bank verified the funds, drawn on a commercial bank in New Jersey. But something didn't seem quite right, so I contacted the FBI. A special agent called me and said this appears to be a new Nigerian scam that has been used recently and frequently on E-bay. The FBI brought the Secret Service in and they offered the same opinion and told me how to handle the issue.

The FEDex package with the check came from Lagos, Nigeria. (you know, home of the infamous "bureaucrat" who e-mails to say he needs someone to help him get $20million of plundered money out of the country and needs a friendly American with a little larceny in their heart to help by providing their bank account number.)

Apparently, this is how the latest scam works: A buyer--apparently legitimate--purchases a car or other item in the range of $1,500 to $3,000. The seller receives a cashiers check for $4,000 to $10,000 (which a few weeks later proves to be counterfeit) and is asked to send the balance to someone via Western Union (hard to trace, according to the FBI). The seller sends the money and a short time later is contacted by their bank when the original "cashiers" check is found to be bogus. The seller is now out the money he sent via Western Union.

The point here, for you folks at Wildlandfire.com, is that these scamsters are apparently lurking online looking for new victims. The FBI said these people have moved from E-bay and are casting their net wider into online classified ads.

I will keep you posted when we learn more. If this is a legit deal, then the buyer won't mind waiting a week to get their money and have the item shipped. But if the "buyer" is who we think he is, then I'm sure he won't appreciate not only hearing from the Secret Service, but me not sending the $2,550 via Western Union.

Boo Hoo

Next day notes:

As the Secret Service said would probably happen, said individual called at 5:00 a.m. (Saturday) and demanded that I send the balance of the check to him via Western Union. Today! He was indignant that the Secret Service and the FBI were contacted. He asked, "Didn't I trust him?" I said no. I replied that when and if (that's a big if!) the check is honored, I will be happy to complete the transaction.

The old adage was "Buyer Beware." Now it's "Seller Beware."

Another note: When the "Certified" check was photocopied, no Xerographic watermarks came through, although there were visual watermarks and the check looked genuine in every way, even with perforations on the left side. The lack of electronic watermarks is what tipped off the bank.

Apparently, the check number and amount verified because at one point, someone bought a legit cashiers check. The scamsters apparently counterfeit multiple copies of the legit check and the send them out in batches, hopefully to arrive on the same day. This ensures that when a bank calls for verification of funds, at least a good number of the checks will be verified, until the bank that issued the cashiers check catches on.

So wildland community, be aware of who you are dealing with. If it smells even remotely like rotten fish, then it probably is rotten fish.

11/8 FC180

That's my Point!!!! I'm sure that if the pilots in question involved in the accident had been properly trained and using the state of the art NVGs, that accident would have never occurred. That's not to imply that accidents can't occur night flying with NVGs, as accidents can and will occur both day and night. It all depends on proper training, equipment and mental attitude. All I'm saying is, there is new technology out there in regards to night flying, its been tried, tested and found to be reliable. If it can help in saving life and property, let's give it a go. The horse and buggy has long since gone also.


NVG=Night Vision Goggles
11/8 Work Capacity Test -- WCT

If you want to work for a wildland fire agency that has no work capacity
test, come to work for CDF. The only physical fitness standard we have is
some low bid physicians assistant has to agree that you can wear a
respirator without endangering yourself or others. As all of you know, that
doesn't leave many out. Matter of fact I can't think of anyone who has ever
failed. And the union would unfortunately fight the introduction of a test,
no matter how it would be justified because of the impact (termination) on
so many employees. I'm sure the number of CDF folks who could not pass the
pack test would approach 50%. And in this recent spate of fires (not really
as unprecedented as everyone thinks), our lack of standards has contributed
to at least one burn injury that is being hushed up near as I can tell,
probably for this reason. There has been no preliminary release of facts
that I have seen.

Fireball XL5
11/8 For those wanting to get information out to communities at risk from wildfire,
here's an excellent resource available in English and Spanish with audio and
written pdf components.

There are twenty-seven PSAs, divided into four categories:
Wildland Fire Management;
Fire Ecology;
Fire History; and
Wildland Fire Safety and Prevention.

The PSAs are made possible through a grant from the Teresa and H. John
Heinz III Foundation.


We've added it to our list of Wildfire Links for Educators along with those links you had on "dealing with wildfire stress". Ab.
11/8 From Firescribe:

Face to face with an inferno, story of the four Novato firefighters.
11/8 saddened- Sounds like what happened on the cramer fire hit close to home for you for that I am truly sorry. I didnt feel BCT meant anything malicious or callous in his question. Finding out what happened and LEARNING FROM IT is the only positive thing that comes out of incidents like that. I dont think you will find anyone here or anywhere that believes protecting homes, timber, watershed or even elk forage is more valuable than human life.

With the comments recently questioning if full suppression is needed all the time, others have posted good responses to that. The answer is not always black and white. I would like to say that I saw some new (to me anyway) things happening on incidents this summer. It could have been just from a lack of resources, something those specific teams tend to do or some other reasons, but on several complexes this year only the parts of the fire that were threatening homes saw what I will call "typical suppression strategies", that is, fight fire aggressively but provide for safety first. On the sides of the fire that were not going to threaten communities, more passive suppression activities were undertaken. And by that I do not mean light hand on the land tactics but, they only went in and stopped it when all risks were at a minimum.

On the pack test topic....*HUGE SIGH*... There was a comment regarding folks having to have a doctors approval before taking the WCT. That comment brought on a flash back of my "good ol days" (before the WCT) and we had to get a physical prior to reporting to work and taking the step test. As I had yet to settle down, I had no regular doctor and I typically went to the local clinic and set up an appointment for whichever doctor had an opening to give me a physical. I remember more than once thinking after the physical was done in 15 minutes and I was walking out the door that the doctor had no clue as to what physical challenges I would face when he had signed me off as "fit for duty" (and I didnt care as I was young and invincible.. or so I thought at the time). My point is (like others have stated) that the individual taking the test needs to take some of the responsibility also to ensure they are fit and prepared to take the test and fight fire, just like homeowners need to take on the responsibility to prepare their homes to survive a wildfire (sorry, just had to put that plug in there too) and not expect someone else to do it for them. Is the WCT perfect? No, but its a hell of a lot better than what we had, and the trail is just as steep and long whether you are 5'6" or 6'5" tall.

Lobotomy - Didnt the NFDRS indexes go off the charts when the winds hit? Im certainly not an expert on NFDRS, but I dont always take a lot of stock on what the indexes say. I sent you a note a while ago (couldnt have been too important as I cant recall what it was about right now) but never heard back so I figured you were just a little busy.

11/8 Abs,

I'm looking for a map of the Grand Prix fire. A detailed one would be nice but any will do. Would appreciate any info or links anyone has. All the links on the site for maps don't appear to work any longer.

I would also like to thank everyone involved in the past fires as the Grand Prix was in my backyard and ruined some of my favorite places. Yes I know they will return in due time.
I wish I had a camera but as I drove by the Rancho Cucamonga Canyon station last Monday it was cold and drizzling the area around the station was all burned off and the flag was half staff. It brought a tear to my eye.

Sincerely, a reader from the beginning

Forester, you can find maps of the fires by following the link at the top of this page that says Southern California Fires and going to the fire's link. This is where you end up for the Grand Prix map. Muck around on the links at the top of that same SoCal Fires page. Clicking on the "California Fire Maps" takes you to a whole variety of options from seeing all of socal to seeing fires from space. Ab.
11/8 Hi Ab,

I'm in the Bushfire service in Canberra, ACT, Australia. I only found this site the other day, its great and well done to those that created it.

I'm interested in working as a Wildland Firefighter in the USA. As you would know the best fires are here in AUS and over there in USA. What would be the busiest state over there in the fire season? So any info you could send me would be fantastic.


Welcome Pt. There are quite a few Aussies who visit during your fire season. As for your question, maybe our USA community can answer that one. <haw> Ab.
11/8 Hycatal,

I can't fully answer your pack test question...it may not have an real good answer.
No test can really accurately predict how anyones body will react to the conditions it may be called upon to overcome on an actual fire. Or at least no one has developed such a test yet. I am kind of happy someone is still trying though. Under the extreme and varied conditions of fire duty many who pass the pack test may still be unable to cope with the physical demands. Some individuals and crews may be more likely to have more strenuous duty on a regular basis than others. This is I think why many crews have "higher" standards than the pack test. Anyone that cannot handle the rigors of fire duty can quickly become an additional burden on the rest of the crew at the worst possible time placing the entire crew in additional and unnecessary jeopardy.

I may also not be able to answer your questions on why Gantenbein's article seemed to antagonize firefighters. I can tell you why such slanted articles make my blood pressure rise however. Wildland firefighters are often wipsawed between being hailed as "heros" for risking their lives while they attempt to minimize the damage done by wildfires....and being treated like crap. It is hard to make the transition gracefully and without great effort. And while we may be able to accept "lack of budget" as a legitimate reason we are treated as less valuable than we "really are" Gantenbein's article is so heavily laden with inaccuracies that it is hard for firefighters to not feel that he is deliberately slanting his article with the intention of making our already dangerous jobs harder and more dangerous. We feel attacked.. and a bit frightened I suppose by how those who have never faced the task of attempting to control a force of nature so strong and unforgiving of mistakes as wildfire so blithely suggest we do so often unnecessarily. That somehow the "lulls between storms" of activity classify firefighting as a "cushy" job. That the public would be better served by... letting fires burn and seeing what happens.

For example your question of:" If a fire is so remote that it cannot be driven to or flown to by helicopter in a reasonable amount of time, why put it out?" frightens me a bit. It indicates to me that you don't understand how important initial attack is or how expensive it would be to have enough helicopter rappel crews to cover the same area smokejumpers do with less expensive equipment and fewer personnel. It indicates that you are not aware that the after effects of a fire can be more damaging than the fire itself.. even far from the actual site of the fire. I am very glad however that you are someone who chose to ask the question rather than someone who is "gutsy enough to suggest in print that we get rid of smokejumpers".. as Gantenbein does. He just seems to ignore obvious answers in order to "support" his view. That does not take guts...just ego.

11/7 Interesting article in Friday's San Diego newspaper: S.D. fire chief says crews ill-equipped for emergencies If factual, the shortsightedness of voters and elected officials living in southzone is amazing considering all local government have faced budget cuts in recent years...

Already many displaced homeowners are complaining about delays in recovery efforts and no immediate financial assistance. can that be explained as part of their grieving process? BAER can only perform limited mitigation before rainy season - rains will bring mudslides and more disaster response and recovery; pray the earth doesn't shake...history is repeating itself.

11/7 Here's an article with some interesting recommendations. "T3 to the Rescue -- Riiiiiiiiight." It begins with

Why was San Diego County--which ended up suffering the majority of the fire damage in terms of acres, houses and, most importantly, lives lost--continually relegated to second place status by State fire officials compared to the LA area blazes?

Later it lists recommendations

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist to figure out how to improve the fire situation in SoCal. The new governor need simply do four things: ... (click that article to read them.)

What do you think?

11/7 Universal Studios, Hollywood has an offer

Universal Studios Hollywood, in recognition of the heroic efforts of California’s firefighters and other emergency workers who helped save lives and homes during the recent firestorm disaster, is offering two free annual passes to all firefighters, law enforcement officials, paramedics, Red Cross Employees and 911 personnel from now through March 31.

Check HERE. Scroll down to "Salute to Heroes" for the whole story. One local wildland firefighter said you have to have a "badge" a current ID photo. If you don't have one or the other, call the phone number. I'm sure you could present a letter on your agency letterhead, signed by someone in authority.

Thanks for the help on our fires.

Riverside Resident

PS saddened, I am sorry for the loss of your friends.

11/7 BCT: There is nothing interesting about young men burning up while trying to protect elk forage. Having said that, you'll have to wait until after the holidays for the Cramer Investigation to become public.

P.S. to you folks who think there are more valuables to protect by the act of fire suppression than just homes and timber: Is seasonal elk forage one of them?

11/7 HEY OD -

I think your last paragraph sums up why something like the pack test was
You make a lot of sense.

To all you veterans out there: past. present and future:
Have a good day (or a great moment) of celebration and joy, and love for

Remember we are all in this together, so we can work together, play
together, grieve together, so we may never be alone - should we choose to.
Take Care all.

11/7 Hi there,

I was surfing about and came upon this site for the recovery of the burned areas in California. I had read about the BEAR program here in Missoula, after the fires. Nice to see them protect the burned areas.

site link.. www.fs.fed.us/baer/

CO (ex-tanker driver)
11/7 I am not sure I understand the controversy on the pack test.

In my opinion, if you can't pass the pack test you have no business being on or near the fireline. (I personally feel you should not be in fire camp unless you can pass it either because you never know what can happen.) The fire doesn't care whether you are a man or a woman, short or tall, black or white and if you need to get out of there you need to be able to GO!!

If anything there should perhaps be more consideration taken prior to the pack test as to who is at risk by taking it. Personally I have seen too many (and I am talking about A LOT of people) who are over weight, aging, woefully out of shape go to take the pack test with NO prior preparation. They just go and take it. No practice whatsoever. I think that it is up to each individual to be responsible for their own personal safety by making sure they gradually and safely work themselves up to being able to complete the pack test. If you can't pass it then perhaps you have no business being a wildland firefighter. This is physical labor and it is important that we maintain those standards.

Of course hotshots and jumpers have different standards, their particular positions within firefighting require more, but that does not mean that we can allow other types of firefighters to disregard their physical conditioning. I am a very short individual and it is not easy for me to pass the pack test so I work hard to keep in shape and meet those standards because I understand the pack test is a good indicator. God forbid someone else's safety be compromised because they linger behind to try and help me as I struggle along!

I do not intend to offend anyone but what if some of those individuals who pass out (or importunely and tragically died) during the pack test had experienced those problems on the line! In such a situation they would have put their fellow firefighters at risk. I am sure this sounds harsh but I would rather one of my guys had complications during the somewhat controlled environment of the pack test while I could get him with ease to the hospital rather than putting my whole crew at risk because he had a heart attack on the line.


While I do agree with one or two of your comments, I feel I must respond to
some of your others. You said that "They only wanted to do their jobs,
before the pack test killed them". The pack test did not kill them. They
died because their bodies stopped functioning properly and their hearts
stopped beating. In these cases, that happened while they were exerting
themselves physically - but surely you are not naive enough to think that
the same thing could not have happened had they been doing something other
than practicing for or taking the pack test. People have heart attacks
every day while doing nothing of a physical nature (including people in
great physical condition). And when you find all that information you are
looking for regarding costs, etc. see if you can find any info. on the
circumstances surrounding those tragedies. I can't say for sure, but I have
heard that in one or two cases the victims were either; 1) less than
forthcoming when filling out the HSQ (Health Screening Questionnaire), or
2) were practicing for the WCT prior to filling out an HSQ or getting a
physical exam. Don't get me wrong - I am not trying to down play these
deaths - they are tragic whether they occur in the office or on the line.
But the WCT is the BEST test we have at the moment. It certainly runs
circles around the old Step Test (which had a totally different standard
for men and women; a 6'1" woman stepped on a box that was 6" shorter than
the box a 5'1" man had to step on - talk about discrimination!!). If you
can come up with a test that is less costly AND more accurately reflects
what a firefighter does on the job than the WCT then I'm sure you would get
one hell of a cash award. But keep in mind that the Dept. of Labor had a
HUGE say in what standards were applied.

As far as Hotshot Crews and Smokejumpers having their own fitness quotas,
you are only partially correct. Smokejumpers are the only federal
firefighters who can LEGALLY enforce a standard that is more restrictive
than the WCT. This is because the jumpers went to the Dept. of Labor way
back when and were allowed those standards as a "medical condition of
hire". However, what the jumpers gave up in that battle was Hazardous Duty
Pay for the act of jumping (whereas Heli-rappel Crews get H-pay every time
they rappel - operationally or for proficiency). Yes, most Hotshot Crews do
have a "Crew Standard" that is higher than the WCT, but these cannot be
enforced legally as a condition of hire. And as for the Chief of the
Forest Service not "approving" the test - I can't say. But I can say I have
seen the letter signed by the Director of Aviation and Fire Management for
the Forest Service that implements the WCT as the only test by which
Wildland Firefighters will be certified as fit for fireline duty. Who knows
- maybe the Chief and the Director were not speaking to each other that

In addition, at least on the Forest that I used to work on, the physician
WAS given notice of not only what the requirements were for EACH level of
the WCT (and which level the employee would be tested on), but also the
break-down of the fireline duties that employee would be expected to
perform. Granted, it would be unwise to assume that any physician out there
knows exactly what the job entails, which is why those detailed
descriptions are given. Many Forests are using the same medical provider
for all their employees in an attempt to better educate the doctors.

Finally, as far as everyone taking the arduous level of the test - all feds
(and federal contractors) and most State agencies that I know (not sure
about CDF) do require the arduous level for fireline personnel who can
"reasonably be expected" to perform those duties that you described
(digging line, mopping up, felling, etc.). The only exceptions I know are
some positions that while they are considered "fireline" positions, the
duties involved are not the same (such as Safety Officer or Helibase

Not trying to start a war here - just felt I had to speak up. I'll be the
first to admit that I was very skeptical about the WCT when it first came
out. However, I soon came to realize that it beat the hell out of the step
test (which I was NEVER a fan of).

Oh, and to GISMO: I agree that the test is a bit more difficult for those
with shorter legs (and yes, I am one of those), but I will say this. I know
one of the ladies who was instrumental in the development of the WCT, and
she is not an inch over 4"8" and has passed the test every year since it
was instituted. And I'm very curious about the guy who was allowed to take
the step test instead - if it was a federal employee, at what level did it
escalate to for approval?? DFMO, Dist. Ranger, Forest Sup., or at the
regional or national level?? It is interesting because this is the first
I've heard of anyone being allowed to take the step test in lieu of the
WCT. Wonder what would have happened if (God forbid) he had a heart attack
out on the line??

Thanks ab......
Sign me: AZAVguy (formerly RS)
11/7 I've been out of the loop for awhile...

So, what's the status of the Portal to Portal bill?

11/7 I suggest people interested in why we fight wildfires might move beyond the houses and "timber sales" discussion and consider the larger biological and human impacts such endangered species, air pollution, public health and water quality. I found and excellent discussion of fire effects in a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor

11/7 For those have been working on the SoCal fires, dealing with fellow firefighters or the Public who have been involved in the SoCal fires, here's a good list of what to look for and what might be done to alleviate stress.


Notice that scapegoating is often an expected and normal behavioral reaction to stress. Here we call it venting. ;-)

Here's another good one: an article on how to help kids who have gone through wildfire cope with their experience.


11/7 Hycatel:

I too can only speak from the wildland side, and I've fought fire, as an unpaid citizen, a USFS employee and as a contractor. There has never been any doubt in my mind about the necessity of wildland firefighters, hence, I have no "deeply hidden doubt" about the matter.

And yes, there is a practical reason to "Catch it small". To prevent it from becoming a larger and more uncontrollable fire isn't such a bad concept.

Another thing many folks who weren't raised in, haven't worked in and lived in a natural environment fail to understand. Rural America is a part of some folks, and they are a part of it. Call it being one-with-Nature if you will but when I see fire "destroying" rural America, it is "destroying" a part of me personally.

I'm a constant reader of this site and will be glad to say you are way out of whack when you make the statement that all of us who read They Said "know" that the "catch it small action has created the fuels problem we have today". 1st of all, since when did you become so all-enlightened to know what I (or other readers) think? 2nd of all, my take is there's a time to "catch it small" and a time to "let it burn". It involves the judgment of whether the fire can be controlled or not, and, the benefit Vs the damage the fire will do (and yes this includes remote areas). I just wish this judgment would have been made in the past, and will be made in the present and future, by experienced professionals rather than political correctness that puts the benefit of Ma Nature far far behind political expediency (which includes the extermination of customs, cultures and practices of those who are "a part of Nature" rather than an occasional visitor to Her.)

You wrote, "Excluding saving homes and other valuables such as timber sales, what is the meaning in wildland fire?" ---- I'd suggest there are more "valuables" to be saved in wildland fire control than just commodities like homes and timber sales.

The Honorable Mouse.
11/7 Response to Lion's Friend:

It was never said that work capacity testing would save "all". You perceived that and you are totally off the mark on a number of your comments. So, before we get into jumpers' and shots' p.t. - come back on this with rationale.

Physical fitness training and testing are processes.
Doctor's don't sign off on the wct results - fire people do!
Doctor's only advise you if, or if not, you are at risk prior to training - whether to train, or not to train. (Clear Text.)
(This is the first part of the process that mitigates risk to you - and to co-workers.)

Recognize that it is the individual who decides how to "self-screen."
Honest answers save lives, Honesty mitigate risks, Lies.........


You don't think that work capacity testing has saved lives?
You don't think that maintaining situational awareness has saved lives?
You don't think that recognizing risk and taking measures to mitigate risk saves lives?

Tell you what - when you get the official records on deaths, injuries, and costs - share the info with all of us.
Info is good when it's good and even better when it's shared. Emotions are good when they are needed to vent - but not when objective life saving issues are at hand.
Letting go is also good. And you are only on the tip of the iceberg with your knowledge - however, I think you need to catch up on policies.
And by the way - if we are all on the same fire, digging line, OR Felling, mopping up, etc - then you had all best be qualified as arduous. IF you ain't calling out the monkeys you aren't then YOU are just as liable.

Regarding shots and jumpers and their own standards - they "own" them because they recognize that what they do effects more than themselves, and they train as they fight and to maintain a reserve - through the evolution of these programs - these self imposed standards were proposed by the representative committees themselves. Why don't you start a movement - others have done with good success.

DO TELL what do you think the wildland firefighter's physical test should be:
(This is actually the best forum to share what others would suggest - so that a shot at it - please.

In addition (when you are done)
Tell how you would you administer it across 25,000 annual applicants for firefighters - all positions, all agencies, all cooperators?
Tell how you would do it without violating your best friend's civil rights, privacy laws, and the ADA?
Tell how YOU propose to pay for and monitor all this?


Get off your emotions and get a grip on reality.
If you had the records, what would you say if you found out some who died failed to screen correctly, had contributing factors but didn't mention them, or simply did not know enough to ask for the right information?

Remember, wildland firefighters "officially" requested a better test than the run or step test - and don't you ever forget that. Especially why they asked for it! Remember, 1,000 of us gave our opinions in official information sharing sessions. This was a top issue.

Ps. Jumper standards used to be 20 pull-ups for many years, on top of all the other manly/studly requirements. They were then lowered to seven, (as a political compromise) and, yes they hurt frail male egos. Lowered standard? Sure - but it opened up a whole new world so others could have the opportunity for the experience. (The issue then was upper body strength) Regardless though - they keep their own standards. What are yours?

Signed - (last comment on this issue - until results from your efforts are shared.)
11/7 I updated the Jobs page plus the 0462 and 0455 wildland firefighter jobs series. There is an ad up seeking contract wildland firefighters for next season. Plan ahead.

11/7 WOW!!! What just happened.... the last two weeks are just a blur........

In the last two weeks, we have seen record firefighting efforts in California. There have been a record number of structural losses and even more important.... A RECORD NUMBER OF LIVES and COMMUNITIES saved!!!

Firefighters from throughout the U.S. have answered the call. On just my forest alone, we lost nearly 150,000 acres and over 1000 structures.

My question...... what did NFDRS play in the planning and preparation? It looks like the BI's, ERC's, and 1000 Hr. fuels were all fluctuating with normal "max" seasonal variations as expected..... Some days high ... some days low..... THEN SLAM..... Is NFDRS a reliable tool for stressed brush and dead timber....


From the Acronym List: National Fire Danger Rating System, a multiple index system developed to provide information about current and predicted fire danger conditions: www.fs.fed.us/land/wfas/, for fuel models, www.fs.fed.us/r2/fire/fuelmdls.php.
11/6 Has anybody heard when the investigation of the Cramer Fire fatalities is
due to come out? I'm really interested in what happened.

11/6 Hey Ab, thought everyone should see this.

Wildland Firefighters: Who's Watching, Part 1

11/6 If you were on the Old Fire in California, you might have seen an incident involving the US Fed cops arresting a fire chief for taking fire tools and stuff from fire camp. He used a fire truck and was by himself. The truck had no insurance nor was it licensed properly. And was not even requested to be there. He was there for several days. No "E" number or crew with him. For more info, look under the Dept of Justice in California under press releases. Fire camps may become more strict now because of this.


Got the link? Ab.
11/6 Who is on the Blue Ribbon Commission:

Governor Davis Names Members to Blue Ribbon Fire Commission 11/5/2003

11/6 Hi Ab,

Your site is wonderful - I love the exchanges and feel like good work is being done in the fire community through discussions on this site. Thank you (all) for your excellent page.

Having said that, I would like to reply to two of the going threads:

Gizmo: I don't believe short or long legs has anything to do with your performance on the pack test. It has to do with how efficient your heart is, which is directly connected to your fitness level. For anyone in fire, I suggest learning and utilizing the ideas behind training with a heart rate monitor - the way most competitive endurance athletes train.

I've enjoyed the discussion spurred by Gantenbein's article but I have a question for your readers. I agree that he seems to be trying to antagonize the fire community. But why does the antagonism work? I can only speak from the wildland side, but I have occasionally wondered if the strength of firefighters' reactions to ideas like Gantenbein's doesn't obscure a deeply hidden doubt about the necessity of wildland firefighters.

I read Gantenbein's article in Outside when it was published. I have to admit, I was impressed someone was gutsy enough to suggest in print that we get rid of smokejumpers. If a fire is so remote that it cannot be driven to or flown to by helicopter in a reasonable amount of time, why put it out? Catch it small, right? That's the fun thing (and the adrenaline junkie thing) to do, but - I know the readers of this site know this - that action has created the fuels problem we have today. I find it very hard to put my heart into cutting line on fires where nothing is at risk - except us. More and more I'm finding it difficult to justify this lifestyle to myself - I often feel I am taking very unnecessary risks for nothing.

OK - here's my question in a nutshell. Excluding saving homes and other valuables such as timber sales, what is the meaning in wildland fire?

I hope that I'm not pressing the antagonism button like Gantenbein; this question has haunted me ever since I was red carded (1996).


I am antagonized by Gantenbein's most recent MSN-Slate article because he is a person who, from one prior article I read, seems to have a gift for communication. Rather than using his talent to enlighten and inform, he seems to be using it as a lever and fulcrum to manipulate, polarize and inflame. Was his goal to increase his book sales? I cannot imagine why he'd post such a compromised inflammatory article otherwise. Do you honestly think his MSN-Slate article was logical and insightful, demonstrating a knowledge of firefighters and what they do?

In contrast to the MSN-Slate article, his article in Outside Magazine was well written and fairly well researched. It promoted discussion, not polarization. We even had some good discussions over that one here at theysaid. If Gantenbein CAN do good work, what happened this time? I think the assignment given him by MSN-Slate was to write an inflammatory article. IMO, he complied, sold out, and went over to the Dark Side...

My opinion. Ab.
11/6 Re the WCT:

I would hope people will ALWAYS remember those who DIED while practicing for or taking the "pack-test". They only wanted to do their jobs, which they had performed before the pack-test killed them. How many know it is still not "Officially Approved" by the Chief of the Forest Service for use? It really doesn't prove anything at all except that you can carry 45lbs on a flat surface. If this is such a great test that will "Save Us All" then why do shot crews and jumpers still have their own fitness quotas and why aren't the levels the same for all Agencies? Maybe the FS "Has Higher Standards for it's Employees" Then why not make everyone in the FS Arduous?

Who is keeping track of the deaths, injuries, and medical costs due to the pack-test? Where can these records be found? Also, when you go to get a physical, the doctor is given the form to evaluate you on your duties on the job, NOT the performance of the pack-test. EXACTLY WHERE on the form do they check off Work Capacity Test? Any doctor would be a fool to sign off on that........ Since the "Debate" is started again, if we are all to be on the same same fire, same line, digging line, OR felling, mopping up, etc. THEN why isn't everyone tested at ARDUOUS (Because it's such a great test). Just to cut down on HEART ATTACKS. Give me a break. (So the people who had heart attacks this season must not have taken the test?) What test do we have to perform to stop people from getting Burned over OR Burned UP? Then those statistics will go down too?...We all must take defensive driving, that's cut the accident rates down also. Maybe we need some sort of obstacle course test to weed out those who can't walk in the woods so we can cut down the statistics on "sprains and strains". If you believe this is the only "test" I hope you broaden your knowledge with research on this and exactly how it came about.

Just adding a little TOBASCO to the pot..........

11/6 GIZMO

Get over it. I am a short guy and have pack tested since the beginning, Yes
the long-legers walk away from me. I pushed hard this year and scored a
40:38. When we did the 1 1/2 run I would watch as stride for stride the
long-legers would push off into the distance... But there are advantages to
being vertically challenged ....like when we fall we don't have so far to

11/6 First of all, I want to thank all of those who worked so hard and long on the fires in Southern California in late October. I wish I could have been there to help. I know many people appreciate the hard work that all the firefighters and the support staff did in the teeth of such a conflagration.

I send my deepest regrets to the Rucker family, I am sorry for your loss. I would also offer get well greeting and wishes to Capt. Doug McDonald, I may have worked with him or been in classes with him. Also, get well wishes to the two other firefighters who were injured as well, Eng. Shawn Kreps and FF/P Barrett Smith.
My respect and sympathy to the Novato Fire District.

I ask this in the kindest and most gentle way, maybe some CDF officers know. How much of the fire areas in the south was state responsibility area, and how much was in local responsibility area? The reason I would like to know is this "FEE" that the state legislature has stuck on folks that are in CDF served areas. My point being when large scale fires happen, like the SoCal firestorm 2003, that everyone benefits from CDF. I think that since these types of incidents happen on a cyclic basis that maybe the whole state needs to pay the freight to some extent or another.

I would like to start gathering statistics on who gets what and who has to pay for it. I am by no means bitching at CDF, my beef is with the paper pushers who vote themselves a raise in Sacramento. To restate my platform, CDF is a good thing and at a pretty reasonable price, I don't think just a few should pay for the many.

Thanks again for all the dirty, hot, nasty, sleepless, grinding work.
You folks did GOOD!

Retired L.A.V.E.
11/6 Hi,

I'm trying to get copies of any and all investigation reports on Wildland FF fatalities, shelter deployments, or near misses. This included both state and any federal agency. I'm also looking for the "Management Evaluation Reports" of fed investigations which are often not made public.

I'm actively involved in instruction for several type 2 crews in Southern California. This info would be used as "teaching/learning points" not to cast a bad light on anyone.

I've known several FF's who paid the ultimate price and was deeply involved in one fatality investigation several yrs ago. This topic is of special interest and importance to me.

I can be reached via E-mail at JRBFIRETCH@aol.com or via snail mail at PO BX 1705 Glendora Ca. 91740

John R. Bennett
11/6 Re: Rose Valley

the Rose Valley night flyer, H-29, was involved with
LACO 14 on the Middle Fire in 1977.

however the Rose Valley Flight crew continued into the
mid 1980's, moving to Casitas Springs.

the mid air did cause a stand down and a re-evaluation
of the safety and viability of night flying
operations, however the program resumed the following
season, 1978.

night flying, utilizing night vision goggles, nvg's
is standard operating procedure for the military. and
the agency night flying pilots all met the
requirements of the time.

the night flying came to an end as a result of the
costs associated with the contract - twin engine a/c,
pilot quals, # of of pilots, # of personnel to staff a
24 hr operational period - and not as a direct result
of the mid air.

for those that were around in that era, the night
flyers, when utilized, were a very effective tool,
water dropping particularly during night shifts (seems
we've lost night shifts too these days). and were also
used for medivacs.

Chantry Flats, on the ANF, was also a night flyer
operation. (Dick Black, a pilot there and at Rose
Valley, Hugh Carson posted concerning his recent
passing, was involved in the mid air.)

11/6 The best point against night flying is the deaths of the two night flyer
pilots in 1977 Middle Fire that landed on each other during night
operations. This was the end of the Rose Valley Night Flyer program for the
US Forest Service.

FC 180

If anyone is wondering why the night flying issue came up at all, those reporting on the Cedar Fire did a piece suggesting that air tankers should have been deployed when the fire was small as it was becoming dark. ATs are restricted from flying then. Safety for firefighters must always come first. Ab.
11/6 WCT has proven its worth!

People can judge all they want about the merits of the work capacity test,
and they can gripe at the advantages (perceived) of some, and the
limitations of others. But we need to remember - the reason the agencies
went to the work capacity test was to insure that people who perform
arduous duty - have some type of realistic fitness testing.

The run was used, but what did that prove - except that you were either a
damn good runner or a slow downtown slug.
The step test was used for many years, but did it actually reflect a 14
hour shift, hiking and lugging around gear, pulling hose, climbing hills,
digging line, running saw? No, it showed that you could climb up and down
on a box for a certain amount of limited time (if your knees didn't buckle,
oh - God forbid - you fell down and clipped an ankle. And it also proved
whether or not you had a pulse. Other than that, administering the test,
taking the test, measuring the pulse counts - all of that - was found over
time that the test could be beat, and it was not a true measure of aerobic

The work capacity test...... Anyone remember a report that was put out by
MTDC several years ago that analyzed firefighter fatalities from 1990-1999?
I believe Missoula Technology Development Center put it out with
significant research behind it. One of the things vividly revealing was
that in the entire wildland firefighting community - the number #1 killer
of line firefighters were heart attacks. Heart attacks, strokes and
aneurysms were the most prolific and stark killer of wildland firefighters.

Now, the work capacity test has been around for several years, Yes, a few
have perished while training for the test; some unknowingly did not
recognize what level they really needed to train for. Some did not bother
to self-screen themselves for predisposing factors, and some did not follow
through with an appropriate visit to their physician. But think about how
much effort, and time, it takes to institutionalize a process. Think of
how many actually got scared out of the arduous business because truthfully
- with self screening - they knew the doctor's office was the next lap they
had to take instead of on the track. Right or wrong, talk or short, heavy
or lithe - the test works (I know there will be disagreement with this
comment.) However - before the ire is raised - consider this: since
screening has been adopted, since medical check-ups have been required,
since people suddenly had a personal choice to either continue to go
arduous - or maybe help out in another way (such as a light duty position -
yet still an important and vital one) - the number of fireline fatalities
due to heart attacks has dropped significantly!!!

Maybe it ain't the best thing out there, maybe it is too hard for lardbutts
like me - but it does save lives when honesty prevails and wisdom drives
personal decision making. Think about it. Who do you want next to you on
the fireline?

-signed "Aortic Pentameter"

11/6 Mellie,

As "too tired..." mentioned, the agreements with the military are in the
National Mob Guide. As I understand it, NORTHCOM is the current military
contact for the National MAC, but it changes every so often. The agreements
are standing, the contacts are made on a when-needed basis. Military
liaisons (DCO - Defense Coordinating Officer) are placed at NIFC when needed
(like when we're approaching National Preparedness Level 5). Those DOCs and
NIFC staff handle the contacts for military forces, both aerial and
groundpounders. National MAC assesses the actual need for military
resources, with input from Geographic Area MACs. Most of this is in the
Nat'l Mob Guide.

The processes are generally evolving, but I'm not sure what your "all-risk"
question is asking. Wildland fires aren't all-risk - they are wildland
fires. However, forces that have been traditionally "wildland fire" are
responding to other types of incidents (aka all-risk) besides wildland

MAC (Multi-Agency Coordination) Groups are set up at the National (NMAC) and
Geographic Area (GMAC) level during times of complex multiple incidents to
determine priorities for resource allocation to incidents/areas under its
jurisdiction, assess and report on the current and projected situations and
plan contingencies, assess the need for additional resources and address
acquisition, identify and resolve issues and conflicts, serve as a contact
point for agency administrators and media, give direction to the
coordination center under its jurisdiction, etc. MAC Groups can be set up
at a sub-geographic area level if needed.

Some MAC Groups have on-line info. Check in the National Interagency
Coordination Center (NICC) and Geographic Area Coordination Center
websites. Here is NMAC:
Here is a link to the Southwest Area MAC Group Handbook:

Area Command (AC) teams are different than MAC. AC is a command structure
over several incident management teams (IMTs) to relieve the unit agency
administrators (and MAC Groups) of dealing with several incident management
teams. Think of ACs as a span-of-control thing brought in when there are
too many incidents in a jurisdiction - ACs directly oversee all the
incidents under their jurisdiction, allocate resources, make reports etc.
They are ordered by, and report to unit agency administrators.

MAC Groups don't oversee incidents - ACs and IMTs do that, and the agency
units oversee the ACs and IMTs. MAC Groups work more on the coordination
and big-picture end of things, like resource allocation and acquisition,
incident prioritization, cooperation, agency policy interpretation and
implementation. They report to Geographic Area or National level agency
administrators. Local MACS of course report to local agency
administrators. The National MAC is known as the Big MAC.

I could go on, but look into the Nat'l Mob Guide, NICC website, and some
Geo. Area Coordination Center sites, and ask me if you have more questions.

11/6 Thanks Nerd on the Fireline,

I checked out the archives, but most of it was about the weight and
death issues, I'm more interested in the height issue. But it was
usefull info. In my forest there's a guy that takes the step test
because he is too short to pass the pack test, I'm just curious as to
what the height limitation is, if anyone knows.

11/6 To one of the posts I saw a ways back:

The State of Arizona sent out 62 engines to help with the California
wildfires. This response included type 6 through Type I engines, including several
heavies from the Phoenix metro area. This is a result of a new state mutual aid
system just put into place, and of several "structure" departments who have
stepped up to include wildland fire fighting in their qualifications. Several
Type 1 engines were in the thick of the Cedar Fire at its high point, and I
was told 64 out of 80 something homes were saved by 2 Strike Teams of heavies,
some on their first ever wildland fire assignment. They arrived in Julian
about 7 hours after leaving Arizona, and went right into the fight for about 36
hours straight.

I myself was put into a "cover" assignment out on a forest near LA, and bit
my nails hoping to get some action, but it didnt happen. I'm proud of the
support Arizona gave to California when they FINALLY asked for it.

AZ Firefighter
11/6 Having just perused the posts I saw references to a
Slate.com article concerning firefighters as heroes,
read it, and felt the need to respond.

Having been involved in both wildland and structural
fire since 1989 I have yet to look back and see where
I once earned the title "Hero". I do a job. Hazardous,
at times frightening, but a job none the less. I have
put my life on the line for others well being and to
save their property. I don't have a problem doing
things that others wouldn't do for any money. Of
course I'm an adrenaline junkie. The reason I continue
is that I love what I do. The pay sucks (wildland
USFS), the hours seem to go on and on, recognition
from overhead for a job well done is near non
existent yet I still do it. Primarily because I get
to do seriously fun stuff that would be impossible
outside the job. Helo flights, setting a torch to the
ground in mid August, Hiking in wild areas few if any
ever see, standing to watch a 100'+ wall of flame roll
through the woods and on and on.

Now before you BBQ me let me also say that the writer
of the Slate.com article is way off base. Firefighters
are a tight knit group and we are well aware of the
horror of a death by fire. Knowing someone who has
died in a way you may one day face yourself brings
such events close to home. While our work may not make
the top 10 in hazardous jobs, pizza delivery folks
don't walk into burning buildings or dig line for
miles through rugged terrain with fire roaring around
through the woods. They don't get to explain to a
woman that her child is dead and there is nothing that
can be done. They don't see the bodies, abuse, fear,
rage, blood. Some of us ARE heroes. Friends of mine
in fire have done truly heroic things. We need to hold
the title as sacred and for the truly deserving. Just
having the job title Firefighter Doesn't make one a
hero. Doing a heroic act does. Encouraging the title
without the act demeans all of us and our profession.


Medium rare or well done? We wouldn't bbq you. Ab.
11/6 Excellent post on aerial support and groundpounder actions.
airtanker message board

11/6 Found this on the web: lessons learned, etc., from the 1993 SoCal fires (pdf file, 964 K)

Makes for interesting reading (especially comparison with the 2003 events).

Hugh Carson
11/6 Thanks Tired,

I already have been doing some research there. (BTW, the "brush pines"
are called the "pine barrens" by the locals. Both descriptions conjure up
the image of light flashy fuels, and they are!)

11/6 MACS acronym for Multi-Agency Coordination System "the function of MACS is the combination of facilities, equipment, procedures and communications integrated into a common system with responsibility for coordination of assisting agency resources and support to agency emergency operations". copied directly from the FIRESCOPE ICS manual.

11/6 Being 67 years old and carrying a current red card, I do not see what all the concern ever year over the "pack test" is. I have no problem with it. If all of the complaines would get off their duffs, do a little running ever day and work out in the gym a few times a week they would pass it and would not have to complain. I would like to hear from any other FF in their late 60's and above who are still carrying a red card.

The old man of the Dept.
11/5 Howdy, Abs!

Thanks Sammi, (see Familysaid)

Very eloquent words, spoken from the heart.

My dear wife is a captain in the Calif. Fire Service.
I worry myself sick every shift she works, 'cause ya never know,
do ya?

Thanks also to the Brothers in FDNY, they get it.

And last but not least, this is for you, Gantenbein....come ride with
me in my own little slice of cushy hell here in Central Calif.
Guaranteed it'll be more than your wanna be ass can handle.

Captain Emmett
IAFF Local 2881 and Damn Proud of it!
11/5 Dear Steve,

At the beginning of my tour, i picked up the Douglas Gantenbein article on "Smoke & Mirror" stop calling firefighters heroes. Myself and a bunch of my colleagues were disgusted by what we read. I appreciate the rebuttal i just viewed on line. It's good to see that a fellow firefighter knows what the job is all about. Thank you for speaking up and defending our pride.

sincerely FDNY L- 106 & Eng. 238.
FF. Mario Polit, FF. David Goldstein, FF. Thomas Signor and all the other brothers in our house.
11/5 As someone with a 29" inseam, I concur with gizmo's comments. It's simply
a matter of physics. Longer legs will take longer strides and require fewer
strides to cover a given distance than shorter legs.

Division Chief
11/5 AAaaaargh! Gizmo restarted the pack test debate! Run for the hills! But
seriously folks…Gizmo, I recommend checking the archives. There was
a humungous go-round about the pack test this past spring, just before
fires really started popping.

Nerd on the Fireline

P.S. I think the pack test makes sense, actually. It’s closer to what I
really wind up doing on a fire than any other fitness test I’ve heard of.
11/5 Mellie:

The national mobilization guide, NICC's "bible" - contains all of the
agreements with the Department of Defense. Including those for MAFFS
activations; Smokejumpers and Special Forces Agreements; AND, the Economy
Act - which anyone willing to critic the activation of large air tankers
should familiarize themselves with before they rush to judgment.

Then one must also consider that out of the 4 MAFFS Units (Air Bases); that
three of the Units can be activated at the Governor of that State's
Request (three units are Army Air Guard; the other is Air Force Reserve).
Some of what happened last week in SoCal reminded us of the pissing match
that was entered into during the Long Island Fires (Sunrise Fire, 1995)
when the then Director of FEMA got into it with a political appointee in Ag
- neither one of them knowing squat about the activation process - and the
then Sen. Al D'Amato's house was threatened in the Long Island brush pines
- (sound familiar?). It's all in the Mobe Guide for a reason.

NIFC / NICC is a well oiled machine; there's just a lot most folks don't
know or understand about its role and mission: go to www.nifc.gov - and
start exploring from there - have fun!

Signed: "too tired to try to explain at the moment."
11/5 Firescribe,

I'll bet that the "Rim of the World" owner's monthly bandwidth use information hasn't come in from his Internet Service Provider yet. Wait until he's slapped with a thousands-of-dollars fine at the end of the month. Readers may not know, but website size category and the associated fees a website pays determine both the amount of "storage" allocated and the "bandwidth use" a website is allowed. Bandwidth use occurs when people view any page. It is the pull on or download from the website as the info is transferred to a personal computer. When we say we have in excess of 200,000 unique visitors on average in a month, we're talking about bandwidth use. (Unique visitors went up dramatically in the last week.) The upside is that it's a measure of popularity; the downside is that it is a measure of expense, sometimes HUGE expense. If those visitors come back, over and over again for info, to view photos, or to access fire links, bandwidth use goes up even more. The ISP sends out a warning when you approach your storage limit and you get shut down when you reach it. Bandwidth use, in contrast, is not under the ISP or the webmaster's control. Visitors decide to come, visitors use bandwidth. When allowable bandwidth is exceeded, there is no ISP warning, only a fine.

As I said, bandwidth use is not under ISP or webmaster control. If someone like NOVA or National Geographic links to a website and that increases visitors to the site, it increases the website's bandwidth usage. Events such as fire emergencies increase the traffic to fire websites, especially if they are high on the list of a Google keyword search, as we are at wildlandfire.com. When wildland fire is in the news, we get more traffic. If a website goes over its allocated bandwidth, the ISP fines it for the over-use and uncontrollable costs to the website can mount astronomically and without warning.

I have heard this is what happened to the IncidentControl.com site, a private and volunteer fire information site that a few the rural folks near Arrowhead and Big Bear had set up and that the community had come to rely on. The original Type II Incident Command Team had begun disseminating info on the volunteer site and the Team taking over in the crisis continued making info available that way. When costs mounted dramatically, the volunteer website abruptly ceased coverage of the OLD and the GRAND PRIX fires. They put a forwarding link to the FS web, which didn't have any useful places to send viewers anyway. They said they alerted the Forest Service 24 hours in advance of taking down the fire pages info. They didn't alert the public. This was at a critical time when the fire was advancing toward the communities. At that time, there was no federal or state site providing information to the public via the web.

We posted summaries of the Old and Grand Prix and Padua fire information for several days in the breech. A few fed readers and friends I contacted alerted the Information people on the Old Fire, the R5 FAM web person and South Ops. The R5 Fire web person was off on a fire assignment. No help there. We had huge numbers of the public desperately seeking information here until the Old Fire Info staff worked out a fine solution with the San Bernardino Fire Information Joint Information Center. Kudos to them for doing that overnight. Even so, it took a while for links to be set up so that the public could find that new source of information. Such links should be available RIGHT AWAY from the main FS (and BLM, NPS etc) websites as well as the regional FS website. South Ops News and Notes is usually a good place to find emerging information, especially for firefighters.

I realize all of us were very busy and scrambling on the SoCal fires. I was happy to help with time (and money) to fill a need. But lack of useful, consistent and reliable internet information is definitely one of the holes in the Swiss Cheese Model that has been used to describe tragedies after the fact, and one that should be remedied ASAP.

It is much more efficacious for the Public to be able to go to a website and pull information than for Fire Team Info folks to have to fax it out or answer phone calls. In my opinion, the website should look different with more meaningful useable space than the regular "Forest Service template" allows. The top of the page should contain the most critical info that catches the eye, forget the canned agency stuff. It is interagency and should reflect that characteristic. It should have links to all pertinent information, including quality maps, road closures, evacuation info, cooperator websites and photos if there's time. This incident web format works well. It was used consistently in 2001. Since then its use seems to be hit and miss. Perhaps in the future a website could have info on which houses burned and which survived. At the moment we're needing an even more basic level of critical survival information than that. Those administering the fire website should not have to go through the normal and time consuming "compliance checking" that goes on with many template FS or BLM non-fire websites. Maybe there needs to be a special server that allows "on the fly" updating of information.

It is also much more fitting that the government bear the expense of running a server that has such "real time" info on it that is not likely to be taken offline at a critical time. The Public deserves access to information that has been verified for correctness and kept up to "real time" as much as possible. They should not have to rely on volunteer sites where info could be incorrect and that may be taken down when the volunteers get overwhelmed.

Is Ab really saying this??? Yep. We've been at this for a while and plan to not get overwhelmed. We plan to keep checking and double-checking to keep our information reliable. We had a hell'ofa good time last week filling the information gap. However, we ALL need the BEST INFORMATION in our arsenal of tools, whether it relates to fire or some other incident in the ALL RISK category.

Keep up the good work all you web fire folks who are trying to find a web info solution. R5, I challenge you to think outside of the box. Put aside any turf considerations, figure out how to get exceptions made to all the red tape "official" web pages have to jump through, try to make a site real time... and, you oldsters, listen to the younger folks who have grown up on computers and are adept at using computers as databases. (My dear retired oldster friend, Original Ab is an exception. He's proven himself a web visionary and very adept at that database stuff.)

We all need to work together to come up with a solution to the need for EXCELLENT and TIMELY information.

11/5 From Firescribe

Regarding the internet and information on fires, if there is no official government fire
site, we will have citizen reporters trucking into the fire to get information to post on
websites like the one described HERE.
11/5 I was just wondering about other peoples thoughts on the WCT pack test
for the Feds. Honestly, I think it is slightly unfair. If you have
ever just sat and watched you might know what I mean. The tall people
make it look like a walk in the park, like they aren't even trying, but
the short people are moving their legs as fast as they can without
running, and half the time they get told to slow down because it looks
like they are running. If they slow down they won't make it in time,
but if they stay at the same pace they may get disqualified. Does anyone
else feel the same.

11/5 AB:

FC 180 hits it on the head! A work/rest concept is great to have, but there are times when the work MUST get done. Sometimes this requires us to STAY on the line and get the job done. There were MANY instances of this that occurred last week in Southern California.

My goal as a supervisor, is to keep my people safe, but give the citizens we serve the maximum effort at a time like this. In CDF, we are BLESSED with a motel policy. This is often overlooked by those who do not possess this benefit as a overrated perk. NOT SO! and here is a classic example -the extended shift.

I work my people 36+ hours on the fire line yes. But I have the benefit of getting them into a QUALITY rest cycle for 12 hours in a bed that is comfortable and has heat and air. They are not in a tent laying on the ground, waking up with sore backs and rotten asses from being too tired to get in the shower line. They are clean, they are rested, they are fed, and they are ready to go.

This is a fact, because I observed it last week.

Because they were all of these things, the firefighters were ready to get after it again. In CDF, it is very common to have long shifts, roll back into a station and start another long active shift of initial attack activity or medical aids, structure fires, or vehicle accidents. CDF Firefighters are used to interrupted sleep cycles.

The quality rest cycle (even though it may be shorter) provided by off site accommodations, allows crews to perform at a much higher efficiency with higher morale.

Because they were working in these improved conditions, they saved more property and put in more line. This reduced costs overall to the taxpayer, the homeowner, and the insurance companies.

"Another CDF BC"
11/5 Hey ALL,

Just a reminder that you should go to the Stihl Heroism Award site and nominate someone you think performed heroically this summer. The banner is at the top of the page. Click on it and browse and submit your nominee.

11/5 Hotshot Slang:

just thought i would drop you a few lines that I grew up with

Motel-attack= helislugs

Iron man = 3 to 4 fingers of instant coffee in a standard issued quart canteen, depending
on the expected length of the shift.

Hotshot Taxi = any type of helicopter used to shuttle in hotshot crews


For those who haven't seen them, here's our current list of Wildland Firefighter Slang and terminology. All in fun, of course. Ab.
11/5 Nothing stirs the mind like controversy.

Been reading the articles and comments from the San Diego area and aviators about the nightime flying hazards during fires. Some are true and some not so true, the untruths usually spoken by the uninformed person(s).

Flying at night with night vision goggles on a fire is not dangerous, if the pilot is properly trained and using the state of the art goggles. Like Anvis-9 Pinnacles manufactured by ITT. They do not blank out or completely white out as they have automatic brightening features that prevent this. Flying with night visions goggles (NVG's) could be an asset in aerial night mapping, moving firefighters to and from remote sites at night, performing night Search & Rescue missions, assisting in Evacuations, etc. However, missions like rappelling, longline operations and water bucket drops might pose unacceptable hazards. And I doubt that using NVG's during the Cedar fire start by the San Diego Deputies would have made a difference in the outcome.

For the old military aviators and pilots out there that flew with the old style NVG's, try the new stuff, you'd be amazed at the technology available today in regards to night flying. Or, contact Aviations Specialties Unlimited, Boise, Idaho, representative for ITT Night Vision Devices.

Oh yea, I've been flying with NVG's for the last three years, and on some fires, and I love it. Its a whole new world out there.

11/5 Does anyone know where I can buy black Nomex BDU's?

11/4 Jim and All,

The wildlandfire.com page I find most useful (aside from theysaid) when I'm away from
my office is the links page. I may not have my computer along and may not have my usual
links and lists. Ab, it is a life saver to have all the links.


That page really helps me when I'm on the road, too. ;-) Ab.

11/4 I'm trying to understand two more pieces of this puzzle called INTERAGENCY.

I know that NIFC has agreements with the military to help with firefighting when needed,
but I still don't understand how it works exactly. Does anyone know if "the U.S. Northern
Command" talked about in this article is the Defense Department aircraft and crews.
Anything else?

Northern Command Reports on Southern California Fire Fighting Efforts

Are there standing MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) negotiated before fire season?
Or are the agreements made only when the need is recognized, like they say in the article?
Are any of the processes likely to change now with wildland fire becoming "all risk"? How
does it work with groundpounders and is that different from the process with aircraft (MAFFS)?

The other piece I'm trying to understand is how the MAC Groups are constituted and how
they work. (MAC = Multiple Agency Coordinating Center, Big MAC anyone?)

From what I understand, when fires like those in Southern CA get multiple and large and
resources need to be shared between agencies and jurisdictions (and incidents?) for strategic
success of ALL fires, an Area Command steps in to coordinate resources, set priorities (and
determine tactics?) at the higher level of complexity. It's another ICS level above the incident
command teams from different jurisdictions. Or does it commonly oversee different incidents,
like Mann did on the Old, the Grand Prix and the Padua Fires? There was another Area Command
on the Cedar and Paradise Fires too. Those fires involved SRA and Counties and Communities
and Federal Lands with complex issues. Is this why the MAC Group set priorities?

Would a MAC Group ever oversee a CDF incident and an incident in which the feds have
the lead? What kinds of complex situations do MAC Groups not oversee?

I'd appreciate any clarification.


11/4 hello

my name is Brian Bornemann i am interested in becoming a wild land firefighter. however I do not know what are the proper steps to take. also i live in Illinois which isn't exactly wildfire rich. If you could please send me some information about the profession, requirements and training needed i would appreciate it. Please respond to this email address: bbornemann@student.jjc.edu This is my personal email account.

Thank You very much! Brian
11/4 I agree with Gantenbein on a few things like firefighting is fun and
exciting, that we're adrenaline junkies and we love the rush. It's true
there is nothing like the feeling of flames kissing your cheek as you
dig a line around the fire, however, it only takes a slight change of
wind direction and you can be screwed. I don't consider myself a hero,
I just love what I do, but I don't get upset if someone else sees me as
a hero. Everybody needs a hero in life, someone to look up to, and like
someone said earlier, it's better a firefighter than a drugged up rock
star or someone of the like. All I have to say is that I'd like to see
Gantenbein out on the line for 16+ hours, pounding ground, digging line,
breathing smoke in 95 degrees, and then come back and tell everyone how
cushy this job really is.

11/4 How do I contact California Dozer Operators Group?

Can't find a website?

Jim Miller
Wheeler Crest Fire Protection District


In light of the recent socal fire bust where wildland mixes with structural
I am posting my reply to the pathetic article- A copy of what I posted on

As I read the article initially it infuriated me for the inaccuracies. Then
I realized that it reflected a number of misconceptions that are prevalent
throughout the general public. Before I became immersed in the world of
firefighting from both a wildland fire and municipal fire perspective I
probably would have believed the points made in the article. Now that I
have friends and loved ones involved in municipal fire (and spend way too
much time in stations bringing and eating meals with them) and am involved
in wildland fire myself I can see the obvious factual errors that take
actual research and knowledge to identify.

I am not going to do a point by point reply because my reply would be
longer than the article itself due to my desire to throw fact upon fact
back at the gross assumptions the author used. I will leave it at this- if
this pathetic excuse for a journalist wishes to obtain facts for his next
article- please contact the professionals and do a balanced view.

Firefighters/Paramedics/Ambulances/Emergency Services in general are not
always paid for what they do in any particular shift (and by the way shifts
and schedules vary by region) they are paid for what they will do when a
tragedy or emergency does occur. They are prepared because they are our
insurance policy as the general public.

And on a personal note- I never realized what we asked our firefighters to
do until I was sitting at home watching the breaking news on a fire at the
AirGas plant in my town. I watched canisters exploding and flying through
the air, I watched people being evacuated from their homes, I watched
firefighters battling to stop the blaze before it reached a certain
building (for if it hit that building there would be a large boom and a
sudden going away of things). I called my sweetheart to get more
information and as his cell phone went to the answering service and the
station phone didn't pick up I realized he was one of those firefighters in
the middle of the fray. I was glued to all coverage for the next 5 hours
praying he and the rest of the group would come home safe that night from
the scene described by those there as a "war zone". Everyone made it home
safe that night.

We are public servants- and we ask for no more recognition than our service

Also on a side note- go to familysaid and read Sammi's reply. Right on
Sammi- you have captured the emotions eloquently.

11/4 Ab & Ab's group of helpers

Ive been an avid follower of this site pretty much since its inception,
however it has only been the last few months as I was scattering about
the country away from work and home that I realized how much I utilize
and depend on wildlandfire.com.

Needed a link to some state or federal fire agency? Wildlandfire.com
has em listed.
Want to see whats new in the federal fire related jobs listing?
Wildlandfire.com has it.
Remember somebody talking about some obscure subject on they said a
while ago and now you need to know more? You can search the They Said
Need an image for some training or presentation? Wildlandfire.com
probably has one.
Need to find the email address of some federal employee, cant remember
what the address is to the Sit report, or you are wondering if there is
any information on the web of some far off fire? Wildlandfire.com has
it or a link to it.

And the list goes on... On top of all that is the They Said forum,
something I probably didn't appreciate as much as I do now after I
visited the slate message and all the drivel posted there related to the
gantenbien article. Thank "religious figure of choice" (hows that for
politically correct!!! HA!) for all the work the Abs do in filtering out
the slop yet letting everyone have their say.

Ive said it before, but its worth repeating..Thank you Ab (s) for all
your work! WELL DONE!

Jim Gobel

Thanks Jim. Ab.
11/4 Here's the Steve Rucker website at the Novato Fire Protection District.
It includes information on memorial service, photos, a biography, list of
condolences, etc.

Tahoe Terrie
11/4 Thanks Stephen Myers, this gantenbein is an idiot!

11/3 Look for Bush on the news tomorrow at the Cedar Fire.

SoCal FF
11/3 From Firescribe:

Fires add new spark to forest debate

Anyone see this "massive Brush Buster" described here? Foiling wildfire Have photos anyone?

Earlier fiascos spawned fire control center about South OPs and the 1970s origin of the Incident Command System.

11/3 Federal Firefighters Elect Vice President to CPF Executive Board - 10/31/2003

This month Mike Massone of San Diego, Local F-33 and Ned Payne of Vandenberg Professional Firefighters, F-116 were candidates in the election to represent the federal firefighters in the CPF 5th District. The election results were tallied last Friday and congratulations go to Mike Massone.

Both Mike Massone and Ned Payne were apprised of the election results late Friday afternoon. Acknowledging both candidates, President Dan Terry stated, “I am pleased with their commitment and enthusiasm to serve the members of this great organization.”

Mike Massone will be officially sworn in as 5th District Vice President at CPF’s next Executive Board meeting.
11/3 After following the threads at slate.msn.com for the last couple of days, I'm writing here to discourage anyone else from doing so. Aside from the obnoxious "cheeky little negligee" pop-up commercial, there is little of interest. Suffice to say that there is a large outpouring of negative and hostile responses with a few scattered positives. I was interested if Gantenbein had any comment on my rebuttal, but failed to see any acknowledgement.

What I did see was Gantenbein again and again provoking posters by replying to carefully selected posts. He used them to try and support his distorted perception of firefighters in general. Many of the postings from firefighters across the nation were hostile and most likely triggered by emotions overriding their common sense. While I disagree with some of the verbiage in their posts, I understand and sympathize with their motives. Gantenbein, on the other hand, is delightedly using these emotions against them as he deliberately crafts his replies to elicit additional hostility.

I fail to imagine any pride Gantenbein can feel as he employs his journalistic prowess and media skills against those whose hands are more familiar with sharp-edged tools used to save lives than they are producing cutting phrases or wily words. I can however, visualize him boasting loudly and gleefully to his peers at his latest journalistic triumph. I also have this image of those who know him best exchanging sideways glances, rolled eyes, or sly "here we go again" nudges.

While reading his replies and repeated goading I was reminded of an undisciplined child I once saw at a zoo enthusiastically throwing pebbles at the bears and poking a branch at a lion. How arrogant and secure the child was with those bars separating him from the beasts. And I laughed aloud, when the lion produced out a mild roar of protest, at how the child squeaked with alarm and ran for the safety of his mother's arms, from whose soothing comfort he shrieked his indignation.

When the mother glared at me in annoyance, I again laughed aloud and walked away.

Remember readers, with most discussions, even when you violently disagree, there may still be valuable information gathered. Understanding your adversaries weapons, when and how they are used, may then be negated or even used against them.

Thanks for the encouraging words from those who read my original comments on this subject. I now laugh to myself and once again walk away.

Stephen Myers

Thanks for sticking up for wildland (and structural) firefighters, Steve. I did notice this morning that Gantenbein answered one of the firefighters who supported your post and said he wasn't buying G's book. G doesn't go head-to-head with those who write the best posts but waits to reply to those who may not be so articulate who are in support of the original critique-er. Characteristics of a bully or coward? OK, enuf, I'm not looking again. Ab.
11/3 Thanks San Diego Resident.
I see I have my work cut out for me.

Member Of The Public
11/3 For more information about aircraft flying at night and comments on it try the assoc. airtanker pilots page, message board. www.airtanker.com Or go through the link page under "Avaition"

11/3 Hey,

I was wondering if anyone knows if Sextons Type 1 incident management
team has a website?


Hi HH. We work at keeping team links current. You can always find what is available by going to the Links page and clicking Federal. We have two team page lists there (about 4th from the top), Type I and Type II. If you go directly to Type I Teams page, and go from there you'll see that the Great Basin teams, including Sexton's team, have only a Team Roster. To the best of our knowledge this is all that is available on the internet. Ab.
11/3 Falling/Driving:

Hey Ab,

As an ex faller and hotshot, I just wanted to weigh in on the subject. Raker Shaker is right. If there could be an enforced certification program, that would get more hazard trees on the ground safely. I have seen self proclaimed expert fallers blow a lay-up as well as marginally trained hotshots do a fine job laying a tough burning snag side hill. The only thing that can minimize the unforseen is experience. It's impossible to always have professional fallers, but training sawyers on type 1 crews professionally is doable and should be mandatory.

On the driving issue- Put yourself in his shoes- You're a 23 year old squad boss on a hotshot crew, you are awakened at 2am in fire camp because you have been reassigned after four tough shifts. (been there) I can hear it now, "gee mr supt, the sandman has not visited me quite long enough, could you try me again in four hours?"- not gonna happen in the real world, at least if you want a rehire! Machismo is a powerful force and it puts out a lot of fires. It should be up to those assigning crews to be sure they are adequately rested.

11/3 First off let me start by saying that I serve as both a Firefighter/EMT and Chaplain in a Combo Vollie/Paid department. so. I imagine that my opinion is somewhat one sided. This article is nothing short of a slap in the face to every Firefighter in the country weather they be Vollie or fulltime. a previous writer rebutted most of this Article very well so. I see know need to rehash his thoughts. What I would like to however, is add a few more. I just spent a year of my time taking courses in Wildland, anatomy, and EMS to improve my skills so that I can be a better responder to the citizens in my community. and I am not the only one. we take a lot of classes to make us better at our jobs. we need to be proficient. after all we may someday be called to fight a fire on the Wildland interface proerty tha this writer lives in. or perhaps he will need medical assistance, I would hate to think that the over 1000 hours of EMS training I have taken this year would not perhaps serve this man some good if he needed it. and I am sure i speak for all of us when I say, I just love missing out on the high points of my children's live just so I can get my adrenaline fix. I am a Vollie, I am ready a moments notice to respond to the fire and EMS needs of my community as are over 500,000 vollies nation wide. and I dont know were he gets his numbers, but there are Engines in phoenix that run upwards of 20 calls plus a day. granted they are not all fires, however each and every one could mean the difference between live and death to some of the folks who need us. I am proud to serve firefighters and EMS personal as a Chaplain. It as been my experience that for the most part they are hardworking, honest, family oriented, brave, men and women who do what they do because there is a need in there communities. are they heroes? you bet. each and every one. but you know what? every man and women in this country who does there job to keep society going is a hero in my book. every American. so for what its worth, I am proud of every firefighter that went to Ca. to help. I am proud of every firefighter that stayed home to protect there neck of the woods. to me you are all heroes, even if you only run one call a month. excuse me now, the hamburgers are burning and i really must get back to washing the truck. P.S. I started fighting fire on hotshot crew in the eighties and did some of my toughest shifts in SoCAL thanks for letting me ramble, Firerev
11/2 From Firescribe:

Tales of heroism and narrow escape
11/2 Did city and county structure firefighters who were fighting fire
in socal have fire shelters? None were evident on their hips in
news clips... Familysaid is asking...
11/2 Steve - I parused the message board about Mr. Gantenbien's article. Indeed I did see a link to your rebuttal attached to one of the many replies.

After reading a few of the replies on the slate site, I thought I would chime in...but after reading further I couldnt even figure out why I was reading that crap in the first place let alone posting a reply. What a bunch of whiny, sniveling, backstabbing, name calling etc! SHEEESH!

On Mr. Gantenbien's article, ...well... I found a vein of truth in most of it BUT, what a perfect example of an individual taking the worst example and then spouting off that that is the way it is all over. I guess thats about as nice as I can put it. As far as the hero thing goes, well, its seem to me its the media thats spouting the hero talk, not firefighters.

Proud & Smokey - Your attitude about the "pile of wood" comment took me a bit off guard. Not sure if I took it in the sense you meant it. It seemed to me you are saying that protecting homes is worth the risk of life and limb. If thats the case I guess all I can say is YIKES! Do you feel the same about the home where the homeowner has not lifted a finger to do anything to improve his homes chances of survival?

11/2 Here's my take on the article by Mr. Gantenbein:

Evidently he's trying to get someone stirred up by writing that way. I'm
not going to play his game. He is not worth my time getting all upset about
it. There are people you work with and people you work around. He is
definitely someone you work around. He isn't even worth trying to educate
to show him the error of his ways. Mr. Gantenbein, if nobody reads your
"work", you don't eat right? Guess what, I'm not going to read your work.

11/2 To the Member of Public who is interested.

The County of San Diego does not have a Fire Department for the unincorporated areas. There are over 50+ fire agencies in the county from Federal, State, and local government. The cities provide protection to their cities, and in some areas the community has a special district that provides fire protection to the district. In some areas, the area is protected by volunteer departments and there are areas with no protection.

The CDF provides wildland protection to about 1.4 million acres of land in the County, it also contracts with 4 fire districts to provide fire protection.

The Forest Service protects the Cleveland National Forests.

Most of the Indian reservations have formed fire departments and provide protection to the reservations.

The equipment and training of each department is depended upon the funds available, in some cases volunteer departments survive off pancake breakfast type of programs.

San Diego resident
11/2 Attention Everyone:

This is off the subject, but I need some guidance toward a personnel, ethical, and legal issue involving Federal Service.

Recently an Incident happened in Federal Fire Service that interfered in an issue that was none of his business nor his concern. This individual contacted people above him regarding a fire issue that did not concern him, did not apply to him, and did it in a way that embarrassed a chief officer and caused a number of people not directly involved to be singled out for adverse action. The chief of this agency was furious because someone whom has no connections with the chief's department nor with its employees stepped into a matter that was not his legal of ethical responsibility. Example: The leader of Silviculture for Forest A calling the State Fire Boss for BLM to tattle that the nearby District FMO was doing something he thought was wrong but did not apply nor concern him, was not illegal or against any rules.

What can be done in the way of Dept. of Agro or Dept. of Interior outside the immediate Forest/District Supervisor's Office (ie: DC HQ) by employee rules or ethical standards to discipline the person who caused the problem?

I need some No BS information. There has to be someplace or someone who can direct me to an outside administrative source above the Forest/District Level that can intercede when this kind of behavior occurs between administrators of different resources when one interferes with the other for personal or political gain, or when the attack is vicious or vindictive in its nature, and the Superintendent/Area Manager will not take direct action. This would be a true ethics issue.

Can anyone provide any answers?

For Protect.: Signed "X"
11/2 With all the blame game loud words in the media about how the pilots should have caught the fire in the dark, could someone list out some points we could make when we contact our legislators to tell them that's not safe? I don't think firefighters CDF, USFS, small local departments are at fault for the Cedar Fire. From what I've seen they've risked life and limb to help us out.

From a firefighter's perspective, what could San Diego do to insure public safety in the future. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't even know what kind of fire department we have (if any), how big it is, how well trained, etc. Can someone help me out here? Does anyone reading and writing in know?

Member Of The Public wanting to influence the future.
11/2 Ab, here's the official Statement of Administration Policy (in pdf format,
acronym=SAP) on the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (H.R. 1904) which
was on the Senate floor last Thursday 10/30.

Fed Watcher
11/2 Ab - just returned from the OLD fire last night. i am a contractor, and could plainly see that there is enough equipment to do the job, when demobed we knew it was because gear was tripping over itself.

We were in Crest Ridge - Lake Arrowhead tuesday - wednesday. The only thing that would have stopped the destruction was an act of god. I am amazed that more wasnt lost. in an event like that all that can be done is structure protection - and even that is risky. It melted the guardrails of the highway, reduced vehicles to ash and flat steel.

Be Safe all
eric @PW

PS - Ab thanks for the site. You have been doing this for years and it is appreciated.
11/2 FC180, If CDF at least tried to have a policy of limiting shifts to 24 hrs. for IA, and 16 for other shifts, like the Feds, then the overhead would have to justify in writing every time they did this. You're saying that CDF can't order resources in time for the next days shift? The USFS does it all the time. It's not always easy, but it can be done. The fatigue after working double and triple shifts has been shown time and time again to contribute to accidents, and how does this help anybody?

Misery Whip. Your jumper Haiku is dead on. The feds call us Forestry Technicians, don't even admit to having Firefighters, until the fires are burning down everything in sight, then we get blamed for not responding quickly enough because we are out doing the forestry projects they gave us. Don't forget the Fed wildland agencies are among the lowest paid firefighting agencies in the US!!. On the firejobs page, there is a City fire job in SO. Cal. that pays their fire recruits in the fire academy more than I make as a BC after 23 years in the USFS. CDF pay is pretty decent, also. Maybe now that the USFS lost buildings in the fires that the agency will at least admit to having professional firefighters. Now is the time to help those that lost everything, and the media is playing a blame game instead. The National Fire Plan was supposed to help this, but now were funded at 75% of MEL, and modules are empty again. What good is all this new equipment the Feds have, if we can't convince anyone to come work for us because the pay isn't enough? Empty Engines can't save houses.

- MJ

Let's hear it for a wildland firefighter series. CNN had some information last night on the dangers of particulates in woodsmoke (1/16 the diameter of a human hair, that remains in the lungs or moves into the blood stream with unknown negative consequences). Wildland firefighters no matter what they're called live, on average, only 6-7 years after retirement. Given that mandatory retirement used to be at age 55 and is now 57, firefighters have a much shorter life than those in other professions who retire at 60 or 65. And yet federal wildland firefighters are not called firefighters. Wouldn't want to make the negative stats more evident would they by letting us be called by our professional name?

Actual MEL hitting the fireground is far less than 75% due to the rake offs at the higher levels of the Forest Service organization. In the first place there's a huge rake off for support services that we never receive. In addition, fire in R5 is being charged with 50% to 100% of the water bills of the Forest Service whether we used the water or not... at least that's what I heard. Rakeoffs drop the actual money allocated by Congress and supposedly going to finance fire needs waaaaaay down there. It's not surprising that OPM hates the Forest Service and that Congress wants accounting. Maybe a separate fire service is what we'll be pushed into. The competitive outsourcing process is certainly is pushing us that way.

Hmmm, Sunday morning musings. Ab.
11/1 Hey Ab,

I went to the msn.slate site with the idea of posting a pointer to wlf and my response to Doug's article. But, you have to sign up for some passport, etc. I don't want to do that for a one time post. Do you think NMAirBear would post a comment and a link there for us? He said he's already posted once on the site, though I didn't see his post nor any answer. I suspect it's been removed. Also, if ever I'd forgotten how ugly and useless an uncensored message board can be, I was instantly reminded.

Please forward this on to NM if you think he would be willing to do so.


I think it was the Air Tanker Pilot who wrote there. Maybe he'd post a link your comment to theysaid on that site and some of those folks would post their comments here. I added a # bookmark so the link would be to your comment. Nice one. Ab. www.wildlandfire.com/theysaid.php#rebuttal
11/2 Heads up, gang! There is a media-driven debate going on here in San Diego County concerning the use of firefighting aircraft after hours (i.e. "punkin time"). The issue is the detection of the Cedar Fire last Saturday at just about punkin time and our lack of aerial response. The "fingerpointing" and debate that is now front page news will get us (firefighters) nowhere as the basic issue is the safety of fire aviators versus protection of wildland/urban interface. The people raising this issue obviously place aviator safety behind their own agenda. They need to be silenced (congressmen?) as firefighter safety preempts all other objectives and agendas. This must remain inviolable.

Steve Myers: Great response to an obviously jaded article by a professional BSer. Why would the guy write that at this time when most of us are all totally preoccupied and emotionally involved with the public we serve?

Great post, Mellie! My thoughts and prayers for those close to fireman Steve Rucker and for the speedy recovery of Capt. Doug McDonald and others. Also, let us keep in our prayers the incredible loss of life associated with these SoCal fires and those in Mexico.

The magnitude of this event will reverberate for some time to come. We must find ways to keep firefighters and the public safe.

11/2 I have followed the fire, through the San Diego Union www.signonsandiego.com, CNN, and your web site, all on line. The maps of the burn area are, especially this evenings San Diego Union, devastating. Map of the Cedar Fire

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park might as well be sold off as public land, the gray barren land will never again hold the historical significance. A conscientious prescribe burn program for the park might have helped to stop the storm of fire. Who knows. Who knows if the helicopters dropping water at dusk would have stopped the fire. There's a lot of media on that today.

I think its time, we the public made aware to our local political entities, to take to heart the words written by many of your "reporters". The lack of equipment, staff and communities is abysmal compounded by the low pay. The lack of INTERNET information is beyond abysmal. The use of the internet for safety communications and information should be made mandatory, as well as notifying the public when a state/federal agency is downsizing a fire department. I just learned from a family member than the State of California downsized CDF, not only in staff but equipment and volunteer fire departments budgets are supplemented with raffles, bake sales and dinners (San Diego Union). This is absolutely incomprehensible.

Am I going to contact my designated representatives, you bet. Will they listen, I don't really know. But maybe if enough of us, the "civilians" share with these individuals, they'll catch on.

I caught the news interview of the Cuyamaca Fire Fighter who responded his home was only wood. He look so exhausted and overwhelmed, shell shocked to be exact.

And my last point - firefighters are hero's as are traffic and police officers and military personnel. They have chosen a career that is in service to the public and what they accomplish may not hit the news every day, but when they're called in, its the best coming to help save us. For that, you're hero's.

Thank you

Pat Huntington

Involvement of the public is a must if we are to prevent loss of life and homes in the future. You go for it! Ab.
11/2 Wow,

Great ongoing blurb on CNN about how the strict building codes of communities around the Simi incident kept homes from being lost. I know it's a time of huge loss for so many people right now. But may be, if just some people in interface areas saw that bit, and told there neighbors about it.... Things in the future could be very different, and that it may be a little less "risky" (yes a relative term).

Bravo for good journalistic coverage.

And, Bravo for those of you who were doing your best and keeping all safe in south zone.

Thanx for the site Ab.

11/2 AB, Fedfire, and Firesafe but almost burned out in San Diego,

After some much needed rest I want to thank all of you for making some, for the first time in a week or so, sense to an overworked and weary mind and body.

My thoughts did not correctly come out as they would have at a better time. Believe me it was a hell of a ride!

Thank you again

Smokey and Proud!
Proud Participant in Southern California Fires 2003
11/2 Steve - TY TY TY, thank you for your informative "dissertation" happily THANKFUL you took the time to post intelligently and informatively. hope every reader takes the time to click on Ab's link to read it & re-read it in its entirety.

someone asked if any smokejumpers were sent in response to southzone fires - yes, many are being utilized although in another capacity.

btw, by now everyone should already know that all affected southzone counties rec'd Federal declarations thanks to our out-going governor's requests. FEMA's current authorization is 75% of approved costs. CA state & FEMA have set up "one stop shopping centers" for residents and business owners who lost their home/business.

as an aside: requests for military air support were delayed because of still-in-place legislation enacted in 1932.. look into it at your leisure.

it ain't over, kids. BE SAFE ALL - those on the road on their way home and those wildland people in higher terrain dealing with snags and mop up.

11/1 Hi!

I hope this letter finds you well. My name is Paula and I hope you might be able to help me. I am trying to find a sweatshirt that came from the Mule Fire last year. My fiancÚ was on that fire last year and got a pullover, black commemorative sweatshirt, and I lost it. I'm know you understand how the experience of firefighting affects a person, and each fire holds a special place in the firefighter's heart. I felt horrible, and I want to get him another for his birthday. Maybe you can point me in the direction of the people who make and/or sell them. There must be one somewhere!

Thanks in advance,
11/1 Thank you, Mr. Myers.

As a very long time CDF employee, I was/am outraged at Gantenbein's rant.
He strikes me as a pathetic wanna be and nothing more.

I am most bothered by the talking heads on the tube choosing to second guess and arm chair IC the folks on the fire line in an effort to point the fickle finger of blame for this latest disaster to strike Calif.

We have to keep in mind the "Blame Game" is all the rage these days.

Thanks again for your wonderful rebuttal to the unprovoked attack Gantenbein has dropped on us.

Signing off from my cushy, adrenaline charged, forced overtime fire dept. job,

Captain Emmett
CDF and FP
Local 2881 and Damn proud of it.

PS..... Thanks to the Abz for keeping us updated while everything is burning down!
11/1 Nice reply by Stephen Myers.

Mr. Gantenbein seems to have a serious axe to grind. His June 2003 Outside
magazine article tried to make a case for ending most wildland
firefighting. One of his cheerful subtitles from that article was "Let's
Fire Some Firemen". He advocates getting rid of smokejumpers altogether. He
has an amazing ability to ignore important facts that conflict with his
naive theories.

I wonder how many more thousands of homes in southern California would have
burned without the incredible efforts of well-trained structural and
wildland fire professionals. Unfortunately, too many people like Mr.
Gantenbein fail to appreciate what cheap insurance we really are. They want
us when there's an emergency but they resent our presence the rest of the
time. I hope Mr. Gantenbein is fortunate enough to live a life where he and
his family will never need the services of a firefighter or paramedic.

A great description of how people's attitudes toward firefighters can
quickly change is inscribed on the back of the RAC/NCSB Smokejumper
Challenge Cup plaque. It is sort of a wildland firefighter Haiku:

"When it's hot and dusty
And the lightning is from cloud to ground
We are heroes
But when it rains
We are dogshit."

My hunch is Mr. Gantenbein once got beat up by a fireman, or his woman
dumped him for a fireman, or both. If he ever comes sniffing around my
office looking for information for one of his "visionary articles", he'll
be lucky if all I show him is the door.

Misery Whip
11/1 After reading through the reports on the 30 Mile incident it would seem there was more to it than merely fatigue.

There was a certain amount of disregard for certain standard fire orders (from the beginning) and a lack of forethought. Near the end of that tragedy they were stuck because the road had been cut off and yet while they waited they made no attempt to improve the area that they were treating as a “safety zone.” There was quite a bit of time there when they could have been making preparations for a possible burn over but they did not. People were milling around, taking pictures, half of them weren’t listening to the unofficial briefing. When the fire switched back on them they weren’t prepared.

That being said I am pleased to report that I know people who have executed the ten standard fire orders in an exemplary fashion and protected their crew through strong leadership and action. That same year a heli crew got stranded at the top of the mountain at risk of oncoming fire. For hours they worked tightly as a unit and prepared for the worst. Luckily they had a change of conditions and managed to get a ship in to get them out in time but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they would have all gotten out of that alive if the fire had indeed overtaken them.

We all know these stories, and yet I am shocked to report that I still encounter people who don’t take the ten standard fire orders seriously. One of whom I encountered running a training session just a few weeks ago. I have every intention of declining offers to work with him in the future and I have reported him to certain authorities in the hopes that they will take the matter in hand.

11/1 To Stephen Myers,

Excellent rebuttal to Gantenbein's article. You are to be commended. Your response was much more well thought out and thought provoking than was mine. I saw the story on Slate and had to respond. I am Air_Tanker_Pilot. If you check the message thread you will see he directly responded to my post. He is an obviously underemployed writer looking to enhance his image as "cutting edge." I wonder if the phrase "there is no such thing as bad publicity," applies to self-serving journalists as it does to wannabe actors/actresses. He did some serious backpedaling and then changed the subject. I wonder if he is he planning a run for office soon?

Air Tanker Pilot
11/1 I am glad the author of that ignorant anti-hero article is not riding in
that jump seat next to me.

He has no clue what firefighters, wildland or structural, do on our
worst day for a living. An no we are not heroes, just doing our
jobs as impeccably as possible.

George from AZ
11/1 I have read this website from time to time, but didn't know how
close the fires would come to our place. We had defensible space
and good roof and had moved our woodpile and modified our yard
to make it firesafe. I learned a lot reading this board. Thanks Abs
for doing it.

I'm from San Diego, talked to firefighters and watched some of my
neighborhood burn. I know you don't like to be called heroes, but
my family and I think you're mighty fine folks whatever you're called.

We may only need you rarely, but when we needed you this time, we
really really needed you!
We will never forget what you did to save
our house and community. Thank god your leaders knew when
to get you out of there for your own safety sake, too.

Smokey and Proud, and the rest of you who have just gotten home,
I hope you get some rest. FC 180, please get enough rest. When
people aren't rested they sometimes make bad decisions. I can tell
you that from experience. I almost drove off our road.

Firesafe, but almost burned out in San Diego.

I'm glad you and your house survived. Ab.
11/1 Well I'm glad I read that article before buying the book, what a knucklehead. I think Steve there did a better job than I could have for a reply, the article is so intentionally dense and misleading that I wouldn't know where to start (or even why I should bother) but it looks like I'm going to try anyway.

One thing that really got me though was the "special interest" part, sure the IAFF, FWFSA, CPF, CSFA, NFPA and other organizations try to improve the safety and quality of life of the firefighters they represent but they also have been largely responsible for improving the life safety of every day citizens, the rate of fire occurrence and fire deaths has declined over the past 40 years, due in large part to these "selfish special interests, according to his logic these organizations are out there working for the wood shake shingle industry and the highly combustible cheap wall coverings industry to increase fire occurrence, not reduce it. As far as the comment about Fire Chiefs scamming new business such as having firefighters become "ambulance drivers" (nice of him to give EMTs and Paramedics the credit for being the skilled medical professionals they are), when did it become poor form to find ways to get more service for your community without raising costs significantly? As far as cush jobs, sure I've spent my fair number of shifts kicking back at the station (Halloween, Thankgiving, Christmas to name a few) but you know I saw more death and things I'd prefer to forget in my first 6 months than most hard working regular folk will see in their life, getting paid to sleep once in a while is hardly a trade off and has nothing to do with my career choice.

I don't know what this guys agenda is, whether he is a disgruntled wanna be or is working towards something more sinister (some of his comments about fire departments looking for new duties is disturbingly similar to a series of articles I read last year). Well this guy has taken up enough of my time.

I think smokey and proud still needs more fresh air and sleep, a lot of people on this board have walked in the "hot burning boots" I know I have and there are many on this board who make me look like a pup. If this guy really believes the homes that were lost are worth a life perhaps he should go to Colorado, I think there is a chief there with the same attitude. Fire is not war and there are no "acceptable" losses. This is even true in the structure community, buildings are written off much more easily now than they were even 10 yeras ago (2 in 2 out anybody). I hope his comments were the result of a lack of sleep or a misunderstanding of what people on the board were saying and not his actual attitude.

11/1 You think we in CDF stay out 48-72 hours because we elect to? Lets see: you
have a major fire with 11 other Type 1 incidents in the GACC, and you have a
planning meeting and you see what came in from the orders from the last
planning meeting and nothing checked in and you have to field something:
what do you think happens? People get double shifted. Or triple shifted.
This happens each time there are santana winds and that's just the way it
is. We don't like it but we feel it is our duty to stay out and do
something, as opposed to strict adherence to the work-rest cycle which is
getting ridiculous on federal incidents. Last year on the Williams fire two
strike teams of engines were called off the line, nothing relieved us, and
the fire slopped over an easily defendable road. This servitude to OSHA
imposed work-rest guidelines that may or may not have contributed to the 30
mile fatalities caused the Williams fire to perhaps double in final fire
acreage, and contribute to that many more exposure hours for firefighters.

We in CDF are not super human or indefatigable. We know something has to
be on the line and even tired we are better than nothing.

Let the games begin

11/1 The essay by Gantenbein (noted by Nerd on The Fireline) is interesting to the extent that it portrays a view of public service held by too many citizens ... right up to the time their home is on fire! This outpouring of thanks to the current firefighters will quickly return to the previous held low opinion in direct relationship to the control of the fires. We are starting to see evidence now of the petty politicians looking for who to scapegoat. I agree with FireChica, wildland firefighters make better role models than the gangsta rappers and bionicly built, so called celebrities

Uncle Louie
11/1 Nerd on the Fireline asked about people's reactions to Douglas Gantenbein's commentary in a recent article at something called "slate.msn.com". . .So here's mine.
First, let me say that I agree with Gantenbein that I and no other firefighter I know should, or wants to be considered a hero. Except from sheer boredom or lack of creative energy, I fail to imagine why he would write such drivel.

Let's examine just who this Gantenbein is. With some quick and superficial web browsing (seems only fair to do it that way so this commentary will resemble the thought processes involved in the article in question), it becomes apparent he is a journalist and writer, whose credits include writing for Sports Illustrated and Outdoor Magazine. He's also credited with having written a book called "A Season of Fire". According to the publisher of the book I viewed via the Barnes & Noble link on the article, during the fire season of 2001 he followed and told the tale of rookie smoke jumpers as they fought fire in Washington State and other areas. It also said he spent 24 hours in the '"war room", where Forest Service managers try to keep up with the dozens of wildfires that can break out simultaneously.'

Ok, so he appears to have some background or experience qualifying him to report on how wildland firefighters. However, just as some of the reviews by the readers of his book point out, I observe him applying loose interpretations to reality as he employs stereotypical ideals, self-serving statistics, and sensationalism. He also apparently takes it personally when his work is attacked, as evidenced by his amazing request for one of the Amazon.com book reviewers to revise their comments. See the following link and read the first review: Clickme In fact, the same reviewer felt so strongly about the book, they wrote a negative review on both Barns & Noble and Amazon. To be fair, there are positive reviews also, but, they are unmistakably written by readers without any prior knowledge or experience in the fire suppression environment (with the exception of one reviewer having their own axe to grind who gushed superlatives and babbled on as if they had just witnessed a miracle).

As to the actual article written by Gantenbein, here is why I disagree and will ignore or consider any future articles he writes as fodder for the mindless. Keeping in mind that Gantenbein was referring to all the firefighters fighting the recent catastrophic blazes in Southern California, I offer the following rebuttal.

I won't repeat or quote too much of what Gantenbein said in his article, but you may read it by following the link on TheySaid (10/31/03). Gantenbein first astonishingly enough said:

1. Firefighting is a cushy job. Oh reeeaally? How about you personally sit down with the new widow and child of Steve Rucker and explain that phrase to them in a little more detail. You remind them of how cushy Steve and they had it, as he spent his time-off moonlighting as an attorney or some other such nonsense. You explain how he's really not a hero, as all he did was sit around and barbeque hamburgers at the fire station as he invented excuses to cover up the fact that he never had any dirty fire hose.

And when you are done there, I suggest further research may produce more valid statistics to reveal what kind of work schedules firefighters really endure. It may look cushy in a position description or in a newspaper ad, but as in any other emergency job, there are personal sacrifices we make due to mandatory overtime demands causing us to work through family illness, accidents, and other personnel emergencies. Since you have been so obliviously non-specific in your indictment and have encompassed wildland firefighters in your article, how about you interview a few of them to see how many days/hours they work in a week. Apparently you've either forgotten anything you learned while following those smokejumpers around, or you failed to discover anything about them or the rest of the wildland firefighting nation.

After 27 years of working for the US Forest Service, I approximate that I've worked an average of 400 hours of overtime each year. That comes out to 50 days of extra work each year, or about two and a half months. While I recently had the luxury of retiring at age 50, I figure I've served an additional five and a half years due to mandatory overtime. Although I was able to continue my education with night classes, it didn't leave much time for moonlighting as an attorney, or even a janitor for that matter.

You respond to imposed or imagined deadlines rather than responding to dead people or destroyed lives and properties. You attack with words from a distance those who have little recourse or defense. Firefighters respond to emergencies to defend, support, rescue, and even comfort victims.

I say Journalism is a Cushy Job. You arise late and lounge around in your uniform of the day consisting of your oldest pair of skivvies, you loaf in your recliner browsing the newest catastrophic headlines. You force yourself to get up for another cup of expresso to help clear your mind from the effects of last night's celebration with your peers where you congratulated each other on your bluntness and wit. Then you figure out a new defenseless subject to attack in an article containing just enough fact to avoid legal challenge. You balance the fierceness of your attack with your editor's demand to sell more copies and a vaguely remembered journalistic vow to report the truth. Ignorance of the issues are no obstacle to the crafty writer. You pathetically attempt to cover the holes in your knowledge that compare in aspect to the dimensions of the holes in your underwear.

2. Firefighting isn't that dangerous. No, of course it isn't. All agencies have policies and procedures that really do make a difference in the number of accidents and injuries that occur. Gantenbein says that pizza drivers are number five on the list of most dangerous occupations. Now there is a statistic to support his anti-hero argument. I wonder at the continuity of position descriptions, JHAs, OSHA standards, tailgate safety sessions, and formal training that go into the pizza delivery profession. These statistics, along with the others mentioned, which I haven't bothered to validate, are irrelevant -- except for timber fallers (loggers). I do know that where I live, if you call yourself a timber faller and you have a job falling timber, you are one. There are no certifications or formal training required. It is not surprising if it still remains the number one most dangerous occupation in the US.

The rest of Steve's rebuttal, is HERE.
11/1 While I agree that the term "hero" is perhaps better spent on teachers and doctors who work thankless jobs in underprivileged areas, I do think that maybe people fight too hard on this “we are not heroes” thing. I do appreciate that while this line of work affords opportunities for people to be heroes, it doesn’t not automatically make them such. BUT society NEEDS its heroes. It needs figures that people can believe are hardworking, brave, and strong. Read some Joseph Campbell, people are going to make SOMEONE into the hero archetype. In my opinion, better a wildland firefighter than an over paid athlete or a drug addled rock star.

11/1 While just being released from the Cedar Fire in Julian, this is my first chance to address many of your contributors.

Walk in the shoes, hot burning boots in this case, and be driven by the thought that just over the next ridge there is a burned out area" you can catch your first taste of semi-clean air, and still, have no communications with the Incident Commanders and above, just hoping for anything positive after 3 days of hell and still ready for more.

After you have been through this many times in your career, then and only then talk your "views" and "evaluations" of what should have been. I am truly disappointed in many of the guests on this site and their views.

Only a "pile of wood"? Give me a break along with thousands of others who consider nothing just a "pile of wood".

We have chosen while in our own minds that there is no such thing as "only a pile of wood". How many of your contributors would still be living where they do if in fact we on the lines truly thought that in that way?

Smokey and Proud!
Proud Participant Southern California Fires 2003

Welcome to the site. Glad you're sharing your view. Thanks for your work on the Cedar Fire. Ab.
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