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January, 2005

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1/31 LH & JR:

With all due respect, the analogy about the Cramer Tragedy and surgery malpractice is both bold and ridiculous.

Your analogy goes: "While during your son's surgery, mistakes were made by the doctor entrusted with your son's life which led to his death. Would you not hold the doctor accountable?"...Sure! Any reasonable person would agree with you there...

BUT when comparing this "surgery scenario" to the Cramer Tragedy, the "patient" would have to be a trained medical professional briefed on the foregoing procedure before operating on himself.

As far as relying on the Forest Service's "official" report, that would be like relying on the doctor's insurance company's "official" report in defense of his malpractice.

"Cut and dry" is only 20/20 in the eyes of the omnipotent.

M McM
1/31 Posting from the new location. WU-HOOOOO!

Thanks Original Ab. Was it a rush?

Ab.

1/31 Ab, I heard a good one last night.

"Site changes are like changing ropes mid rappel."

Hope you're having fun.

Lurker.

LCES, as vfd capt said. They're in place. Checklists, dunno on that one. Original Ab keeps it all in his head so his hands are free to catch that rope. Ab.

1/31 MiseryWhip.
What he said.

I agree. Human Factors.

Look at the Cramer helispot picture someone sent in. Imagine you're a couple of young firefighters, good friends, just back home among your mountains from an assignment in the flat and arid SW. Human factors? Hell yeah! Were they in transition back to a home location, enjoying life, doing the job of clearing a helispot using their skills, working with a best friend? Were they primed for bad fire behavior? Mopup crews that have been burned over haven't been. J&S probably thought there was a lookout. Sometimes you you can be thinking my bases are covered and for whatever the reason they are not.

I try to always be safe, follow the 10 and 13. LCES. I've also known the great feeling I get when I've been away and I'm finally right back where I should be doing what I really like. What happened from their perspective we'll never know. There have been times I let down my guard if I don't notice something. How do you get enough experience to stay SA enough?

LCES
LC

1/31 Hi All,

I have attempted to make this point several times, but feel that I have been un-clear about it. In recent posts, people have been saying that we must follow the 10 and 18 all the time. The culture of "We don't bend them, we don't break them."

The problem is that anytime something happens, we hold up the 10 and 18 and say "Ahh Ha! Numbers 2, 5, 7, etc, etc, were broken on this incident." This is very easy to do, and seems to be a standard we can measure up to....except there is a flaw in the model.

Take the following scenario. A crew is underslinging line. Fire behavior is minimal, but expected to increase in the afternoon. Two lookouts are posted from your crew, and a squad boss from another IHC that you trust is posted across the drainage acting as another set of eyes. You also have rovers looking for roll-out and spots. Based on your knowledge of fire behavior and your crew, you have identified and timed escape routes and safety zones.

In the afternoon, an undetected spot flares up and makes a run at your crew. Murphy's law dictates that your lookouts can't see exactly what is happening, and the radio of the squad boss across the way chooses this time to die--or else he is off taking a crap. The thick smoke blinds your crewmembers, they loose the escape rout, and are burned over.

You, in good faith, tried to mitigate the circumstances, to meet the 10 and 18. An investigation would find, however, that your lookouts were posted incorrectly, that communications for whatever reason with the lookout across the way failed, escape routes were too long, etc, etc.

The intent was to follow the orders. The attempt was made to follow the orders. The findings are that you broke the orders.

This is the failure in using "We don't bend them, we don't break them" as a method of judgment. Things in this business sometimes go wrong, and people get hurt. We should look into why this happens, and how it happens. We should all also realize that most of us out there are doing our best and trying to adhere to the 10 and 18, and to mitigate circumstances that are dangerous.

The reality of it is that whenever something goes wrong, for whatever reason, the 10 and 18 HAVE BEEN BROKEN, regardless of intent or attempt for mitigation. Judging a person solely because of this doesn't fix the problems. It just fixes the blame.

Class C Sagebrush Faller

1/31 Ab,

Gook luck on the server conversion. Hope you have LCES and all your other safety checklists in place.

GGFire, thanks for giving me something to do on a Sunday afternoon. We have added the FAA "Swiss cheese" model report to the CO Firecamp website. Our philosophy is if a document is really worth reading, it's worth making readable.

Our version is much easier to navigate. The original PDF version prints to about a type 8 font, and the general formatting is poor.

Anyway, we hope this adds to the fire community's understanding of the theory.

vfd cap'n
1/31 LH+JR,

There is a world of difference in the examples of the surgeon who is actually holding the knife and an IC who is making decisions that other individuals are going to carry out based on their experience and training.

An IC can plan all the tactics and strategies they want but it is the firefighters on the line who must implement those tactics and strategies.

We don’t have to accept an assignment that we feel is unsafe. It is our responsibility to ensure that our lookouts and escape routes are in place and our safety zones are accessible. It is our responsibility to base our actions on past, current and expected fire behavior.

My hope is that we will all follow the 10+18, LCES and things will always work out the way we plan. Reality is that we are going to keep loosing our friends because we cannot make the fire ground environment 100% safe. A tree is going to fall, a rock roll or a vehicle or aircraft is going to crash. Another fire will make a run at other firefighters who are not prepared for the worst case scenario. When that happens we will again, be hanging our heads and grieving over lost firefighters.

Looking for ways to lower the risk and exposure to hazards in the fire environment is what we should be doing when investigating a tragedy such as the Cramer fire. I hate it when we get hurt or die doing our job. Bureaucrats and lawyers are not the answer to firefighter safety. Firefighters are. The only thing that has been accomplished by the Cramer investigation is a large reduction in the number of IC’s who are willing to take on the responsibility of managing a fire.

There is no way for me to convince you that the Government is wrong in this case because you obviously have your minds made up that someone had to be a scapegoat in this tragedy. I can only state my convictions and do my best to keep myself and those around me safe.

Backburnfs
1/30 The Jobs page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages and Series 0401 ("professional" Biologist) listings are updated.

NOTICE: Wildlandfire.com is upgrading our Internet provider services!  We have purchased and are moving to a dedicated server, starting tomorrow, Monday, January 31.

If you aren't sure what a dedicated server is, don't worry about it.  What it means to us is that we now have a  mirrored 40 gigs of hard drive space and 100 gigs of bandwidth to play with.  Some of our earlier ideas of expansion have been limited by one or both of the preceding parameters.  Trust me when I say that we will test our new limits to bring you the fastest, most up to date, wildland fire information available!

During the move our email should be unaffected. We've updated the Jobs related pages and won't update them again until possibly Wed, Feb 2, by which time we expect the move will be complete, though it could be earlier.

The Chat and News pages will not be down as they're located on our alternate server and will remain there until we are able to move the entire wlf2 site to the new server.

Some readers, depending on their location may experience occasional browser errors over the next few days.  We'd like to think this new move will allow us to keep growing through the next 8 years without change, but we doubt it as we know how fast technology changes.  Thanks to all of you and especially those who have supported our site from the beginning, at which time we were limited to 5MB of space, and bandwidth wasn't an issue.

We appreciate your patience.

Original Ab.

1/30 Ab,

Many interesting posts lately on They Said. One email that caught my eye this week referred to a Region 1 I-300 course (ICT3 prerequisite) that was extending the application deadline because only seven people had signed up. I wonder if other regions are having trouble finding people who want to be Type 3 ICs. Might be a sign of future problems.

The Missoulian has an interesting article today on the unusually warm and dry winter we have been experiencing. According to the US Natural Resources Conservation Service, we are approaching an all-time record low snowpack in our region. The article states “things are shaping up comparable to 1988 and 2001, both low-snow years that preceded summers filled with wildfires”. Here’s the link:

www.missoulian.com/articles/2005/01/30/mtracker/news/89snowpack.txt

I want to weigh in on a subject that has been bothering me for some time. For many years, the fed wildland fire agencies have recognized that understanding fire behavior is important to firefighter safety. In recent years, we have spent literally millions of dollars to set up and maintain RAWS stations, train fire behavior analysts, provide fire weather forecasts, etc. Fire behavior analysis has become an important firefighter safety tool.

My question is; why haven’t we dedicated a similar amount of effort to improve our understanding of human behavior? Whenever someone makes a decision to place firefighters in the proximity of a wildland fire, human decisions come into play. Human behavior is where the rubber meets the road.

I have a short story that I think helps illustrate the problems we face in this area. In 1995, I was invited to make a presentation at a regional safety officer workshop in R6. The stated intent of the workshop was to choose from among a number of different safety presentations, and to champion a small number of important safety topics from the workshop with fire management.

While waiting to make my own presentation, I was privileged to hear Dr. Curt Braun, a behavioral scientist (and former hotshot) from the University of Idaho, speak on the subjects of fatigue, decisionmaking watchouts, human information processing limitations, and other human factors issues. I was blown away! This was the first time in my career that I had heard someone address things like perceptual narrowing that I had been experiencing for years but didn’t quite know how to articulate. I felt certain that this room full of safety officers would recognize that we were hearing something important and revolutionary.

I was wrong. At the end of the workshop, Dr. Braun’s presentation was ranked among the bottom of important topics. Even worse, the number one suggestion from the safety officers was to take the workshop’s “Passion for Safety” theme and turn it into another inane acronym (P is for Put safety first, A is for Always think about safety, etc ad nauseum). I left feeling extremely puzzled and disappointed that this group of wildland fire safety professionals failed to understand something that seemed very clear and important to me. I began reading everything I could get my hands on that pertained to the subject of human factors.

I am sorry to say that we are not much better off in this area than we were ten years ago. Although there have been some improvements in our understanding of human factors issues, we are still dealing with a management structure that is largely clueless about human factors. I frequently deal with mid and senior level fire and aviation managers who don’t understand, or have any desire to learn about, human factors. Therein lays the problem.

There are many things about human factors that are contradictory to what most people expect. For instance, if you do not understand that human beings are not computers and are prone to information processing limitations, you might think that fire supervisors are being willfully careless when they make errors in judgment, like in AC’s post today. This is a common misconception that I frequently encounter when dealing with fire and aviation managers.

Yet these same managers who are largely ignorant about human factors make important decisions every day about budgets, organizational structures, training, and other issues that disregard what behavioral scientists know to be true. Quite often, smart people like Ted Putnam and Tony Kern are marginalized and driven from the Forest Service because of their “radical” ideas about human factors.

Folks, human factors are real, and if we are ever going to reduce wildland fire fatalities, we need to do WAY better in this area. As an example, over the past twenty years, the airline industry has drastically reduced the number of human factors accidents by adopting procedures and training that embrace and understand human limitations. Crew Resource Management has been adopted by airlines around the world, and the present low commercial accident rate is directly attributable to this truly revolutionary program.

I think the biggest problem we face in fire and aviation management today is this; how do you convince managers who don’t have a very good understanding of human factors, and don’t have any desire to learn about it, that this is the missing link in firefighter safety that we have been searching for all these years?

The information is out there, all we have to do is seek it out. I still feel that a Dryden Report style investigation of wildland firefighting is what it will take to get us over the hump. We need to place the same emphasis on human behavior that we presently give to fire behavior.

Misery Whip
1/30 Ab,
I am looking for a little help with a Position Task Book question.
The certification committee on my unit is in the process of reviewing a "completed" task book and I am a little concerned about how all of the boxes were checked as complete.

If an employee has an open task book for a certain position (say HECM (T) ) and they travel to and from an incident in another capacity (FFT2 for example), is it appropriate to have the mob and demob tasks in the HECM (T) PTB signed as completed?

I personally feel that this should not be accepted and that the trainee should go through the process in the appropriate position. Some feel that I am splitting hairs and being to critical.

It seems as if the 310-1 is open for quite a bit of interpretation and I am hoping that someone with some experience in this area is willing to provide me with what is appropriate and if there could be potential future dilemmas from what I consider to be a loophole certification.

Ab thanks again for the great site.

Palos
TNSP (T)
1/30 Backburnfs,

You stated "My son just had surgery on his shoulder that lasted about 3 hours and the bill was over $14,000.00." Here is something to think about..........

While during your son's surgery, mistakes were made by the doctor entrusted with your son's life which led to his death. Would you not hold the doctor accountable? Of course you would because that was his job, to perform a safe surgery on your son's shoulder.

The Cramer Fire incident was no different than this scenario. It was the jobs of the Forest Service Officials to make the correct decisions regarding the safety of Shane and Jeff, along with all of the other firefighters lives. This is what the government pays these officials to do. So if they are not doing there job correctly why should the government back them up?

It is very cut and dry and you have no argument.
Read the official Forrest Service Report or just pick up the Idaho Statesman and then convince me that the government should in any way back these people who made such tragic mistakes.

LH & JR
1/30 I don't mean to rehash the Cramer Incident and its the last thing I want to do today to bring this up but I feel I need to respond to Rhino's post and dispel some myths once again:

Rhino states: "Cramer is a prime example where a dysfunctional forest placed an individual in a position where he tried to do his best and became overwhelmed."

This statement is erroneous and it is evident to anyone that reads the investigative report (final or preliminary findings), has fought wildfire in any initial attack or single resource capacity or knew Allen or Heath.

Ultimately, the final call of safety resides with the firefighter on the ground. I can't begin to tell you how many times I've seen mistakes made on the ground where a firefighter violates or ignores the 10 and 18 and then is surprised when the conditions become adverse. There is no excuse for a bad judgment call and while the finding might find the IC and others on the 'forest' to blame, I know that the rappellers had allowed themselves to become complacent and rely on air support as a potential escape route. This is inexcusable and unfortunately the paid for it with their lives.

Rhino is unwilling to admit or understand that rappellers have a window out an aircraft just like the spotter does. The pilot circles the fire and the proposed rappel spot more than once so that not only the spotter but also the rappellers get a good look at it. They have the ability to refuse an assignment based on appearance and yes, Ive seen it actually happen. They have situational awareness on the ground and have training drilled into them to assess the changing conditions.

Although Rhino mentions safety is the responsibility of every firefighter why condemn only the forest? The post tries to sound unbiased but is clearly black and white. Doing your best is using Situational Awareness, observing the 10 and 18 and refusing an assignment that doesnt look or feel right....none of these were done.

AC
1/30 Thanks for telling me about Snookie, sagebrush faller.

NorCal Tom or someone who knows, what's the
National Leadership Team? Firefighter leaders for
the nation?

Maybe that's not anything a groundpounder needs
to know?

Fire Pup

Try a google of "National Leadership Team" "Forest Service". Cut and paste, leave the quotes in. Ab.

1/30 Good Morning to you all.

I'm sitting at my computer this morning, sun shining in, family around, appreciating that I live in a democratic country and work with a bunch of fire folks from across the US and around the world.

Thanks for your contributions. We live in a time of change and I am optimistic.

Ab.

1/29 Any death that happens during any fire is horrible to read or learn about yet when it happens to a fellow firefighter it is doubly disheartening. Safety is the number one priority of all firefighters. As wildland firefighters we face a different set of hazards than our brothers entering structures yet again 99% of all our hazards have been well documented, discussed and trained upon. Sometimes things happen and we need to learn from that situation. Yes we need to investigate so that we can use the produced report to learn what circumstances lead up to the critical situation -taking place. If there is a glaring mistake where multiple 10 fire orders or 13 (18) situations were violated then it becomes obvious that this individual (or others) need additional training.

The Forest Service has made an investment in each individual and has taught and trained them to recognize 10 orders that when violated can or will lead to death, as well as 13 situations that when violated also have the ability to harm firefighters. As a firefighter moves up their career forward, each step is blessed at a higher level and they are supported to do the additional duties bestowed upon them, to the best of their ability and training. None of us who has been given the responsibility to supervise others on any fire line have accepted that action nonchalantly. This can be driven home if any of us have responded to an incident where a death has occurred. One knows that you would never wish that to happen during your watch.

Cramer is a prime example where a dysfunctional forest placed an individual in a position where he tried to do his best and became overwhelmed. It may have been best for this IC to insist upon a change of command rather than to continue. Yet it would have been far wiser for this dysfunctional forest to make that decision for him. Those making the decision to construct the rappeller helispot are accountable. The rappel spotter who can see the fire behavior is also accountable.

Safety is still the primary function of each and every firefighter. It is a must for those who will oversee the operations of others on any fire line. It must be constantly reviewed and it never hurts to ask those doing the job if they feel safe. After all, asking is communicating which is one of the 10 orders.

Rhino
1/29 Hello Ab,

I'm an infrequent visitor and lurker. I tend to come by every once in awhile and read entire threads. Like all of us, I've been thinking about the Cramer incident and its aftermath a lot lately. So after following the conversation, both on and off line, I want to join into that discussion. My observations:

1) The lessons of Cramer will go unlearned - obscured and overshadowed by the controversy over disciplinary actions. That is really unfortunate!

2) While I understand why people close to the incident would want one, a "Cramer-free" week dishonors firefighters Heath and Allen. If the fire community does not talk about, learn from, and make changes because of what happened to them, their deaths were pointless. How can the Forest Service be a "error resistant", "learning organization" when there are still things that people can't, won't or don't talk about.

3) But are we talking about the right stuff? Everybody is talking about the disciplinary actions, liability (criminal and otherwise), the diversion agreement, etc.. I would like to semi-respectfully suggest that, until the OIG report is public knowledge, we don't really know what we're talking about. On one hand, I think people need to back-off until they have some facts - ones they did not get from a short article in the Idaho Statesman or the rumor mill. On the other hand, I wonder why the Forest Service can't figure out that, by keeping their employees in the dark, they have succeeded only in creating a climate of fear and loathing in the agency that has turned really destructive.

4) There are people using this site who have direct knowledge of the Cramer incident. However, most of us really only know what we can learn by reading the publicly available documents. Those documents paint a horrifying picture of dysfunction with error caused at every level of the organization, top to bottom - a tragedy of errors piled on errors.

5) I have heard people say that Heath and Allen were third year (!) firefighters, that they should have recognized the danger they were in, and refused the risk. What a load of %$#@. You can only refuse risk that you can recognize, and a typical third year firefighter simply does not have the experience or the training necessary to recognize risk in a wide variety of situations, particularly when the strategy reflects a fundamental lack of situation awareness by most people on the incident.

6) Lately I've seen several people chattering about James Reason's Human Factors Analysis Classification System (HFACS) or the "Swiss Cheese Model." I'd suggest, again with all due respect, that some of these folks need to go back and re-read their Reason.

Sign me,
GGFire

Hi GGFire. Will the OIG report ever be public knowledge?

The legal ramifications of Cramer and the impact upon ICs might be considered an "incident within an incident", no?

It's my understanding that it is the Forest Service legal beagles who are the ones keeping people in the dark. I think it's Office of General Counsel. See, it's hard to know who specifically applies the white out, kind'a like obfuscate the source. The blame generally gets laid on the "Forest Service" which implies the "fire managers" at the upper echelons but really, it's the lawyers.

Readers, the link to the shorter HFACS article by Shappell & Wiegmann is available in -Hugh Carson's commentary- under Docs Worth Reading. The next doc worth reading in the list is the USFS Accident Investigation Guide (3400 K pdf) which I'm told contains aspects of the Swiss Cheese Model.

Ab.

1/29 There are some new quotes up on the "Fire Quotes to Live By" page. Many are mentioned in training or used in powerpoints. Others are just downright funny. If you have any to add, send 'em in. The latest bunch are by Will Rogers who likely would have been on a fire team if they'd had such a thing in his day. They were sent in by Larry I. Ab.
1/29 JD,

Sorry I came off sounding so harsh on the subject and I hope you didn't take my ranting as an attack on your sentiments. I agree that a new subject is definitely needed now as we head into another season. I am tired of dealing with this issue too. Therefore, I won't mention it again in this reply.

Sounds like you and I agree on many things, though I have a few more years in the game than you, and the closest call I ever had was in that great big burn scar to the west of the Cramer Incident, on the Fountain Cr. fire in 1985, doing the first extended attack actions with a couple of other shot crews.

We definitely don't do things the way we used to in this game, and some aspects of the old fire scene I miss. Some things I don't. The apprentice program was a great deal until it was viewed as an urban diversity program for integrating non firefighters into a harsh line of employment. Can't quite agree with you on the jumper program either because most of the Type I resources have the same flexibility with what they can do. As for incompetent managers two things happen. They realize their shortcomings and learn from the folks they can learn from or the go down in a blaze of upward mobility glory and end up in a regional office somewhere away from the real fire game.

But I'll agree with you that there is not enough positive said about the agencies that put the wet stuff on the red stuff. For the potential number of fatalities we could have for the line of employment we pursue the percentages could be much greater, especially in super fire years where everyone with a red card is running and gunning all summer long( Ah! to be back in those days again.)

Sorry for your loss. We all lost a bit of freedom and political innocence on that hillside.

Joeboy

1/29 Theysaid Fire Terms, Okay Ab, here's another:

Klingon - Anyone with a higher rank than the speaker, but generally a
battalion Chief and above.

Evan
1/29 KCMO wrote about the need for liability insurance and some research he or
she had done. I wonder if KCMO or anyone else on the list can provide a
list of good insurance companies. I'm sure many in this community would
benefit.

Many thanks and keep up the good work!

Fish
1/28 I've been re-reading the investigation reports for South Canyon, Cramer, Thirtymile, Point...... and came up with this:
The ten standard orders remain our "go", "no-go" guidelines. I see good comments identifying situations that might occur where a crew was in compliance, but situations evolve and they are for a period, out of compliance. ie. We can't follow all the rules all the time. (Doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for compliance).

So, Here's what can happen:
The fire doesn't blow up, and you can have broken all the rules without consequence. or:
The fire makes a sudden shift, and the "Ten" are your windows of opportunity for getting out unharmed. Close one window, and you've still got a 90% chance of making it.

But read the tragic reports, and you'll find the common thread that a majority (in some cases all) of the Ten were broken........ and all windows of escape were nailed shut.

I'm in the same boat as nearly everyone who reads this site. Yes, I've been in violation of the Ten many times, but I'm more than ever committed to doing my best to follow them. Every one of them. Every time.

Old Fire Guy
1/28 I hope everyone can get by the Foundation to see those shirts and tell some stories. Rowdy and all, excellent job. Makes me proud of the fire organization I work for and the people I work with! The safe miles on those shirts, now there's something to be proud of. The leadership demonstrated by those wearing the shirts, I'm glad to know them. The humor, the dirt, the honest sweat. I could go on.

On another track, about Lobotomy's post:
It suggests 3 systemic holes higher up in the Swiss cheese brick on this current IC- Type III =SNAFU.

How could OIG know if "applicable regulations, policies and procedures are appropriate"? They're not professional wildland firefighters. They have no experience. How would they be able to figure out if checklists or any procedures make us safer? How would they know that checklists and paperwork are an issue? Did they address those issues in their review? Where is their investigation and report? Are they keeping it a secret?

How would the Fireline Leadership Council know what didn't or did work concerning safety => to be able to tell OIG what would work or what might be broken? Unless they've been out on the line recently with too many rules and checklists when a number of goblers were taking off? Unless they listened to groundpounders and seriously considered what they were being told about not being able to do it all and be safe? They might have some faded mental "slide" (RPD) in the back of their head someplace, but it's unlikely front and center between the eyes haunting their waking moments like it was after the CA fires of 2003 for those fighting them while juggling checklists.

Congress is a third hole. Congressionals want to feel all goodiegood about firefighters. Well sirs/madams, they can't duck out of responsibility for legislating too many regulations by whining that it wasn't their intent: to have OIG go after managers; they wanted them to go after the Forest Service. Why didn't they communicate their intent clearly? Their "slides" include knowledge of what OIG does. OIG recommends prosecution of whoever it can. Especially vulnerable are those without the bucks to fight back. =>We all loose. Where was Congressional leadership?? Lost SA?

Leadership, we need some leadership. Mistakes in collective judgment have us in a bad bind.
Mistakes= I've made them. Recognizing mistakes and owning them is what gets me to the right choice. Mistakes=> better choices, but only if you act.

Acting on the right choice; now that takes courage and leadership. Which group is going to step up with the leadership first? First good step would be communicating their intent. Next good step would be taking some action. Need leadership training? Come on down. Some of the best leadership trainers I know belong to those shirts hanging on the wall. Professionals, yes, some of the best in my book.

NorCal Tom

1/28 Photo needed:

Someone has contacted me seeking a photo for a school presentation next week. They need one of a fire burning in an aspen stand. Anyone got one of those? If so, could you please send it asap?

Thanks. Ab.

1/28 Ab,

I got on and read that Washington post article: Civil Service System on Way Out at DHS. Interesting reading geeps. Thanks Bob for the logon solution.

I found it interesting they plan to throw out the GS rating system. It could help increase FF retention if it worked in the best possible way.

Under the new plan, employees will be grouped into eight to 12 clusters based on occupation. Salary ranges will be based, in part, on geographic location and annual market surveys by a new compensation committee of what similar employees earn in the private sector and other government entities. Within each occupational cluster, workers will be assigned to one of four salary ranges, or "pay bands," based on their skill level and experience.

The article goes on to say that raises or promotions will depend on performance ratings from supervisors. Hmmmm, what if your supervisor doesn't like the color of your skin or your religion or your gender?

If this extends to wildland firefighters and other Agencies, I'll be real curious to see how it would work.

Tahoe Terrie

1/28 Ab,

Part of our mission statement at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation is to honor and recognize Wildland Firefighters.

The other day Rowdy Muir came to the Foundation with Kurt LaRue and others, and we had a Hangin' Party. We are proudly displaying Rowdy's Hotshot t-shirt collection on our walls here at the Foundation. He started this collection some 20 years ago - he has a story for every shirt, some that can't be told. Photo and that's not all. (Here's a list of contributors and shirts needed to make the collection complete.)

This shirt collection has brought with it an essence of these Hotshot crews. You can smell the shirts as they hang on the walls. If only the shirts could talk, we would have a new book on our hands. Rowdy said he would have hated to walk the miles these shirts have on them. He hopes people come and enjoy them and tell some stories. They are truly one-of-a-kind, like the men and women who wore them. We are extremely proud and honored to have them here. I invite any and all to come and see this awesome display. What an experience. We are located right across the street from NIFC in Boise, ID.

Come visit us.

Vicki Minor
Director, Wildland Firefighter Foundation

Impressive sight. Too bad we can't provide smells via internet. I can imagine the collection transforms that huge room into a much more intimate space. <haw, haw> I'll try to stop by next summer to take it all in.

Keep up the good work, Vicki.
Thanks for your help, Hotshots.
Rowdy, what a great place to share the shirts.

How about when folks stop by to tell their stories, you record them? I'm sure we could find someone who would transcribe them into a collection that could be put together as a WFF fund-raising book...

Readers, there's a new 52 list up and running -- for the new year. Remember to renew -- or to sign up for the first time. Ab.

1/27 > From the attached document (Page 22).(200K pdf file) August 30, 2004.

"OIG is mandated by Public Law 107-203 to investigate any FS employee death related to
wildland fire burnover or entrapment. Our Office of Investigations has ongoing work resulting
from the 2003 Cramer Fire in Idaho. The investigation seeks to determine the cause of the
fatalities and contributing factors and to determine if applicable FS regulations, policies, and
procedures are appropriate and were followed by those involved in fighting the Cramer Fire."

This statement by the USDA Inspector General HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD.

1. Determine the cause of the fatalities and the contributing factors.
2. DETERMINE IF APPLICABLE FS REGULATIONS, POLICIES, AND PROCEDURES ARE APPROPRIATE
3. Determine that if the FS policies were appropriate, were they followed by those involved in fighting the Cramer Fire.

Congressional Intent: Are applicable FS regulations, policies, and procedures appropriate?

Lobotomy

1/27 From Firescribe:

IdahoNews.com
Fire managers: New policies put blame on us

1/27 I have finally heard what we have all been waiting for PORTAL to PORTAL. So if Mr Pombo gets this to pass all federal wildland firefighters would actually get what the rest of the firefighting community gets a real honest to goodness pay for what we do 1500 miles from home!!!!!

Thank god somebody does care about US considering that all FEDS will be able to make enough money during the summer before layoff to have a nice Christmas with their loved ones instead of waiting in the welfare line.....

I also have another question for supervisors
If your subordinate goes above your head before asking you, breaking the chain of command?

1. How would you deal with it?

2. What kind of reaction would you show towards this individual?

3. Do you think that given a situation that could have been dealt with before a mountain was created. Should this individual be disciplined?

RM

I just fished quite a few messages out of the spam filter. Glad folks are putting identifying info in the subject line (that doesn't have XXX in it). "theysaid" works best. Ab.

1/27 Lobotomy,

As per our discussion last night, I did some research.

Professional liability insurance provides $1,000,000.00 in liability coverage for civil actions. It also covers legal expenses up to $100,000.00 for any administrative or criminal action. The only way to be excluded from this benefit is in the case of "willful misconduct." That might include being legally drunk or under the influence of drugs when performing your job duties. If Alan Hackett had Professional Liability Insurance he would be fighting the charges OIG threatened.

Friends don't let friends lace up their Whites without Professional Liability Insurance.

KCMO
1/27 MP,    THANK YOU!

I would like to say thank you for providing the link to the University of Idaho website. I would also wish to thank the University of Idaho for working with the agencies in making classes and information available regarding the 401 process and ways to meet the new educational requirements.

While I do not agree with the concept and implementation of the 401 biological sciences series as the proper series for wildland fire, I am very appreciative of the information that you have provided to assist our folks get up to speed with the current policy.

One document that the college provides on the site is attached. It has some great opportunities for folks to attend web and video based courses that you can receive upper and lower division credits. These courses are offered from many accredited colleges and universities.

These courses provide a great opportunity for folks to meet the 401 requirements. Hopefully, in the future, if we continue to use the 401 series, more courses could be tailored to include fire topics, specifically fire safety, situational awareness, fire behavior, group dynamics, and other safety related topics.

Lobotomy

Thanks L. You are such a researcher. Folks, go to the website and download the document if you want a list of web based classes and which universities offer them for credit. The list includes subject area, course number, title, university, credits and delivery format whether web, web/video, video or... the one at U Washington requires 3 visits. (Email if you have problems.) Ab.

1/27 For logging on to sites that require registration, like washingtonpost.com
or nytimes.com, use this site: www.bugmenot.com

It will give you log on access to any news site that I've tried.

BLM Bob
1/27 I saw this in today's Washington Post and thought that it may be of interest to the
wildland community. Not sure what it means to Forest Service or Department of
Interior wildland firefighters at this point in time. Who knows if these departments
will try to implement.

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39934-2005Jan26.html

geeps

Requires a sign-in. Ab.

1/27 Wildland Jack,

This could just be another unsubstantiated rumor I'm trying to start, but I did hear somewhere that one-eyed NIMS does indeed "dumb down" the resource typing for us structural-knuckle-draggers, or SKDs.

I guess the folks in Washington took a good look at our existing curriculum (i.e., "put the wet stuff on the red stuff" and "place the traffic cones pointy-side up," etc.) and decided we would only get confused if changes weren't made.

Anyway, what I hear is that those trucks that haul the wet stuff will at long last be called tankers. And, they will force the manufacturers to change the color of wildfire chemical retardant to purple, so we will quit trying to spray water on the wingy-things dropping the other "red stuff."

vfd cap'n
1/27 Snookie:

A second year rookie; also known as a second year firefighter.

Can be more dangerous and harder to manage than a rook because there is an element of "Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt" that has to be overcome.

Similar to Sophomore in college--sophomore means "Wise fool."

Class C Sagebrush Faller.

I added it to the terms list. Ab.

1/27 Class C Sagebrush Faller used "snook" in his 1/20 post. I understand
rookie and senior, but don't know snook. Ab it isn't on the terms list.

Fire Pup

Funny Fire Names and Terms List, nope, not there. Ab.

1/27 To the Federal Wildland Firefighting Community:

I am pleased to apparently be a bit belated in posting information that the portal to portal legislation was re-introduced yesterday. It has been numbered as HR 408. This may not seem consequential to some, but getting a bill introduced within the first 500 sends a clear message to all, especially the naysayers, that some in Congress are committed to seeing that our federal wildland firefighters get what they deserve.

I would like to offer a correction to the "press release" posted yesterday. We all know, as does the congressman, that our federal wildland firefighters do in fact earn overtime. They simply are not compensated for all hours while on assignment.

I was in Phoenix yesterday afternoon, having the honor of addressing those attending the Rocky Mountain Great Basin Hotshot Workshop comprised of representatives from Regions 2,3,4,8 & 9. What I heard is that there are still some myths with respect to the FWFSA; who we are and what we do.

Very few knew of the FWFSA. Those that had an inkling, had the impression we were in essence an R5/California-ONLY type of social group. Still others felt that as a result of the 2000, overtime pay cap bill passage, we were only catering to the "above-GS-9" folks. The vast majority had no idea what "They Said" was and had never visited the site.

I am hopeful that I educated some of them but I can't carry our message across the country myself. Those of you that are members of the FWFSA and those that support our efforts, can help by communicating our organization's goals and objectives to those that you meet throughout the season and to also inform them of this wonderful site that allows so many to offer ideas and thoughts.

As I've said before, the FWFSA is really the only organization in the Nation tackling federal wildland firefighter issues through the legislative process. This is of course because as federal employees, most of what dictates your employment is codified in Title 5 of the United States Code. As a result, some issues, such as pay, must be dealt with through a change in the code. In other words, a change in law.

There is no greater investment value to federal wildland firefighters whether it be becoming a member of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation's "52" club at a buck a week, or a member of the FWFSA at 10 bucks a pay period. Think for a moment that annually, that is a combined expenditure of approximately $ 312.00. If the portal to portal legislation passes, you recoup your entire annual investment in less than one pay period.

Let's face it. We know the Agency isn't going to come out and advocate on your behalf. It must come from within. Your Brothers & Sisters across the country need to know that someone is watching their backs when they are on the lines and working for them. These issues are not CALIFORNIA issues, they are national issues.

Please help us to reach out to the other regions. Our voice is being heard loud and clear in Washington DC. However we can improve that collective voice and have a legitimate say in the course of your careers.

Respectfully,

Casey Judd
Business Manager, FWFSFA

Good job. Carry on. Link to FWFSA at the top of the page (the shield). Ab.
1/27 What happens to our training standard with NIMS or if we go to a Federal or National
Fire Protection Agency? Does wildland firefighting get "dumbed down"? As it is we have
people showing up at incidents thinking they should automatically be STL on wildland
because they have lots of experience with structures.

Wildland Jack

Ab, please add
I don't mean any disrespect to structure ff. I don't have the experience they have with
structure. Do structure training/quals also get "dumbed down"?

1/27 From Firescribe:

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest officials seek area helitanker

1/27 Here's an eye-opener, for those thinking FS Fire should go the way of an overarching Federal or National Fire Protection Agency. NorCal Tom

NIC Director: Fire is NIMS ‘Center of Gravity’

The fire service began developing incident command systems 30 years ago, but until last year there wasn’t one national system creating a unified chain of command for response to emergencies from all federal agencies, as well from state, local, tribal and private organizations. Last March the Department of Homeland Security completed the National Incident Management System, a comprehensive incident response system developed at the request of the president after Sept. 11......

... <go read the whole interview>

We ought to give due credit and diligence here to the national wildland fire community as well for the significant role they have played in the development, the improvement and the evolution of the NIMS and ICS over the years. I think there are a lot of folks out there wondering now that the federal government and Homeland Security have stepped into this arena, will the wildland fire community’s work be minimalized or marginalized? Quite to the contrary. What they have done is served as the model in the template for the NIMS system that we’re rolling out here. And the work that they have done will and should continue and they deserve a lot of credit for it.

Will wildland firefighting agencies be the first to implement NIMS? Since they provided the backbone of the system, will they find implementation much easier?

That’s exactly right. They have been using it. They clearly have used and exercised with ICS time and again, so it’s not a foreign concept to them. They understand resource typing. They understand having systems to order and track resources. They have doctrine and training manuals established on all these various components of NIMS. So I do think that they will find it easier to adopt. I don’t think there’s going to be any significant pause at all in terms of the work that they do and the implementation that they do.

What I think we need to be mindful of is that the national wildland fire community needs to be patient with others who have not known the system or used the system to the extent that they have.......

... <go read the whole interview>

1/26 An update on Matt Taylor, Prineville Hot Shot:

I just got off the phone with Matt's mom, Sarah Taylor. She says Matt's condition has worsened, but he's happy he's coming home from the Hospice House to be at home with his wife Kiersten, little daughter Jordan and with the rest of his family around. Donations YOU made for his care are paying for a Hospice Nurse, which is a blessing. Many thanks to You All for the financial help and leave time. Many thanks to Vicki and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and to Lance Honda (Prineville Sup) for their continuing help.

Sarah says that this is the time Matt would really appreciate cards, letters, a visit if you live in the area. If you have a story, send it. Please let Matt know he's loved and appreciated, that he contributed and will be remembered well - and to provide his daughter with glimpses of her dad for when she's old enough to "get it" - wow, that would be way too good. Maybe some of you have pictures to share. Even if you don't know Matt, there's something special about providing some support by sending a card. He and his daughter love getting mail. Here's a pic (Ab, please?) of Matt and Jordan when he was well. Pretty sweet.

Card or letter or photos with description/date on the back can go to
Matt Taylor
1216 NE 9th
Bend OR 97701

If you would like to visit, take him out for coffee, to lunch or for a short walk, call Matt's house 541-389-7626 or Sarah's house 541-382-6273 or email her at sarahlarson@hotmail.com. Kiersten is off at school some days and Sarah is one place or the other, so try until you find someone -- or email her. (The caregiver may not answer the phone.) Sarah knows Matt's schedule and when there are holes for a visit. She said visits from friends are so special to him. His long-time firefighter friend Sam Cordell took him out for coffee and a brief walk on Monday and Sarah said Matt lit up like a 7 year old.

By all accounts Matt's keeping his faith up. He's an amazing example to all around him.

Please pop that message in the mail very soon, like now. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.

John Lennon was right when he said, "All we need is Love."

Mellie

PS Please send the word out along the various Networks to let Matt's friends know in case they don't read theysaid. Thanks.

1/26 this is in regards to the 401 series. so what is the difference between technical and professional???? it mentions it in this section as follows...

The 14 key positions that are affected by the IFPM Standard are:

* Interagency Hotshot Crew Superintendent (technical)
* Helicopter Manager (technical)
* Senior Firefighter (technical)
* Engine Module Supervisor (technical)
* Supervisory Fire Engine Operator (technical)
* Initial Attack Dispatcher (technical)
* Wildland Fire Operations Specialist (professional or technical)
* Prescribed Fire and Fuels Specialist (professional or technical)
* Prevention and Education Specialist (professional or technical)
* Initial Attack Lead Dispatcher/Assistant Center Manager (technical)
* Center Manager (professional or technical)
* Unit Fire Program Manager (professional)
* Geographic Area Fire Program Manager (professional)
* National Fire Program Manager (professional)

so if you have a technical job. then what? you have to become a book worm to dig line now or to turn a water valve? i personally dont agree with the 401 gig. i think it is just a big deal that is in the big cheese office to get all these office slugs making GS 12s and 13s to make the overtime that all the fireline personnel are making!

since they are sitting behind a desk and drinking coffee while every one is out working their rear ends off and they are just handed their checks!!! you know this may be my opinion but i think there may be a few out there may agree with me too.

401 thing has got to go OUT THE WINDOW!!!!

TN

1/26 Does anyone have the dates for the California
Interagency Incident Command Team workshop in
Reno?

Boone
1/26 I am happy to let you know Colorado State University has announced the first
Paul Gleason Wildland Fire Scholarship, to be awarded this coming Fall from
donations received in Paul's memory. Here is the link to the page. You need to
scroll to the drop down menu box, and select "Forest Rangeland Watershed".
The same page then comes up, with the scholarships attached at the bottom.
Paul's is about two thirds of the way down.

http://taurus.cnr.colostate.edu/apps/scholarship/index.cfm
1/26 Hey FMO Joe Boy

I have known Alan Hackett for a long time and do believe he got a raw deal. There was never any attempt in my post to stop people from having situational awareness or learning something from Cramer, just an attempt to see if there was anything else out there for a few days. There was no intention of trying to squash the discussion permanently.

Bitch and moan all you want folks, but what is is what is. Yes people like Alan get screwed by the agency, and KRS has the worst case scenario battling with WOCP. My intention was not to take away from these lessons we all better learn if we are going to stay yellow or green. My intention was to see if anyone has something positive to say about their agency, their supervisors, their subordinates, their equipment. From recent posts you would think we are all nuts for staying, that the FS is the worst employer.

Since I first started in 88 there have been many changes, not all of them positive, but many are. I like centralized fire organizations, I like equipment made by firefighters for fighters. I like the attempts to standardize fire qualifications. I like the push to modernize air tankers and helicopters. I like that it is getting harder than it used to be to hide managers that are seriously deficient. I like that the new kids I hire seem to be more professional and driven than the kids I hired 10 years ago. I like the idea of the national apprentice academy, although it has a long way to go still. I like the change in the smokejumper programs to provide even more diverse services to the agencies. I like what we do, and for the most part how we do it.

This is all I was getting at there Joe Boy, and by the way I am dealing with it. Jeff's loss was a significant personal loss to me and I'm not ashamed of that.

JD
1/26

This just in from JE.

Pombo Says Give Federal Wildland Firefighters
What They Deserve

Washington - Today, Congressman Richard Pombo (CA-11) introduced the Federal Wildland Firefighter Emergency Response Compensation Act of 2005. This legislation provides federal wildland firefighters with proper compensation for their dangerous profession.

"Last year alone over 64,000 wildfires burned over eight million acres of forest. We need boots on the ground fighting these destructive blazes, and we need to compensate firefighters for the very important dangerous job they do," said Congressman Pombo. "Our brave men and women are being shortchanged and we must change the standards."

Each summer, wildfires bring devastating destruction to our countryside and towns. Often overlooked are the brave men and women working long, dangerous hours fighting and suppressing these fires. When an emergency is declared, these federal firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service are dispatched immediately to the scene.

The standard pay system forces these firefighters to work long and dangerous hours without overtime compensation. The combination of high risks and poor pay not only creates safety hazards, but hurts the recruitment and retention of some of the best-trained firefighters in the country.

Currently, whether they are 10 or 3000 miles from home, federal wildland firefighters are paid for only part of any 24 hour period while the federal government pays all other firefighters (local, state, municipal firefighters and contractors) on the same fire their full, 24 hour salaries. Under the provisions of this bill, federal wildland firefighters would be paid for all time away from their assigned duty station when dispatched to an emergency incident.

Congressman Richard Pombo represents California's Eleventh Congressional District. Congressman Pombo is Chairman of the House Resources Committee and serves on the House Agriculture Committee.

For more information on Congressman Richard Pombo and his work for California please visit: http://www.house.gov/pombo

1/26 Does anyone out there have S-330 Task Force/ Strike Team Leader on power point?
I'm trying to avoid making a ton of view graphs.

Thanks,

Bill Edwards
NJFFS
1/26 I've updated the Jobs page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages and the 0401 (professional Biologist) listings. The link to 0401 is on the jobs page. Ab.
1/25 Hello Fireworld-

In response to Leo Larkin and all others affected by the recent IFPM 401 series standards:

I would like to tell you what the University of Idaho along with the Forest Service, BLM, National Park Service, BIA, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and some state agencies are working towards to help meet the 401 series standards. Representatives from these agencies have been meeting with the University of Idaho since December 2004, to determine the best way to meet the needs. The University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resources is currently putting together classes and programs that will help employees meet the 401 series requirements. The University of Idaho is including other universities and colleges as well. If you would like to view what has been done to date, there is a website where you will be able to get information about classes and a program as it develops. Any of these three websites will link you: http://401series.com http://401series.net or http://401series.org

This website will explain 401 and the requirements, help you understand how you will be able to meet them, and what the University of Idaho and others can offer that will help you. Please remember that currently the website is still under construction and new information is added all the time as it develops.

The University of Idaho has and is creating more courses that can be taken on-line that will fit the 401 needs. They are developing short course workshops that will be given in a variety of places throughout the Intermountain Northwest and perhaps elsewhere. The College of Natural Resources is working to make sure the courses offered will meet the 401 series requirements. If anyone has questions about how the College of Natural Resources can help and what is currently being done please visit the website or call the College of Natural Resources, (208) 885-8981 – ask for Cheri Cole. You can also email questions to cheric@uidaho.edu.

MP

1/25 Thoughts for Chat tonight...
Lobotomy and All,

In the middle of thinking out of the box (wish I understood the box so I'd know when I'm in or out...)

I'm trying to get my head around the inefficiencies in the FS structure and chain-of-command and how it relates to safety. A year or two ago when the structure was all enmeshed and networked, I could see the point in not centralizing any functions in the FS. Status quo. If it's not broke, why change it? But now that centralizing is happening in many areas that make functioning of fire teams less efficient, I wonder why we're not thinking about centralizing wildland firefighting itself. Someone suggested Bosworth is dismantling the FS. I'm just wondering why not really make it better all the way if you're going to dismantle part?

Doesn't it seem non-productive or counter-productive -- or just plain costly, not to mention unsafe -- to have a Forest District Ranger, or MANY RANGERS, rubber stamping what firefighters tell Rangers they need to do? Line officers - Rangers - are not trained as firefighters. What do they know about making high-risk decisions outside of their professional expertise? How do they know what is safe and what is not regarding fire and training, even resources needed, etc.? Most don't care about fire or IC-ing per se, do they? They don't know about the emerging all-risk firefighter responsibilities: about NIIMS, NIMS, HAZMAT, structure protection, working with LOTS of agencies to manage incidents including fire -- where the process for responding needs to be as streamlined as possible. Lobotomy, I see what you mean.

Are Rangers really needed for FS wildland firefighters to complete their mission, protecting the land and serving people? Seems to me from that delegation example you posted, they just provide some kind of a "rubber stamp". Do they also rubber-stamp other functions, like Fuels or Engineering? Did they rubber-stamp IT and Finance before those groups were sent away to Santa Fe (in the case of Finance)?

It's clear that resources to fight fire should be kept on forests. (I'd hate it if they all got sent to NM! <snicker>) But fire could still be centralized within forests and within regions. What would be the downside of this? FS fire managers (FMOs of all the forests in R5 for example) get a whole lot done when they get together to address concerns, brainstorm solutions, and work on issues. My gosh, it's amazing! While members of the BOD often disagree before a decision is made and sometimes rather chaotically, they're largely working for the same goals and not competing for resources. They're prettymuch on the same page by the time for thumbs up or thumbs down or else a decision is saved for the next mtg.

I asked a friend why the FS powers-that-be including the Rangers might not want things to change??? She said GS pay level is determined by how many people a Ranger supervises and how many different groups of people a Ranger has to talk with in the course of their job. GS level has to do with OPM classifications and position descriptions... Taking away a Ranger's "delegation" responsibilities to Fire might make some (All?) drop from GS-13 to GS-12. Is this true?

Are there any other "Impediments" to centralizing fire? What about downside? Maybe there's a different structure that would be more streamlined and workable. It's a different FS than existed in the beginning.

Where's my box?

Mellie

1/25 Addition to ICT3 reference list

For the those of us in R5.

ICS-420-1 The ICS Field Operations Guide

Available at www.firescope.org/

The list should be standard for all single resources and above as a checklist for their briefcases, not just ICT3s.

SRJS

PS
The NFES 0065 Fireline Handbook (2004) is almost, key word almost, useless without the NFES 2165 Appendix B attached. Who was the rocket scientist who came up with the new format, not allowing the appendixes to be added is beyond me.

Added it. Ab.

1/25 Snow pack, one of the predictors of fire season.
Here's the report and prediction for R6. Anything
for R5, R3, etc?

Rx
~~~~~~~~~

Seasonal update – 21 January 2005

Sea surface temps in the eastern Pacific indicate a mild El Nino event. These events typically affect PNW weather from November through March. Despite the mildness of the event, the effects seem to be like those associated with much more severe El Ninos. These include torrential rains in the southwest and mild, dry conditions across the northern tier. While the direct impact (precip) of El Nino falls off in the spring, the longer term indirect effects usually manifest themselves in the summer in the form of drier fuels.

The snowpack (map) in the state of Oregon is well below normal in most basins as of January 1, 2005. The Basin and Range province encompassing Lake County and the Goose Lake area is the only location within the state that currently has a normal snowpack. All other basins in the state have well below normal snow accumulation.

Washington is not getting off to a very good start this season, with less than one-half of the normal snowpack and only three-quarters of the normal precipitation. Most of the automated SNOTEL (SNOw TELemetry) stations are showing record to near record lows for January 1 snowpack. There have only been a few years (1977, 1981, 1990) that have started off this slow since the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) started using SNOTEL in the late 70s

Weather forecast agencies are predicting a continuation of the current El Nino pattern of below normal precipitation and above average temperatures for the next 90-days. Historically the west sides of the Cascades, particularly in Washington, have been more affected (below avg precip) by El Nino conditions.

Baring a “March miracle” we have lost the opportunity to accumulate significant snowpack in our area. This will affect groundwater, stream flow and pond recharge and leave heavy fuels at higher elevations drier than normal.

Past analysis has shown a strong relationship between snow pack accumulation on April 1 and snow melt dates at selected sites in the PNW with the subsequent fire season. We will monitor these indicators throughout the winter and spring and keep you informed. The situation at this time points towards higher probabilities of an active fire season.

1/25 Regarding the dark scenario presented by 'nerd.

If this EVER happens to anyone -

  • DOCUMENT IT.
  • File a SafeNET. Call the 800 number.
  • Get on your cellphone and take action.
  • Any crew that is willing to recognize ignorance in action should have the
    wherewithal to report it.
  • This type of behavior is not condoned and in this day and age - that IC
    would not have a leg to stand on.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to share with the
uninitiated some of the mechanisms that are out there for your protection.

The SAFENET system was developed by firefighters for use by firefighters.

Use It.

Safenet Advocate

The permanent link to the SAFENET site is on the Links page near the bottom under safety. The phone number for providing a verbal SAFENET is also located there. Ab.

1/25 Lobotomy,

No problem. That's why we went to the effort to post all these documents - so others could make use of them and make the system better. Anyway, it's all public record.

The Cramer briefing paper does point out a unique oversight problem that existed on the forest/district level:

"The Operations Staff Officer at the Forest level is tasked under the Forest Supervisor with addressing and ensuring fire operations are handled appropriately. The Staff Officer has oversight of the Forest FMO and Deputy FMO, who in turn provide assistance when needed to the District FMOs. The Operations Staff Officer is also responsible for addressing effectiveness with the District Rangers. There is a concern among many in the Forest staff that the Operations Staff Officer could not provide an appropriate level of supervision over the District Ranger for the North Fork and the Middle Fork Districts, as that Ranger is also the Staff Officer's spouse."

Delegation of authority is necessary, but it only works with the proper amount of oversight.

vfd cap'n

1/25 JD,

You ask for a Cramer free week for those of you that knew the guys that got burned over. With this issue being forefront on the fire scene the likelihood of that happening is nil. What if the rest of us ICT3 folks out there "asked" for a week of no worries about the possibility of someone elses "lack of situational awareness" having the potential to jeopardize our careers down the road when we respond to a transition incident? How about if the folks that know and have worked with the Cramer IC in a past life ("TC from the St.Joe IHC", if you want to know who I am. The St. Joe is now the Idaho Panhandle IHC) want a week off from this whole deal of watching a fellow respected employee be pushed/(roasted) to resign from his chosen line of employment and face criminal charges because of the lack of support/preplanning of the SCNF?

Do you think a week away for the sake of those of you that knew Shane and Jeff is going to make the fire world better? What about those of us that are dealing with the issue of experienced ICT3's telling us they are no longer interested in doing that job because of the career ending effects it may hold for them after Cramer? Do you think that the rappel crew foreman they worked for should have been thinking about where they were being set down and how they were going to get out? Sorry to go ballistic but you need to realize that this issue is incredibly real for those of us that have to manage Type III incidents now and in the future.

Life is hard, fires burn, and there is no forgiveness for mistakes. Deal with it.

FMO Joe Boy

1/25 vfd cap'n, I borrowed and redacted this letter from the Co Fire Camp site. Since we are all trying to improve safety, I hope ya'll folks won't mind.

The letter of delegation below is just like many letters of delegation that are used in the federal land management agencies. It would be interesting to know how the line officers and fire managers feel about being delegated this authority in the future.

Here is how the system works.... please excuse me and I apologize in advance for the capital letters.... I just want to make sure the folks with bad eyes can read... no shouting here... just the facts.

1. FACT NUMBER 1 - Authority can be delegated, RESPONSIBILITY CANNOT.

2. FACT NUMBER 2 - The WO delegates to the RO, who then delegates to the SO, who then delegates to the District Ranger, who then delegates to the IC and fire managers.

3. FACT NUMBER 3 - Numerous OSHA citations and investigative reviews have found that management oversight is lacking, untrained, or inadequate.

4. FACT NUMBER 4 - There needs to be a cultural shift in federal land management. The folks at the bottom of the food chain (Forests and Districts) should no longer be held accountable for failed oversight programs at the National or Regional level. The key cultural shift needed is a wildland fire series providing fire management oversight from the GS-2 to GS-15 level.

5. FACT NUMBER 5 - Many untrained and under experienced line officers are expected to provide oversight to a profession that they have little or no education in.

I have around 20 of these facts.... Each of you can come up with your own facts and determinations. Please read the responsibilities below and participate in the future discussion. Lots of change on the horizon.

Lobotomy

The letter Lobotomy talks about that we link to above shows that Rangers and Forest Supervisors provide "oversight" to fire managers.

1/24 Hi All,

Could we chat tonight about why there are so many redundancies in management on forests and ranger districts within forests and how the FS chain of command might be restructured to streamline and reduce costs? I have wondered why, with all the restructuring of IT, Finance, etc, the powers that be have not talked about centralizing fire. Must be lots of money involved, but what might be other impediments?

I'll try to be in chat about 7:30 and stay until 9 Pacific time.

Mellie

1/24 Hello Ab, and to the crew at wildlandfire.com,

Attached are 10 images I shot while fighting some of
Alaska's wildfires in 2004 - the biggest fire season
in the state's history. I would like to share these
images on your fine website, in whatever capacity you
see fit. I understand they may be downloaded for
personal use, and only request that I am relayed any
inquiries regarding professional or commercial usage.
I will gladly submit photo IDs at your request.

All the Best in 2005!

Mike McMillan - Alaska Smokejumper
www.spotfireimages.com

Thanks Mike, you create some very nice images. I put them on the following photo pages: the Smokejumper 2 page, on Fire 26, and AirTanker 15. Ab.

1/24 Ab, Here are the MAFFS photos I told you about.

These photos were taken by an Air Force photographer (making them public domain) while I was out at Hill AFB in Utah with MAFFS doing initial attack in summer 2004.

#1 L-R Smokey Helper Houston Sim (Wasatch-Cache FS), Smokey, and loadmaster Kevin Driscoll of the 302nd Air Lift Wing in the rear of MAFFS 2 (Smokey, Allison Fairbourne, Wasatch-Cache NF)

#2 MAFFS 2.

#3 This photo shows the tubes at the back more clearly.

#4 This next one is very posed, but I still like it. Greg, the lead plane pilot, is just one of the nicest people you can hope to meet. Smokey (Smokey, Allison Fairbourne, Wasatch-Cache NF) and USDA Forest Service lead plane N146Z and pilot Greg McDonald

I took some photos that show details of the MAFFS setup inside the aircraft, if you want. It is the old system that's going away, when next year? And the photos aren't as sharp because I don't carry anything on a fire assignment that I can lose.

JW

I put them on AirTanker 15. Thanks JW. Ab.

1/24 Please add photo to logo page. Engine 16 is stationed in
Chester, Ca on the Lassen NF.

SM

I did, to Logos 10. Say hi to your bosses from me. Ab.

1/24 Here's the sign for the Helitack base in Independence, Ca.

Cheers,
Merry Christmas,

Mike Evans

This message shows how long some of these photos have been awaiting posting. Put it on Heli 18. Ab.

1/24 AB,

Here's a couple of engine pics for the photo archive of a new
ODF type 6 and ODF type 5 for the Forest Grove Oregon
Dept. of Forestry District. Enjoy!

Firemang

Thanks Firemang. Posted 'em on Engines 12 photo page. Ab.

1/24 Ab, here's a really nice photo taken of our crew buggy, Keene Flight Crew, Home of H-555

from Keene Flight Crew. Thanks

Nice reflection of the flames. It's posted on Equipment 8. Ab.

1/24 a photo of a 1998 John Deere 450G LT, just moping up at a wildfire seen near Liberty, Mississippi.

Thanks!
Will

Thanks, Will, I posted it on Equipment 8 photo page. Ab.

1/24 Ab,

Can you add this photo to the photo webpage. It is a picture of the Cottonwood fire in 1994. It is the second day of the fire.

Thanks,

Rex Thompson

Rex, I added it to the Fire 26 photo page. Ab.

1/24 Ab, here's a pic of Cedar fire 2003. This pic was taken at 10:30 on the third day of the fire Pine Hills Fire Station.

wildland capt

Thanks capt. I put it on the Cedar Fire photo page. Ab.

1/24 Nerd's Scenario:

I'm a longtime lurker and fan of this page. Seldom written, and with the amount of tension surrounding this issue I'm reluctant to step in now. But it's a subject that's touched a nerve and I have to give it a try...

I wonder if, taken the way she intended, Nerd's worst-case scenario didn't have a very good point. Not talking Cramer, not talking attacks on anyone, but rather about the 'darkest black' possible behavior from an IC.

Hate to say it, but I've seen this kind of...what would you call it? Malicious negligence? It was only once, and it was driven less by an IC's concept of 'acceptable losses' than by this individual's ego and unwillingness to admit his oversight on a fire. We got on the hill (thick oakbrush) and found we couldn't communicate with our contact person, couldn't see any lookout or the main fire, and furthermore our saws were having 'issues'. There was lots of confusion and the winds were funky. Our squad bosses contacted the IC and informed him, politely, of the reasons we were going to temporarily disengage and regroup. The same routine that occurs on many fires. No big deal. But in this case, the IC and one of his friends proceeded to join us on the hill, red-faced with anger, and launch into a litany of insults, basically calling the squad bosses idiots and cowards in front of their crews. A shouting match ensued. A crewmate, a fire veteran, tried to calm everyone down, return to the issues; he again cited the safety deficiencies we were concerned about. The IC responded by taunting him as well. The rest of us stood there, stunned to be witnessing this behavior on the fireline from a supposed professional in a position of authority.

Fortunately, the firefighters involved were too level-headed/experienced to be bullied into accepting the unsafe circumstances...but what if they'd been some green crew, intimidated into following his orders ton continue blindly on? If something went horribly wrong (a possibility in tinder-dry oakbrush), would the IC be accountable for his actions? This wasn't a case of a personal misunderstanding, or an IC with too much on his plate to cope with. It was a person in charge apparently infuriated about having his grasp of the situation questioned in any way, and willing to jeopardize lives because of it. (Or, more likely, just not thinking past his anger to the consequences of his words and his oversight).

Again, this kind of thing is rare. I never saw anything else like it in eight seasons on the job. I think the idea of a criminal investigation coming out of Cramer, or nearly any other fire tragedy, is heinous. No IC is omnipotent, and the kind of maliciousness described in this post is almost nonexistent on fires....almost.

But if it's the case that a few of THEM are out there, maybe Nerd's question deserves some consideration. I know it's a question that's bothered me ever since this experience.

Sign me,

REALLY anonymous (since several friends still have to work for this guy)
1/24 Re Discussion on Cramer:

Knowledge of the Cramer Fire Incident probably did help mitigate
responses on the Nuttall Fire (Coronado NF, July 2, 2004). It was
realized that the helitack did not have LCES in place before exiting
the helicopter. Firefighters radioed for corrective measures, the IMT
responded, and the situation was resolved with no close call.

Recognition Primed Decision-making. Slides in a tray. Useful way
to look at it.

Strider

1/24 I’m sorry again if my last post could be taken as an attack on anybody or a brush-off of anybody. I’ll confess that FireNWater ticked me off…I thought I’d vetted that out of my post pretty thoroughly, but it looks like I was wrong. A number of folks also seem to be taking my hypothetical evil-IC post as an attack on Alan Hackett or on ICs in general, or an imputation that folks who are getting out did something wrong. I didn’t mean this in the least, and I’m certainly not implying that folks should give up any of the certs they worked so hard for. I was trying to present a situation, as I said, as “dark black” as I could think of to suggest that some kind of absolute blanket assurance of agency support could not and really should not happen. You’re right; I really have no clue and I’ll say no more on the subject…everything I post on the issue seems to be interpreted as an attack.

Nerd
1/24 JD - reference your request for a "Cramer-free Week". Seems to me that you are fully empowered to read only the posts you chose, skipping over Cramer, boots and hardhats, the Apprentice program or anything else that you find redundant and tedious.

Some of us believe that Cramer may be one of the most significant fires in the past 50 years. It's not about Shane & Jeff, but rather the "fallout" resulting from the OIG investigation and the actions of the US Attorney that keep many of thinking "....there but by the grace of God go I."

Lots of us have been close to other wildfire burnover fatalities, and can only hope that the continued attention to them will prevent another similar event. Maybe all the chat about Cramer will make one T-3 IC think differently about her/his actions??

Mollysboy
1/24 FireNWater;

I think you misinterpreted my post. First, I wasn’t drawing parallels to Cramer; I was setting out a situation as “dark black” as I could think of, a situation in which the IC’s actions were utterly indefensible. Ab’s appalled little comment on the bottom of my post was pretty much the reaction I was going for; the situation I set out was unimaginable, but in the degree of the wrongdoing, not the style. Let go of Cramer for a minute…I’m not talking about Cramer, I’m talking about the legal precedent Cramer establishes. You confidently assert that NOBODY would do that, that NOBODY thinks that way, and you have more faith in human nature than I. You’re right in that it seems very alien to fire doctrine and the fire culture as we know it. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t and won’t happen.

You suggest that it’s a reflection of inexperience that I brought up liability insurance. If you re-read my post, you’ll find that I never mentioned liability insurance…I was bringing up an example of another industry in which responsible parties handle the same personal risks that wildland fire ICs are beginning to realize they bear. Other fields the “intrinsically hazardous” legal label without the protection of the federal government; let’s figure out how they do it instead of reinventing the wheel. Fire isn’t the isolated community that it’s sometimes made out to be. My blaster example was not arbitrary; that is how liability in intrinsically hazardous fields works. Give me a day or so and I’ll quote the legal precedent for you. Now about the subject of what you perceive to be my inexperience; you’re right. I’m a third-season groundpounder. But I have a major advantage in that I’m a vollie, which means that fire isn’t all I do. In “real life” I’m in an industry that made the same transition twenty years ago that I see fire making now, the realization that responsible parties can and will be held personally liable for perceived errors made in the course of their job duties, that we will be judged by those who don’t understand what we do, and that it’s easier to prosecute individuals than organizations. You suggest that it’s na´ve of me to suggest liability insurance because I don’t understand how complex the situation is. It surprises me that the world has been as simple as it has been for fire folks for so long.

Nerd on the Fireline

The world has never been simple for interagency fire commanders. I know you said "as simple as it has been" as though the glass is half full. Those with IC experience know the glass is half empty and now way more than half empty with regard to safety. You're missing that "slide in your box". I know you're reaching for other slides. So are incident commanders. What happens next will not be a reinvention of what lawyers have told risky industry to do... or it would have been done already. Ab.

1/24 Pulled from the spam filter. Who'd'a thunk it. haw haw. Ab.

Re: Incident Commander support issue,

I’ve been following the Cramer IC thread for a while now, but am a little irritated by a recent poster who states they “don’t understand this attitude that “the agency should support its people no matter what” “. My apologies in advance for any grammatical error in the preceding sentence, I confess to being unsure how to punctuate a quote containing a prior quote.

I don’t recall and can’t find anything similar to the quoted text “the agency should support its people no matter what”. Using the provided search engine finds only the one instance of the quoted text on this website. Since the quote doesn’t exist previously here, I presume it to be a self-serving creation used to prop an even more far-fetched scenario which follows its use in the same post.

There have been several other posters who assail the same vaporous ideology of federal employees believing they should not be held accountable for their actions. I again fail to recall reading any posts containing such thinking. Even the most aggressive pro-federal employee messages acknowledge only those employees following existing policies and procedures should be supported.

Is it simply a matter of some people’s reading and comprehension abilities? Or are there underlying motives to attack federal employee and their issues, compelling some participants to concoct imaginary quotes or comments?

All I can say is, let the reader beware! Read the messages, if they press one of your buttons, read it again. It’s usually fairly easy to determine the motivation of the author and perhaps even their fire skill, experience level, and association. And remember, just because they state something as fact, even to the extent of using quote marks, doesn’t mean it has any basis in reality outside their own mind.

Thanks for the forum Ab!

Steve

PS. I too was wordless after reading the fictitious scenario posted on 1/21 that you didn’t know how to respond to. It took me a couple of days to calm myself, but a person making up crap to support their own views or agendas pushes one of my buttons.

1/24 GIS GIrl

I am a situation Unit Leader on a team, and one skill that I depend on with
my GIS tech is the ability to map from aircraft, with GPS and/or paper and
pencil. The tech has a much greater appreciation of the fireline after
seeing it first hand. This is a vital skill. Maybe not practical all the
time on every fire, but as often as possible, I put my GIS Tech in the
helo. And I take a flight myself as often as possible.

Fireball XL5
1/24 RE: Cramer Fire

Why don't we give Cramer a rest for awhile, the posts are getting redundant, and those of us close to Jeff and Shane would really enjoy a break. How about a Cramer Free week, just one week, can we do that? I am not saying there are not new and relevant things to learn, but there has to be other things to pontificate about for awhile. VFD Capt I'm counting on you to lead the way in this.

Maybe talking about a couple of good experiences would be refreshing, or some one who enjoys working for their agency. Perhaps someone who really respects their line officer's fire knowledge. Or how about a story of a youngster that has a great grip on what is going on out on the line and you see a lot of potential in them, an attaboy if you will. Or how about a word from someone who didn't get screwed by the man. A joke? Maybe just another serious topic.

But seriously, myself and others appreciate what is trying to be accomplished by some posts, but it's getting harder and harder to tune in here when the story and its ending stay the same. This is a great forum. Give us one week, see what you can come up with.

JD
1/23 vfd cap'n

As one of your CISD stress reduction items you said

* Whenever someone in a meeting mentions OSHA, repeat the agency name 3 times, using the same snotty inflection as when the Brady Bunch sister whines, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!!!"

I don't have any of the Brady Bunch slides in my "recognition primed decision making slide tray", but I'm adding your item to my list of stress abatements as another "to do". I'm not sure I can do it (I need Skip to mentor me) or if I remember Marcia (is she a firefighter?), but I need to see how long I can remember there's something more I should try to do and check off next time OSHA becomes a goin' and blowin' incident on my interface. I'm hoping this effort on my part reduces someone's stress somewhere or at least saves some agency from litigation.

Tongue in cheek,
Todd

1/22 Abs,

Just got back from NIFC, reminded me of a hornet’s nest that some kid just whacked with a stick. I don’t envy those folks who have to wrestle with all of these issues, I wish them well. Wonder what the WO East feels like right now.

They Said is really smoking, there have been many great posts of late. I am deeply appreciative that we have a forum like this to help illuminate the many problems presently confronting wildland firefighters. We sure aren’t getting the straight skinny from the WO.

Cynic- I fully expected to get gored a few times for assaulting the Ten Standard Fire Orders sacred cow in my last post. Since several They Said posters have already defended me against your assertion that my assessment of the 10 was “juvenile”, and since you sort of apologized, I’ll just say this: I recommend that you read Ted Putnam’s paper on the Ten Standard Fire Orders that NorCal Tom just posted. I first read it several years ago, and it certainly made me view the 10 in a much different light.

Also, I don’t think it is na´ve to look at the non-fire workload that fire managers have to put up with these days. Technology can be a wonderful thing, but it gives with one hand and takes away with the other. The downside to technology is that you need to spend time learning to use it, and operating it, so we wind up spending more and more time thinking and learning about technology instead of fire. Same goes for collateral duties. I don’t think that we should just put up with these things if we know they are interfering with firefighter safety.

I had the good fortune early in my career to spend a lot of time dragging a drip torch around the woods. We burned day and night, lost a few burns along the way, chased a lot of slopovers, but were generally successful in the end. I developed my own Campbell Prediction System the hard way, and those lessons still guide my decisions today. When I feel the hair standing up on my neck, I know it is time to re-evaluate my present course. How are our up-and-coming fire leaders going to learn how to discern between acceptable and unacceptable risks?

I may have gone to the well once too often, but not the tavern. Cynic, I would also enjoy discussing this over a beer someday. You buy the first round.

Skip- I loved your analogy of playing in the street! That is a wonderful and easy way to illustrate how to keep new firefighters safe until their own Recognition Primed Decisionmaking “slides” are developed. I hope you don’t mind if I borrow (steal) your idea. My first fire “mom” was a crusty old pipe-smoking Dutchman who I still think about today when I get in a tight spot.

Mellie- As always, your wisdom and dedication shines through your posts. I hope I get to meet you someday.

Misery Whip
1/22 Photo of Cramer Helispot (Salmon Challis NF). View from ridge down to helispot.

Sign me;
Go see it yourself

1/22 Ab,

Here is a great article about a retiring CDF pioneer with 56 years of service.

www.napanews.com

Fireball XL5

1/22 Ab,

Here's in interesting article by Ted Putnam (2001), seems pertinent.
The Ten Standard Firefighting Orders: Can Anyone Follow Them?

NorCal Tom

Ab note: this is a doc file.

1/22 Here's the AGENDA for the 2005  IAWF  SAFETY  SUMMIT on Human Factors.
There will also be a poster session. Ab is posting the announcement from Marty Alexander below.

If anyone wants the Conference Brochure, it's available at the IAWF website in pdf form.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
POSTER SESSION ANNOUNCEMENT

Wildland Fire Safety Summit 2005:
"The Human Factors Workshop - 10 Years Later"
Missoula, Montana
April 26-28, 2005

The International Association of Wildland Fire is pleased to announce that a poster session will also be included as part of this year's program. Those planning to attend the 2005 Wildland Fire Safety Summit in Missoula are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to contribute a poster paper presentation.

In addition to the theme of this year's summit, virtually any aspect of wildland fire safety will be considered - e.g., case studies, personal experiences (close calls or near misses), new research projects, training, equipment, safety messages/alerts, innovative approaches, etc.

Presenters will be provided with guidelines for preparing an effective poster paper which would ideally combine text, schematic diagrams, graphs, photos, maps, etc. in a way that would allow for maximum interaction with those attending the summit.

Presenters will be given the opportunity to include the poster or a written version of the poster in the published summit proceedings.

Please take the time to consider sharing your personal ideas, knowledge, experience (good or bad), thoughts, impressions, ideas, opinions, etc. in pursuit of improving wildland fire safety now and in the future.

Please send an abstract or poster presentation proposal of 250 words or less to Dr. Marty Alexander with FERIC Wildland Fire Operations Research Group by NLT February 15, 2005. E-mail: mea2@telus.net Questions? Call 780-417-0244 Additional details about the conference can be found at www.iawfonline.org/summit

1/22 SoCal brothers and sisters on the fed side

I hope someone realizes soon that you can't fight fire in SoCal and
Cover your A** in Fed style (read that "get all the fed checklists
accomplished") at the same time.

Is there much hope for fed sanity for this fire season?

SoCal CDF

1/22 Nerd:

The examples in your post have no similarity whatsoever to the Cramer incident.

NOBODY in the fire service follows a "military style policy of acceptable losses" involving the safety of firefighters. NOBODY would knowingly send a crew into a situation where "there is a very high probability that they will have to deploy". The fire service is not the military. I don't believe that anyone in the Cramer incident displayed "willful and wanton disregard for the safety" of the people who died by KNOWINGLY sending them into a situation they expected to become inescapable. My take on the various reports is that Alan Hackett was in over his head, knew it, asked for help and didn't get the support he needed. This occurred for many reasons most of us can never really totally understand, but which probably included oblivious stupidity and poor communications on the part of a number of people.

I don't believe your assertion is true that the person in charge is CRIMINALLY liable if they did everything right and someone still gets hurt or killed. Your blaster example is like saying that you could go to jail for being in a car wreck where nobody is found at fault and someone is killed. In the Cramer fire mistakes were definitely made. The debate centers around whether one person should be the scapegoat for all who were involved.

You write well, but if you had much experience in wildland fire you would know better than to suggest liability insurance as a solution to this very complex issue. Insurance doesn't help with criminal charges. The only thing it might do is pay some of the costs if someone sues you in civil court.

FireNWater

Ab opinion: FireNWater, I would have said "not much experience in wildland fire above the groundpounder crewmember level", that is, no experience in managing. Sharing information and gaining understanding is what we're about on theysaid.

1/22 After reading the posts of Mr. Mangan and dispatcher I have to put my .02 in...................

I worked fire for 7-8 years in various capacities ..... Engine boss Squad Boss, Helitack, Aerial Detection on and on.

Never got to ICT3 mostly lots of ICT4

Worked with a lot of fine professionals

Spent 21 years as a helo mechanic and fit fire into that and even did my drills out of state to get my retirement even when I was assigned to fire stations and sometimes that would miff some fire managers.

Been reading these posts and watching what has been going on with this qual stuff and I have to agree.... Who in the h*ll has got all this time to go to training and is this training going to be evened out throughout the whole system and not just to permanent personnel???

Are the agencies even going to the colleges or vice versa to maybe establish a track for 401 or will the curriculum that currently exists in some colleges that teach wild land fire science even fit the bill? The agencies better get to work solving this problem, too, because people already in those programs, well are those still going to fit into the 401, 460, 455, 462, h*ll does it even help 2181 pilots get their foot in the door??

Don't get me started on the current airtanker debacle..... I am currently spending 200 per hour out of pocket for twin engine time coupled with my forestry degree with the hopes of maybe getting to lead or tanker work. Right now I just have to be happy with skydiver job offers that come along. Some folks at the agencies have depended so long on aircraft that have done the work, weren't designed for tanker work in the first place, still depended on those operators for years, and then crap on them for aging aircraft issues, that's like going after the military for their acft, they are all relics except for a few.

The agencies ARE having a problem...... They can not identify issues at hand, can not hire, depend on temps and terms, send who they want to training. H*ll they can not even identify FAA, NTSB, or even issues that the military aircraft issues did not follow FAA standardization procedures to be built and for years depended on those aircraft for retardant delivery..

That is wrestling with yourself

I sure hope their qualification system works for them because it sound like there is a lot of discontent out there and it also sounds like YOU agency gods above a GS-12 better get ready for a lot of change yourselves

I will always remember the 10 and 18's do work and do get "rerouted" on the way to a fire or on the fireline.

Did I mention to you folks that I spent 500 dollars out of pocket for TNC course that had S215, S234, S230 and I got to learn a lot outside of the federal agencies.. A real learning experience, with varied backgrounds former feds, contractors, etc

Currency issues???? 3 years for aviation, 5 years for fire? Is there even a plan for folks who slip outside of currency to get contacted by their agencies to get recurrent ? Is that what all those computer programs I read about the agencies are for?

H*ll I wasn't even on the boards at Boise a year after I left fire and I have gone to areas and agencies to show my interest to AD or get on availability lists.

Standardization should have been looked at years ago but when everything changes by god it looks all the same

All I can say is my heart is with fire I just accomplished a slash pile burn 1/10 acre at 10 below zero in MN and still saw the power of Big Ernie

With all these proposed IFPM changes Big Ernie is just waiting for you to screw up and it may not even have anything to do with the 10's and 18's!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Leo K Larkin
1/22 Oliver and GISgirl

There are additional tools that can be used with the production and use of GIS products on an Incident. Radio coverage and repeater location was mentioned. There is a readily available program out there called RadioMobile. It can be downloaded from www.cplus.org and it uses the public domain STRM terrain data from USGS. It will do coverage plots and can be used to site repeaters. I used it on a fire last summer and use it for analysis of agency repeater systems. A number of the COMLs and COMTs have this program available on their computers when they arrive at an Incident. The output can be georecitified and added to the ArcView/ArcGIS projects. Both of these ESRI products can produce maps as .pdf files which can be shared with all the crews on their computers.

Keep up the good work!

NVJims
1/21 There's a new job advertisement on the Jobs Page. Bridger Fire currently has an opening for an experienced Engine Captain. Applicant must be willing to live within one hour of Bozeman, MT.

Ab.

1/21 Ab,

A few days after the Cramer Fire, I sent in a sheet from my CISM team with stress management techniques we suggest. Below are some of my personal stress reduction tips for those in the USFS dealing with the mess a year and a half later:

* Whenever someone in a meeting mentions OSHA, repeat the agency name 3 times, using the same snotty inflection as when the Brady Bunch sister whines, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!!!"
* Write a letter to your qualifications committee, asking that your ICT3 qual be amended to an "IC Type 3.7" and let them search the regs to figure out whatever the hell that means.
* Use a whole bottle of Wite-Out on the next important inter-office memo you write and add the explanation, "Redacted - FOIA Restricted Material." Helpful hint: redact your own name first.

Have a nice weekend everybody.

vfd cap'n

Haw, haw. Ab.

1/21 Greetings again, all;

Vfd Cap'n sort of prooved the point I was trying to make with his excerpts from the Cramer investigation report. The investigation determined that the 10 and 18 were broken, and therefore people died and the USFS wasn't to blame because the safety rules were not followed.

The very point is, kiddies, that if someone dies or gets injured on a fire, there has to have been a failure in the 10 and 18. Using the 10 and 18 as judgment criteria doesn't work and doesn't provide any insight as to the real causes of any accident. It just shifts blame.

We need a better way.

Class C Sagebrush Faller
1/21 I've updated the Jobs page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages and the 0401 (professional Biologist) listings. The link to 0401 is on the jobs page. Ab.
1/21 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.
1/21 Abs,

I was listening to the radio the other day and a news item caught my ear.
In this news item, it was stated that 98,000 deaths a year are caused by
medical mistakes. Surely some of those were caused by federal/military
doctors being negligent to federal/military employees. How many of them are
in Leavenworth? Has the OIG investigated? Or is that why it's called
"practicing" medicine?

Neither medicine nor fire behavior is an exact science. Sometimes "stuff"
happens no matter how hard we try to "first, do no harm".

I'm a very strong supporter of firefighter safety. Sometimes it drives my
firefighters nuts, but they also appreciate my looking out for them. My
bosses get frustrated because I keep asking for more and better safety gear
that they don't want to pay for. I say that because I don't wish anyone for
a second to think that I think there's an "acceptable" level of firefighter
deaths or even injuries. However, if you look at total firefighter deaths
in this country it's about 110 vs 98,000 medical mistake deaths.

I think someone's priorities are screwed up. We need to find ways to tap
the knowledge of the Jedi knights of fire, not push them out the door
because they're afraid to spend their retirement years in Club Fed. Those
who are leaving, I don't blame you one bit. But please, please find someone
to mentor even if it's after you retire.

Fish
1/21 Ab,

Here are a few paragraphs from the OSHA investigation (Briefing Paper, sec. VIII) most people probably haven't read. The irony is that Alan was sent packing, but the careers of others involved just seem to go merrily onward and upward to regional and WO assignments.

"The alleged willful violations of the Fire Orders are not meant to point blame at the Incident Commander. As with most safety problems, it is with the lowest level of supervision where the "rubber meets the road." Higher-level fire program managers and line officers did not provide oversight or direction, and did not make critical decisions. Not only were the increasing complexities and hazardous conditions apparent to leadership at the fire, at several times information was provided (or should have been provided) to the Zone Duty Officer, the District Ranger, the Central Idaho Dispatch Manager, the Forest FMO, and the Forest Operations Staff Officer about the hazardous conditions, uncontrolled fire growth, and perceived inability of the IC to competently handle the situation.

....

"Most, if not all the key players involved in this accident were experienced seasonal fire fighters from this Forest, and many were full-time year round fire affiliated employees. All of the employees and management were familiar with the extreme fire conditions, and all had knowledge of the local fire weather and behavior including regular afternoon diurnal canyon winds, and increased erratic fire activity. The interviews repeatedly indicated that they were aware of the safety rules and extreme fire conditions, but did not think the situation warranted compliance with the safety standards. These violations are symptomatic of the lack of "sufficient management oversight" in regards to safety that continues to permeate the fire culture.

"Key incident personnel on the fire were aware of the safety rules. They believed that the conditions did not present enough danger for the safety rules to apply. As in most cases where an accident occurs, the safety rules were violated directly because the judgment of personnel and management did not feel the rules applied to their situation or that it was necessary to follow the rules. They, along with fire program managers in the Forest and District, failed to respond quickly to the numerous indicators that made the Cramer Fire a highly hazardous situation."

Note that OSHA recognizes that the 10 & 18 are still somewhat dependent upon the situation, just as Misery Whip and Oliver have given us examples where there are shades of grey, i.e., "the conditions did not present enough danger for the safety rules to apply." But, there are also times where it is "black and white" as Nerd says: like a mid-July fire during a drought in the Salmon River breaks, when compliance with the safety rules is not optional, because the danger is so great.

vfd cap'n

1/21 to all my friends on the lassen ...it was the best type 2 crew I ever worked on .

jb

1/21 Cramer, 30 Mile, South Canyon.... IFPM.... 401 series... Portal to Portal... Lessons Learned... Situational Awareness.... Swiss Cheese Model, Campbell Prediction System (CPS)... Computer programs.... Crew Resource management.... ETC.. ETC>>>ETC>> ETC>>>>..topics all about SAFETY!!!!

It is all about too much to digest in such a short period of time and makes many heads spin. You have provided an honest and open forum to discuss the various points of view. Each poster and reader has been given a chance to view, respond, and suggest changes. I, as a wildland firefighter, really appreciate the open forum and the agency changes suggested by the folks who visit this site.

As Ab and the Abs have said:

The Forest Service is changing. Fire is changing.

* We Abs commend those of you who stay engaged. In the midst of chaos, you have an opportunity to create unprecedented beneficial change.
* We want to thank firefighters from the bottom... on the line... to the top... who have the guts and will to call it like it is. It takes courage and perseverance.
* We greatly appreciate those who are not trying to patch the gaping hole when much more than another band-aid is needed, who are not trying to put out yet another spot fire that's gotten away, who are not trying to stop the impending train wreck, or fix "it" one more time... but who are using the truth of the situation as a call to explore and implement solutions outside the box.

We live in a new time with new needs. To those of you out there with vision, with resolve and integrity, who communicate clearly and with the highest intentions, knowing the road will not be easy... Thank you.

You serve us all.

THANKS FOR THE VOICE AND THE SERVICE!!! WE ALL APPRECIATE IT!!!!!

From: The Wildland Firefighters!!!!!

Thanks, this community can't be beat. We are optimistic about the future. Out of chaos comes creativity. Ab.

1/21 Dick Mangan and Mellie;

Thank you for your excellently thought-out responses to my post…I will confess to trolling just a little bit, mostly because I don’t understand this attitude that “the agency should support its people no matter what”. Picture this: say you get an IC who for some reason has decided to follow a military-style policy of acceptable losses, who knowingly sends a green type II crew into a chute. He knows there is a very high probability that they will have to deploy, but he decides that they will probably be able to dig enough line before the expected blow-up to protect certain high-dollar senators’ homes along the ridgetop. The crew is new to the fire, from out of district, and inexperienced; they’re a new crew and they feel that if they refuse this assignment, they’ll never get another one. They go in, dig like crazy, the blow up happens, they deploy, two die. The IC anticipated the hazard, made the decision not to mitigate, and worse, made the decision to send people directly into the hazard. People died. He/she displayed a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of his/her people. This is what I meant when I said “criminal negligence is criminal negligence”. I agree that there’s a whole lot of grey out there, but there’s black and white at either end of that grey too. Do you think his/her agency should support this IC?

Part of what I’m trying to say is that there’s a difference between not filling out a checklist and knowingly putting people into untenable positions. Mellie, I agree wholly with your statement that part of the problem is that these penalties are being handed down by people who don’t know fire. Unfortunately, firefighting is classed with commercial explosives use as “intrinsically hazardous, unavoidably dangerous”. Legal precedent, which has somehow been held at bay for fire in a way it hasn’t for commercial explosives, states that in such activities, any harm caused by the activity is the fault of the “responsible party” whether or not the responsible party took all reasonable measures to prevent harm. Take commercial blasting again; two blasters are working on a project; one doing everything right, one doing everything wrong. The sloppy blaster doesn’t stem his hole properly, and the fly rock kills his helper. The other stems his hole right, sets his delays perfectly, adheres to all safety rules, SOPs, best practices, rules of thumb, you name it, and some totally random piece of fly rock kills somebody two miles away. Under the precedent for “intrinsically hazardous, unavoidably dangerous activities”, both are equally criminally liable. I’ve never seen or heard of this doctrine being applied to fire of any type; I think for a long time the “hero status” of fire, and the perception that we’re saving lives and property, has protected us. Maybe it’s time to do what the blasters do; get a sh*tload of insurance, and be very, very careful.

Nerd on the Fireline

Nerd, your "Picture this" example of black and white is so far from any reality I can imagine that I don't even know how to respond. Ab.

1/21 < been sitting quietly reading the posts & have had little to contribute> the frustration voiced in this forum from all sides of the fire community ladder is evident on many levels.

An-R5er is in same boat as many. for CA STATE hire desires, suggest a weekly look at the spb.ca.gov website (not only the CDF website). local gov't interface may be an option if you look into that by individual agency.
FS, BLM, Parkies, et al, folk with 10-15 yrs of fire experience want/need an opportunity to take any CDF test to hopefully move from green to red for the insurance and retirement benefits alone. It's a long line, nationwide!
Some who might be better qualified to further their careers seem unwilling to relocate or change their life style, locked into mortgage, family, etc.

career changes are like gearing up for a pack test - planning, preparing & lots of sweat!

best of luck to y'all!
northzone5
1/20 Time to speak out about IFPM and 401.

Today I took several phone calls regarding our cross walk positions for IFPM. We have an Interagency Organization and we struggled for several years to get both FS and BLM positions the same pay for the same job, Engine Captains are at the same gs level, finally. Guess what it is causing problems..... Imagine that. When we did the cross walks, the FS PD's were not posted on the web, so we used the BLM PD's thinking that the FS PD's would be similar, 'not so much", now the regional office is fine tooth combing our work, and I suppose will ultimately have the say what happens.

I guess I was under the false impression when I thought IFPM would help us "standardize" what is expected of our firefighters and managers that fall into the 14 positions. "Again, not so much", We can not even come up with similar qualifications for personnel out on the fire line. Everyone has a little different take on what it takes to be a firefighter. We have our own required training, and trying to match whether or not this course meets the intent or has similar complexities as that course, it was strange trying to explain to the Regional Office.

I know that there are a lot of good managers out there who may not meet the IFPM Competencies and dont meet the 401 Series requirements, I don't. I have been with the agency for 21 years, and I dont qualify for the job. I think that somewhere between the TriData Study and IFPM we lost control of what was happening, so a force greater than ourselves took over and I am not sure that we will recover once the wreck hits. What are we going to do when all of these Managers who do not qualify retire? I have talked to more people that not, who will leave earlier rather than later because they no longer will qualify for their positions after the 5 years - 4 months is over. We are planning right now to see how we are going to train all of these people who are in 401 positions that dont meet the education requirements, what about the young kids that are going to sit in their chairs once the 5 years is up?

I live in a small rural town in Oregon, we have a community college extension office, I know that they do not offer any course work that will help me to meet the education requirement. The closest 4 year college is either 2.5 hours to the west or 4 hours to the east. How realistic is it to think that someone will commute from here to take courses, not so much. Online sure, but the bottom line is it going to help me do my job better than I do now? Not so much, teach me leadership, management skills, human factors, risk management, how to deal lead this organization to a successful outcome. That is the education that we need to become better managers, not biology 301.

I have to be honest when I say that we are no closer to being similar than we were when we were separate units. Everything is different, time travel, training, budget/finance, personnel etc. I get so frustrated, all we want to do is do the best that we can, and we continually get told you cant do it that way. Follow the rules they say, we dont bend them we dont break them, that is all fine and dandy if you can figure them all out. Look at the ICT3 reference list, you need a small trailer to tow along just to keep it all close at hand. We have added more training, more check lists, more manuals and hand books, and more people to the complexity of fighting fires, yet people still die. I am not sure what the answers are, I do know that if we keep making up rules that we are unable to follow we will keep loosing our friends, brothers and sisters on the fireline, and the investigators will come to us and say well you did it again, you did not follow all the rules. You said this would make you safer, and someone died because you did not keep them safe.

Sorry carrying on so long, but had to throw it out there.

dispatcher

1/20 Question for CDF,

Been hearing rumors of CDF opening up their Captains list again, is there any truth in this? I have been with the Forest Service for a while now and I am getting tired off all the junk that is going on with the Agency. I thought the FWFSA would be able to help out a little but after reading Blackwells letter to Casey Judd saying he will never support some of our issues, the frustration really sets in.

I have been reading all the posts in the forum for the past 6 months (been a long time reader and poster) and the one that really hit home for me, was the last post from "The Abs." It's frustrating reading all these post stating on how the Agency will never back us up, having some of your mentors telling you that you need to get out now, and seeing some of the madness that has gone on my Forest for the past few years. I have always told my self that I would never leave, but in the past few months I have been looking at getting my EMT back so I can start testing again. I am kinda bummed out that I missed taking the LA County test that they just had, I think I might have placed in the top 10,000.

I hope things will start getting better soon....

An-R5er

In this Ab's opinion, the trajectory we're on and the speed we're moving is way beyond the R5 Forester's control, perhaps even beyond his influence. With all due respect, he's not a wildland firefighter. He doesn't know wildland firefighter safety.

What's needed is some serious thinking and planning "outside the box" regarding organizational structure and firefighter safety, if the fire organization is to continue as part of the Forest Service. FWFSA has been and will continue to influence and educate Congress. Thank you FWFSA firefighters! If the Forest Service can't make necessary changes, Congress will. And I say that with all optimism and faith in our system of government. Ab.

1/20 Nerd -

I really can't argue with much of what you said in your last post. I've done 20-25 burnover fatality investigations over the past 15 years, and we've always treated the scene as a "crime scene" until it was determined by the local coroner/sheriff that no "Foul Play" took place: i..e. murder by shooting, knifing, strangulation, etc. Then it became a fire burnover investigation scene, with the objective of finding out what went wrong so that we could develop the "lessons learned" to prevent future similar events.

All that changed after "Thirtymile" when Cantwell & Hastings passed the law requiring that ONLY Forest Service fatalities get investigated by OIG.

USFS Management never did an adequate job, in my opinion, of letting folks in their fire programs know that the rules had changed, BIG TIME.

But for 2005, it should be abundantly clear to everyone except the Village Idiot that if an injury, burnover, fatality, burned up civilian, etc occurs while you're the IC or Ops or Line Officer, the USFS will leave you hanging out for the US Attorney to skewer UNLESS you've followed every single rule in the FSM, Red Book, Fireline Handbook, NWCG Training Manuals, 10/18/LCES, and.........!

So, we're playing by a new set of rules, much like you've described for the folks in the structural and EMS world. OK - I know them: now, it's my decision if I want to play, or avoid the risks by staying home. The decision also rests with all you current USFS regulars and AD folks out there.

Dick Mangan

1/20 Cynic,

I'm glad you clarified and I appreciate the change in the tone of your post. Some policy changes can be influenced from the ground, indeed they must be influenced from the fireground. When policy goes wrong and affects safety, groundpounders must raise the alert and be the first to refuse the unsafe assignment.

How does policy come about? Usually in little steps and without us thinking of the policy implications. Storm King, Thirtymile checklists, bereaved parents, Congress, more rules, Cramer abatements, more lists, investigations by outside agencies who don't know fire except for the Std Fire Orders -we don't bend them - we don't break them-, outside agency investigators who don't know the growing number of checklists and accumulated expectations placed on fire managers who wear many other hats as John Wendt and Misery Whip pointed out, who don't understand that decisions and policies made at all levels of a high-risk, high tech organization can contribute to disaster. Steve wrote an insightful post last year pointing out the problems that would arise from a civil trial by a jury of those who don't know fire. The OIG investigation of Cramer was not in our consciousness then. Now we've had a "plea bargain equivalent" to avoid criminal prosecution in the Cramer case. Are we there now?

Nerd,

I wish it was so black and white as "criminal negligence is criminal negligence". Western ICs are bailing their incident commander quals because of uncertainty about what makes an IC vulnerable to criminal legal prosecution and because of the unfairness of the situation. Those Type 3 ICs in volatile and fast-moving interface fire environments know they overstep their training from time to time (every season?) as teams are being called up to transition in. They can't get all the briefings and checklists done. During transition and as complexity grows exponentially, the firestorm can't just be put on hold. You can't simply pull back and hold your position - as you can in the woods - when fire is bearing down on subdivisions of people.

It is dawning on some line officers - Forest Service Rangers and Forest Supervisors - who oversee the fire organization but lack adequate training in fire - that they are also increasingly at risk for criminal prosecution when tragedy occurs. The cost of defending yourself against criminal prosecution in a case in which those investigating you don't know the system - who assume "criminal negligence is criminal negligence" - is probably in the low 6 figures dollars. What GS7-10, even GS-11 or 12 public servant fighting fire or overseeing a forest makes that kind of money? What experienced AD DIVS or OPS is willing to take the risk? No one I know.

Consider this.
Say something goes wrong on a Forest Service fire next season, regardless of whose loss of situational awareness or inadequate fire behavior training/experience is responsible. Three investigations will immediately be initiated: by Fed Fire (FS, BLM, etc) who investigates the incident, by OSHA who investigates the FS role and by OIG who addresses possible criminal negligence by fire supervisors on behalf of those who died or were injured. One or more Civil Cases brought by family members or others seeking monetary settlement may or may not follow those. If you have insurance you might be covered on the civil side.

As we have seen, the Fed Fire investigation report will be severely redacted by the Dept of Justice so as not publicly to name those FS employees who have not yet been found guilty and so as not to compromise later prosecution in the likelihood it becomes necessary. We're reduced to legal doublespeak. Our FS investigation has traditionally provided us with our best investigative lessons learned thanks to fire researchers and fire professionals like Ted Putnam, Dick Mangan, Leslie Anderson and many others in ops, fire behavior, etc. Will that continue?

I was talking with a legal friend who said when investigations go criminal he thinks this is more complicated than dealing with just the facts of a current incident. With DOJ involvement anything on record in your past saying you can't/won't/didn't get the checklists done becomes fair game for use against you in a future incident. Any formal admission that you can't fill in the mandated checklists - in a recorded After Action Review, a SafeNet, a Southern CA Firestorm '03 Review - may make it much more likely you will be found criminally negligent if you're in a position of authority and something bad happens. If this is wrong, please correct me. If this is correct I wonder... How can safety issues on the ground be brought forward to peers or policymakers if you can't be honest without incurring great personal risk? Safety culture, is that gone?

I again want to thank policymakers who are working on this and who will need to be making hard choices and standing firm in the face of political pressure. I hope you are up to the task.

Community, we need to give our fire policy makers encouragement and support for making GOOD hard choices now if they will only step up and make them. I pray they will... and soon.

As I've said before. Incident management is us. For wildland fire, for the nation. There are no additional ICs lurking in the wings to step forward.

Fire Community, let me tell you again how much I appreciate and admire your service and professionalism.

Mellie

1/20 Greetings all, Abs;

I've been busy the last week, and so am chiming in late.

Misery Whip was making a good point. An argument in favor of using the 10 and 18 as guidelines of engagement instead of hard and fast rules could go like this: It is raining, dark, there is no wind, and observable fire behavior on your division is minimal (read: smoldering). You can't see the rest of the fire, and you have five chains of underslung downhill line to complete to tie the line into a river. You are in a deep canyon going direct and radio communication is iffy due to racal blight and the weather. How many of us would refuse to complete this assignment?

Last season, I was confronted with this very scenario. I accepted the assignment with little thought because, though it seems to violate the 10 and 18 (downhill line, underslung line, in country not seen in daylight, no lookouts other than ourselves, terrain and fuels make escape to safety zones difficult, no or poor communication link, etc, etc). Fire behavior and weather conditions dictated that we would be able to complete the assignment safely. I scouted the line and made a judgment call that we would be ok.

The seniors and snooks in my squad had little problem with this, as they were savvy enough to understand why we were safe in this particular situation. I was stopped short by my two rookies while giving them a briefing, though. I had to sit down with them and explain, step by step, why we were "violating" the 10 and 18, what the plan was if things miraculously went gunnysack, and why, in my opinion, we were safe. After this extended briefing, we were able to complete the assignment in little more than 20 minutes.

I am not complaining--I think that this scenario shows that we are developing a safety conscious attitude from the ground up, and that at least on our IHC the Rooks feel as though they can chime in if they need to. I also think that trying to adhere strictly to the 10 and 18 as hard and fast rules all of the time would keep us from doing our job.

It is ridiculous to conduct an investigation using the 10 and 18 as the criteria points because if someone gets burned over, the 10 and 18 have been broken. It is in the language of the 10 and 18 themselves. This type of investigation, which is used by the agencies currently, tells us nothing about root causes, the decision making processes of those involved, etc. It just tells us that we failed to follow the "rules" set in place by the agency, therefore removing liability from them and putting it on us. Rather clever, that. If something unexpectedly goes wrong, it is your problem, and the investigation will prove it by the way it is structured.

We, ladies and gentlemen, have a dangerous job with inherent risks. We do what we can to mitigate them. Sometimes, though, everything we can do is not enough.

Now here is a scary thought: Say you are a crew boss and you order a saw team to drop a hazardous snag. The top comes out and hurts one of the sawyers. In the current climate, you are at fault for that injury--even though the sawyers knew it was an inherent risk in their position, accepted that risk, and based on their assessment went ahead and started cutting the tree.

Pandoras box is opened. Where, though, is the ray of hope?

Class C Sagebrush Faller
1/20 The Cynic...

I read Misery Whip's post and I think I understand the frustration level he has. You need to remember people write or respond from their perspective and life experience. It's ok to disagree...in fact it's a fundamental right! But to use the anonymity to accuse another person of having childish views is ...in my opinion...the wrong way to disagree. People who are passionate about their work life sometimes travel out on the limb by themselves. If the limb breaks... others learn. If the limb supports... others follow. I think Misery was pointing out the difficulties of the job and the need to recognize the causal factors that can distract the mission. I'm converting my opinion to those shared by others. And that is we can't move forward with business as usual thinking. Maybe our policy makers need to look at the history of our organizations and identify what aspects of our agencies have allowed us to be the best at what we do and make sure those success mechanisms are still in place and working. If the changes in work force, personnel based safety rules and fire regimes or severity, has lessened the fire fighting abilities of the agency... then someone in a leadership role needs to go out on the limb.

GISgirl,

Good question about GIS expectations. I think the difficulty in answering the question is deciding what hat to wear when answering. Also I have always had a difficult time with technology questions.

As an IC my expectations would be to have a GIST that had the tools and knowledge to arrange the fire related data to be displayed and to produce a map that is usable for planning fire actions and documenting the event.

As an Operations Chief I would want a GIST that could also work with a variety of GPS instruments to incorporate the information captured at the fire ground to produce and display maps that have a greater value to the fire fighters on the ground.

As a fire fighter I want a GIST that understands the fire ground, fire behavior and suppression objectives of the incident. With this understanding the GIST could spend his/her time and resources on the more important issues of producing a map with usable tools for firefighters and less time producing maps for the political subdivisions that want a map to display back at the office or station.

Usable tools?

*Linked production tables for hand and machine trail construction based on fuels and topography. Long range goal is to verify and update production tables. Short term goal is to help identify pinch points in IAP and make adjustments in resources or objectives.
* Using the year 2525 (old song lyric) thinking ...it would be good if GIS would link to a computer based "virtual sand table" and display real time fire behavior, growth and suppression actions of the incident at the ICP. (air conditioned ICP)
*Ability to download mapping products to CD's in a compatible format with crew computers.
*Usable map scales
*Grids?
*Displays property ownership
*Water, roads, fuels, flight hazards, mines...etc
*Runs a communication model to identify radio repeater placements and radio dead areas.
* Validate escape routes and safety zones using accepted models.

After spending all of this time writing this and then reading what I wrote I take it all back. Too much science and not enough art for me. Just give me a map with topography lines and a good pair of boots. <grin>

My GIS person (techno-geek) on the District adds this:

My two cents:
The GIST works for the Situation Unit Leader in the Planning Section.
At least two GIST would be assigned to an incident.
Responsibilities:
GPS support and data integration into GIS mapping products
Develop, analyze and display GIS mapping products
Skilled in using at least the following technologies: ArcView 3x, GPS and plotter (preferable ArcGIS)
Keep an archive of the collected data and mapping products, based on the standard directory structure
Send mapping products to the NWCC.

Oliver
1/20 Cal BLM’er;

I’m with a municipal VFD, and even though I couldn’t name you any specific incident, we are taught to expect a criminal investigation if a fire department member is hurt or killed in the line of duty. It’s never happened in my department (and here’s hoping it never will), but I think an investigation is right and proper. Realize that there is a difference between being investigated, being prosecuted, and being ‘held accountable’. Being hounded out of a job or a certification with no clear explanation of the perceived wrong-doing is a different thing than being ‘held accountable’. Honestly, I think wildland fire has gotten away comparatively scott-free for some years. As EMT’s, one of the first things we’re taught is how to manage our legal exposure, and that we can expect to be subpoenaed. As structural FF, we’re taught to expect and deal with the fact that every fire is a crime scene, and by setting foot on the fire ground, you could be looking at five to ten for destruction of evidence if you do something dumb. I’ve heard lip service paid to “preserve the point of origin” in wildland fire, but it just doesn’t seem to be as big a deal. I’m kind of surprised by this attitude that “the agency should protect us”. Do you trust the agency to keep you safe? Then why do you trust the agency to protect you from liability? There have been suggestions that the agency should put out some sort of statement to the effect that “we stand behind our ICs no matter what”. Gimme a break…it doesn’t work that way in any other field, why should it in fire? Criminal negligence is criminal negligence.

Nerd on the Fireline
1/20 Has anyone out there ever wondered why we never hear about an Incident
Commander in a municipal fire department being held accountable for a
firefighter line of duty death in a structure fire? Municipal firefighters
attend training to recognize and avoid entrapment in structural fires just
as wildland firefighters do for wildland fires. My question to the group is
what is the difference?

Cal BLM'er
1/20 Howdy Cynic's Cynic

The one point I was trying to make was I do not think railing against computer programs, non fire training sessions, or anything not directly related to fire is very productive. They are a fact of life for everyone in the agencies whether or not they are fire fighters. To think that we as fire fighters should somehow be exempt from these travails is not realistic. Of course they are frustrating and in some cases pretty non productive but don't you think they are frustrating for employees other than firefighters? If I misinterpreted what Misery Whip was getting at I apologize.

As far as the 10 and 18 I think we better be pretty close to the mark with them if we are ever unfortunate enough to find ourselves the subject of an investigation. Last time I checked it was not acceptable to indicate we were trying to abide by all of them but things just went wrong. Until the agencies indicate there is a different standard for us to follow what are we to do, use what WE think is right and hope for the best? Doesn't appear to me that is acceptable to the agencies, OSHA or the OIG to name a few. Is there a better way, maybe, but until it is accepted policy what are we going to hang our hats on?

Since you asked, I am a retired DFMO who came up through the ranks; BD Crew, (not many of those around any more) smoke chaser, hot shots, jumpers, engine foreman, and AFMO. I too many years on overhead teams in Operations and Aviation and I am going into my 39th fire season, the last couple as an AD (which is becoming a less and less attractive way to spend my time.)

I wish good luck to all those engaged in trying to find a better way to do the job.

The Cynic
1/19 The Forest Service is changing. Fire is changing.
  • We Abs commend those of you who stay engaged. In the midst of chaos, you have an opportunity to create unprecedented beneficial change.
  • We want to thank firefighters from the bottom... on the line... to the top... who have the guts and will to call it like it is. It takes courage and perseverance.
  • We greatly appreciate those who are not trying to patch the gaping hole when much more than another band-aid is needed, who are not trying to put out yet another spot fire that's gotten away, who are not trying to stop the impending train wreck, or fix "it" one more time... but who are using the truth of the situation as a call to explore and implement solutions outside the box.

We live in a new time with new needs. To those of you out there with vision, with resolve and integrity, who communicate clearly and with the highest intentions, knowing the road will not be easy... Thank you.

You serve us all.

The Abs.

1/19

The Union Hotshots will be having a 25-year reunion for all former Union Hotshots and their families.

Date / Time: May 14 2005 / 10:00 A.M. – 10:00 P.M.
Place: La Grande, Or. / Riverside Park (Map to Riverside Park included)
RSVP: Please fill out all the forms, include check or money order for cost of food and Union Hotshots Products and mail it to the address below no later then April 15, 2005. If you are not planning to attend we would like to have your info so we can compile a database of Union Hotshots.
Happenings: We are planning to have a Barbeque with all the fixings.
Cost: $8.00 per person / T-Shirts and other items price listed on order form. We are asking that all costs are pre-paid
What To Bring: Old crew memorabilia, and any stories of the old days. If you have any old crew photos, please scan them and put them on a CD or floppy disc and mail them to the address below.

Union Hotshots
C/0 Jody Prummer
3502 HWY 30
La Grande, Or. 97850

Anyone want the registration flyer, let Ab know.

1/19 Hello fire managers to ground pounders-

I am working on an interagency effort and thought I'd poll the masses... I
know this isn't as exciting as fire shelters or boot brands but it's
relevant nonetheless...

The NWCG's IRMWT's (Geospatial Task Group) is working on standardizing the
GIS Technical Specialist position (through the NWCG processes) including a
310-1 description, a task book, and GIST SOPs. The GTG has a Geographic
Information System Standard Operating Procedures on Incidents project group
working on assembling and publishing these SOPs.

I'd like to know if there is any feedback from you all as to what are your
minimum expectations for a GIS Technical Specialist on an incident?

I've read the literature, I've done the duty, I've talked to some people in
the community- but I wanted a chance to hear from the field unedited.

Thanks for your help,
GISgirl
1/19 Cynic, you said "Pretty tough to gain the respect and support of the rest of the agency if we think we are worthy of special treatment because every now and then we engage the dragon don't you think?"

I take it you're not primarily a firefighter? Maybe in the radio shop or IT? I'm just trying to understand where you're coming from and if you're on the ground.

Everyone who fights fire knows that even the most safety conscious of us can't always follow the 10 and 18 as Misery Whip and Doug state. We try, it's impossible unless you know what the fire behavior is where you are and how it might change in the next little while. Going back to the 10 as 'rules of engagement' brings us back closer to the original formulation, but maybe there is a better way.

The Cynic's Cynic

1/19 Ah Misery Whip,

It seems you have gone to the well one too many times. I have thoroughly enjoyed your previous posts, well thought out and thought provoking. Must admit this last effort is not your best, in fact is well below the standard of your previous posts, at least in my opinion.

Your analysis of the 10 standard orders is rather juvenile don't you think? I mean anyone can come up with little scenarios that would seem to blunt the 10 and 18. The fact is, how many folks have been burned up or over while adhering to the 10 and 18? The radio excuse is weak at best, come on, from your previous posts I know you know that as well as I do. As long as you were headed down this rather childish path why didn't you take on the 18 situations too? I am sure the radio could be blamed for not being aware of or mitigating several of them also.

As far as the other computer programs that seem to adversely impact your life, don't you think it is time to get real, I mean come on, it is not only the fire folks that have to put up with these programs. They are a fact of life for everyone, not only the federal land management agencies. I think it is pretty naive to somehow think we as firefighters are special and someone should either do these things for us, or we should not be expected to do them.

I would hope you would agree that some of these programs and requirements are part of the job for a fire manager. I think it is pretty naive to believe that all we are going to do is train, drill, fight fire, etc and the rest of the world be damned. Pretty tough to gain the respect and support of the rest of the agency if we think we are worthy of special treatment because every now and then we engage the dragon don't you think?

It would be nice to think our thoughts expressed in this forum would be heard by the agency leadership but I have seen little evidence to support such a conclusion. Dale Bosworth is overseeing the dismantling of a great agency, not just the fire portion of the program. As far as I can see his only emphasis item has been "analysis paralysis", and that is primarily to support the timber program. Tom Harbour is a hell of guy and I wish him all the luck in the world. He is without a doubt about as well squared away an individual I have had the pleasure to work with, and have at my back when I was in a bit of a scrape. But when the guy steering the ship is concerned about other things have to wonder just how much Tom can do to effect positive change for all of us.

I am looking forward to your next post and hope it is another good, well thought out, thought provoking edition. I would love to have a beer or two with you sometime.

Keep up the good work.

The Cynic
1/19 I am trying to put together a short presentation on the history of the Fire
Shelter. I am looking for (ruff) dates like when we switched from the
orange shelters to the yellow cases, the year that the pull tabs changed
over time from one side to the full pull tab around the shelter and then
the full pull tab in red. Any help would be appreciated.

JE

Those questions aren't asked on the IMWTK (Inquiring Minds Want to Know) page. There is this historical fire shelter info that was supplied by Dick Mangan. It has some answers. Ab.

1/19 Ab,

I have another safety analogy:

Back when I headed up our local CISM team, we put together a number of stress debriefings for the river park rangers and EMTs following whitewater rafting deaths. Frequently a few commercial raft guides - sometimes even the guide whose boat had flipped - were included in the debriefing session, because they were the first to attempt rescue and continued assisting when the emergency services arrived.

The demographic for raft guides is similar to seasonal wildland firefighters: athletic, outdoors-type, adrenalin-junkies who enjoy doing something with certain level of risk, looking for a good summer paycheck for college tuition, etc. And, most never think it could happen to them.

Boater safety was highlighted at the annual in-service for each guide and before each trip for the customers. Ostensibly, the guide is responsible for the safety of his/her passengers. But, the base pay for guides is about what a G-3 makes fighting fire. To make good money on the river, you have to make good tips. Many of the people who go rafting are looking for an adventure story to take home from their summer vacation - they aren't necessarily looking for a perfectly safe, uneventful ride down the river. These people will compensate the guide who delivers, and there are guides perfectly willing to hit a particular rapid just right to dump the whole boatload in the river. One guide told me they call the practice "swimming for tips."

I doubt that the rafting version of the 10 & 18 would have much sway for a guide like that. In our world, fire folks don't make tips, but there is overtime and hazard pay. And, if you want to be a wildfire hero, you have to push the edge - how else will you get that good adventure story for your crew to take back from summer vacation?

Oh, and by the way, we finally quit doing combined debriefings with rangers and raft guides. Although the park service had always investigated each fatality, it wasn't until the summer that the county sheriff opened a criminal investigation that those involved were really uncomfortable discussing what happened.

vfd cap'n
1/19 Regarding Federal Wildland Firefighter Pay, Benefits, and Working Conditions:

In the past, I used to bring up Federal Wildland Firefighter pay, benefits, and working condition discussions. Usually, someone would chime into the discussion and say that "that is only a California problem".

As there are some great minds viewing this site and providing discussion, I would challenge all of "us" to look around and discover the facts that the changing role of wildland fire program is not "just a California problem". Yes, there are unique problems in each area of the country, but wildland firefighter recruitment and retention is a problem nationwide. Wildland firefighter recruitment and retention directly relates to the safety of our fire program and the folks who might stay around long enough to have "salt and whiskers" as Skip's old supt. said.

After looking at most of the Western State Agencies' recruitment bulletins and webpages today, I have to start thinking we may have lost the battle for recruitment and retention. Most State and Local government agencies are now paying equal or higher salaries and providing better benefits and retirement packages. Local government agencies are actively hiring former federal wildland firefighters into entry level jobs... sometimes with twice the salary and twice the benefits.

Here is another example: After taking a cursory look at the retention of "apprentice" firefighters on my unit, nearly 80% of newly hired apprentice firefighters over the last five years did not stay with the agency long enough to become a permanent full time employee. The numbers gets even worse when you look at the number of temporary firefighters who never even make it to the ranks of being an apprentice.

No, it is not just a California problem!!!............ Take a look at where your "rising stars" have gone over the last five years. Also, take a good hard look at our friends who have retired early..... Wildland firefighting pay, benefits, and working conditions are the factors that need to be addressed. The lack of action, or partial in-action, on items expressed as concerns in the Tri-data study have come to the forefront in safety and need to be properly acted upon.

Lobotomy
1/19 Is no one besides me concerned that we're loosing our ICT3s, ICT2s? We don't have so many to begin with, given current retirements. We shouldn't be loosing the Micks and the Johns and the Beckys of the fire world, not to mention those who have had their ICT3 certs quietly removed from the dispatcher's list or those who have let them lapse. (When I think of the EXCELLENT, KNOWLEDGEABLE friends, hotshot supts, DIVS who are no longer on the ICT3 rolls in the West, it makes me sore afraid for the fire pups and the interface Public.)

What's going to become of FED Fire? Unless there is a new way of thinking and soon, Congress will create a stand-alone Fire Organization, you bet your Nicks. Some congress people are looking at that now.

EVERYONE in fire at all levels needs to be thinking outside the current Fed fire box that we've walled ourselves into. We need to think about how we can do business SAFELY in a different way. Maybe it's really Old? pre-checklist? pre 10- and 18-s chiseled in stone and given to OSHA and OIG as THE RULES.

How do we implement Commander's Intent as doctrine in an organization that is top heavy with rules and people higher up who like the rules, as if rules and more rules are a way to discipline unruly fire adolescents?

OK one step beyond Rules... What if we had Commander's Intent as FS Doctrine, how do we train firefighters up in fire behavior and give them on-the-fireground experience to let them see how the flames act firsthand? EVERYONE needs to think outside the box. If change is to come, it must be ground and up.

How do we go beyond a rewrite of S-290, for example, so that it does more than perpetuate and justify Behave in the upper S-x90 courses? I know we teachers want to have people fall in love with our subject. It justifies our existence, doesn't it? If we have commander's intent this isn't about predictive models in theory. It's about how we help new inexperienced firefighters take a lot of cues about how a fire might burn and know how to make decisions about their own safety on this piece of ground with this slope, aspect, wind, say between 1200 and 1700 hours. It's about how to help people cognitively "chunk" information to recognize when and where forces that affect fire behavior might change.

I heard that the new S-290 predictive model is going to add Watch the Weather. Another thing on a checklist. Cum'mon... Making sure you watch the weather has been in the mix and on more than one checklist for a while.

New and Inexperienced Groundpounders -- having heard their Commander's Intent -- need a way to evaluate FIRE BEHAVIOR on their fireground where they're PERSONALLY at risk. Education and experience with situational awareness that they need to KEEP THEMSELVES SAFE is different than the kind of experience, model-building and situational awareness that Fire Behavior Analysts bring to the larger predictive mix.

Why are ALL YOUNGSTERS not being taught the Fuel Flammability Curve for different slopes and aspects? Why aren't they taught to look at the Alignment of Forces for Change in fire behavior or intensity- Weather, Topography and Fuel? What does it means for safety when a fire burns through the night with the Forces for Change not aligned? Why are particular tactics not Time Tagged by particular groundpounding crews, who may be on different parts of a fire or on different fires in a complex with different slopes/aspects, up or down-canyon winds? Shane and Jeff would have LIVED if their Cramer assignment had been time tagged by default and/or if they had been thinking about how fire behavior might change!!! Tom, Jessica, Karen and Devin would still be alive if the crew had realized what it meant when the 30-Mile Fire burned through the night even with forces out of alignment! My god Folks, it's a no-brainer!

Doug, thanks for the excellent evaluation of the 10s & 18s and what they've become. Skip, thanks for pointing out how unreasonable it is to expect toddler kids to "play in the street" as though they knew about the danger of cars. (Older'n'dirt crusty old dogs who hang in there. Thank YOU all!)

Doug, when I called to ask you about copyright of your material, you said the Forest Service already "owned" your course, by virtue of Willie (afmo on the Angeles) teaching it. Why is it not being used more widely and consistently to increase groundpounder safety? (my guesses: overload, too many courses already, personalities of people involved, turf threatened, etc etc).

I would encourage EVERY FIREFIGHTER AND FIREFIGHTER SUPERVISOR to sign up somewhere for Doug's Fire Signature Prediction (CPS) course. Supervisors, come at it with a new mind as though you're new, you don't have the experience you already have. Pretend you're NEW. If you have a beef with the course threatening "your turf" or with Doug's personality, put it aside. There is no more time for such bullsh*t. You FBANS who are academic types, think of the safety of the groundpounders. Get beyond your love of model-building and teaching model-building. We need groundpounder-focused fire behavior training. Create a new S-290 class that fits the needs of groundpounders, that teaches them what they need to know on their piece of fire to keep themselves safe. The FS "owns" Doug's course. I challenge you to figure out how to use it to improve the safety of our ground troops!

The IMPLICATION of a doctrine of Commander's Intent is that new firefighters really get a tactical fire behavior class for groundpounders that transforms their way of looking at fire behavior, their way of thinking about what the fire is likely to do and shifts them to a new level of firefighting professionalism.

Mellie

Doug Campbell's website. It has a permanent link on the Classifieds page. Ab.

1/19 Ive been asking around for a while but have yet to find an answer. I have a need to make some short sections of the "toy hose" (5/8 linen hose), but am concerned hardware store variety couplers they will not fit the bill as they are not designed for the thin hose. Does anyone have any experience with this?

On another topic, I saw a fire management Tech Tips note from July of '04 on water rakes used for mop up (www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/html/04511306/04511306.html, t-d is username and password). I would like to make one and try it out. I emailed SDTCC for more information but never got a response. I was wondering if the one ("Hydro Rake") they profiled was commercially made and available somewhere or it was home made. Anyone have any experience with making, buying, using these?

Pulaski
1/18 When I was a kid my Mom said don't play in the street. When I got a little older I found out that there were times that kids could play in the street, (sometimes the only place to play football), the only way that Mom would let me join the game was if big brother was there and agreed to watch over me, if he was going to leave then I had to leave also. Then one day when I was a big kid I was allowed to join the game in the street on my own, I had learned that it could be done safely if certain rules were followed, like get out of the street when the cars came, not all streets were good choices for play, and there were certain times of the day where there were too many cars. So, as a little kid I was never allowed to go, then I could go with supervision and finally, when I showed I knew how to apply the rules, I was free to go alone.

It's important to know your role in this game we're in, If you're a Mom (fire manager) then you better make sure that before you send out big brother (crew boss) to watch over your kids( FFs), that he knows he's responsible for the kid's.

I have to be in agreement with Doug and the CPS in that there are actually times when you couldnt get a draw to burn out if your life depended on it, and then there are other times where you wouldnt want to be in the vicinity of the same draw. Learning the alignment concept should be part of every firefighter's basic training and should be refreshed and expanded on as part of annual refreshers for everyone who keeps a red card.

I couldnt imagine not teaching the rules of engagement to new firefighters, and refreshing them every year to assure that returnees understand them so we can have a framework that we can build on.

In my career I had the benefit of learning the rules of engagement and CPS and then having big brothers watching over me and teaching me how to apply them before they let me play in the "street" on my own. It is noteworthy how our perspective on the rules of engagement changes as we grow up in our careers.

I think we can agree that we cannot teach firefighting in the classroom only, and that no amount of rules and regs will produce safe firefighters and god knows that we dont need any more guides and pocket books. I think the application of the learned material needs to be followed up with trips to the street with big brother and maybe even mom sometimes.

Like the Supt. says " theres nothing like salt and whiskers".

Skip

1/18 Todd,

try this site: www.fs.fed.us/contactus/employee_search.shtml

Rogue Rivers

Rogue Rivers, this is the site he was trying. Permanent link on the Links page under Federal. For some reason it wasn't working the other day. Fixed now. Ab.

1/18 For those interested:

The agenda for the International Wildfire Simulation Conference
Feb 1-3 2005 in Wausau WI has been updated since the information was
first posted on They Said. The current agenda can be downloaded at:

www.glffc.com/public/special/SimulationConferenceAgenda2005.pdf

Jim Gobel
WI DNR
1/18 There are no crews from Alaska responding to the Tsunami areas.
No orders have been received in the AK GACC for crews to
respond.

SC

Thanks for the inside info. Ab.
1/18 Com (Misery Whip)

Actually the words "we don't bend them we don't break them" were originally
uttered by Jerry Williams at the Snowbird Firefighter Safety Conference in
1995. JWT just parlayed them into direction.

Misery Whip - before NWCG went back to the old 10 SFO - several FMOs,
especially one of dear fellow friends from Wyoming - pushed to get them
changed way back - long before anyone else. Like us, he was a product
raised during the period when situational awareness was ingrained from the
start by participating and leaning from the lessons of controlled burning
on slash units. (These were the best simulations that prepared many of us
for our wildfire assignments.)

I've always been an advocate for the stressing the amount of experience and
skills as well as the knowledge that was accumulated in the ranks by
burning units with a unit burn plan. Slash burning units was the exercise
where one had the advantage of knowing the initial size-up. Where the
lines were, where the back up control lines would go, where to place
resources, where the safe havens were, etc. There was a lot to be said for
this type of learning experience. The pattern then was many of us in the
ranks graduated first from burn boss to fire boss. Today it seems to be
the other way around which is a much more risky way of doing business.

Unfortunately, we do so little of this anymore and now we have people with
2,3,4,5, seasons of wildfire under their belt and call them "experienced."
I'm not so sure that is the correct way of training an army of firefighters
and incident commanders. Note, I am just trying to highlight a point that
there was so much more "value added experience" when we had the
opportunities to do this both in spring in fall - and fight fire in the
same summer. Controlled burns were good proving grounds.

Putting firefighters in the throes of wildfire without any semblance of the
slash burning experience is definitely harder for them to understand how
all the SFOs fit logically without this type of learning progression. I
think you would agree. It's just too much to head into wildfires with all
these rules when there is no template for having applied them in the past.

--Anon John
1/18 dear ab,

I saw on the news that Alaska is sending two hotshot crews and a northstar crew to give relief aid in the tsunami hit areas. how can I get on one of these gigs. the news said they are leaving in two or three days. and will be gone for thirty days, and will be getting a wage increase based on the amount of aid supplied internationally and because it couldbe considered an international disaster, so 14 and 21 day rules wont apply.

muky muk

I haven't heard this on the news and a Google search doesn't show anything. Anyone know? Ab.

1/18 From Firescribe:

Hotshot survives Tsunami

1/18 To All Who Use Avue:

I recently applied for a job through Avue Digital Services and found there to be Glitches in the system! Let me give you a little background;

I detailed into the job as Supervisory Tech for a District 20 person crew for 120, at which time they flew the announcement. I applied and thoroughly checked all the KSA responses. They ended up extending the announcement for another 14 days, at which time I made some edits. The job closed and one month later, my boss tells me that I did not make the quality cert! Wow, what a blow. Did I mention that 4 other local individuals that applied did not make it either? Well, I happen to know everyone who applied and we did some comparing. Low and behold... my answers are the same as another person who made the quality cert, who I might add, may get the job! I tried everything I could with personnel to work on this, but no luck. They say they cannot override this system! Well, since when do we let some computer decide who is the best candidate for a job. They kept telling me that I must have answered wrong and there are no glitches with the system! I beg to differ! I have been in this job for 10+ years, I know the job, the whole job and have been with this crew the whole time. I have the union working on this, but unfortunately, they may have already offered the position to someone else. I just want to put the word out that if you are trying to apply using Avue, be very careful! Until they fix the system, the same thing may happen to you.

Sincerely,
Liz
MNF-
1/17 Is there a new FS Lookup site? I needed to find some emails today and
tried to no avail.

www.fs.fed.us/fs/directories/

Enter any employee's name and you'll get a "File Unavailable" message.

Todd

1/17 Ab,

Great assessment on the 10 & 18 by Doug Campbell. Some folks seem to forget that before South Canyon, the 10 and 18 were mainly teaching tools, and used as reminders of what to watch out for. It wasn’t until the post-South Canyon “we don’t break them, we don’t bend them” Jack Ward Thomas letter that the 10 & 18 started being used as hard rules of engagement. I have always felt this was a mistake, and I still do.

It does not take a very sophisticated analysis to determine that most of the 10 standard fire orders have a lot of assumptions and subjectivity built into them.
  1. Keep informed on fire weather conditions and forecasts.
    OK, I can do this. Unless the forecast changes during the shift and someone forgets to inform me.
  2. Know what your fire is doing at all times.
    Hmm, getting harder. Especially if you have a large fire and not enough people around to keep you informed on what is happening on parts of the fire that you cannot see from your present location.
  3. Base all actions on current and expected behavior of the fire.
    Sounds reasonable, but is wholly dependent on the assayer’s skills at assessing potential fire behavior.
  4. Identify escape routes and safety zones and make them known.
    The parts about identifying escape routes/safety zones and making them known are fairly straightforward, but we still do not have a clear definition today of how big a safety zone needs to be in every situation.
  5. Post lookouts when there is possible danger.
    Wrongly assumes that everyone is equally capable of recognizing & identifying all possible danger sources.
  6. Be alert. Keep calm. Think clearly. Act decisively.
    You might as well say ‘don’t worry, be happy’. This one is loaded with human factors problems that sometimes make this order impossible to follow.
  7. Maintain prompt communications with your forces, your boss, and adjoining forces.
    Assumes that you can do this on a very busy fire while you are scanning six frequencies and answering cell phone calls. Also assumes that radios work perfectly, that batteries never die, that scan switches never get left in the off position, that your radio volume knob never gets turned down, etc.
  8. Give clear instructions and be sure they are understood.
    You can give clear instructions until you are blue in the face, but you can never be certain they will be understood or interpreted in the way you intended. Especially if the receiver doesn’t understand English very well.
  9. Maintain control of your forces at all times.
    Good luck. You will need it to follow this order.
  10. Fight fire aggressively, having provided for safety first.
    The right amount of aggressiveness is totally subjective, providing for safety first is wholly dependent on the skills of the assayer to determine what the potential hazards are.

I don’t doubt that JWT meant well with his “don’t break them, don’t bend them directive, but the fact is, the orders are already bent before you even start using them.

And now, as Monty Python says, for something completely different.

Last week, as I became increasingly frustrated with trying to make travel arrangements through our lovely new dysfunctional centralized travel system, I started thinking about how much time I have spent in recent years learning how to do things that don’t relate in any way to fighting fire. So I began to make a list of things that compete with a modern wildland firefighter’s ability to think and learn about fire.

Let’s start with computers in general. Computers are major attention magnets that are constantly evolving, which dictates that we learn what those changes are if we are going to remain current. We are bombarded by emails these days, which also require time to read and respond to. Many emails have nothing to do with fire, but we still have to read and deal with them.

Next is our computer-based Paycheck program. If you want to get paid, you have to understand how to run the latest version. We are presently using Paycheck 7, and I have had to learn how to operate each successive version.

Right behind Paycheck is our Travel payment program. Again, if you want to get reimbursed for funds you have already expended, you’d better know how this program works.

Following that is the Purchase Card Management System. If you have purchase authority, you have to know how to manage and reconcile your account. We recently started using a web-based version of PCMS, I still don’t have it completely figured out.

And now, I’m trying to figure out how to run a new computer program so I can make my own travel arrangements. You can add ROSS, RAWS, and other computer-based “aids” to this list.

Other non-fire mandated training these days includes civil rights training, sexual harassment, and other training that fire supervisors must insure their employees receive.

Not so very long ago, the Forest Service had a pretty good support structure for firefighters and fire supervisors. Now, much of that support structure is going away. Fire supervisors are being asked to do more and more things that do not contribute one iota to firefighter safety.

Collateral duties that have nothing to do with fire diminish the ability of supervisors to focus on and think about fire. Fire supervisors these days are frequently required to manage fleet or recreation or other non-fire FS programs.

I could probably continue on this train of thought for awhile, but for the sake of brevity I will make my point. Time spent learning and thinking about and managing and operating things that have nothing to do with fire detract from a firefighter’s ability to concentrate on their craft.

Many people now realize that if we are going to safely engage wildland fires in the 21st century, we need better leadership training, more and better fire training, etc. So how come we are busy dismantling the support structure that once allowed firefighters to concentrate on improving and keeping up on critical fire skills? Why are we allowing fire managers to become bogged down in non-fire diversions? Does anyone else see this as a problem?

I think the time has come to admit that wildland firefighting is not just another bastard child of the fed land management agencies. We work in a unique, complex, and frequently dangerous occupation that deserves better treatment than it has received in recent years.

Misery Whip

1/17 S-290 is being re-worked. Can anyone tell us what
changes might be expected?

NorCal Tom

1/16


THE 10's & 18's MITIGATION OR PLATITUDES?

What will it take to mitigate the risk of prosecution and disciplinary action for violating the rules of engagement?

Ever since the rules came into being the administration has continued to assert that breaking and compromising the rules of engagement were the root cause of fire behavior related accidents. Maybe I am assuming too much but the administration implies that compliance with the "Rules of Engagement" is the answer to accident avoidance. The administration has not wavered in that assertion. Each time a deployment and or fatality occurs, the rules of engagement are listed and the violations of them are blamed for the accident. The involved are accused of negligence in obeying the rules.

It is firmly established that you can't have a wreck without breaking some rules. Is the reliance on the rules of engagement helping others to be more aware of their situation or is the compliance with the rules a platitude? How do you remain in compliance with 52 rules of engagement when the fire behavior is changing moment by moment? How can one remain in compliance if you are also reacting to changes and adjusting L.C.E.S., (Lookouts, Communications, Escape route, Safety area.) You may not have enough time to escape the fire after detecting the beginning of the event. If you can predict changes that will affect you or those you supervise, you can be proactive and make adjustments that will avoid accidents.

The goal is to avoid burnover accidents.
The objective would be to enable firefighters to be proactive in their tactical plans so they would not be overrun by fire. The implementation of the rules of engagement is more effective in a proactive or predictive sense. The logic of this is that if a firefighter knows what the fire potential for change and dangerous behavior is, he/she would avoid exposure by adjusting the location of the safety area, escape route, timing, or other rules that apply. If the fire behavior potential were known, there would be no need to establish a safety area or escape route. This is evidence that there is a lack of confidence in the tactics selected for the engagement.

The changing potential and variations in fire behavior that are not predicted pose the threat of burnovers. The safest firefighters are the ones that perceive the potential and make adjustments before the fire behavior changes. In plain language, if you don't know what the fire is going to do then you should question why you should remain near it. How many firefighters and overhead know how to identify when and where the fire behavior is going to become dangerous? How do the firefighters who do know do it? They think like the fire as well as thinking like a firefighter.

The commonality of burnover accidents is that the victims took evasive action after the fire behavior became dangerous. From the Mann Gulch to the Cramer and Tuolumne fatality incidents these commonalities were in place.

If firefighters were aware that the fire had the potential to engulf them, they would have taken evasive action in time to avoid injury. The rules of engagement dutifully applied before the fire behavior change would be deemed as violated even if the fire behavior change were unpredicted or even unpredictable. If there is little experience or training that teaches firefighters how to predict the place, time and degree of potential fire behavior then the blame of violating the rules is misplaced. The root cause is the inability of firefighters and overhead to predict the potential time and place of fire behavior change. The resolution of this condition is to discontinue the attempt to reduce burnover accidents by asserting that it is always possible to implement all of the rules of engagement, by all firefighters and overhead, all of the time. The second part is to accept the fact that firefighters and overhead need to be taught to identify fire behavior potential variations on the fire-ground and act on the potential.

The idea of assessing the potential for fire behavior change is not new. Many successful firefighters already perform this task well, however the skill is derived from experience rather than current S courses. Until firefighters gain this experience, they are unable to understand or explain the processes because they are largely intuitive. This situation points out the fact that until they learn how to predict the changes in fire behavior and potential fire behavior they are not going to be able to work within the rules all of the time. Moreover, they should not be held accountable for the lapse in their ability to predict variations in fire behavior because they are not taught nor is the skill required for qualification to a fireline or overhead position.

The leadership needs to accept the fact that the rules of engagement are not a preventative tool that will reduce the accidents unless the fire behavior potential is known and acted on.

The rules are OK but the use of the rules to assign blame to those who are caught in situations that they did not foresee is not sensible. The rules should be secondary to a requirement that the leadership provide firefighters with information that will enable them to predict the fire behavior potential on all features of the fire-ground as they engage in the task of firefighting. The (S) courses are not specific enough to accomplish this. Is the leadership able to explain how they would accomplish the necessary fire behavior potential assessment? Can the leadership explain the processes?

I would hope the leadership re-examines the use of the rules of engagement and adopts a more useful and less hurtful way to provide a safer working environment for firefighters in the near future.

By:
Doug Campbell

1/15 Justanothergroundpounder:

Good on you for speaking up. There is always more than one side of a story, I would like to hear more of your side.

Keeping your mouth shut because you need a job this coming season is a cop out. If you don’t bring up safety issues to your supervisors in a timely manner or have the spine to tell someone you are not going to accept an assignment due to safety concerns then you might cause yourself or someone else to lose more than a job. Buck up and speak up for all our sakes.

If you have supervision that is not willing to listen to your concerns, then why the hell would you want to work in a high risk environment under them? Make sure you review the Refusing Risk/Turndown protocols before your next fire assignment they were written for a reason by some very well respected individuals with a century or so of fire experience between them.

I don’t care if you have 2 seasons or 20 you have the right to a safe assignment. But like all our God given rights, they don’t count for much if you don’t exercise them.

Hang tough and be safe.

SpecOps
1/14 Update on the Nuttall Complex Fire Shelter Incident:

The Proposed Action Plan for the Investigation says the Nuttall Complex Fire Shelter Deployment Report should be available sometime in the next few weeks. It appears that a variety of learning activities are tentatively planned so everyone can add some slides to their mental toolbox. A sand table exercise module is planned for inclusion in the annual refresher. Graphic imagery will be created in conjunction with The Center for Lessons Learned. The report (or the imagery) will be added to the Tactical Decision Game STEX Library. Development of a staff ride focusing on the incident is planned.

In my estimation, there will be ample time for discussion and lessons learned. Thanks for the info, contributor. Knowing the report will be forthcoming soon means one less thing for people to get their panties in a bunch over.

On another completely different subject, could You All please let us know who the various award recipients are as they are chosen? We updated the awards page today. We will do it again soon.

Thanks,
Ab.

1/14 I had the privilege of attending the SHF Cramer fire review and, being a guest from outside the agency, had not planned on speaking. So I was caught off guard when Joe asked for my input, and I dont feel like I adequately expressed my thoughts and concerns. I hope most of the folks who were in attendance will view this post.

I learned, by a career in aviation management and risk assessment, that the only way to zero risk is to not fly, and for me that was the choice, so I'm back out pounding the ground where I feel a little more in control of the risks that I face.

The fire organization on the SHF is top notch. Like many of you, I have worked all over the country under many different fire organizations, and feel most comfortable on the SHF. The leadership that is demonstrated in the field and on fires is top notch,
from the engine captains on up. When our crews are on assignment on the Shasta-T all is well, the battalions always provide us with the needed info to gear us up for fire assignments, however no matter how good or how bad the fireline leadership is, the responsibility for the safety of our crews lies with our crew bosses and is delegated to the crew leadership. Our crewbosses are trained and instructed on every assignment to filter orders through what we call our "rules of engagement": The 10's the 18's, LCES, The downhill/indirect checklist, and The common denominators. It should make no difference whether were working for the type 1 IC or an Asst. captain on his/her first IC assignment, we use the filter.

Even under the best incident management a decision can be made, at the crewboss level or lower, that will result in a serious injury or a fatality.

The type III ICs in R-5 especially on the SHF need to keep up the good work. I believe that with your current structure that you guys are supported and will be successful in your assignments if you stick to your organization and use your peers and supervisors. Don't let what happened in a dysfunctional organization affect your decisions to discharge your duties as incident commanders. I have respect for your past accomplishments and confidence in your future assignments.

Thanks,
Skip Alvord, Firestorm WFS
1/14 It's already the time of year for us to begin receiving inquiries from agencies and cooperators to advertise on the Jobs Page. Our first ad of the new year is up and running today. Ex-Shots Fire Service is looking to fill a variety of positions. They are a well established and expanding fire organization who offer innovative opportunities and solutions. Alan says they are willing to pay top wages for the right folks with the right skills.

Our stats for the Jobs page show an average of 5,000 page views each month, year around. The positive feedback we received from last year's Jobs Page advertisers indicate our advertising works! Use the following link to view what some of them had to say Jobs Ads Feedback

Contact Advertising to get your ads placed at the top of the listing now, they are published in the order we receive them.
1/14 MUS asked about the Firefighters guide and the Wildland Fire Suppression Tactics Reference Guide.

Yeah, I know that they exist; and, HELL yes, I use them all the time! Last year I got several boxes of the Firefighters Guide from PMS-NIFC for free, since they were getting rid of them. Gave them out to the new folks in a "130/190" class I taught, and everyone loved them. It was the "standard" that we used at the old Feather Falls Guard Station in 1964, and still had lots of applications in 2004. What do you do out in the woods when the AA batteries on your GPS die??

The Suppression Reference Guide should be the Bible for everyone in OPS from the FFT2 to the Ops Chief; I use mine for nearly every class I teach.

In our rush to become ICS-based All Risk Managers, the fact that most of us across the US are still primarily wildland firefighters has fallen thru the cracks, especially in developing "S" courses. These 2 publications are timeless, should be on everyone's bookshelves, and well-worn from frequent use!

Never can tell when you're going to have to level and calibrate an Osborne firefinder!!

Mollysboy
1/14 Ab,

We have begun posting documents from our FOIA request to OSHA. They sent us about 1,200 pages from their Cramer Fire inspection file. www.coloradofirecamp.com/Cramer/index.htm

We've started by adding OSHA's briefing papers for the Cramer Fire and South Canyon Fire. There were surprises in both - at least for me - in that OSHA consistently places responsibility for the tragedies on management, not the Cramer IC or South Canyon firefighters.

We have also posted a June 19, 2003 "responsibilities and authority" letter sent to the North Fork / Middle Fork district ranger, one month prior to Cramer.

We plan to add more documents in the coming weeks, although it's a tedious process with some copies too poor to scan that must be re-typed.

vfd cap'n
1/14 SpecOp, Ab, groundpounder...

Nuttall Complex Fire Shelter Deployment Review
Has anyone actually tried to FOIA that report to see what the OGC reply is?

Is there an explicit legal threat from the OGC (Office of General Counsel) to those who share it?

Is the transparency FAM (Fire & Aviation Management) has had in publishing reports, providing the best possible info to groundpounders, thinking about safety, etc., now going down the tubes? Is our info-sharing/learning process being encumbered without increasing ff safety? --more checklists and investigations by govt agencies who don't know fire --new restrictions that hinder firefighters lessons learned process? It's no wonder that we get counter-extremists who employ legal tactics and further cloud info-sharing & clarity.

Trying to keep reports "secret" is not how we have done business in the federal wildland fire organizations. Not all crews who were in the Nuttall Fire incident were federal crews. Interagency firefighters deserve to learn from this too or do they not matter? Is this policy of concealment a new direction for when we all come under the DHS? All Risk --HAZMAT, radiological threats --will Homeland Security not want to make any of possible future investigations public to interagency firefighters?

Some other branch of government or the legal beagles of the fire agencies may start keeping secrets, but the federal fire agency will be blamed and attacked sooner or later if they do. The FS doesn't deserve the time it takes or the expensive legal repercussions. The new policy of "conceal the report" is dangerous for ff safety. My opinion.

Tahoe Terrie

Some info in the AAR. This is not the report. Ab.

1/14 Nuttall Complex:
SpecOps-

I have to comment on this "situation awareness" , as someone that was there on July 2nd and stuck in a "Safe Area" of an Aspen Grove. The people in charge of writing this report never asked the members of the crews how we felt about things. Sure Overhead and managers had their meetings. The crew sat in a parking lot for eight hours, no one even coming up to ask our opinion. I am sure that the crewmember that was carried out of the aspen grove on a back board thought his injuries were serious. I understand another crew member quit fighting fire after the incident. YES, CISD was offered but not in a way that people felt comfortable about going.

We knew at 1235 hours that we were in a bad spot. So much so that we asked our squad boss about the growing column of smoke. We were advised that it was two ridges over and we were fine. We even asked our supt. about the Hines Index going to a 6, we were advised to keep mopping up. Just after 1300 we are advised to go to H-4 (Safe Zone) to do this we needed to go through a saddle, during the heat of the day... That did not work so well and we got cut off and sent to the Aspen Grove. In my opinion errors were made on that day and they were kept quiet. I am willing to keep my mouth shut about most things, because I need a job next season but, we should not at all be praising these people.

Signed "Just another ground pounder"
1/14 Oliver, do you think that we’d get more arsons if the press used words
like “cleansing”, “beneficial” and “renewing” to describe wildland fire?
It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it?

Nerd on the Fireline
1/14 Hello,

Was wondering what people think of these two references: The Wildland Fire
Suppression Tactics Reference Guide, PMS 465, NFES 1256; & The Firefighters
Guide, PMS 414-1, NFES 1571.

Do you know they exist?

Do you use either or both? If so how?

There is the possibility that one or both may be revised & their relationship
to the S-courses changed/ increased or decreased.

Thanks for the input.

MUS
1/13 Regarding the Donation of Annual Leave to those in need (Voluntary Leave Transfer Program).

Annual leave from the same agency
www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/opm630a.pdf

Annual Leave from outside the same agency
www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/opm630b.pdf

Both forms need to be submitted via established procedures to the servicing personnel office of your agency.

Lobotomy

Thanks for the research. Ab.

1/13 Scholarship Information for Oregon Wildland Firefighters:

Rob Johnson Memorial Scholarship

This scholarship honors Rob Johnson, a Roseburg, Oregon resident who was one of 14 firefighters trapped and killed by a July 6, 1994 wildfire near Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Johnson, a 1991 OSU Business graduate, was a member of the Prineville Hotshots when he died.

Selection Criteria:
This scholarship is awarded to undergraduate students, with at least a 3.0 GPA, who have completed their freshman year. First preference for this scholarship will be given to members of the Prineville Interagency “Hotshots” crew of the Ochoco National Forest, with secondary preference to Oregon wildland firefighters.

To apply:
Applicants must submit an application form to the Oregon State University Foundation by March 1st. An application is be available electronically on the OSU Foundation website at:

https://osufoundation.org/scholarships/online_app_intro.shtml

this information came from
Sarah Rogers
Administrative Assistant to Scholarships
OSU Foundation

1/13 Mellie,

I didn't take offense to you using Oregon in your post . It seems everything...regardless of truth or spin...airs in Oregon. Maybe it's the Climate? As a native Oregonian, no I don't have the license plate to prove it, I like it when the media uses words like catastrophic and devastating to describe wild fires. It seems to help keep a lid on the number of human caused fires... at least during the week or two of intense and twitterpating media coverage of the catastrophic and devastating fire incidents occurring on our pristine forests during fire seasons without historical precedent. <grin>

Crooning...We don't need no trouble; What we need is love, now. (What we need is love!) (We don't need) Oh, we don't need no more trouble! ..Bob Marley

Oliver Moore ...PS 122 graduate... 4th grade class president ...1959,1960 and 1961.
1/13 AB, if you could post on your site.

Troy Bell is a young AFEO on the Cleveland National Forest who has recently
been diagnosed with Germ Cell Cancer. This cancer is survivable but
requires extensive Chemotherapy. This will keep Troy out of work for
several months which his leave will not cover. You can go to the following
link to donate leave for Troy,

http://fsweb.cleveland.r5.fs.fed.us/operations/donor_forms/1043_bell.rtf
(usfs intranet)


or contact Barb Joseph @ (858) 524-0156.

If you can not afford to donate leave, prayers for Troy and his family are
always accepted.

Thanks in advance for your support!!

Jim Huston
Laguna hotshots

There are ways that other fed employees can contribute, we can find out how. Ask and we'll do it. Ab.

1/13 From the NPS Morning Report

National Parks FY'04 Fire Photo Contest

ANon

1/13 I've updated he Jobs page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages and the 0401 (professional Biologist) listings. The link to 0401  is on the jobs page. Ab.
1/12 Ab - attached is the announcement and registration form for the IAWF Safety Summit in Missoula on April 26-28.
We've got a great line up of speakers, including Kelly Close talking about "Cramer"; US Attorney Mike Johns on "Liability of fighting wildland fires"; and John Maclean on changes - and lack of changes - since South Canyon.
Hope lots of folks can schedule a trip to the Safety Summit - it should be GREAT!

Dick Mangan

For those who want it, I'll forward it. Ab.

1/12 SR,

My button was pushed. What I noticed and took offense with was the person who is often (always) blowing his own horn in these press releases by different groups he's had a hand in forming. He has a PhD in Environmental Sociology. This degree is vastly different than a PhD in Fire Ecology. His self-description implies a status and training that is misleading, in my opinion. He has no degree in fire ecology, fire physics, fire chemistry, ecology, forestry, range management, natural resources, not even biology. To my knowledge, he has no peer-reviewed papers in journals of fire ecology, ecology, natural resources etc. He is trained as a sociologist. Sociologists study the "origin, development, organization, and functioning of human development"; they study "the science of social relations, institutions." While they may go on to apply their study other disciplines, they begin their academic training and have their degree and knowledge base in sociology. To imply otherwise is wrong.

So you see, my hot button in this case has to do more with the ethics and tactics of the messenger than with the message. Too bad for the message, eh? Too bad for finding real environmental solutions or real firefighter solutions or whatever the message was this time.

I do not know your smokejumper PhD friend. I should have explicitly said one wannabe. I succumbed to ascribing group wannabe by association.

Ab, would you change my post to <one wannabe>.

Thanks Ab,
Mellie

Done. For those wanting more info on the message(s) it's easy to google it. Ab.

1/12 I work as a Fire Captain in California. Currently I am working on a presentation on the subject of driving fatigue for firefighters. Can you provide me with any information or links to any information. I would especially like to obtain good visual aids, DVDs, or videos.

Thank you,
Cap'n Kirk

ps I have enjoyed your site for a few years now. Have found a few good books from reading your site.
1/12 Mellie,

I know Joe Fox, and I doubt he's trying to impress anyone with his degrees; if he were, there's at least one more degree he could have included.

If you disagree with what these folks are saying, can you offer a critique of their statements and positions, rather than the characterizations you've given us? What makes them 'wannabes'? Since they are already in fire, what do you think they are trying to be?

SR
1/12 To All:

Once again, I for one am deeply appreciative of how well this fire community forum is working to keep us all abreast of our little niche in the working world. Time and time again it has allowed me to be the most informed (which is a scary concept at times!) person at meetings, workshops, and gatherings. Not to get too weepy or anything... But I consider time on here well spent and worthy of recommending to others!

And, if you haven't ordered a calendar yet, I have, it's awesome, and some of the proceeds go to a great cause.

It might be deep, white, and cold in some areas of the west, but that just means the fine fuels will be thicker when they finally cure!

FirePIPS
1/12 International Wildfire Simulation Conference 2005

Sponsored by the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact
Stoney Creek Inn & Conference Center, Wausau/Mosinee, WI
February 1-3, 2005

Conference keynote speaker topics:
  • Is Simulation the Right Tool?
  • Efficiencies in Simulation
  • Setting Objectives for Simulation Scenario Development
  • Simulation and ICS with the U.S. Coast Guard
  • Simulation and ICS with Emergency Management
  • Simulation and ICS at the National Fire Academy
  • Simulation and ICS with the U.S. Coast Guard
  • Multimedia Management - Cataloging
  • Simulation and Firefighter Decision Making Research from the Australian Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre

Live demonstrations of various simulation systems used around the country, from high tech computer systems to low tech sand table exercises.

If simulation is part of your training program, if you are looking for simulation options other that what you currently do, or you are looking into bringing simulation into your training toolbox, this is an excellent opportunity to gather information and look at what various agencies are doing across the country. For more information and registration information go to the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact website at: www.glffc.com/

Jim Gobel
WI DNR

1/11 Dear Federal Fire Managers, Foresters, and Biological Scientists,

In the widely disseminated letter seen by hundreds of firefighters in the Forest Service, a prominent leader is quoted as saying, "We have a team working to verify the actual situation and identify administrative authorities we may be able to utilize to reduce the pay disparity between wildland firefighting agencies."

In an effort to help, I thought I'd send this to you through the "They Said" forum. The paragraphs below are from the Federal Workforce Flexibility Act of 2004.

I have to ask..... how many times do we need to verify the actual situation and identify the administrative authorities available? Last year, Region 5 had the opportunity to pursue an OPM Special Salary Rate but decided against it. Recruitment, relocation, and retention bonuses have been around for years. With the improvements in the new law, it would be nice to see the Forest Service take the lead in providing a competitive career that attracts and retains the best of the best. This is just another tool for recruitment and retention.

Lobotomy
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Recruitment, Relocation, and Retention Bonuses (Effective May 1, 2005)

Section 101(a) of the Act establishes significantly enhanced recruitment, relocation, and retention bonus authorities that will provide Federal agencies with the flexibility to use such bonuses in more strategic ways to help the Federal Government improve its competitiveness in recruiting and maintaining a high quality workforce. The enhanced authorities will replace the current recruitment and relocation bonus and retention allowance authorities under 5 U.S.C. 5753 and 5754. For example, under regulations to be prescribed by OPM, the recruitment, relocation, and retention bonus enhancements provided by the Act include the authority to —
  • Pay larger recruitment and relocation bonuses based on the length of an agreed-upon service period, capped at 25 percent of the employee's annual salary multiplied by the number of years the employee agrees to serve in the position (up to a maximum of 4 years).
  • Waive the normal cap on recruitment and relocation bonuses because of a critical agency need in order to pay higher amounts over shorter periods of time (not to exceed a total of 100 percent of the employee's starting salary).
  • Pay recruitment bonuses to current Federal employees under conditions prescribed in OPM regulations.
  • Pay retention bonuses to employees who are likely to leave for other Federal positions under conditions prescribed in OPM regulations.
  • Pay recruitment, relocation, and retention bonuses in alternative ways, such as in installments or in a lump sum at the end of a service period.
  • Request that OPM waive the limitation on an individual retention bonus (25 percent of salary) or a group retention bonus (10 percent of salary) to allow retention bonus payments of up to 50 percent of salary based on a critical agency need.

Under the amended provisions in 5 U.S.C. 5753 and 5754, agencies may not pay new recruitment, relocation, and retention bonuses to individuals appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate; non-career appointees in the Senior Executive Service; or individuals in positions excepted from the competitive service by reason of their confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character. In addition, section 101(b) of the Act repeals the special relocation bonus limitation for law enforcement officers. This special limitation is no longer needed because the new relocation bonus authority in 5 U.S.C. 5753 provides a higher payment limit for all employees.

Section 101(d) of the Act provides that the new recruitment, relocation, and retention bonus provisions will become effective on the first day of the first pay period beginning on or after April 28, 2005 (i.e., May 1, 2005). However, a recruitment or relocation bonus service agreement that is authorized before this effective date will continue until its expiration. Also, a retention allowance authorized before this effective date will continue until the retention allowance is reauthorized or terminated, but not longer than 1 year after the effective date of the new provisions. OPM will issue implementing regulations to reflect the new recruitment, relocation, and retention bonus authorities before the effective date. Finally, section 101(c) of the Act requires OPM to submit an annual report to Congress on the operation of the new recruitment, relocation, and retention bonus authorities. OPM will provide additional information to agencies on the data needed for this report at a later date.

1/11 Mollysboy,

Buncha Crapola. Those who have degrees don't have to flaunt it; their work speaks for itself.
Hotshots have it right. No need to toot your own horn, just get the job done. I noticed that
news release this morning on my daily cruise of the news ethers. Heh! News releases are not
necessarily newsworthy. In this case, I'd say, "Don't waste your time. <one wannabe>."
This person loves to form a group with a great name, like he's an insider, gets 2 or 3 outside
"insiders" to join it, and touts it as an inspired counter-revolution. Ya, right, probably teaches
classes in those tactics.

PhD in Environmental Sociology... so did he learn how to manipulate people when it
comes to the environment? How credible.

It would crack me up if he got journalists to actually buy into his flim-flam, but it's a big free
country, especially in Oregon, or is he in Montana now? No disrespect to Oregonians or
Montanans...

He was at HSU briefly. Very briefly. As I recall, Humboldt got some additional dread-lock
and dread-mullet head people out of the deal. No disrespect to Bob Marley. <crooning... one love,
one heart, let's get together and feel all right
>

Mellie
1/11 Has anyone out there had a chance to look at the News Release issued today by the "Common Dreams News Center" about the group called "FUSEE"?

It has lots of quotes from Dr. Timothy Ingalsbee, self-proclaimed "the country's foremost fire sociologist", and Rich Fairbanks, "the Nation's most experienced fire management planner", another guy who is an "expert trainer of firefighters and crewbosses", and Joe Fox, 23 years experience as a firefighter and smokejumper who is also "a forest health expert".

I stand in awe of such expertise, and recommend that everyone get onto Ab's "News" section under "wildland fire" and get the full story. It's a humbling experience to be in the presence of such greatness.

Mollysboy
1/11 By now alot of firefighters of the green persuasion are reading their copy
of the Nuttall Complex Fire Shelter Deployment Review.

The fist thing I noticed is that that "This document contains materials for
internal agency use only and may not be released under the Freedom of
Information Act without Office of General Counsel review".

So I guess anyone outside the agency has to get a bootleg copy and those of
us who normally share these type of things are doing so under some sort of
legal threat from OGC.

Some other interesting quotes from this internal use only document's
Executive Summary.

"In the dangerous business of wildland fire suppression, we call on fireline
leaders to make the challenging decisions of providing for employee safety
while taking appropriate suppression actions".

"The recommendations are neither career-ending or policy changing".

Has anyone told OSHA that firefighting is DANGEROUS? I thought we were
supposed to somehow regulate the danger out of our activities on the
fireline.

What a refreshing concept!! No new policy? No heads rolling? Hmmm.....

Anyone who does not understand Situational Awareness should take a look at
his report if you can without getting busted by the Government Thought
Police. You will see that people were able to see a bad situation(s)
developing and get out of it with no serious injuries or fatalities.

SpecOps

Nuttall Complex Deployment AAR

1/11 Some have made reference to this document that went
around. It looks like OIG's sole purpose in
investigating FS firefighter fatalities is to
determine criminal liability.

COMT

also PublicLaw-107-203 (small pdf file) that initiated OIG investigations
1/11 Does anyone know the outcome of the Radio Support outsourcing process?
What kind of problems are we going to have next season?

RR

1/11 SA = Know what your fire is doing at all times and base all actions on
current and expected weather conditions (having provided for safety first).

This is how some of us were taught.....(life was so much more simpler
then....sigh)

anonymous John
1/11 Another thing to add to the ICT3 list is the local, state, and federal
Cooperative Agreements when under a unified command.

ICT3 PTB task # 15.

Type 1 wrench

Added it. Ab.

1/11 Yo Becky, nice one, got to share this with theysaid...

USFS division chief May retires
www.mtshastanews.com

Are you going to give us another of your infamous installments of
"Zen and the Art of Wildland Firefighting" at your retirement party?
I see you've conjured up some travel weather for the event.
Excellent.

NorCal Tom

1/11 From Firescribe:

Fires DownUnder
Eight Dead in South Australia Bushfires
Australians leap into sea to avoid fire

From the US
SoCal Storms may kill bark beetles

1/11 Veeeeeery nice info on the situational awareness thread. Thanks everyone.

Mellie

1/11 Here is a definition of Situational Awareness:

SITUATIONAL AWARENESS (SA)
(From the U.S. Navy’s Naval Aviation Schools Command)

What is Situational Awareness?
Situational Awareness refers to the degree of accuracy by which one's
perception of his or her current environment mirrors reality.

PERCEPTION VERSUS REALITY
View of Situation
Incoming information
Expectations & Biases
Incoming Information versus Expectations

FACTORS THAT REDUCE SITUATIONAL AWARENESS
Insufficient Communication
Fatigue / Stress
Task Overload
Task Underload
Group Mindset
"Press on Regardless" Philosophy
Degraded Operating Conditions

One definition of perception is "recognition and interpretation of sensory
stimuli based chiefly on memory". Each person's "SA" will largely depend on
experiences that have been locked into memory. Many have termed this the
number of slides you have in your personal mental slide tray. If you don't
have a memory slide that is close to the current environment being
experienced you may not be able to react appropriately.

Situational analysis is breaking the parts into manageable elements so we
can build on new information or stimuli, put the package back together, and
bring the awareness closer to reality. Training and experience are the key
factors.

As stated earlier, there are different levels of SA for the individual,
group, and organization. Each level may be receiving a different set of
stimuli and interpreting the reality differently. One level's SA may cause
a work request that doesn't meet the perception at other levels. It is good
to have everyone on the same page and in agreement but it is hard to get
everyone to perceive at the same level and meet reality. I know I don't
have the answers.

J.Watt
1/11 Mellie, Fire Pup and Oliver,

The current Leadership Courses, L-180 Human Factors, L-280 Followership to Leadership, L-380 Fireline Leadership and L-381 Incident Leadership all refer to the “Situation Awareness Cycle”. I have attached the “Eye and Arrow” Model used in L-180 Human Factors HERE.

Below this model in the Participant Guide for L-380 Fireline Leadership is the statement:

“How well your perception matches reality is called Situation Awareness. If your situation awareness is high, you have a good perception of reality. The idea is that your perception doesn’t change the reality of the situation, so you should adapt accordingly.”

The following definition comes from a long time friend and former Hotshot Superintendent who is heavily involved in the leadership development and instruction:

“Situation Awareness is the ongoing mental process of gathering information in order to develop your perception (a mental picture). You gather information from two primary sources; your personal observations and through communications. The primary challenge is to develop a perception that matches reality as closely as possible.”

It is important to have a solid, stable understanding and definition of SA as SA is the first step in the Decision Making Model and Risk Management process. One must understand that perception and reality are two separate entities that come together to form your Situation Awareness.

The only thing that changes a perception is new information which we gather through observation and communication.

Everyone has some level of situation awareness. In Nerds scenario (which I think is great!) the bartender/IC has the added advantage of knowing what to pay attention to due to experience and responsibility as opposed to the average customer / firefighter. The bartender / IC has practiced and refined his situation awareness skills. As the bartender / IC we all need to continue to practice, develop and provide our customer / firefighters with the avenues to develop their SA skills. Attaining high SA needs to be imbedded as a consistent behavior in our operations.

Models, as the one above for the Situation Awareness Cycle, are used to provide “a simplified description of a complex entity or process”. This is a dictionary definition. While defining Situation Awareness at first glance seems to be an easy task, it can become complex when being taught and learned in the context of the Leadership / Human Factors Courses. Situation Awareness, Communications, Barriers to Situation Awareness, Decision Making and Teamwork are all interrelated and the building blocks and foundation of the emerging Leadership curriculum.

So Fire Pup, back to your original question. SA is different for everyone depending on their environment, experience, position, location and responsibilities. The mechanics of the SA Cycle however remain the same for everyone.

Oliver, you are correct on the time to mull given the duration and severity of the current weather pattern. I believe the answer to your question, “Is SA achievable at an individual level to the degree necessary to provide that each fire fighter has the means to complete an assignment safely?” is yes. The operative word in your question is “means”. How we get there is a different story. We need to first realize that SA is a skill that can be learned, taught and improved. The skill of attaining high SA needs to reside in the affective or emotional domain in order to become an ingrained behavior.

My suggestions for doing this are through in depth simulations, drills, exercises, sand table exercises / tactical decision games and any other training which provides the opportunity to practice and refine the skill. Attaining high SA needs to be reinforced often enough to aid in the transfer from the cognitive to the affective domain.

Nerd I like the analogy! I believe it to be valid based on my experiences as an IC and as a customer…I mean Firefighter.

Mellie, excellent addition to the barroom analogy! I plan on using the barroom scenario in my instructional forays.

yactak

1/10 Greetings Ab's and All,

Just a brief note regarding the passing of a friend that spanned both my wildland and Unimog interests. Jack Russell passed away last Friday of a massive stroke. Jack was involved in just about every Unimog used by local, state, and federal agencies from the late 70's on. His knowledge and expertise was always free for the asking. If any of you old fire dogs remember Jack I'm sure his daughter wouldn't mind another card or two. If anyone knows how to contact Tommy Lane (USFS northern California/ Tahoe?) I'd appreciate it if you would pass along this information.

Jack and Samantha Russell's address:
P.O. Box 410
Garden Valley, CA
95633-0410

Thanks all,
MTUNIMOG

Sorry to hear that. You can find Tom's contact info on the Stanislaus NF via the FS lookup on the Links page under Federal. Ab.

1/10 .......and let's not forget to include the work capacity test guidelines
to go along with that looonnnnnggggg ICT3 must know list!

anonymous john
1/10 Oliver,

I read some excellent online articles on SA last week, but now I can't find them. I have recreated my recent cyber travels through the Leadership Toolbox, the Lessons Learned site and some others. Yactac or Lobotomy might have put up a link on chat. Misery Whip, you probably know the online reference I'm talking about. It had some descriptions like the one you offered for SA. I should have bookmarked the page.

Situational Awareness is the correct term. I think it's shortened sometimes to Situation Awareness, like slang.

Fire Pup, nice message to the highest FS managers.

Nerd, I like your analogy, but maybe it's more like the ICT3 needs to practice situational awareness like a good bartender and then some, by identifying the craziest guy in the room, and then constantly re-evaluating the mood of the entire establishment to make sure nothing sets him off, simultaneously knowing that you can be found criminally liable if he or anyone else is set off.

Mellie

1/10 Ab,
This is a somewhat disjointed post. I've been mulling over the SA question for days. It's raining so I have time to mull. I really am trying to put my arms around the whole SA discussion so I can use the results at our fire school this spring.
I welcome any conflicting opinions to the following rambles: (as if I had a choice...lol)

To begin,
Some of the posts have used situation awareness and others are using situational awareness.
I went to Webster's too see what he had to say. By the way...I didn't use a democratic process to decide which portions of the definitions to include.

Situation: "the way in which something is placed in relation to it's surrounding..."

Situational: "of, related to, or appropriate to a situation..."

I think both words and their definitions are important to the discussion regarding firefighter safety.

Most would agree that SA is both an organizational and individual need.

Organizational SA:
Current, planned and expected placement of fire fighting resources... need to be appropriate to the current planned and expected situation on the fire ground.

Individual SA is harder to describe because of the differences in experience levels of individuals. I think all of the posted definitions have been accurate in describing SA from the experience level and POV of the writer. I also think there might be left brain/ right brain approach to SA. Which makes SA even harder ( but not impossible) for some to internalize and use SA as a means to take appropriate actions.
I think we all understand what we want SA to do... We want SA to provide each of us with the awareness of the fire ground and whether our placement on the fire ground is appropriate to the situation and will continue to be appropriate as the situation changes.
So the question I pose to my peers is this...Is SA achievable at an individual level to the degree necessary to provide that each fire fighter has the means to complete an assignment safely? If your answer is yes... the second part to the question is why haven't we reached this level of achievement across the board?

Oliver Moore
1/10 In spite of the many good examples given of situational awareness (thanks, yactac),
I’m not sure anybody’s really answered Firepup’s question yet. I would say that yes,
Firepup, situational awareness is different for an IC than for a firefighter, but only by
a matter of degree and complexity. A firefighter practices situational awareness like
a guy walking into a bar; you walk in, size the place up, identify the craziest dude in
the room, and stay away from him. An IC needs to practice situational awareness
like a good bartender, by identifying the craziest guy in the room, and then constantly
re-evaluating the mood of the entire establishment to make sure nothing sets him off.

I know there are lots of folks with far, far more IC experience on this board than I…
does this sound like a valid analogy?

Nerd on the Fireline
1/10 I heard that the feds have sent a few type 1 imt's to do tsunami relief in south asia, I also was watching cnn and thought that i saw 3 Alaskan shot crews there doing relief work. Do you have any info about this? I think it would be nice to send some more of our resources do do this work (Natural Disaster work ) like the shuttle recovery and hurricane work in florida. After all the military is thin and we are all sitting hear in the states willing to go help with this world emergency.

Forestfire25

As far as Ab has heard no teams, no crews. Only 3 Agency folks have gone and 1 works from the WO: 2 BLM (1 BLM military liaison went to assist the US military Specific Command with Relief Ops and another went to assist USAID thru the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in Sri Lanka) and 1 FS person is in Thailand. A 3rd BLMer is in the WO helping the Office of Disaster Asst. on this end.  Seems the military and relief agencies are meeting the needs. If anyone knows more, let us know.

1/10 <expected someone to have sent this info yesterday: "Fire-prevention funding escapes Forest Service ax -- The U.S. Forest Service has backed away from a plan that would have cut funding for wildfire prevention in California by $9 million, officials said"

Concerned for safety, northzone's comment was about the CA STATE process, this is not a green or red feud.

CA gov's proposed budget will be introduced in the later AM.
big snows in the Sierras. more rain heading this way. mudslides in southzone.

be safe all,
northzone

www.signonsandiego.com

1/9 What wonderful and insightful posts from "Misery Whip" and John Wendt.
I work for the CDF at an Air Attack Base and will share these well
thought out opinions with the firefighters I work with.

Thank You,
Firefly
1/9 Ab,

I've always been told Situational Awareness is how you get a passing grade at the School of Hard Knocks.

Remember, all of us are in this together, some are in more than others......

Steve LCES

Steve LCES, good quote, I added it to the Quotes to Live By page. Ab.

1/9 Thanks for the Situation Awareness definitions. If those in high places
of policy are not paying attention to the Wisdom offered here, I'd say
they are lacking in Situational Awareness at their level of responsibility.
If they do not act on these issues, they are not true leaders.

Apologies to the Chief, but he should be listening and commanding
others to act to make fire safer from the top organization on down.

Fire Pup, feeling cheeky as the light begins to dawn.
I need that leadership class. Sounds exciting.

1/9 From Misery Whip:

Dozer, great post. Mellie, you rock.

Fire Pup- You ask wise questions. Keep it up. Here’s a definition I like; Situational Awareness is your awareness of the fire, and what you and others are doing in relation to the fire and your goals. SA changes as time passes, the fire changes, or your location changes.

SA is different for an IC. You not only have your personal SA to worry about as you roam around the fire, you must also maintain a bigger picture SA for everyone on and around the incident.

This is something I discovered a few years ago that I find useful. A method was developed to identify the four different levels of SA that can exist in a person’s consciousness. In this system, called the Harral system, condition yellow was identified as the ideal SA state, where you are actively focused on identifying hazards. Condition orange is when you have identified a hazard that has not yet been mitigated. Condition red is a mostly unconscious reflex response to save your life, like jumping out of the way of a falling snag. Or running from a fire that is about to overrun your present position.

The sneaky one is the fourth state, condition white, which is an absence of situation awareness. The problem with SA is you can be in perfect condition yellow SA, focused on identifying hazards, doing great, and in the next second become distracted and instantly be in condition white and have no SA at all. It is very easy to drift from condition yellow to condition white without ever being aware of it. Sometimes these lapses are very short, sometimes they are lengthy. And sometimes bad things happen during these lapses.

Ab- Thanks to you and the folks who said kind things about my recent posts. I have to warn you up front this is another long one. I guess you could call this chapter three of my trilogy; Return of the Fire Dork.

I’ve been trying to make sense of all of the Cramer posts and other wildland fire issues that have been discussed on this site over the past few months. I can’t ever recall a time when there was so much uncertainty and pessimism over the future of our business. Poor old Smokey has really gotten pounded in recent years. Sometimes it seems like we just keep lurching from one disaster to the next.

My heart goes out this new year to all of my USFS brothers and sisters whose lives have been turned upside down by our latest reorganization and the Albuquerque mess.

In the midst of all this uncertainty and deflated morale sits one of the premier wildland firefighting organizations in the world. All of our state and federal wildland fire programs have been under the gun in recent years, but none have seen greater challenges than the United States Forest Service fire management program.

And the Big Green Machine has been getting hammered lately. How did we get to the point where many of our Type III ICs are declining to accept future Type III assignments? How many collective years of invaluable experience and training dollars are going down the drain right now because our agency doesn’t seem to understand what is happening to our best mid-level fire leaders? What kinds of impacts will this massive loss of experience have on wildland fire safety and potential future fire leaders?

The more I reflect on our present beleaguered state, the more I believe it comes down to one underlying problem.

Unreasonable expectations.

The United States Forest Service is trying to operate a twenty-first century program with a twentieth century mentality.

Let me explain why I think this is so. Consider this statement from the R4 “Key Messages for Forest Service Fire Managers/ Lessons Learned About OIG Investigations” release: “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.”

Let’s examine those three questions for their inherent flaws. First, “Did you have a plan that followed agency policy and guidelines”? Don’t make me laugh. I feel quite safe offering two weeks of my take-home pay to any USFS Type III IC who can even NAME all of the interagency policies and guidelines that apply to every area of wildland firefighting operations, let alone remember and correctly interpret which ones apply while you are attempting to manage dozens of interagency resources on a ripping wind-driven fire that is minutes away from burning homes in a subdivision.

In fact, to make it a little more sporting, I’ll even spot you a few of the sources of agency policy and guidelines that today’s Type III ICs are apparently expected to memorize and recall at will:

Forest Service Manual
Interagency Fire Operations Guide (Red Book)
Fireline Handbook
Fire Business Management Handbook
Hazmat Emergency Response guidelines
NEPA
Regional and national engine contracts
Regional and national crew contracts
Regional and national helicopter contracts
Pay rules and regulations for Administratively Determined (AD) employees
Emergency Equipment Rental Agreements for fallers, dozers, etc
Interagency Pocket Response Guide
USFS Health and Safety Code Handbook
PMS 310-1 Interagency Training and Qualifications Guide
Interagency Helicopter Operations Guide
Ten Standard Fire Orders
Eighteen Watchout Situations
LCES
Thirtymile Abatement Checklists
Wildland Fire Situation Analysis

That’s enough for now; I don’t want to make this TOO easy. Remember, two weeks of my take-home pay to the first person who can pass the Misery Whip ICT3 Information Overload Challenge. (New LIST, please contribute. Ab)

Seriously, Ab, how about if we ask They Said readers to help finish this list of ALL of the applicable policy and guidelines that type III ICs are supposed to know these days? Maybe we can show management why this dog won’t hunt.

There are two other major flaws built into this question:

  1. It wrongly assumes that all Type III ICs have... Here is MORE.

1/9 From John Wendt, FMO Six Rivers NF, his historical reflective treatise presented on the date of his retirement 12/30/04:

I attended my final Region 5 FAM Board of Directors meeting in early December of 2004. The meetings begin with introductions and I listened as my colleagues referred to themselves as Fire Management Officer, or Fire Staff, or Chief of Fire and Aviation. When it was my turn, I said, "John Wendt, Six Rivers, fire management officer... fire staff... chief.... We've got to get this straightened out!" It was a spur-of-the-moment remark, was not meant to be taken up then and there, and was said with a smile. But there's something to it.

The interagency fire environment in which we work demands that we identify ourselves in ways that are understandable to our partners, hence we are now Division and Battalion Chiefs, Captains, Superintendents, and various others. Calling ourselves fire management officers, we acknowledge our connection to a large yet discrete chunk of publicly owned property on which and within which we have done many things in the name of land and resource management. At home we serve as staff officers on forest management teams, take our turn on the rotation to act as delegated line officers, and participate in one way or another in a broad range of activities on the forest.

Each of the three position titles reflects demands and expectations that are not always compatible and which regularly compete for one's time. For a number of reasons, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain balance between the duties tied to the three titles.

History of the Position

My predecessor performed what were essentially the Fire Management Officer (FMO) duties but worked under an Assistant Forest Fire Management Officer position description. The FMO of record was a staff officer who also managed the natural resource staffs at the forest level. Upon the former FMO's retirement in early 1995, the position was described and advertised as a GS-462-12 FMO, reporting to the Deputy Forest Supervisor. The job was offered to me in September of that year. The position remained as such until the Forest Supervisor restructured his staff in 2002, at which time the FMO position began reporting directly to the Forest Supervisor, serving in one of the four full staff positions. The position was reevaluated and the description rewritten, described as a GS-401-13. It took almost two years to prepare, advertise, and fill the position in that series and grade. I was offered the promotion in September 2005.

The Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) had been in preparation for some fifteen years, having to be adapted to and incorporate the very consequential Northwest Forest Plan that was evolving during those years, and was signed shortly before. Fire was not a very influential component of the forest's business or planning during those years, as attested to by the meager coverage of fire management issues in the Plan. The predominant culture in the agency was that of the timber program and the LRMP was largely predicated on outputs, though tempered from the near past by emerging environmental constraints.

Click here to read the intervening history, details and points. In addition to supporting his main thesis, John provides much interesting information and makes many good points, while recounting FS fire history in the context of his career... What follows here is his last page, but I urge you to read the whole thing. Just as Jack Ward Thomas' book provides insight -- with "no holds barred"-- into the bureaucratic process, so also does John's honest and informed history reveal much of what the mid- to upper-level fire manager has to contend with today. Ab.

The Three Positions

Back to the point made at the beginning. A number of duties and responsibilities correlate with each of the jobs that typically we are viewed as filling: Fire Staff Officer, Forest Chief, and Fire Management Officer. The increasing demands on each simply do not allow meeting the sum of needs and expectations. Which of the three sets of responsibilities has become the most difficult to ignore?

Ongoing activities and scheduled meetings assure that one maintains presence in the role of staff officer. Representing Fire and Aviation Management while interacting with a wide range of other employees on the forest, participating in leadership team meetings, being involved with forest Program of work development, and serving as acting Forest Supervisor assure that the FMO redeem the responsibilities of staff officer.

The raising of the bar of personal vulnerability requires that our firelines supervisors and incident managers fully accept the fact that their fire organizations have become fire departments and their forestry technician, firefighters. CDF and local government departments find themselves fully engaged year-round in planning for and conducting protection responsibilities without the land and resource management expectations our people bear. When our employees take on the collateral duty responsibilities of incident management, they are held no less responsible for fully complying with the rules than their full-time partners, with no allowance made for the fact that incident duties are in addition to their "official" job. The Forest Service must both abandon the notion that it can hold employees accountable for risks it does not recognize as a consequential part of the job, and provide the clarity, organization, authority, and support to match the need. We have no reasonable option but to function as Chiefs.

Just as the agency finds it untenable to continue with traditional accounting practices in the face of today's oversight and public interest, so should it demonstrate some recognition that the world of fire management has changed and that the organization and support for Fire and Aviation Management are similarly in need of change. We wish to perform the role we learned, that of a land manager whose hand could be found engaged in a wide variety of forest activities, even as additional policies and expectations appear with increasing regularity. But it cannot be all ways. Events beyond the agency's influence have essentially mandated that we cannot continue to expect an employee to succeed as fire staff officer, fire chief, and fire management officer. Care and concern for our human and natural resources should prompt us to more realistically prioritize needs and determine achievable expectations of our people.

Signing Off

Leaving this job is not easy. I have been surrounded by good people worthy of admiration, and have shared exhaustion and accomplishment with kindred spirits. To have been able to work with enduring resources and to be humbled by realizing the brevity of a career against the lasting potential of forests and natural systems, and to have witnessed the effects of choices made on behalf of the land have been deeply enriching. A very basic satisfaction is having been able to touch the earth and be touched by it; to study and listen, hoping to catch an indicator or find another way; and to behold so much beauty tempered and isolated, as it was, by hard work, setback, triumph, challenge, and fun. The power of nature and the will of people who face it create redeeming and lasting images.

This position and its identifier will soon be held by someone else, someone good, who possesses additional talents and interests. But for now, SRF Chief 1 is out of service.

Vita brevis; terra larga - Life is short; the land is long.

1/9 tell it how it is

Glad you left for your structure job. Now the rest of us wildland fire professionals won't have to listen to you brag about a mediocre(530!!!) hour overtime season. Got to agree with Aberdeen. Tell me where that is so I can get some of my younger folks to go there because if they can find a better deal then what they have now I want them to go after it. Yea, the baby boomers are rolling out at record rates. The only group that sent more e-mails than the retirees the last two weeks on my forest was the dam* union. Remember, some of us folks that are left are very competent firefighters and supervisors and will give it a hell of a go to get the job done and if we don't do well, well, the group that is retiring had a learning curve just like us.

The "chicken littles" that keep crying about the sky falling on our heads need to look back at the ground sometime and see what the remaining folks are still capable of.

Situational awareness is knowing what is going on around you at all times and what the ramifications are to the safety of you and your folks as conditions change. It isn't something that you find in a checklist or guide. It comes from experience and observation.

Joe

1/9 The Cramer IC is evidently being held responsible for the death of a FF. I have read many posts that either condems or exonerates the IC. Accountability and responsibility for one's actions or failure to act is paramount in all of the situations that we encounter in firefighting. Some people rise to the occasion, while others submit, while hoping that nothing "goes bad" on their watch. Most of the time, however, it is very safe for us to hide screw up's, because we have the region and the W.O. to help "sweep up".

Here is an example, you decide! October 2003 BDF, Grand Prix. Many of us were there. A wispy column of smoke rising straight up. Three different agency jurisdictions. Typical front country fire. A heavy helitanker launches on IA and is loaded over the fire. A dispatcher admonishes the ship for not waiting his turn, and is ordered back to the ATB. NO ONE INTERVENES. THE SHIP RETURNS LOADED. While IAIC's flip coins over ordering points, the "impatient, and frustrated" fire finally takes it head, and moves out without them! It's gone, and the Santa Ana's are predicted in two or three days. Finally, we officially designate it as a "cluster", and start playing catch up. It's obviously too late for that. An ICT2 team takes it. The fire reaches it's complexity point requiring a ICT1 management team. That decision is unfortunately delayed for some unknown reason. Well you know the rest of the story. Some of are still living with the results. I live in a city about 7 miles west of where the origin of the fire was. That fire should have NEVER reached my neighborhood. Every winter since the fire, I am forced to move from my home because of flooding. Thanks FS for your commitment to excellence!

pb
1/8 Fire Pup,

I will give you an example of Situation Awareness …

Notice how most everyone who has responded to my posts on this page has addressed me as Yactac? Now look at my posts.... I sign all as yactak.

A perfect example of folks seeing what they want to see, or having preconceived notions of what they think should be there, not what actually is there. Those perceptions skew your reality which could lead to bad decisions.

In this case basically, no harm, no foul. In the world of high risk whether it be driving your car, snowboarding, bungee jumping, sky diving or firefighting, the consequences of not having good SA can have serious consequences.

Did you take the Fire Leadership course "L-180 Human Factors"? Excellent definitions and instruction of SA in this introductory course&....

yactak

ps: I have no problems with either spelling…LOL

Well, Pup, you'd better address Ab with a capital A. Tongue in cheek, of course. haw, haw
In all seriousness, you younger firefighters coming to chat, don't be put off by all the "higher ranking" folks visiting. We're all on equal footing in chat, more like family or an informal community than like the formal chain-of-command present in your job. I take that back, our Ember moderates. She's the Civility IC and the one who might cuff yer ear if'n you get out'ta line, but I've also seen her cuff an old dog when needed, nicely of course. haw, haw. Ab.

1/8 Ab added some more docs to the Documents Worth Reading. This is also reflected on the Site Map page.
1/8 Thanks Yactac and Ab.

So situational awareness for a bunch of people in the same situation -you're striving for the same kind of thing, but each may see different things based on their own experience and training. Situation awareness for my supt - he notices more than I do - wow does he ever. I guess striving isn't the right word either - but refocusing your attention to notice things.

Is situation awareness for a IC different than for a groundpounder?

Fire Pup

1/8 "Tell it how it is" says that we can all leave the Great American Tree Harvesting Machine and Firefighting Agency to work less and make $60,000+ a year to start. Sounds like an "infomercial" at 3 Am on local TV.

But I'll bite: give me the agencies in States where the US Forest Service has offices (OR, WA, ID. MT, SC, SD, UT, NM, NV, MN, WI, VT, NH, etc) that offer those great conditions. I'm sure that the exodus would be even greater than you mention, if your facts are straight.

Aberdeen
1/8 Re 67 hr training,
Young FF:

Contact Columbia College or CDF/Tuolumne County Fire Training Division at 209-532-8182 to sign-up or get info. Great class (will happen in June) and I think everyone has a good shot a spot, but no guarantees of course. Also look at the Columbia College Fire Technology Program. I think they do pretty well in the job market too.

"Older FF"

Someone pointed out that the ROP classes include that 67 hour training segment. Most ROP trainings are substantially longer. CDF organizes and teaches a large part of the Humboldt class. Ab.
1/8 Anyone got a copy of the Regional Forester letter sent to the FWFSA that they
can share on They Said? We have heard lots of discussion on chat about it but
have not seen what it says.

Copter
1/7 Hey Theysaid Readers,

I am looking for a CDF Wildland 67 Hour Class in Northern
California. Does anyone out there know where or how to find one?
Any help would be appreciated.

Young FF looking to learn!

Here are some CDF contact numbers you could call and ask. Ab.

1/7 Fire Pup,

Paraphrased a little...

"Situation Awareness" or "SA" used in the Leadership, Human
Factors and CRM context....

The constant re-evaluation of the environmental inputs in order
to make one’s perception of reality come as close as possible
to matching reality.

yactak
1/7 DOZER.............. Well the bottom line is that in todays world the Forest Service is quickly going downhill. Numerous people are leaving the organization at record numbers to pursue fire careers with County and City departments. Washington is always talking about Leadership, yea well, where are the ears in DC. Someone in another post stated "Contact your local Congress person. Why, it always seems to fall on deaf ears like it has since day 1. The old timers (Baby Boomers) are all retiring here very shortly. They are the backbone of experience on Type 1, 2, 3 teams. Look around Folks........ Look at all of the openings, they get filled for a year, then that person moves on County and city job where the money and time off to spend with you family. I had 530 hrs of OT this past year bringing me to 60 Grand. Myself and many others choose to leave our families in the summertime to fight fires...and yes I loved it. But in order for me make that much I ha ve to be gone all the time.. on the road. I can start at 60 Grand a year with city /county and work 10 days a month and off the rest.. 120 days I have to work a year...... hmmmmm, sounds nice... Thats why people are leaving, thats why I left after 13 years. Unfortunately We think it's bad now....just wait

Take Care,
Tell it how it is
1/7 Hey Becky,

I'm coming to your retirement party! I would have called, but your phone was busy! You must be online.

MC

1/7 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).

We still have copies of our fire photo calendar for 2005. Looks great on a wall or above your desk. Ab.

1/7 What does Situational Awareness (SA) really mean? I hear the term
thrown around alot, in the same breath as LCES, but I don't think
that's all of it. I could use some more detail. Does it vary based on
experience level and/or task? Working my way thru some reading.

Fire Pup

I wrote a description some time back when someone abbreviated the term to "SA" and I added it to the acronyms list. For starters, take a look. Acronym List Readers, any more info? Ab.

1/7 Some info:

Debris-Flow Advisory for Southern California

The U.S. Geological Survey is issuing the following advisory for southern California because of heavy rainfall for the past two weeks and rainfall forecasted for the weekend in southern California:

Significant debris-flow (mudflow) activity is likely in areas of the following counties that are susceptible to debris flow and receive intense rain (more than 2 inches in 6 hours in lowland areas, more than 4 inches in 6 hours for the mountains) on already wet slopes. Areas that have been burned in recent wildfires may be even more vulnerable, so that significantly lesser rainfall amounts over shorter time periods could produce hazardous debris flows. These counties are: San Diego, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, Ventura, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara.

Areas of potential danger from debris flow include areas downslope and downstream from the susceptible areas shown on USGS maps (see url below) and from the recent burn areas. Fatalities, injuries, and property damage from debris flows commonly occur in low-lying areas such as canyon floors and near the mouths of canyons. <snip>

http://geopubs.wr.usgs.gov/open-file/of03-17/

1/7 Northzone, are you saying that the R5 2003 California Safety Review is a whitewash????

I think not. Get your facts straight before you post. At least really read what is written
and determine who wrote it! It's not enough on this forum to simply throw out a bunch
of comments, one of which shows you're either grossly misinformed or you want to
stir the pot. Please post responsibly. Maybe you're not, but most of us REALLY
are

Concerned with safety

1/7 Dozer,

"The 1995 Federal Wildland Fire Policy and Program Review, directed federal wildland fire agencies to establish fire management qualifications standards to improve firefighter safety and increase the level of skill and competence in fire management programs. The policy did not say to make wildland firefighters better biologists."

I am now a better biologist with forester leanings than ever before... but I agree with the 1995 Review... my training (except for fire classes) has NOT made me a safer fire manager.

To me, the IFPM educational requirements is a waste of time. I can retire early before it is implemented and finish my degree in Fire Science and get a second retirement check from high paying state and local government agencies, or congressional offices. I want to stay around and make things safer, but until there is a wildland fire series, I am looking elsewhere.

sign me.. I BLEED GREEN, but am tired of bleeding.

P.S. I agree with the Fire Qualifications Standards required in the IFPM. I would also like them to be obtained by the folks providing oversight and management to the program. Good for the goose... Good for the gander. You can't provide oversight and management of a fire program unless you have the experience and education to back it up!!!
1/7 -Losing Sleep, One would hope long before 2004 the "girlie men" jokes would have died a slow & painful death; apparently not. But, isn't it time all FFs regardless of gender don a thicker skin for this forum if only to avoid needless elevated blood pressure?

Tahoe Terrie, as of last week some are awaiting conformation that vacationing FFs in tsunami lands will find a "lift" home. maybe some stayed to help out with response & recovery.

Dozer, do you have any idea how many Fed ICT3s wish they had changed gears and were pushing dirt? few FF skills are as universal.

Abs "IMPLICATIONS.." of 1/6: keep the faith! eventually the number crunchers' bosses will get a call from a rich & influential politician, post some conflagration, and then hopefully get the OK to address real FF concerns. maybe not this next fire season, but who knows where the ladder fuels have taken root and will flourish?

EXCERPTS FROM 2003 CALIFORNIA SAFETY REVIEW har, har, har!, any OFFICIAL after action report that makes it out of the CA state vetting system has been so washed/"foamed", there are few lessons to be learned.

Suggest all write their congressional officials with specific concerns. the squeaky wheel gets attention, although sometimes it's replaced.

<gins> there were a couple more posts I wanted to address - CRS! and I've given myself a headache... time to sit quietly & listen to rain on the roof
be safe y'all!

northzone
1/7 Dozer..... Great Post!!!!

You hit the nail on the head. Without cultural changes, the job of being a wildland firefighter, wildland fire/fuels manager, or line officer will never become safer if we think wildland firefighters are biologists and not professional and specialized wildland firefighters. Biology has little to do with the profession of wildland fire/fuels management. Wildland fire/fuels management is all about risk management, human factors, fire behavior (science), human resources, and countless other disciplines. Because Wildland Fire has so many engrained specialties and knowledges required, it needs its own series to be properly classified. Don't get me wrong, there is a place for biology and forestry in the process (NEPA) and wildland firefighters should have (and do have) knowledge that is required to perform their jobs safely and efficiently... Each professional comes to the table with equal concerns and expertise in the near future.

There has been study after study pointing towards how to become safe and more efficient in our profession. The wildland firefighters understand the studies..... the ologists don't.

The Tri-Data study comments you made drove the facts home. I am tired of participating in studies if my "technician" views are always going to be the last items acted upon and you force me to become a biological scientist, non-specific professional (GS-0401). I am a wildland fire manager, not a biologist, a forester, or forestry technician.

“Goal 59. Recognize and promote the image of the professionalism of wildland firefighting.”

“The agencies must collaboratively define the professional work ethic they want and systematically infuse their organizations with that work ethic through training, leadership, supervision, and effective organization.”

Implementation strategy 2 of goal 59 states that firefighters would view a new wildland fire series

“as an important and significant step which, perhaps more than any other, would symbolize that administration is serious about improving professionalism and firefighter safety.”

ADMINISTRATION..... you paid for the study, Congress authorized it by appropriation. How about throwing a bone to the wildland firefighters and the Congressionals to let them know you mean business in making wildland firefighting safer and not just a lot more biologists trying to keep firefighters safe? The Biologists and Foresters have shown that they can't change the culture. How about letting a professional wildland fire organization give it a try FOR SAFETY!!!

Lobotomy
1/7 CWN, re helmets,

Check out http://www.parker-pumper.com/

they have been building air filtration and conditioning helmets for off road racing
for years. I believe that some agencies here in so cal have used them.

Forester
1/7 Regarding Firescribes post.... Here are a few you can sign into without the subscription.

The Dept. of Homeland Security Press Release:
www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?content=4270

GovExec.com News Article:
www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0105/010605gsn1.htm

Washington Times Article:
www.washtimes.com/upi-breaking/20050106-073029-7194r.htm

Lobotomy
1/7 I am going to get ripped to shreds for saying this, but here it is. I've been a wildland firefighter since 1996 and have been primary fire with the feds for 5 years. I have moved into a new position in a small fire program (myself and one other) at its infant stages, in the hopes of creating something thats worthy to be called "Fire Management." Even though this is a very short time compared to the others that have been posting on this site, I too see many problems in our current fire management areas. I agree with what Dozer said about needing the agencies to correct their many problems. I am torn between the idea of a new series for firefighters or leaving it the way it is. Even though I am not a forest technician (0462) anymore, I have concerns about being able to move into other job series. For some reason, it becoming more difficult to move from one series to another. I am also concerned that with a new firefighter series that we will be stove-piped like LEOs. After rambling on for the last few minutes, I realize maybe I just need some answers.

What are the Pro's & Con's to having our own series?

Nota

We already have a new professional series and it's biologist 0401. Those who stay in 0462 and 0455 will not advance in fire. So the question is whether it's "biologist" or a truly professional "wildland firefighter series" that should become the gold standard. Ab.

1/7 I heard a R3 shot survived the tsunami with minor injury. I think it was a Gila IHC.

NM FF
1/6 I've been afraid to ask... Any wildland firefighters in the South Asia
tsunami? Any firefighter families affected?

Tahoe Terrie

1/6 From Firescribe:

Here's one precedent setting announcement. The government is
changing the way it does business, trying to get a handle on
emergency response. Before 9/11 there were a whole lot of
different emergency response plans involving different agencies
for different kinds of incidents. Now they're all rolled into one.
There's still lots to do... Stay tuned...

Ridge unveils national emergency response plan

1/6 The new Interagency Fire Program Management (IFPM) standards to “professionalize” wildland fire do nothing to address the issues that appear time and again in fire investigations. It is truly amazing that the new standard does not address issues that have been repeatedly identified since Mann Gulch. No credit is given for college level classes in Leadership, Management or classes that are related to or utilized for understanding fire behavior.

Its is time for the agencies to recognize wildland firefighting as a profession and at least require its own series as a technical specialty and require training and curricula that will actually address the problems of the past and guide us in the future.

As a wildland firefighter I am told every year that there is no tree, shrub, habitat or natural resource issue worth jeopardizing the safety of even one firefighter, that the number one priority of the agency is the safety of its firefighters. However, the federal agencies place a higher priority on training firefighters to be Biologists than firefighters. The agencies believe that natural resources are a higher priority than the safety of their employees. By focusing on training professional biologists, the agencies fail to rectify the issues that are continually cited from past wildfire tragedy; lack of leadership, lack of management oversight, lack of knowledge of fire behavior. Not once has the loss of life on fires been attributed to a lack of knowledge of Biology or biological processes. But that is the path the agencies have chosen for professionalizing the wildland fire workforce.

Institutional barriers, particularly OPM classifications, prevent the agencies from truly addressing the training and skills necessary for professional wildland fire training; by insisting that we are natural resource managers instead of managers of people we continue to compromise the safety of our employees, and are doomed to repeat the failures of the past.

When are we going to acknowledge that we need to make people management a priority over resource management? Leadership skills have been identified in every major accident report as needing improvement and development. Yet the new standard leaves this skill to competencies to be learned and developed on the job. This is the same approach that we have used for 50 plus years without positive results.

No credit is given to skills necessary to truly advance our knowledge of fire behavior: GIS, meteorology, Physics and Math are all not included in the new biology based standard.

The 1995 Federal Wildland Fire Policy and Program Review, directed federal wildland fire agencies to establish fire management qualifications standards to improve firefighter safety and increase the level of skill and competence in fire management programs. The policy did not say to make wildland firefighters better biologists.

The wildland firefighting community supports increased professionalism. Phase III of the Tridata Corporation report Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety Tridata report found “Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of those surveyed said there would be some or much positive impact to safety by considering firefighters as professional firefighters rather than as forestry aides and technicians or other general non-descriptive job categories.” The IFPM standard continues to classify firefighters in a non-descriptive biology series

The IFPM implementation guide and supporting documentation cite the need for professionalism as identified in phase III of the Tridata Corporation report Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety. A closer look at the Tridata report indicates that the agencies missed the point of goal 59, and its recommendations.
.
“Goal 59. Recognize and promote the image of the professionalism of wildland firefighting.”

“The agencies must collaboratively define the professional work ethic they want and systematically infuse their organizations with that work ethic through training, leadership, supervision, and effective organization.”

Implementation strategy 2 of goal 59 states that firefighters would view a new wildland fire series

as an important and significant step which, perhaps more than any other, would symbolize that administration is serious about improving professionalism and firefighter safety.” Bold added for emphasis

Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to take classes that actually address the deficiencies we continue to identify in accident reports? The accident reports don’t say we need to be better biologists. They say we need to become better leaders and managers. We already employ biologists and fire ecologists within our resource staffs, let’s use them as the resource specialists and let fire supervisors develop the leadership and management skills necessary to prevent future tragedies.

Dozer

1/6 Greetings all:

The NPS "The Daily Report" makes a reference to the January 2005 newsletter of the USFS Fire Operations Safety Council that contains an article entitled Give Us This Day, Our Daily Rest on the importance of physical conditioning in preparing for fire assignments. Check the article out at:

www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/council/newsletters/january05/january05.pdf

Shep
1/6 To "AL"-

Regarding the Terminator's dealings with the "financial girly men and the financial manly girls of the CA legislature," as you put it, I'll go ahead and mention that if the men were instead girls, or what we might call women, in the legislature, perhaps government would be more practical! I just get sick of the insult that "girly" is bad. I like being girly! (and believe me, it was a fight to get where I was actually "girly" again after fighting fire and working construction in the winters!

TO ALL-

Well, girliness aside, I am flat out near-speechless at this recent turn of events, or as someone put it, "Cramergate". I agree with Mellie's point - if this how we are going to treat public servants working in PUBLIC SAFETY, why in the hell would anyone want to work in this field?

My greatest sympathies to everyone involved in the Cramer fire, and other situations involving fire fatalities. AND, to anyone working on any IC level.

I strongly agree that with southern CA fire or any other fast-moving or complex (such as urban interface) fire, full documentation (and other govt requirements) or even control of what's going on during initial attack is damn near impossible. On a normal IA in southern CA you can have hundreds of folks - during last fall's fires there were hundreds of engines alone from MANY agencies. What did Mellie's post say? "I can see it now in the newspapers 'IC designates first shift the 'briefing shift'!'" And, in follow-up later, some of the public and the media were convinced that if firefighters had gotten one airtanker somewhere sooner, responded everywhere faster, or hiked down into some scary canyons that they could have prevented such nightmares as the Cedar fire or the Old/Grand Prix. What would they say to an even longer delay in response to fill out forms? And these fires were life and death situations - firefighters were racing to get in and get people out of fire areas.

Also, I think there were 23 fatalities attributed to last fall's fire disaster in CA, including one firefighter. What is the legal precedent that has been set from the Cramer situation? I'm scared for just knowing some of the 16,000 people involved in fighting those fires... if the government continues down this path, could any of them end up with charges like those on the Cramer? What about folks working in emergency management or law enforcement who weren't able to warn the public to get out of the way of the fires because they didn't have enough information? Where does it end?

Well, that's enough scariness for me for one day.

On a NIMS note, Mellie, there is more info following the NWCG IOSWT minutes you came across on the NWCG meeting minutes at: www.nwcg.gov/general/minutes/91-final.pdf. I especially like the wording in the second paragraph (excerpt below) just for entertainment value:

"The Forest Service (USDA FS F&AM briefing paper, October 12, 2004) is recommending the NWCG assemble and direct a NIMS Transition Working Team to develop a transitional training program to help wildland fire agencies understand NIMS and the National Response Plan (NRP); to provide recommendations on potential disposition of I-courses; and the develop plans for engaging wildland fire agencies in the ongoing development and implementation of the NIMS and the NRP.

The recommendations are aimed at ensuring the NWCG NIIMS will continue to be the source documents for NIMS, rather than NIIMS being driven by NIMS.

During discussion, it was noted that NIIMS cannot form the basis for NIMS without being fully documented. There are bits and pieces, but has never been assembled into a current and comprehensive document/set of documents. During its development, NIIMS never kept pace with FIRESCOPE and other local/municipal standards for such as hazmat.

It is not realistic to expect NIIMS to be the driver of NIMS; rather NWCG needs to get involved in the driving of NIMS. A proactive NWCG approach to get involved on steering/executive groups driving the NIMS efforts was suggested. Addressing the perceived fire bias of ICS is also needed. At the January meeting, NWCG will work to reach a decision on how to proceed with involvement in NIMS."

Also, these minutes have some valuable information on the National Incident Management Organization (NIMO), especially regarding T3 IMTs, and on AD use.

Take care y'all, and be safe out there-

-Losing Sleep

1/6 I may have suggested this some time ago, but I can't remember (CRS)....it may have just been a discussion at work. Apologies to you all if I'm repeating. Then again I think this idea could stand repeating.

First I will say that this is not mine. It came up in discussion with a friend at work about the AD rate fiasco. His idea is this: Why not create a workforce "reserve" hiring authority similar to the military for retirees. They would be hired back at the same rate they left the service and would still be "sworn" agents of the government (something they are not as ADs). They could be used for all aspects of government work on a short term basis unlike ADs, who are limited to emergency work.

Some of you may think we already have this authority with the permission to hire back "retired annuitants". My understanding of the current authority is that it is only to be used when the situation is so bad that all other avenues have been exhausted and then you have to get permission from the WO to do it. The "reserve" idea would make it easy to hire back someone to not only fight fire, but also to help with other projects like specialist input for an EA or answering the phones when the receptionist has to take emergency leave or helping with a big hiring push.

Unfortunately this won't solve the problem of the new lower than ever AD rates (which I disagree violently with!) but it could provide a little more flexibility in taking advantage of retiree's skills. I suppose it would take an act of congress to make it happen. Whatever. Just an idea.

FirenWater

Do those overseeing hiring want to take advantage of retiree's skills? Everything I've seen suggests not. I think the bean counters might just want retirees, indians, state teams, vollies, temps serving past their 1039 ... to go away. No need to pay them then. Unfortunately for the rest of us, those AD firefighters and fire support people might just do that. IMPLICATIONS... Ab.
1/6 To whom it may concern

I read most of the posts on this sight and I've enjoyed alot of the post in the past but I would like to put my two cents in on some of the Cramer fire discussion.

Nerd wrote: (It's simply so much easier to select a scapegoat rather than to identify a weak point in organizational structure).
I don't think Hackett was a scapegoat but I don't know why more people didn't lose their jobs over the deaths of Heath and Allen. What happened to PB and GM <Ab reduced names to initials>? Oh they were sited for lack of oversight and direction of Hackett. To me Hackett was their puppet and when things got to hot they cut the strings and let him take the fall by himself. These two people knew the system was flawed and did nothing about it. We have to remember that the Salmon/Challis had a Type 1 or 2 IC on the forest and he left just before this accident because of the poor management on the forest.

It was also stated that Type 3 ICs aren't positioned in the food chain such that they can devote their full undivided attention to the sole task of being a Type 3 IC. If your an IC, no matter what level, if your not focusing strictly to the job at hand then you better pass that fire off too someone who is qualified or you better refocus. There will be "more hell to pay" if someone dies because you couldn't stay focused or were trying to do more than just dealing with the fire than if you miss a deadline on something. We've been told time and time again if you're the IC then that's your only job, if you can't do that then don't be surprised when you're held liable if something tragic happens. Now I know we all try to do more because that's what is expected of us but it's time to step back and rethink "what is the priority".

Later,

Billfire "retired"

1/6 Ab, speaking of Tsunami Times, as Mellie put it!

There's a rumor out that CDF pensions have a good chance of being discontinued in 2007 for new firefighters coming in after that date. I've heard Arnie the Terminator of CDF will be putting the initiative on the ballot. A ballot initiative lets him off the hook. Keeps our legislators from thwarting his desires. Guess he's decided there's more than one way to deal with the financial girly men and the financial manly girls of the CA legislature.

Ab, I know this sounds like a hoax, ya, like from the land of fruits and nuts and hollywood governators... I don't think it is, but I would like to find some articles and some more info. If things come back bad, I'm thinking about moving to Montana to Dick's town. I might get used to Moose Drool. (Really, this isn't a joke, please look at my email, I've written in before... I put they said in the subject line...)

AL

State Pension Revamp Sought Sacramento Bee, yesterday
Word of warning: Montanans hate interlopers from CA. Ab.

1/6 R6 TC;

A blanket statement from the feds saying that “the Agency will support their ICs legally if a mistake in judgment is made”. Never happen, my friend…I suppose in some ways murder is a mistake in judgment. It would be very nice if the Agency could say something to the effect of “We will support all command decisions made on the basis of available information and Agency SOPs”, but I don’t see that happening either.

It would be very nice to see something along the lines of the four-part standard for culpability applied to EMTs:

  • The individual must have a duty to act,
  • must have acted outside their standard of care (or outside of SOPs),
  • harm must have been done, and
  • the inappropriate actions or failure to act of the individual must have caused the harm.

That way, any IC acting in good faith and within SOPs would be protected. It’s simply so much easier to select a scapegoat rather than to identify a weak point in organizational structure.

As an outsider, what I’ve gained from this entire discussion (which, at this rate, will keep going until we’re all dead or something worse comes along) is the impression that Type III fires are kind of the bastard children; too big for one person and too small for an established team. Also, it seems that Type III ICs (no offense guys) aren’t positioned in the food chain such that they devote their full undivided attention to the sole task of being a Type III IC…they’re usually FMOs or DIVS or suchlike, with a normal workload that has to get done too. Likewise, they’re not policy makers…which makes it harder for them to get resources and easier to make them targets.

(extremely cynical) Nerd on the Fireline

1/6 The 2003 Safety Review makes a lot more sense than the Cramer investigation reports. Good job to those who wrote it.

The authors of the Safety Protocol Review of the 2003 Southern California fires had the foresight to write the following paragraphs back in April of 2004, before the completion of Cramergate. There is obviously a service wide issue of I.C.s (all types) not being able to police the actions and insure the safety of every individual firefighter, but being held accountable to do so. A classic "Catch 22" scenario if there ever was one.

I wonder if the Cramer fire investigators ever read any of this and if they did, how could they in good faith lay criminal charges on the Cramer I.C.

No wonder many of us are giving up our IC quals or retiring as soon as we are able.

Backburnfs

EXCERPTS FROM 2003 CALIFORNIA SAFETY REVIEW

The capability to directly demand and enforce compliance with the Standard Firefighting Orders and respond to the Watch Out Situations resides with the crew and module supervisors. Setting expectations, providing oversight, and ensuring accountability are responsibilities of Incident Commanders. Those interviewed concluded that some of the policies resulting from the Thirtymile Abatement Plan require that enforcement, instead, be the personal responsibility of the Incident Commander. They further observed that in recent years the agency has instituted guidelines and policies that, at times, seemed to be irreconcilable with the urgency of fire operations and agency expectations for Incident Commander performance. The burden imposed by these increasing agency expectations constitutes a disincentive to serve or acquire qualifications as Incident Commander.

Local Incident Commanders performed in dangerous, challenging operational environments on both fires. Their attention to the task was accompanied by concern they would ultimately be judged by others--others not burdened with the responsibility of safely achieving fireline objectives--on the basis of their compliance with safety rules, regulations, and guidelines. This sense of responsibility exists on all incidents; however, the magnitude of these Southern California fires and the rapidity with which they developed correspondingly elevated the concern. These concerns were shared with us by Incident Commanders at the Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3 levels, some of whom questioned their continued willingness to serve in the Incident Commander capacity. This concern is evidenced by the increasing difficulty to recruit new Incident Commanders.

We recognize that anxiety over conflicting demands to comply with safety protocols have prompted several Incident Commanders to reexamine their willingness to serve in the position and appear to have deterred additional individuals from becoming Incident Commanders.

1/6 Couldn't the Agency leaders get the federal lawyers to say the Agency will
support their ICs legally if a mistake in judgment is made? Couldn't we have
a copy of the FS Investigation without the white out so we could see what
not to do? Or couldn't oig or doj tell us WHAT Alan did that made them
go after him so hard he had to plead out?

I want it in writing.

R6 TC

1/6 Todd,

As a result of your PS, I had to do a search for any info on NIIMS (National Interagency Incident Management System, mostly wildland fire) and NIMS (National Incident Management System, Homeland Security).

Here's what I found from the NWCG Minutes (pdf file) of the Incident Operation Standards Working Team (Joint meeting with Training Working Team) October 19-21, 2004, last item of business. (There's only one FS rep on that working team, but the FS makes up the largest part of the current IIMT organization. Strange...)

NIMS vs. NIIMS (M. Johnson): NIMS is the national standard for all emergency responding. It will be managed by the Department of Homeland Security. An issue paper is being presented to forward concerns to NWCG this week regarding the opportunity to highlight the foundation NIIMS can provide to the new program and recommend NWCG involvement in the NIMS development.

I don't know enough to understand what this means for fire. Seems to me the time to be involved in developing NIMS was more than a year ago, maybe two, but we all seem to have our heads down, digging line within existing FAM agencies. Maybe only I am uninformed on this. I wish someone "in the know" could give us a heads-up report on the current relationship. Sounds like NIMS/Dept of Homeland Security is in charge of us. I recall hearing some of our FS fire folks, retired, example Dave K, helped with the construction of NIMS on paper, but I may be wrong. I have heard that there are as yet few guidelines for specific standards or quals. I heard that on the hurricanes, local crews and "teams" self-proclaimed Type 2, Type 1, etc. Hard to know what was backed up by training. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Another few random thoughts and questions:

1) If we have trouble getting/retaining ICT3s for wildland fire under NIIMS (and I don't know if we won't or will), where does NIMS figure to get ICT3s? ICT2s? ICT1s? It's not like there is another ICT pool hiding out there in the wings. Fed Fire provides the IMTs for FEMA, etc. (I'm always amazed that the Public thinks there's some "Magical Group" other than wildland fire who will take care of us! Wake up folks, the emperor has no clothes! In other words FEMA and Homeland Security are nekked without cooperators!!!)

2) Re Cramer implications... Once legal processes begin, it's hard to change course. First legal cases become landmark. Current law is based on prior legal precedent. Beyond what may be right or wrong about Cramer, involvement of OIG/DOJ and equivalent of a plea bargain for Hackett sets legal precedence for investigation/prosecution on future incidents. OIG/DOJ will always be prosecutorial (perhaps not as extreme, but kinda like the lawyers on TV who advertise for this of that group who have been wronged). I worry for the future of AARs and open and freely discussed Lessons Learned that have taught wildland firefighters so much at the grass roots level about safety.

The implications outside of wildland fire? Current direction suggests to me that there will be a trajectory for more litigation against ALL who work for the public good, from structural firefighters to police and others involved in NIMS, as well as NIIMS. NIMS is (or will also be) a complex technical system dealing with rapidly changing and uncertain events and mistakes in judgment are bound to be made. And... when incidents occur - because of redactions required by the same fed legal beagles to "protect" those accused - NIMS public servants, in similar roles to NIIMS public servants of today, will also not know the rules and risks of the firefighter/public servant "playing field". Uncertainty with concomitant lack of single-mindedness due to extra worry is a potential killer when decisions must be made on the fly.

My thanks to those in Boise who work hard at trying to deal with the stuff their boss requires. Where can the time and funding come from to look at systems -- so as to be able to do things differently or in a more streamlined fashion?

Wishing for clarification. Willing to hear any input. My main focus is wildland fire, so this post is speculative and questioning. I keep thinking that those who stay involved will have a chance to influence the future in some way.

We live in times of unprecedented change for parent wildland agencies -- TSUNAMI  TIMES. Change may simply have to arise out of clearing up the rubble and starting with a clean piece of ground. I am optimistic.

Mellie

1/6 Apparently folks from congressional offices aren't having an easy time getting information out of the Forest Service regarding the new AD rates, perhaps because of the usual December exodus. Information I submitted will be sent from one congressman's office to the Forest Service this week. I have, in the past, worked on Forest Service responses to congressional requests, and know that the likely response from the agency will be a sweet assurance that the AD rates are just wonderful, legal, and the best for all concerned. The real question: will the congressman see through the guff?

Still Out There as an AD

1/6 Thanks for the info.

Todd

1/6 I wonder if by concentrating so hard on Type transitions, and complexity factors,
we’re compromising the scalability of ICS?

Nerd on the Fireline
1/6 Ab and Everyone--

Well, I tried to write to your web page before, and I guess it was not sent thru, so here goes again. I have worked as a FedSource hire, as a federal contractor with my own company, as a permanent federal fire employee, and as an AD. They all have pluses and minuses.

Good suggestions on the "Blue Ribbon Panel" to look at the whole AD Pay Plan. That was supposed to happen this past year...

The Incident Business Practices Working TEAM (IBPWT) was supposed to have done just that. The May 21, 2004 memo (attached) said that an AD Task Group (hopefully, a team of experts) was to look at which functions were "Inherently Governmental" and were NOT to be performed by AD employees (seems they feel ADs are only employees when it comes to tort cases and Worker's Comp). By extension, then, if ADs can't do those "Inherently Governmental" functions, in all likelihood FedSource hires (who are on Personal Services CONTRACTS) could not do them either. But that makes sense, so, with the government, that is probably wrong!

This Task Group was also supposed to come up with "leveling tables" and a "leveling report" addressing complexity and wages and issue those by June. No one has seen those as far as I can ascertain.

And, reality, folks. Most of the fire managers (THAT HAVE ON-THE-GROUND FIRE BACKGROUNDS) agree that this AD Pay Plan is bullsh*t (even those old fire dogs at the upper levels). They also have diplomatically told their agencies as much, but no one upstairs is listening. Most fire mangers feel that their input on the AD Pay issue is disregarded entirely. Even those on the committees forming this Pay Plan who spoke up were disregarded...

The same May 21 memo says that another Task Group would look at "alternative hiring authorities", maybe including FedSource (?). Current Contracting Officers I have spoken with directly indicate to me that a contractor CANNOT direct/supervise government employees OR OTHER CONTRACTORS, especially in hazardous situations where tort claims could arise against the government (that is, on firelines, in aviation management, in fire camps? hell, we kill folks with trucks all the time in camp)..

So, back to the AD pay issue. I have already turned down an AD assignment in 2005. Yes, while most of you ski bums and tropical vacationers are waiting on March and April for the AD Pay Plan to come out, it is already fire season. Where is the AD Pay Plan?

In the past, I have taken early season assignments, assured that the wages would be "similar" to the previous season, and when the new rates came out, I would get a "supplemental" check. I fear the supplemental check this year will be a bill for collection due to overpayment if the wages go down. So I am not going.

Hey, you ROSS nerds at NICC surfing and reading this: What percentage of Single Resource Overhead Resource Orders last year were filled with ADs? How about the last 5 years? (Hmmm, ROSS doesn't go back that far). How about just the last two years? How about per function? Ops? Aviation? Dispatch? Logistics?

Might be a decrease in filling those this year...

Is this all being done to decrease large incident costs? Remember when the heads at NIFC decided to decrease the 21-day assignment to 14-day assignments? The original intent was to get more "militia/collateral duty fire" and state forestry employees available for fire assignments. It was later deemed it was for safety (I won't deny it is probably safer), but the original intent was for MORE FIRE PERSONNEL AVAILABLE FOR ASSIGNMENTS. How much did that move increase large fire costs? Now, in an apparent effort to reduce large fire costs, the folks at NIFC lower AD wages, which will make LESS FIRE PERSONNEL AVAILABLE FOR ASSIGNMENTS. But hey, less personnel, lower costs, right? And less experienced personnel, fewer accidents and fatalities? Seems to reason (in a governmental sort of way!).

Sign me "Lots of Info/No Answer" (LOINA)

The attachment is a photo of a memo. If anyone wants it, email Ab.

EMAILS THAT DON'T GET POSTED: If posters put theysaid in the subject line of emails, we're more likely to notice it if it goes in the spam filter. Our spam listing comes to us late every afternoon and it is large. We try not to miss emails of interest as we sort thru the potential trash, but they may be overlooked especially if we're busy, on holiday <haw haw> or on the road. Once we whitelist the email addy a few times, it's less likely the filter will catch emails from that source again. So new contributors who write from blind accounts or include attachments/photos are more likely to get filtered than old ones.

I have some photos to catch up on. I'll try to get to those today. Ab.

1/6 On January 5th, C-Span aired a program on National Forest Policy. In that program, Mr. Mark Rey (Undersecreatary of Agriculture), Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), and Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) were presenters.

During the question and answer period, the first question from the audience was about the Cramer Fire and the injustices towards Alan Hackett. Rep. Walden made it very clear that the intent of PL 107-203 was NEVER meant to make Forest Service firefighters criminally liable.

Congressman Mark Udall was not aware of what was happening and was not able to fully comment. It is time to get the writing pens out and let our congressionals know what is happening if we want to save the Forest Service.

Rogue Rivers
1/6 Yactac-
You've spelled your moniker with both capital and lower case Y; out of respect I'll use the capital. Not knowing what assumptions are imbedded in the complexity guide I focused on the Type 1 description where is says divisions will be filled with qualified persons. If that is the only place where qualified persons are required as a complexity element I didn't make an assumption, I read it as a requirement, so then not required at a lower level. No argument with the assumption, it just isn't stated.

I didn't advocate using trainees per se, but to what level are trainees being trained; T1, 2, 3, 4, 5? At some point a person in training should be able function at a lower level incident, in a more controlled environment to stretch their capability. Task books are as you say, a standardized method. They are probably not the best method as they are presently formulated. Some times you gotta dance with who ya brung. I've been privileged to have a majority of our Captains, engine and crew, who are DivS qualified.

When you say team I see the full blown, fill all the slots, group coming to town. I've previously written about our efforts to support an emerging fire with a predetermined extended attack module, a really small team, if you will. No names are designated, good interagency cooperation from on duty local, state, and federal fill the slots when the module is activated.

We seem to be parallel tracking with a different visual interpretation of what we're writing. We can't see each other waving our hands (not fingers!) or drawing in the dirt for real comprehension. So, I'm wounded to have caused you to think I wear a better-than-thou badge. I only contend that a competent ICT3 should only need limited support to command a multi-division (four or less) extended attack fire. I fear negative events and perceptions will cause an ICS quagmire where the process is the event and the fire is window dressing.

Fuels Guy-
In context I agree with you. The real problem is the focus on the leap from IA to major fire. The extended attack fire fighting program has been left to flounder. If good extended attack commanders are not developed and supported, who will replace the Type 2 and 1 folks?

J.Watt
1/6 Thanks, Todd, for the good thoughts.

In response to your post on using FedSource as an alternative hiring method to the AD method, it is my understanding, possible incorrect, that the former Chair (USFS employee) of the Interagency Business Practices Working Team (NWCG IBPWT) put out a policy 2-3 years ago that, at least within the FS, effectively prohibited payment of FedSource hires using firefighting suppression funds.

Reasoning was unclear …I think they (IBPWT) recognized that if ADs signed up on FedSource, it would have destroyed the AD Pay Plan system. With a FedSource vendor, you name your price and get true overtime. Economic market determination (and capitalism) at its best!! The vendor of course charges the agency to cover its admin costs and to make its profit.

As far as I and the other Board members of ADFA are concerned, the AD Pay Pan indeed needs to be done away with and alternative hiring methods developed. There is such a group in place now tasked with looking at alternatives, but look at the membership (go to www.nwcg.gov/teams/ibpwtnew/ibpwt/IIHATG/index.htm) and click on Charter Memo (http://www.nwcg.gov/teams/ibpwtnew/ibpwt/IIHATG/CharterMemo_20040812.pdf) . It’s all business mgmt types. The same type of folks that brought you the Proposed 2005 AD Rates.

My question is, posed to the head of NWCG, the National fire Agency Directors, and Regional/State Fire Managers, as well as Type 1/2 ICs, is where is your representation on these groups? The IBPWT groups have and continue to negatively and severely impact your ability to staff fires, teams, dispatch offices, etc. At the “old” 2002 rates, there were ADFA members in key shortage positions who refused to go out at those 2002 rates. Our ADFA membership is approximately 300, the e-mail lately since the Proposed2005 rates came out is running 75% “I will no longer participate on fires at these rates. They are an insult and demeaning to my skills, knowledge, and experience, and illustrate little or no knowledge on IBPWT’s part of the complexities we face on the fireground.” This despite IBPWT’s claim that they consulted SMEs.

The IBPWT charter groups report back to NWCG and to agency fire heads. However, this particular group (the fire ops types) have – at least to this date - pretty much rubber-stamped the NWCG IBPWT’s recommendations. The tail has -- and continues to be -- highly successful in wagging the dog.

Hopefully that will NOT be the case with this current rate proposal, as well as the highly-flawed leveling/evaluation process that contributed to this sad situation.

For full information go to www.adfirefighter.org. All our communications with the agencies as well as our analyses are on the “Documents” page.

For an idea of what ADFA intends to do by the end of January, see the first edition of our newsletter, the “ADFA Times,” at www.eteamsolutions.com/adfa1/Vol1Number1Jan2005Newest.htm

For a 100% complete AD rate comparison of every ICS position (amount and percentage decrease of the Proposed 2005 AD rates), go to www.eteamsolutions.com/adfa1/PayDecreaseAndEquitability.pdf. It also compares 2-week paychecks of ADs with FS 1s thru GS 15s (between $2000 and $7000 per pay period). Quite a chunk of change.

Regards,
Hugh Carson

1/5 I have been wondering why ADs out there who might be considered "retired experts" don't work via the Fed Source hiring option?

I'm sure the AD hiring plan was ever meant to replace regular fire resources... but, thinking about AD temp firefighter hires... We've gotten used to AD hiring flexibility, even hiring temps back after they've used up their 1039 seasonal time. My opinion is that if we need 'em, if we use 'em more than 6 mo, they should have an appointment and be getting benefits. In the past many of us worked almost full time as temps. It sucked, looking back on it. The uncertainty was BS. Better than unemployment, maybe/maybe not, but no way to run a professional fire organization. That's the down side. As long as AD exists, it can exploit.

The upside of employing temps and temps extended by AD hire is that it's one way to evaluate performance under a variety of conditions and with a variety of supts/coworkers. These days I've noticed some new people maintain best behavior for a number of months. After they're hired permanently, the honeymoon's over, you're stuck with them for life.

If the AD system needs to change, what are other options? How can the tribal crews get hired if not AD? Summer hire lets those guys get their families through the year financially; most do a good job, some do an excellent job.

What about vollies? Hiring them and their engines upgrades local fire resources and helps us all.

What about the state teams that have to work AD? States should change laws so they can get paid for working out of state as cooperators. If we didn't have AD hire would there be pressure for change at the state level?

Here's a suggestion. How about put the AD changes on hold for now? Maybe some interagency group could sit down and look at the whole list of hiring options. A Blue Ribbon Panel tasked with coming up with a more efficient list.

Todd

PS. Another question... how will these people who are hired in various ways under NIIMS get hired when we all come under NIMS? Has everyone forgotten that's in the works? Homeland Security...

1/5 RAWS, sounds like Margarita time! All we need is the salt! JD
1/5 get ready, perfect storm??

Three Storms to Strike the US

Pineapple Express, Arctic Express and Warm moist air from the SE converge...

RAWS

1/5 From Mellie: Here are some comments I copied and pasted during chat last night.

Basically the SoCal Fires 2003 review says that during the SoCal Firestorm of 2003 those of us fighting the fire on IA could not meet the "Thirty Mile" Abatements but we did meet the "commanders intent" and kept our people safe.

Commanders Expressed Intent (mission type orders) to accomplish a task in the face of complexity and uncertainty, a description: Aftragstaktik, also known as Commander's Intent... Achtung! And Leader's Intent from the Leadership Toolbox

(Hitler and his war machine (lg ppt file, pretty detailed for the casual reader) who had been using excellent tactics, started losing WW II when Hitler began trying to dictate  tactics from the top instead of imparting his INTENT and leaving tactics to his well trained professionals on the ground - good for the rest of the world in that case. Demonstrates the value of utilizing commander's intent.
In our country's Civil War, the Battle of Gettysberg was won by the Union because the Union Commander transmitted INTENT to his colonels to use the best innovative and adaptive tactics moment-by-moment.)

Some abatements are now lists of things that must be done and documented. zum kuckuck nach mal!

Providing the written words/documentation that the abatements require can actually cause more harm for fire managers and firefighters, diverting attention way from the incident to meet "abatements" rather than following the core principles.... 10, 18 [13 sic], LCES.

It is impossible to meet the briefing and pocket card handout checklists on a fast moving IA in our neck of the SoCal woods... unless you set up a staging area and dont fight fire for the first shift..... I can see it now in the newspapers "IC designates first shift the 'briefing shift'!"

Following a discussion of how ICT3s might set up automatic voice recordings of briefings over the radio, provide prepackaged check in sheet, etc to cover their asses, someone wrote this:
Initial attack forces (at least in this neck of the woods) are prepared for their jobs! The 30-mile abatements do not recognize this. "Fixing it" (adhering exactly to abatement documentation) in the field on a fast moving fire can't be done; the worry divides firefighter attention. This needs to be fixed systemically! Those of us on the ground when all hell breaks loose are currently in a lose-lose situation unless we choose to not fight the fire at all.

And in frustration: I'll tell ya .. all this crap is making my pea brain spin..... I am just gonna fight fire!... damn the torpedos and full speed ahead!! ARGGGGGGGG

You do not have a pea brain!

we are scapegoat material
we need to get that Fire Leadership Council to ride along with us on fires; some of them need a reality check.

When you have great IA commanders worried about meaningless documentation of stuff we live and breathe, stuff that we have taken care of for years during training and pre attack drills....instead of paying attention to the IA and our people...it is ludicrous!

1/5 Ab,

I was just looking through NWCG's Wildland Fire Education Working Group site - their links page - for the first time. Not bad in some areas, but out of touch with the groundpounders. They don't have wildlandfire.com linked except for your Indians Fire and the Ecosystem page. Are any of those people creating that site involved in firefighting on the ground? interagency groundpounder education, issues,concerns? They have some link to a site firefighting.con. It has little to do with wildland firefighting that I can see... and a whole lot with selling products. Go figure.

Tahoe Terrie

Terrie, no need to fret, the power of this website and this forum speaks for itself. We've never worried about whether certain websites link to us or about public kudos from the agencies, although it's nice to feel appreciated by individuals behind the scenes. <heh>

Here's a little exercise.
Google "wildland fire". We're at the top of the list, aside from the handful of good fed sites that the public visits. Sometime during the winter training months when public visits to the fed fire sites fall off, we're second. <haw, haw> We don't go away fire season or training season and we've gotten better and better because of you all over the years. I have been impressed with the quality of information shared and discussed here. We all profit from the education.

Google "wildland fire jobs" or simply "fire jobs". There we are. Lots of people looking at jobs and our easy access into OPM for new firefighters trying to figure out the system. A lot of handholding behind the scenes at times as well. In certain seasons there are fire ecology jobs posted. We have many standing links from universities and colleges with fire ecology/forestry/natural resources majors and from JCs and other ROP programs with fire sciences emphases. Those who are, or who would like to claim to be, training the "professionals" know where the professionals (you all) are hanging out and where the young, upcoming wanna be professionals check for jobs.

Google "wildfire" and click the Images category. The second photo is from Wildlandfire.com Photo Page 15. There are others that pop out as you go thru the googled pages of wildfire images. I mostly know R5 photo productions and training as well as the photo requests I answer, but I always enjoy seeing photos this community has shared showing up in R5 Chief Officers meetings on ppts; at Engine Capts meetings as a display, at Humboldt State University; at professional wildland fire ecology conference poster sessions; for training; on schoolkids websites from east to west coast; and I heard photos from wlf.com made up a large part of at least one presentation to Congress asking for more severity funds several years ago.

My point is... Firefighters and agencies, news organizations and the Public from across the nation and around the world read wildlandfire.com. The internet is for sharing information. We Abs are here for the long haul. You members of this wildland firefighting community have a right to be proud of your profession, your contributions, your service. We're proud of you and appreciate the time posters contribute to sharing information. Ab.

1/5 A bit of web trivia I heard: In the first 24 hour period after the Earthquake of 9.0
off Sumatra, the USGS website had 150 million visitors. Rather amazing! Even
more amazing is that the system didn't crash!

The size of these figures should make it extremely clear that the world finds out
first about government activity, news, etc via the internet. If you or an agency
have a message to get out, you'd better <darn> well say it on a website!

Mellie

1/5 I heard that Mick retired rather than continue in the current stew of legal
uncertainty surrounding ICs. None of us want our family to be in
jeopardy for our actions at work. I also heard that one of the long-standing NM
Type 3 organizations is unable to find an ICT3 willing to step up to the plate.
This all shouts watch-out for the next season.

NM FF - formerly of R5

1/5 Yactak:

I would like to strongly back your information sharing and designated ICT3 teams points.

The current 'Cramer' failure to release "what the determining factors were that the OIG used" will be another handicap for the coming fire seasons. Apparently those protecting employee privacy rights want us to relive history.

"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."

Yes Sir!

The organization I work for is a combined BLM/FS one that operated with a rotating preset ICT3 team in place this last season. My contention is that these teams would be far - far more unlikely to have Cramer, 30-mile or South Canyon type events.

{There are at least two more weaknesses here:

1) The time gap that still would be there as the Type III team is being ordered.

2) Those dry lightning bust/multiple fire start events that task overload everyone.}

Sounds like a few of us are ready and willing for a form of NIMO to be implemented and that it must include a TYPE III level capability.

I am not aware of a higher priority in the fire world than up-grading the Type 3 teams. Not just the IC, but the entire team.

Fuels Guy
1/5 Happy retirement to Mick McCormick. We're missing you already.

SoCal FF

1/5 J. Watt,

FYI, I have read the complexity guidelines more time than I care to remember, than you very much! What it actually says is:

a. Some of the Command and General Staff positions may be activated, as well as the Division/Group Supervisor and Unit Leader levels.

Nowhere are trainees mentioned. Normally when ICS positions are discussed, unless “trainee” or “t” is specified, the assumption is that a fully qualified individual is being addressed.

As you can see from reading the complexity guidelines of a Type 3 Incident, the incident characteristics have a wide range. In my IA area, incidents are either picked up at the Type 5 or 4 complexity or they slide right through the Type 3 complexity to Type 2 or 1 so fast your head will spin. Now do we stop fight fire and wait for a team? Obviously not…One of my points was that our agency needs to have pre identified individuals to fill the Initial Attack / Type 3 incident positions. Another is that if that is not possible, activate the Type 2 Team…. Seems to me that is why you have the teams …to use.

As far as your statement that any ICT3 that needs a team shouldn’t be one…..well, guess we all just can’t be as good as you.

I recognize that our two agencies do many things differently to accomplish the same end. If you and your agency are comfortable with trainees filling positions instead of completing their trainee status first …that is your business. I am personally glad that the Fed has the Task Book system and NWCG prerequisites for qualifying our folks. While not the perfect system, it provides a documented, structured avenue for folks to accomplish their OJT.

I agree with your post of Jan 4 regarding the level for ICT3…ICT3 does not belong at the STL/TFL level. It needs to reside at least at the DIVS level or quite possibly OSC level given the current ambiguous wording in the complexity guidelines.

I also agree with your last statement:
Now I raise my half-full glass and proclaim the new year to be one of good intentions, clear thinking, and safe fire fighting.

Best to ya,
yactak

1/5 Ab-

Attached is a link to an article from the British Medical
Journal by James Reason. The author provides a compelling
argument that a person-based management system which uses
retribution and fear to keep employees in line will never be
able to create a high-functioning safety culture. This why we
need to revise our thinking about blaming and punishing
individuals when serious errors in judgment happen on
wildfires. If you dig hard enough, you can almost always find
the underlying systemic causes of an accident. What we really
need is a Dryden-style review of our wildland fire program.

Human error: models and management

Misery Whip

Excellent description and visual of the swiss cheese model and a good explanation and examples of high reliability organizations. Ab.

1/4 Good report here. I appreciate all the folks who work so hard at all this, trying to make sure wildland firefighters stay safe:
Kent Connaughton, Ed Hollenshead, John Wendt, Dan Felix, Matt Kingsley, Jerry McGowan, Gary Thompson, Sally Haase, Peter Tolosano THANK YOU!

Safety Protocol Review 2003 SoCal Fires

Nice chattin' tonight. Lively!

Mellie

1/4 hey Abs, All-

Another great read: Steel my Soldiers' Hearts, by Col. David Hackworth. Tells of his experiences in Vietnam. Of particular use is an appendix regarding the importance of small unit actions and the necessity for training squad leaders. Transfers pretty well for our line of work--I've used some of the things advocated myself.

Thanks for bumping up the AD rates, also.

Class C Sagebrush Faller
1/4 AD Apache,

I read "The Leadership Teachings of Geronimo"….definitely worth reading…a couple of more from the Leadership web page “Professional Reading List” that I highly recommend:

"The Lance and the Shield" by Robert Utely. A biography of Sitting Bull…a great Sioux Leader….

"Crazy Horse and Custer" by Steven E.Ambrose…. The parallel lives of two American Leaders

Both books rich in history as well as leadership styles and lessons.

Yactak

Fire Leadership Professional Reading List

1/4 Greetings All, Abs;

I don't know if anyone has previously made this point, but what about the impact of the AD rate lowerings on the future corps of firefighters? On our crew, our primary method of finding new hires for the next season is to "try out" interested people as ADs after the school slotters leave in the fall.

These prospective hires already make less than the GS-4's on the crew. It almost seems criminal to pay them even less than they get now.

I am uncertain about how big the cuts have been; perhaps there has been a link posted that I missed. If someone could bump up the pay cuts, I would appreciate it.

Thanks, all, and stay safe.

Class C Sagebrush Faller

AD Rate comparison

1/4 Socal CDF-

ICS is supposed to fit the need and be flexible to assist in organizing incident structure. It is not intended as a legal security blanket. Look at the requirements for an IC3, that may be the red flag that should be fixed. The command quals may have been "dumbed down" because the training and development programs (all agencies) aren't meeting the need. Why is the Division Supervisor such a bottleneck in the federal system? Why isn't DivS required for IC3? If you aren't certified to command numerous resources as a DivS, how can you defend your ability to command a multiple division incident? If I were a legal beagle I'd start right there. If ICS is used as designed for incident management, even the lowly single resource supervisor who can say that they have a plan, communicate the plan, and manage the plan has a defensible position so long as the plan and required action isn't violating policy, procedure, and common sense equitable to the situation. Policies and procedures that are too restrictive may create more liability than they prevent.

About 15 years ago CALOSHA put out the word that they were to take a harsher look at public agency culpability. CDF BC's and management felt we were under the microscope for lawsuits and fines. Without being a Pollyanna, our fears were not realized. It was good pressure for us to review how we were conducting business. The liability is still out there, maybe we've just
been lucky.

SoCal is not the only place where incidents grow rapidly in just a few hours. One of your problems, high population, is a benefit in resource base and "qualified" fireline personnel. Look to more rural areas in and out of CA and the resource base is way below the norm you enjoy. The result is you southlanders put heavily staffed Type 3 ICS systems into use faster if for no other reason than to manage the volume of available resources. Waiting for a team to be assembled in rural areas is time lost. If it takes an entire operational period to put a local Type 2 team in place how would a Type 3 team from the same basic resource pool be any faster?

I agree with your comment on CDF's seemingly under-the-radar after action reporting. The legal snake in the grass is probably one of the biggest factors. It seems we treat work problems that we can learn from as if they are car accidents; give no information the other party may use in a lawsuit.

Now I raise my half-full glass and proclaim the new year to be one of good intentions, clear thinking, and safe fire fighting.

J.Watt
1/4 From a point of view in the aviation and aviation maintenance field. The reduction in AD rates and the mandates of the age 37 rules set by Congress and the agencies for a "younger and more agile workforce" is going to force a rethinking of this whole thing. Experience doesn't necessarily only occur in the agency aviation ranks. Start looking elsewhere in the real aviation world and request those people. It is not only YOUR show, You have no reason for turf protection. Start getting smarter. The pulling of airtanker contracts by agencies in 2004 only showed the ignorance of FAA, NTSB, and military aircraft standards. Now the reduction in AD rates may show the next stage in "aviation knowledge." When somebody assists you in your missions in AD status and has to pay their own way to the show, you may really have a person dedicated to a mission. ADs are your source of experience when agencies refuse to hire others permanently

I'll sign my name to this because I still keep up my aviation knowledge base and wildland fire standards by doing the WCT and attending wildfire training and keeping up with BOTH industries!!

Leo K. Larkin
leoklarkin@hotmail.com
1/3 Maybe someone should look at the IMPLICATIONS of changing AD rates
before it's done. R5 will be ok without ADs. What about the rest of the West?
Imagine a season like 2000 with few large Air Tankers and ADs from fallers
to ATGS that refuse to work for small wages? Could be a blow up.

Strider

1/3 Only half a pair of shoes for Baby?

AD Apache

Ab, a book recommended for those interested in leadership:
Fielder, Donald J. The Leadership Teachings of Geronimo: How 19 Defeated 5000.

1/3 Speaking of aviation safety. Are there many ATGSs in R3 that are
not ADs? Could be a big screw up next fire season if less than a
handful of ATGSs showed up to fires.

noname

1/3 The International Association of Wildland Fire's annual "Safety Summit" will be held this year in Missoula, Montana on April 26-28 , and would like to include presentations and posters dealing with Wildland Fire Aviation Safety.

We're inviting Aviation folks to submit abstracts of 200-300 words on Aviation Safety subjects for the Program; if there is enough interest, we plan to have a separate "track" of Aviation safety presentations concurrent with other Safety Summit sessions.

If you're interested in talking about Aviation Safety at the Safety Summit, send your proposal by January 24th to Program coordinator Bret Butler at bwbutler@fs.fed.us, or to me at blackbull@bigsky.net.

Hope to see a bunch of aviators at the Safety Summit in Missoula!

Please pass this message onto others in the Aviation world who may be interested in presenting a paper or poster!

Dick Mangan
1/3 J Watt, I would agree with you theoretically if the legal climate for the FS bros was different, but the reality is that the feds apparently are not supporting their ICT3s. In socal IA can become EA within hours with thousands of acres, and 700 people from 4-5 agencies involved. Do we try to pick it up? Hell ya, and so do they and most of the time we do and they do... BUT... If I were still fed, I'd be worrying about my butt too under the circumstances. How can you fight fire 100% when you're wondering all the time about the what ifs? As far as pressure goes, we have Cal OSHA but not both OSHA & OIG breathing down our necks. We also have an agency that somehow dodges the bullet, when you get right down to it. My only regret on that is not getting the lessons learned. Heck we had an incident where 50 people deployed shelters and aside from a green sheet there's nothing.

Socal CDF
1/3 WOG,

You put it more accurately than I ever could have. Thanks for the perspective.
We have got to find some ways to get the system sorted out so it's not just a
mass of END RUN solutions.

NorCal Tom

1/3 Misery Whip!

Your 12/13 message is awesome, totally frigging awesome. Pleasure to read such a well written, well researched dissertation. This is the best work I have read (and that has been extensive) on the subject of wildland firefighting safety. This not only concerns Cramer but past tragedies and will unfortunately have to do with the next ones also if we do not start to behave like a learning organization. Work like yours will only help us get to where we need to be.

Thanks from Boa!

PS. Hope to work with you on the big one.

1/3 Re: AD Pay Plan

Here's another view on the AD Pay Plan. File this under "unintended
consequences" or "If it is too good to be true it probably isn't! ".. The
AD plan was never intended to supplant resources hired under regular OPM
rules. As usual, the agencies started using it to bypass things like
regular benefits, budget problems, poor staffing plans, and unrealistic
expectations. And as usual, the agencies did everything they could to
change the outcomes of funding shortfalls. So instead of a 60% budget
resulting in only 80% IA success and lots of things burning up, we achieved
97+% IA on less money. A helluva deal! Why should Congress or the agency
heads ask for anything else? Using the AD plan for what should be a
"regular" organization is not good management. The agencies have all the
hiring authorities they need. Using the AD plan for anything else is the
real travesty, not the pay rates. Increasing the pay rates would increase
emergency suppression expenditures (that's where the funds come from); OMB
and Congress already fight over this part of the appropriations....there is
no new source of funds so emergency suppression funding indirectly competes
for Preparedness funding. If the appropriators can avoid scoring impacts
by keeping preparedness low, then all is well...especially if the agencies
backfill using the AD plan. No benefits; no career ladders; no new people
hired; increased burden...helluva deal. Let's give ADs a $100/hr...its
free, right?

WOG

1/3 Fuels Guy;

Aw shucks, buddy, you don’t have to defend me from VFD Cap’n. I appreciate the sentiment, though. This one of those bar-style pool tables with the little internal mechanism that drops all the balls down to one end…I’m trying to figure out how to make all the sand drain out that end automatically so you don’t have to bail all the sand out if you want to move it. And it definitely has more in the way of slope and aspect than, say, most of Kansas even as is.

Nerd on the Fireline (ducking to avoid feedbak from Kansans)
1/3 yactac-
I can't buy into your assessment that Type 3 incidents need teams for management or CYA. Type 3 incidents are the "bread and butter" of the wildland fire program, generally one burning period to containment. They are operations oriented, the prime support need being logistical support. Your package of ICS forms, filled out as the IC, is a plan. A good plan is one that provides goals, organization, and the ability to adjust to evolving conditions. Following the plan requires that the need for adjustments be recognized, communicated, and acted upon. Type 3 ICs who need a team shouldn't be one.

Read the complexity criteria again. It doesn't say that "qualified" persons are required to fill positions. It just says that some command and general staff positions, some unit leaders, or division/group supervisors may be activated. I'm sure all agencies would prefer that qualified individuals fill the positions but the key is a Type 3 incident is evolving from an IA response, or in the case you cite, a downgrade of a contained fire. The reflex time on the build up is critical; delaying control activities or active management to build a set piece organization is unwarranted. In an incident downgrade does a Type 1 or 2 team take all their toys and go home? While the preference is turn the incident back to the home unit, the home unit doesn't have to accept the transfer if the complexity of what is left is more than can be handled. Management needs to step up at that point to protect their personnel.

CWN-
Dozer operator helmets. There are a few manufacturers of air purifying systems. CDF used a brand called Cal-Mil for years. There are a couple of cautions to talk about; as an air filtering system they are designed to block particulate matter, not gases and the weight of the helmet may lead to neck injuries. I don't recall a major injury due to high CO or other gaseous products of combustion but the operators could work more efficiently in smoky conditions. We did have several operators who needed to have cervical fusions that were attributed, in part, to using motorcycle weight helmets. The newer dozers with enclosed cabs are still air purifying systems with air conditioning. They can't be operated in an IDLH atmosphere any more than could the air supplied helmet systems. Check with MSA or other industrial safety companies. They have many types of powered respirators that they may have already adapted to dozer operation.

J.Watt
1/3 I was wondering if you had any info on some air-conditioned helmet/hard hat
used in the western states of dozer operators. I have seen some pictures and heard
about them a short time ago and am following up on this. Any info would be great.
THANKS

GREAT WEB SITE ON FIRE FIGHTING !!!!!!!!!!!!

CWN

Thanks, Colin. Ab.
1/3 Good links on RPD.

Reading and rereading some of it makes me think that becoming a single focus
professional federal fire organization may be the biggest step we could take to
keeping people safe. I hate the thought but going on as we are seems like
pissing in the wind.

There is inadequate fire behavior training and too many checklists.

NorCal Tom : feeling nostalgically GREEN today

PS Good comments on 12/31,Yactac.

1/3 Fire Pup

For more info on RPD, try this link to "Findings From the Wildland Firefighters Human Factors Workshop: Improving Wildland Firefighter Performance Under Stressful, Risky Conditions: Toward Better Decisions on the Fireline and More Resilient Organizations". Check out Gary Klein's paper on naturalistic decisionmaking on page 33.

www.wildfirelessons.net/Library/Safety_Health/HumanFactorsWksp_1995_Part4.pdf  (Ab note: This is a pdf file. I believe the diagram described in the firechief article in yac's post is on page 34.)

The Findings publication is almost ten years old, but it does a good job of tying together human factors concepts like High Reliability Organizations, Recognition Primed Decisionmaking, and crew cohesiveness.

www.fs.fed.us/t-d/php/library_card.php?p_num=9551%202855 (User name= t-d. Password= t-d.)

As for staying safe on fires, keep your eyes and ears open, do a good job of assessing risks, practice your entrapment avoidance skills, and if everything else fails, hopefully you have frequently practiced Entrapment Reaction Drills as described in the Lessons from the Thirtymile powerpoint training program (here's the link).

www.fs.fed.us/t-d/php/library_card.php?p_num=0251%202W01

Misery Whip

There's a link to the fs library (with username and password reminder) on the links page under federal. Good place to browse. Ab.

1/3 Mellie,

There is an online (fsweb) reporting system for personal exposures in the new FS Dashboard program. Whether or not its a good system?..... that will be known as soon as the first employee tries to utilize the data to correlate exposure to an illness. It is basically an automated system to process CA-2s into the OWCP database.

For California federal folks, there is a free online reporting system for members of the California State Firefighters Association (CSFA). The website for CSFA is: www.csfa.net. It requires membership to access the reporting system. I'm sure there must be some other systems out there that fed folks can use also.

Lobotomy
1/3 Fire pup,

There are a ton of resources for you, and many classes. 190, 290, 390, 490 and then 590. And Doug Campbell's classes.

But, for the fire line I suggest you ask your supervisors questions. Experienced firefighters know more about fire behavior than the average FBAN, they just don't want to deal with the paperwork and training to be one. I am an FBAN, and I talk to the Shot Sups all the time to decide what to say in documents and in briefings. They are the best at knowing what a fire will do. Experienced engine captains, fuels folks, and other overhead are no different. They know! Ask them!

BB
1/3 Fire Pup,

Here is a link to an article in Fire Chief magazine that is a great place to start your search for the definition of Recognized Prime Decision Making or RPD.

http://firechief.com/mag/firefighting_right_call/

L-180, Human Factors, is included in the 2004 rewrite of the Basic Firefighter Course S-130. If you can get a copy of the student workbook for L-180 or better yet take the class, you will find articles addressing decision making under stress including “RPD on the Fireground”.

I would suggest going to the leadership web page as one source to continue your quest for fire knowledge and decision making skills…excellent info on self assessments, continued fire education and leadership, reading programs, etc, etc…An excellent place for us all to use for our continuing education.

www.fireleadership.gov/index.html

Good Luck,

Yactak
1/3 to quote C. Judd:

"I deeply regret passing on the unexpected and shocking news of the death of congressman Bob Matsui (D-CA), my congressman from Sacramento. I was very honored to have known Bob...."

We met when we were kids; shortly after he and his family were released from the WWII internment camps. In those days, folk didn't whine and moan about inequities; they worked/studied hard for a better life long before any Federal or states legislation to "even the playing field", as it is today.

YOU readers now reap the benefits of those who toiled, not just for themselves personally, but eventually/subsequently for the great majority of the post-war-to-end-all-wars' "working class", regardless of ethnicity.

Sad to say, I don't see anyone on the horizon who can fill this political void.

River

1/2 I deeply regret passing on the unexpected and shocking news of the death of congressman Bob Matsui (D-CA), my congressman from Sacramento.

I was very honored to have known Bob and worked with him over the last 11 years on base closure issues and more recently, federal wildland firefighter issues. Regardless of your political affiliation, Bob was a humble, hard-working and decent man. I was born and raised a republican and as the FWFSA's lobbyist, have a number of relationships of both sides of the aisle and I can tell you that there was no more decent person on Capital Hill than Bob Matsui.

His support of our issues leads a huge void on the minority side of the aisle. However as it is likely a special election will be held to fill his position, the FWFSA will ensure it meets with prospective candidates. It is highly likely that his wife Doris, who previously worked in the Clinton Administration will, like so many widowers and widows in congress, fill the seat.

Regardless, I hope all of you know how great a supporter of our issues Bob was. I will miss him greatly.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
1/2 I've been reading theysaid over vacation. Thanks for the education.

Can anyone tell me more about Recognition Primed Decisionmaking (RDM)
that Misery Whip talked about?

Fire Pup

ps ab, how do you get more training and experience in fire behavior?
stuff that lets you make good choices?? i do want to be prepared for
my own safety.

1/2 Schools:

FYI,
Anna Marie college offers a four year fire science degree while WSU doesn't really have a fire science program.
www.annamaria.edu/

Also Oklahoma State University has a fire protection program.
http://fpst.okstate.edu/
 
On the two year side, Olympic CC of WA state offers a fire service program.
www.oc.ctc.edu/Learn/AcadDivDept/MESH/FireSci/index.html
 
Thanks for your website. My son really wants to become a firefighter and this is helping him to make his choice.

Ron

You're welcome. I clarified the WSU listing. WSU has a fire ecology focus within Natural Resources. Not exactly fire science as in training firefighters, but fire management.

Readers, it's time again to check and update this page that you can get to via the Links page under training and Education...
2 and 4 year schools in fire science and fire ecology
Anything new you know of, we'll add 'em. Anything we should take down?
Ab.

1/2 I know CDF has a personal exposure reporting system site online.
Does such an online site exist for federal wildland firefighters?

Should there be one?

Mellie
1/2 NM fs firechick:

National Public Radio (NPR) is indeed preparing a radio documentary on the negative effects of the proposed 2005 AD Directive on Native American wildland fire crews. The scope of this documentary will also likely include some discussion on the negative effect of the directive on VFDs, seasonal dispatchers, and retirees. It will certainly examine how implementation of the proposed directive will negatively impact our overall wildland firefighting capabilities both in the Southwest and nationally.

Several members of the AD Firefighter Association (ADFA) are actively involved in the preparation of this documentary. We are also providing NPR reporters with contact information for key BIA, FS, BLM, state, etc. officials.

The proposed directive was released to internal and public scrutiny just prior to most of the key federal government folks who would be approving its implementation going on annual leave for the holidays. With active interviews of key officials finally happening in the next few weeks it is likely that it will be at least mid-January before there is a finished product. Since it is now 2005 it is anticipated that in the next few weeks there will be considerable pressure on these folks to approve the proposed directive. Should that happen the scope of the NPR documentary will certainly expand and there will likely be other media coverage as well.

As Ab said, check the ADFA web page at www.ADFirefighter.org for updated information regarding ADFA's efforts to address the proposed directive's obviously negative shot at all AD firefighters. Folks who have something to offer to NPR regarding this documentary are urged to either contact NPR directly or to get in touch with ADFA through the website so we can get you in touch with them.

NMAirBear
1/1 Ab, does anyone know about NPR doing a piece on the AD rate thing and
how it screws native american fire crews, fire department and VFD folks?

If anyone hears when it airs, please let us know. Is anything coordinated
being planned?

NM fs firechick

Check the AD Firefighter Association site. Link is on the Classifieds under Associations. Ab.

1/1 Ab,

I read a really good book Deep Survival. Not exactly fire, but shows
who lives who dies and why. It's on your book page, you put it on the
training and education, for those looking for a very interesting read.

Another TC

Yes, NorCal Tom wrote in about that one. Your email prompted me to post it. Thanks. Jack Ward Thomas' book under reference/environment is another popular one. While not entirely about fire, it shows the political and bureaucratic processes that those at the highest levels face and the courage of their convictions (and cohones) they must have to bring about change. Ab.

1/1 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). Jobs for the new year...

Readers, check out and purchase our fire photo calendar for 2005. As anyone who has one can tell you, it's awesome. We chose the best flame photos that have come in over the years and Original Ab has done a mighty fine job of putting it together. Ab.

1/1 Nerd-

Regarding the old fire hall pool table. I bet it would do just fine as a sandtable.
What percent slope does it have? Aspect? Vegetation?

To vfd cap'n:
Give the guy a break, he was serious.

Fuels Guy

haw haw. Has vfd cap'n replied yet? I think not. From what I've seen, he always provides thoughtful and civil clarification. Ab.

1/1 The Tuolumne Fire incident is under investigation, but Cal OSHA has
participated because it's CDF. I guess there's a different process.

We do need to wait on that discussion until the investigations are done.

SoCal Cooperator

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Cheers, HOPE and RECOVERY to all around the world who have lost so much. From the Abs at wildlandfire.com

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