December, 2004

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12/31 Regarding the R4 “Lessons Learned” Cramer / OIG paper

With all due respect to the R4 Director of Fire and Aviation Management, I find the paper lacking considerable information that I would deem pertinent to a “Lessons Learned” discussion. While I applaud the continuing effort to disseminate information regarding the Cramer and OIG investigation / prosecution, I fear that it is and will be too little, too late.

Not knowing what the "sideboards" are to avoid criminal liability in relation to the ICT3 duties on an incident have been an extremely disconcerting issue (as it should be) to the Type 3 ICs on this forest including myself. While the briefing paper sent out by the R4 Director of Fire and Aviation Management attempts to address these issues, in my mind it falls short. The paper explains parts of the process but lacks what the determining factors were that the OIG used to set in motion criminal actions against the Cramer ICT3 and others. While the paper states that the US Attorney's Office reviewed the following statute language "without due caution and circumspection of a lawful act" in making the final determination of criminal liability, this does not give us the actual trigger points that the OIG and USA used. If these had been included we would truly have a "Lessons Learned" briefing paper.

Under the key messages:

#2. " The federal statutes are not specific as to particular actions that will and will not result in legal action. Fire managers who act with “due caution” are generally believed to be fulfilling their responsibilities for firefighter safety."

Here again, the actual "trigger points" (the ICs and others involved actual actions) that the OIG and USA used to determine criminal liability need to be disseminated in order for us to truly learn and instruct how to act with "due caution" regarding the ICT3 and other fire supervision roles.

#3. "Fire managers and members of Incident Management Teams who act with due caution can answer the following three questions in the affirmative (YES)… Did you have a plan that followed agency policy and guidelines? Was it a good plan? Did you follow the plan? The Forest Service will support you and your actions if you can answer YES to all three questions."

Historically we have designated ahead of time individuals to fill key positions on our Type 2 and Type 1 IMTs. We are now expecting an ICT3 (and maybe ICT5’s, 4’s and IA IC’s) to perform the above without the aid of a designated Command and General Staff "team". The Incident Complexity Characteristics / Guidelines for a Type 3 Incident outlined in the 5109.17, Chapter 20, 21.1, a & d., state "some of the Command and General Staff positions may be activated, as well as the Division/Group Supervisor and Unit Leader levels" & "the incident may involve multiple operational periods prior to control, which requires a written plan."

My point here is that if Type 3 IC’s and organizations are deemed necessary, Type 3 IMTs with designated individuals filling the C&G positions need to be established with a rotation as with the Type 1 & 2 IMTs. Without the above support, one cannot truly expect an ICT3 to meet all of the requirements of the position while dealing with the normal distractions usually taken care of by the Command and General Staff. Designated Team and Line officer support is key to answering the questions asked in item #3 in light of the current requirements of the ICT3 organization.

#4. Documentation of risk assessment, steps to adhere to the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders, mitigate the 18 Situations That Should Watch Out, are steps that should always be taken in exercising due caution.

Once again team support, especially in the planning, documentation and safety arenas, is key to an ICT3 being able to accomplish what is now required of the position. Without the proper documentation, we all know "that it never happened". Without the proper level of support, one cannot expect an ICT3 to make the "correct" decisions or provide the proper documentation 100% of the time.

As we all know, it is the small percentage of "failures" that will lead to the holes in the swiss cheese model lining up.

I was on an incident earlier this year in Nevada as a Division Supervisor. When The Type 2 IMT was getting ready to turn the incident over to a Type 3 organization, I was asked if I would fill the Type 3 IC position. I respectfully declined based on the fact that the local unit was not going to provide any designated qualified individuals to fill any of the C&G staff. A unit cannot expect an ICT3 to commit to taking over an incident without the proper level of qualified support.

I have looked at and addressed my reactions and responses to the continuing Cramer "papers" from a Chief Officer, Initial Attack and Type 3 Incident Commander standpoint. Following are some of my thoughts:

Since it is obvious that Type 1 and 2 teams are experiencing difficulty in filling positions, I would put forth that it is highly unlikely that local units can field enough qualified folks to fill out Type 3 teams. This being said, maybe it is time that the Land Management Agencies stop deluding themselves into thinking that they still have the tools to manage incidents, especially with part time IMT’s. Full time IMT’s should be established from the Initial Attack organization through the Type 1 organization. These full time organizations should be in the business of preparing, training and mentoring others in Incident Management, Incident Tactics and Strategies, Leadership and providing part time support for local Land Management agencies instead of the other way around. Sound like a full time Fire Organization?

With the above being pie in the sky and highly unlikely to happen in the near future, I believe that we need to accomplish the following:

Land Management Agencies are the only organization I know of that only gets its “Team” together for the “big game”. Fire Management and Line Officers need to commit to staffing or working towards staffing, complete Type 3 organizations, having them available on a rotational basis and committing to annual exercises for currency for ALL IMTs with Line Officer support. I envision this as having the Type 1 and/or 2 Teams conduct and rate the exercise for the Type 3 organizations. With some planning, this could fulfill the requirement for the annual Fire Refresher. A "320" exercise if you will. Training, exercises and drills are KEY to performance.

If units are unable to field a complete designated Type 3 organization, commit only Type 2 IMTs to any Incident beyond a Type 4 complexity incident or a Type 3 IMT from another unit only with a fully staffed organization.

Fire and Aviation Management needs to request that the WO provide the USA & OIG reports that document the actions of all individuals that lead to the final determination by the USA of criminal liability. Without this critical information, we are merely guessing at corrective actions in a broad sense.


12/31 CDF TRUE,

You seem to be a little confused on the agreements that exist in California. The old five party agreement was replaced in 2002. In the old agreement, the signatories provided mutual aid resources and overhead free for the first twelve hours. If the resources were not released within the twelve hour period, they then became "assistance by hire" and were then reimbursable from the time of dispatch. You can read the new agreement at:

In California, there are many types of agreements between the State, Federal, and Local Government agencies. The old "Five Party Agreement" is no longer used and was replaced in 2002 by the California Fire Assistance Agreement (CFAA). The signers of the CFAA are: Forest Service, California OES, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

In addition to this agreement, federal agencies can order equipment and overhead through local agreements. Region 5 has a template for agreements. These agreements allow the federal and local government agencies to make agreements that are more suited for regular day to day mutual aid.

There are also two other agreements that may be of interest. The first one is the California Master Mutual Aid Agreement. The federal land agencies do not participate in this agreement due to provisions in federal law. The second one is the "Four Party Agreement". The "Four Party Agreement" is made between the California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection, USFS (Regions 4,5, and 6), BLM (CA and NV), and the National Park Service (Pacific West Region).

California Master Mutual Aid Agreement here: www.oes.ca.gov

Four Party Agreement: www.fs.fed.us/r5/fire/cooperators/4-party_agrmt_fina_02.pdf

Rogue Rivers
12/31 Happy New Year.. Alright everyone out on the grinder at 0800
for the Pack Test, as the 2004 red cards are now history,.. Better
start getting in shape.

Old Man of the Dept.
12/31 Abs, thank you for a great forum in which all can express their concerns and views.
Special thanks to Old Fire Dogs who have shared your expertise by addressing
specific topics.


may 2005 be a better year,
12/31  Abs

I've been reading this site for a long time, but haven't been compelled to write until now. I was catching up on what I've missed over the last couple of weeks when I came across vfd cap'n message on 12/16. I am curious how he can be so insightful on the outcome of an investigation that hasn't even been completed! (His reference to Eva on the Tuolumne Fire.) I am surprised that many of the readers didn't pick up on this and respond. As I recall someone responded to vfd cap'n's posts as having an obsession with the Cramer incident. Is he now gearing up for an obsession with the Tuolumne incident?

In reference to the Ab's post on 12/15, I'm trying to keep this civil by not responding directly to vfd cap'n. His one little statement ("and we'll likely hear the same about Eva, whenever they release the Tuolumne fire report") definitely pushed my button! I have personal knowledge of the Tuolumne Incident, and am closely associated with many of those involved from both agencies (CDF & USFS), and I know that some of those involved read this site, and they probably don't appreciate an unknowing individual making judgment without all the facts. So before we start making assumptions about what the report will say, can we all just wait until the facts come out before we rush to judgment!

12/30 By now, most of you have already seen the "Lessons Learned" paper that came from the Region 4 Fire and Aviation Management Staff.

The Lessons Learned <below> are pretty interesting to read.

I got a chuckle and also felt like vomiting after reading the opening key message:

•    With the passage of Public Law 107-203 OIG conducts an investigation from a ‘prosecutorial’ position.  That means that OIG is gathering information for the U.S. Attorney to determine if fire managers and those with incident management oversight responsibilities committed a federal offense during the course of their duties that resulted in injury or death to a person on the incident.

PL 107-203 never was meant to "make" the USDA OIG take a prosecutarial role. It was meant to have an independent third party investigate Forest Service entrapment fatalities. Somewhere, OIG or someone is misinterpreting the intent of the legislation.



Key Messages for Forest Service Fire Managers
Lessons Learned About OIG Investigations

With the passage of Public Law 107-203 in July 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the first time investigated the circumstances that led to the death of two Forest Service firefighters on the Cramer Fire.

Based on the facts developed by the Inspector General during the course of their investigation, the U.S. Attorney (USA) for the District of Idaho opened an official inquiry into actions taken on the Cramer Incident. The USA reviewed its case against the following stature language; “without due caution and circumspection, of a lawful act” to make a final determination of criminal liability. Upon completion of the inquiry the USA reached a pretrial “diversion” agreement, similar to a plea agreement, with the Incident Commander.

It is important for Forest Service line officers, fire management officers, firefighters and potential incident investigators to understand the role of OIG in incident investigations.

Key Messages -

• With the passage of Public Law 107-203 OIG conducts an investigation from a ‘prosecutorial’ position. That means that OIG is gathering information for the U.S. Attorney to determine if fire managers and those with incident management oversight responsibilities committed a federal offense during the course of their duties that resulted in injury or death to a person on the incident.
• The federal statutes are not specific as to particular actions that will and will not result in legal action. Fire managers who act with “due caution” are generally believed to be fulfilling their responsibilities for firefighter safety.
• Fire managers and members of Incident Management Teams who act with due caution can answer the following three questions in the affirmative (YES)… Did you have a plan that followed agency policy and guidelines? Was it a good plan? Did you follow the plan? The Forest Service will support you and your actions if you can answer YES to all three questions.
• Documentation of risk assessment, steps to adhere to the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders, mitigate the 18 Situations That Should Watch Out, are steps that should always be taken in exercising due caution.
• Line Officers should practice careful oversight in adherence with the fire policy in FSM 5120 and 5130.
• Because of the commitment to safety throughout our fire management organization, these circumstances will be rare.

12/30 Alan:

Not sure exactly what "Rogue Rivers" is referring to, but in the case of CDF, we subscribe to the 5 party agreement in the state of California. This allows for mutual aid free of charge for the first 24 hours between the federal agencies and CDF. When it comes to local government, it will either be a case of State Responsibility Area for wildland fires within their local city, or the case of drawing on the OES system for large fires or incidents. In this case, the cooperators would be ordered through OES and CDF would be billed by that agency for costs.

In regards to pickup labor, we use private hire agreements, like the federal agencies, for heavy equipment and logistical support, but do not contract for fire engines or type II contract hand crews. Any labor picked up for an incident is paid for per incident on a state FC-42. I may be mis understanding Rogue River, but our contracting system is more restrictive and different than the feds.

12/30 Re Disneyland:

I also had the same problem at Disneyland. My family and I went to Disneyland
this last fall, and I presented my government ID, they flat out said "No". But I
also think maybe because my government ID looks fake. It's poorly laminated.

Fire Cache girl
Gila National Forest

12/30 Money for Indonesian, etc kids can be donated here.



12/30 Looks like this went up in the seattle times, about the "super tanker"


12/28 I’d like to start by thanking you folks for maintaining this website. It’s been a great help in getting information and it’s been a great help to me, both professionally and personally in being able to read the various viewpoints concerning issues that affect the Wildland Fire Community. Most recently as I followed the dialog on the Cramer Fire fallout, I found a very passionate topic handled very responsibly by writers on both sides of the subject.

I found out this past year, that even though I’m older and see myself as wiser, that my thoughts sometimes don’t come across well in print and that I still have the knack of unintentionally ticking off people, as seen by the reaction to some of my posts earlier this year. I learned some things through that. I’ve had a lot of thoughts and opinions concerning other issues raised this past year, but I learned a lot more by just reading and listening than by speaking out

Thanks to the folks who recommended the Jack Ward Thomas book. I got it for Christmas and am about half way through it. It’s interesting seeing the parallels between environmental politics here in NJ and what he found nationally. The sections on South Canyon were very moving.

Regarding Garmin icons, the zoo also is a good choice for ICPs.

Have a safe, happy New Year.

Star Tree

We Abs enjoy the site as well, Star Tree. I hope you will write in sometime in the future. You learn to express yourself better as you continue to practice here. We do too... and deciding to have a leather-thick skin while yer learning helps, also. Ab.

12/28 Sri Lanka Disaster

Have any resources from US firefighting/incident response teams been
organized to assist in the relief? I just checked a few of the national websites
for the FS and found nothing.


Ab just did some calling... The FS folks in Washington DC who are normally involved in disaster response were called in last night to the Disaster Response Office. They are assessing the situation, which will likely take some time. If/when there is direction for the IMTs to participate, the word/deployment will go out probably from FEMA, the Oakland CA office.

CNN is reporting that a US Aircraft Carrier and a large amphibious landing ship with heavy helos (on one vessel or the other) are diverted to the disaster area, along with possibly additional 700 military. Military fixed wing surveillance aircraft are, or will be, working out of a military airfield in Thailand to provide aerial recon information for assessment of the disaster. Help is on the way although it will be way too late for many people.  Prayers for them and their families.

12/28 Ab,

Happy Holidays and thanks to everyone who helps provide this great forum. I hope you all got Ab Dollies or Ab Rollers or some other cool Ab gifts for Christmas.

It occurred to me that some They Said readers may have missed the “Managing the Unexpected in Prescribed Fire and Fire Use Operations” report produced by the RMRS after the May 2004 Santa Fe workshop. The Lessons Learned Center has it posted on their website. For those of you who would like to learn more about Managing the Unexpected but aren’t inspired enough yet to go out and buy the book, this report will give you an idea of what HROs (High Reliability Organizations) are about. I couldn’t find a link to it on your site, so here it is:


Has anyone heard if any IMTs are being mobilized for the tsunami disaster?

Misery Whip

Good report. Ab.

12/27 Hey friends,

I just upgraded the software on my Garmin GPS and noticed, to my amusement, that they added icons for geocaching, but still nothing in the way of map symbols for us firefighting folks. I clicked the contact link at www.garmin.com and e-mailed them asking about some H's and W's and the like. I got a pretty generic response about forwarding the request to engineering. But then I got to thinking (this is nearly always dangerous) maybe if MORE people (hint, that's all of us) asked them the same questions, we'd wouldn't have to use the Truck Stop icon for staging areas, Boat Launches for water holes and dip sites, and Amusement Parks for ICPs. *wink*

Hope all had a great holiday and best wishes for the new year.

12/25 Have a Cool Yule and a Groovy New Year. Oh, and be safe...

S.R. Sparky
12/25 RB

Safe zone size documentation:

Butler, B.W.; Cohen, J.D. 1998. Firefighter safety zones: how big is big enough. Fire Management Notes.
58(1):13-16. Available at:

www.fs.fed.us/fire/fmt/fmt_pdfs/fmn58-1.pdf (36 page pdf file)


Butler, B.W.; Cohen, J.D. 1998.Firefighter safety zones: A theoretical
Model based on Radiative Heating. Int J Wildland Fire 8(2):73-77. Available here:

www.firelab.org/fbp/fbppubs/fbppdf/butler/ffszmodel.pdf (5 page pdf file)


I'm impressed, FC180. Glad someone is watching over us... Merry Christmas. Ab.
12/25 Abs and everyone on Wildlandfire.com

Have a very merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!

Captain and Mrs. Emmett
` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `
` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `

From the Abs at wildlandfire.com

12/25 There was a lot of discussion on this site a few months back about Safety Zones
and how to determine how big they should be. Anyone know of any
documentation that supports the 4 times the flame length formula?

Also looking for new PRC 4291 that takes effect in Calif Jan 1st that requires
100 ft clear around structures instead of the old 30ft.

Thanks for any info


12/24 A Merry and Meaningful Christmas to ALL.

Ab and crew, thanks for the forum. It's great to see so many
new people coming up through the ranks. In spite of changes,
I have great hopes for the future.

NorCal Tom

12/23 In this season of counting our blessings and celebration, please remember the Wildland Firefighter Foundation with a check or PayPal donation. Many assume that the Foundation has deep pockets. It doesn't -- yet. Hopefully it will in the future -- through all our efforts. We all know the time has come for this Foundation to be fully funded. Can't you feel it? It's just a matter of telling friends, coworkers and family and putting out some challenges to crews and teams -- your own and others.

My personal thanks to John Wendt, who is retiring, for requesting that his retirement gift be memberships of his NorCal Team II to the 52 club. That team has led R5 in 52 Club memberships since the beginning even though teams from the Great Basin threw themselves behind the 52 club first and "en mass". John Wendt, my hats off to you and a BIG HUG. You are one of my guiding lights in understanding firefighting at the management and political levels... and you're one of the most talented writers and speakers I've known in or outside of academia. And that's only for starters. Your thoughtfulness and compassion blow me away.

I guess if I had one wish for the new year it would be that the Wildland Firefighter Foundation didn't have to struggle so to meet the needs of our fallen firefighter families and our injured firefighters, regardless whether fed, contractor, state, vollie, county. Hopefully this will be the "hump" year when funding gets on smoother footing. In the end the $$ needed always comes through, but it often causes me some heartburn even if Vicki always has faith ...and her credit card.

Thanks to all in this community. Thanks to Original Ab and his terrific wife. <double smooches>

I love you one and all!


Wildland Firefighter Foundation

12/23 Hello All~

I have decided to install & host a 'web board' on one of my
sites. The intent is to get the information on how best to deal
with OWCP out to those who need it. (Office of Workers'
Compensation Programs)

I have learned through my posts here that there are some folks
out there who have been dealing with OWCP for a while & know
much more than myself about how to get things done.

I believe that in this kind of forum we can ask questions & pass
information to each other, with the 'old guys' helping the
newbies avoid all the traps.

So I have it mostly set-up. Folks can log in with any name they
choose and have a reasonable expectation of anonymity should
they wish. They can provide as much or as little info about
themselves in their 'profile' as they want.

So please, have a look. Join if you wish. Make suggestions as to
how I can make the place better. Hopefully by getting together
we can help each other through the OWCP swamp with a minimum of
frustration and surprises.

You can find the forum here: OWCP Web Board

Thanks to all for the support you have given me so far.

We wish you the best with this KRS. Making available information on the OWCP process will help many.
You might email Vicki Minor at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation with the link info in case she's off for the holidays. The Foundation has tried to help injured firefighters with the OWCP maze before. Confusing... Keep up the good fight.
Personal thanks to those helping Krs out. Once again, we're all in this together. Ab.

12/23 Would just like to mention that the National Wildfire Suppression Association will be holding their 2005 Annual Conference, "Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future" on March 1-4 at the Silver Legacy in Reno, NV.

We will have a 3 day vendor show, workshops, agency panels, Auction and Dinner with Keynote speaker with all proceeds going to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

For more info they can email me at sonny@wvi.com.

The permanent ink to NWSA is on the Classifieds page. Nice job on the proceeds going to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Ab.
12/23 Good news for Xmas: the US Government plans to hire 12,500 new "critically needed" employees, and let some of the existing workers stay beyond their mandated retirement dates to offset the "tidal wave of looming retirements".

"Nearly 3/4 of the employees will be eligible for retirement in the next 10 years", the report stated.

"This is potentially an urgent problem and a safety issue.......... not having enough qualified ....in three to five years" said Oregon's Rep Peter DeFazio.

"It needs to be implemented as soon as possible because the workforce continues to age" adds Florida's Rep. John Mica.

By the way, they were talking about Air traffic Controllers, not Wildland firefighters!

12/22 Merry Christmas ABs! And Happy Holidays! Just wanted to thank you all for
the excellent work in helping keep the "community" informed. No matter the
issue - information is a powerful tool and it needs to be shared to promote
education and thinking.

Thanks for keeping things on an even keel while allowing all of us to
express our feelings and opinion.


A Firefighter

Sharing info in this community is what it's all about, second to fighting fire, that is. Best wishes to ALL for during this season of celebration. Ab.

12/21 Just wanted to drop a note to all here!

Merry Christmas to one and all, hoping you all have a Happy New Year too!

Happy Holidays to any that do not celebrate the above!

A special thanks to Abercrombie (et al) for such a great place!

Another thanks to all the posters that make this site what it is!

Here's wishing for Peace on Earth, and Good Will to All!

12/21 Just to add my two cents, the good news is up to 80 hours of training is authorized (of these 80 hours, time spent when attending an IMT1 or IMT2 pre-season meeting is authorized for AD team members.

The bad news is the new proposed 2005 rate at which ADs will be paid for this training or IMT attendance, regardless of their position: $9.16 an hour. I believe that speaks for itself.


Hugh Carson

Chair, AD Firefighter Association

To change this, let your voices be heard. Visit the ADFA site and see who you can influence. Ab.

12/21 Mollys Boy;

I’ll bet half of the wildlife bios and Forest Supervisors in the FS are closet tree huggers and radical environmentalists. The other half are good old boys and girls who believe in multiple use of our natural resources. I wonder which camp the folks on the Berdoo are from? The pendulum is slowly swinging back again, heck we are even salvage logging on the Davis fire from 2003. It would be good to see some common sense in the use of our resources again. But it seems we live in an age of extremes never quite get it on the center line. One thing for sure the lawyers are going to eat no matter who wins. Here are a couple of articles about the Davis Salvage.



Merry Christmas!!

12/21 401 here we come. It would be better to be doing this as a Professional Wildland Fire Series.

Forestry Dept Student to another Student... "What's your major?"
Second Student, "Wildland fire, but they call it biology, or is it forestry, they can't seem to decide."


NorCal gag 401
12/20 Govt Accountability

Although its not under the umbrella of "wildfire", an article in today's LA Times is worth reading: a builder in SoCal is suing PERSONALLY 2 USFS technical specialists, and the Forest Supervisor, for blocking developments on Big Bear Lake.
More important is the FAILURE to date of US Government Attorneys to defend these employees who were operating within the scope of their employment.

See any parallels to the wildfire world, like prescribed burns that get away/cause smoke, or wildfires that burn down homes (maybe even a Congressman's)?

Scary times ahead........................!



12/20 Steve LCES,

There is one bit of information regarding AD hires that needs correction
from your last post:

“...Training of any kind is on your dime unless you are picked up as an IC
Team 2 or 1 member.”

Nationwide, under the AD Pay Plan, the Forest Service has authority to
hire an AD and pay for up to 80 hours of training per year regardless of
their AD position or quals.

- Idaho Dispatcher
12/20 CDF is taking applications for FF2 and Fire Apparatus Engineer. Final filing
date is Dec 23 2004. These job applications close and dont open for a year
or two.

Schedule A is Type 1 engines working cities, counties fire depts/fire districts.
Schedule B is type 3 engines, Wildland.

Info available on CDF web site www.fire.ca.gov link for careers with CDF.
FF1 applications and info online also.


12/20 To those who responded to me before about employment with CDF:

I am going to try this once again. I am a municipal FF with over 9 years. I am currently NREMT-B, ENGB/CRWB and FALA qualified, NFPA FF I and II, Haz Mat Tech, and I teach Wildland fire at a local community college. As a CA. native, I would really like to get back, and work on a CDF rig.

One question I have, is what are the A and B schedules? I currently work the 56 hour 3 on, 4 off.

Any recommendations for someone applying from out of state (AZ)? I have all my certs current, as well as ALL NWCG/ICS classes up to and beginning to pass the engine boss/crew boss level.

Any suggestions you have would help. My ideal location would be Riverside County, or similar area.


RRU - www.fire.ca.gov Ab.

12/20 Jay

I do agree with your points on training but I have to question what you said about new people getting only two weeks of training a year. The apprentices that are coming in are getting a month of training in the winter/spring along with additional training when they arrive back to their stations. In addition to this we bring them back for a pay period before basic academy so they can study for their first test and get a week of additional training.

I don't think the question is "why should they get it when I did not", but why do they take priority over my permanent folks. Trust me when I say that. New apprentices aren't under trained, if anything they're overloaded and if you're a supervisor to these people believe me it overloads you as well. We've hired alot of people in a small amount of time and the majority that I've had to deal with have a hard time thinking for themselves let alone think about the job at hand and more training isn't going to solve that problem. But experience might. Also remember not all of the Forest Service respond to multiple car wrecks and all risk situations. It would be great, if you're in those areas, that you could get all the training you needed but we can only do so much with the budgets we get. So thats why "Station Training" and "Project Work" are a valuable method of training to the supervisors. Or would you just rather sit around all day and do nothing.

I also feel that are new firefighters are better trained and equipped than in the previous years. When I came in, like you stated, it was "shut up and learn" which in some ways isn't bad but I don't see that as much as I used to. Although I have said that from time to time.

Remember if the public doesn't like the way we do things, tell them to write their congressman and try and change things.

I think you hit the nail right on the head in your assessment of the apprentices. I think the people that run the program have forgotten that the majority of the apprentices that used to be in the program all had experience, not like the new classes. They think that they can make a firefighter with lots of training and little experience. Personally it scares the hell out of me.

12/20 Fuels guy:

I have to agree with some of what you wrote and disagree with other points to which, I know for a fact that there is personal responsibility written right into the daily operations manual, if not implied.

Shane and Jeff, one of them a long time friend of mine (and yes when questioned recently about my position on this by one of them I stated it) violated many of the orders and ignore many of the watchouts but it seems callous to blame the dead. How much easier to find someone that needed to retire anyway...

As for helicopters, you stated: "...you should have known about the pilot’s tendency to ...., or the ongoing maintenance problem with the tail rotor. No excuses now, safety is your responsibility."

Well, yes. Think about it, the pilot either is new or is returning. If he is new he comes with recommendations, reviews, evaluations (including from outside companies and agencies that have used him in the past). You can review SAFECOMs by searching his (or her?) name and you can ask for flight school records as a pertinent safety inquiry. I have done this and have passed this information on to my crew for their knowledge and judgment. They have the right to refuse a flight and we have had that happen and yes they are still employed.

Secondly, maintenance takes the same priority. The helicopter receives mandatory 30, 60 and 100 hour checks and we receive copies of all the paperwork. Their always is a preflight inspection where we can list off all the exterior defects, fuel sample concerns and fuel log inconsistencies. We do powerchecks and record the results to determine fluctuations/changes that might reflect and drop in performance.

While all this isnt a guarantee that something wont happen, it is for our knowledge so that we can make our own determination on flights. If something happened to me on a flight, I probably wouldnt unleash the legal dogs on the company but I cant say what my family or others would do, unfortunately its how our system works.

12/20 KID;

Last I heard, CA didn’t even accept NREMT certs…like New Mexico and Montana. If you want to work in CA, you almost definitely have to take the state exam.


I know where you’re coming from, my friend. As a small department vollie, I had to hunt down (and pay for) a good bit of my own training if I wanted more than S-130/190, and a four day structural “mini-academy”. The result? A series of unpleasant little conferences with various “higher ups” to the effect that I was alienating people and getting “above myself” and why couldn’t I just “go with the program”. I see the same thing in a lot of wildland…a combination of good ol’ boys club and glass ceiling that promotes by age rather than by ability, and provides training only as required by law, rather than by circumstances. I’m all in favor of learning by experience, but learning in the field takes a really good QA/QC and after-action review system, which I find takes more organization and forethought than simply providing the training…and better leadership to execute usefully.

VFD Capt;

Smart*ss. I’m three credits short of a degree in engineering, I think I keep the sand from falling out the pockets. (snort) I was wondering if anybody had any experience with whether or not the legs were sturdy enough to take the weight of the slate and the sand, or if I’d have to dig the slate out before I put the sand in.

Nerd on the Fireline

QA/QC = quality assurance/quality control.

KID, There was some discussion of CA vs National Registry (NR) EMT starting at this October 2004 bookmark. It's my understanding that in our area of norcal that the National Cert process will be followed for recertification. Ab.

12/20 I have a question to anyone out there who knows.

The state of CA... Can you not take the state EMT cert anymore
or do you have to take the national registry. My EMT teacher says
only national but everybody else says I can take the state cert.
Any info would be great!!!!!!!

12/19 Re:Re: other modes of fire hire.

The "Four ways" from Steve brought a smile to my face. I have a fifth. In 1963 while the "last Mcleod" on the Del Rosa Hot Shots, we had a number of forestry majors from Missouri on the crew. They all had the same good-old-boy sense of humor. One evening, after getting off the day shift from a nearby fire, we were moving single file into the posh LakeArrow Resort to have supper. People stepped aside and applauded as we went by. Our line momentarily stopped at the door. A man about our age asked the MSU guy behind me, "How do you get a job fighting fire?" With out hesitation he answered, "You can do what I did, steal a car." The "Lead Hook" was Joe Cruz, who 30-some years later, would retire as National Director of Fire and Aviation Management. Even Joe, who was always very serious on the job, got a big grin.


Nice one. Ab.

12/19 Alan,

Both CDF and the USFS have administrative fees built into many of their
agreements in wildland/urban interface areas or areas that could be expected
to use a multi-jurisdictional response to wildfires. I am not sure where you
can find the individual agreements, but from what I've heard, there are either
Regional or National templates available.

Rogue Rivers

12/19 EERA For Individual Positions

Steve LCES --

Thanks for the advice.....

Do you or anyone else know of guidelines for rates?
Example if an AD ENGB is $15/hr -- whats an EERA ENGB?

12/19 I am totally impressed by the quality (and quantity) of the recent posts here. It's nice to have the actual firefighters here posting in the off-season. Not that I don't admire and respect those who are able to post year around.

Big P (pulaski): way to go. Nice posting the "10 standard message board orders". I appreciate your time and effort.

Misery Whip: Way to go on your last post! I have to admit I was starting to lean the other way!

JD: Thank you so much for your personal and logical insight.

WFF: Thanks for telling us more about what you do!

Jay: Thanks for reminding the old guys/gals how it is now. Times do change.

CW: I knew you wouldn't leave. Too much more to be read or said. See Big P's post about the 10 standards for posting here.

It seems certain that any individual person would be unable to personally agree with the various opinions expressed here. However, it is also a fact that this is the place to find the best, most diversified commentary available anywhere. Thank you to Abercrombie and all the staff at WLF.

Merry Christmas to All of You.


Thanks ecc1. Ab.
12/19 In regards to 'other modes of fire hire' of single resources. Here, again, in Montana there are 4 possible ways to get hired that I know of.

AD - sign up with the local Forest or DOI office, produce proof that you are qualified for a position (Red Card) and hope the dispatch finds your name when they have run the Fed and State availability list out. Training of any kind is on your dime unless you are picked up as an IC Team 2 or 1 member.

EFF - sign up with Montana DNRC. This can be done by joining a fire department, obtaining the training and qualifications. The Red Cards are controlled and issued by/through the DNRC. Dispatch is handled by the Zone Interagency Dispatch Center (usually a fed dispatch center doing double duty). Training costs are usually handled by the fire department. If the department is $ poor, you end up paying for your own training but are higher on the selection process then an AD without sponsorship.

Temporary Rehire of State employee - retirees sign up with Montana DNRC. The trick here is keeping the Red Card up to date as the DNRC isn't going to issue your Red Card until your first assignment. You get hired at either the rate you retired at or cost adjusted and are considered a State employee.

EERA Contract - yep, contract. As with all contractors, you negotiate a pay rate. You are responsible for making and paying for your own travel, food, sleep and medical needs (immediate need medical will of course be covered but not hospital visits, transport, rescue, etc.). As explained to me by the Forest Contract Officer, for other than dispatching me, the government (at all levels) is free of obligation of support. Basically, he said if it isn't specifically written into the contract, it isn't covered. (Then I contacted my insurance company for the necessary coverage. They were really nice but their eyes lit up with flashing $ signs and I heard a lot of Ca-Ching-ing.)

Those are the only ways I know of. I do know that there are engine contractors out there that put their Red Card quals in the contract for their engines. I don't know if this is an attempt at getting assigned into the position at other then established rates or not.

Steve LCES

Here's the start of a page that contains all the ways and whatever issues exist for each. Types of temporary Fire Hire Ab.

12/19 Administrative fees......

An anyone else provide more info on this? What are
the agreements that these local departments have? Are
they w/ CDF or FS?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

12/19 Seldom Seen,


If you are a VFD in Montana AND your department has an engine or crew contract with the Feds, it is through the MT DNRC. You don't get paid for 24 hours. You get the equivalent of EFF rate for your position (FF2/FF1/ENGB). As posted before, you get overtime but no hazard. If the hours for your engine or crew get cut back by the IC Team, you lose. The EFF rate is LOWER then AD. Essentually, your VFD is a State Contracted engine with the hardware rent going back to the VFD, personnel pay goes to your pocket. The State sets the contract rate for all crews and engines under their purview. I was sponsored by my VFD.

As a EFF Single Resource you get the LOWER EFF rate. You do NOT get paid for portal-to-portal, 24 hours or other dreamland rates. And forget staying in the nearest motel here. I have been on fires in Montana that the nearest TOWN with a gas station is 58 miles down a dirt road, let alone how far it was to the next motel.

There are very few fully staffed fire departments in Montana. Most of these full-time full staff departments are city assets. The very few, full-time, non-volunteer, non-state/federal firefighters I have seen on Type 1 & 2 are either members of the IC Team or very local assets doing structure protection near their town. Most of the time these were under Mutual Aid agreements.

My point: don't lower AD rates thinking the ADs are expendable or unnecessary. We all know they are neither. The impact of this proposal can be far greater just 'a couple ADs'.

While we are all in this together, some of us are just in a little deeper than others.

Steve LCES

12/19 Seldom Seen and WG:

Once again some of you must be reminded that we do not all live in California and that the rules are much different in MOST states in the US. In many states the county VFD or state folks are lucky to get federal AD pay as authorized in mutual response agreements. I say lucky because it is not always the case especially on IA response. Many state, VFD, and contract folks depend on taking leave or otherwise excusing themselves from home duties to work for federal AD wages. These wages at least are/were better than their normal wages but are only available during busy fire times. All VFD, State, retired fed, and all other ADs stand to lose $$ and more under the proposed 2005 AD Directive. Many of them will now choose to stay home.

The key here is that most counties and states can not afford to keep these folks they otherwise use as ADs on the rolls on a full time basis. Those agencies just don't have enough $$. ADs are cheap. They only cost you when you need them not when they are on standby. They cost no benefits. They are usually paid for by the feds when large wildland fires occur in the heavily federalized (i.e. lots of federal land) western states.

There are no Santa Maria FD deals out here in most of this part of the middle of America, New Mexico and Texas. Hugh has the same situation in his part of Colorado.

On the subject of contractors, many contractors have contracted (EERA) equipment (i.e. engines) that they operate while depending on AD wages for their personal services. They too all stand to lose. Many will just quit. I know contractors are a rarity in California. That is not the case most everywhere else.

Seldom Seen:

We all wish your math, and your 24 hour shift, applied out here in America but it does not. 24 hour paid shifts, consistent with fed regulations, are generally prohibited. Your hourly rates seem way out of tune with the proposed AD rates although I wish they were correct. The most I could hope to make per day as an Engine/Crew boss under the proposed rates is about $210. per day gross. Most of us can make more money than that at home and keep our full time bosses and families happier.

On the general subject of the recent draft 2005 AD Directive:

I personally see the current anti-AD attitude by the authors of the 2005 AD Directive, the NWCG Incident Business Management Working Team (IBMWT), as a boldface attempt to circumvent the recent federal mandate for outsourcing of services wherever possible. They have firefighting ADs mixed up with contractors/outsourcers who they perceive are out to take their full time desk jobs away from them. This apparent vendetta towards ADs will likely be the downfall of the draft directive as various groups such as the ADFA seek to find out what was the basis for them to come up with this draft directive and the greatly reduced pay rates it proposes. There will soon be congressional scrutiny. That will likely be closely followed by legal litigation. The questions as to why they did what they did will be answered.

The recently distributed (November, 2004) National Incident Management Organization Study, Findings and Recommendations (NIMO) states that for at least the next decade ADs will be critical to filling the ranks of incident management organizations until the feds can find in-house ways to fill these positions. The paper, authored by much higher powered folks than the IBMWT i.e. agency fire directors), states that "wildland fire complexity increases as experienced, large incident support workforce decreases" and recommends "improved hiring authority" and that "to assure availability (of necessary personnel) and appropriate training opportunities are maximized the current AD employment system needs improvement". The "volunteer militia" (ADs) is frequently referred to as a critical resource to IMTs in at least the near future. This forward-looking document is completely contradicted in many places by the proposals of the AD directive. The two documents laid side by side totally contradict each other in spirit as NIMO has a positive, constructive attitude towards the use of ADs while the proposed directive seeks to pretty much do away with them or at least to make it not feasible for ADs to train and work for the federal government any more.

Is this the first time one hand of the feds has contradicted the other? Is this the first time a very small group of feds have with cavalier attitude endeavored to screw their own discipline to prove a point? What is their point? Anti-outsourcing? Last time I looked ADs were considered regular federal employees when employed and were an equal part of the team. Is this no longer the case? If parity of pay is the measure it is definitely no longer the case. Again, I see this directive as a clear-cut case of anti-outsourcing.

ADs and the liability issue:

Liability, civil and legal, has been an underlying thread of most of the recent threads on TheySaid. As it relates now to AD single resources and line supervisors I would not expect the feds to support any AD employee now in a civil or legal liability situation. They have set precedence now to not even support regular full-time federal employees. I just found out that the insurance carrier that covered me for liability as an AD on fed fires in the past won't do that any more. I am sure I can find another carrier out there again for a much higher price but can I really afford it?

With the pay reduced, the liability expenses increased, and the legal stakes raised many ADs will also have to consider what we are doing very seriously before we respond again to fed fires.

Good job 6! Next year definitely looks like JMS phase four to me. The "brain drain" is taking place. I fear that what now will suffer the most is the both the physical and legal safety of those who do engage. These are very sad times in wildland fire.

Nothing will change if people don't stand up. ADs need to organize instead of splintering. The federal working groups that produce policy documents need to work together to enhance federal wildland fire management and not to further reduce its safety and efficiency through contradictions of policy documents. Everybody else needs to be civil and to remember that accountability and liability begins with management planning and that management planning (or lack thereof) can force those few of us who do continue to engage wildland fires into unsafe actions in Swiss cheese mode. God forbidding, tragedy fire events ensue.

Thanks, Abs. I have been working up to a rant on this for a while and I tried to keep it as short as possible.

12/18 SRJS,

I did not feel it was relevant but if you must go there....I am not in the "fast track" category. I like many others did my temp time (4 years...for a total of 9 years..."fast"?...no way) but you do bring up the argument against the so called "fast track".

Does anyone out there still believe you need to have five years on the job before you get the "privilege" of additional training (to augment that 2 WEEKS of "training") new temps get? I hate to be the one who brings it up, but the idea that training new folks to a level that we were not trained to is bad and is a little selfish and arrogant..."why should they get it when I did not?". It is merely a sign of the times. Everyday Forest Service Firefighters are called upon to adapt to new missions and perform new tasks that were unheard of when I started. I'm not sure about the rest of R5 but here in southern California, Forest Service fire responds daily to "all risk" incidents and the new wave of training for new firefighters should and does reflect that.

When I started it was "shut up and learn". It is hard to do that when you are responded to a multi vehicle accident on the highway with multiple victims. On the job training is ok on the fireline when you are surrounded by experienced wildland folks... but when giving treatment to a trauma victim, it is not. We need to accept and even demand better training so new firefighters are better equipped than we were. I do not want new firefighters to have to spend years on the job to get training just above the basic level as we had to do. Does anyone still (at least in R5) think that TWO WEEKS of training for new firefighters is remotely adequate for our mission? Does anyone out there know a 5 year guy that can't fill out a CTR or program a radio? Does anyone wonder why municipal firefighters have to go through months of training when our new people go to a token session to be followed by "station training"...ie... project work -- when we are often called upon to perform similar or the same task(s). Ever wonder why they get paid alot more......

Sorry for the rant but it seems clear to me that the ideas of the past are not working well with the mission of the present and to provide the public with the quality service they expect from their civil servants, we not only need to ensure that new firefighters are properly trained and equipped for the mission but the folks that have been around need to spend less time trying to maintain the status quo and realize the game has change and the Forest Service must change with it.


Thanks Ab for the space to babble.

12/18 ADs:

Can anyone show me where the documentation is for that
administrative fee (18%) that can be charged for ADs?

Also, I've heard of some contractors that add single
resources (STLs, etc) to their EERAs....Anyone know if
this is what they are doing??



The 18% is what local departments in CA apparently charge in administrative fees, not ADs. Ab.

12/18 Anyone know the story with the AT Message board?


There was a porn spam hack this morning and Larry shut 'er down. Ab.

12/18 Re alternatives to AD

Seldom Seen, Hugh, et al,

Santa Maria Fire Dept does that -employes retirees. The administrative fee probably helps keeps the little CA community's FD alive. Anyone know how insurance, workers comp, etc would work? I'm assuming it's part of what the admin fees pay for. Do ff ADs get a LODD benefit? I guess so. Probably the Bush finance guys would like to do away with that seeing how they treated Alan Wyatt's family. Do those employed by the little depts get the LODD benefit?

Does anyone know more about the other modes of fire hire than AD? Why are there even State EFFs and AD teams? Why not just have state teams that go out of state when the need arises. Seems like that could be important in the case of a terrorist threat. Sure could be some discussion here of the different kinds of hiring systems besides AD, how they pay, what kinds of relative costs go to other entities - like admin fees - and what ff benefits each has. I'm not retirement age yet, but I am starting to think about that.

Any of you finance people in the know want to spill the beans?


12/18 Folks they way around the AD pay rates is to get a local department to sponsor you.
That way you can receive 24 hour pay and at a higher rate then the AD rate by far.
The department makes out since they can then collect an administrative fee of 18%
for the billing.

So lets see 16 hours @ $25.00 = $ 400.00
Department Captain 24 hours @ $33.00 = $ 792.00

Hugh figure the math and start a department.

Seldom Seen

That's what a number of retirees do in Southern CA. Why do you think the non-fed firefighting costs run so high? Ab.
12/18 So, we all know the AD rate proposal is a real kick.

That STOMPING sound is the EFF rate in Montana will make if this AD rate proposal goes through. It might be true in other States as well. EFFs (emergency fire fighter : think state AD) already get about $2 LESS per hour than the ADs. EFF are covered by Workmans Comp and do get OVERTIME. They do NOT get Hazard or any other pay.

The STOMPING will occur when an EFF gets LESS then 14 hours per day. It's at the 14 hour mark that EFF and AD rates match up. At EVERY fire I have been to, the FIRST thing the IC Team does to cut cost is cut manpower hours. This tendency will result in fewer EFFs going to fire as the pay isn't there.

I have gone out at a Single Resource, Contractor and as a member of a VFD on large wildlands. Because of this proposal, I am seriously reconsidering my VFD wildland service as I will make LESS than I can as a Single Resource or Contractor. This will impact both the VFD (financially) and the District/Forest (availability) as there are only so many VFD folks that can take the two-week assignments.

As a Single Resource, I will not be accepting assignments in my entry and mid-level quals if this proposal goes through. Why should I take a pay cut when government folks won't.

Don't get me wrong, I love going to fire. I also like getting paid for the work I do. I should be paid an equal rate for the equal work.

Food for thought. Fuel for the fire.

Steve LCES (This is another Steve, not the original; gotta to keep those Steves straight.)
12/18 Pulaski:

I’ve read many of your posts and appreciate the sharing of your experience
with us. However your post of 12/17, Order Nbr 2 requires a response.

You are familiar of course with one of the greatest writers of our times, none
other than Mark Twain, who said, “Anyone who will only spell a word only
one way is narrow minded.”

The Honorable Mouse AKA Spelling Bee Reject.
12/18 Accountability.

I am fairly concerned at the several posts regarding how all fire fighters are the sole persons responsible for their safety.

You're a first year fire fighter, you've been on three small fires and then you're sent to a Thirty Mile Fire on a 20-person crew. How can we seriously expect our young learning kids to know it all and make the right decisions? Classes are well designed and usually well taught, but doesn't years of experience and that knowledge gained count?

Do we have an ICS class on distrusting supervisors? Should that be a 100 series with yearly refreshers?

You're on a helicopter that goes down, you should have known about the pilot’s tendency to ...., or the ongoing maintenance problem with the tail rotor. No excuses now, safety is your responsibility.

You're a contract dozer operator who has had a fire shelter class and nothing more. Safety is your responsibility. Let's not hold the Dozer Boss or Task Force Leader accountable just because they sent you to a dangerous place. It is your job to know better.

You're a Shot Squadboss with 8 seasons experience and you're on a South Canyon type fire. You believe it to be too dangerous and with two others you refuse the assignment and the Shot Sup is furious. Except this time, no spot occurs and the fire is caught with no injuries. Your career is over, you’re weak and even though you made the right decision, enjoy marking timber.

I say we have to be accountable at all levels, should we make a serious error. Senior fire fighters, leaders and we old salts are there to teach and to protect. Please don't run from IC and other significant fireline jobs because this once a fire supervisor was held accountable.

Shane and Jeff have been held. Yes, most definitely so. We don’t need to hammer them any more.

Look at what the Washington Office THEY SAID post stated, "Unless you have been closely involved in the Cramer Fire, this outcome might be hard to understand."

What I hope for wildland firefighters and my agency is this; that a third level will be held accountable shortly.

We must have those managers who make budgetary decisions to not fill FMO jobs and so forth get their 18 month negotiated "suspensions".

The support from the WO that concerns me is not the courtroom variety, but on the job support.

Hey managers, stop singing the “Where have all the IC’s gone” blues and look forward to your time in the OIG/Criminal Court/Civil Court spotlight. Your days of skating free and transferring to another region are getting shorter.

Fuels Guy
12/17 Dear Ab & Wildland Firefighters:

I wish you could be at our office this time of year. Every day we get cards and letters from firefighters and/or their parents, and from families of the fallen who so appreciated the help and contact that has been given to them.

This week we sent all the Storm King families their statues. With the statues, we included bandannas and 10-year remembrance shirts, along with the pictures, the many signatures and wonderful stories that many of you put in the 10-year remembrance books.

Steve Rucker’s crew, the Novato Firefighters, held a golf tournament from which they donated some of the proceeds to this community's Foundation – a very generous donation. I believe Steve would be honored to see the difference that this money, in his name, has made to fallen firefighter families this Christmas.

Jodi Heath, Shane’s mother gave money to be sent to a fallen volunteer firefighter's family, one with 4 kids. The vollie died last year with no benefits. His son was born after he died. When Jodi heard that, she said with a choked voice, “Send them this money.” I said, "Jodi that is quite a bit," and she said it was what she would have spent on Shane if he was still here this year for Christmas, “so send it on to help those little ones.” It’s hard not to be emotional here at times because of the compassion that flows in and out of here like a rising and falling tide.

The Foundation set up a conference call for Matt Taylor’s family, with a woman who works as a helping healer in times of loss and transition. What a wonderful call from Matt's mother after the family had their call.

David Rendek’s mom just sent in some photos and other touching mementos.

Jon Kelso’s parents just sent a large donation for 52 Club memberships in honor of Jon.

We’ve sent out flowers and other items to the families for the holidays, remembering them during this time of year. On the card we send out, we always say "this is from the Wildland Firefighter Community."

This Foundation is not only a place where we can help the families, it is starting to become a healing place, and where the families can give to each other. There are 70+ families in contact with each other through this Foundation.

Britt Rosso (Supe, Arrowhead Hotshots) was here with us last week. It was so wonderful to meet him and spend time with him. Some of his crew have stopped in to see us on their way home. It feels comforting to have them here.

The Minnesota Incident Command System held a silent auction at their recent annual meeting and donated the proceeds to the Foundation.

I want you to know that almost 98% of our funding comes out of the Wildland Firefighter Community. All these stories and touched lives would not be possible without ALL of US taking care of OUR own.

Many thanks to all of you who have supported the 52 Club.

We wish all of you a warm holiday season,

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation Staff,
Vicki, Melissa, and Burk

If you have someone who is hard to buy for this Christmas season, get them a membership in the 52 CLUB. Such a small amount makes such a big difference when our wildland fire families need our support. www.wffoundation.org Ab.
12/17 The Proposed 2005 AD Pay Rates are unacceptable. Please visit our web site at http://www.adfirefighter.org to access our letter to the fire directors on both this issue and the expiration of the rehired annuitant dual compensation waiver. We also have a link to an extensive analysis of how much these rates have decreased, as well as the huge gap ($2000-$5000 per pay period) between the AD Firefighter pay period earnings and those of a GS employee performing the same job. Many current agency employees and geographic area organizations have expressed similar astonishment at these pay rate decreases; everyone recognizes that this will most likely result in decreased support from the AD community.

We would encourage all AD firefighters to sign up with ADFA if you have not done so already. More than ever, we need your support.

Text of letter is below. HERE


Hugh Carson
Chair, AD Firefighters Organization

You can find a permanent link to this organization on the Classifieds page under Associations. Ab.

12/17 I agree with J.Watt's analogy of a STL or TFL. They do manage "objectives"
under the Div. Sup.

The concept of splitting up the division is done when you have a large
division that requires multiple STLs, TFLs to manage. Not all Div. Sups
divide their Division like this though. It needs to be done in the
preparation for resources and the potential your division has.

What J.Watt is describing using the example Division C-1 is called

I have used this many times in preparation for structure protection. While
making the map, a large area is divided into these segments. As STLs and
TFLs come in, they get a map showing their area of responsibility along
with the objectives to meet.

Within those segments, the Supervisors meet once a day to coordinate
strategies, exchange resources if needed or request more resources for the
next day or two.. or three.

It sounds like what you're calling subunits are "segments".

Happy Holiday's to all!!
12/17 Jay,

“...I am currently a perm with FS in southern California with 5 years experience. I've just started to complete 300 series "S" classes...”

I hope I am not the only one with bells and whistles going off. This is just the beginning of the new trend of fast tracking apprentices. As we keep bringing up Cramer, and the upcoming retirements, I hope everyone realizes this is going to be the norm instead of the exception. This makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I hope it does yours too.

No offense Jay, I do not know you, or your background and/or experience level. Personally I have only eight seasons with over 80% in the Type 1 Crew world, and I am hesitant to go into the strike team realm, but I have to for the flexibility of the crew. But good luck!

12/17 Nerd,

It could be done, but you'll just end up with 6 piles of sand on the floor
as it drains out the pockets.

vfd cap'n
12/17 Ab, I posted this a while back when we were all talking about what might be
the outcome of the Cramer Investigations.

These two citations from the FS Manual tell it pretty plainly.

5135.04c - Work Supervisors. As directed in the Health and Safety Code
Handbook (FSH 6709.11), and FSM 5720 (for requirements related to aviation
safety), work supervisors are responsible for the safety of employees
engaged in wildland fire management activities.

5135.04d - All employees. All employees must accept personal
responsibility for protecting themselves and other workers from injury or
accidents through safe work practices and compliance with the requirements
for safe operations of equipment.

It appears safety is everyone's responsibility.

I suggest we give Cramer a break until after the New Year, at least I will.
I need to concentrate on the Reason for the Season and being thankful that
I can enjoy my family and friends for the next few weeks until the next
work related crisis, becomes an all consuming "riddle wrapped in a mystery
inside an enigma".

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and God Bless us Everyone.

12/17 I was wondering (hoping) some of you CDF'ers out there can give me a little advice. This year I will be applying to CDF in the Southern Ca. area. I am currently a perm with FS in southern California with 5 years experience. I've just started to complete 300 series "S" classes. I see on my CDF application there are only a few choices to respond to in the "training" section on the application. Should I attach a resume? I guess what I'm getting at is how do I express to whomever is checking the applications that I am more than a warm body. Thanks!

Before all the Forest Service folks jump on me...I bleed green, just not the kind of green that pays the bills!!!

12/17 With all the heated discussion on right now, I doubt anybody will pay any
attention to this, but…has anybody heard of making a sandtable out of an
old pool table? We’ve got one in our station just begging to be re-puposed…

Nerd on the Fireline
12/17 Another CDF BC-

I got so fogged thinking about ICS and Quals I forgot your question. March
31st is my last day. Bob went out the door for the last time yesterday. It
is good that we are able to have three ATGSs at the base so there will be
some corporate knowledge through next season.


Another good one retiring early next year. We and CDF are going to miss you John. The New Zealand guys said many thanks for your assistance. Ab.

12/17 RW

I would agree with Misery Whip almost 100%. I can only speak about Jeff, I left the year before Cramer. Jeff's abilities as a faller were on above average. Jeff and I cut many helispots and fought many fires together. Jeff's ability as a rappeller? Rappelling is relatively simple, although some may not want you to think that. I would assume you would be asking about his ability as a firefighter.

It is my opinion that Jeff only waited for the helicopter because he was told it was on its way. He was told that several times which I believe committed him to a course of action he would not have normally taken.

Now as to who was responsible for training these boys, that is the question. Nowhere in the report or the findings does it say what there on going fire training was. I don't know these answers myself.

Let's talk briefly about training. If you are not training regularly for what you MIGHT encounter once in a life time you probably won't react in the same way you would an everyday occurrence. One shelter drill a year is not enough. One day refresher is not enough. 6 minutes is not enough. Sand table exercises for TYPICAL fires are not enough. We need to train more on real life A-Typical scenarios. How often do we walk the woods with our crew and seek their input and challenge their knowledge?

SOP's are important. SOP's that make you go the extra mile even when you don't have to. Written SOP's are essential to ensure your crew on the indivdual level is performing to a standard that any IC would not impact your individual crewmember's safety. Our crew has established SOP's that I expect to be followed. They include physically checking out your escape and safety. Timing your escape route every fire, every time. These are just examples. Did Jeff and Shane walk out their escape route? Was that part of their taught SOP's? I don't honestly know.

Crew safety is local in scope, and even more so as a rappeller and a jumper. You need your training, your experience, and your Crew Foreman's expectations and SOP's guiding you.

Let's talk about Misery Whip's take on Rapid Decision Making. Most people will never encounter this type of fire situation their whole career. This was Jeff's second time. I know, because I was there the first time, we Initial Attacked the Clear Creek Fire in 2000. Jeff, myself, and a few others decided to go to our safety zone early, and that decision saved our lives. I know Jeff had opportunities to watch and learn extreme fire behavior and the value of making decisions quickly. After our demob, 2 Hothot supts asked us to explain to their crews why we made the decisions we did. Jeff explained from a rookie's point a view what he thought going in....and he was right on.

So back to Jeff's decision making capability. Again I think his ability was handcuffed when he was told the helicopter was "on its way." Maybe if Jeff had been told that the aircraft was down for fuel or maintenance a flag would have been raised.

I could go on about what I thought about the whole situation and why they were put there. But that's not very constructive for me. The fact is they were there and had to deal with what was on their plate.

To VFD, we are going to learn from this, but the greatest learning for me was what was not in report:

I've leaned finding fault is not as important as finding forgiveness.


VFD: feel free to email me if you want more info
AB: Please make my email available to VFD
12/17 Pulaski's 10 standard message board orders

1. Keep in your mind that even in the most obnoxious posts there are usually a few grains of truth or common sense.
2. Know how to operate your spell check at all times.
3. Base all replies on what you know for fact, not what you have heard.
4. Identify posts that really tick you off, and provide for reasonable cool off time before replying.
5. Post replies to those that have ticked you off only after sleeping on your reply and reading it again before you send it.
6. Be respectful. Keep an open mind. Think clearly. Act with forethought.
7. Maintain the ability to look at things from the other guys perspective.
8. Give clear messages and be sure they are understood while realizing that no matter how well you feel you expressed your opinion, there is always someone out there who will take it completely different than you intended.
9. Maintain an understanding that many people find it difficult to accurately portray their opinions in written format.
10. Post actively, but never with too much liquid courage in your system.

I read somewhere in some big whoop tee doo study that spelling is irrelevant. All that is important is taht all the neded ltetres are in the wrod and taht the frist and lsat ltetres are in teihr crorcet psotioitn. ...wierd huh?

..long sigh... many moons ago, I was on a VFD with a lot of folks who had been there a long time. As new leadership was elected we took on the practice of reviewing significant fires. Of course the intent of the reviews (what we call after action reports) was just to look at what we did and discuss what we could have or should have done to make things run smoother for the next time. It took a long time and several very heated "fire reviews" for it to sink in to many this wasnt an attack on them or what they did or didnt do.

My point is that the blame game helps no one. As misery whip said (and what some folks seem to be missing here in the cramer discussion) if there is anything good that can be gained from this tragedy, it is to learn something that will help keep other firefighters safe on future fires.


..oh yea, I got my calendars Ab. Nice!

Pluskai, eevr the wsie ass. Ab.

12/17 Hutch (and everyone else),

Rich Hawkins is doing much much better now. He has been resting a great deal
until recently leaving on a much anticipated and long awaited hunting trip.

I'll make sure he gets the messages sent to him here.

12/17 Responses to

Fish- Yes, the TFL could be used as a subordinate geographic supervisor as can the STL, but that is not how ICS places the jobs. Both the STL and TFL are designated as work supervisors not supervising incident objectives geographically. It is a fine hair to split. Many STL’s actually work as a sub-division because their troops are assigned to a piece of line. Since ICS is process oriented, i.e., “check out the job to be done and order more resources before starting work”, people tend to stay in their little assignment boxes. ICS is supposed to be flexible. Once in a while I’ve heard folks designated as Division A1 or something to indicate that some type of break out has been done. Why can’t a DIVS create subunits utilizing personnel on the line if Branches and Divisions can trade and borrow resources, and adjust boundaries to fit reality? They can if they aren't’t trapped in the process. There are a lot more STL’s, TFL’s, and others who just pass time doing logistics for their crews. There should be little need to order additional personnel if resources are packaged in strike teams.

NVJims- You are correct about logistical support issues. Before ICS several ways of providing support were organized. When CDF had 6 regions, before “2001- A Space Odyssey”, regional support teams were organized to support the line workers. Operations personnel were from the local or nearby units. It functioned rather well. There wasn’t so much ritualistic passing of command and process manipulation, the workers were fed, watered, re-outfitted so work could continue. Since then fixes have been made in various places to support the developing extended attack fires. SHU and SHF have Extended Attack Modules preplanned so that an IC only has to make one call for activation. One OSC, two DIVS’ (three if a Structure Group is anticipated), Staging Area Manager, Hired Equipment Manager are committed and logistical support ramped up at the Unit or Forest level. Two divisions are a good start on most fires. About 95% of fires are IA and about 2% major. That leaves about 3% where training and experience are really developed, if allowed to happen.

Rogue Rivers- You asked for views, some are above. For something to think about, what is the relationship between the USFS Incident Management Policy- Ch.11.C, “Types of Command Structures” and the NWCG Position Qualifications manual?

The Incident Management Policy has some interesting statements and non-statements. Under Type 3, Extended Attack, the incident may involve several operational periods prior to control, may have divisions or command and general staff activated at the division or unit leader level. Type 2 incidents involve a team, and have divisions established, usually for span of control to geographically facilitate work assignments. The criteria for a Type 1 incident adds to the Type 2 by saying that divisions are established requiring division supervisor qualified personnel. It also states that aviation operations often involve several types and numbers of aircraft. Taken at face value, it appears that Type 1 incidents are the only ones that require qualified personnel at the division level. It also is the level at which aviation issues are identified.

Looking at the NWCG IC qualifications requirements there are some interesting routes that can be taken. The Type1 IC is clear; one needs to be a Type 2 IC first. Type 2 IC gets a little more variable; there are four ways to qualify, 1) IC type 3 and OSCT2, 2) ICT3 and PSCT2, 3) ICT3 and LSCT2, and 4) ICT3 and FSCT2. So that’s pretty clear that you need to be an IC Type 3 and one of the Type 2 section chiefs.

The Type 3 IC is where I lose the thread. There are two tracks to qualify; 1) ICT4 and TFL, and 2) ICT4, STL, and 2 single resource crew boss ratings. An ICT4 requires experience as a single resource boss. No experience at supervising a division of fire line is required to be an extended attack IC. Yet the DIVS position requires either TFL or ICT3 as a prerequisite. Is an endless loop starting here? TFL requires either STL or two single resource boss ratings and ICT4. STL requires single resource boss experience.

What is interesting is that an OSCT2 requires DIVS and DIVS has ICT3 as a qualification track. Yet an extended attack ICT3 commanding a fire with multiple divisions (which don’t require qualified personnel) may have an OSC working for them. Is this a symptom that IC’s may not need to be able to, or have the knowledge to, fight fire until the type 2 and 1 are activated? Is the OSC and DIVS lineage being protected for team assignments? Is the system forcing the need for teams? Is there an artificial bottleneck around the DIVS position? Is the system just getting screwed up? This is like an archeological dig; the deeper you go more questions surface.


12/16 From Firescribe:

Woman Who Set Colorado Fire Won't Face Prison

Colorado sentence of 12 years was thrown out, but not the 6 year Federal sentence.

12/16 From Misery Whip


So you and some other folks think I’m opinionated. OK, I’ll own up to that. As for being long-winded, well, complex issues cannot be explained in short sound bites. But I think I’ve earned the right to voice my opinion on this site. I’ve spent most of my career as a smokejumper, rappeller, or helitack supervisor, how about you? I’ve initial attacked somewhere over 200 fires by aerial delivery, and have probably about the same amount of ground crew/engine IAs, plus years of prescribed fire experience, how about you? I’ve been chased around and humbled on a number of occasions by Salmon River fires, how about you?

Savage, maybe you need to check your own “factual information” again. Let’s discuss the statements you made about my recent posts.

1. In your first bullet, you are correct when you say that the two rappellers requested a ride out, but that is about all. You, OSHA, and anyone else who thinks that a helicopter is a safety zone, need to understand that you are barking up the wrong tree.

Yes, it would have been wonderful if everyone had picked up on the many now-apparent danger signals, if everyone had communicated known hazards flawlessly, if the helicopter had just picked up Shane and Jeff before the fire overran their position. But then, if they had, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, would we?

Unfortunately, in the real world in which I work, right when you need them the most, helicopters need fuel, or a maintenance check, or a radio doesn’t work, or you get a tail rotor chip light, or a hundred other things. And what eventually happened at Cramer? When H-166 finally got up to H-2, it was too smoky for it to land.

Let us stick a fork in this one, shall we? A helicopter is not a safety zone. And counting on a helicopter to swoop in and rescue you from hundred foot flames in the nick of time is not a good idea any way you cut it. If you are depending on a helicopter as your only means of escape, especially in a place like the Salmon River breaks during extreme burning conditions, then you are rolling the dice in a big way.

As a rappel spotter, I never deployed rappellers on any fire unless we had discussed a plan for LCES before they unplugged their flight helmets and left the helicopter. A safety zone is an area on the ground where you can take refuge in a worst case scenario, not a hypothetical helicopter that may never come back. And a dehydrated ceanothus brush field that has not yet been fired out is not yet a safety zone.

If I understand the Cramer report correctly between the redactions, the spotter who spotted Shane and Jeff discussed escape routes and safety zones before deploying them at H-2. My personal hunch is that Jeff and Shane did have a plan between themselves for LCES, from what I’ve heard about them they were two good hands, and I would be surprised if they had not done so.


12/16 To: A fed up contractor (12/12)

"Why the hell do people (such as yourself) think this, constantly, about every single contractor?"

I never said anything of the kind. Please reread:

"Contractor lobbyists - nobody wants to give up a gravy train."

I am now curious as to

"Why the hell do people (such as yourself) think this, constantly, about every single government employee?"

What I do wish to be identified with is some opposition to the use of lobbyists to determine how to run government programs. In the early 1990's I recall a meeting where two managers from our Regional Office stated that in our region we have been running with one more heavy air tanker regionally than we would have liked. The preference at the RO level was for an additional Shot Crew instead of that air tanker. However, the power of that contracting lobby was such that we were limited in our options.

Locally, we have been using with great success a State Inmate program for slash piling etc. We can show that the costs of this program are about 50% of contract piling and the DOC is doing an absolutely fabulous job for our Forest. {Incidentally, we openly admit that on medium and larger projects we government types are also not only far more costly than DOC, but also more than contractors for slash piling.}

There are benefits to society here as well.

However, a contract lobby is again applying pressure for us to discontinue use of DOC Crews 'cause they want the business.

{Trivia: Our SOP commonly on this Forest is thinning by contractor then piling by DOC.}

What I'd hope for is that portions of the contractor world would use the lobby lever less and move the fulcrum to where it favors them on the productively level.

Sorry for the confusion.

And I stand by my points that to set up a fire suppression air force, that contractor lobbyists would still be a difficult obstacle and that it would cost too much. Please accept the later part of this last sentence as a compliment this time.

Fuels Guy

12/16 After reading Mellie's post on 12/13, I found this document in the new IFPM Standards and thought I'd throw it into the discussion..... This document addresses the "Required" and "Recommended" training for Agency Administrators at various levels.

I was amazed, even after 3 different OSHA citations, that this is all that is required for Agency Administrators under our "new" professional standards.

IFPM: Training for Agency Managers (small pdf file)

Rogue Rivers

12/16 Good Job Misery Whip

I think that we (the wildland fire organizations) have entered the third phase of the John Maclean Syndrome (JMS). JMS is where the line firefighter does not have the responsibility for their own personal safety, it is always someone else’s fault. Maclean articulates this in his book, Fire on the Mountain. It is a major change from the old way of fighting fire where the line firefighters had the responsibility to stay safe. ‘Waiting’ (who wrote Implications) said it well, “We used to be responsible for our own safety and held accountable for determining what was safe and what was not a safe tactic. That was the way it was for many years.” The old philosophy is consistent with Paul Gleason’s LCES concept and most contemporary management theory.

Phase one of JMS was getting our culture to buy off on the concept. We need a Forest FMO to locate where our safety zones will be. We need a dispatcher to program our radios and turn them on so we can hear the weather being broadcast. We need a checklist to make sure that we have filled out all of the checklists. Upper management likes this because there is always someone lower in the food chain that they can stick it to. Newer firefighters like it because it is less responsibility. Middle management is the group that gets stuck holding the bag.

Phase two of JMS is where we expect perfection in a high hazard, dynamic, fatiguing, stressful world. Did the Cramer I.C. make mistakes? I think everyone would agree that yes he did. Has anyone ever been in command of a complex incident without making a single mistake? No. Most mistakes are minor and inconsequential, some are significant. For the USFS to tolerate criminal charges against a firefighter that was trying to do his duty is nothing short of egregious.

Phase three of JMS will be the brain drain. How much extra do you get paid to be a qualified Type 3 IC? What is benefit to you personally for performing this task? Most people I know do it out of a sense of duty, loyalty to their agency and the fire service. Most ICT3s I know are taking a hard look at whether or not they want to keep that qualification. Most have some other marketable qualification (Safety Officer, FBAN, Div Sup, etc.) so they could quit the IC business and stay active in fire. Some will go and some will stay. Phase three-point-five will occur next time there is an accident and the agency reacts. That will push most of the rest of the qualified ICT3s right out the door.

Unlike the NHL, you don’t cancel a fire season due to lack of players. Phase four of JMS is the implosion of the Type 3 fires due to lack of staffing. Fires will go Type 2 at a lower complexity level and staffing Type 2 fires will become more difficult. You will have ICT4s and ICT5s trying to hold on until a team arrives. Gung ho ICT3s will have more rein. Some organizations will accelerate the ICT3 qualification process. Safety will not be improved. One possible scenario is for the same type of situation to occur on a Type 2 fire. Look at criminal charges against one the ICT2s or ICT1s and you will see the end of overhead teams.

I may be sounding like I am being unfair to John Maclean, but it was not JM who put the JMS into motion. It was all of us. Maclean is a man with an opinion, but he is not a policy maker.

Fire season 2005 may be a test of my prediction. I hope not.

Bottom line is that every time you look in the mirror, you should be confronting that individual with keeping you safe. If the person you see is a fireline supervisor make sure they realize that they have a double responsibility.

12/16 > From the CDF Website:

Revised Examination Announcement
Examination Titles: Fire Apparatus Engineer & Firefighter II
Examination Codes: 4FS0201 & 4FS0202
Notice of Revision: December 3, 2004
Examination Base: Open = Non-promotional
Department: Forestry and Fire Protection
Final Filing Date: December 23, 2004 *
Supplemental Application: February/March 2005 **
The Bulletins Announcing the above Examinations have been amended as follows:
*The final filing date for both the Fire Apparatus Engineer and Fire Fighter II examinations has been extended to December 23, 2004.
**It is anticipated that the supplemental applications will be sent to eligible candidates in February/March 2005.

If you have already submitted an application for the examination(s) noted above, please do not re-submit another application unless you wish to apply for an additional examination (e.g., previously applied for the Fire Fighter II examination only and you are now interested in applying for Fire Apparatus Engineer examination). The Examination Unit will re-review the application of any applicant who previously submitted an application but did not meet the minimum qualifications. If, after reviewing your application, it is determined that you meet the minimum qualifications for one or both of the examinations, you will be notified in writing of your admittance into the examination.

Applications postmarked after December 23, 2004 will not be accepted.

CDF Firefighter I (seasonal) vacancies.
www.fire.ca.gov/CDFCareers/pdf/05ff1_bul.pdf (pdf file)
CDF Firefighter II
www.fire.ca.gov/CDFCareers/pdf/04ff2_rider2.pdf (pdf file)
CDF Fire Apparatus Engineer
www.fire.ca.gov/CDFCareers/pdf/04fae_rider2.pdf (pdf file)


12/16 I can attest to the FS work ethic. It's AWESOME at all levels! CW, I think you're way off
base on that one. I am ALWAYS amazed at how much is demanded and how much is

Fed Firefighters out there, hang in with the process. In the midst of chaos, the difference that
one person can make is sometimes remarkable. Be Safe!

Love and best wishes for the holidays,


12/16 Hutch,

Glad to hear you and Rich are doing better. We're going to miss you
in Tucson this next year.


12/16 Workshop announcement:

Managing the Unexpected (downloadable 79K doc from the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center) in Prescribed Fire and Wildland Fire Use Operations: A Second Workshop on High Reliability Organizing. Application deadline is February 1.

The first session in Santa Fe in May 2004 was excellent. It looked at the Cerro Grande fire. This Workshop will look at the fires on the Okefenokee NWR over the years, culminating with the 125,000+ acre Blackjack Bay Complex in 2002.

Dick Mangan

12/16 The Jobs page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages are updated as are the 0401 listings (link on jobs page).

Readers, take a look at the Classifieds page. There is a Heavy Equipment category there; oh look, some engines for sale. Scroll down... some tools... and there's Colorado Firecamp home of all the known Cramer documentation. If you don't know what to give a firefighter for Christmas besides our fire photo calendar, consider some gear from one or more of our many advertisers, many of whom read and sometimes post here. Ab.

12/16 IHC Lifer I have never been a quitter. I was just feeling like I was alone in a room full of English majors and no one could see my point so why bother. D.O.J.? I think it is the grammatically anal I might have to worry about. As an IC and Burn Boss I have just always felt responsible and am having a hard time understanding what seems to be the majority of posts that seem to disagree.

yellowjacket I am glad someone gets it! Thanks

Oliver What has got to me from day one about Cramer is this little bit of info: Salmon breaks, Very low RH and High temps, July, and a crew working above the fire in the late afternoon.... Add in the lack of safety zones and lookouts and well, I just don’t get it. The more reports I read I still come back to these basics and wonder why?.

BB Is that over a Moose Drool........... or in a dark ally?

Steve Glad I could make you speechless for a bit, but I am miles away from any of your assumptions in your first post. As for the bit about "Get back to work" I say that allot, usually half tongue-in-cheek and half-serous. But we can address the decline of the work ethic (across the board) at a later time. If you are one of us Old School or what gets referred too often these days as workaholics then I was definitely not referring to you personally. I was only trying to laugh at the fact that there are many bosses out there that I am sure would like their people getting their normal work done and not spending hours posting on the net. A person could spend many hours doing this stuff, my first post here I turned out way too fast and raw and it nearly got me hauled off by the grammar police!


Interesting enough, fed folks rarely post during office hours unless they have an "official" announcement or request. Posts come in before hours, after hours and at times in between when we get an update of posts caught in the spam filter, like yours was and some others posted above. Readers, if your post isn't posted in a timely manner, it probably is hung up in our spam filter. Try again. Ab.

12/16 I heard that the Santa Ana at Lingbergh Field this AM was blowing offshore into the
Pacific almost 30 mph. (San Diego) Outgoing flights were taking off against the wind -
west to east - it's very strong - no doubt, and reportedly only the second time in 11 yr
that's happened. RH hovers near 10%. If the TALL lush green grass dries out in our
continuing socal drought, we're going to have an early season. It could be RIPPIN'.

Are our fed cooperators in socal going to have enough ICT3s to pick up those early
season IAs on fed lands? Man, are you guys gettin' screwed over. Every fire a campaign
fire?  Maybe we'll be screwed too if the drought and fire season start too early. We
dodged the bullet last year. After the firestorm of 2003 we deserved the by.
How long can that go on?

Make those FS legal beagles give you some backup /relief in writing. That's what we'd
get our union to do.  SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY. Oh, yeah, fed firefighters, no union.


Let's not get too smug about unions.
But I agree, we might have a rough season for many reasons. California is synonymous with complexity and an 11 month fire season some years. Ab.

12/16 11/28 Post, Old Crusty Guy:
One company (there may be others, not sure) who make the "cabin wrap" material rolls for protecting structures are:

Cleveland Laminating

Good luck,

DC II (Ab added II to distinguish from the Original DC.)
12/16 From Firescribe. Link below is from the FS Web:


NM Business Weekly, By Celene Adams, December 12, 2004

The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced an initiative to
assist in the economic development of American Indian owned/operated small
businesses by supporting the creation of 20 American Indian-owned firms
that will work to reduce wildland fire risks. The plan, launched under the
federal Healthy Forests Restoration Act, passed last year, is to recruit 20
tribes throughout the country to take advantage of new federal forest
restoration contracts with an aggregate worth of $200 million, says Malcolm
Bowekaty, project director with the Intertribal Information Technology Co.
(IITC). The SBA recently contracted with Rio Rancho-based IITC for its
help in establishing new American Indian corporations and with bidding on

12/16 km,

This site has both wildland and structure art work,
http://www.fire-art.com/artwork.php. Also Mark Manwaring has a wildland
print called Silent Heroes III. Hope this helps.

12/16 Ab,

One time, back when we kids, my sister was chasing my brother around the
house. She caught up to him and kicked him hard. As she was being scolded
by my parents, she offered the defense: "Well, if he wasn't so
un-coordinated, he could've gotten out of the way."

That seems to be line of reasoning being used to lay the blame on Jeff and
Shane. And likely we'll hear the same about Eva, whenever they release the
Tuolumne Fire report.

vfd cap'n

How about we say "explain the choices made by  - or the actions of - Jeff and Shane". I truly do not think posters are "blaming" Jeff and Shane. I do take your point. Ab.

12/16 KM:

Another artist is Rhonda Wilford. I have a print of her work that is a
still life arrangement of firefighting tools of the trade. It's quite

12/16 RE: Savage's Post

The fact that the two rappellers died on the Cramer fire is de facto evidence that they, themselves, were culpable in their fate. That is not a statement to engender disrespect or to settle some score. I knew neither of them personally and mourn their loss as I would any fellow firefighter. But anyone who has walked the line, particularly those who work as small unit tacticians, away from established support lines (i.e. Smokejumpers, Helitack, Rappellers) knows that individual safety is a personal responsibility. You can yap all day about missed pick up opportunities, missing look outs, and the like but the guys on the line know you don't get burned unless you made a mistake. I hate to say that because I have two friends with crosses on Storm King Mountain but they would be here with us now, swilling beer and telling jump stories, if they hadn't made critical errors in judgment. There but for the grace of god, go I...

There's always enough blame to spread around when things go wrong but to claim that those rappellers were just innocent victims of a criminally negligent command structure just propagates an institutional myopia and punitive culture that threatens to destroy a great organization.

Joe Hill
12/16 I have thought long and hard on the issues associated with Cramer and its aftermath. I have read the posts here and chatted with folks on fire chat. I have spoken at length with my colleagues and my boss. I am weary. It disturbs me that a precedent seems to have been set that we, as ICT3s are now more vulnerable than we thought we were before.

What is as upsetting to me is that we seem to be at each others throats on this issue, at the very time that we should unite. Every one of us has opinions, fears and agendas regarding this very important issue and there is value in airing them on this forum. As ab said a while ago: Sticking to issues rather than making personal attacks always yields better dialog.

It is my belief that all of the posters on this subject hope that we can find a way to increase the safety of all of us that fight fire. There may be disagreements on the means to the end, but we all want the same thing.

I urge everyone here to keep in mind that we are as one, that we have the same underlying desire to make our lives and jobs better. If we put aside our disagreements and demand that the system serve the firefighter we will be better off.


Been Bummed, Been Bitter, now I want to Be Better
12/16 Ab,

Ken Perkins, a former Redding Smokejumper, is a wildland fire artist and
has made several notable prints over the past 20 years or so. He has a studio
"Windrider Studio" in Redding, California and still sells prints, as far as I know.

Joe Hill
12/16 Km – you may want to check out Monte Dolack, an artist in Missoula. He has
only two wildland fire prints that I know of, one commemorating the Northern
Rockies fires of 2000 and the other commissioned for the National Wildfire
Foundation in 1992 (?) Both are high quality, non-cheesy.

12/16 Abs,

Here is a book that may be of interest, particularly to us brush bunnies. I have not read it so I can not rate it. It is called "Fire, Chaparral, and Survival in Southern California". It can be found on Amazon so anyone wishing to purchase it can support your site. Here is the books web site http://www.californiachaparral.com/pages/2/index.php


This is "All of Our" Site ... The wildland firefighting community makes this site what it is, although it seems sometimes we Abs "work mighty hard at it too. Ab.

12/15 Studies and personal observation show holidays heighten stress in many folk
during normal circumstances. Unfortunately the Cramer tragedy has sadly
brought grief to many.

Axe grinding is best employed before you address your wood pile!

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday everyone

12/15 Does anyone have the contact information for H & S creations? They are the shady T-shirt
company you see at fire camps and were talked about on this board for a while.


Tyler PW

Hmm, I googled 'em in the archives and on the net with no success. Maybe they went out'ta business or simply changed their name? Ab.

12/15 Looking for wildland fire artists:

I've tried searching several artist sites to find people that specialize in wildland
fire prints. Do you know of any sites and/or artist names?


We have several among the Familysaid group. I'll cross post this over there, too. Maybe someone will write in. Ab.

12/15 Rich

I am glad you're feeling better, and you will get better over time.
Just dont push yourself too much. You point out that my BP and
cholesterol levels were what we considered normal when I had my
heart attack. Yes, like you there were lots of years of living hard before
my heart attack and I firmly believe that having been retired for a year
and a half was a major factor in that it wasn't worse! Get better and
find a relaxing past-time. See ya at the salad bar !!


ps Mellie how are you doing? haven't heard from you in a while.

Have you checked the salad bar? I think I saw her there. Ab.

12/15 JD,

You said that you worked side by side with Jeff for two years. Would you agree with Misery Whip when he questioned Jeff and Shane’s abilities as fallers and rappellers even though Jeff was a certified B faller after working for the thinning crew for two seasons and rappelling for 3 seasons before he was killed. Also, Shane was a certified C faller. Here is the quote I am referring to “who was responsible for training Shane and Jeff, and for signing them off as rappellers and fallers?”

Any input would help, thanks.

12/15 Misery Whip,

This is in response to the document you wrote that was recently added to the documents worth reading area and your most recent post.

I would just like to say that it was a well-written document and is probably a good summary of the experiences that have occurred during your firefighting days, but it seems very opinionated and lacks factual information in regards to your comments made in regard to the Cramer Fire.

1. You made a statement in which you said, “Unfortunately, the two rappellers on the Cramer Fire heli-spot waited too long before reacting to the fire below them, and they paid the ultimate price.” If you would have read all of the reports and interviews released by OSHA then you would have been aware that the two rappellers reported smoky conditions and asked for a ride off the hill long before the time of 1505 as provided in the USFS report. The response they received from the heli-base after making this request was to call back when you have the heli-spot completed. It would seem to me that if you put safety first as all fire managers should, then you would have sent a helicopter to pick them up at that point rather than have them finish a heli-spot that you no longer planned to use that day. You also need to realize that the smoke they were seeing was coming directly below their safety zones leaving a ride out on a helicopter as there only remaining safety zone at that point.

2. According to you, the OIG felt that they needed to make an example of Alan Hackett, it had nothing to do with what I noted in #1 above or that during the second recon that Hackett takes during the day they observe fire activity directly below the two rappellers outside of the fire line, but don’t report it to the rappellers or have them removed at that time. When the rappellers took the assignment in the morning they were told that a lookout would be posted across the valley, but Hackett decided to use air support as their only lookout after the two were already on the ground. What good is air support as your lookout if they don’t inform you of the immediate danger that you are in? Involuntary manslaughter is an act that is unintentional and a result of negligence, which is why the OIG would have been able to have gotten an indictment in this situation. The acts did not need to be intentional or malicious as you describe in all of your posts to be considered involuntary manslaughter. The information concerning this was obtained through OSHA’s interviews and notes that were released FOIA.

3. Your continued criticism of the two rappellers in your latest post just boggles my mind. Your claims that they were not qualified rappellers or sawyers and that Hackett’s mistakes “should not have been fatal mistakes for Shane and Jeff if they had been properly trained to recognize the danger of their situation and had been properly trained to react accordingly. They knew the fire was close below them, why didn’t they just pull out a fusee, burn off a survival area, and walk into it?” This is a completely ignorant statement as if you would have taken the time to look at the pictures taken at H2 you would have seen the massive trees that had been cut during the day and known than unqualified sawyers could not have cleared that area. Also in order to rappel you have to be trained, you don’t just randomly pick two guys off of a hand crew and say your going to rappel today. You would also have realized that they could not see anything from where they were especially with the foliage that would have been present before the fire ripped through there. They were relying heavily on air support as their lookout. As far as using a fusee to burn a little area to walk into I seriously doubt that would have done much as there was a retardant line below H2 with black from the prior day below it and it burned so hot it was not even a survival zone, they were in an area that was thick with trees and the fire was crowning out on all sides of them. They had no-where to go, there were no survival zones within a half hour hike to them. Since you appear to know everything about firefighting maybe you should rappel into a similar situation with a video camera on your head and show us all how to survive something like the Cramer Incident as it would make a great training video.

In summary, I would just hope that in the future if you are going criticize someone, especially two people who are no longer around to defend themselves that you at least take the time to know what you are talking about as pointed out in #1 and #2 above. I do not know what Jeff and Shane ever did to you, but it is quite obvious that you have very little respect for them and take pleasure in kicking them while they are down, as you know they can no longer defend themselves. I think that everyone needs to realize that just because you are old and long-winded with material, it does not mean that you are always right.


Misery Whip has made it clear he is not criticizing Jeff and Shane. Ab.

12/15 I have read the posts for a while here on Cramer and think I want to add my take on it.

Having been an I.C. at various levels for many years and having worked a short stint on the old Challis portion of the Salmon-Challis as well as many fires in the Salmon River there are alot of things here.

The criminal action against the I.C. is certainly throwing water on any intelligent person's desire to become an I.C. Who wants to risk their livelyhood, freedmn, career or financial situation on these responsibilities. Its easy to throw rocks about unfilled positions, budget, oversight and a myriad of other things. As I see it the whole thing boils down to a changing Agency that has embraced alot of social causes and lost sight of the real reason they exist.

Now before folks start throwing rocks, think about it for a while.

The issue of "Forestry Technician" GS 0462 vs "Firefighter": Well up until about 1972 the fire folks were "Fire Control aids or Techs" GS 0456. The PDs were fairly accurate and they were recognized as firefighters. That got in the way of moving folks around to do work so all of us were reclassified as Forestry Techs (0462), though for the most part the PDs transitioned across fairly close with a percentage of duties talking about forestry tech jobs like timber, reforestation, recreation added. So there is history there, though its only the really old folks that remember that.

The environmental movement hit the good old U.S. and the Forest Service began bringing in folks with degrees and interests other than "Forestry" to diversify the skills of the work force. Those folks are now the dominant force in agency management and dang few of them have spent much time on fires at the groundpounder level and therefore do not understand fire in its freeburning state. The lack of knowledge and oversight, they want to be as uninvolved as possible.

Then there is the quals system: I.C. 3 is nested at the Strike team leader level, and really should be at Division. As a District FMO whenever we were looking for an IC for a Type 3 Fire, I went looking for a DGS, not a strike team leader. Why? Because a division has a much higher experience level and as a DGS you are challenged to handle logistics and even have some planning responsibility that does not exist at the STL level. Quals! at one time a person had to perform and be a solid performer to be recommended for training to the next higher qual. This created an attrition process and shook out the weaker performers over time, (not saying folks on the Cramer were in this group). Today it's almost automatic, when you get qualed at one level you become a trainee for the next. I have seen folks trying to get the task books passed off without doing the jobs. Guess what? Some did, now they are one, hope that scares ya as it should!

Also on quals, I am a firm believer that DFMOs should have minimal fire quals at the DGS level or better. There are folks out there that are DFMOs that are Crew Bosses. This watering down of skills really is being driven by the social engineering that is going on in the agency to meet diversity at all grades, as to require these skills for the DFMO job is seen as a barrier to those that do not have it. Dang straight, translates to Firefighter safety.

As for the 401, sorry folks, education does not translate to improved firefighter safety. Dont get me wrong; education is good (and yes I have a BS in Forestry) but it isnt worth a damn without the ground level fire fighting experience to be in the job.

Finally as to vacant positions, lots of reasons. Us old folks are leaving fast, and there are not alot of people ready, or willing to step up yet and its going to get worse, anyone stop to think the amount of new folks coming in the bottom that are being trained at a madding pace and the cost of it? Heck ya can hire 3 folks that "can go do things" vs one manager that is there to provide the oversight and keep them safe.

Sorry this got so long and I will stop here, but there is alot more to it than whats apparent at the first blush. Be safe out there folks !!!

OK now throw your rocks.

Got yer flaps down? Ab.

12/15 good day all,

The swiss cheese modeling is starting to give me the willys. I look around
our forest and see the same issues here, inside and outside of the fire
program. Close calls are becoming the norm, not the exception. I fear
that the current cultural climate of the FS resembles the Army Corps of
Engineers in the late 90's. People were not reporting the close calls in
the Corps due to 'fear of execution'.

Lets do the right thing by making it a learning process and eliminating the
hazard and the culture, instead of having the process geared towards
reprisal and retribution.

sign me, Type 1 wrench on a Type 6
12/15 Anonymous,

The word is- while they do draw blood there is not a specific drug test or
screen with the BLM baseline physical. The drug test is done during the
usual drill at the time of hiring/employment/application.

informatively but not endorsing,
12/15 The Abs want to commend contributors on their attempts at keeping the dialog on theysaid as civil as possible. We know the topics being discussed push people's hot buttons, ours included. Sticking to issues rather than making personal attacks always yields better dialog. Result: we all learn more. Civility also tends to reduce anxiety rather than heighten it.

On another note, some of our wildland fire calendars are already going to Australia. Some new reviews are posted. Git yer Wildland Fire Calendar orders in. Original Ab is wearing out the road between his place and the PO.

12/15 JD,

Your diagnosis is correct. However, I don't know that I can explain why I am obsessed with the Cramer Fire. Maybe by definition, obsessions elude explanation.

Some of it traces back to this year's region 2 Spring fire meeting . Steve Pedigo (former USFS R2 state and private forestry head) gave a presentation on his company's research related to the approaching 10-year anniversary of South Canyon . He talked about the work on the 81 action items to come out of that incident and Thirtymile and from OSHA.

Bill Wallis, BLM state FMO, came up next and asked the audience a couple questions. To paraphrase: What isn't being addressed in those 81 items that will keep killing other firefighters? What are we are missing?

Steve had the more entertaining presentation, complete with an animated story about grubbing (although he had some other word for it) for worms back in Louisiana, but Bill's questions have stuck with me.

The redactions in the Cramer report and its third-rate distribution as a crappy PDF only added to the feeling that we were indeed all missing something.

Just because I never met Jeff or Shane or Alan, nor have I fought fire in the Salmon River breaks, doesn't mean I am as far removed from this incident as you might think. Take a look back in the Theysaid archives www.wildlandfire.com/arc/2003g_jul.php.

On July 22, 2003 as the fire was preparing to race up the Cache Bar drainage, I wrote in about our local FMO position being vacant for 6 months. I also wrote about key local fire people being absent from the home unit on other tasks. How was I to know about an Idaho district ranger working dispatch that day instead of providing line officer support to an IC in the field? Misery Whip's comments about organizational flaws are not lost on me.

I may come off as arrogant in my posts. I refuse to accept that it's all been learned before. There are lessons yet to be drawn from the Cramer Fire.

I don't have all the answers, but I know one of the questions. What are we missing?

vfd cap'n
12/15 Examples of the Swiss Cheese Model in Action—

Most of us are familiar with the Swiss Cheese model of how most accidents occur. It’s been discussed several times on this board recently by Hugh Carson, Mellie, HV, Lobotomy, and others. Part of that theory is that frequently more than one mistake or example of poor judgment occurs to allow an accident to happen.

Remember the crash of the supersonic Concorde in 2000? It crashed into a hotel shortly after takeoff from an airport near Paris killing 109 on board and 4 people on the ground. Details are still emerging about the causes of the crash. According to an Associated Press report today:
  • Continental Airlines made a decision to install a titanium “wear strip”, or metal bar, on a location on DC-10s where aluminum wear strips were normally used. This is also in violation of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration rules.
  • Somehow the part failed on one of Continental’s DC-10s, or was not installed or inspected properly. It fell off and came to rest on the runway shortly before the ill-fated Concorde took off.
  • Years before, the manufacturers of the Concorde made a decision to use lightweight materials covering the fuel tank.
  • According to a report about the Concorde,
    • “The experts pointed to 67 cases of tire or wheel ruptures which in 24 cases “provoked one or more impacts on the structure,” the report said. It added that in seven of the incidents “the fuel tanks were pierced with one or more holes.” “
    • In spite of this evidence, over the years, there were no modifications made to the fuel tanks to reduce rupturing caused by blown tires.
  • The Concorde struck the DC-10’s wear strip on the runway. A tire ruptured which pierced the fuel tank, igniting the fuel. The aircraft crashed, killing 113 people and the Concorde program. Experts say that if the required softer aluminum wear strip had been used, instead of the much harder titanium, the tire probably would not have ruptured.

If only one of the “slices” had been removed or mitigated, the Concorde would have had a better chance of staying in the air that day.

It reminded me of the Cramer Fire. I have no personal knowledge of the incident, but according to the report, some of the Swiss cheese slices included:

  • The FMO position had been intentionally left vacant, overloading the person who was serving as the Type 3 Incident Commander on the fire.
  • The IC was attempting to handle responsibilities unrelated to the Cramer fire.
  • No action was taken when the Forest Aviation Officer told the District Ranger that things were not going well on the Cramer fire.
  •  No one assigned a Safety Officer.
  • The rappeller spotter misjudged the amount of time it would take the two rappellers to construct the helispot.
  • No one assigned a lookout.
  • No one selected a safety zone, or timed the travel to one.
  • The rappellers constructing the helispot were not situationally aware.
  • The rappellers may have been counting on helicopter extraction as their only escape route.
  • No one decided to extract the two rappellers at the same time the other nearby person was flown out earlier, or when the crews were told to leave the area.

There may be other “slices”. I am not going to say that mitigating only one of these conditions would have meant the difference between life and death for the two rappellers, but it is conceivable, using an active imagination, that it might have. It might have.


12/15 Hello all:

I have been following the discussion on the Cramer Incident with great interest. I, like Yellowjacket, know personally most of the players in this tragedy. I agree with Yellowjacket that there are great systematic (and political) problems on the Salmon-Challis NF, but since I am no longer there, I can't say how they have changed. I can think of several times I witnessed gossip of a hurtful nature and backstabbing among coworkers. This seems like a minor thing, but it all contributes to a bad work environment. I know on some of the districts, (including the one Cramer occurred on), people would not voice objections to their superiors for fear of being punished. Yes men (and women) were rewarded, and others where punished. I Personally had a good experience on that forest because I worked on an isolated district for good people, but others did not have it so good. There was a lot of friction between the Salmon and the Challis portion of the combined forest. Some folks would focus on petty vendettas rather than getting the work done. It would be a hard place to manage, much less fix all of the problems. I know I don't have the answers.

I think the punishment to Alan Hackett was unjust. There is a lot more that contributed to that accident than the report lets on, (or that I know of). The punishment makes me question whether or not I want to attain ICT3. Heck, I KNOW I don't want it. I do not have the ability to be everywhere at once, and to check everything on everybody. You can't delegate authority and must micro manage everything. That is to much for me to handle.

But being former military (and active reservist) I have the thought that the IC bears ultimate responsibility for those under his or her command. If a ship runs aground and the captain was asleep in his quarters, he still bears responsibility for that accident. Should the same apply for IC's?

But that thought conflicts with what I teach at S130-S190. At the end of last years class, I asked the question "Who is ULTIMATELY responsible for your safety?" One person answered "The Engine Boss". I said NO, that was not the answer. Another said the IC. I said NO, that was not the answer. Finally someone in the back said "I am ultimately responsible for MY safety." I said "YES". I want all of the firefighters I help train to understand that they have the responsibility to look out for their own safety and to question assignments till they are comfortable with the job. I want them to be aware and THINK. I don't want Yes men and women working for me!

Misery Whip, that was a great post. It is making its way around the office.

Yellowjacket, It is a great work center, did you help roof it?

12/15 From Lobotomy:

Mellie, thanks for an excellent overview of the current conditions in your post.

I just finished reading Jack Ward Thomas' "The Journals of a Forest Service Chief". I would recommend it to all for reading.

Even back in 1994, Jack Ward Thomas noticed that wildland firefighters were beginning to identify themselves more with the fire community than with the Forest Service community. In his book, Jack said, "This has led, in turn, to a segment of the Forest Service workforce who more and more identify themselves with the firefighter contingent than with the Forest Service per se."

Jack was correct in seeing that many wildland firefighters viewed themselves as more correctly associated with firefighters than as forestry technicians. What Jack Ward Thomas didn't address was the fact that wildland firefighters were recognizing their changing roles and the changing roles of the agencies.... not thier disengagement with the Forest Service workforce.

Now, ten years later, people are still increasingly identifying more and more with the fire community. Jack Ward Thomas' observations of Southern California are now found in Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Boise, Asheville, Chuk, Florence, Long Island, and countless other areas across the United States. There are currently three schools of thought:

1) Have a wildland firefighter series..... GS-2 through GS-15
2) Include the wildland firefighters within the GS-0081 series (Bad choice)
2) Have a mixed bag of series (over 20 approved for firefighter retirement) and a single series (0401) for fire managers (Current Plan) (Really bad choice for safety)

Now a comparison of the primary series (From the OPM website): go HERE for more

12/15 Krs - When people say "I know what your feeling" or "its not that
bad." It seems like they are talking out their a$$ - as they have no
clue what your life is like.

Talking about eating a bullet isnt the answer either. When I was
stuck to a wheelchair for several months I thought it was hell. Then
the guy next to me at rehab put it in perspective when I said I
wished i could walk again right now. (broken knee) He told me I wish
I had just one arm to use. He was a Quad, and drove his chair with a

You have a lot to contribute - dont sell yourself short.

Theres my 2 cents for what its worth
12/15 OK, Yellowjacket, if you want to talk about accuracy, let’s talk about accuracy.

To begin with, I wasn’t defending Alan’s oversights, I was trying to explain why it shouldn’t be any great surprise that an overtasked IC might miss some important danger signals in the heat of battle. You should go back and re-read the first paragraph of my last post right under VFD Cap’n. And you are probably technically correct when you say he was not directly managing aircraft and other fires, but you are not completely correct. At the very time the most critical events were unfolding on the Cramer Fire, what was the IC doing?

From page 2 of the Cramer Executive Summary:

During this time, the ___ was involved in multiple radio conversations with Central Idaho Dispatch in Salmon, Idaho about using resources assigned to the Cramer Fire for initial attack on the Stoddard Fire, a new start close by. H-166 was later diverted from the Cramer Fire for initial attack.

From page 4 of the Cramer Executive Summary:

More than 30 minutes after losing contact with the rappellers, the IC became involved in the search and rescue operation. Prior to that time, he was checking on the safety of personnel near H-1 and dispatching Cramer Fire resources to another fire on the forest.

From page 3 of the Cramer Executive Summary:

There were inadequate resources and a logistical inability to fully utilize available resources to implement the _____________. On July 22, there was confusion about the availability and positioning of some resources and helicopters were not available to retrieve the rappellers at a critical moment of need.

Do you get my point? Regardless of whether Alan was directly managing these resources and fires on paper, in reality he was heavily involved in prioritizing resources for the Cramer Fire and other fires. Because the system in which he worked failed to protect him from the very predictable possibility that too much was being expected from one person, Alan, and Shane and Jeff, wound up paying for those deficiencies.

As for the vacant FMO position, you should re-read my post. I said forest FMO, not Forest FMO with a capital F. I was referring to the vacant district position. Your point about Alan being acting DFMO supports my contention that too much was being expected of him, and that it was reasonably predictable that his Type 3 IC responsibilities would overlap or conflict with his FMO responsibilities.

From page 9 of the Cramer report:

The FMO position of the North Fork RD remained vacant 1 to 1 years prior to and during the Cramer Fire, although a new hire for the position arrived shortly afterward. The delay in filling the district FMO position was partly because of concerns by the _____________ that the district did not have adequate long-term funding.

As for AFMOs and FMOs being IC on a fire once in a while, I have no problem with that. But only if someone else is covering their primary job responsibilities while they are acting as IC. In case you hadn’t heard, one of the post Thirtymile findings was that Type 3 ICs should not have additional responsibilities beyond managing their own incident.

My “tirade”, as you put it, about who else should be held accountable for Cramer, was actually a literary device called a rhetorical question that is supposed to provoke thought. There is no real correct answer.

But I would ask you, quite seriously, why stop looking for accountability at the district ranger, fire staff and forest supervisor? Why not ask what roles the regional foresters, the regional and national fire and aviation directors, and the chief played? What about our parent agency, the USDA? How about congress? Who sets the budget that leaves forest fire managers in the unenviable positions of having to consider intentionally leaving critical fire positions unstaffed?

And you should be careful about trying to put words in my mouth. I am baffled that you would say

“seems as though you (quite a few people here, actually) would just point that person towards another fire, and tell them to “give it another shot . . . it’s the failures of the organization, not your incompetence.” A lot of contributors to this website want to put the blame on the only two people who are no longer here to defend themselves.”

I never said or meant to imply anything like either of those contentions. If wildland fire supervisors make serious errors in judgment on wildfires, their training and qualifications should be examined before they are reinstated to active duty again. And if their qualifications and abilities are found to be lacking, they should be removed from positions of responsibility.

So let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that maybe Alan Hackett wasn’t the best leader or Type 3 IC in the system. Would that be his fault? Don’t you see that a system that would permit someone to act in a capacity he wasn’t well suited for would be at least equally at fault for approving him to act in that capacity in the first place, and for not detecting and correcting that error sooner?

As for blaming Shane and Jeff, I don’t blame them at all. I consider them to be victims of predictable organizational deficiencies.

Before we continue this conversation, you should read Managing the Unexpected. You would find that one of the core concepts of HRO-style organizations is that they are very introspective about finding and eliminating latent conditions (potential contributors to accidents) within their systems, what they call a “preoccupation with failure”.

That is what I am advocating. The Forest Service needs to ask itself some very hard questions right now about what the wildland firefighting organization of the future is going to look and act like.

How should we evaluate and screen potential future fire leaders? What are the current strengths we can play to? What are the weaknesses we should attempt to correct? What kind of training and support system is needed to give incident commanders the ability to successfully manage wildland fires every time?

Yellowjacket, I have a feeling that you and I are not so different, we just have different ideas about how to get from here to there. Many of us are frustrated with the way things are today. I am tired of seeing some of our best young people hauled off hills in body bags. Whatever you may think of me, I wish you and yours well, and I welcome the interesting discussion.

Ab, As always, thanks for the great forum.

Merry Christmas,

Misery Whip

12/15 Dear Sir/Madam,

For a third year university group design project we are to design an
aircraft suitable to drop a ring of retardant around a bush fire. However,
the cost of such retardant, and many other costs, are proving very difficult
to find. Is the any way that you could give us some details of this?


Charlie Ellis
12/14 Oliver;

I think you hit the nail on the head, I think your analogy is right on. An IC’s job is to make sure that everyone on his/her incident (either directly or by proxy) has the tools he/she needs to keep him/herself safe. If that person fails to use those tools…it’s a tragedy, yes, but the IC is not responsible, if the IC can look in the mirror, or in the face of a grand jury, and say “I did everything reasonable to ensure that this person had the training, the information, and the resources to operate safely on the basis of these SOPs.”

One thing I think we tend to do too much to over-rely on the fireline handbook and other NWCG GUIDELINES and neglect SOPs. I’ve heard the opinion expressed that wildland fire, especially national-resource, big area, extended attack wildland fire, is too variable for SOPs. I think that’s bunk. I’ve mentioned in the past that I think the root issue is one of organizational culture. We tend push a can-do attitude in fire… and I think we push it too hard sometimes. I think there’s a sort of twisted masochistic pride firefighters take in fulfilling resource objectives set by folks who aren’t anywhere near the fireline. What to do about that? I don’t know. I do know that one thing maybe we need to do more is to encourage young firefighters to question, question, question. I’ve heard of numerous occasions when we line apes are excluded from morning briefings, and only given what information it’s felt we need to ‘do our jobs’, which is frequently limited to “fire there, line here”.

Misery Whip, VFD capt, well said as always.

Krs…I feel like anything I say is kind of inadequate, but it ain’t worth suck-starting a service pistol for. Your letter shows that you’ve maintained your sense of the articulate and the absurd, and right there, my friend, you’ve shown you’re stronger than they are. Now just don’t let ‘em grind you down…we all believe in you.

CW, your last post was good…I think you’ll find on this forum as long as you think before you write, and definitely think before you start blaming and name calling, you’ll be at least given a hearing.

Nerd on the Fireline

12/14 Concerning GACC and NICC web pages.

For 2005 there is going to be a standard web page.. Based on the SWCC pages. All GACC will have specialized items BUT will look similar. So those who move around the country during the season will be able to find similar information at each GACC. NICC page expected to be up and running by March and GACC's by May.


Sounds like a plan. That means South Ops will go off the temp website look, finally. Ab.

12/14 Might get some criticism for this but who cares. Does anyone know if the new baseline physicals that the BLM is doing include a drug screen or drug test? I haven't heard one way or another and it's not something you just ask your boss when the form is sent out. Besides, it's winter and I'm not even in pay status right now. Any help would be appreciated.

12/14 Has everyone seen the proposed pay cuts for AD hire this year? The feds have decided to cut AD pay and sent out an elaborate set of task group decisions. AD rates will now be by letter instead of number and will go A-M. In its draft form, the new rates will drop most highly qualified positions, for example: AD-5 rates for STEN, STCR and TFLD will drop from $21 this year to $16.08 in 2005! That's 25%.

I predict the next big fire season is going to be a disaster as the most experienced and qualified ADs will move to other jobs. Contracting becomes more attractive as ENGB will most-likely make more money than Strike Team or Task Force leaders. Thousand of fire fighters will be impacted. ADs have always made less money per hour than GS positions because they get no benefits, no hazard pay, no overtime, but are required to have the same quals and experience levels.

If anyone wishes to respond to these proposed changes, the due date is Dec. 17th! There is no special web site or address to put in feedback, but the cover letter on the draft is signed by
John G. Lopez
Director of Human Resources Management in Washington DC
USDA Forest Service Office
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington DC 20250.
email: jlopez02@fs.fed.us


See AD Pay Rate Comparison -- New Rates with Old Rates -- that Jackson sent in on 11/29.

Here's the AD pay plan Draft......... currently out for review also posted on 11/29/04.
AD Pay Plan Draft Review Letter
AD Pay Plan Draft


12/14 Interested Applicants,

The Redding Interagency Hotshot Crew announcement for the 2005 season is
open. The closing date is February 4th, 2005. The full announcement with
all the information and requirements can be found at:


Redding Hotshots
12/14 From Firescribe:

A link to the
Audit Report from OIG (47 page pdf file)

12/14 CW

You have every right to be loyal to the firefighters that lost their lives on Cramer. That is a good trait. Don't apologize for it. But also don't expect the ICT3s of the world to be able to personally enforce all the so called SOPs we have been saddled with. There are walls of books now with regulations and rules and checklists and reminder cards and now legal precedent, just to control us firefighters and CYA management. It seems ICs everywhere are expected to memorize every word and if anything is not adhered to exactly (and "exactly" can be an interpretation of management or OIG) then God help us if we have family problems or stress from our daily activities when the firebell rings. And then upload that with maybe not having a boss who has a clue about fire or maybe our boss's position is vacant and we are hanging out a green mile. I am not condoning the mistakes the Cramer IC made, but I know he is living with that every day. I think that is punishment enough as Misery Whip so eloquently described.

I am one of those giving up my ICT3 quals and having second thoughts about being a DIVS (I've done both for 18 years). It's a hard thing but the consequences must be considered.


12/14 DM II,

I completely agree with most of what you said concerning the apprentice program, or as we always referred to it when I worked for the FS, the "golden child" program/ syndrome. I don't really believe in this program, or think it does anyone any favors. This is how I perceive the program, recruit people from all walks of life (no formal training in any other aspects of forestry, in most cases), fast-track them through a ton of training in a very short amount of time, push them to the front of the line, whether they are really qualified or not (a 20 year old with 2 years of fire experience doesn't/ shouldn't fall in to the qualified category for a whole heck of a lot as far as I am concerned) and expect them to be able to make some really tough calls while fighting fire. It is almost disgusting to watch. 9 out of 10 people that I have met that go through this program are fairly conceited, thinking that they are the most deserving, and that they should definitely get the best of everything. Perhaps I have met the wrong 10 people in the program....

My main point (s) are these; We are losing fire fighters at an alarming rate, the USFS is not learning from their past mistakes. Our truly experienced folks are retiring, we are now looking to all the "kids" in the agency as experienced, when they really may not be. We need to quit pushing people who are not qualified to the front of the line and asking them to be our leaders. We should expect it to be a long, trying and difficult path to becoming a T3IC. You should have to prove yourself, whether you are an apprentice or not..... Yup, an even playing field that gets the job done and done safely.

OK, I feel better now. I also have issues with the USFS student fast-track program, but that's a whole other can of worms.
The Forest Service needs to wake up and quite getting our fire fighters killed. Catch it at the ridge and plant it back, give those folks who fight fire something better to do in the winter than sitting around collecting unemployment. There is a lot more to fighting fire than just fighting fire.

Enough ranting, apologies to anyone that may be offended, I just cannot stand the thought of loosing one more fire fighter to save a bunch of trees.

Just another chick on the fire line.

12/14 To VFD Capt

Regarding your 12/13 post: "anyway, the ground pounders deserve the best from their commanders."

Just a couple of questions:

Are you the best? Because you sure come off condescending for someone who probably knows little about the people involved.

How many type 3 fire do you IC each year? I'll bet Region 2 sees very little in comparison to the Salmon Challis.

Have you ever made mistakes? I would assume by your moniker that you are with a VFD, that's not a full time position, and I would think your real life could have the possibilities of distracting you just as easily as anybody elses.

What is you obsession with the Cramer Fire? It seems to be the only thing you'll post about.

I know everyone involved, I worked hand in hand with Jeff for 2 years. I know Alan Hackett personally.
Maybe you could tone down your attitude that you have all the answers.

12/14 Misery Whip-

Wow! Why would someone as lowly as me want to write in to this site for fear of saying something contrary to someone so expert in the use of the English language? A seven page response on accountability, or lack thereof, by someone so logical, so educated, and so adept at literary prose! I should feel honored, instead of attacked for having a different perspective than yours. As you put it, my perspective is neither humane nor accurate.

Let’s talk about accuracy first. On page four of your recent dissertation, you defend Alan’s oversights that led to the fatalities by stating that he was “trying to manage several aircraft and several other fires in addition to being the IC.” There was a helibase manager assigned and aerial supervision in the form of air attack and a lead plane, so why would he be managing aircraft? There was also a duty officer that day for the north end of the Forest to manage on-going and emerging fires, so why would Alan be managing any fires other than the one he is supposed to be IC of? Finally, your statement about the Forest FMO position being vacant at the time is wrong. Perhaps you meant that the District FMO position was unstaffed? That’s not entirely accurate either, as Alan was acting and the incoming DFMO was one week away. If AFMOs and FMOs can’t IC a fire once in a while, then I guess we should wait for the type 2 or 1 team every time a fire gets bigger than a couple acres. By the way, the former Forest Supervisor didn’t resign; he took another job (jumped off the sinking ship). But you should know that, too; because in your words, you know more about this than I could possibly imagine.

Your tirade on the chain of individuals that should be punished (or was it that I think should be punished?) puzzles me, because I don’t think I ever said anything to insinuate that. I’ll put it bluntly: I’m waiting for some of the responsibility to fall on the former District Ranger, the former Staff Officer, and the former Forest Supervisor. I couldn’t agree more that Cramer was a “manifestation of a systemic problem.” And I believe these people were a large part of that problem. The real tragedy is that they are letting Alan bear a lopsided proportion of the burden.

Judging from your statement that you don’t know Alan, I assume that you haven’t worked on the Salmon-Challis recently. If this is true, then you have no idea how bad things were (still are, to some extent). Going back to your first page, I don’t claim to know much about South Canyon or Thirtymile, but I do know more about the organizational problems at the time of the Cramer Fire than you could possibly imagine. I don’t need to read about the internal failures of a Canadian airline industry to understand what happened here, or what could very easily happen again. I can see it with my own eyes.

Now let’s talk about humanity. I truly believe that the ultimate responsibility for an individual’s life belongs to that person. But I will maintain that there needs to be some level of accountability when the one supposedly in charge has so many serious oversights or lapses in judgment and someone dies as a result. Seems as though you (quite a few people here, actually) would just point that person towards another fire, and tell them to “give it another shot . . . it’s the failures of the organization, not your incompetence.” A lot of contributors to this website want to put the blame on the only two people who are no longer here to defend themselves. Makes you feel better about life, doesn’t it. No responsibility, no worries. What if it was your son or daughter?


PS By the way, CW: I fully understood what you were saying. I don’t know how anyone took it as an attack on firefighters . . . a lot of people fancy themselves as spelling and grammar experts out there . . . what’s wrong with a little passion mixed with liquid courage?
12/14 I've been reading and re-reading the posts about the Cramer Incident. Not fully understanding the investigation system or process I'm a little hesitant to show my ignorance. My question is with the OIG investigation and if the findings will be shared. My emotions, and the small amount of intellect I still have, tell me that the IC is getting the shaft but my gut tells me I don't know the full story yet. It's hard to keep an open mind without all of the facts.

CW used the example: "If a police officer draws there weapon and kills someone in the line of duty they will be reviewed by a panel or team and if they acted within there SOPs they are backed up by their department. If they did not, they likely will be prosecuted and fired. "

CW... I think another example that could be used is this: A police officer doesn't draw his/her weapon and the officer is shot and killed. Never mind that we don't know the reason why the officer didn't defend herself...We know the job as a police officer has risks and her supervisor allowed her to perform the job she was trained to do... Should we charge her supervisor with a crime?
An admittedly simplistic example without the supporting documentation about the officers training, experience or even the involvement or lack of involvement from the Police Commissioner... Precinct Captain or others in the chain of command.

Misery Whip... great post.

12/14 Bone, I already put my Forest Fire Staff on notice that I am not accepting
any additional assignments not required of my position including ICT3,
which I have dutifully volunteered for since 1988. It is no longer worth
the risk exposure given the current legal environment.

CW, don't be a quitter, you have your opinion and the right to express it,
at least till the D.O.J. Thought Police or Homeland Security Keyboard Kops
come lookin' for you. You're taking constructive critique way too personal.
We get bored in the winter and that leads to more aggressive thought and
writing when our buttons get pushed. I am sure no one means you any ill

12/14 Re: CW. . .post no more?

I don't want you to go away CW.  But I do want you to realize, and I think you may now, that any time a message here attacks specific groups or individuals, there will be other readers who take it very personally.  Some of those folks will reply quickly and angrily, some may wait a while and respond with cold, cutting logic.  You had some valid comments in your first message, but you blew it with your unnecessary parting shots.  Those are real people you diss'ed on your way out, I'm one of them.  Stay and learn or take your toys and go home, it's your choice.

>CDF (retired) Mike.  Is that the right place to put the apostrophe in "diss'ed"?  Is there even an apostrophe in the word?  My spell checker wants to replace it with "dished".  I'm kind'a anxious, I've never written the word before, especially in a public place.  Kind'a is ok though, right?  I use that all the time.


Steve, as far as CW's post goes, I understand now that he knee jerked because he identified with the firefighters who died on Cramer and with their families. This would be a hard forum for family members to read right now, but the issues need to be discussed so we may try to learn the lessons.

12/14 Misery Whip, where are you at, I wanna come and work for you!
Excellent, excellent, excellent post.

and if all you other folks (especially finger pointers and those that will be involved in the legal wrangling of the Cramer incident) havent read it in its entirety.... well...shame on you.
I'm definitely printing it out and keeping it for future reference.

12/13 Misery Whip and Steve have pretty much summed things up!

Thanks so much to both or you for your erudite posts!

CW, I would love to meet you someday.

12/13 Ab,

I read the postings relative to Cramer, they take on a familiar theme. Most folks are still, somehow, trying to create a world in the aftermath of this debacle where firefighters can pursue their chosen craft with a level of dedication and be confident that their world won't get turned upside down if they make a mistake. Our local Forest Staff Officer (spelled, Knows Nothing of Fire) issued the usual set of blandishments urging people to talk to her if they were concerned about their potential legal liability.

We read the same sets of solutions, not about firefighter safety but about personal liability safety from some really good guys with really good intentions.

What doesn't seem to have sunk in is the fact that the lid to Pandora's Box is open and all kinds of very bad things are coming out. Why is this so?

I suspect it has little to do with firefighter safety or fatalities. There are issues at the National level, only hinted at, that are driving the goal of bashing the wildland firefighter agencies. I'm not into conspiracy theories so somebody else can figure out why.

The point is, the die has been cast. We now have the DOJ weenies unleashed upon the wildland agencies and once precedent has been set it will be pursued. The wildland agencies are swiftly covering their own butts but if you think for a minute that they won't let you hang next, call me. I have some great Enron stock I can sell you.

The nature of firefighters is to remain stoic, press on, overcome this as we've overcome everything else in life. WAKE UP!!

It doesn't matter if the Cramer IC was a good guy or a bad one. He made a mistake in a terrible situation and only "know it alls" have the vulgarity to cast the first stone.

What matter's here is what will happen to a lot of good friends and fellow firefighters pressed in the same situation. Criminalizing bad fortune and errors in judgment isn't going to stop fatality accidents from happening. I would argue that the timidity and indecision that it creates will serve to make fatality accidents more likely.

We can't prevent DOJ from pursuing their witch hunt. We CAN prevent this from happening to us. There are a lot of folks who are farther along in their careers who are quietly leaving. Rather than an exodus of people I would suggest a mass turn in of IC ratings. This sounds unreasonable but it has a precedent that's pretty recent.

The Forest Service, in a move I have no quarrel with, chose to move its financial services to a unified location in New Mexico. It has done so in a corporate manner hiring a "hit man" from Bank of America for its new CFO. Our friend has approached this in the usual, take no prisoners, fashion of corporate America.

The first round of this effort told the affected group that they would be given 48 hours to accept or decline their reassignment orders. What has happened is that so many people immediately left the agency for other jobs that the new set of orders is, "we'll propose and you tell us if you'll go".

Should everyone quit? obviously not. Should everyone give this management problem back to management? I think so. Stop taking the blame and the problem on your shoulders. If there is no one to take the blame the solution will have to come from somewhere else. And in advance, spare me the "what about leading the young firefighters" argument. What are you doing now? Proving compelling meaningful example for our next generation of firefighters? Hardly. When you have the specter of a career ending event as the foremost thing in your mind, you're not providing the best in leadership. All of us who have done this job know the potentials associated with it. I feel nothing but scorn for the group that would suggest that somehow they can make us safer by threatening us with legal nightmares. The fact remains however that this must be fought and the best way, as has been proven time and time again, is with one foot in the black.

12/13 To try to be more clear from my previous rant on 12-10:

I Should not have come down on Alan personally, My hackles came up when it seems a lot of people want to blame these 2 dead firefighters. This lead me to reference the chain of command and the wisdom of more seasoned supervisors stepping in at appropriate times.

If a police officer draws there weapon and kills someone in the line of duty they will be reviewed by a panel or team and if they acted within there SOPs they are backed up by their department. If they did not, they likely will be prosecuted and fired. (I am not in law enforcement but that seems to be the case.) The military is the same and we have seen several situations of this in the news lately. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong. People still apply or sign-up and fill these jobs knowing this is the case.
If acting within standard SOPs OUR ICs SHOULD BE BACKED TO THE HILT by their agency.

If they did NOT why should they be above answering for there actions? Maybe I completely missed something here ( I am sure many would agree) but it seems that is what was being suggested, that they could make serious mistakes with little or no penalties. Where else in this society does this happen? I hope that will clarify part of my so poorly worded previous post.

Misery Whip nice job on your last post and yes I do understand it. I am sure that means nothing coming from me but we cannot all have your clarity of thought and gift with the keyboard.

I will post no more. That should at least make most of you happy today.


CW, you're welcome to continue to post here. We all have our hackles raised from time to time. Ab.

12/13 Wow. Between the OWCP's response to Krs and the
letter from the WO, November seems like Vast Soulless
Bureaucracies on Parade Month. Amazing how many words
they can put down on paper without actually addressing
the issues.

I don't know what really happened on the Cramer fire,
or what sort of SOP the OWCP folks have to operate
under when dealing with their 'clients'. But I
wonder: could the public's reaction to an honest
answer really be worse than the suspicion/alienation
generated by these 'official responses'? I'll take an
admitted mistake, a sincere apology, etc., over a
whitewash any day.

Krs, if you'd like another 'heads up' letter to the
legislature about OWCP, I'm probably not the only one
who'd be happy to drop the new crop of Congresspersons
a line...and thanks for your persistence on behalf of
all of us.

Casey Judd and the Abs...thank you, too, as usual.

12/13 KRS, Hats off to ya Dude! Figure out the system. Let us know what we can do.

Your new title?
IC to make the OWCP and DOL accountable to firefighters, Congress and the Public.

Say the word and I'll organize my crew to write our congress people again.

Misery Whip, you're AWESOME. Thanks for the expos.
Human factors aren't a consideration for those who think that all we need are checklists.


12/13 Ab,

Here's an attempt at Lessons Learned from the Cramer Fire, focusing on those who are and those who aspire to be Incident Commanders:
  1. Quit your day job. I'm not suggesting people retire, resign or drop their quals. You can still wear the green and keep the ICT_ on your red card. But, if you are assigned to be an IC, give the incident your undivided attention. Drop the collateral duties. FMO roles, timber contracts, recreation permits, fuel reduction acreage targets and everything else can either wait or be handled by someone else.
  2. "Go out there and take it." This line is a quote from fact 90 of the Cramer Fire report. Because of redactions, we don't know who said it, but it was said to Alan Hackett. On July 22, he was 13 miles from "there" - except during 2 recon flights. It was the strike team leader who "took it" (facts 179, 181, & 182) and pulled the crews off of H-1, preventing an even bigger tragedy when the fire blew up.
  3. Staff your priorities. Allocate available resources based upon incident priorities. If firefighter safety is your #1 priority, what excuse do you have for not posting lookouts or not having a safety officer?

This isn't just about mitigating the need for a legal defense fund. OIG is recommending that the USFS conduct investigations for near-miss incidents, just like they do now for the fatalities. The WO is saying AARs are enough, but OIG doesn't appear to be buying it.

And, anyway, the ground pounders deserve the best from their commanders.

vfd cap'n

12/13 From Misery Whip (a long one, but excellent).

BB, Sorry for taking so long to reply, I just returned from a road trip. In reference to my 12/2 post, thanks, and, yes, feel free to share it.

To Original Ab & everyone else who liked my 12/2 post,

Thanks, it needed to be said. Obviously, I’m not the only one who feels this way.

To VFD Cap’n,

I have read and admired a number of your posts on this website. In reference to your 12/3 post on They Said, I don’t recall anyone arguing on this site recently that the skills and training of people in charge of fatality incidents shouldn’t be re-evaluated, or that fatality incident supervisors shouldn’t be re-assigned to other duties if they make serious errors in judgment.

What I object to is the implication that Alan Hackett is a bad person because this bad thing happened on his watch. Somebody died, ergo someone in charge was bad and must be punished. Is it right to debase and humiliate a public servant who was just attempting to cope with a bad situation to the best of his abilities? Should he have to cop a plea and lose everything he has worked his entire life for or face jail time? I don’t think so.

I don’t know Alan Hackett, but I do know some of the surviving supervisors and firefighters from South Canyon, Thirtymile, & Cramer. They are mostly good people who had good intentions that went awry. Many of them are also post-traumatic stress victims, and whatever parts they played in their respective tragedies, deserve compassion for having to view firsthand the results of Good Intentions Gone Wrong.

INTENT is the real issue at hand here.

Yellowjacket, In reference to your 12/3 post on They Said, I know more about the Cramer Fire investigation, South Canyon & Thirtymile too, than you could possibly imagine. Since accountability seems to be the axe you are grinding, how far do you think accountability should extend for Cramer? How many others should we fire and turn into criminals? Do you think that fear of punishment will make the rest of us more diligent and therefore safer?

So as long as we’re after accountability, how about firing the Salmon-Challis forest supervisor (oh, wait, he resigned), the rappel spotter, the dispatchers, the pilots (can’t fire them, they’re contractors), the ATGS, the district ranger, (can’t blame the FMO, there wasn’t one), the fire staff? Why stop there? How about whoever signed off Alan Hackett as an ICT3, and for that matter anyone who signed off on any of his taskbooks? And who was responsible for training Shane and Jeff, and for signing them off as rappellers and fallers?

Yes, we’ll all feel better if we punish all of these people some more. As if they hadn’t punished themselves enough already.

And then, let’s humiliate them some more by publishing their punishments as a proclamation and warning to everyone else to BE PERFECT, OR YOU TOO WILL BE PUNISHED!

Do you not see how flawed this line of reasoning is?


(Here's the rest of this.)
EXCELLENTLY written. Ab.

12/13 Ab and CDF Unit Chief of MVU-

Thank you for getting back to me with the contact info for
possible photos of my dad; it means a lot to me.

Thank you,

Yer welcome, Bobbi. It's great to have "people in the know" reading. Fine community. Ab.

12/13 I'm wondering if anyone out there has found a congressman or line officer who is willing to take on the AD issue? We're coming up in the deadline for "reply due." My local representative hasn't responded in anyway, and I have voted for him in the last three elections! Line officer contacts are coming up nil because of people being gone with use-or-lose leave. This issue couldn't have hit at a worse time. Anyone else have any success?

Still Out There as an AD
12/13 Mellie here. I have been thinking hard on these topics in light of the Firefighter Safety Awareness Study made following Storm King, abatement items on 30-mile and Cramer, the changing litigation environment and the IMPLICATIONS of the legal stuff. I feel that unless serious change is made, when the next fatalities occur (and they will), fire will be removed from the DOA and DOI and formally placed under a Fire Organization led by a fire professional, and probably overseen by Homeland Security. I do not know if taking Fire out of the Forest Service, BLM etc would serve the Public well. Here are my thoughts... beginning with info from the Tri-Dat Study, pertinent citations from OSHA and the Agency's response.

Tri-Data Study Phase 3, Chapter 4 Page 4-32 to 4-34 Starting With "Agency Administrators"

Agency administrator should not be confused with a fire administrator or fire manager. Under the current system, the Agency Administrators are taking the lead on fire program oversight..... Under a new classification series, this burden could be alleviated by having fire program administrators (Regional Fire Directors, Forest FMO's, District FMO's, etc...) have oversight at incidents with the Agency Administrators having oversight at Program Level.

Citation 1 Item 3 Type of Violation: Serious
29 CFR 1960.57: The Agency did not provide training to safety and health inspectors with respect to identifying and evaluating hazards and suggesting general abatement procedures.
(a) Training provided to District Rangers who conduct supplemental safety and health inspections on Type 3,4, and 5 fires was not sufficient to enable them to adequately identify, evaluate, and suggest abatement related to complex wildland fire safety.
ABATEMENT NOTE: Among other methods, one feasible and acceptable abatement method to correct this hazard is to ensure inspectors receive specialized safety training commensurate with the level of incident complexity, such as the qualifications necessary for a Safety Officer Type 1, Type 2, or 3. Also, ensure that these inspectors are thoroughly evaluated to ensure maximum competency.

Citation 1 Item 3 ABATED
Region 4 Abatement Action
The Regional Forester has directed that Intermountain Region District Rangers who conduct supplemental safety and health inspections on Type 3, 4, and 5 wildland fires will have sufficient Incident Command System training to conduct these inspections or will be accompanied by someone with these qualifications. (Encl 4)
Other Planned Action
The Forest Service will, through national policy or interim directive specify the minimum Incident Command System qualifications for Forest Supervisors and District Rangers to perform supplemental safety inspection or that must be present in person(s) with them during the inspection.

It seems to me that a large part of the PROBLEM is that the fire program is run by non-firefighters (ie Foresters and Ologists) who don’t understand that they do NOT have even the training or experience that experienced PROFESSIONAL WILDLAND FIREFIGHTERS have now. Nor do they have the professional qualifications that are required.

Here's what I think has to happen for us to have a SAFE AND EFFECTIVE WILDLAND FIRE AGENCY:

1) Wildland firefighters and fire managers must have a unique job series that addresses their specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities.

  • Firefighters must be trained from day one in the firefighting PROFESSION. There must be academy work/training with simulations and practice; classes like S-130, S-190 and fire behavior classes like Doug Campbell's Fire Signature Method; followed by or simultaneous with live fire experience gained via work on fuels reductions crews (as with the BD crews of old) and seasonal fire assignments.
  • There should be ways to FIRE (as in "YOU'RE FIRED") those who do not perform or measure up.
  • On the fireground, the norm should be Commander's Intent (pdf) provided to trained firefighting professionals.
  • Fire professionals on the ground should be tasked with choosing appropriate and safe tactics. They should not be encumbered by the burgeoning number of checklists. Checklists can put firefighters at risk on firestorms such as the Southern California Fires of 2003.
  • Train firefighters to professional standards, weed out those not up to the task and trust to professional firefighter training.

2) Natural resource managers should never be expected to provide oversight for a program in which they have limited experience or education. That doesn't make sense. Line officers (Forest Supervisors and District Rangers) should never be held accountable to a professional standard for which they have not been specifically trained and educated. The IMPLICATIONS of the current litigious trajectory is that someday soon one of our forest managers and his or her family will face criminal charges. In my estimation there is a need for a wildland firefighter professional standard (series) and professional wildland firefighters to oversee it.

3) What's good for the goose (Wildland Firefighters) is good for the gander (Natural Resource Managers)… If  Natural Resource managers insist that the IFPM standards are the way to go, then they need to be held accountable to the wildland firefighting standards also. (more)

(Here's the rest.)

12/13 For the Just Wondering-
I wonder why it is you feel the injured should have nowhere to turn but the Legislature?

I have my OWCP file. It's five inches thick. Back 9 or so months ago I sent about a quarter inch of paperwork to Senator Feinstein's office while several readers here sent letters to various officials regarding me missing a years worth of reimbursements. ($3,500 worth) It worked- A month later I had a check in my hand.

My question is why must we do this? If the Department of Labor is aware of a problem, why have they done nothing to fix it? Is it because nobody but the cripples ever complains? Shall we expect our elected officials to constantly police OWCP?  Maybe the Department of Labor hasn't done anything because there's no pressure on them from the 200,000 who are unaware of the treatment they will receive from "workman's compensation".

Perhaps if those firefighters were made aware of what they faced when injured, things would change.

Do you know I am not authorized spare tires for my wheelchair? I have them anyway, but I paid for them myself. What would you do if you were not authorized a spare tire for your fire engine?

Maybe if the firefighters become aware of what will happen to them when they catch that rock & go down for the season (or for
life) things will change.

Sure I will benefit if the system changes, but I'm not trying to fix it just for me. I'm doing it for all the people who are still working. All the people who have wives and kids and will suffer much more than I when something like this happens to the won't have to find a job. I don't want anyone else to o go through the frustration and betrayal that I have. Not even you, even though you seem to have it all figured out.

You may have a friend who has been there, but I'm still here. I'll be here for the rest of my life. Recently I asked the OWCP folks new questions as in three years I have received very little direction in how to best deal with them. I found their answers a little lacking. At best I have fifty more years to figure their system out, and at worst I have untill I eat my gun. Either way I don't expect things to change, but all I can do is try, and hope.


KRS, go for it. You have web skills, you're very intelligent and an excellent writer. You have (I hope still have) a good sense of humor and you call it like you see it. You have reason to work on that nonfunctional system. You'd be helping others who also have trouble navigating without a map. You seem called to do it. Do it! Some of the best advocacy for change arises out of need. Some of the most excellent advocates have had to walk the walk, or in your case, WHEEL the path. We'd appreciate having someone who knows the system inside and out and can tell us who to pigpile on or, better yet, where to place our fulcrum and lever. Whatever we can do, just ask. Ab.

12/13 Re: CW's post on 12/10

Not since "A concerned taxpayer" submitted their post here back in August of 1999 have I witnessed similar levels of confidence, comprehension, and wisdom combined to present such a flabbergasting opinion. I've sat speechless for two days as I am forced to appreciate there are at least two amazing individuals who, although they appear to be on the outside looking in, so easily diagnose and cure the most complex and challenging issues.

I must assume some of CW's ability to assert their conclusions stem from their mind being uncluttered with the fear of them self being subject to any of the negativity surrounding the current IC liability issue. It may be easier to provide clear and focused direction if one enjoys the committed support of their organization and needn't worry about all those little details. CW's choosing to allocate some time from what is surely an authoritative position to advise and direct us during troubled times is a marvel.

Since I've become alarmed about what I view as the seriousness of existing Incident Commanders deleting the position from their redcards or choosing to retire rather than face criminal or civil actions for doing what they are trained and qualified by their agencies to do, I'm relieved to learn from CW's post that:

* "they were not REAL ICs anyway"
* "We lost nothing"
* they "never fully understood what they were responsible for as an IC"
* they were equally ignorant in "any other position they have held in fire management"

I'm equally calmed by several other pearls of wisdom that follow, here's how I interpret a few of the lines:

* base your decisions on the fact that you would be hung out to dry

I get it. As long as you KNOW you will be unsupported and abandoned by your federal agency for following existing policies and procedures, what the heck is the problem? You KNOW you're on your own. Get with the program.

I'm probably just too unsophisticated to draw any conclusion on a few other lines, but here's what I read:

* "YOU are responsible"
* "An IC cannot be held responsible for every action on the line"
* An IC "should be accountable for good and bad outcomes from there decisions and oversight"
* young firefighters ( or STLs SRBC,DIVS,IC,Etc.)" cannot "make the right decision every time"
* "the chain of command is for" making the right decision

I also can't understand on the "Hacket fund.........." vs "CAN'T HACKIT FUND" subject. I still can't figure out why an IC would ever need a personal lawyer to represent them against their agency when their is no proven negligence.

Last but certainly not least, I'm just as passionate and enthused by CW's closing statement reprimanding the apparently lazy federal workforce, as I am with the rest of the post. I say we hire and promote CW to the Regional or Washington level where his beliefs and solutions may be more appreciated and implemented. Although it appears as if most of them already have been, I'm sure there's always room for one more.

12/12 I understand several people were inquiring as to my health on your site. I
would like to sincerely thank everyone just for caring to begin with. This
heart attack came only after I lived badly for many years unlike our friend
hutch who had good cholesterol and blood pressure readings prior to his
heart attack. My heart attack occurred on the evening of October 21st and
I have had two angioplasty procedures and 9 stent placements in two of my
arteries. I am feeling better than ever and my heart has shown some
recuperative capability. I plan on seeing you all in fire camp once again.
Visualize seeing Rich Hawkins hanging out around the salad bar at Fire


Will do. We're glad you and Hutch are still with us. Be safe and enjoy those holidays! Ab.

12/12 We've posted some links to docs on documents worth reading, the long one from Misery Whip posted on 12/2, Implications from DC on 12/3 and the one from Mellie explaining the legal process requiring three Reports that started with Cramer. Ab.
12/12 To: "Another CDF BC"

Interesting comments on the tendency to go to a GACC/National type 1 or 2 team rather than beefing up the local 3-4 team. You are right, the big killer is logistics support for the fire. The T3-T4 ICs are basically operations oriented. They know the fire behavior, they know how their troops perform on the line, and they know how to get additional line resources. Beyond ordering sack lunches and cases of MREs, they are out of their element. They expect the reporting resources to come self contained to be in the field for a couple of days or so. Most local dispatch centers can field enough expanded dispatch function to handle the ordering that is seen from such fires.

Perhaps a solution is to use a building block system where just the Logistics Section, Finance/Admin Section, or the Plans Section could be ordered from a Type 2 team. If more than two sections, or the Operations Section is needed then you get the whole team. The “stand alone” Logistics section would consist of the LSC2, GSUL, FDUL, COML, FACL, and ORDM. The Plans Section would be the PSC2, SITL, RESL and DOCL. The Finance/Admin Section would be the FSC2, TIME, EQTR, and PTRC. These folks could be trainees “with experience” in the position which would still allow the T2 team to deploy elsewhere. (The deep dark secret that a lot of the trainees are being kept trainees so they can continue to come out with the team is now out of the bag......)

This would allow the T3-T4 folks to gain the experience in the operations end of the extended attack fires without overwhelming them with the logistics details. It would also provide more experience for those in the sections that are brought in to help.

12/12 Fuels Guy - your last post about the Great Black Dragon Fire was "deja vu"
all over again: I just ordered it a few days ago, after having loaned my first
copy to someone years back and it was never returned!

Getting ready to write my bi-monthly article for "Wildfire" magazine, and
thought that Accountability was a good topic in light of Cramer. Remembered
about the Chinese General going to prison, and wanted to get my facts straight.
Just another example of how small the wildfire world really is.......!

Dick Mangan
12/12 To Backburnfs & Just Wondering:

Referencing the book, "The Great Black Dragon Fire" by Harrison Salisbury 1st edition, 1989. (He has authored several books on Russia, China and Vietnam.)

The author lists 212 dead and 190 injuries from the fire, but no executions in his chapter, "Consequences".

The workers associated with starting the fire got sentences of 3-7 years in prison. Some officials got 2-4 years and several were dismissed. Also, at least 23 field level supervisors were also dismissed.

Interestingly, the author states that, "Disaster struck, and the "usual suspects" were rounded up and punished, even though the true causes were wind and weather." ............. "Someone has to take the blame."

Backburnfs; what is your reference on the execution(s)? I had heard that the IC was executed, but that may have been urban legend.

Fuels Guy

That book is one of many good reads that are listed on the FireBooks page. Remember that when you enter through our Amazon portal that all purchases (books, electronics, etc) help to maintain this site. Ab.

12/12 Ab
Poorly written Yes. The enemy ? Never thought of myself as such.

Sometimes you have to dig to the bottom to make things better. Yes I pushed some buttons but what about the gist of my post? If WE are not going to take full responsibility for our decisions we are doomed to a unpleasant future.
FMO? Thanks maybe when I retire from this one.

Not the enemy
12/12 Each of CW's numerous misspelled words was a homograph, i.e. a word that is spelled the same as another word, but which has a different meaning. I spotted "loose", "there" (numerous instances), "mater", "weather", "surly", "out come" (outcome), "here", and "allot", in addition to the misuse of "whom". So his spelling-checker was worthless for those words. Can you imagine how many misspellings it must have caught? As a certified member of the "apostrophe posse", I congratulate him for correctly not using an apostrophe when he pluralized IC, RXB and STL, but he lapsed with "rappeller's". Again, too much dependence on a spelling checker.

Though retired now, I still read you're cite <<grin> often. Keep up the grate work!!

CDF (retired) Mike in Arroyo Grande

And of course, our issue with his post really isn't with the misspellings but with his attack on wildland firefighters who read theysaid. ...And with the fact that govt employees who do not make much money (like most ICT3s) and who are abandoned by the Agency are, in fact, guilty until proven innocent -- in that mounting a defense is an EXTREME expense. Whether or not someone is innocent, they should have the means to achieve a FAIR trial. If Hackett could have been assured of a FAIR trial that didn't break his whole family, maybe firefighters and the Public would have learned a few things -- about how wildfire is fought, what constraints and piles paperwork are required of managers, and how, when things go wrong, there are things that have gone wrong at multiple levels. This Ab encourages all to kick in a few bucks to the Cramer Legal Defense/Employee Assistance Fund.

I'm personally waiting to see if anyone way up the food chain will be indicted. My guess is not, because they could better afford the lawyer that could turn the case into an ugly mess for the Agency. Ab.

12/12 J. Watt -

You hit it right on the head! In our unit, we are doing exactly what you speak of and have lost confidence in training process and roadblocks it contains. We try and hang onto the extended fires, keep more people on the lines than in the rear, and internally prepare the next group to take over shortly. Logistics is always the killer for the super extended, but not really major size incident variety and this is where we now are focusing effort to make that part better.

Hearing there may be new set of eyes upstairs next summer in your area-true?

"Another CDF BC"
12/12 Fuels Guy:

In reference to why the USFS/BLM doesn't have their own "air force".

"Contractor lobbyists - nobody wants to give up a gravy train."

LOL -- Again, it's amazing how much money all the contractors make. (That's sarcasm)

Why the hell do people (such as yourself) think this, constantly, about every single contractor?

It's probably because of the high daily availability rate, right? That must be it. I'm not familiar with a contractor aviation company that opens it's books up....so that must be it. Or you must have the ability to view some financial statements from a few companies.

And I'm sure you're familiar with all the fuel trucks, mechanics vehicles and mechanical work that comes w/ and is included in the daily availability rate. And the fact you have to have essentially 2 pilots per aircraft. And you basically pay gov't scale to everyone working. and the 7-8+ figure cost for a helicopter.

Last time I checked, a new Bell 407 was around $11,000,000 -- so a basic return on investment is 10%, a mere 1.1M. So you need around a cool 1M to cover the cost of capital + then add in a few $100,000 for insurances, a couple pilots at $50K each (per ship) a mechanic and fuel truck driver (maybe $80K combined).

/s/ A fed up contractor

P.S. I highly recommend all of you gov't employees that think contracting in so profitable to do this: QUIT your full time jobs, and start a private company. Actually, don't quit at first -- just see how it goes.
12/11 Curious Hotshot:

Several reasons why we don't have our own air force:

Dollars - substantial costs go well beyond aircraft -what kind of retirement program for the mechanics or would that still be contracted?

Contractor lobbyists - nobody wants to give up a gravy train.

Statistics - Deaths of contract firefighters, (in this case pilots), do not count on the Regional Foresters scorecard that can determine their step increases. {Anyone notice how many contract personnel are doing militaristic supply and security jobs in Iraq? Yet no one is keeping a list of their deaths.}

Variability - As our budgets go up and down in typical three year cycles, what do we do with the aircraft/personnel that are not deemed necessary this season?

"Beware of the US Air Force bearing gifts." - There is a reason they give away aircraft, the older C-130's come to mind.

Current issues – Rappellers, (and BLM/FS Jumpers also), have standardization problems. So much so that it has been suggested internally by rappellers that they cancel their yearly meeting because they are not ready for it.

You are right that to be more professional we need a quality standardized fleet and operations. Unfortunately, those costs would be hard to get past any congress, let alone one that is facing the record current deficits.

Fuels Guy
12/11 JM,

For more info on the "sand table" go to the wildfire leadership web site at www.fireleadership.gov/index.phpl and go to the leadership toolbox then "TDGS Library". The 3 links there under "Make Sound Decisions" relate to sand box use. Note that the official term for it is TDGS (Tactical Decision Games). The sand box is just a simulation tool for simulation exercises. ...and a very effecective and easy tool to use I might add.

12/11 JT,

Here are a few sites for the Sand Table Excercises:
TDGS Library
Tactical Decision Game Workbook (pdf)
Sand Table Showroom (pdf)

I would recommend attending one of the Leadership courses, either L-280 or L-380 to start off with.

www.fireleadership.gov/index.phpl is a great place to add a few tools to your tool box.

12/11 The NIOSH report on the "Sawtooth Fire Fatality" that killed BIA firefighter Rick Lupe in 2003 is now on their web site @ www.cdc.gov/NIOSH/firehome.phpl. Look under "recent reports".


Thanks Mollysboy. Direct link: www.cdc.gov/NIOSH/face200325.phpl Ab.

12/11 Curious hotshot: The fact that the gov agencies don't own and maintain their own airforce fleet comes down to money and daily applicability. You can drive your engine to project work.

DM- I'll agree with you on apprentice positions. They have their time and place, but it seems to be getting out of hand. In R2, we don't use the program all that much (I can only think of 1 or 2 forests that do). From my personal experience, if you are a motivated individual, you can get all the training, more assignments, and better experience if you just go out in the off season (as a temp employee) and seek out the opportunities. Almost all of my classes were paid for out of my own pocket. I've made arrangements with many course coordinators from Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming to get into classes on my own, sometimes for free if I can fill an empty seat.

Peter Leschak- I'm VERY interested in finding out more about the Sand Box courses you speak of. I've used model scenarios in instructing Kayaking and Canoeing to high School and college students and have started to use them more and more in S-courses.

Retirements- My FMO is retiring at the end of the month. A great loss of knowledge of our local area. It seems that we're losing local knowledge faster than the new guys (myself included) can gain it.

My 2 pence

12/10 CW:

We all welcome your comments here. However your rant is exactly the kind of discussion we do not need right now. It has done a very good job of making a healthy discussion a very unhealthy one in my opinion.

These are tough times right now and we need to pull together or be torn apart. It already was hard enough for folks to aspire to command positions in this business. The politicians and the federal bureaucracy higher-ups who know nothing about what we do hear stuff like this and we have an even bigger problem.

And yes I have been to funerals for firefighters. Also, when I was a young squab I was in a total entrapment situation that I have thoroughly regretted that incident for all of the rest of my career as a wildland firefighter. My lesson learned was to always watch out for myself all of the time (time measured in seconds).

There are no simple solutions in this one and blasting well meaning wildland firefighter brothers is certainly not constructive towards any resolution in this situation.

I spent two hours talking today to an FMO pal of mine who said that he has had enough of all of the new legal ramifications of being an FMO and an IC. He has had enough but he is nowhere near retirement. What are we going to do when all of these folks just won't do it any more? I think we have a real problem here and rants like those of CW in this esteemed forum are definitely counter-productive.

CW: Wanna be an FMO?

12/10 The Jobs page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages are updated as are the 0401 listings (link on jobs page). Ab.
12/10 vfd cap'n,

As in Lobotomys post, there should be some other documents coming out to Congress and the Agriculture Department Secretary regarding the Cramer incident.

"As soon as possible after completing an investigation under section
1, the Inspector General of the Department of Agriculture shall submit
to Congress and the Secretary of Agriculture a report containing the
results of the investigation."

Those might be FOIAable documents? From my limited knowledge, a common person would have to figure that the OIG report was finished well before a Grand Jury was summoned and the US DoJ getting involved.

Rogue Rivers

12/10 As a new Captain in Region five I have some questions
and thoughts about the apprentice program.

First, does this region think by shoving more and more
requirements (required hours) on these apprentices
that they are really making a better fire fighter. I
don't think so. I just came from a meeting on our
forest and now some dimwit wants to add more fuels
management onto an already full load of requirements.
When will this madness stop. Right now we don't have
the resources to get these people through engines,
crews, helicopters, dispatch, prevention and so on and
so on. So how do we get all this done? It's almost

Second, why didn't we make all our new apprentices do
some time as a temp to see if they were going to be
worth while instead of just giving them a job. The
Region is just like hey we don't have to deal with
them the Supt's and the Captains will. I spend the
majority of my time holding these kids by their hand
most of the day and I don't have time to do my work.
Last but not least, let us hire whom we think is the
best and don't just throw kids at us and say be happy.
Because it really isn't fair to either party.

TO be continued at a later date
12/10 Well..... I have 1 answer.....NOWHERE. With the exception of normal retirement or some whom have taken what seems the best personal decision of an early-out. The good ones are still here! What some have been trying to portray here seems to be ....we will loose many good ICs because they are now worried about answering for there actions. Well while someone must have punched there IC ticket at some point....
I say they were not REAL ICs anyway. We lost nothing.
These people have never fully understood what they were responsible for as an IC. Or any other position they have held in fire management for that mater... . " wondering weather we would be hung out to dry" Yes.. expect it....base your decision on that fact. YOU are responsible. What a concept..... It surly will make a different out come.
Are we 100% responsible for the people under us on fires ? An IC cannot be held responsible for every action on the line, True enough. But should be accountable for good and bad outcomes from there decisions and oversight.. or lack of.
There will be some situations where fault could be debated for a long time but I think Cramer is not one of them. To put so much blame on two rappeller's for staying too long is a dodge to say the least. We cannot with any amount of training expect to have young firefighters ( or STLs SRBC,DIVS,IC,Etc.) make the right decision every time. That is part of what the chain of command is for. That is why we have people around with many years of experience there to say
" I know you could probably pull that off BUT we are backing off and starting line from here"...
"Have you ever been to a funeral for a firefighter or had to explain to there parents why there kid is not here now.... time to pull them out"...
" Yes you could probably put that snag on the ground BUT we are going to leave this one".......
" I here you need 15 more minutes BUT pack it up we are sending the ship to get you out now ..."
You know... ICs..... DIVS....RXB1s and others.

The Hacket fund.......... I would call it the CAN'T HACKIT FUND. Supported by those who can't

Now I know allot of you readers are at work wasting time surfing instead of getting your daily tasks done, and at least the ones that are government workers ( Who work for the people) as a Tax Paying Person I say

Ummm, this email barely made it past our diction and spelling filter manager.  We decided to publish it due to our policy of allowing most everyone's opinion as part of  our effort to keep you informed.  Knowing your enemy and what they think, is valuable information.
12/10 RE: the WO Letter on the Cramer Fire

A typical, insulting response from the bureaucratic lackeys. As always, couched in patronizing tones, filled with florid bootlicking at its conclusion, but nevertheless careful to remind us that, despite being the best firefighters and fire mangers in the whole wide world (by golly!), we couldn't possibly comprehend the real story behind the investigation. Just too darn complex. If we did we would have to agree with the requisite whipping boy assignment. Now be nice little lap dogs and quit yapping, you're all just lucky to have jobs....

Joe Hill
12/10 Regarding the WO post below... here is what PL 107-203 says: (Note that it only applies to the US Forest Service)

Public Law 107-203
107th Congress

An Act

To provide for an independent investigation of Forest Service
firefighter deaths that are caused by wildfire entrapment or
burnover. <<NOTE: July 24, 2002 - [H.R. 3971]>>

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled,


In the case of each fatality of an officer or employee of the Forest
Service that occurs due to wildfire entrapment or burnover, the
Inspector General of the Department of Agriculture shall conduct an
investigation of the fatality. The investigation shall not rely on, and
shall be completely independent of, any investigation of the fatality
that is conducted by the Forest Service.

SEC. 2. <<NOTE: Reports. 7 USC 2270c.>> SUBMISSION OF RESULTS.

As soon as possible after completing an investigation under section
1, the Inspector General of the Department of Agriculture shall submit
to Congress and the Secretary of Agriculture a report containing the
results of the investigation.

107-S.2471 (Senate Version - Was not signed into law)
Sponsor - Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA), Co-Sponsor - Sen. Patty Murray (WA)

107- H.R. 3971 (House version - Signed into law as PL 107-203)
Sponsor - Rep. Doc Hastings (WA), Cosponsors - Rep. Norman Dicks (WA), Rep. Jennifer Dunn (WA), Rep. Jay Inslee (WA), Rep. Rick Larsen (WA), Rep. George Nethercutt (WA), and Rep. Adam Smith (WA)
12/10 Ab,

Back in July, the Idaho Statesman published an article by Patrick Orr Firefighters update training after deaths that included quotes from an OSHA report they got through a Freedom of Information Act request. Apparently there was more given to the USFS than just the citations for an unsafe workplace.

Here is part of the Idaho Statesman article:

"Employees and supervisors are rewarded for aggressively fighting fires and taking serious risks," the OSHA report says. "Firefighters are often provided 'hero' status for their exposure to hazardous working conditions. The 'can-do' culture throughout the fire fighting ranks is likely to be a very significant contributor to these unfortunate incidents. There still appears to be no effective incentives for safe behavior..."

The OSHA report also says firefighters are rewarded financially when actively working a fireline, citing factors like overtime, hazard pay and per diem money, which could make them more hesitant to back off from a potentially dangerous situation. Investigators also found a tendency for regular Forest Service crews to criticize private contract crews for being too willing to withdraw from a perceived dangerous situation."

I have not been able to find the report on-line and am making a FOIA request today to OSHA for its release.

vfd cap'n

I'm sure you've seen this response that Bosworth made to the OSHA citations. You probably could call Hockett's office and ask the questions you have. A FOIA may not be necessary. Ab. www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/investigations/cramer/Official_OSHA_Response.pdf

12/10 Original Ab,

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for putting together that great calendar! Thanks photographers for allowing your photos to be used.

My calendars came late yesterday and 'bout blew off my sox. Big flames, with an occasional human figure, driptorch, FS or CDF rig. Just fantastic!!! FIRE, FIRE FIRE. Definitely has that interagency "family of firefighters" feel, but mostly the BIG FLAMES. Great nightfiring photo from the Prairie Band of the Potawatomi Nation and fantastic to see photos from so many friends. It is a celebration of wildland firefighting. (In a few years, an EBay collector's item??!!)

Ab, I love it how the month pages of the calendar have the same "flames" background like here on the webpage and that the Month, Year, and Days of the week are in the "flaming" font of our wildlandfire.com home page. (Ab, you should make a link so people can see how that looks.) Way cool!!! Good artistic eye on that stuff, Dude. If I haven't told you lately, I just love what you do and have done for wildland firefighters! You Rock!

Everyone, you should get your orders in. I'm taking some to my haircutter who is a CDF wife, and some over to Humboldt State to a few of the faculty who are going to be teaching some of the 401 series classes. Man, some of the fire students will snap these puppies up if they see them before taking off for vacation! Might have to head over to the SO too. Put in a group order and save on cost and postage.

If you've never bought anything online, have at it. It's easy but I kinda stumbled along with my insecurities hanging out because I've never bought anything except from Amazon. You really can't make a mistake. It's a two step process. You order and then pay either through PayPal or by mailing in your check. Either PayPal confirms that you've paid or Ab's program sends you the wlf address to send the check to. It also tells you when your order is received, when it's paid for and when it's shipped. (The Abs are good at walking people who don't know how to do it through the process if absolutely necessary.)

Anyone else got theirs yet?


How the calendar page looks. Ditto on thanks to Original Ab. Order yours. Ab.

12/10 Aberdeen

Deputy Chief Joel Holtrop wrote the letter

12/10 J Watt wrote: Past posts have debated loss of the Sector Boss and its
relationship to ICS.

The Sector Boss was often used to train inexperienced supervisors under the
supervision of the Division Boss. There is still a need for a subaltern
type position under a Division Supervisor to allow lesser experienced crew
leaders a chance to stretch themselves. Many of us have broken our
divisions into smaller pieces and given a crew leader resources and
opportunity to supervise.

Couldn't the current Task Force Leader position be used for this function?
In fact, it almost sounds like the definition.

12/9 J. Watt.... I would like to know more about your views........

Piss Fir Willie.... I remember also..... But I also remember many personal experiences that involved wildland firefighter fatalities.... In my case, nine fatalities in 20 years... (A wake up call, probably only a hotshot problem or a former hotshot who has served on teams for years)

As the teams change, I hope some of us decide to stay around.... there are inherent risks and tasks that can be prevented....... I hope the folks that can prevent the future risks stay around and say BS to the folks who think that experience = legal immunity, but folks that realize that experience equals responsibility to the field, not just promotions to the Regional or National Offices... and the support and explanation of those levels.

LCES / 10 / 13

Rogue Rivers

What a ramblin.....
12/9 Cramer Report

It is nice that people post links to the report for those that might not have seen it. There are some facts in it.

One thing everyone might need to think about before they believe everything that they read. Are we sure we have everything we need in the report? I think we should question anytime an agency investigates itself.

Not to much in the report about how agency polices or procedures might have contributed to the fatalities. I guess it is easier to place all the blame on one person.


12/10 Why does OIG only investigate federal fires? Maybe the feds are
the only ones who worry more about what the public thinks than
what their own employees think.

12/10 JE: who initiated/signed the "WO message" about Cramer? The Chief, JTW or a PR-hack?


Joel Holtrop, I think. Ab.

12/10 NorCal Tom

Not comparing apples and oranges, just firefighting jobs. Which are theoretically the same in or out of agencies.

My primary point is that the new EMERGENCY firefighter pay scale shows a continuing increase in respect for the ICT3 position that we have not had in the past. {For instance; Last years USFS deluxe training refresher for ICT3s- which I heartily concur with also showed more concern}.

I agree with this trend.

However, picture a court case where a Type III fire has Division Supervisors working for the ICT3. Division Supervisor is a position that is above the ICT3 on the training/experience regimen. This is a flaw in our organizational structure that we have paid for in the past and may well pay for again. My contention is that ICT3 is a more difficult job by its nature than DIVS and that should be reflected in not just AD pay but also training, certification and experience.

Side Bar: Usually the best fallers on fires are from the logging industry. These guys are disappearing and I was voicing a concern that with a big pay cut that could get worse.

Fuels Guy

12/9 Where have all the IC's gone?
  1. Attrition. Yep, the old guys are leaving.
  2. "Club Team". There are lots of developing firefighters out there who
    aren't being utilized and developed. The teams have become insular and
    inbred. Included in this is the Quals system that has codified repetitive
    minutia, taking years to get the right assignments.
  3. Possibly the biggest factor, all agencies put teams on extended attack
    fires leaving the folks who contained the fire, more often than not, on the
    outside. Not much management growth there. How many fires do you see that
    are written off in IA, a team is ordered, control efforts reduced until the
    transition? Safety Point- More operational problems happen during
    transition due to a lack of leadership and direction.

Teams, ICS, and Quals have taken on a life of their own. Our firefighting
now mimics the Army in a massive support structure for those on the line
rather than a Marine-like structure with a higher percentage of folks up
front. Teams are needed to manage the infrastructure of ICS. ICS has
broken everything down into small pieces like the military (see a MAFFS
operation; 150 personnel to support 4-5 aircraft) and few seem inclined, or
"authorized" to do more than their one small function.

Past posts have debated loss of the Sector Boss and its relationship to ICS.
The Sector Boss was often used to train inexperienced supervisors under the
supervision of the Division Boss. There is still a need for a subaltern
type position under a Division Supervisor to allow lesser experienced crew
leaders a chance to stretch themselves. Many of us have broken our
divisions into smaller pieces and given a crew leader resources and
opportunity to supervise. ICS is supposed to be flexible, is it being used
correctly? When a fire, or portions of it, are contained the experienced
personnel need to "let it go" and be able to push the lesser experienced
into developmental situations. It is not the same with a "trainee" tag in
front of your name, the employee needs the responsibility to grow.

This diatribe got past the question! I guess I'll fall back on Pogo's
observation; "We have met the enemy, he is us". The wildland agencies have
built a system that is slow to develop leaders. Oversight agencies and the
courts have reinforced the system, through our own failures, so that the
developmental wheel is nearly halted. Who responds when there is no one
with the correct hole punched in their card?

As we oldsters hit the street the new generation will fill the gaps. It just
may not look the same as when we were getting a lot of OJT rather than
codified training. Eventually there will be individuals to take the challenge
and accept the responsibility of becoming the new leaders. There will be
fires and firefighters, I have faith in that.


12/9 I also have an addition for your list of 2 year colleges & training sites! This is an amazing school, and is accredited by the Society of American Foresters.

The Green River Natural Resources Associate in Applied Science degree options prepare students for immediate employment in forestry, wildland fire, water quality, park management, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as applied to natural resources, or to continue at universities with natural resources programs.
www.instruction.greenriver.edu/naturalresources/ (Natural resources website)
www.greenriver.edu (main page for GRCC)

For specific information about Natural Resources, contact:

Dick Hopkins,
Extension 4509

Rob Sjogren,
Extension 4582

GRCC Forestry Wildland fire grad

That's in Auburn, WA. I added it. Ab.

12/9 At close to retirement I have begun to care less and less about the future of our Agencies...the green one in particular. The BS has just piled up way to high, and I don't have waders tall enough to keep it off of me.

My commitment to keeping firefighters safe has now become a commitment to keeping my family safe. I gave up years ago being a Type III IC because of my concern about lack of Agency support and increased legal liability. Many of us who have been around for the last 3-4 decades in this business saw this coming before Cramer, 30-Mile, and Storm King. Most of went to work everyday not even knowing if we made a mistake if we would be hung out to dry, well now we know. Now we all know. Shame on us.

HV made an interesting point about Foreman's/ Supt's responsibility.
An IC can only control so much, a Supt has got to be savvy and has to look out for his kids. Trusting every firefighter to be responsible for their own safety is ridiculous. The majority of our seasonal force is under 24 years old and has 1-3 years fire experience and only spent about a week learning the business. This is not enough time to build experience for the various situations they may get themselves into. The 10 and 18 aren't any good if you don't know when and where those situations may occur in the real world. Why do we keep killing kids with only 2-4 years experience... because they mostly don't know a whole heck of a lot. Sorry if this offends. 3 years of fire experience is equal to about 9 to twelve months of actual experience.

I'm just going to try to survive my last year, I hate going out like this.

12/9 Too Little Time...

I remember:
When I met old guys in the Forest Service who were burned out and bitter
because the FS was changing and was no fun anymore. I thought how can any
one think that about this job? This job rocks!

I remember:
Almost getting tossed off a cliff by a Hotshot who thought I was tossing
pebbles down the line and tinging them off his chrome dome.

I remember:
That first Crew Boss assignment with 11 seasons behind me and wondering if
I had learned enough to keep the crew safe and productive.

I remember:
Being deemed "worthy" of a permanent position after only 12 seasons of
firefighting and being really thankful.

I remember:
South Canyon, 30 Mile, Cedar, Cramer.

The FS is changing but this job still rocks!

Piss Fir Willie
12/9 Ab,

A few weeks ago I was in a class and a few of us were wondering why the USFS and other federal agencies do not have their own "Air Force". Each year helicopters are contracted for the summer, tankers may or may not be, we have some lead planes, and a a few air attack. But why are we not like the military in this arena, and find out the best ship or plane that fits each need and bid on and order a bunch of them so all of the ships are the same.

Each helitack ship is different. Shouldn't there be a standard for rappel ships, and just plan troop shuttle ships? Here in R5 we have pretty much standardized the engines, and hotshot crews, why is there so much discrepancy with helitack?

Curious Hotshot
12/9 Do you remember?

Do you remember........ when you were a first year firefighter?
All of those old salty firefighters preaching at you to know and use the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders and the 13 Situations. They gave examples and always kept you safe. They were also the most feared enemy if you didn't listen to their safety rantings. Back then, an after hours "lesson" sometimes occurred if your stepped out of line. I had a strong squad boss and peers, and was always safe with them.

Do you remember............ the first time your foreman let you drive the fire engine?
Foot on the gas or the clutch.. not both stupid. If you crash my new fire engine I'm going to kick your butt. I had a strong foreman who spelled it out in no uncertain terms but I was always safe with him.

Do you remember..... the first time you were chosen to lead a firefighting squad?
Just shut up and stop asking questions. Head up the hill and mop up that spot. Hey stupid, I told you to go up the hill not down on it. I'll be down here being your lookout and I'm going to be watching you folks... listen to your radio. I had a strong supt. who had a wealth of fire knowledge he passed down to everyone even though he was a little gruff at times.... but was always safe.

Do you remember......... your first job as a supervisor?
Damn, how did I become a Captain. I only have 15 years experience. My boss had 18 years experience before he became a Captain. I am really nervous about my first fire as a supervisor, but I know the basics on how to keep my folks safe. I had a strong AFMO who preached safety and accountability. This is the point where I learned that safety goes both ways... From the top to the bottom, and from the bottom to the top. I learned alot from my subordinates.

Do you remember....... your first job as a manager?
Wow, everyone sure seems to be young these days. I hope they can learn the basics. Hey, I knew your father on the Hotshots... I remember when you were born. Your father and I got into lots of trouble on the Hotshots. I had a strong Fire Staff guiding me and allowing me to run a safe program. My supervisor was not afraid to have a picnic table meeting to give some sound "advice". My Ranger had lots of fire experience and always would give us oversight. Our "Old" Ranger retired when the BS got too much to handle and he felt that the agencies were heading the wrong way with safety.

Do you remember....... when firefighting began to be a drag and a possible detriment to your safety, your well being, your livelihood, and your career?
Welcome to 2004/2005. My peers are all retiring early even though they loved firefighting. They chose to leave and not put their families at risk any longer. Time to consider a new career or to fight to change the culture of the agencies. Which way do I go?

sign me....
Too Little Time To Retire (and lots of safety lessons to remember)
12/9 Message from the WO.

I am concerned that the release of information surrounding the troubling
circumstances associated with Alan Hackett’s pretrial diversion agreement
with DOJ will result in a strong reaction from the fire community. Unless
you have been closely involved in the Cramer Fire, this outcome might be
hard to understand.

I want to stress that we have the finest cadre of fire managers and
incident commanders and firefighters in the world. Season after season,
they have shown skill in safely managing wildland fires, and I am proud to
be associated with them.

Since the passage of P.L. 107-203, we have come under increased scrutiny by
OIG and DOJ. We now know that DOJ may investigate the criminal liability
of our employees when they suspect fatalities resulted from a blatant
disregard of firefighting practices. Knowing the commitment to safety
permeates our firefighting organization, I am confident those circumstances
will be rare.

We are proud of our fire managers, IC’s and our firefighting crews. We
have and will continue to support them.

I ask you to share this message with your fire management organization.

12/9 Our SOPs are to fly the fire, size up from the air, order additional resources, discuss LCES, go into rappel sequence. After we are on the ground: we secure gear, check communications, locate escape and safety, time escape routes, and begin suppression or cutting helispot. If we need lookouts, we wait for the next rappellers to be deployed at the lookout site.

Our foreman can get a little anal about doing this even on the smallest of fires, but it maintains consistency throughout our operations. I'd be lying if I said it isn't a pain sometimes, but you don't miss anything if you do it the same way every time. I know fire and tactics can be different each time, but a consistent process is a good thing.

12/9 A visitor left this message in Chat. Do any of you CDFers work there or know someone who does who might help? Ab.

My father used to work for CDF at the Monte Vista station in California I was wondering if they still have any of his pictures in the dispatch office of him while he was fighting fires? He was the Heavy Equipment Operator his name was Kenny Tyrrel he worked there for years.

12/9 MG,

The point of rappelling into areas for helispots usually is on the subject of
vegetation issues. Clear the vegetation and you have a suitable L.Z.

12/8 MG,

Safety zone may be a rock pile or good black on a sideslope with
burnt staubs...places that are not suitable LZs....to name just a

12/8 This may be worded weird, BUT.....If you have to rappel into a "wild"fire or in any general area remotely close to "wild"fire and you cannot land the helicopter, where would you find a safety zone? I mean if a ship cannot land somewhere, where do you really think you going to find an adequate safety zone? This has always puzzled me.

What I am trying to get at is if you cannot find an LZ large enough to land a ship, what makes you think you can find a safety zone and not a deployment zone.

Then if you can find a safety zone which generally can accommodate any size ship, what is the point of rappelling?

Escape routes


12/8 Ab:
I have no problem with the lengthy excerpt from my book "Ghosts of the Fireground" that's posted on your website. It's for a good cause, so let's call it 'fair use.' (So far as I know, the paperback edition of the book is still available at Amazon.com.)

Since I wrote some of the passages in question (three years ago), the wildland fire community has made some progress in the teaching of situational awareness and tactical decision-making. The L-180 unit that is now a part of the S-130 course is excellent -- provided the instructor is a good one; the same goes for the more advanced L-280. These courses are big steps in the right direction. I've taught the L-180 twice now, and I believe it resonated with students. But of course, we also have to practice it in the field. Our 2005 Minnesota DNR annual wildfire safety refresher will be based on the L-180, so that we can deliver its message and techniques to all our firefighters, including the grizzled old vets, some of whom learned these practices on their own via long, hard experience. Some of our good ICT4s and ICT3s probably aren't even consciously aware of the effective techniques they're using.

Another positive development is the introduction of Sand Table Exercises. We recently had several of our people take a course on the development and presentation of such exercises, and we hope to implement sand tables into many of our courses, both formal and informal. Their purpose is to enhance tactical decision-making skills in a stressful, time-constrained environment, and I'm looking forward to working in the sand table venue.

And thanks for the pitch on behalf of my book.

Peter M. Leschak,
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources -- Forestry.

Thanks, Peter, and thanks to those who provided contact info. Ab.

12/8 I myself am a rappeller. When we rappel we always fly the fire first and discuss LCES before we even think about rappelling. It always needs to be in place before any rappel is to take place. If it can't be obtained, then we don't rappel.

There should always be constant communication with your foreman, helibase or lookouts. If there isn't then you have to find out what is going on immediately. If that means sending the ship back up, then thats what needs to be done. It is the Foreman's responsibility to know what is going on with his crew whether it is an IA or a large fire mission. I know I know it is ours.
Those are your crewmembers out there. You have to take care of them!

As for Shane and Jeff, it is sad that they had to die for something that should have been taken care of well before they rappelled. Someone should have been in constant contact with them. If they kept saying they needed 15 more minutes everytime someone called, then that should have been a red flag to the helibase, foreman or whoever was calling them.

I just can't believe there were no lookouts posted on this incident that could have let Shane and Jeff know what was going on. It is sad to think that these guys lost their lives for something that probably didn't need to be done or could have been easily prevented.

12/8 re: Cramer Fire

Could a current or former helitack/ rappel foreman answer my previous post's questions? Aren't most crews doing some sort of LCES check in the air before deploying rappellers/ helitack? Don't most rappel/ helitack crews work for their foreman on large fire assignments? Maybe someone could discuss from a helicopter manager point of view of what they do before deploying their crews.

My crew has very strict IA and Large Fire SOPs that we don't break. We always discuss LCES before any rappel. We always post our own lookouts. I'm just curious as to what everyone else does. I don't by any means think we have the only way of doing things, but it seems pretty safe to me. Thanks.

12/8 Ab, thought you may want to read this.
Notes from Ghosts of the Fireground

- Jill

Some wisdom there relevant to the Cramer.
Ab encourages people to buy Peter Leschak's book Ghosts of the Fireground.

12/8 This discussion about Cramer.

When the 2 helitack were contacted at noon, 1 and 2 *THREE TIMES* why did the say each time "We need 15min to an hour more?" They were put on the ground somewhere between 1000 and 1030 to do a job that was expected to take less than an hour by the spotter.

Why did they cut 256 stems? including 70 that were 12 inches or larger? including 20 that were 20 inches or larger? 70 would have been adequate for the task?

2 years/ 3 years of experience, no situational awareness? where were their heads? what "practiced behaviors" did they fall back on? we do what we know best... and what gives us satisfaction. Does cohesion sometime have a down side?

Why is this information not included in the Report?

How can we have lessons learned if firefighters do not know all aspects of the story?

12/8 In regards to your question about using certified instructors, Clackamas Community College uses only certified instructors. As part of our Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with PNWCG, instructors must meet the qualifications set forth in the Field Managers Course Guide. Our two main instructors for example, both retired from ODF with almost 60 years of experience. Both are Qualified at the OSC2 level.

My suggestion for folks seeking training is to check and see if the training site has a MOU with PNWCG. This will assure the students that the training and instructors are certified and qualified.


Thanks, Joe, for the clarification. Ab.

12/8 Spelling Bee:

Take the number of retirees you have identified and multiply by 20 - that's about the national total of multiple experienced field managers, key managers, and support managers that are retiring from all of the federal agencies who fight fire and includes Hot-shot, Smokejumper and Aviation Program Managers and Experts.

As for what's new about this, nothing.

Years ago a report was commissioned: "Where Have all the Firefighters Gone" which is now ringing true for "Where are all the ICs Going." Considering AD rate situation, legal ramifications, fuels, lack of experienced resources, changed conditions, etc - would one really expect many to come back?


Confusion on report context, IA Dispatch did not contact the firefighters; however simple truth is that conversations happened. So maybe the joss goes to air to ground, etc, but don't they report in to IA or at least what is common practice on heavy fire forests: does not the IA Dispatch assign air support IA dispatchers and Dispatch Recorders who are supposed to monitor these conversations. Maybe no one was talking or there was too much going on. Who ever had the intuitive wisdom to check-in with them also have the experience to sense during those communications, that something didn't "feel right." Did someone ask? "Why is it taking so long" and if it were the people in the air asking the questions - could they have not flown over and taken a look like a good lookout would. Point is: You can not look for someone with just words. "How are you today?" "Just Fine." (Maybe so, maybe not, maybe a visual would have helped.? What was Dispatch at both Helibase and the host base listening to, were the dispatch recorders, air attack dispatchers listening to?

Fact is - someone asked them several times "how's it going?" Same answer each time. For a less than 1 hr. aerial size-up. Someone should have checked in either with the kids building the helispot, or with the helicopters in the area. Sounds like communication breakdown, in every aspect, by more than just the IC.

And here is a good quote from MiseryWhip:

So here comes my main point. Modern accident theory holds that accidents of the Cramer type are largely organizational in nature. If personnel are not evaluated and trained properly, if critical safety positions in an organization are intentionally left unstaffed, if poorly skilled managers attempt to accomplish what is beyond their abilities, accidents will happen with greater frequency. Especially in an environment that has so many hazards. It is easy to find the proximal causes of an accident, the trick is to recognize the systemic failures that helped facilitate that accident. The blame trail can be followed all the way to the top if one looks closely enough.

And Another:

When you are grieving for a perfect lost son or daughter who has died on a wildfire, it is very hard to accept that they had a big part to play in their own fate. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EVERY FIREFIGHTER TO MONITOR THEIR OWN SAFETY AND TO SPEAK UP, REGARDLESS OF THEIR POSITION. Unfortunately, the two rappellers on the Cramer Fire helispot waited too long before reacting to the fire below them, and they paid the ultimate price.


Thinking about the US Government's disposition on the Cramer fire reminded me of a rumor I heard many years ago. Did the Chinese Government execute firefighters after the Black Dragon Fire in 1987 or is that just a urban legend? I searched for a while but could not find an answer to that question.


Finally from HV:

I am a little troubled by the notion that a Helicopter Foreman would drop a couple of rappellers off on an emerging large fire incident without making sure they had adequate lookouts. They discussed safety zones, but why not lookouts? I know my foreman would never do that, even before the Cramer Fire. It seems maybe something was missing in the Rappeller's SOPs. Shouldn't LCES be discussed before deploying rappellers?

And lastly, (Krys and OWCP):

Yes. There are many horror stories out there. And there are some where things have worked smoothly. Apparently it comes down to attitude and establishing a repertoire with your medical examiner, practitioners, and the paperwork. Very few attorneys are available to take on federal disability cases. (There is just no money in it from them unless they get it from the victim.) Under FECA - Federal Employees' Compensation Act: the Department of Labor is ultimately responsible for decision making on your case; OWCP, Employment Standards Admin. - are just the program managers. Best advice is use your angst and anger to garner up concrete documentation, all the way back to original CA-1, CA-16, COP, and "primary" physician - with an executive summary of the situation - and then send it to the appropriate Legislator that deals on the "Americans with Disabilities" Program. You are covered for five key primary areas if you can no longer return to your work position held when injured. I am not going there in this post. However the key is to get organized, get synchronized, and get legislative help. These legislators work for us - you! OWCP does not do well with angry people / do it the right way - (and It is extremely hard but you must do this - ) channel your anger and grief into a focused, positive win-win scenario for both you and the people who must help you. It works much better that way and I doubt that an OWCP campaign will be effective. Department of Labor is aware of this for years. Key is adapt or you won't get adopted. I don't mean to sound crude and unfeeling but I have a friend who has been there - he got help from the folks he voted for?

We are witnessing a major change in fire disturbance management in the United States. Retiring people are not going to solve the fuels problem; rather, they are going to feel great when they get out. The paradigm has been shifting since 1994, and has now put us in the midst of historical change. The only catalyst strong enough to evoke major changes in SOPs is catastrophe of unseen natural dimension (look, where the political response to 9-11 put us.) And the military is looking to add 300,00 more young recruits.

(just wondering)

12/8 We have a new advertiser on the Classifieds page under tools:
Anchor Point Tools.

Check them out.

12/8 HV, thanks for speaking up. I have been waiting for some
helitack/rappeller type to get on They Said and say exactly what you did.

We have to teach people to focus on their own safety and not count on
someone else to take care of LCES and all the other risk management tools
we use.

I appreciate other crews posting lookouts and communicating with me when I
am on a fire, but I always post my own as well. I really like it when
someone tells me where my escape routes and safety zones are, but I am
going to go see them for myself thank-you very much.

Ab, here is a quote you can use if you like. It applies to firefighters
and the general discussion about Cramer I think.

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

12/8 Stephen Pyne's latest book has just hit the book stores. has anyone read it? comments?

12/7 Readers, we're keeping this announcement near the top for a few days. Scroll down to see incoming posts.

We here at WLF are happy to announce the opening of our on-line store.

There’s just one item available for purchase so far, but it’s a fine one. We’ve collected the top 13 fire photos from over seven years of submissions to our site and reproduced them in a 12 Month 2005 Calendar. This calendar is HOT. I sold one to the person waiting behind me in line at the printers shop! He didn’t know the difference between a vegetation fire and a dump fire, but he loved the photos and had to have one.

Our top headers have changed today to sport a new “Shop-WLF” button link at the top. As a side note, we’ve also revamped our main index page to feature some of the newer areas over the last year.

Regarding the calendars, we plan on shipping on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, or more often if needed. These will make excellent gifts for any firefighter. We’re not shipping experts yet, but if you want them delivered for Christmas, you might want to order soon.

Here’s the link: https://shop.wildlandfire.com/

The Abs.

12/7 Glad to see the link from Clackamas CC and your reference to the listing of all the 2 & 4 years schools offering fire classes.

One question: for these institutions offering NWCG "S-courses", do the instructors all meet the requirements of the Field Managers Course Guide? The "Lead Instructor" must be both "Qualified and Current" at a minimum of one level above the class being taught: i.e., to be Lead Instructor for S-339 Division Supervisor, a person must be qualified and current as an OSC2, and other instructors must be at least DIVS.

In light of the liability and litigation issues swirling around "Cramer" and potentially "Thirtymile", it seems to be prudent to be sure that we follow all the rules that are so easy to comply with....?

12/7 I have some questions about the Cramer Fire.

As a rappeller myself I was wondering why the helicopter foreman wasn't more involved with what was going on on the fireground? It's one thing to drop 2 rappellers off for initial attack, but another to drop them off on a large fire assignment. On IA we are pretty much autonomous, but during large fire support we work for our foreman... and he works for those above him. Was the foreman disciplined? Why was the IC's punishment made public but noone else's? If I understand correctly weren't there supposed to be 6 employees disciplined? Someone told me the District Ranger was reassigned, but that may just be a rumor.

I am a little troubled by the notion that a Helicopter Foreman would drop a couple of rappellers off on an emerging large fire incident without making sure they had adequate lookouts. They discussed safety zones, but why not lookouts? I know my foreman would never do that, even before the Cramer Fire. It seems maybe something was missing in the Rappeller's SOPs. Shouldn't LCES be discussed before deploying rappellers?

There seems to be more to this than just Alan Hackett's mistakes. It seems if you subscribe to the Swiss Cheese Model, lack of rappeller SOPs, training, and line of authority, were all holes that matched up with Hackett's mistakes. Not only was the fire in full alignment but so were the mistakes made on various levels.

12/7 Hi,

I was looking over your list of training sites i.e. colleges. I would like to add our name to your links page.
We are: Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, OR.
The College offers a 2 year Associates Degree program and a 1 year certificate in wildland fire.
Contact: Tom Laugle, email: toml@clackamas.edu

Thank you,

Thanks, Joe, I added it. 2 and 4 year fire-science schools
Readers, please look over the list and see if you have any new ones to add. Ab.

12/7 Just wandering?

I was just wandering where in the report does it say dispatch talked to Shane and Jeff
on that day. All of the communications were done on Air to Ground and tactical frequencies,
and this was done from H2 to the helibases. Please get your facts straight before you post.


IA dispatcher
12/7 Is anyone keeping lists of the ICT3s who are choosing to not recertify? This might be something we all would want to know.

I've been reading over the Cramer Documents. It seems to me with the info presented that the biggest FAULT lies with whoever provides oversight to the whole system. It was broken and the FS didn't DEMAND it be fixed. How can the cogs be blamed when the wheel and the drive shaft and the belts are not lining up right, when the horsepower is inadequate? How can a person be threatened with jail when he seems to be doing the best he can with his training and background and WORKLOAD? If there's more to the story than is revealed in the docs, let's hear it, or did the Chief require that wording be changed on this report like he did on the thirtymile report?

We're waiting...


12/7 The Jobs page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages are updated as are the 0401 listings (link on jobs page). The NV Department of Lands has some openings and there's an outreach for some positions in Central Oregon. Ab.
12/7 dear ab...this is a good time to remind readers of the cramer legal defense/employee
assistance fund...we need to all get behind this fund and show our support to one of
our own as pissfirwilly notes...
12/6 Here is a blurb from the Region-4, Regional Forester about Cramer. Copied
directly from the Region 4 fsweb pages. Dated December 1st.

This was the 5th item on the list after, computer virus, Forest Engineer's
meeting, land exchange and directed reassignments.

- The US Attorney’s office has issued a press release on the resolution
of the Hackett case in the Cramer fire. Randy Hackett was terminated from
his employment with the Forest Service and he has entered into an agreement
with the US Attorney’s office that he will be on 18 months probation and
that the US Attorney’s Office could publicize the resolution, to send a
strong message to fire fighters in general. There are still civil actions

They want "to send a strong message to fire fighters in general"? I say
send the Government Attorneys a message. Support the Cramer Legal Defense
with what ever you can. I have yet to see anything that shows any
crime was committed, I can understand the civil actions but not the

God help us if this is the kind of support our employer gives.


12/6 Yellowjacket,

Only accountability that needs to be determined here is for the folks counting on a helicopter as their escape route and not be aware of the situation they were in. Been some great posts as of late about Cramer and I am sure more will follow.

Bottom line: The only person responsible for your own safety and, therefore, the only person that should be held accountable if something happens, is you. It would be nice if the "Blame my problems on someone else" status of our society would stay out of the firefighting realm and let the rest of us do our jobs with both eyes forward instead of having to watch our backs while we do it.

Also, I know Al Hackett and would work with or for him any day on any assignment.

12/6 Old Crusty Guy,

Well put. Amen.

12/6 Thinking about the US Government's disposition on the Cramer fire reminded
me of a rumor I heard many years ago. Did the Chinese Government execute
firefighters after the Black Dragon Fire in 1987 or is that just a urban
legend? I searched for a while but could not find an answer to that


12/6 Ab,

We've added another twenty pages of the Cramer report to the Colorado Firecamp website. The Narrative was the most heavily redacted section in the January release of the report and hardest to convert to web format. www.coloradofirecamp.com/Cramer/index.php

Although the July release on the USFS website was a little more readable than January, my guess is not many people bothered: page 16 (facts 97-119, afternoon of July 21) wasn't included and nobody seemed to complain.

Appendices A: Resources on the Fire and C: Fire Behavior and Weather remain to be posted.

vfd cap'n

Thanks vfd cap'n for providing that.
To everyone who came to chat last night, very interesting. There were some long moments of "silence" as we read report and appendices, etc, but very interesting... There's a permanent link to the CO Firecamp Cramer site on the Documents Worth Reading page and on the Site Map. There's a link you can always find on the Classifieds  page under training. Ab.

12/6 To all that Responded to OkFireman's Post..

I would like to reuse my name, but clarify it to Okfireman R6 .. I am from washington
State.. To all that tried to help me out, I am very much thankful... I will keep up with
what they said and if I need anything, I know there are PPL out there with answers ..




It is "Just a Title". That is what I have heard since the time when I first started out as a Forestry Aid.
I thought I was going to be a Seasonal Firefighter! How confusing was that!
I still think it is a bunch of crap. In fact, now I think it is a Safety Hazard.

When I first had it explained to me that I was not a firefighter, it was morally defeating.
I almost quit to go and work for a real Fire Department. Then I had it explained to me that it was "Just a Title."
After all, it was obvious that the Forest Service did have the most intensive training program and standards.
The Forest Service did have the most active work load... at the time I was working at a co-op station with Riverside County CDF.
However, over the years of hearing the same thing from all levels of Management... that we are "Just Technicians",
I realize that something has been rubbing me wrong for too long.

Looking back, this Title has always seemed to be the source associated with
a decrease in self pride, a decrease in motivation, and a hurdle in the way to strive for excellence at work,.
There is a decrease in respect for the very Agency that I am employed with every syllable of the words Forestry Technician.
How can an employee listen to and revere the direction of an Agency that is soo misleading.

Look at the Liability, Training, and the Performance expectations for someone like me, a Forestry Tech. / Supervisory Fire Engine Operator.
The Title in itself reeks of Confusion.
The Agency demands clear and concise communications and yet we are employed under Titles of confusion.
I know it is "Just a Title", but it seems to me that it may be more than that.
A Title is descriptive. A Job Title is descriptive of the duties and expectations of the employed position.

So why does the Forest Service continue to describe Seasonal Firefighters as Forestry Technicians?
To me it is misleading and may have tendencies to allow some employees to let their guard down.
Perhaps since our employees are NOT Firefighters, there is not a clear and preconceived understanding of the inherent danger associated with these positions. Maybe the attitude from upper levels that these are "Just Forestry Technicians" is allowing unsuspecting employees to misjudge the severity of the situations that they will be seeing in their summers as Seasonal Firefighters.

I obviously feel that at the very least, a misclassification or poor choice of a Job Title can bring morale of a workforce down, and in turn, lower work performance levels. In this job that lack of pride, lack of enthusiasm, lack of pride can cost a person their life.
I struggle to justify the training and performance standards that I expect from my Forestry Technician / Seasonal Firefighters with the logic that it is "Just a Title".

About the 401 mandatory environmental education making safer, more efficient "Fire Managers"... If we are to send our Fire Managers to other Agencies via the Mutual Aid agreements, they should have training requirements emphasizing mandatory Fire fighting Academies to better "Understand the Environment" in the Fire World.

Old Crusty Guy

12/5 Why do only federal fire deaths get investigated by OIG?

state FF

Ab, to clarify as per your request... do we all have to watch out
for facing criminal charges in the future? Do state, county, vollie,
contractors supervised by their own people not count? On the
one hand I don't want the scrutiny, on the other hand are we just in
the "throwaway" category?

12/5 Got Chat?

Motor mouth

12/5 Anyone know when the OIG Report will come out to the public?

NorCal Tom

12/5 AB;

Here is a Link to a site some of the readers might like to look at. It is about Cap Cod's "Brush Busters" made for going into heavy brush areas. Some of the trucks were impressive to say the least! It covers old Brush Trucks from the 20s to present. Here is the link.


12/5 More in depth article regarding the Cramer Criminal Investigation:

Supervisor in fatal Idaho wildfire placed on federal probation

There is a particular quote that I found extremely troubling as an incident commander. This quote takes us right to the area to ask... "Where have all the fire managers gone?" and "Where have all the ICs gone?".

Here's the quote: (From Asst. U.S. Attorney George Breitsameter)
"We focused on who placed these two individuals at risk, who made the decisions that caused their fatalities," Breitsameter said. "Really, the only person who had that responsibility was Alan Hackett."

12/5 AB,
Can this be posted somewhere on the website? Thank you.

Cramer Legal Defense  and Employee Assistance Fund


12/5 Ab,

Hey, I sent you this link earlier, but I think it got lost in your junk mail box or something. This
is a movie and photo gallery from this past season. The movie's about 5 minutes long and is
in Quicktime format, the photos are all taken from the movie itself. Enjoy.

Modoc IHC, 2004 photos


I linked to the photo page. I did not download quicktime to watch the movie. You can get to the movie info by clicking on the grey area at the top of the photo page. Ab.

12/5 Hey Ab,

I thought I'd send this memorial pic to you, I saw one a while ago on the web site but it was
pretty fuzzy, maybe this one is a little better. 


12/5 Older'n dirt Guy

Allan Hackett did make a SERIOUS mistake and no two ways about it.
The fact that it is not publicly known does not mean that he didn't make it.
But his mistake occurred in the context of systemic (forest) problems.


12/5 Has anybody thought of the possibility that the AD pay scale might become more restricted
or might go away with all the OMB financial shake up thats going on? Or is that just a
rumor? What if teams were forced to use Fed Source, GSA, personal services, have
applicants bid on the job? What are the Up and Down sides of those hiring systems?

Everything else is F-ed up, why not that too?

Going to NM

12/4 Misery Whip & ME
from post on 12-2

I am in TOTAL agreement with Misery Whip!! This is an outstanding description and very well written of where the FS and all Federal Fire Management Agencies are at present. An IC being tried in Criminal Court, a career ruined!! One of the attorneys even said he hoped the FS would not rehire Allen Hackett after his 18 month probation was served!! Gimme a break!! From all I have been able to read on this, he was doing the job assigned to the best of his ability. He evidentially was qualified, the best available under the circumstances the forest and district had to assign. Does a questioned decision, or something overlooked in the heat of battle end a career? Particularly, when others higher in the food chain were implicated? Looks to me like we were looking for a scape goat. With this kind of logic, someone will always be able to find one, hindsight is always 20/20. You shoulda done this or you shoulda done that, by someone who wasn't there.

Think the 401 series looks ok from what I know about it. With one comment. You know all the officers don't make General, and all the 401 folks plus all their training wont make an IC on that alone. To be a firefighter you have to fight fire. It takes years and inhaling lots of smoke. The good ones, probably seven to twelve years on average, it's as simple as that. You have to really love it. Years ago, I had a Dep. Forest Supervisor, an exsmokejumper, assigned as one of my Sector Bosses on the LP. What I'm tryin to say, Fire Qualifications, not assigned on administrative rank, but actual demonstrated ability.

Does the court find him guilty of two helicopters just happened to be unavailable when he needed them? One for 30 hr hour check and the other for refueling. They did abort the refueling and sent that ship, but too late. Guess he should have known the 30 hour inspection was due. I supervised a Rappel Crew w/212 ship and 20 plus crew and all the gear and vehicles for two years. I think something wrong with the time estimate on how long it would take two rappellers to cut a helispot in that fuel type. The person that reconned the area was out to lunch on the time estimate. Either that, or something we don't know prevented them from completing the spot in the estimated time, or at least close to it. I could include other comments, but Misery Whip (he must be an old timer) to use that name. I hadn't heard that name used in years. Ya know, a misery whip always worked when you got to the fire, except when you forgot to check out the total saw pack and someone had taken out the the mixed-oil. That story will wait for another time, but it only has to happen one time. You will never forget after that!!

OOFG, (old, old, fire guy)

12/4 Never won the spelling Bee:

Some additional "possible" retires for 2005.

Scott Vail
Dick McCombs
George M. (SZSC)
Don Studebaker
Ron Raley
Terry Molzahn

Stay tuned "DAILY" for updates!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Where are all of the replacements coming from with similar qualifications?


Don, Ron and John Wendt are retiring for sure. So is Pat Kitter. Ab.

12/4 NorCal Tom:

With all due respect to your point of view, Fuels Guy has a valid point regarding ADs and OJT in states other than California. Many state and contract employees must work federal fires as ADs for a couple of reasons. First, many of them must take leave to be involved in fed fires and, second, they make better money as ADs than they do as regular state employees.

And finally, guess what the only avenue for many of these folks to get OJT is (i.e. ENGB, TF/STL, DIVS, ICT3, Faller, etc)? It is as an AD.

You can't measure the entire US by the California way of doing things. CA is the exception, not the rule.

TheySaid readers, you will be hearing a whole lot more on the AD issue from several of us very soon. We are collecting our thoughts right now on the recent Draft 2005 AD Directive, a document which is clearly a negative affront to ADs of all disciplines within wildland fire.

12/4 AB-
If it's alright with you, I'd like to ask your readers for OWCP stories with the following text. Could you please post it on they said for me?

It is now just after the 3rd year anniversary of the accident which took me from 2nd saw on the Plumas Hotshots to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I suspect it will not surprise those of you who have been around a while that I am still battling OWCP at every turn.

I am about to write up the conflict between myself & OWCP and send it to certain key individuals in the Forest Service as well state and federal government. I would like to include any stories from any individuals who have also had problems with OWCP, so it doesn't look like I have something against them, or feel that I am being picked upon, or whatever reason the 'other side' may come up with in their defense.

If I can show that more than one firefighter has had monumental problems while dealing with OWCP, then I believe I have a much better chance of showing the above mentioned key individuals that the workman's comp system needs to be changed to better benefit the worker.

If any of you out there have a story to tell please write it up, if possible include any documentation, and send it to: OWCPstories@krstofer.org

(Note to AB- Please publish that email addy- I can turn it off on my end should it become a spam-magnet.)

I'm asking you guys for this because in the past two and a half years (ever since I was passed from the USFS to OWCP for care) my life has become a living hell. The pain, leg spasms & frustration of the injury is bad enough without being told by OWCP that I do not qualify for any "assistive" type help- Someone to come over for a couple hours a week and help me do things that are now very difficult to impossible, such as change light bulbs, move heavy things, clean the place, change the bed, etc. I don't keep any firearms in the house anymore as I have thought of suicide for too long and I believe if I had easy access to my .45 it would just be too easy. It's not that I am afraid of dying, it's that I fear this might be the only life I get. I can deal with the pain & the spasms. They're expected. What I did not expect was to get denied an extra set of tires for my wheelchair so that if one popps I'm not "up the creek" unable to move until I can get a new one.

Soon (within the next month or two) I will be getting together all the correspondence between myself & OWCP for all to read, as the next person to become injured as I have will have to deal with the same sort of tar-pit, and I would like all firefighters to be aware at the least and at the most perhaps help me change the program to better help those of us who become injured in the future.

I have many more problems with OWCP, but that is not the point of my quest this time. Please, if any of you have stories (good or bad) about dealing with OWCP after becoming injured, and don't mind if I use them to try to better the system for us all, send them to me.

Krstofer Evans
12/4 Fuels Guy,

The Administratively-Determined (AD) pay scale is set up for hiring
EMERGENCY firefighters and is not the pay scale for those expecting to rise
through the professional firefighter ranks.

Unless I misunderstand you, you're comparing apples and oranges.

NorCal Tom

12/4 No sarcasm implied or intended

Misery Whip and Long time listener:
Thank you for your insights, words of wisdom, and thought provoking comments.
Not only have you provided something to chew on other than a rehash of the annual complaints and disagreements, hopefully your keen observations will be discussed around many fire places and dinner tables this holiday season.

Best wishes for safe and happy holidays, y'all.

12/3 There are lots of fire people GS13+ retiring - 35 total across the US-
Here are some retiring on Jan 3, 2005 ('scuse the misspellings)

Buck Latape (sp?)
Rich Wands
Paul Hoefner (sp?)
Mike Dondero
Rodd Richardson
Greg Greenhoe
Mike Platas (sp?)
Mike Deloos, NFP coordinator (sp?)

Mike & Jenny Heerwaggen

Anyone know what the total was last year?

sign me
Never won the spelling Bee

12/3 Has anyone noticed that under the proposed AD wages for 2005 that an ICT3 will be getting more pay than a Division Sup? Yet ICT3 is one of the routes that a firefighter may take to eventually become a DIVS. Is someone recognizing that ICT3 is one of the toughest (perhaps the toughest) jobs in wildland fire and that perhaps Division should be a prerequisite for ICT3?

On your home turf, are Type III teams preassembled in a similar manner, but not scale, to the Type I and II teams? Professionalism counts towards safety.

On a related issue; it is good to see that AD Resource Advisors are just as valuable to our agencies as AD Division Supervisors.

The Professional Fallers are taking such a big cut in pay that I hope everyone is satisfied with thinners claiming to be cutters.

Fuels Guy
12/3 Like many other fire folks who have written in about the legal activity surrounding the "Cramer" fatalities, I too am deeply concerned and disturbed about the implications to our profession. As a old timer (yeah, Misery Whip - I started in the mid-60's too!), I'm now seriously questioning my will and desire to retain and use my hard-earned Ops Chief quals in the coming years.

After reading the excellent thoughts contained in "Implications", I felt obliged to offer some historical perspective about OSHA's involvement in USFS fatal fires.

I had the opportunity/misfortune to be on the Investigation Team for the "Buchanan Prescribed Burn" fatality in New Mexico in April 1993 when OSHA first became involved in investigating Federal wildland firefighter deaths. 2 OSHA investigators from ABQ, who had NO background in wildfire, arrived at our Team's meeting room and demanded that we provide them "all the training material that exists relating to wildland fire!"

Having no respect or use for them, and being kinda wise A**es, we asked where they wanted the 2-3 40 foot semi- trailers of materials that would come out of the NIFC fire cache!

Well, we soon found out that when OSHA wants something from a Fed agency, the ONLY acceptable answer is "yes, sir, yes sir, three bags full!" We got orders directly thru the USFS from the Sec of Ag to fully cooperate and give them everything they wanted.

My personal belief is that OSHA is not the problem, so much as is the polization of the fatalities by the Congress after "Thirtymile", and the failure of the USFS Chief and Regional Forester to face the parents/spouse of the firefighters that died on "Thirtymile" and "Cramer" and let them know that, as painful as it is to say and accept, your child/spouse was at least partially responsible for their own death.

I was on the South Canyon Investigation Team, and fought hard to assign some of the blame to the fire managers in the BLM who had responsibility for that fire. But I also personally knew several of the kids who died, and had to face their parents and explain that their children too were partially responsible for their own deaths. Those were conversations I'll never forget, never want to have to do again, but were absolutely necessary to help bring closure on those deaths to the parents and other loved ones. A posting yesterday ("long time listener, somewhat frequent contributor") credited Chief Jack Ward Thomas for standing up and taking full responsibility for South Canyon: he did, and in doing so, set the bar way higher than most of the current leadership is willing to strive for.

The events that have unfolded in the days since "Cramer" may have a greater significance on the national wildfire suppression effort than any other event since the 1910 fires, and we may ever know all the implications.

Dick Mangan
12/3 The analogy likening a crewboss not seeing their entire crew at once because they are "strung out on a piece of line," to Alan Hackett on July 22, 2003 is ridiculous, at best. Some of you should re-read the Causal Factors and Related Findings in the Cramer Management Evaluation and Factual Reports before you go on whining that it could have been you. If you are not truly shocked by some decisions that were made that day, then I must be wrong and it probably could have been you. Are you all so brainwashed by the government machine that you think there shouldn't be any accountability? I'm eagerly waiting for the accountability that The Goat alluded to a couple days ago.

Thanks to vfd cap'n, by the way, for putting parts of the reports on the coloradofirecamp website.




Keeping abreast of the reports, articles, and comments generated by the Cramer fatality incident gives rise to many worrisome thoughts.

The accountability issue for fire managers has become a much more important consideration for them than in the past. How did we get to the point that an Incident Commander and the others in the organization are vulnerable to criminal prosecution for errors in judgment?

The shift in managements thinking from what was the norm up until the Cramer incident is far reaching. Some folks thought it short sighted to blame the South Canyon deaths on the burn victims. They were the ones who suffered when the 10’s and 18’s were compromised. The Incident Commander and local management personnel were not held accountable.

Now there has been a change in the level of accountability.
Didn’t anyone think of the implications of changing the accountability level? Shouldn’t the implications of change be thought out before the change is made?

Read the rest of this excellent article here:  Implications  Original Ab.

12/3 Backfburnfs and Miserywhip.

Two very good posts.

A potential " Wildland Fire Good Samaritan" LAW sounds like a good idea to
me; especially if the people involved have the experience, skills, and
demonstrated performance and leadership on record. I agree, with the
summation, that "stuff just happens." Many of us have been there.

1 - A proposed samaritan law, considering the above may be just the reason
to write your legislators. Especially those on Interior Appropriations
committees. Collectively, if the wildland fire community did this we
might be able to hatch some sanity into the process, return confidence to
those folks that are questioning their commitments to remaining current as
ICs, and may also help get a commitment for extra suppression funding.
Hundreds of letters addressed to someone like Idaho's Senator Larry Craig
-(who is very familiar with wildland firefighting and fuel , and the Cramer
Incident) - may help start a process to get better firefighter protection
and legislation in place. - Give it a thought.

2 - Again, interesting comments about Cramer.

In the report, it says dispatch contacted the helitack crew several times,
(noon, 1300, 1400) - after they were on site approximately 90 minutes, and
asked "How is going?" Three times dispatch got the same reply. Are we
missing something here?
Wouldn't a savvy dispatcher at least ask "Do you need additional help?
What's going on? What time will you need a trip out?" Or maybe the savvy
dispatcher would talk to their coordinator and share this info; perhaps
sensing maybe someone should get a little more information?
Of course, "we will never know....." But when the initial size-up of the
assigned task was estimated to take less then an hour at about 1000 hours,
did anyone sense something might be awry - or at least getting additional
information, or at least asking some "situational" questions?

Some of the most experienced IA dispatchers are usually intuitively tuned
into these sort of things. I wonder what happened? This has always
bugged me especially after reading the reports. Even with redactions, it
was clear that contacts were made. Maybe effective communications comes
down to more than just check-in. Does this make sense to anyone out there?

We talk about the consequences of this sad incident falling on the IC, but
often ICs receive critical information via dispatch during IA / EA stages.
Would different decisions have been made had someone considered the one on
one messages that were being shared.

- Just wondering -
12/3 MG,

There is a company called Firebreak Spray Systems LLC. They do sell
sprinkler systems with CAFS units connected to the sprinkler system. These
can be used on the house or installed in the ground. Fyrfghtr
12/3 Ab,

A couple years back an assistant fire chief in New York was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the death of a volunteer firefighter at a live-fire training drill. A commentator at the time said it was no longer good enough to say, "Yeah, firefighting is a dangerous job, but we sure put on impressive funerals."

I question the attitude some are expressing here lately: that it is somehow acceptable for kids to keep dying on wildfires but not for others to lose their job as a result. My guess is that the pre-trial disposition in the Cramer Fire case was much kinder than what an Idaho jury would have imposed.

vfd cap'n
12/3 Misery Whip,

Bravo to you for such a well said post! That message need to be heard far and wide and to the highest levels! They Said is a great place for such things, but I would like to copy and paste it with your permission to send it out to any and all folks that I know in the organization.



Just so's your contacts could view the message in context and to avoid clogging mailboxes, you could send this link instead: /theysaid.php#ahme  Then they'll be at the right place to share their own views with us.  And I agree, Miserywhip's post was one of the finest I've seen here.  Original Ab.

12/3 Anyone know if a CAFS system has been designed yet for home use/installation?

My other question is... can a CAFS system to built into something like a sprinkler system so one could basically have instant white out conditions on their property?

12/2 Ah, ME, where to begin?
I don’t want to discourage you from posting on They Said. Everyone has a right to air their opinions. And I’m sure your heart is in the right place.

But I got a feeling after reading your post that your fire experience might be a little limited. I am guessing you are currently at about the crewboss level or so? If you are, I hope you enjoy these years and the relatively light responsibility of managing a single crew compared to the challenges of managing hundreds of fire resources over a large piece of ground and sky.

Has your crew ever been strung out on a piece of line where you couldn’t see them all at once? Whether you realized it or not, at that time you were in the same boat as Alan Hackett at Cramer. You accepted responsibility for the actions of people in your charge and trusted them to act safely while they were out of your range of vision (or communications). You were relying on the qualifications, training, and “common sense” (which really isn’t common at all) of your personnel to keep them safe. And it sounds like you have been fortunate so far. That is good. But here are a few truisms that you might want to consider as you progress in your career.

Errors in judgment happen frequently on wildland fires. Even to the best and smartest firefighters. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will sooner or later. And to people around you.

Most of the time, when people make errors in judgment on wildland fires, the end result is that NOTHING BAD HAPPENS! The snag misses, a well-placed tree prevents the engine from rolling a thousand feet over a cliff, or the firefighter scoots through a gap in the flaming front, and no one ever hears about it. A win for the good guys (& gals)!

But occasionally, a series of unfortunate events and firefighters coincide. A decision by someone, or some people, has an UNINTENTIONAL outcome. People are badly injured or killed.

This is a critical point. Very rarely is an accident caused by a MALICIOUS action of an IC or supervisor. Almost all fire accidents are the result of an unfortunate alignment of circumstances. Somebody (or more than one body) has a lapse of attention and misses the danger signals that are so easy to see after an accident. People wind up in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Fire accidents are extremely rare, but they are so catastrophic and traumatic that they generate irrational responses.

Whether you (or the WO) notice it or not, the playing field has shifted significantly since Thirtymile. Congresspersons Hastings and Cantwell put on a good show for the families and press, demanding punishment for those involved. They got it. And Thirtymile is not finished yet for some of those who were involved.

And you should know that there were actually three side-by-side Cramer investigations, by the Forest Service, OSHA, and the Office of Investigative Services. The OIG apparently felt that making an example of Alan Hackett would satisfy the expressed need of the families to see someone punished and would also serve the needs of justice. When you are grieving for a perfect lost son or daughter who has died on a wildfire, it is very hard to accept that they had a big part to play in their own fate. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EVERY FIREFIGHTER TO MONITOR THEIR OWN SAFETY AND TO SPEAK UP, REGARDLESS OF THEIR POSITION. Unfortunately, the two rappellers on the Cramer Fire helispot waited too long before reacting to the fire below them, and they paid the ultimate price.

So here comes my main point. Modern accident theory holds that accidents of the Cramer type are largely organizational in nature. If personnel are not evaluated and trained properly, if critical safety positions in an organization are intentionally left unstaffed, if poorly skilled managers attempt to accomplish what is beyond their abilities, accidents will happen with greater frequency. Especially in an environment that has so many hazards. It is easy to find the proximal causes of an accident, the trick is to recognize the systemic failures that helped facilitate that accident. The blame trail can be followed all the way to the top if one looks closely enough.

Don’t get me wrong. We DO need to investigate firefighter deaths. We DO need to investigate near misses. We need to take all of those hard-earned lessons to heart and make sure that no one falls prey to that particular set of circumstances again. But if we create an environment where people are afraid to admit mistakes that are the result of honest errors in human judgment, then we have damaged our ability to learn from our mistakes, and our ability to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Punishing people who were doing their best to serve the agency, who were trying to do a good job, is having a DISASTROUS effect on our firefighting culture. ME, your post suggests that there was an evil carelessness, a bad intent, or some other dark force at work here. Have you considered that Alan Hackett might just be a pretty decent guy, someone like you, who was just trying to cope with the demands of his job? Have you considered that you might be standing in his boots someday?

Here’s another important point. I am one of the few old farts left who started fighting fire back in the sixties. I have never seen a time like this, where so many good ICT3s & DIVS are questioning whether they can afford to accept the criminal and civil liability that is becoming an unpleasant reality these days. Many are opting out. Why risk everything when you can make just as much money elsewhere? Who wants to go to jail for making an honest error in judgment? Why take the chance of becoming a Judas goat for USFS senior managers who fail to grasp what is happening to our best and brightest?

As I stated in a previous post, in these litigious times, wildland fire supervisors need a Good Samaritan-type law. Paying for half of our liability insurance is a cop-out and an empty gesture, and everyone who counts knows it.

Real leaders speak up in times of cultural uncertainty and doubt. THE CHIEF OF THE UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, AND THE DIRECTOR OF FIRE AND AVIATION, NEED TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE SOON AND STATE EMPHATICALLY THAT THEY, AND OTHER USFS SENIOR FIRE MANAGERS, WILL UNEQUIVOCABLY SUPPORT EMPLOYEES WHO HAPPEN TO BE IN POSITIONS OF RESPONSIBILITY WHEN TRAGIC INCIDENTS HAPPEN ON THEIR WATCH. If the intent was noble, the defense should be automatic. Kowtowing to ignorant politicians and grieving survivors should NEVER be allowed to interfere with supporting an honorable employee in need of support.

I wonder if congresspersons Hastings and Cantwell, and the OIG prosecutors, realize that their vocal demands to punish a few well-intentioned people are actually making all of the remaining wildland firefighters less safe?

To the families and loved ones of firefighters who have died in the course of duty, there will never be adequate consolation. Too many of my aviator/firefighter friends have died during my career. I grieve for them all, but the truth is, they all played a part in their final destinies.

And for the record, the woman in Colorado was prosecuted.

ME, I hope I wasn’t too harsh, good luck in your career.

Merry Christmas to all,

Misery Whip
12/2 Hey Ab,

Let BLMgirl and everyone else know that Hawkins is doing very very well after going back for the remaining scheduled surgery. He will be emailing a note with more info to everyone here. I might have to prod him, I'll do that tomorrow (Friday). He's not supposed to be working, but... well... he has his laptop at home, so you know what that means.

12/2 Anyone in R5 FS know how Rich Hawkins is doing?

Thanks, BLMgirl
12/2 Dear Ab (& All),
As most of you know we here at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation have been taking the 14 Storm King statues around with us to fire camps, trade shows, and fire academies. We are sending the statues to the families for Christmas this year for the 10 year anniversary, along with a book we have been collecting signatures and notes from people who still remember and will never forget. Each family will receive a book and statue engraved with their loved one's name. Through our travels this summer we have not made it into California and some other areas where we have gotten a lot of support. We would like to offer an opportunity for those who would like to say something to the families, or just sign your name - you can e-mail those to us at info@wffoundation.org and we will put them in the book. We need submissions in the next few days in order to get everything together. As for myself, it has been a privilege and my honor to have those statues with me all summer and to see firsthand how Storm King affected our community. I can tell you that they are not forgotten and never will be. Please send your remarks. I'm sure it will mean a lot to those families.

What we learned from Storm King will never be forgotten....The lives of the 14 firefighters on Storm King serve as a constant reminder for all firefighters today. We learned that human life is more precious than any home, property, or landscape, and safety should guide all firefighters' decisions.

Burk Minor
Public Relations Director, WFF
12/2 Re:  ME,
I never said that we should not prosecute people who start fires, or that I am not looking out for the safety of the people I am supervising. I never said we should just let people wander around on fires and see if they get something done. What I did say was I am responsible for my safety and if I accept an assignment it is because I have looked at the situation and made a decision to accept that assignment based on my assessment of the conditions and capabilities of my resources.

Ultimately, I don’t take a DIVS, OPS, or IC of any type’s word for anything as far as safety goes. I take my time and get the information I need to make the best decision possible and follow the safety rules. I accept the responsibility for my safety I don’t expect any one else to take that responsibility nor will I allow anyone to usurp that responsibility from me because of rank, arrogance, intimidation or ineptitude.

I assume you know more about the Hackett case than I do since you are so quick to defend the criminal charges (what ever they are) against him. Your statement “There had to be some direct fault on the IC's part in order to be held responsible”, leads me to believe that you know some details. What law was broken? Where was Jeff and Shane’s direct supervisor and why did they not look after their subordinate’s safety. The point I am trying to make is that there is someone lower on the chain that has more direct control over where people are on the hill than the IC. And the ultimate responsibility for our safety lies with us.

Last time I checked accepting an assignment was negotiable and NOBODY can make us take an assignment that we don’t feel safe about.

12/2 Ab: Long time listener, somewhat frequent contributor:

Unless I feel the need to contribute, vent, inspire, or put a smoke to bed.
Well here goes.

I have not had a chance to catch up on 'They Said' for awhile. Been fairly
busy with fire business lately. Yes, there are some areas where the smokes
never go out. Unfortunately, when you have a lot of year in a career
dedicated to fire - there never is a slow season. Well, as I said, I
haven't read 'They Said' for awhile and today I caught up. I must admit
I'm a little aghast, somewhat ticked, and a little heartbroken. Perhaps
its just age and watching the issues cycle over and over and over and over
(Portal to Portal, AD Rates, perceptions of greedy contractors, Regional
Foresters without a clue about fire, Chiefs that don't care, "the grass is
greener in LA County, the myth that the 747 will not work as an airtanker,
the positioning of the Guard to take over air attack, and the topper -
another analysis of the work capacity test!!!) Lord, give me a break.

To Casey, Lobotomy, NorCal Tom, Old Fire Guy - I love you all because of
your passion, your belief in doing the "right" things, your concerns for
the collective good of us all. Your defense of free speech and most of all
the diversity of your intelligence, experiences, and insights. I carefully
listen with objective empathy to what you say, and moreso than all else - I
respect you all to the utmost for sticking it out there. I give you praise
for your courage. Someone has to lead the discussions. And I expect you
all will carry on.

Just some things I noted being 'away' for awhile:

1. Old Fire Guy in his 11/30 post summed up the reality of all the
99.9% of us live from paycheck to paycheck,( whenever we get one.) YET,
WILDLAND FIREFIGHTING. And in many ways, when you get what you want, the
overall "price" is going to be higher, much higher. Old Fire Guy (and I
don't mean to single only you out) but you are dead on when you infer that
we should "Do the job right but not at the cost of compromising SAFETY."
SAFETY can not be bought, it is not a line item request, no one faction of
wildland firefighters who is truly professional is better at it than any
other that believes in the same basic tenet.

2. Screw the RF who knows crap about firefighting, or pretends to
understand firefighter issues. These are gravy trainers who can't tell
bear scat from MRE scat if their live depended on it. And as far as
Chiefs go: if you think they don't care, you do not understand the
processes they have to deal with, and most of them put up with them because
they inwardly feel if you have to try to improve the system - then work
from within. Please - give Jack Ward Thomas's "Journals of a FS Chief" 
a read, even if you have to borrow the book.

Jack was a political appointee and despised by many RFs who coveted the
position he got, tried to block it, and played nasty with the politics.
Yet here is one person who gave more to field firefighters than most will
ever know, and suffered for it like no other. And damn it - he fought to
get his journals published so he could share with all the GS 3,4,5,7,8,9,
11's and so on - so that could gain understanding of what immense and often
ridiculous pressures an agency leader has to go through at times - just to
do the right thing, and keep his employees within the law. Read what is
written during the period post August 1994. Then think about the our
arguments today about how little our Chiefs do for the field and funding
firefighters. It will change your perspective and add real insight.

3. Did you vote in the last election? Do you know how much a special ops
service person makes a year? Or equate it to an hourly rate? (Right, you
guessed it, they don't get overtime either. - Maybe some hazardous duty
pay, and a choice of BDUs. And consider how many more service men and
women are still coming home in body bags every day, a steady, even keeled
flow. And for what? Is the landscape safer? And what about the hundreds
daily that come home maimed, no legs, arms, half a face gone. At what
personal cost to them?

4. Did you vote in locally? And if you did, did you take into
consideration voting or asking your representative to fight to streamline
maybe 2 or 3 billion from the DOD budget and transfer it to Interior
Appropriations (which funds "we the wildland firefighters".)

5. I'm old. But have 30 plus years in fire. Did I vote? Yes. Was I
hoping we would quit the shadow of Vietnam II and focus more on the fires
at home than the ones in the desert? Hard to believe what went on in the
late 50s and culminated in the 60s is still going on today yet costing
billions of dollars - money we could use at home to help solve our common
issues. We used to say bring back something like the CCCs, now we are
wondering when the draft will take our children overseas to the quell the
smoke of distant conflagrations? Did you vote this year?

Where do you think the funds that our contractors, ADs, agency
firefighters, Rurals, and oh those National fire plan funded resources is
now going? -- Putting out wildfires overseas with a humongous financial,
human and spiritual cost.

6. Friends, let's try to make some good sense of all this. Let us not
fight each other but add support through our collective numbers.

7. In 10 years, the natural resource management agencies hopefully will be
able to go back to managing natural resources properly.

8. Tom Ridge knows what's going on, but he just stepped down and there
should be no blame for this. All of the disaster response agencies and
responders are going to go to another Cabinet level organization. Think
this is off the wall? One would be surprised how many top ICs in the
country expect this to happen. (Look how fast the large airtanker industry
"morphed" - this was not a surprise to some - (Did you vote this year?)

I feel like apologizing to you all. I took things outside the fire
triangle, or the proverbial "box" Please try to see what is really
happening. The funds for fire changes just are not there because of higher
perceived priorities. Let's collectively get our stuff squared away and
then fight for those 2 or 3 billion extra dollars. Do we have to wait for
Portland, Denver, and San Francisco's watersheds to burn down first?
Let's get this done before we lose our agencies. We are not fighting for
oil, the world is fighting for water. The politicos are making there money
on defense contracts owned by those in elected power.

Casey, Lobo, Old Fire Guy, Nor Cal Tom, Blackbull, all my buds out there, I
hope i have not offended any of you.
I speak my heart. Act locally, but think outside the fireline.

-- There is no reson for it - it's just our policy --
12/2 ME and backburnfs,

One of the biggest things that bothers me about Cramer is the concept of 'Chain of Command'. Both of you alluded to it. How can the IC possibly be responsible for every person on the fire. That is what the chain of command is supposed to address.

Another aspect you brought up is personal responsibility, I realize the concept seems to be fading now days, but that leads to my last (for now) point.

The political climate in the agency/fire service seemed to demand that they find fault with someone in charge, whether it was warranted or not. 

It was a sad and tragic occurrence. The aftermath may just be worse.

12/2 Ab,

I am looking for a source for contractors to take the WCT. I work for the DOD 
and have wildlife and forestry contractors that will need to take the WCT. I, under 
agency requirements, cannnot test them. Is there a source for this out there 



12/2 Re Cramer:

That ranger is at risk for jail time as are all line officers under the NEW 
Forest Service system. Pretty soon if this system of litigation continues, 
rangers won't step up to serve any more readily than ICs. We're making 
history in so many ways.


12/1 A link to an article about fiscal accountability on a fire.
Here's A Performance Evaluation With Teeth

12/1 Backburnfs

This is a complicated issue no doubt. However, lets not press charges
against the woman who burnt letters in Colorado. Lets not investigate
anymore firefighter deaths. Is a matter of fact, lets not hold anyone
responsible for loss of property or lives, cause its nature right?!?! A
fire burns and who ever is in its way, well that's there fault because
they wanted to be there.

Now seriously. I'm sure the investigators found the IC responsible in a
big way to press charges. Look at 30 mile. Was the IC prosecuted? no.
Look at Storm King, no action was taken even though they didn't relay
weather info. There had to be some direct fault on the IC's part in
order to be held responsible.

One last note. You mean to tell me that it is not a crewbosses
RESPONSIBILITY for his/hers crews safety. Great, now I don't have to
worry about the fft2s that have no experience what so ever. Ill just
let them meander around the fire and hopefully they get work done and

12/1 I must be dense but I don't see how criminal charges can be brought against the IC on a fire when something goes wrong and firefighters die.  Many civilians and a firefighter died on the Cedar fire. How is that different than Cramer. What is next loose structures on an incident and get charged with arson? What if a helicopter or air tanker crashes on an incident or a vehicle rolls off a cliff is it the IC's fault?

I have asked this before and not had much response.

If I accept an assignment, how can it be anyone else's fault if I get hurt or killed?

I am the only one who is accountable for my safety. Not my co-workers or my supervisor, and certainly not an IC that is not even on the fireline with me.

I have the responsibility to follow the rules and scout out my work area, know what the fire is doing at all times, post lookouts, establish communications have an escape route to a safety zone (not count on a helicopter to get me out), , etc.

If I cannot avoid, mitigate or eliminate the hazards and risks encountered on an assignment, I have the responsibility to refuse that assignment, or come up with a safe and effective alternative.

I wish this was going to be the last time that we see this type of legal stupidity but we all know this is only the beginning.

12/1 Steve L, LCES

Wow, Somebody out there is thinking ahead.

First, it's not "Outsourcing", the Feds are very clear on this point of semantics.

The Fed Employees that are displaced by the Competitive Sourcing are not going to be sitting around waiting for your contract to expire. These will have been RIFed, retired, or re-assigned by then. Veeeery good question, What Then?

When the contract is re-competed, you'll probably see yourself against other commercial competitors as well as some kind of study or cost estimate of hiring new Feds to do the work
- Batchmaster
12/1 I think it is insane that Alan Hackett had to plea out a criminal charge. Yeah he should leave his position, but criminal charges? What a crock. The only criminal charges that should have been filed should have been against the District Ranger. She was told by the Forest Aviation Officer that he thought things weren't going so well with the management of the Cramer Fire. She chose to ignore those comments. She was also told of the many management problems in the District's fire program and chose to turn a blind eye to that as well. It's one thing to make mistakes, it's another to allow them to be made.

The Goat
12/1 Mollysboy / Ab,

Thanks for posting the link to the Idaho Statesman article regarding the latest in the Cramer Incident. 

My hope is that the Forest Service and the US Attorney's Office will conduct a public After Action Review of the Cramer IC's actions that led to the fatalities and the subsequent filing of criminal charges against the IC.

Without this vital "Lessons Learned" information being disseminated to the existing and upcoming leadership (ICs) in the Fire Service I believe we will continue to see voluntary decertification of ICs at all levels, especially ICT5, 4 and 3. Indeed I am wondering about my IA IC role, not to mention my ICT3 qualification.

And without these folks our "managers" will truly be asking "Where have all the ICs gone??"


Excellent idea. Following 30mile, a legal beagle came and spoke to the R5 Division Chiefs about process and policy and CYA. It was very informative. What I hear you asking for is bigger and more in depth than that. When you don't know the truth, you imagine the worst. Ab.

12/1 Today's (12/1/04) Idaho Statesman newspaper has an interesting article on the 
pre-trial agreement between Alan Hackett (Cramer fire IC) and the US Attorney.

It shows us a new side of wildland fire that we've never seen before: criminalizing 
errors made while managing a wildfire incident.

I strongly recommend reading it, and considering the implications in your fire career.

www.idahostatesman.com under "Today's Top News".

12/1 Casey,

I agree with your objectives, and again, would never challenge your sincere devotion to the welfare of firefighters. I just don't believe for a minute that (regardless of fire experience) anyone rises through the ranks to become Chief, and does so without an appreciation of the employees. Note: Not all Chiefs come up through the ranks.

Also wish I knew what Jack B's comments were, but that's another discussion.

Here's what I do know. The Chief of the Forest Service appears before Congress to answer questions about the budget requests (when asked to do so). His official request must be that which the administration says represents the agency's fair share of the total (knowing that the FS competes against many other programs/agencies). He does not get to request the $ needed to do 100% of the job needed.

That said, he must truthfully answer questions put to him by members of the Committee. A politically astute Chief can establish relationships with elected representatives that will lead to specific, pointed questions being asked. 
Example: "Chief, are the funds you request sufficient to do 100% MEL, and if not, what is the necessary dollar amount?"

I know this because a retired Chief told me this story over lunch some years ago.

Those who lead must play by "the rules". Some are more adept than others at playing the game within the rules, but I think it rare to find a national leader with 30 + years experience that does not truly care for our employees. And regardless of devotion to employees, they just don't always have the authority that we perceive they have…… can't override OPM.

Please don't become discouraged, your efforts are appreciated and needed.

Old Fire Guy
12/1 Old Fire Guy

Wow, not sure where to start, but I'll make it short and sweet.

The FWFSA is not Casey and a few of his friends, but it is the

Crewmembers / Firefighters
Senior Crewmembers
Squad Bosses
Assistant Fire Engine Operators
Fire Engine Operators
Hotshot / Engine / Helishot / Patrol / Helitack Captains
Battalion Chiefs
Division Chiefs
Deputy Forest Fire Management Officers
Forest Fire Management Officers

They are all working towards common goals: 
To PROMOTE the health, safety and welfare of all wildland firefighters.
To SUPPORT beneficial and resist detrimental firefighter legislation.
To ENCOURAGE the highest standards of firefighter performance and conduct.
To PROTECT the nations resources and render the most effective services possible to
the people of the United States of America.

So either join the FWFSA, or form your own association.


12/1 Hey Ab,

Is there anyone out there (feds) that can explain what happens to Competitive Outsourcing if the Government fails to keep the contract and it is awarded to a Private Company? 

Let me be a tad more specific. I own a 2-way radio company and I bid on an Outsourced contract and win. Yeh, good for me. The Government will then RIF or otherwise eliminate the 2-way radio technicians from the forest/district as I have the contract. (Here's the question) After my contract is up, how is the Government going to 'Competitive Outsource' against me if there aren't any Government employees to fulfill the contract? As I understand it, the Government must HIRE FROM WITHIN (use current employees) to gain the contract. Without having any WITHINs, how does it help? Sounds like my bid goes WAY up after the first contract expires as I will only be competing against my commercial counterparts and not the Government.............

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm right. Maybe it's both..... I'm soooooooo confused........

Steve L
12/1 Casey,

Thanks again for all your efforts for our cause. I too have strongly considered jumping ship to start my own contracting business which is why I wrote what I did. You hit the nail on the head with your response. Retention is the number one problem facing the wildland firefighting agencies and the Foresters on up are too blind to see it. At the women's conference last month he (R5 Forester) said that employees leaving due to pay and benefit inequities account for only 2% of our retention problems. There is currently a survey making the rounds asking for supervisors to state the name and reason of departing employees in the last 3 years. From what I've seen it looks more like 99.9%. After LACoFD gets done, we'll see those numbers jump even higher and God willing, I'll be one of them. 10 day work months and portal to portal with a starting salary of what I make as a Captain? Hmmmm let me think. I have just as much pride as the next guy and really do not want to give up my tarnished badge (excellent representation of this tarnished agency, ya think?) and green shirt but a mass exodous is the only thing that will open peoples eyes. 

When CDF got their big raises and increased staffing it wasn't because people were doing a great job with what they had. They made their wheels squeek, when communities wanted better ISO ratings, they said they needed 3/0 staffing, the communities rallied behind their union and got it. We have done too good of a job with what we have for too long. Until things go bad no one will care. Why do you think MEL$ came after a bad fire season? Until we all leave and clearly state our reasons, no one will care. For those contractors who say they don't make as much as it seems, divide the amount of money you received per fire by the total number of hours committed to fire. Pretty sure that works out to more than what we would get even on portal to portal. And don't even try the "countless hours preparing equipment while not committed" because I've spent twice as many preparing myself, schooling, training, working out, getting fit and never seeing my family...off the clock!


MEL money came because someone at the TOP in fire asked for it. Ab.
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