February, 2005

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2/28 Greetings Folks,

Can anyone point me to current FRCC info or mapping for R1 - the Flathead in particular? 
I was looking over a WUI fuels project Sunday at about 3800 feet here in the Flathead - 
and was walking on dry grasses.... On a sad note, there were four Portuguese wildland fire 
fighters killed yesterday in a burn over.

Stay Safe,
2/28 Hi Ab's,
Sad day in Portugal - Four-firefighters-die-in-portugal-while-battling-wildfire.phpl 

Whitefish, MT 
2/28 Bill
The Green Meadow fire did entrap an engine crew of Ventura County Fire Dept. The Capt. name is Mullen. A video was produced of the event titled Life and Times of a Firefighter. You might contact Ventura County Fire Dept. or Capt. Mullens for more information.
Good luck
2/28 Ab and All-

For those tracking the generations I bet most of your new folks are
generation Y- those born in 1976 and after...

Missed the X and am a Y,
2/28 Alan --

Yes, those are the specs of a narrowband capable radio. 12.5 kHz is
narrow band. I'd really recommend getting a P25 compatible as digital will
be used within the next few years.

2/28 Alright, alright, I ordered the bleeping book already. Through the site’s link, to make Ab happy. I hope you people realize that you’re enabling an addict here…my reading habit has begun to preclude my having normal relationships. In a year I’ll only be able to talk in quotes. Pretty soon, the reading material in my line pack will outweigh my shelter. Another interesting source for SA information and theory: The Bulletproof Mind by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. It’s really law-enforcement oriented, but there’s a whole lot there about how to mentally prepare for worst-case scenarios before they happen, and how to make such preparation more effective.

Nerd on the Fireline
2/28 Bill, from my memory (which this late at night maybe faulty), there was an entrapment on the Marre fire, I do not think that any fire shelters where involved and I don't remember about the injuries. I do know that one crew refused the assignment.

Young and Dumb in R-1: I can't remember from your post which school you are attending but hopefully here will be some useful advice. Find out if your college has a job/career center. If they do have them pull up the X-118 which will give you the classes that are required to qualify as a 401. As a forestry major you should qualify, but double check. Make sure you get all the classes you need to qualify in the 401 series so you will not need to take the classes that others already in the agency are trying to get. Also, find out from that career center if any of the other regions are offering any SCEP jobs in fire that are not necessarily in the apprentice program. If you can get a SCEP job, don't worry if you will end up going to school longer and they do hire graduating seniors! Don't worry about if you ever use that degree. I was hired in the mid-80's in the co-op program (which is know called SCEP) in fire management and I have a forestry degree. I can't really claim all that stuff I learned about measuring trees I have ever used, but all the writing I was forced to do in college has helped me in my current job as a fuel officer. The other thing (boy have times changed...I was a hot shot and went to school), do not worry about getting on a shot crew this year or next year. If you want different experience, go to an engine in a different region or forest. The hot shots will still be around when you get out of school.

To ab: I use your photo page all the time for power points for training sessions, (and thanks to all who contribute photos!) could you please consider adding a section for weather photos??? We are all really good at taking fire photos, but good weather photos which influence fire we don't seem to have or I haven't found a good spot for them yet!


We'll think about weather. Ab.

2/28 Ok, I have tried to read and understand everyone's comments for a while now and I need someone to try and put all the info about being an IC4 and almost IC3 into perspective. To put it in a more sense of thought, am I going to be able to go out and do the job I am paid to do?

I am sure that a bunch of us would like to know, because it seems that we have pretty well beaten this whole topic into the ground.

2/28 Ok -- So not being a radio guy -- I'm looking at
radios...Is this example a narrow band compliant
(non-digital) radio?? Will this work on federal/state

Specs told to me.....
"12.5 and 25khz spacing 150-170mhz."

2/28 COMT--

Interesting test, but there appear to be some real flaws in the methodology. The rf switching should have been between the repeaters and the duplexer-antenna. Using two different duplexers could definitely skew this test. It appeared that they were using a handheld in a vehicle, rather than a mobile with a properly mounted antenna. Even with a good mobile install, the effects of the changing surroundings, especially in fringe areas, can make a dramatic difference -- it is worse with a handheld being used inside. For most users, the tip of the antenna will be hitting the roof liner if they are holding the radio properly, that is, vertically. Most users in a vehicle tend to hold their radio horizontal, and this really reduces signals. (not to mention that the transmitted power from a handheld tends to affect vehicle electronics -- my rig jumps out of cruise control if I use a handheld)

It seems to be a part of Murphy's law that the probability of a fire occurring increases in fringe areas of repeater coverage. We need to be aware of coverage holes and take immediate steps to provide better coverage during fires. The NIFC repeaters are one good method of improving coverage, but it takes from 24-48 hours from the time the decision is made to get one to being fully deployed. Human repeaters can deploy within minutes of the need arising. They are in the same class as LOOKOUTS, and may even be the same person. It is amazing how many times I've had calls about deadspots on fires and when I ask if a human repeater has been deployed, the answer is no... Radio propagation is governed by the laws of physics. The frequencies we use, VHF and up, are basically usable only if you can "see" the other stations location. If you have Line of Sight, you have communications. If you have obstructions, you most likely do not have communications. While fringe areas are out there, it is the IC's (or his comm unit's) job to maximize the signal available to everyone on the line.

2/27 Yactac, thanks for the clarification.

Lobotomy, I agree.


2/27 Hope everyone dispatched through the Forest Service has a good paper trail on their
qualifications. I don't remember seeing this discussed in the forum -- looks like an
outcome from 30 Mile is the need to have a hard-copy file for everyone sent out
starting June 2005. This is another headache for ADs since the FS doesn't necessarily
hold on to anything once someone leaves full-time status and misses a season.

Still Out There as an AD

2/27 A day before Paul Gleason's death, an interview with Paul was posted on the
wildfire lessons learned page. February 26, 2003.


Paul still had some lessons learned to share even as he neared the end of his

In remembrance of a strong leader and educator... Paul you are and will
continue to be a great leader and an inspiration for all to follow!!!!

A Student of Fire

Thanks for the reminder. Our tribute to Paul. Ab.

2/27 MU,
ISuite is exactly what you are looking for. It is a suite of programs that produces
the IAP, checks resources in, tracks time and expenses, and allows reporting.


Hope this helps.

2/27 Mellie,

It is interesting that you mentioned the "hispanic settlement agreement cop" .. I would like to expand it to address the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce. The folks in Boise and Washington DC should also consider this perspective from the field.

For many years, the federal wildland agencies have been working hard to address and correct diversity issues. One program after another has failed to adequately fix the problem. When local government, state agencies, and even some federal agencies (ie-DoD Fire) are offering better pay, benefits, and working conditions, we will never be able to recruit and retain a highly skilled and diverse workforce. It is a system set for failure no matter how many times you try to fix it... either pro-actively, through settlement agreements, or through consent decrees.

The local government, state, and federal agencies are all competing to recruit and retain highly skilled firefighters and the federal wildland agencies have rapidly become the "puppy mill" for these other agencies to gain some valuable talent.

Another plus for HR 408, the Federal Wildland Firefighter Emergency Response Compensation Act of 2005, is that it will help to stem the tide of diverse employees seeking jobs elsewhere or not applying at all to the federal wildland agencies.....

2/27 Ab,

While meandering about the web this morning, I found a fascinating paper with the deceptively innocuous title of "DISCURSIVE OPENING AND CLOSING IN ORGANIZATIONAL SELF-STUDY: Culture as Trap and Tool in Wildland Firefighting Safety". The author, Jennifer Anne Thackaberry of Purdue University, has done a remarkable job of assessing cultural and organizational problems that the wildland fire community is presently trying to solve. For folks who are presently struggling with the Cramer Fire aftermath, and people like Ed Hollenshead who are working to revise wildland firefighting doctrine, this is a MUST read. Here's an excerpt from Ms. Thackaberry's paper:

For example, the Phase III report identifies discrepancies in typical management characterizations of the 10/18. For example, using the Storm King Mountain investigation document (USFS, 1994), the Phase III report shows how management tends to characterize the 10/18 as “situational awareness and risk assessment” tools (Tri-Data, 1998, pp. 4-17), yet actually invokes them in practice “as a yardstick against which performance is measured when tragedy strikes” (pp. 4-18). The report further supports this claim by quoting a statement issued by the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior in the wake of Storm King Mountain fire, who had commanded, “the Ten Standard Fire Orders are firm. We don’t break them; we don’t bend them” (pp. 4-18). Thus, the Phase III report showed how management tends to describe the 10/18 as though they were guidelines, but tends to enforce them as though they were orders. To challenge this yardstick approach, the report noted that at any given moment, firefighters are expected to remember and apply up to 156 pieces of information, yet compares this to “Miller’s Law,” which says that “the human mind can comprehend just seven (plus or minus two) concepts when engaged in a task” (USFS, 1999, pp. 4-18). The discussion (Tri-Data, 1998) concluded that

It is unlikely that the Ten Standard Fire Orders, 18 Watchouts, and
other tactical references provide effective guidance to firefighters,
since their overwhelming number precludes their use as concise,
memorable and sequential guides. (pp. 4-18)

I couldn't get the link to take you directly to the pdf document, but if you click on the link below and then click on "Automatic Download" on the left side, it will download the pdf document. Here's the link:

http://mcq.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/17/3/319 (Ab note: clicking on this automatically downloaded a pdf file for me.)

On a related subject, it is really sad to see that our Forest Service senior managers (I refuse to call them leaders until they start acting like leaders) are willing to settle for large budget reductions, and to not hire ANY temporary seasonal firefighters in some regions, without raising a red flag. Maybe they are following the same strategy as some of the MANAGERS in R6 who got fat cash awards for replacing Forest Service initial attack resources with contract resources. I wonder how much it pays to sell your soul to the present government-hating administration, enough to buy a new boat or big screen HDTV? What a deal.

This is another favorite quote of mine:

"Training is expensive. Good training is more expensive. No training is most expensive".

Training, and being personally "burned" on too many occasions by poor performance of contract resources, is why I am so adamantly opposed to turning much of the wildland firefighting arena over to contractors. I don't dislike contract firefighters per se, I just don't think that a hodge-podge of companies that are based on making a profit will ever be able to develop the kind of safety culture and dedication to training that our occupation so desperately needs.

To make wildland firefighting safer, we need MANY more PFT fire positions, we need to invest heavily in simulator-type training facilities, and we need to train, train, train throughout the year using Recognition Primed Decisionmaking principles when not fighting fires. This will take a good deal of money, and leaders with the courage to tell Congress that this is what it will really take to make wildland firefighting safer. And we need them to tell Congress that one or two slow fire seasons is no reason to gut our budgets if long-term firefighter safety and organizational viability is the real goal.

I once heard Alice Forbes, who I happen to admire and respect, address a meeting of fire managers with the admonishment "if you're not serving the people who do the work on the ground, then you're not doing your jobs".

In old times in Japan, when Samurais were forced to choose between betraying their people or being considered honorable, they would slit their abdomens and literally spill their guts onto the ground. I would be willing to settle for a senior LEADER who would be willing to figuratively spill their guts to Congress and the press, and tell them why we are setting ourselves up for many more unnecessary deaths of firefighters because of the present shortsighted approach to wildland fire management. The LEADER who does this will long be remembered by Forest Service rank-and-file firefighters as a HERO (or HEROINE), unlike the many other nameless egg-suckers who will soon be forgotten.

This administration expects our fire organization to perform like a Ferrari, but they want to run it on Model T wood spoke wheels with bald tires and dozens of patches on the inner tubes. And to top it off, they only want to put gas in the gas tank when they need to go somewhere, and then only enough gas to get to the next destination. What we really need today is for our Ferrari to be outfitted with some nice alloy wheels, some fat Michelin racing tires, and a gas tank that never goes empty.

Kevin J, Great post.
Casey Judd, Good on ya, keep fighting the good fight.
Oliver, You old gummer, you are one bad honcho. I'm like a rat, if I don't keep chewing, my teef will grow through my brain.
Mellie, I haven't read Deep Survival yet but I am going to Barnes and Noble today, thanks for the recommendation.

Misery Whip

Ab Reminder... if you buy books thru Amazon (button on our books page), it helps pay our bills. Of course I understand if you have to have it right now.

Order from Amazon: Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales

I've gotten word that Laurence will speak at the R5 Chief Officer's meeting next week.

Is there software on the market that could build Incident Action Plans? For Instance if I fill in the IC name on the 201 it will automatically fill in the 202, 203 etc. Something that would be word based, auto generated.... I have all the forms on word just looking to streamline the process...Thanks...


2/27 Mellie,

Clarification.... When I said that you "get it" I was referring to the human factors issues brought out in the book and also the fact that "sh*t happens" as they can be applied to the current ICT3 situation, the current airtanker issues and indeed most issues facing wildland fire and other high risk occupations and undertakings today. As you stated:

"Survivors seem to be able to use hot cognitions (emotion) to inform reason and reason to moderate emotion so as to adapt more quickly to new environmental circumstances, optimizing their potential for survival."

What does this mean? In my mind the message is clear...train, drill, train, drill and then train and drill some more...

I was in no way insinuating that the anyone at the higher levels in the Forest Service would knowingly shift blame. I was merely attempting to point out that in MY view, it will take more than an individual telling me that all will be ok. Actions, one might use the Cramer Incident as an example, speak louder than words.....

You are correct...Sundays should be taken off!


2/27 Mellie,

Laurence Gonzales the author of Deep Survival points out that human factors are a more complex ingredient in firefighter safety issues than I first thought. Leadership has been stressed, but is not a stand alone cure for keeping crews safe on the fireline, my opinion. Lets ask Laurence how he feels about the 10's and 18's being used to determine fault in leadership. Hey Ted P. how about your opinion? I would like to hear from you about how this information can be used to foster a better course for our fire management group.

Mellie, what are we going to do with this information? Make a suggestion of required reading for all leadership? Make it part of an S course?

Laurence, Thanks for explaining situational awareness of the human factor for us. I hope you will help us in our struggle to develop a realistic view of our situation and how we are under the gun of the 10's and 18's as a rule of law and assigning the rules to fix blame, instead of a situational awareness checklist for firefighters. Maybe you know how others caught in this dilemma have resolved the problem.

Thanks to Ab for the opportunity to share this vital information.
Good dialog.
Doug C.

Deep Survival -- of the life-threatening hazards of bureaucracies -- now there's a concept. Who lives, who dies and why? I would say that places such as theysaid can illuminate the problems and perhaps suggest - no, demand - changes in policy. This is particularly true in a democratic government such as ours that has more than one way to affect change -- via three different branches. Ab.

2/27 I want to offer my CONGRATULATIONS to Joe Millar, Forest FMO on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest for being awarded the Region 5 Forest FMO of the Year Award. This is a huge honor the R5 Board of Directors bestows upon one of its members every year. Joe told me that any one of the FMOs is deserving as they all work so hard on a variety of issues facing firefighting on their home forests and in the region while setting some precedents for the nation. One of Joe's huge contributions from my perspective is his work on the Safety First Committee. Congratulations JOE!

Clarification: I am certain those at higher levels are not saying "let's blame so-and-so" when something goes wrong. What Deep Survival reinforces is the limitations of our perceptual systems in our various environments. The higher level fire leaders are simply focused at their level of perception and understanding as are OIG, Congress, etc.

Lobotomy, Casey, OFG...
Similarly, human perspective plays into the current political struggles. Please keep in mind that our fire leaders in Boise and Washington are caught between a rock and a hard place regarding budget -- with a boss demanding one thing and reason (from my perspective, not hiring seasonals in some regions??!!is NOT reasonable) demanding another. Just think how decisions in all of that must be complicated when you also have a hispanic settlement cop breathing down your neck just waiting for you not to call back those seasonal hispanic employees. I feel for our leaders. I hope they will remember the bigger picture and be courageous in standing up to their boss demanding that we once again do more with less and compromise safety.

I guess I feel more like we're all in this together trying to keep firefighter SAFETY foremost in our minds, rather than at war and losing a larger focus.

I would ask all of you to take a moment to reflect today and ask yourselves "WHAT IS RIGHT?" and "WHAT CAN I DO?" connected with every issue you can think that's important to you in fire. I know some of you will say "Yes but....." ... this is all we can expect, it's the way it's always been, in keeping with my belief we can "make do", is only one slice of the Swiss cheese, there's only so much money, it doesn't matter to me because I'm not retired yet (or am just a GS3, or am just a contractor, an AD, or am working in the WO and don't have that option, blah blah blah excuses).

I challenge YOU at all levels of our organizations to become an agent of change.
ACT - make firefighting safer.
We live in times of BIG change. Participate!

It's Sunday. Having thrown that out there, I'm going to choose to have a day of rest today.

Perhaps I'll see some of you this coming week.


I've added Joe Millar to the list of other notables on the Awards page. My congrats to Joe also. Ab.

2/27 Mellie,

You're welcome for suggesting Deep Survival as an important read. Sounds like you
"get it" as to why I suggested it.

As far as any FS legal beagle making me feel warm and fuzzy about the agency backing
my decisions whether they be right or wrong.....riiiight. I have no illusions that damage
control for line and the upper echelons will be the foremost actions taken when the next
fatality, accident or serious breach of "policy" occurs.

Anyway, glad you are enjoying the book!

2/27 Old Fire Guy,

You made the statement and asked, "A strong argument is presented for 408. But does it go far enough?"

The simple answer is probably no. If you know anything about how Congress works, you will see that if you start putting to many things into a bill, it is more likely to be shot down and opposed by special interest groups. If a bill is too complex, it gets harder and harder to present only the facts of the bill and even the Congressionals may get leery of a bill they can't understand.

The are many unions and associations out there besides the FWFSA. The FWFSA specifically addresses the issues of its members. If other groups members would like to see specific legislation, they should work to have legislation introduced to address their issues. There are some strong unions who never seem to flex their political power unless it has to do with "grievances" or other collective bargaining issues.

Lets take a look back at history for a second. In 1999, Senate Bill 1498 was introduced to get rid of the wildland firefighter overtime pay cap. It was eventually passed as a rider on Senate Bill 439 and became public law PL 106-558. The removal of the wildland firefighter overtime pay cap would have never happened if the FWFSA and their representative Casey Judd had not gotten the ear of then Chairman Scarborough and pressed for a Congressional Hearing.

During congressional testimony, there were some other associations and groups opposed to the legislation. They were not opposed to removing the overtime pay cap, but opposed to the legislation because it did not include them. They obviously never heard of the "baby step" process that is required in Congress. I hope HR 408 isn't being opposed by special interests who say "if I can't (or didn't) have it, no one should have it!".

OFG, I am sure your statement will stir up some more discussion about HR 408 and muddy the waters for some... but be assured that the FWFSA folks will be happy to make the "water" clean for all to see and present the facts.

2/27 Dear Old Fire Guy:

You know when you post you're baiting me for a response don't ya? Well, I might as well keep with the script...If I truly thought you already didn't truly know the answer to your own question, my response would rival War & Peace. But the answer is basic common sense.

The provisions set forth in 408 are certainly not new. The land-use agencies themselves have discussed portal to portal since the early '80s. However as I'm sure you know, the bill itself, along with its great sounding title (bet you're wondering who came up with the title huh?:) was developed by the FWFSA under then president, Kent Swartzlander, as early as 1994 when the provisions were actually included in a federal firefighter pay reform bill. The wildland provisions (actually all 3: elimination of the OT pay cap; portal to portal; inclusion of hazard duty pay in retirement calculations) were subsequently "carved out" of the bill (courtesy of the IAFF) and only Dept. of Defense civilian firefighters realized pay reform finally in 1998.

In 1998 when I was elected the 5th District VP for the California Professional Firefighters, I made it our top priority to resurrect the wildland issues. For 5 years we fought the IAFF to actually follow through and got nothing. It was the FWFSA on its own (yea I helped a bit with the congressional juice) which got HR 2814 introduced in 2000 that resulted in the elimination of the overtime pay cap. Of the 8 federal agencies seeking the cap removed for their employees, ONLY federal wildland firefighters saw the cap removed. 1 provision down, 2 to go.

The FWFSA, and I have to give most of the credit to Kent S, who continued to work with me to educate congress on the other two issues. We had hoped to have a bill in the 107th congress but 9/11 changed the political agenda for a considerable period of time.

Members of congress reiterated to us their full commitment to seeing these provisions made into law and HR 2963 was introduced in the 108th congress. I can't tell you just how close we came but, as one high-ranking member of the majority party told me this past December..."sometimes these things take a couple of tries."

Now, we've got the bill re-introduced very quickly with the committee of jurisdiction already having offered their interest in the bill last session.

So in a nutshell, 408 was born by a need and pursued by a relatively small employee organization for the benefit not only of its dues paying members, but all federal wildland firefighters. Simple as that. Now for the others:

For the "employees outside of fire" and the wilderness rangers
1) If this is what you want and you're paying dues to a union, better get the union to get off their butts and earn those dues.
2) If no union, create an employee association, learn to lobby, establish relationships with those that can effect the changes you want and write a bill.

With all due respect to non-government employees. I work, and the FWFSA works, for federal wildland firefighters. There are unions and associations that represent almost every conceivable occupation known. If these employees want what you think they want, they know who to take their issues to.

Private sector employees: If they are working for a company that doesn't compensate them when the are absent from home (and gimme a break, surely not for up to 14 days at a time risking their lives?) they should find another company to work for.

Over the road truckers who sleep in their cabs: Does anyone not know why the truck manufacturers make these cabs like a home away from home? Have you seen a modern truck stop recently? C'mon, you're comparing that to coyote tactics??? Oh, and by the way, those trucks can move and travel at the behest of the "trucker." In the middle of nowhere, sleeping in a paper sleeping bag dropped from a helicopter sleeping on dirt and rocks...you can't travel.

Traveling salesmen??? C'mon
Migrant farm workers: have unions
Transportation construction crews: have unions.

Perhaps its your suggestion that I carry the torch for all these folks myself? Or that the FWSFA (that means Federal Wildland Fire Service Association) take on the responsibility?

If I did that, I'd probably be as old as you are far too soon !!! And as I guessed, you are laughing because you knew all these answers in the first place.

Someday I hope to meet you...that would be something. Until then, my passion, my loyalty and my commitment is to FEDERAL WILDLAND FIREFIGHTERS. Nuff said...

2/26 I was humbled and awed by the honor shown to my son, Matt Taylor, yesterday at the memorial service. 

You guys just keep on blessing us!! At least a hundred hot shots from surrounding areas and long distances came for a parade, complete with banners and engines with lights on, coming through downtown Bend and to the Church. It was standing room only as we watched a power point with photos of Matt with his fire friends and listened to Lance remember Matt. The presence of all those friends meant more to the family than any of you can know...or maybe you do, and that's why you were there. The donated leave, the contributions, the cards, prayers and well wishes, certainly sustained us through this time. 

As I and my other children remember Matt, we will hold a special place in our hearts for the folks who worked on fire with him. What a brotherhood. 

Thank you, be safe, and God bless you and your families.

Nancy Larson

You're family. Ab.

2/26 Ab

The FWS in the northwest (R1) is also looking at big cuts in fire budgets. The rumor
is we will not be hiring any temp firefighters in the region. I have been in fire for 27
years, this is one of the biggest personnel cuts I have seen.

To all you temps out there keep trying, we still need you.

2/26 A strong argument is presented for 408. But does it go far enough? Where is the coverage for the employees outside of fire who must spend significant time away from their families? What about wilderness rangers who hike or canoe the back country? They are often gone for extended periods, and likewise should get 24 hour pay. And would this not be more fair if not limited to "government employees"? How about a revision of the Fair Labor Standards Act to recognize the cost to workers in the private sector who find themselves absent from home. Over-the-road truckers who sleep in the cabs of their 18-wheelers. Traveling salesmen constantly on the move and living out of suitcases. Migrant farm workers, highway construction crews.......any job where you don't get to sleep in your own bed at night. Fair for some should be fair for all.

Old Fire Guy
2/26 Wow, I'm in the middle of reading Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales and I just have to comment. It is a terrific book! Gonzales makes the complex material - that includes some neuroanatomy, physiology, lots of stress psychology, human factors - so accessible. The book is rich with stories and illustrations from "survival at the boundary of life and death". Awesome!

One slight mental tangent into stress-producing implications the criminal outfall from Cramer has wrought- one paragraph mid-book that jumped out at me is a description Gonzales uses that comes from Paul Fussell:

Paul Fussell, in his book Wartime, describes the stages of enlightenment that beset a soldier as he progresses from green recruit to combat veteran. First he thinks. ' It can't happen to me.' Then he sees action and it becomes, ' It can happen to me, and I'd better be more careful.' And finally he sees enough of his fellows die to realize, 'It is going to happen to me, and only my not being there is going to prevent it.'

I have been trying to explain to friends why ICs are having such a hard time post-Cramer. It boils down to the paragraph above in the context of the human factors Gonzales describes in his book - and the fact that OIG/DOJ and others in their rule-bound, black&white system don't get it. Not only does sh*t happen in firefighters' emotional/cognitive survival-based human system, sh*t happens with fire (a force of nature), and sh*t happens with the "make do" organizational/agency system. As Gonzales elaborates, all kinds of sh*t are inevitable in the human and natural environment interface - the wildland firefighting environment we work in.

Read this book, and consider what you don't yet know about how human beings function and how you can potentially think like a survivor. Some cognitive processes occur within our awareness. However many hot and cold cognitive processes occur outside of conscious awareness and control. Under stress, the human organism clicks into self-preservation mode. Recognition Primed Decision Making may often be more about the emotional charge on those slides in your slidebox than about reason. The first set of neural paths via the amygdala (hot-cognition, emotional, hair on the back of the neck) are a split-second faster than the second set of neural paths that go to reasoning centers in the brain (cold-cognition). Survivors seem to be able to use hot cognitions (emotion) to inform reason and reason to moderate emotion so as to adapt more quickly to new environmental circumstances, optimizing their potential for survival.

Misery Whip, have you read this book yet? Nerd, you'd love this! Thanks for suggesting it Yactac and Doug C.


PS. I'm told that a FS legal beagle will be at the Chief Officers' Meeting in Reno next week to explain why ICT3s do not need to be so fearful of agency abandonment. I would hope that those legal dudes would read this book too and then see if they can offer the same reassurances. Although this book is not all about firefighting, it provides amazing insight into cognitive processes wildland firefighters demonstrate under stress.

2/26 Hi to all:

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call yesterday (Thursday) from Tom Harbour, the new Fire & Aviation Management Director from HQ in Washington DC. He was in town (Sacramento) at the McClellan training facility for a short while and asked if I had time to get together.

I think we spoke for about 40 minutes and I am hopeful that while he and others may have some concerns or misgivings about our legislation, he knows that we have done our homework on the issue. He offered some comments or concerns and I addressed them promptly and accurately. I believe we left each other with the commitment to keep the lines of communication open. I wanted him to know that when our legislation was introduced in the last session of congress, the FWFSA made every effort to reach out to the Agency to find some common ground for the benefit of our firefighters, FWFSA members or not. I think we're getting a response now because our efforts are proving to be more viable than first expected.

One issue I addressed were the recent comments from HQ personnel speaking to contractors and federal wildland firefighters about HR 408 and providing inaccurate information... the typical bureaucratic doom & gloom rhetoric. I explained the information that was being offered by the HQ folks and then proceeded to explain to him how it was inaccurate. I asked for his assistance in subduing some perhaps overzealous... or perhaps jealous... people offering negative opinions on the government dime.

We also discussed $$. I think he and I were able to agree that regardless of how many say there's no money... there's always money. It's simply a matter of how you spend it and/or how you prioritize the spending.

Thus what has concerned me recently on They Said are the postings about cut backs in R1,2,3,6 and others. $$ is there and it is being authorized and appropriated by congress. If it's not getting to the ground level, we need to know.

Recently, Rep. Walden (R-OR) made a pledge of an additional $500 million for suppression... yet we can't hire seasonals??? Who the heck is writing the checks and spending the bucks? Give me $500 million and nobody gets hired at below GS-5; seasonals that want to become permanent do so (oh yea, they get benefits too); toss the 401 for a true firefighter classification; provide hazard pay on prescribed burns AND implement HR408. We'd probably still have money left over for a few bureaucrats!!!

My point is this. I believe the FWFSA has established our credibility with the Agency. They may not like us rocking their boat, but they know we're here and aren't going away. I believed I convinced Mr. Harbour that my passion lies deep within the desire to deliver all of you that which you have deserved for so long. I even told him that if the Agency didn't want to risk its political rear end, move out of the way and let us carry the ball.

But what has carried us this far is factual information. I need help not only from our members in Regions 1,2,3,4,5,6 & 8 but all concerned federal wildland firefighters to provide us with accurate, factual information on what is being proposed in your Regions i.e. staffing cuts, no hiring, etc. We need hard data so that those in congress who expect the $$ is getting to the ground for suppression can be educated that it certainly is not and how that reflects on safety, and all the other dynamics associated with inadequate staffing, pay etc. PLEASE feel free to contact me whether you are a FWFSA member or not if you want our help with respect to the proposals now hitting your regions. As always, my phone is (916) 515-1224 and e-mail address is FWFSAlobby@aol.com. REMEMBER, ITS YOUR FUTURE.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
2/25 Lobotomy,

Nice job on the pay comparison. I ran the figures using the max 16 hour allowed per day
also and the HR 408 calculations were still substantially higher.

More important though is your point of Safety. What are our supposed leaders thinking
using a calculation that would even suggest we have folks out on fires that long? Sounds
to me like they are grasping at straws.

I would appreciate seeing the calculations that the WO is using to back the allegations
that HR 408 would cost wildland firefighters money.

Any takers out there in the WO puzzle palace??

2/25 I just finished helping instruct S-330 (STL/TFLD), the comments you folks wrote in would have
certainly added to the course.

I was curious about one of the scenarios concerning an entrapment on the Marre Fire in 1993.
Does anyone remember if there were any injuries during the incident?

2/25 Re Strike Team Leaders/Task Force Leaders:
All of Firebill's plus:

Getting to know the ST or crew lets you figure out what capabilities and/or limitations they have.

A STL/TFL is the go between the crews and the Div. Sup. Get a feel for how the DIVS runs the show in relation to safety, taking care of crews, and you, and is he/she a micro manager... or not a manager.

Do you have clear direction from above and does the IAP match what is actually going on.

Don't be afraid to consult with other STL/TFLs on the division and ensure you're all on the same page each day. Meet mid-afternoon (if you can) do discuss the next day's plan. Pass this along to the DIVS. if he chooses not to be at these meetings.

As Firebill stated, you must be a grounpounder. Ensure crews, engines are doing their assigned tasks. This also gives you the chance to see progress and what needs to be done the next day.

It's a team effort out there. Use the crews to help you with needs.
Find ways to motivate them; especially during mop-up.

If you have engines, don't always use your favorite engine to do tasks. Use them to teach less experienced crews. If you're doing structure protection, put less experienced engines between other engines. Provide on-site training if the possibility arises.

Above all; be fair. Remember you're being evaluated also.

2/25 Hey so what is the attitude of firefighters on other forests and units
about the FWFSA? On our forest there are mixed feelings but there are
quite a few of us who are members and are getting others to join, how
is membership elsewhere and what is being done to increase it? I know
having Casey come out and talk to the captains really helped to get
many of the guys motivated. Anyway I hope those who are members work
on getting others to join because the more people we have, the more
clout we will have.

2/25 In addition to the loss of some of some of the federally contracted air
tankers, the CA. Dept of Forestry is considering operating their S2T
tankers only 6 days a week this coming fire season.

When the CDF had the S2A as their primary aircraft, the tanker was
operated 6 days a week. This was to allow scheduled maintenance to be
performed. When the Department went to the S2T, one of the selling
points, (in addition to the 400 more gallons) was 7 days a week
availability, allowing for a much more effective initial attack.

This year one of the "proposed" CDF cost saving measures is to reduce
aircraft availability. This type of cost saving move was tried by the
Department before in 1992.....which proved disastrous. The reduced
number of air resources available for initial attack was the direct
cause of several large fires, especially the Old Gulch fire resulting in
significant structure loss for the public.

I agree that there needs to be cuts in these tight financial times for
California, but eliminating a valuable initial attack resource is not
the answer. It is easy to see monetary savings by shutting down some
aircraft, but it is short sighted.

Too bad there is not a way to quantify what did not burn because
resources were in place!

2/25 Sting,

In response to your question as to what makes a competent STL/TFL I say this; number one is SAFETY. To keep your folks safe you need to move around your division. You can easily do this without stepping on the DIVS toes. Usually if you work close with the DIVS they will have you work that part of the division on your own and have less to worry about. Just keep them in the loop. 2, let the CAPTS do thier jobs. If the OHEAD of your resources are competent then you should not have to micromanage them, this allows you to move around your piece of ground and maintain SA. If you get the vibe that one or more of your module leaders is new or inexperienced try to TACTFULLY place them next to a more experienced supervisor as you deploy your resources and have someone work with them. If need be let the younger guy or gal know how you feel and why you feel that way so you can accomplish your goals and they can learn and all can go home when the assignment is finished.

Depending on your outlook of the times we are working in we have many newer leaders out there now. These people mean well and are usually able to perform without incident, the crux is trying to balance letting them run free and learn vs recognizing they are STILL learning and holding them back as not to overwhelm them. Our forebears learned in a different way than we do now, for some it was good, for some... We as leaders must realize that we are not only teaching fire management skills, but sometimes we are helping these peole grow up at the same time. Our current environment can sometimes be sticky, what with this academy business and all. Some of these newbies think they get out of the academy, after getting it with one maybe two seasons under thier belts, and they are ready to be the next hotshot squaddy or engineer not realizing that five or seven or more seasons does just what its descriptor implies, it "SEASONS" you. Fills your slide tray with many situations and infinitely more solutions.

So to wrap this up as I think I found a tangent, let those future STL/TFLs know to ASK, GATHER, COMPILE, STEAL, or however they chose, but get information from their trainers and mentors and be patient, it may take two or three assignments to get signed off. You chose, one assignment/ get signed off, next assignment written off or three assignments/ signed off next assignment pulled off without a hitch.

2/25 Ah, a true believer. Good points NVJIM. Good discussion.

Digital Radio can deliver all you have mentioned, but not right now.
Digital radio is still in its infancy and it will be awhile before it  reaches the versatility of analog signaling. Analog has had decades to become what it is today, and given time, Digital will be there.

One time we were checking the signal level (Analog) along a forested river canyon because radio users were complaining about radio coverage. We were at the radio site on top of a mountain with a spectrum monitor (it measures radio signal strength and also gives a visual display of the frequency), and my partner was traveling the river road transmitting. What was noted was that while driving the signal strength was jumping all around from being absorbed by trees and coming in out of phase from bouncing off the canyon walls. I could tell when he was sitting still because the radio signal stayed a constant level. (The results of the test was that users traveling had to switch between 3 different repeaters as they traveled, they were trying to use just one channel all the way).

The way that Digital samples the frequency shift to make it into 1s and 0s would not work well with a traveling transmission in this situation and would result in silent spots or that Gollywobble (this is actually a term the Motorola training rep used) when digital fills in lost data and sounds funny. Jamming a Digital signal is also a lot easier than an Analog signal; jamming Digital would result in silence while analog would sound bad.


I’ll throw this test at you, was not involved in it though.

Region 6, VHF P25 Field Test


Region 6 was planning a large investment in P25 equipment, but had no  first-hand experience with the equipment or its operation. We had heard many, often conflicting, stories of coverage and audio differences, and had a strong desire to see for ourselves what the differences were in the field. This was discussed with Douglas Bigrigg of Daniels at the USDA/DOI meeting in Las Vegas, and he offered his assistance in providing a repeater for the purpose of conducting a field test.

Test Participants

Mike Schone, Region 6 Radio Systems Manager
Mike Andler, Region 6, Customer Service Area 5, Telecommunications Manager
Howard Banks, Electronics Technician, Wenatchee , WA
Dan Long, Electronics Technician (STEP), Wenatchee WA
Douglas Jacobs, Electronics Technician (SCEP), Colville, WA
Dave Riddle, Electronics Technician, Wenatchee WA (His first day on the job)

Support Acknowledgements
Jim Shelton, Region 6 Telecommunications Program Manager who suggested the test to Daniels and supported its completion.
Kim Torp-Pederson, Alster Communications who provided the DPH radios
Douglas Bigrigg, Daniels Electronics, who made it possible for Daniels to participate
Ken Parks, Daniels Electronics, who facilitated the delivery of the test repeater and provided lots of technical information on P25.
Customer service personnel at both Daniels and Relm who assisted in programming and setting up the equipment.


This document does not attempt to portray the results of an exhaustive  scientific test. It simply documents a series of tests, made in the field, where the results were simply recorded on either a subjective signal quality scale of 1 to 5 or as a series of numbers heard or missed during a test count. The results we observed may not be repeatable, and at best, only apply to that specific location, time and situation.


One of the goals of this test, was to compare the coverage difference  between an analog system and a P25 system under the conditions of both weak (fringe) signal conditions and conditions of multi-path. The specific location chosen to perform the test was in the vicinity of the town of Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is a Bavarian style town, popular with tourists that sits in the Cascade mountains about 15 miles west of the town of Wenatchee. The Leavenworth Ranger District of the Wenatchee National Forest is located there.

Near Leavenworth, are two long, narrow, windy and rocky canyons: one is called the Icicle Canyon as the Icicle River runs through it; and one is known as the Tumwater Canyon which the Wenatchee River runs through. Both of these canyons have historically presented a challenge to providing two-way communications as a result of their length, topography and geology. They are characterized by both weak signal and multi-path conditions.

Test Procedures:

The team met at the Forest Service Radio Shop located in East Wenatchee on Monday, July 14 and planned the field exercises. The field tests were conducted the next day, Tuesday, July 15, 2003.

For the purpose of these tests, two Daniels repeaters were installed at an FS repeater site just North and West of Wenatchee, called Burch Mountain. One of the repeaters was a Daniels Analog and one was a Daniels P25. Both were equipped with 30 watt Power Amplifiers and each had an FS provided duplexer. A 1.3 Ghz rated antenna switch was utilized to manually switch each repeater onto the same antenna for the various tests.

Two BK DPH portable radios were utilized as the field units. Each had one analog and one digital channel programmed.

There were three separate and distinct test procedures utilized during this exercise. On each of the tests, there was a fixed ‘control’ station that was located close to the repeater and a mobile station that roamed around the country side. Each station recorded the results of each of the tests. Each test was assigned a serial number and the serial number was passed as part of the test message to ensure that test results were recorded in sync.

Single Point Test

For the single point test, the roaming DPH portable would be placed in a  single location and a test count transmitted in both analog and digital mode and the results recorded at the control station. The test would then be repeated with the control station making a test count in both modes and the roaming station recording the results. The results from this test were essentially identical for analog and digital.

Walking Circle Test

In the walking circle test, the roaming portable would be held and a test count would be transmitted while the user walked in a circle. The control station would record the overall signal quality and any numbers missed in the test count. The test was then repeated in the opposite direction, with the field unit in receive mode. The results of this test showed an advantage to analog in the ability to communicate further from the repeater.

Driving Test

In the driving test, a section of road was driven while a test count was transmitted in analog mode. The control station recorded the overall signal quality and any numbers in the test count that were missed. Then, the vehicle returned to the start and drove the same stretch of road, at the same speed and transmitted the same test count in digital mode. Again, the control station recorded the overall signal quality and any missed test count numbers. The results of this test showed a significant advantage for the analog signal.

Results Discussion

The results that were observed during these tests were both expected and  surprising. The single point and walking circle test pretty much produced the results we expected, based on comments heard from users familiar with this equipment. The driving test produced a big surprise. The following briefly summarizes the results:
· P25 really works
· The audio quality of the digital signal (when working), was ALWAYS better than the analog.
· Analog coverage always extended beyond the digital coverage area.
· The difference in coverage area between Analog and Digital was quite small, except:.
· In the case of the driving test, the coverage difference was significant.

In general, the audio quality was always better with the digital signal then the analog signal. It also was much louder. I’ve heard other digital signals at trade shows that didn’t sound as good. This just plain sounded good. As expected, there was no noise, even under weak signal conditions. However, if one party was transmitting, but not talking, background sounds had a definite DSP quality to them, kind of like the phased music that was popular years ago.

We could create a situation where the digital signal would be in that zone  where it was between working and not working and you would hear lots of noise and cutting in and out. But to make that occur required a lot of effort in locating the exact spot and holding the radio in just the right position. It didn’t seem like it would actually happen very often.

The area of coverage where Analog continued to work and was copyable, but with lots of noise, and digital ceased to work definitely existed, but was quite narrow. The coverage difference is estimated to be approximately 5% of the total coverage area, measured radially from the repeater.

The big surprise was in the driving test. During this test, the Analog signal was quite noisy and exhibited classical VHF picket fencing, however all of the numbers during the test count were copyable. Performing the same test in Digital mode resulted in a 50% LOSS in test numbers! This is one area that needs some further testing to document the behavior differences.

Other Observations:

Delay Time

For some reason, which we did not investigate and identify, one of the DPH radios required the operator to delay his speech (up to 2 seconds) before talking or syllables or even words would be lost. The other DPH exhibited no delay at all.


2/25 Editor's Note:  Email messages without a Subject Line are guaranteed to get caught and possibly deleted by our anti-spam program.  To help insure your messages arrive and are published in a timely manner, it is best to include the phrase "they said" in the subject line.  Thanks, Original Ab.
2/25 To Sting:

The best ST/TFL I have worked for have the same characteristics: while on
the line they are focused on safety and work. They are always hunting
around for a good assignment. They treat a piece of ground as their own.
They convey the intent to the increments under them without dictating
tactics. They are open to suggestion. And they are also focused on the
logistical needs of the troops. They are the first out on the line and the
last off. They deliver a good briefing before and during line activities.

Advice to a new STL: Lead if you want anybody to follow.

And to Fyrfghtr:

I think the article is a "opinion piece or letter to the editor". An
article implies it contains facts. I didn't see any there, otherwise I'm
missing out on 22 years of "grooming pay". And who is it that is leading
those "convict crews" anyway.

2/25 Another new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titled, "Wildland Fire Management: Forest Service and Interior Need to Specify Steps and a Schedule for Identifying Long-Term Options and Their Costs" is now available online.

Abstract: www.gao.gov/docsearch/abstract.php?rptno=GAO-05-353T
Highlights: www.gao.gov/highlights/d05353thigh.pdf
Full Report: www.gao.gov/new.items/d05353t.pdf

2/25 Casey,

This may sound like a stupid question. In your bill what happens when we hit our days off? Are we going to get 48 hrs of O/T? Since we are only suppose to work a 16 hour work day on fires the 8 hours of O/T shouldn't be any different then what most of us see already.

2/25 Advice for new Strike Team Leaders/Task Force Leaders...

I've had great, good, and bad Strike Team Leaders. I'm sure if I thought about it this list could be much longer.

Here's a few "Don'ts"

DON'T leave anywhere without knowing where you're going. Nothing erodes crews' confidence in a STL like getting them lost.

DON'T be afraid to ask for advice from seasoned people on your crew. Many ENGB's and CRWB's have pretty vast knowledge and in some cases might have more experience than you.

DON'T put your Performance Evaluation ahead of the safety and welfare of your Strike Team. Take a stand if you have to.

DON'T separate (operationally) your engines/crews from the rest of the Strike Team unless you're confident in their ability to work efficiently and safely as a Single Resource.

Now the good stuff...

DO leave your 'regular' job at home. Your #1 priority is the safety and welfare of the strike team you're in charge of now, not your habitat study or timber sale back home. That goes from the time you depart the rally point until everyone's back home after 14 days.

DO get to know the personalities of your Strike Team. It WILL help you prevent issues and conflict as the dispatch progresses.

DO delegate some of your tasks to the Engines/Crews. Your confidence in them builds their confidence and their knowledge of the "Big Picture".

DO get out of your pick-up. Participate in what your crews are doing. Help them mop up one stump hole, improve some line, or work on defensible space. You'll get a feel for their morale, Situational Awareness, and fatigue level.

Above all, these two things; Make sure they're #1: situationally aware and "Safety above Mission" oriented, and #2: that they have fun. A safe-working and happy Strike Team stand out to DIVS. There are plenty DIVS qualified folks on this board who I think will agree.

Now my question... what "pearl" item does everyone carry in your "Resource Boss Kit" that's not listed or discussed in S-230?

Happy Friday,

2/25 Robb and Young in R1;

I’m another R3 youngster, and I’ve found that there’re two keys to getting work/response time when you’re a young punk. First, NEVER miss an opportunity to train. If a training opportunity comes along, grab it. The second point is tied in with the first: don’t overspecialize. I’ve met a lot of prospective FF who say “Naw, I don’t want to do anything but wildland” or “I don’t want to have anything to do with structure, those guys are nuts!” or “Med training is a waste of time.” It’s an all-risk world, folks. Especially starting out, don’t limit yourselves; if you only train for one thing, you’re never going to be able to compete with the folks who’ve been doing that one thing for twenty years…but if you have a versatile skill set, maybe you can fill a role that will allow you the luxury of building twenty years experience in what you REALLY want to do.

On the subject of cutbacks…I don’t know if anyone’s looked at the FEMA assistance to Firefighters grant package, but it looks like FEMA funding to FDs is going to be about 20% less than last year. The Feds aren’t the only ones going to suffering if this coming season turns out to be a ripper.

Nerd on the Fireline
2/25 Greetings:
Last month there was some interest in NIMS (www.fema.gov/nims). The "2005 Program Guidance for the Assistance to Firefighter Grant Progam" www.firegrantsupport.com/guidance.aspx is now out. There are National Incident Management System (NIMS) compliance activites to be accomplished by FY2005 grant recipients. They are:

1. Complete the NIMS Awareness Course IS700
2. Formally recognize the NIMS and adopt NIMS principles and policies.
3. Determine which NIMS requirements already have been met.
4. Develop a strategy and timeframe for full NIMS implementation.
5. Institutionalize the use of the Incident Command System (ICS). *I don't think this means putting incident commanders in mental institutions <<Grin>>

Looking further it looks like for almost all grants from Dept of Homeland Security will require some kind of NIMS compliance. Will NIMS really make any difference to people that already use ICS or is it just a tool for nationwide naming standards when a disaster (natural or human caused) occurs?

2/25 Ab,

Some questions to put out to the WLF world. I am going to instruct S-330 Strike Team/Task Force
leader in two weeks and I would like to hear some feedback that I can present to the class.
  1. What makes a competent ST/TFL?
  2. What advice would you give a newly trained ST/TFL?

I realize there are big issues happening right now, if you all could take a minute
and respond, I know the students would appreciate you looking out for them.


Folks, please provide some input here. Ab.

2/25 Ab,

I wanted to submit this wage comparison fact sheet regarding HR 408, The Federal Wildland Firefighters Emergency Response Compensation Act of 2005.

In the document, you will find some completed comparisons and a rebuttal to recent agency statements that folks above GS-7 would "lose money".

In a recent discussions, there seems to be some concern with the agencies.... specifically GS-9 Hotshot Supt.'s. The Agency argument that I keep hearing is that GS-9 Supt.'s will "max out" after 8 14-day fire assignments. THE AGENCY SHOULD BE MORE CONCERNED ABOUT WHY THEY ARE HAVING THEIR HOTSHOT CREWS WORK 112 DAYS ON FIRES IN A 120-130 FIRE SEASON..... I hope they open up their eyes and begin to focus on SAFETY.... They should also ask some of the Superintendents if they are concerned with hitting the GS15/10 "max out" or would they just be happy with a better pay system that didn't force them to take 8 14-day fire assignments but still have a competitive pay structure. If there isn't a culture shift towards safety, then the Agency should be willing to pay for the sacrifices ALL of the wildland firefighters and their families make.

A culture shift towards proper pay, benefits, working conditions, and accountability at all levels is how you start the grassroots stage on making things safer for the wildland firefighting community.


2/25 To Kiersten, Sarah, Lance and the rest of Matt's extended family and friends,

I guess it goes without saying that Friday will be hard for all of you as you say your last goodbyes. I just want you to know that I'm thinking of you all, and undoubtedly the rest of the fire world is as well. When the overcast skies clear, close your eyes and turn your face towards the bright sun; let the rays of Matt's love dry your tears and warm your heart.

God bless
2/25 Ab,

Am I the only one that saw this interesting article about CDF, can you post
this link on They Said, for everyone to see.
Thanks Fyrfghtr

2/25 Hi everyone,

Here something to ponder and to think about very seriously. The 05 fire season is not far out for the west, and to be honest its gonna be a busy year with so cal getting alot of rain for a good grass crop, and the north west being as dry as so cal usually is. So here is my point: our staffing levels really needed to be at the 95% level or is it just ok to hope that we will have another moderate fire season? Why are the fire managers so damn blind to not see the writing on the wall, FUELS projects -yeah right- they have been cut so bad, why don't we just let the forests burn and start over. FIRE suppression -does that mean let's hope we catch it at 1/4 acre or just lay all the seasonals off and let the fire goto 100,000 acres and beg for money next year?

I may be a little off track here but here is one other point I need to pass on... I am taking delivery of a new engine in about 3 to 4 weeks almost $200,000 fire engine and I was told today that it will probably be parked all season!!!! WOW anybody know any tax payers that would like a refund for an un needed $200,000 so tell me folks WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON? So for those of you who can't tell yep I am one pissed off FED. I would like to vent alot more but I am sure that there are more of you out there that feel the same way I do GIVE US MONEY TO DO OUR JOBS..........

2/25 Aberdeen,

You said... "People who work for the Prez pitch the Party Line to Congress, or get fired"... what is the Party Line when a piece of Legislation is bi-partisan and introduced by the majority and by the Chairman of the House Resources Committee with co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle... east and west coasts?...

You also said... "They are not allowed by law to lobby Congress."... you are correct.... But how about they start factually answering the tough questions when asked by Congressionals and folks who are interested in the legislation or on how the funding for NFP and HFRA is really going?... Those tough questions can be answered if they start asking the folks on the ground who are currently "technicians" and have been doing the research for many years. Agency Officials need to stop thinking that the "technicians" in the wildland fire community are just a bunch of uneducated lepers!

2/25 Gotta love the Forest Service spin doctors claiming that under HR 408, overtime isn't really overtime or that GS-7's and above will lose money etc. Who do they think wrote the darn bill? Federal Wildland Firefighters that's who.

And it took years and years of research and education to ensure that the bill would do what we wanted it to do...that is to pay you for the time you're on assignment that the Agency is too cheap to pay you for now...even though they pay cooperators and contractors far in excess of what they pay you.

Let's face facts. The FS didn't put much credence in the legislation last session. However we wanted to send a clear message that we would not rest until the compensation process comes in line with the 21st century so we re-introduced it within weeks of the new session starting.

The sad and expected response is just this. Rather than work with us to provide all of you with what you truly deserve, they'll spin nutty opinions. If necessary, I'll work to put out a joint letter from Congress and the FWFSA making it crystal clear what the intent of the legislation is:

1) Pay you for the time you current don't get paid on assignment. Unfortunately we had to compromise and call for 16 hours of base and 8 OT rather than what we wanted in the beginning which was 8 hrs base and 16 OT.

OT is OT. You get paid time and a half now, you'll get time and a half for the 8 OT hours under the bill. SIMPLE AS THAT. Your Hazard Duty pay remains untouched. The only change to hazard pay is that it will now be incorporated and used for retirement annuity calculations.

Some in the FS are already rustling contractors to fight against this. Sad, the FS would rather pay contractors than their own employees. Nothing against "for-profit" contractors because that's what they do. But, we believe the land use agencies should take care of their own and come into the 21st century.

We hope the bill will be set for hearings. That will be time to stop the spinning and go "mano e mano" on the subject. Right now, all the FS is doing is trying to create discord among firefighters, raise doubts about the bill's intent etc.

I would invite ANY FS spin-meister to chat with me directly on the bill. Remember, we're the ones that have been putting the data together over the last 8 years which has resulted in congress listening to a small group of ungrateful (ungrateful for being taken off the clock) firefighters who have offered a better way to pay for suppression while addressing retention & recruitment and other issues.

If you want the facts...call me. If you want to listen to the FS stuff, that's your choice. By the way, you can lobby to your hearts content. Just not on duty or in uniform. Send those e-mails and faxes to your congressional representatives asking them to support HR 408...just do it from home.

Folks, you want to promote public support on this legislation, knock yourself out. Again, not on duty and not in uniform. If you want advise or guidance, call me, (916)515-1224.


Casey Judd
Business Manager
2/24 Forestfire,
As taught in S-234 Backfire / Burnout....

BURNOUT is a Crew Boss responsibility used to straighten
and strengthen control lines.

BACKFIRE must be approved by the IC. A BACKFIRE is
implemented by Operations, DIVS, Firing Group....

So to answer your question..... If an ICT5 is in charge.........

2/24 Does the Forest Service & BLM think we're going to respond to their
fires if they has no resources available? Dream on. Sounds like we're all
being set up for a cluster.

R1 State Guy

2/24 Pyroman-

You need to take a giant step back in history to when you were a sophomore in high school and took "Civics 101": it's all about the division of power in the US Government!

The USFS and all the Interior Agencies work for the President/Administration. The Congress is another branch of the Government. People who work for the Prez pitch the Party Line to Congress, or get fired. They are not allowed by law to lobby Congress.

However, when the folks from the USFS go and testify to Congress and pitch the Party line, they are also legally required to honestly answer questions asked of them. So, why has your Congressman (and mine) failed to ask the right questions? Maybe because you and I haven't filled them in on the specifics about budget cuts and the upcoming fire season?? Especially about the risks in their home districts and States?

So, what is the next step??


2/24 Central Arizona Agencies (USFS, State and local FDs) just completed the local interagency wildland fire exercises today (2/24). This included about 6 Type 1 engines, 2 Type 3 engines, 6 Type 6 engines, several water tenders, plus several PD helos for bucket drops. Great drill. We had several higher-ups attend, including from the USFS. We look to have a delayed, but busy fire season in AZ. LOTS of grasses and new growth. Once it dries out, it should get busy around here. If anyone came out to the Rio Fire in Scottsdale, it should be a similar year.

We were also informed of the Fed staffing shortages (around 50%). No new hires for the summer, we were told. However, we were informed of about 9 heavy air tankers available, along with our SEAT and Helo support. Our local FDs might get some extra work this summer assisting the state and Feds.

Be safe!


2/24 My two Bucks and Mellie,

If there wasn't a fire program that contributed WFPR money to the cost pools,
you wouldn't have to "balance" the WFPR budget. The WFPR funds would
actually make it to the ground where they are needed. First ya get the WO
Rakeoff... then the Regional Rakeoff... then the Province Rakeoff... and finally
the Forest Rakeoff.......

Another way to look at it is: If there wasn't a fire program with all of its money to
support other programs through cost pools, then the Forest Service would cease
to exist.

Rogue Rivers
2/24 Pin Plare

S-290 came out in the Spring of 1994. I was one of the "sample students" that DOI/DOA had evaluated during the testing stage. At the time of course, we didn't know we were being evaluated.

As a matter of fact, I was signed up for S-390, which was the next level after S-190. To our surprise, us government folks from FS, BLM, and NPS had not a clue when we showed up to Redding CA @ North Ops for class. The instructors at the time were not happy with the new program and one actually took one of the workbooks and threw it in the round file in front of us. Very dramatic way of expressing one's opinion.

Needless to say, once the core of the new program was taught, the rest of the week (along with early morning and late night study sessions) were spent drawing out nomograms. I think my head hurt for a few days after the end of that class!

The smokejumper barracks (our accommodations compliments of the USFS) also sucked. Cold, smelly, and moldy!

AZ Trailblazer
2/24 Re: Digital radios

The biggest problem with digital radio is that we are not using it....

"COMT" queried FS techs, but there are no digital radio infrastructure networks operational in R4 or R5. FS techs have no field experience with digital systems. Playing with a handheld that has digital capability is not the same as working with a fully digital system.

This last week I was one of the COMTs on an incident. I had 10 Racal radios brought to me for programming/cloning. 7 of the ten did not have the latest firmware, and 5 of them had old style side connectors. All side connecters were to have been changed out over 2 years ago. The firmware ranged from 5.6 to 6.3 while 7.0 has been standard since last summer, and 7.1 was released last month... Upon further checking, 6 of the radios had not been reprogrammed with narrowband frequencies on the federal frequencies. This lack of maintenance and care was affecting the usability of the radios as analog radios....

This isn't a problem with the radios, it is a problem with program support. If you got a box of 10 shovels from the cache, and 7 had broken handles, loose heads, dull edges, etc. you wouldn't blame all shovels, you would take the cache to task for failure to inspect, follow SOPs, etc. We spend days training on how to use fire shelters, an item that is not covered by LCES, 10 and 18, yet we do not have required annual training on radio use... Without communications, LCES becomes LES (pronounced LESS...)

Digital radio has actually better range than analog as it will operate at lower signal to noise ratios. The problem that was brought up by "Steve LCES" involves the duplexer, the special filter that allows a repeater to receive and transmit at the same time on a single antenna. What he didn't bother to mention that these are the exact same ones that are used on analog repeaters. Poor handling can cause them to detune, and a 50 percent power loss (-3dB) is the same digital or analog. Proper selection of duplexers for portable applications, like the ones in the NIFC kits, leads to good reliability. After all, they let the truckers, baggage handlers, and other transportation types handle the NIFC repeaters when they are shipped to an incident.......

The real problem is that people do not like change. There was a great amount of ranting and wailing when the King was introduced in the mid eighties.... No one wanted to let go of their old crystal controlled MX radios for those complex synthesized King radios........

Digital is reliable -- the growth of cell phones, which are digital radios, shows that... The military is using them. We have barely scratched the surface of what we can do. They can add your gps position to every transmission or even when queried.... Picture the OPS chief checking everyones position before he authorizes a burnout.... They can send text, pictures, and other data... "hey boss, check this picture out---that burn has jumped the line and is running up the hill toward..."

With digital radio, you can select and link repeaters, not only locally, but via the internet, around the world. The new radios can be made as simple or as complex as needed. Most of them are definitely easier to program that the older radios. Their large channel capacity can allow organizing groups of channels together while still having room to clone/program new frequency plans for incidents. Yes, they can do encryption when they are enabled for it, and that may be useful for some uses beyond law enforcement.

Currently, we are not using digital radio for general use on fires. A few IHTs are experimenting with digital simplex crew channels, but they are used in a limited area, generally under a quarter mile in extent, as secondary communications to the analog "Division Tac" frequency. They are purposely programmed at very low power to prevent interference with other operations. The NIFC digital compatible repeaters are being sent out in analog only mode. The NIFC digital compatible handhelds, other than the 12 cases of encrypted radios, are being sent out with only analog programming. We do not have any experience with digital radio on a major (Type 1 or 2 team run) fire as all the communications using the command repeaters, links, air-to-ground, and divisional tacs have been analog. Pretty hard to criticize something that we haven't used............

Lack of knowledge, resistance to change, rumors and folklore are causing the problems. Old problems that have been fixed are continually being brought up as if they are new. The safenets had nothing to do with digital radio, they had to do with problems with analog radio, mostly with obsolete wideband analog equipment trying to work with the current narrowband analog equipment.

Let's see what we can do, what new uses and techniques we can deploy.

2/24 Cutbacks? We don't need no stinking cutbacks!!!

I heard just the other day that a state land management agency nestled snugly between OR, ID, and British Columbia is cutting or has cut (substantially) it's fire budget this year to balance losses from other programs.

I don't know if this means reduction in training funds, parking Type 5 and 6 engines, rotors, handcrews, or what, but it has made me Situationally Aware that what one orders for an incident may not be what one gets. I do know of one engine supervisor being sent to work in timber sales for 3 months because there's no fire dollars to fund the position.

I still have about 1/2 of an acre available in the back yard for tents. I'll see what I can do about mailbox service and my driveway might make a great helibase.

See you all (too) soon,

2/24 Young and Dumb in R1,

You're not the only gen-x-er having difficulty getting good experience.
I live in Albuquerque NM and am going to school here, and it makes it
incredibly difficult to get onto ANY crew, nonetheless a shot crew.
Last season I couldn't get onto anything here in R3, and ended up going
to Alaska to work as an EFF. If you're really having issues with not
getting enough experience and you have the means, AK is a good way to
go provided they're having a strong season.

To everyone else that's been offering their input and advice...keep it
up! There are plenty of punk-a** kids out there who don't really care
that much and are only doing this for summer work, but there are others
of us who are doing everything we can to get the experience and training
to rise through the ranks and hopefully make a difference in this whole
messy profession. Yes, things may have changed some since when you were
in college, but a lot of the major points are still the same, and I know
that all the advice goes a long way in helping me figure out how I can
get myself the most out of my summers until I can commit full-time.

So keep up with the advice for all of us younger folks, and have faith
that there are some of us who care, and who can't wait to see the
difference we can make in the long run.

Robb in R3

There are many young firefighters who care. Glad you're one of them. Ab.

2/24 Ab,
The more that I think of the situation that we are faced with for this coming season the more I am wondering why aren't our upper management folks screaming to congress that we need funding and we need it now. Waiting until severe fire conditions exist will not solve the problem. Congress has stated that if we ask for the funding they will give it to us. I really do not think congress wants to have to answer to a bunch of angry voters and try to tell them why their houses burnt down because the federal agencies did not have sufficient funding to staff engines and hand crews the way that they are supposed to be. I know that this sounds harsh but I think that it is going to take another drastic season to scare the hell out of congress and those who control the funding before we see any changes.

How quickly they forget.  Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to fund our fire programs at the Most Efficient Level than have to pay the cost of numerous large fires that escaped due to a shortage of resources?

Lets all just be extra safe this summer, realizing that reinforcements will most likely be a long way out. Hopefully others will pick up the cry and we will see some changes before there is another fatality due to critical fire positions being unfilled due to lack of funds.

On another note I think that Kevin J. hit the nail on the head when he stated " Fire organizations must be lead and supervised by knowledgeable fire personnel who have demonstrated the ability to be an effective and safe leader. Line officers should not be supervising fire programs, firefighters should." We need to make some changes in the Fire Organization.

2/24 Tagging onto Pyroman and Kevin J., R2 is cutting 33 Type 6 Engines, 14 five
person I.A. crews for a total of about 235 firefighters. And that's just
the Forest Service! The 40% of MEL stands with us as well with only three
engines to be staffed this summer on 2.5 million acres of Service First
Land. I can see that right now we will not be capable of supporting our
own fire management program, nor capable of assisting others throughout the
country. What the powers-to-be do not recognize also, is that these are
the exact same resources that are expected to produce acres for the fuels
management program. Of our 2.5 million acres, we are looking at burning
15,000 acres with 15 permanent staff this fiscal year. With our goals set
so high and staffing set so low-we are inevitably set up for failure. I
can only hope that other Burn Bosses, Engine Captains, and FMOs take a
step back before the season gets started to analyze the situations we are
about to face. Stay safe, and see you next year-I hope.......

-Grounded in R2
2/24 I just spoke with several fire supervisors from one of the forests within R1 and they advised me that they will not be able to hire any seasonal firefighters this year and that the other forests within R1 are in the same situation. In addition to not having a budget for seasonals, they are looking at having to deal with only having enough folks to staff 2/3rds of their engines. I also understand that the forests in R1 will only have 3 ships for IA as compared to the 8 they had last season.


Anyone else from other regions want to weigh in with info on this topic? Who is not hiring the usual seasonal firefighters? What kind of reductions in force and equipment are we looking at for your region? BLM? NPS? FWS? BIA? How compromised might we be, worst case scenario? Will we fight fire this summer at all? Ab.

2/24 Has anyone heard about any cut backs in hiring in R6? Especially WA?
Things are pretty damn dry up here in the North West. I can't remember when we had any significant rain fall. And snow, HAHA!! An extreme fire season up here will hinder on the possibility of lightning and staffing or both.

Single Resource Boss/Crews
2/24 I am one of those individuals who has benefited from the FWFSA getting the legislation for true overtime for wildfires enacted for us Wildland Firefighters. 

The amount of $$'s this has put in my pocket since the legislations enactment has more than paid for my FWFSA dues all these years.

If you are like me and have benefited from this true overtime legislation BUT do not belong to the FWFSA...SHAME ON YOU for not supporting the only group that is trying to get pay legislation passed that will benefit the pay of the rest of our fire family (GS 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8's). 

To Casey and the FWFSA... keep up the good work! We need HR 408 to pass!

2/24 For the dates of fire classes discussion:

I have a 182 that shows me taking S-390 in January of 1978 and a 
182 that shows Crew Boss Training in 1976. Both on the CNF in R5.

2/24 I heard a few good jokes the other day.

What gives Dragon milk?
A short cow...

What are the two completely funded functions within the Forest Service?
Cost Pools and 
Fire, but fire is 25 million dollars in the red just in California...


2/24 In support of Kevin J. I work for the BLM in Colorado and know that our budget is non existent as well. We are operating at around 40% of MEL, that is ridiculous. Any business that operated at that level would not be in business for long, but it seems that congress and the powers that be think that last year was a huge success. Not to take anything away from the many people who busted their butts to catch the fires in the initial attack phase, but last year was a relatively mild year in the big picture. What happened to 10 years of 100% MEL? Why are the upper management not crying foul to congress? The attitude of be creative is a common one, we will be creative and we will catch most of the starts in the initial attack phase. But what about those few that get away, without the resources there are going to be more of those. Only 8 heavy Airtankers in the Nation, give me a break!! I've also been told that the re will be 4 SEATS in Colorado, 2 for the BLM in Grand Junction and 2 for the State elsewhere.

I've been told that in the OLDEN DAYS every person in the FS was expected to support FIRE in some way. That sure is not happening now, not with the FS or the BLM. We are getting to be more of a stand alone organization, especially on the suppression side of Fire.

I think that Kevin J. is right the time has come to break away and become a Federal Fire Fighting Agency managed by FireFighters not someone who only sets foot on the fireline when things go bad. It is time for Fire to stop paying for the other functions and for people who do not contribute. I do not have a problem paying for our fair share, but often Fire is left holding the bag and this year it looks like the bag has a bunch of IOU's in it.

I hope and pray that the fire season is a slow one, because I do not see people being able to release resources like we have in the past. I have been told to plan days off well in advance, because we are able to only staff our engines at the bare minimum and if one person is gone that engine will be out of service. 

SCARY stuff in store for the summer

2/23 Here are some interesting and alarming statistics I heard recently:

There are approximately 3400 permanent fire positions in R5. Of 
these, 2500 are new or have promoted once in the last 2 years, that's 
70% of the permanent employees that are newbie rookies or rookies. 
Over 600 have promoted twice.

Are these proportions similar in other regions?

Please be safe out there.

2/23 Kevin J, 
you said 

Now I am told we are not going to hire seasonal firefighters this year! I still have huge prescribed fire targets and 1.2 million acres of land to provide fire management on, with a 3 year average of 109 wildfires per year. Are there only a few of us pounding our fist on the desk? This is wrong, where is the outcry? I voiced my strong opinions about effectiveness and safety and I was told to "be creative", Oh yah, that's safe!!!

The problem that FS FAM is experiencing is that there are two conflicting directives being issued by government. On the one hand, the House and the Senate have clearly told FAM to maintain the same level of firefighting resource capability as 2004. On the other hand, the WO Fire group has said something to the effect that you will balance the Wildland Fire Management Fire Preparedness (WFPR) by the end of the year. Both things can't be done.

Tell your boss that your forest or region should follow Congressional directive. It only makes sense.

Young in R1
There are temporary seasonal jobs being advertised in some regions whose leaders have concern for the public, concern for public lands, concern for firefighter safety and the guts to provide leadership. They are following Congress' directive.

My two Bucks

2/23 Roy Hall - us ole farts used to get "shift plans" back in the 1960's and 1970's when we still fought fires, instead of going on Incidents!

Then, when ICS hit; we went to "incidents" and got IAP's instead of Shift plans.
Still remember flying into SoCal on Thanksgiving Week, 1980 and getting drug into a tent to get told that I was no longer a "Sector Boss" and that I was now a "Strike Team Leader". and here's your IAP!

2/23 Ok this is a Damned if you do or Damned if you don't question ...

I have a few questions about what kinds of quals for burning out a piece of line, do you have to have some kind of quals to conduct a burn out on a fire ? If there is a immediate threat to (interface or industrial interface ,or private land) is it appropriate for a squad boss and or a ict5 to make the call and act on the situation?


2/23 I have been teaching S-290 since 1994. The date on the manual is 1993.
Prior to that there was only S-190 (1976 is the earliest date I can find on
a book. It was a self-study) and S-390 (dated 1981). I took S-390 at
Little T in 1982, and later the calculation part was separated from the
qualitative part and became S-290 and S-390. The date on the S-390 books is

2/23 I'm looking for information about IAPs. Wanted to know when they where
created, who was the first to use them, and what incident caused the need
for them to be used. Thanks for any information that you can give me.

Roy Paige
Los Angeles Fire Department
2/23 For Flyboy and others regarding federal employees talking about legislation,

For information about what political activities federal employees can engage in (the Hatch Act) or what federal employees can say about legislation (mostly in the Anti-Lobbying Act), please go to USDA's site on ethics.

There is lots of good information in the training module "Political Activity" about the Hatch Act. If you want to read about lobbying then look at the "Rules of the Road" and scroll down and click on Lobbying.

Generally, employees may discuss legislative issues but they can't promote public support for or against pending legislation. If USDA or the Administration has not taken an official position on legislation (i.e. testimony before Congress), employees should explain there is no official position and limit any remarks to facts. Employees can provide data or technical information in response to questions.

If you have questions about what constitutes lobbying, for federal employees, you can contact the agency's Legislative Affairs offices in Washington, DC or many times regional offices legislative coordinators can help.

2/23 If'n I remember right, S-290 came out of the first era of NWCG revamping training, as ICS was heading for national use. Seems like it was available early/mid 80's. FBA types might have a more exact date. Modeling was becoming more wide spread and S-390 was becoming more involved in the formal, predictive side of things.

Reading some of the recent postings about S-290 and where it should be on the "required/prerequisite" training list is reminiscent of where the old S-390 needed to fit in. Back then/when "intermediate fire behavior" was usually taught to crew boss types. Then it was given (NWCG?) an "S" designation and held that it was only required for the 300 level classes. So it became required for sector bosses (LFO term for you youngies) and above. So, there was nothing between 190 and 390 for quite awhile, if memory serves. Kind of ironic since there was always bunches more crew bosses out on the line than sector bosses and not near the number of working radios like today.

Many seasoned ffs in that period felt the old intermediate fire behavior course, which addressed key fire behavior information with tactical applications, should have been taught at the crew boss level. It was hoped at that time the old intermediate FB class would be the new S-290. Didn't happen. So new S-390 kept the meat and they added predictive stuff to it. S-290 info was watered way down. Least that's how I recall it. So the first line supervisors still were not getting the level of FB training they really needed. Not sure it they are getting it now either. Crew bosses didn't need the predictive stuff so much.

So it looks like the issue of FB training still lingers out there. Based on the track record of the folks dictating the system requirements, it really won't be addressed formally. Hopefully I'm wrong. Guess the point I'm trying to make is that the more one knows about the dragon the easier it is to make the right decisions. There is nothing but $$$, and most likely time, stopping anyone from exceeding requirements. Talk about a ramble
pin phlare

2/23 Reserve me a space, FireBill, preferably with no rocks or roots under my tent. I spent six weeks in R-6 during the 2002 fire season and would love to come back!

Seriously, I'd love to know what everyone is seeing out there for the fire season. Here in the southeast, there's concern about the fuel loads from all the storms (ice and hurricane). Florida, and to some extent Oklahoma, have been breaking fires pretty regularly.

What do your crystal balls say?

Still Out There as an AD
2/23 The service for Matt Taylor will be held this Friday 2/25 at the Eastmont
Church in Bend, at 1530. It will be an open service. In lieu of flowers
the family asks that donations may be made to the charity of your choice.
There will be an obituary in today's Bend Bulletin.


My condolences go out to you, your crew and Matt's family and other friends. Ab.

2/23 Flyboy, as Ab said, it is best not to engage in legislative or political commentary in the workplace as described below.

There is a gray area between what is viewed as "internal legislative discussion" and political activity. When "internal legislative discussion" is PRESENTED in the official capacity to folks as the position of the Government, then is is almost black and white. Political activity is strictly prohibited as seen below:

§ 734.306 Participation in political activities while on duty, in uniform, in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties, or using a Federal vehicle.

(a) An employee may not participate in political activities subject to the provisions of subpart E of this part:

(1) While he or she is on duty;
(2) While he or she is wearing a uniform, badge, insignia, or other similar item that identifies the employing agency or instrumentality or the position of the employee;
(3) While he or she is in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties by an individual employed or holding office in the Government of the United States or any agency or instrumentality thereof; or
(4) While using a Government-owned or leased vehicle or while using a privately-owned vehicle in the discharge of official duties


2/23 with the way the forest service is doing there hiring these days. over 6 years in, what can anyone say to keep me around? hum let me see. independent companies offer year round work and bennies, offer all the same training and no political bs ie hispanic agreement. do i seem frustrated? yes. see ya this summer and more than likely not on a green truck.

south zone gone north zone 
ps money talks bull s#@% walks
2/23 The Academy will be managed by an Incident Command Team. The team will be used to oversee all aspects of the Academy, including classes, field exercises, meals, camping, and events. Volunteer and agency firefighters will be given the opportunity to train together prior to the 2005 fire season.

The Academy will provide camping on site for students and team members.
The 2005 Utah Wildfire Academy will be offering the following courses:

Resource Advisor
Fire and Fuels Monitoring
Sand Table Exercise Train the Trainer
Fireline Safety Refresher
Leadership Courses - L-180, L-280, & L-380 (May 23-27)
Incident Commander - S-200
Incident Command - I-100, I-200, & I-300
Dispatch - D-110/ROSS
Supply Unit Leader (S-356)
Fire Investigation Refresher
Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT)
Helicopter Training - S-270 Basic Air Operations, S-271 Interagency
Helicopter Training, S-271 Refresher
Fire Behavior - S-290
Fire Business - S-260
Field Observer - S-244
Fire Operations in the Urban Interface - S-215
Basic Fire School - S-130/190 (Day and Evening Sessions)
Fireline Courses - S-131, S-200, S-230, S-231
Media Training

Registration information is available at www.ut.blm.gov/fire/fireacademy.
For specific questions, please call Jaki Nordrum
at (801) 539-4127 or email jaki_nordrum@blm.gov.
2/23 Kevin J,

Did I miss something? Who's not hiring seasonals this year? I heard a vague rumor about this on another message board I frequent, but I blew it off because it was second (maybe even third or fourth) hand. I do know of at least one crew around here that had to cut back on the size of the crew, but I haven't heard anything about not hiring any seasonals.

Young and Dumb in Region One
(now I'm confused too)
2/22 I recently read the message from Tom Harbour where he is talking about a new
and stronger foundation. He goes on to say "our foundation will be built on
healthier and less volatile forests." This reinforces to me that many of
the "Leaders" in federal wildland fire management either lost it or just
don't get it at all! I agree our foundation needs to be stronger but our
foundation must be built on strong fire management programs at the ground
level, the districts, the individual crews. That is where it all starts.
You can't wait until you get to the fire to be safe. We are never going to
catch up with the fuels problem in the west and we are always going to have
large, destructive and deadly fires no matter how well we do with fuels
management. Fuels reduction is not going to make it safer. Safe fire
programs and organizations are!

District fire management programs must be lead by highly experienced and
qualified leaders who have come up through the fire management ranks. The
foundation fire management program at the district level must be
professional, highly trained, disciplined, effective and efficient with
fireline and firefighter safety being in the forefront every day. I have
seen too many DFMO's, Forest FMO's, and regional directors with none or
very little fire experience in positions to "lead" and make decisions to
influence fire management policy and procedure. Based on what background?
Fire organizations must be lead and supervised by knowledgeable fire
personnel who have demonstrated the ability to be an effective and safe
leader. Line officers should not be supervising fire programs, firefighters
should. I have worked in 4 western regions and I can tell you that bad
decisions for fire management are made all the time by some federal
personnel who just do not understand fire management or fire organizations.
Many of these decisions are political and not based on even the slightest
understanding of fire management and with complete disregard for doing
things the right way, the best way, the time proven way, the safest
way. There are some excellent examples of strong district and forest
organizations out there. We have some excellent firefighters and
supervisors within our ranks. The best in the world. Lets use them in the
right places!

Region 5's safety first campaign from the 70's is the best model for
wildland fire suppression and management because it worked. I was on the
Cleveland in the 70's and safety was the our first priority. We didn't just
talk about it and give it lip service, we lived it, everyday. Every
firefighter, crew supervisor, our DFMO's, ADFMO's, Forest FMO's other staff
and line officers. It was supported all the way. The 1972 fire plan was the
best thing that ever happened to fire management.

After 30 years in fire management I listen to today's rhetoric and I cannot
believe how far the agency has fallen. It is some of the "Leaders" and
others who have authority over fire management programs who have not served
the agency, fire management, safety, or the program well. Now I am told we
are not going to hire seasonal firefighters this year! I still have huge
prescribed fire targets and 1.2 million acres of land to provide fire
management on, with a 3 year average of 109 wildfires per year. Are there
only a few of us pounding our fist on the desk? This is wrong, where is the
outcry? I voiced my strong opinions about effectiveness and safety and I
was told to "be creative", Oh yah, that's safe!!!

The time has come for a federal wildland fire management agency. This
organization must be supervised by leaders who know fire and fire
management organizations. I completely support a federal wildland fire
management agency and we have needed it for a long time. Firefighter safety
and professional, well trained and disciplined fire management
organizations are my passion and that is the basis for safety for the
individual crew and firefighter. That is where it all starts and it is the
strength of our fire management foundation.

Kevin J
2/22 It's nearly 60 degrees here in western WA today, and it's gonna be like this for at least 10 more days. I hear you nice folks down in R5 have our usual February weather. The other night the TV weatherman said "California called, they want their weather back."

Grease those boots, re-pack that pack, and book your favorite fire-camp sleeping spot early; avoid the rush. Perhaps we can arrange for everyone's mail to be forwarded here for the summer. 

I'll be setting up a booth to sell "My Mom/Dad/Brother/etc. went to Washington to fight fires and didn't come home until Thanksgiving" t-shirts in camp. I hear there's more money in it, and there's no In-n-Out Burger close by.

Use your SA every day in every way,


"If you always cover your bases, you never have to cover your a$$." -my dad
2/22 It is with deep sadness that I wish to inform you that Matt Taylor passed
on yesterday afternoon at 1700. He went in his sleep with his wife by his
side. I would like to convey the gratitude of his family and friends for
all your prayers, donations, visits, and kind words and thoughts you have
most generously given from your hearts. He is survived by his wife
Kiersten and daughter Jordan, along with his mother Sarah, two brothers and
two sisters. He was 31 years old. I will miss him, his quirky humor, and
wide grin. If you would like to send any cards or condolences to Kiersten
or Sarah, I am enclosing their addresses.

God Bless you all,


Kiersten Sorensen-Taylor        Sarah Larson
1216 NE 9th                           1032 NE Quimby
Bend, OR 97701                    Bend, OR 97701
2/22 Misery Whip/Todd –

Hopefully, the new S-290 headed out for Beta test here soon will help address some of the concerns you aired about tactical fire behavior training for newbies. I have seen some of the portions being worked on, and they look pretty slick from an on-the-ground/ground pounder standpoint. And is it just me, or is it OBSCENE that S-290 is not a required class for a squady?! IMHO, S-290 should be the next class everyone takes after 130/190. PERIOD.

And yes, I am a bit passionate about it – don’t know if that came through.

Initiate all actions based on current and expected fire behavior – the best way to keep your arse out of trouble…

2/22 Hey all! Just a note from Sunny Florida.

I haven't written for a while, mainly because the camper I call home now has
no hard phone line to use to go on the net. My house was one of the many
last years storms took out. But all things considered , it isn't so bad.

So enough whining, the reason I am writing is to give a southern update to
anyone interested.

Things here are dry. We are already several inches of rain behind where we
should be for this date. The last few cold fronts have been too weak to
generate rain, but have been followed by masses of dry air. The end result
being that for the last three weeks I have been running my @ss off fighting
fire. (The way God intended, as a plow jocky!) And we are still a few
weeks away from our normal fire season.

Maybe this year will be the year I finally see some of the familiar faces I
keep visiting around Ft. Collins and all points west, but in a more southern
local. And the good news is southern hospitality. I know for a fact that
the last two times fed crews came to my home area to work they slept in
hotels and ate in restaurants the whole time. Sorry, but lunch was in the
field. I myself delivered the STEAK DINNERS from Golden Corral.

Now you understand why Florida hand crews whine when we first arrive out
west. Everybody thinks we have a problem with altitude, but really we are just
getting used to a lack of room service!!!!

So in closing, whether its down here in the saw palmetto, or up there in
the juniper and sage, lets have a good safe year and as far as safety,
try to be our brother's keeper.

Flash in Florida
2/22 Misery Whip...

If you chewed your food it must mean you have teef. Which, using deductive reasoning,
leads me to the conclusion that you have a dental plan. Talk about tough...our agency
dental plan consisted of having our teef pulled. Less time off and C-Rat caramels lasted
for days.

2/22 Ab,

It is always interesting to see how politicians view wildland firefighting. I read the article www.nbc6.net/news/4211449/detail.phpl  contributed by Firescribe on 2/20, and a couple of things didn't sound quite right to me. A couple of quotes from the Undersecretary of Agriculture, Mark Rey, caught my attention: 

"Conversely, a lack of rain and snow in the interior Northwest has led to extremely dry conditions that could mean a severe fire season in eastern Washington and Oregon, as well as northern Idaho and western Montana, Rey said. Fires in the Northwest are not expected to begin until late July or August."

And then I read this article contributed by doc brown R6: 
Weekend Brush Fires: A Sign Of Things To Come?

Whoopsie. Mr. Rey might want to recalibrate his forecast a bit. Tillamook Burn, anyone?
This quote from Mr. Rey was fun too. It shows how statistics can be used to prove or disprove nearly anything.

"'Federal agencies filled in with more single-engine air tankers -- crop dusters used to spray fire retardant -- and heavy and medium helicopters. The 99.1 percent success rate at stopping fires while they were still small -- known as initial attack -- exceeded the 98.3 percent success rate in 2003,' Rey said."

Rey told the House Resources forestry subcommittee that the Forest Service again will rely on smaller planes and heavy helicopters to help fight wildfires across the West, after the Forest Service cut back on its use of big air tankers last year for safety reasons.

""We actually achieved a higher rate of success on initial attack with the reconfigured fleet we used last year than we had in previous years,' Rey said."

Hmmm. Was it just me, or was last year, excluding Alaska, a relatively slow year? So I went to the NIFC annual stats at www.nifc.gov/news/2004_statssumm/2004Stats&Summ.phpl 

According to the NIFC stats, 2004 was well below both the 5 and 10 year averages for numbers of ignitions, numbers of airtankers ordered, and numbers of type 1 & 2 helicopters ordered. So maybe a slow fire season was the real reason we had a whopping .08 percentage success increase in 2004. Isn't math fun?

And how many SEATs and helicopters supporting wildland fire suppression crashed last year? I doubt if the families of the dead pilots would consider 2004 a "success".

You win the rubber duck for your response in your 2/17 post. A am gratified that you recognize this problem too. You said: 

"More important though. There is no serious training in tactical on-the-ground fire behavior for newbee or almost newbee F/F. The basics are all a jumble of fire details and a list of rules from memory where you have to know fire behavior but you don't realize that when you're a newbee".

Shari Downhill,
Thanks for posting Bill Miller's interview with Ted Putnam. Someday, I hope, the wildland firefighting community will give Ted the credit he deserves for starting us on the path to real wildland firefighting safety. It is shameful that he was treated so poorly by the USFS, but I guess that is the price that people with "radical" philosophies must sometimes pay to effect cultural change. Ted is one of my heroes.

Kevin Moses,
Wow. What a wonderful tribute to our fallen friends. You definitely "get it".

Thanks for the reality check. I'm gonna sign up for Colorado Burgercamp as soon as I can locate my hairnet PPE.

Young & Dumb in R1,
You need a new name, you are obviously too smart for your present moniker. Here's another piece of advice; book learning is important, but the lessons that YOU will use the most when you are an old fire dog are the ones you learn from dragging a driptorch around the woods and suppressing fires. That's where your Recognition Primed Decisionmaking slides come from.

Misery Whip 

2/22 Ab,

I woke up this morning thinking about lunch.

It sort of started in the context of thinking about going to help this week with an inmate fire crew S-130/190 and refresher combo. I'll be using the NIFC situational awareness and Campbell alignment of forces powerpoints. My role is to help the students "connect the dots" (LCES, 10 & 18, etc.) by talking about what I know of tragedy fires. 

So, anyway, I woke up thinking, "they all stopped for lunch." There's a picture of the crew sprawled on the ground looking at trees torching in the Thirtymile report. It's called Lunch Spot Ridge on Storm King. On Mann Gulch, the crew and boss separately stopped to "eat something." 

You don't need much speculation to figure that in addition to dropping dozens of extra trees -- at some point during the job that kept needing more time -- the boys on Cramer stopped for lunch.

I haven't sorted this thought out completely yet. I'm heading out the door for a couple hours drive to a zone training meeting.

This is a human factors thing. People need to eat. Workers need energy. But, I skip dinner every year before the annual fire dept. mile run. 

On an SA level, considering that the dead didn't appear to appreciate the situation they were in (taking pictures, chatting, flirting, walking-not-running, etc.) would it have made a difference? 

I mean, does it effectively communicate the gravity of the situation to everybody, if the boss says, "We ain't stopping for lunch here." ??? At a critical time of day, just as the fire is getting stuff aligned, what are your firefighters doing?

Well, take it for what it's worth. I got horses to feed and miles to drive.

vfd cap'n
2/21 Some answers:

S-230 Crew Boss was being taught in at least FS Region in 1975 to meet one of their Safety First mandates for having training classes documented to move up or keep "red card" ratings. The first (I was told so at that time) national S-course was the Crew Boss class and it was nationally published thru BIFC in the spring of 1976. It was modeled after an FS R5 program which probably did not lend itself well to national distribution. It was said to have worked well in R5 with hundreds of people taking the class in a 5 year period to meet Safety First.

Safety First was started in R5 as a result of the 5 burnover fatalities experienced in the fall of 1971. It was led by Regional Forester Doug Leitz and involved most, if not all, the Forest Supervisors in the Region as well as the fire management personnel. The commitment of all levels at the time is what led to its success. All phases of Fire were touched by the program. Many items were eventually accepted as standards nationally and with other agencies, probably pushed by some of their own tragedies in a few cases. Saying "no" was a common occurrence in R5 even before Safety First started and was even more common after it hit the ground.

Safety First hit the ground running along with the impacts of the 1972 Fire Planning that were funded in 1974. There may have been some stuff implemented earlier in the helicopter arena, but I don't recall (an age thing). 1974 was a benchmark as the FS greatly expanded its fire forces (more hotshots, helicopters, engines, fpts) and upgrades for supervisors as well as year-long employment. This program succeeded because it was driven and supported by line officers. Hard to believe, huh? This was a big asset in getting action items institutionalized. Fire was totally immersed in the formulation of the actions that eventually became reality. Safety First set the standard. And in many case, the program took on a life of its own and was credited for things that were not actually part of the program.

Safety First was declared successful by virtue of having met all of its action items in 1987. By RF letter, the program was formally "put to bed". It still lives on today in the hearts and minds of many of the FFs from/in R5. The abysmal record FS R5 had compiled up to that time -- with numerous burnover fatalities (64) going back to 1953 with the Rattlesnake fire through 1971 -- was effectively curtailed. There's been only one FS R5 burnover fatality since 1971. Something must have worked and left its mark. I think the FS recognizes there is still work to be done in other areas that still have tragic impacts in the wildland fire environment.

Some of other Regions/Agencies didn't always like what Safety First wrought when the R5 FFs took it with them to other Regions. But to the firefighters from R5, the policy generated in that program was akin to law.

Now throw in Firescope and the start of the ICS in the fire environment in 1975...
pin phlare

Do you know when S-290 was first taught? Ab.

2/21 Ab,

Isn't it a violation of the Hatch Act for a FS employee to "dis" a piece
of legislation (HR 408) when speaking in an official capacity even if its teaching
us contractors? I was shocked they didnt get it that it was not right...


Folks, doesn't matter if it's for or against, when discussing legislation do it only on your own time. Somebody clue that person in please. Ab.

2/21 Weighing in on Digital vs Analog radio

OH BOY! DIGITAL! (You hear a sound like a melon hitting a table)

My experience with digital radio has not been good.

UNLESS the repeater is tuned exactly, the range is limited. Having bounced a few around in trucks and helicopters, I found that the detune rather quickly no matter how good they were in the shop. While there is a place for digital, it isn't at Incidents where life and limb are at stake. In order to get digital to work over large areas and long distances, RADIO technicians with expensive test equipment would be needed to put in the digital repeaters and TUNE them once they are set up. Communications Techs (COMT) and Comm Unit Leaders (COML) don't have to be radio technicians and a lot aren't. The ICS isn't set up for that and the Feds don't want to pay for that technical expertise COMT-AD at $17/hour vs Commercial Radio Tech at $60/hr (shop rates).

Digital radios consume power differently and at a higher constant rate then analog radios. This requires digital radio users to use A LOT more AA batteries than the analogs.

When a digital radio doesn't get enough signal to decode, it remains silent. At least analog radios tend to squelch noise.

Until the EEE-RF gurus figure out how to improve the digital radios so they run and operate more like analog, I feel we would all be better off sticking with analog.

That's my two cents (and how I make my dime)

Steve LCES
2/21 Old Fire Guy,

If I am not mistaken, our temporary firefighters work a full-time schedule and receive NO benefits other than what I had posted. The In-N-Out burger folks, as you were quick to point out, are able to work full time and get all of the benefits.

OFG, don't confuse your subject with the one that I wrote about. My last two comparisons have been for temporary, full time GS employees as compared to other temporary State Forestry positions (and then to a burger joint). If you want to compare benefits and wages for career positions, I am sure you will like my future comparison..... and if you think any of the Western U.S. feds come out on top, you will be crying in your geritol.

2/21 Y&DinR1 –

My 2 cents: I began my wildland fire career in my second year of college. Unfortunately (sort of), I didn’t know much about shot crews early on. Being an East Coaster for the first 18 years of my life, we didn’t see many wildland fires on the VFD I worked for, and I didn’t know anything about the system. I did the usual jobs in college while getting my degree in biology. While I somewhat regret not getting more involved early, I was fortunate to get hooked up with a non-fed structure agency who is very committed to wildland. With some patience, I got many classes over time AND the experience to back the book learning up. While we have a relatively unique situation, it is by no means impossible to find out in the fire world. Do not give up your education – it is important! What you learn is not necessarily as important as the experience. Learning to read, write, and speak- WELL, will do you wonders in whatever career you choose. Now, I know that college is not for everyone and is not a necessity to be a good wildland firefighter or manager. Lots of folks out there who are excellent firefighters and fire managers have never set foot on a college campus. But since you have started, don’t stop. Follow through. It will be worth it in the long run. Besides, I have heard that the BLM, at least, is now requiring a bachelor’s for all of their full timers. Something to think about…

2/21 Todd,

Sorry for the confusion. The U of Idaho CNR offers a 12-credit one-semester graduate certificate in Fire Ecology, Management, and Technology. It's new program (I think), and you need a degree in something natural resources-related to enroll for it. I've yet to talk to anyone who has completed it, but as I said, it looks like a good way to get some higher-level schoolin' in fire science without going for a full Masters degree.

Link: www.cnrhome.uidaho.edu/default.aspx?pid=42084

Young 'n' Dumb in Region One
2/21 The Digital radio debate.

The head of FS radio asked for some feedback on Digital radio. It generated some comments , mostly against Digital radio.

I feel fire communications needs to use the most reliable, proven technology that is commonly available, analog radio.

The only thing good about Digital is its ability to be encrypted, best application is law enforcement. With radio interference all you hear with digital is silence, analog interference just sounds bad.

Digital radio also is not as versatile as analog. We had to design a radio system that had to take into account Digital radio's shortfalls, some of which are listed below.

Some comments from FS techs

My two cents

I too am opposed to jumping into the digital radio world. My reason is not what the digital radio can do but what it cannot do. After all it is only a tool, a tool that provides communications for our fire fighters, law enforcement officers and our everyday field going personnel. The radio is used to provide essential communications for safety.

Radios are limited in range and digital radios are more limited than analog. Therefore cutting down the range of our radios is a step in the wrong direction. If you would think about cell phone coverage you will realize that the coverage of the newest cell phones have less coverage than the older analogs. Had I not ran over mine with the lawn mower I would still be carrying it. My point is that it is not important that our radio users have equipment that can do text messaging, but to have a radio that can provide voice communications at the push of a button. Operating radios need to be as simple as possible.

Digital radios have more of a place in urban areas where the digital functions can be used without giving up coverage. Our law enforcement officers communicate with other agencies in urban areas and therefore would be able to utilize the digital radio more than our other users. Digital radio systems will require more towers scattered around the forests just to get the same amount of coverage that we have today.

I also believe that we should at least have an application for digital radios, instead of implementing digital radio and then trying to find out the application. Radios are for short range communications and therefore our systems should be designed from the users point of view.


There are other capabilities that P25 still lacks also. For example none of the P25 manufactures have yet been able to offer a crossband base/repeater with multiple encode capability, a basic component of many Forest Service radio systems.


Interoperability with other Federal Agencies (Interoperability is also provided via the analog radios-if the other agency has digital they are backward compatible to the analog radios)

Added features - talk groups, encryption, and audio quality.

Support all risk requirements.

No application for the radio except for law enforcement needing the encryption.

Digital radios are more complex to the user.

Limited in coverage area. Possibility requiring addition radio sites. Will require additional sites on the forest.

More useful in urban areas.

Crossband base/repeater with multiple encode capability.

P-25 does not add any capacity to our communications system.

State and local cooperators will not be converting to P-25 in the near future.

Cost. Current analog radio $726. Current cost for digital radios range from $1350 to $2785. Cost goes down to $950 for Relm if we contract to buy 5000 radio per year for 5 years. Cost per year for 5000 P25 radios would be $4,750,000. Cost per year for 5000 analog radios would be $3,630,000. Difference would be $1,120,000 per year.


I will tell anyone who will listen that Digital radio is a bad idea. If you listen to management and a few others, you would think Digital is the greatest thing. But ask any field technician and they will tell you about the headaches it is causing them.

It would be interesting to hear other's experiences. If reading the SAFENETS are any indications it is not for Digital.

2/21 Young in R1,

Just a quick top of the head answer to your Q about the U of Idaho certificate... I think you're talking about the requirements to fulfill the IFPM 401 Series Stds. In the move to a professional firefighting series, the powers that be have come up with having everyone be a biologist plus (opm series 0401) by 10/1/2009. Fed employees currently in positions designated after the Storm King Incident in '94 (14 key positions) now have to get up to speed in the transition to professional fire manager -> biologist + fire. The fed agencies are working with UIdaho to help people find online courses to fulfill their bio degree and fire requirements.

For more info, look here: U of Idaho info on IFPM 401 series requirements
For online courses click the first link on the left under Courses. <downloadable excel spreadsheet file>
For more answers and explanations, go down to Agency Employee FAQ at the bottom left. <downloadable word doc>
or look at the NIFC Frequently Asked IFPM Questions site: www.ifpm.nifc.gov/


Todd, I think there are certificates that can be earned by those in school now -- in addition to or separate from the IFPM 401 "professional" retro-fit. I don't understand what the "certificates" refer to (TFM?) or whether someone newly hired with a degree in a major like forestry, range, wildlife, resource management would also have to do additional classes (certification) to then become professional "biologists plus". Perhaps MP or someone reading who knows could fill us in.

Since there have been ongoing questions about IFPM online courses, I added a question on IFPM Series 0401 and those links to our FAQ page. Ab.

2/21 Appreciate the info tf.


2/21 ab read this
Weekend Brush Fires: A Sign Of Things To Come?

doc brown r-6
2/21 Northern Columbia Reforestation, LLC, based out of NE Washington is looking to hire Engine Bosses. Check out their new employment ad on the Jobs page!

I've updated the Jobs page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages and Series 0401 ("professional" Biologist).


2/21 Young and Dumb,

I just wanted to tell you that I believe what you are doing is very beneficial. I came to my current position with a degree and regardless of what degree you pursue, you know you have the ability to follow something through. When the 401 series hit the street and now the IFPM, several people that I work with basically said that any education beyond taking S courses was a waste of time. I hope that the future is full of employees like yourself, because an education will help make a more professional workforce. My last thought is this. Try to find a forest/district that has good leadership. If you have the right folks above you, you will get the well rounded experiences you need to become a good leader yourself. Fire experience is a huge asset, but lets not forget RX opportunities and the skill of leadership that gets developed through mentoring etc..


2/20 Hi again,

First off, thanks for the positive feedback. It's appreciated.

Yes, the reason I've had trouble with Shot crews is the short availability. School lets out in the middle of May and starts again around the beginning of September. The crews I've talked to are all here in R1, and most either don't hire students at all, or they only hire one or two IF they'll skip fall semester, which isn't an option for me. So I'll just hang on here on the District crew, and start looking for a place where I can see more fire after I graduate.

I'd like to take an experimental semester as Mellie suggested, but this fall marks the start of my last year (four down, one to go) in school, so I figure I might as well just bite the bullet and get it done. But I have been paying serious attention to the fireline factors you mentioned (slope, fuels, etc), and I'm always trying to analyze my own weaknesses and areas I can improve in. I have a lot, so it keeps me busy.

I'll add that, at least here at the U of Montana, there is a lot of emphasis on fire management in the Forestry program. I've had several classes that dealt with fire behavior and fuel management that were very, very helpful when I took S-290 and S-390. Learning winds, how fuel moisture works, surface area to volume ratios, map reading and interpretation, fire effects, and orienteering among others in a classroom setting as part of getting my degree have helped me immensely when I have had to apply these skills on the ground.

So forestry might not be the best option for basing a professional fire career on, but you have to admit it does give a person a lot of insight into the natural processes that fire managers deal with at one time or another. I am of course biased when I say this because I have dedicated a good part of my life and my pocketbook to getting a degree in forestry (and I'll be paying it off for quite a few seasons after I'm done too).

I agree that it's a combination of education, experience, and training that makes for a good fire manager, as several people said. I am in no way saying that you need a degree in forestry to be a professional firefighter, but I know it has helped me to start thinking like one.

As far as the SCEP option that was mentioned by Old Fire Guy, I already tried that. R-1 has stopped hiring traditional SCEP's in fire, and is using the Apprentice program as a replacement. They still call it SCEP, but it's not the same as it used to be. I know a few people in R-2 that have been hired in fire as SCEPs, but I haven't been able to find out if there have been any announced SCEP positions in fire this year.

As a kind of aside, does anybody know anything about the fire certificate that the University of Idaho is offering now? It looks good, but I've yet to talk to anyone who has finished it.

Thanks again for the feedback; it's appreciated.

Young and Dumb in Region One
2/20 JD,
Having raised 3 boys I know what you mean about the "baby wipes". They are also great for cleaning your hands before eating that mystery meat sandwich ( who knows maybe the dirt would add nutrients to the meat) and taking a waterless shower before crawling into your sleeping bag.

I appreciated your comments on a Professional Fire Force. I have always contended that we are Professionals, even though many of us do not have Degrees from a bona fide school. There are many ways to get an education, perhaps the School of Hard Knocks is the most common. I personally feel that eventually we will be a recognized professional force. I do think that it would be beneficial to consolidate the suppression forces and place them under one agency, whether that be USFS, BLM, or Homeland Security, having the same rules, pay system, etc. would help ease some of the stress faced by our I.C.s

Keep up the good fight, and keep looking towards a better tomorrow.

2/20 Dear young in R-1

You won't ever regret getting your degree. I am a CSU graduate. I went
through similar agony when I was 19 and in school and going to five fires a
summer in R-2 while my friends were having the time of their lives going to
what seemed like hundreds of fires in California. I stuck out school, and I
have never regretted it. You are going to be going to fires the rest of
your working life, maybe 30 years. Experience will come. But the qualities
that an education imparts to your critical thinking skills, exposure to new
ideas, professional contacts, and just being around smart people, (sometimes
in short supply on the fireline), is great for you and it has helped me to
get involved in training, fuels assignments in the winter, and other
opportunities besides strictly fire fighting.

You might even decide that this glorified ditch-digging that we all do is
not as great as doing research, or being a professor, or beyond.

There is no substitute for experience on the fireline, but there also is no
substitute for formal education. The best is to have both.

2/20 Hi abs, all,

I went to the gym yesterday with my wife. We go almost every day together. Often she cautions me to "take it easy" or to "slow down, you're going to break the machine." Yesterday, she asked me why I workout so hard.

I thought about it for a little while, and replied "because my life is in my legs."

If I am ever in the position of getting chased up a hill with a fire crawling up my ass, I certainly don't want my legs to be the reason I get caught.

Adrenaline is a wonderful thing, and in bad situations (Ive been in a few) you definitely can run faster than you ever thought you could. I don't want to rely on adrenaline.

Remember, when you PT today, or tomorrow, or whenever you get to it next--your life is in your legs. PT smart, but PT hard!

Class C Sagebrush Faller
2/20 Ab,

Interesting that JW2 is only suggesting education as a Forester or something else (biologist anyone???) as an alternative for if something goes wrong with a firefighting career.

I don't mean to sound harsh, but what about
getting an education because wildland firefighting these days requires being able to:

  • communicate,
  • read and write in English,
  • operate a computer,
  • think critically,
  • think creatively,
  • understand fire behavior,
  • work with a diverse group of people,
  • demonstrate leadership,
  • keep yourself in shape physically with healthy habits,
  • understand human factors,
  • manage people and apparatus in a technically complex high stress
    environment with a huge number of cooperators and resources???

Oh yeah, I remember, firefighters aren't really professionals, they're just grunt labor. Something to do until you get a blown out knee and can get a real professional job for which you had to get educated. Does anyone not get this subtle message? I know a lot of wildland firefighting professionals with a wealth of training and experience in fire but let's... KEEP THEM IN THAT grunt BOX. Let's tell the pups that this is what they have to look forward to...

(Added afterwards: On reading back over this, Sorry, Ab and my apologies to you too JW2, I am probably misinterpreting your post. Clearly what I think you implied hits a hot button for me. In all fairness JW2, I don't think you meant the post the way I read it; I think you probably offering encouragement to someone to get that education, any education so as to keep options open. Even so, the wording of your post hints at a basic belief that many people have that wildland firefighters are not educated professionals (no wildland fire (fighting) degree) and can never be fire professionals, not really.)

Unless you are an expert wildland firefighter, it's hard to envision and create the steps from novice to professional -- hard to put together what should be the optimal college requirements and the consistent set of training and experience standards. How do we consciously build to a professional wildland firefighting force, one for new needs in these new times? What exactly is required? What is the clearest educational/experiential/training path? What would a college education look like that sets the trajectory for creating expert wildland firefighters? What would A Wildland Firefighter Major look like?

I believe that it's important to have a standard for wildland firefighters: education, plus training, plus fire experience. It's no longer ok -  as was done in the early days of the FS - to simply have people show up on a fire or grab them out of bars or off the streets. Formal college education has its place. Today a College degree is like a High School degree used to be 25 years ago: we've experienced "education inflation" simultaneously with the "fire job creep" in expected responsibilities that John Wendt described. But I don't think a major in Forestry or Biology is that desirable as the standard for helping a novice accelerate toward becoming a professional wildland firefighter. (Some group does need to do Doctrinal Review for Fire - go through the exercise if thinking about Mission, Doctrine, Principles, Policy - Diagram of Doctrinal Review. We need to have a clear image of what this is for federal agencies and cooperators so it can inform professional education/training/experience standards.)

Professionalism, human factors and safety:
Well, this is a big one. Belief in your own professionalism is key to striving to become ever more expert, recognizing your professional path, living your priorities, seeking the steps to gain expertise in your field. One major recommendation of the TriDat Study for a safe organization is that those involved in it view themselves as professionals. It helps if others also view you as professional. In my opinion, many of you who write in and read here ARE already wildland firefighting PROFESSIONALS. Many if not most of you know yourselves as professionals and are busy educating those who would assume otherwise. I salute you!

People who extol college education, please, let's be careful how we might limit the upcoming firepups with our own beliefs and limitations. We don't want the message (however subtle) to be: you'll be grunt labor until you blow out a knee and then you'll have to become a professional.

Young and Smart in Region One-
You're already on your educational way. More power to you. Make it your mission to become a professional wildland firefighter (expert). Get your degree in whatever seems reasonable to you now, but maybe throw in a management class and a human factors class (psychology with an emphasis on how people might behave under stress and why) and a business class or two. Often some of these are alternatives under your first two years "general education" requirements.

Plan your summers to optimize your fire behavior, leadership and people experiences. Find a forest that sees LOTS of fire. If you can't get hired on a crew that fights lots of fire because of school restrictions, consider doing an "experiential fire semester", an inter-term away from the hardcore academics. On the fireground pay attention to: slope, aspect, time of day, wind, fuel preheat; crew cohesion, leadership skills of your supt and squaddies; study those who have emotional intelligence and those who do not and check out your own; practice situational awareness perhaps even explore mindfulness meditation (as Ted Putnam would suggest). Pump your leaders for information. Keep your values and priorities straight. Your hotshot supts are equally important resources for what you need to learn as your professors are! Your life may depend on pumping them for their knowledge and wisdom. Go back to school when your field semester is over, but integrate the fire-people-etc experiences you've had.

Avoid the 180 Club if you possibly can - at least long enough to finish your firefighter college requirements. Take it from there.

You are entering a proud profession, one that will demand much. Heads up. Create your best future.


2/20 From Firescribe:

CDF considering cuts to air tanker fleet

'CDF in their infinite wisdom has decided that they
are going to cut the air tanker fleet by 15 percent...
air tankers will only be staffed six days a week.'

Forest Service low-flying pilot exercises

Deschutes National Forest’s Green Ridge on the
Sisters Ranger District might see low-flying airplanes
February 22 to 25.

Florida Fire Danger

Dry weather since hurricanes could cause severe wildfires
Risk could peak in Florida this Spring, experts say

2/20 Sal,

The fatalities that I remember on the Los Padres in 1971 were on the Romero Fire, which was in early October of that year. At the time, I was a squad boss on an Eldorado N.F. hand crew assigned to the fire. The four men were dozer bosses and dozer operators, and the burnover occurred late at night during strong Santa Ana conditions.

Ab, some other posts were asking how far back S-230 was taught. My certificate of completion is dated January 1976 from the Stanislaus N.F. I received portions of the prior designation F-2a training in 1965 at Lake Tahoe, according to my records.

2/20 Zimm,

Studies have shown that shovels don't work so well on paperwork.
On the other hand, a leaf blower will do a reasonable job. Now, if
you follow things up with a drip torch they'll want a burn plan.

Stay safe... Kicks
2/20 Young and Smart in Region 1:

Get that education. What if you're seriously injured at 25 (even a badly blown out knee) or decide at 45 you don't want to haul it up the hill anymore? In fact, add a minor to your degree so you're not one of the thousands of forestry majors out there trying to get on with the Forest Service.

I suspect college folks might run into trouble because of the season-starting and ending dates. Some crews start up as early as February. End dates can be extended if extra severity dollars or other sources of funding come along. I've known plenty of crews with students, but they can't risk being short if their season goes into the academic year.

Glad you're trying to get a fire-booted foot in the door.


2/20 Hmmmm Contractor pay

I've seen the statement 'Contractors get paid for sleep time' or some variation of this over the past few months. I guess I must be missing something because, as a contractor, I only get paid for the hours I have equipment/personnel working. Should I be filing for back payments for the past 5 years? Am I eligible for Hazard Pay (NO!)? Do I GET overtime (NO, but I pay it)?

Face it. We all agree the HOME OFFICE gets too much and the people doing the work don't get enough money for the work they do. But PLEASE don't lump contractors anymore than you already do. My head is getting to lumpy (and I gotta beat a new contract out of the Forest).

Steve LCES

2/20 Lobotomy,

You don't know how close we actually came to naming our school, "Colorado Burgercamp." Every week, I get e-mails from kids asking how they can get started in the business.

I tell them get whatever soft drink dispenser training you can. Get valuable, frontline experience by volunteering to work the grill at the local 4th of July picnic. Work at the hospital cafeteria in the off-season to get 'prescribed burn' work. Don't let customers settle for just the 10 Standard Orders -- always ask, "Hey, you want fries with that?"

And, constantly be vigilant of the 18 Situations that Shout Watch Out, especially the last one: "You feel like taking a nap next to the deep fryer."

vfd cap'n
2/19 I want to thank those that have posted pay comparison information lately. Yes, I admit, I'm biased because those folks are in fact dues paying members of the FWFSA, THE only organization in the nation working to improve pay, benefits and working conditions for our federal wildland firefighters. In fact the FWFSA has provided congress with substantial pay information over the years which has resulted in the introduction of HR 408, the Federal Wildland Firefighter Emergency Compensation Act.

I am delighted to hear that the comparison information is being forwarded internally by the Washington DC office of the Forest Service. Maybe someone will actually take the hint! It's sad though that this information is any surprise to them. But perhaps that is why the FWFSA has worked so long and hard educating those that can actually act on the nonsensical pay...Congress.

When Regional Foresters oppose paying firefighters for sleep time, yet pay cooperators and contractors for that very same sleep time... at much higher rates; when seasonal employees can't get any benefits but can darn well risk their lives, it must be clear to all of you that the Agency just isn't inclined to do what's right and ethical when it comes to compensation for you. As a result, we have to seek Congress' help to mandate that they enter the 21st century with respect to pay and benefits.

The Agency's lack of leadership on pay and benefits should not surprise anyone... look at its "missing in action" or the "we don't have your back" position with respect to Cramer. This is not an attack on the Agency. Just a reality that bureaucracies often lose touch with their employees in an attempt to protect their political hind-quarters.

That's why the FWFSA will have your back on issues it has the power to address.
For those of you vacillating between flipping burgers or performing some of the most dangerous, dirty, thankless, exhausting work in the world... take the later. One way or another, with or without the Agency's help, we'll get you what you deserve.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
2/19 Young and Dumb in Region One, YDRO?

Sounds like you've got a plan. Education will never hurt you. Do some checking though and get some better advice. I've not heard before that shot crews won't hire college students. I know of two working southern California for the past 3 years. I worked as a shot when I was in forestry college (of course that was in the 70's).

Also stop by a forest supervisor's office (SO) and ask to visit with the Forest Supervisor. Tell him/her your goals, and ask about the SCEP program. Hey, it's okay to ask to speak to the Forest Supe.....they don't bite.

Good luck.
Old Fire Guy
and keep us posted here on how that works out.
2/19 Hello Firemen

My name is Emma, I am 7 and have just finished a school project on
Natural Disasters. I chose Wildland Fires for my topic and found your
website great.

Thanks for teaching me so much - I love the way you are all one big

Keep safe all of you.
From Emma.

Hi Emma. Glad you stopped by, all the way from New Zealand. Come again. Hope you earned an A! Abercrombie.

2/19 Hi all,

I'm another long time reader, first time poster.

I'm one of those young 'n' dumb types that is willing to pursue the training, education, and experience that Old Fire Guy mentioned. I'm a seasonal GS-4 for the Big Green Machine right now, and I know I've got a long way to go before I get anything resembling a PFT position.

Right now I'm going to school for a Forestry degree, which complicates matters if you work on a slow FS District in northwest Montana. Short seasons aren't exactly conducive to getting experience. I was only on three fires last season, all of them smaller than a tenth-acre. I've talked to Shot crews about working, but all the crews I've talked to don't hire college students. I understand why, but it doesn't change the fact that it's hard to get experience as a college student. I know I'll have plenty of time to work on getting more experience when I'm out of school. I'm in no hurry to be climbing the ladder.

But despite all that I'm willing to stick it out. The reason I'm even getting a Forestry degree is so I can work in fire. Not that I necessarily need it to work in fire, but because I want it.

It's important to mention that when I started as a GS-3 four years ago I was told I was being naive for thinking a Forestry degree would be worth it if I wanted to work in fire. My AFMO told me I was better off skipping school and trying to get an apprentice position instead. Even as of last season I was told that my degree will be worth nothing in fire when I get done next year. I don't know if it's true or not, but I'm willing to find out.

So to wrap up my rambling, don't lose hope about the "gen-x-ers" that are coming up. I know a lot of us are willing to put in the time and effort to become quality fire managers. And we need to if we're to replace the current generation when the time comes.

I for one will take a job that puts me in the woods over a job that puts me flippin' burgers anytime, even if it's not the best career choice. At least I feel like I've accomplished something at the end of most days.

Young and Dumb in Region One
(but getting smarter all the time)

Welcome. Nothing against gen-x-ers, especially those with fire experience. We're gonna need a lot'ta good new blood before this is said and done. Ab.

2/19 Saw this site the otherday:

www.nifc.gov/reports/state.pdf (small pdf file)

in 1966 on the Angeles we lost 12 on a fed crew (El Cariso HS, Loop Fire);
in 1971 on the Los Padres we lost 4 (was that a FS handcrew? what fire?);
(in 1977 we lost 3, Vandenberg AFB not affected by Safety First Committee).

in 1981 on the Angeles we lost 1, Elizabeth Lake Fire (memorials page: www.wildlandfire.com/docs/memorials.php)

Check further here for other wlf accidents of all types across the country: www.nifc.gov/reports/index.phpl

There used to be an older nifc accident list in an antique pdf somewhere.

When did the Safety First Committee begin, exactly, the 30+ years ago?


2/19 Does anyone know when the last burnover of a R5 fed handcrew was?
Have there been any since the Safety First Program began?

Looking for Info

2/19 Lob,

You are almost entirely correct. I checked the In-N-Out site and note that the benefits mostly apply to "full time" associates......that might equate to our "permanent" workforce.
In that comparison the Feds would offer:
Most pft jobs are at the GS 5 minimum.
TSP (sorta like a 401)
Paid vacations
Sick leave (better than any private industry)
Meals (at firecamp or when on per diem)
Comprehensive training
Dental (minimal)
Vision (minimal)
Life Insurance

Threat of Loss of livelihood/career? Kinda hard to say....injury can occur at either job. Fed is less likely to close doors than private industry. When's the last time a gunman held up a FS office building?
Certainly more hazardous than burger joint.
Career Opportunity: Chief

Yup, The times they are a changin'. If you want to rise through the ranks you'll need training, education, and experience.
If you're not willing to pursue that....perhaps flippin' burgers is a better path. Hey, think of the party stories: "There I was, facing a mountain of fries and somebody yelled "BUS!"

Old Fire Guy
(started as GS-3)
2/19 Well the New Water Tender Contract is out for Region 6 now! Not too bad a contract and pretty close to last years again with a few minor changes.

Sure looking forward to the 2005 Fire Season up here in the Pacific Northwest Area again. With our snow pack at 19% of Normal it might be a nasty year for fires!! Lets all be safe fighting fires this season so we can all do it in 2006 again.

Looking forward to meeting you guys on the fires. Look for the GMC Red & White Tender with the Water Cannon and Hose Reel on top!

Region 6 Type III Tender Operator

2/19 Lobotomy,

Since you gathered the info, a few things have changed.
In-N-Out has raised their entry level pay to $9.00 per
hour with benefits...

I think the In-N-Out salary is still even more competitive
with the Special Salary Rate and Locality areas of
temporary wildland firefighters when you compare
benefits, risks and gains.... even in California.

If I was 18 and doing it all over again, I would have
chosen a career that gave me good and stable yearlong
pay, good benefits, and a career path that made me
happy with my accomplishments. When I was younger,
I thought that a career as a Federal wildland firefighter
offered these perks... I guess I was wrong.

Future Burger Flipper
2/18 Lobotomy here again..... I would like to share a comparison of a Burger Joint
entry level job with that of a federal temporary (seasonal) wildland firefighter.

This is a comparison of the GS-2 or GS-3 Entry Level Seasonal Firefighter and
an entry level employee of In-N-Out Burger. In-N-Out Burger currently has
locations in California, Nevada, and Arizona (with future expansions planned).

In-N-Out Burger http://www.in-n-out.com/
Starting Pay: $8.25 per hour minimum with regular raises.
401 K Program:                Yes
Paid Vacations:               Yes
Free Meals:                   Yes
Comprehensive Training:       Yes
Medical Insurance:            Yes
Dental Insurance:             Yes
Vision Insurance:             Yes
Life Insurance:               Yes
Get to Go Home Every Night:   Yes
Threat of loss of livelihood: No
Threat of loss of Career:     No
Extremely Hazardous?:         No
Promotional Opportunities:    Yes
Store Manager -               just shy of $100,000 per year.
Second Manager -              $50,000 per year.
Third Manager -               $41,000 per year.
Fourth Manager -              $33,000 per year.
Additional Manager Perks: 
1) Defined Contribution Profit Sharing Plan, 
2) Performance based incentive wages, 
3) Tuition reimbursement (2nd Manager and above).
Temporary Federal Wildland Firefighter (Outside of Special Salary Rates
or Locality)
Starting Pay: GS-2 $8.63 per hour, GS-3 $9.41 per hour.
401 K Program:                No
Paid Vacations:               Yes(Annual Leave)
Free Meals:                   No (Except on fire assignments)
Comprehensive Training:       Yes 
Medical Insurance:            No
Dental Insurance:             No
Vision Insurance:             No
Life Insurance:               No (But are eligible for PSOBenefits)
Get to Go Home Every Night:   No
Threat of loss of livelihood: Yes
Threat of loss of Career:     Yes
Extremely Hazardous?:         Yes
Promotional Opportunities: Depends on experience and, NOW, EDUCATION.
See IFPM Standards and OPM Rates of Pay.
2/18 Oliver,

We have several snaptanks, pumpkins, and fold-a-tanks. The snaptanks are easy to set up and break down but I would be hard pressed to do so in four minutes. The snaptank takes up less room than a pumpkin or fold-a-tank of equal size. It takes some practice to get all the parts back in the bag. I prefer the pumpkins for their simplicity but they do take up more room on an engine. I hope this helps in your decision...

Stay safe, Arlo

2/18 Thanks Old Fire Guy, I was hoping for that. Thanks to the ADFA.


2/18 Ab,

Today, the IC for my Type 1 Incident Management Team forwarded the OIG report and a message from Tom Harbour, our Director of Fire & Aviation. I am still scratching my head trying to figure it out. Is this supposed to make us feel better about the Cramer mess and the growing confidence crisis in wildland fire management? Here's the message:

"The Cramer Fire was difficult for all of us in many ways. Each time a new report is issued it focuses our memories. I know we introspectively pause to ponder some fundamental questions about our commitment to our firefighters. This OIG report should be considered carefully. We should each ask ourselves about our leadership role as the 2005 fire season approaches."

"Gross negligence, a lack of due caution and circumspection, and a wanton disregard for human life - these are legal terms whose application to our profession can only be banished by our adherence to reasonable and prudent standards of care -- on every fire, every time -- in every mission we undertake."

"I'm convinced we have the ability and determination to build a new and stronger foundation for the future. Our foundation will be built on
healthier, less volatile forests. Our conduct will reflect a greater understanding of fundamentals. Our results will engender confidence."

"Take care - "

"Tom Harbour"

To me, it sounds like the intended message is; if you do everything perfectly, and if everyone else who is working for you on your fire also performs flawlessly, then you don't have to worry about being charged with "gross negligence, a lack of due caution and circumspection, and a wanton disregard for human life". If that is indeed the case, then I'll quote a line from Charlie Sheen in Platoon as a response; "You just don't f***ing get it".

The sad thing to me about this message is that it reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of human behavior and the relationship of organizations to the causes of accidents. If our top agency managers do not understand that they have perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT ROLES in preventing future Cramers, then things will probably continue to get worse. No matter how much you wish it weren't so, human beings always have been, and always will be, susceptible to errors in judgment. An error-free wildland fire work environment is not possible to achieve; that is why behavioral scientists refer to the art of reducing catastrophic errors in complex, dangerous occupations as Error Management.

This is what people who really understand human behavior say about Error Management. From Crew Resource Management: A Positive Change for the Fire Service:


"human behavior patterns suggest that the most well intentioned, best-trained, consistently performing individuals and work groups commit errors. Some of these errors are miniscule in scope and have little or no impact on events. Others are calamitous".

Was Alan Hackett a "best trained, consistently performing individual"? I don't know. But that is a moot point as far as I am concerned. He was working within a system that allowed him to perform as a Type III IC, and if you don't put the focus on that system, you are not going to learn the most important lessons that Cramer has to offer.

I think there is a way to tie together Tom Harbour's note and some of the threads that have been running through They Said recently. Call it a unified theory, or whatever you want, we are all talking about different parts of the same problem. What we are facing in wildland fire management today is similar in many respects to the crisis that the Union Pacific Railroad endured in the mid-nineties.

In Chapter 1 of "Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity", authors Weick and Sutcliffe describe the meltdown of Union Pacific Railroad operations after a merger with the Southern Pacific Railroad. As they describe it, "not long after the formal acquisition on September 11, 1996, the vaunted "expertise" of the UP began to unravel. Unexpected events came in waves. And the responses only made it worse". Because the CEO of UP was a "self-proclaimed operations guy", UP management couldn't understand why things were so messed up, and they blamed it on nearly everything else but themselves. As Managing the Unexpected says; "executives often manage the unexpected by blaming it on someone, usually someone else".

Look at the agency response after Cramer. We took some great new teaching tools (new to us), simulations and sand table exercises, and turned them into pass-fail tests for existing Type III ICs. Some Type III ICs had never even been exposed to this type of training/evaluation tool before, but the agency threw them into the meat grinder with everyone else and expected filet mignon to come out the other end.

Now, don't get me wrong, the military uses STEX as a training and evaluation tool for officers. But they allow them to become familiar with the training medium through dozens of exercises, gradually expose them to more and more complex scenarios, carefully evaluate and discuss performance, and suggest alternative actions/outcomes throughout the process. This is a far cry from what we did to our Type III ICs. Should it be a surprise that many Type III ICs resent how they were singled out and treated after Cramer?

Look at some of the other important issues being discussed on They Said recently. Consolidation of forests and ranger districts, collateral duties for fire management officers, centralization of important functions, mistreatment of temporary employees, reductions in fire workforce, reductions in budgets, reductions in AD wages, new technological gizmos every week, increased civil and criminal liability, increasing reliance on poorly trained contract resources, increased targets for prescribed fire, and on, and on. All of these things reflect a lack of understanding on management's part that they are unintentionally (at least I think they are unintentional) crippling our ability to fight fire safely.

We are entering a decidedly interesting phase in the history of wildland fire management. A Fireline Leadership (L-380) instructor told me that a recent extended attack scenario exercise that takes firefighters in most regions less than an hour to engage took R6 employees over 3 hours to engage the incident, mainly because of all the checklists and post-Thirtymile abatement crap. Is this progress?

Right now, our main problem is that we are in the midst of a slow moving paradigm shift, and we may not really recognize it. Ted Putnam's efforts after South Canyon started the shift, Thirtymile & Cramer muddied up the waters, but we are still transitioning into an organization that has a much better appreciation of human factors than we had ten years ago. And that is also part of the problem; we have a few energetic visionaries like Jim Cook in positions of influence, but many of our upper managers still "don't f***ing get it". That doesn't make them bad people; I don't know Tom Harbour personally, but I have heard many good things about him from people who do know him. Alice Forbes is tops in my book, and I'm pretty sure the Chief is a good person, too. But who is giving them advice on critical decisions that affect firefighters on the ground? Is it the right kind of advice?

Why is it that ten years after the first Human Factors Workshop, we still have not wholeheartedly adopted Crew Resource Management training for everyone from the bottom up? If 70-90% of accidents are based in human behavior, why don't we place as much emphasis on this area as fire behavior? Why don't we use tried and true Recognition Primed Decisionmaking techniques to train our firefighting workforce instead of continuing to insist the "the 10 & 18 are firm, we don't break them, we don't bend them"?

I would respectfully offer to Tom Harbour that, instead of basing our foundation for future success on "healthier, less volatile forests", our foundation for the future should be based on an all-encompassing Dryden Report-style organizational/human factors investigation of the way we do business today, and acceptance that we need to enlist the best minds in the world to help us figure out how to fix our present ORGANIZATIONAL problems. We need people like Karl Weick, Kathleen Sutcliffe, Daniel Maurino, James Reason, and others to help us find our way out of this mess.

Domaque, I enjoyed reading your thoughtful and accurate post, it reflects the way many of us feel today. What is it that we are supposed to know that we don't presently know that we should watch out for? I'd like to know the answer to that question too.

Oliver & BLM Bob, you guys are wussies. At least you had boots. And we didn't even have tools to make our gravel breakfast, we just chewed it right off the boulders.

Misery Whip

2/18 JG,

My understanding is the AD rates for 2005 will be the same
as the 2004 rates. A new team will address 2006 rates.

Old Fire Guy
2/18 Hey,

This may not be all that new everyone but I just
discovered it myself. First of all my wife and I had
our first child 2 months ago, which is pretty cool.
So anyway I was changing his diaper the other day and
noticed the baby wipes have aloe in them. I was
curious, so on my next trip to the potty I tried them
myself. HOLY COW!! They're great!! I don't think
I'll ever go back to toilet paper again. I just hope
I can come up with a way to keep them nice and moistee
in my fire pack.

Don't knock till you try it.

2/18 Here's the message that came out with the FS release (2/11)
of the USDA-OIG final investigative report on the Cramer Fire.

Ab Note: We posted and linked to the report on 2/10. Scroll back to 2/10 if you want to see the letter from the Inspector General that accompanied it.

The Cramer Fire was difficult for all of us in many ways. Each time a new
report is issued it focuses our memories. I know we introspectively pause
to ponder some fundamental questions about our commitment to our
firefighters. This OIG report should be considered carefully. We should
each ask ourselves about our leadership role as the 2005 fire season

Gross negligence, a lack of due caution and circumspection, and a wanton
disregard for human life - these are legal terms whose application to our
profession can only be banished by our adherence to reasonable and prudent
standards of care -- on every fire, every time -- in every mission we

I'm convinced we have the ability and determination to build a new and
stronger foundation for the future. Our foundation will be built on
healthier, less volatile forests. Our conduct will reflect a greater
understanding of fundamentals. Our results will engender confidence.

Take care -

Tom Harbour

2/18 An interview with Ted Putnam was just posted on the Leadership website under “Leaders we would like to talk to.” Here’s the link: www.fireleadership.gov/toolbox/interviews/leaders_TedPutnam.phpl

Bill Miller conducted the interview and did an excellent job. (Thanks Bill – You’re a gem.) Ted has a lot to say about ethics and truth. These are good things. Perhaps we could all use Ted’s message as an inspiration.

Shari Downhill
2/18 NorCal Tom,

I asked Ed Hollenshead about Doctrine and here's what I got back:

I've received any number of great questions regarding doctrinal review...
what it is and what it means.

Following is a stab at briefly describing the purpose and process of
doctrinal review....

Doctrine is the body of principles that guides an organization in the
accomplishment of its mission; in our case, fire suppression. The
mission (described in enabling legislation for federal wildland fire
agencies) and the moral ethos of the culture combine to form guiding
principles (moral/ethical a operational), the basic tenets upon which
judgment, decision-making, and behaviors depend. Combined, these
principles form doctrine. Doctrine, then, provides the framework
within which policy, tools and techniques, performance expectations,
and measures of success are derived. It looks something like this...

Diagram of Doctrinal Review with relationships between mission,
principles, doctrine, policy, etc.

 The purpose of our (FS) doctrinal review is to perform a self
examination. We need to ensure what we think are our guiding
principles are indeed our guiding principles within the environment
we now operate. Current national differences in operational
philosophy (demonstrated by the debate surrounding firefighter safety
and mission accomplishment) lead me to believe we do not have a
common, well understood, foundational doctrine... that we have no
collective agreement as to what it is we are about in the fire
suppression mission. This effort is proposed to get us to that

Once we agree to a foundational doctrine we have a uniform measure to
evaluate the appropriateness of a behavior, a plan, an action, an
outcome, a policy, and all other aspects of the fire suppression

He requests any input.

I'd be really curious to hear what anyone thinks. I agree with him that we need to have a clear image of what we're about. This is an interagency process.


2/18 Sent in by a hotshot.
This article is from a NPS "Ranger" magazine. The ranger who wrote it is a member of the NPS Color Guard. He participated in the memorial services for Suzi Roberts, and for our fallen Hotshot Dan "Homeboy" Holmes.

Fully Knowing The Hazards —

September-October of this past year was another difficult time for the Park Service family, particularly rangers and firefighters. Once again, we had to bury two of our own . . . two of our finest. Yet another sobering reminder that our jobs often place us in harm's way.

Ranger Suzi Roberts was killed in the line of duty Sept. 14 by falling rock in Haleakala while she was clearing a previous rockslide's debris from Hana Road. She was 36 years old.

Barely two weeks later, on Oct. 2, Arrowhead Hotshot Daniel Holmes was also killed in the line of duty. During a prescribed burn in Kings Canyon, Danny was struck by a burning treetop as it fell to the ground. His fellow crew members were there by his side when it happened. Some saw it happen. Danny was 26.

Two more of our best and brightest are gone. Gone in their youth, in their prime.

At least in both of these cases there are no accusatory fingers to point. There is no one to blame. Nobody did anything wrong this time. What happened to Suzi and Danny could have happened to any one of us. They died doing the jobs we all do every day. Somewhere in our national parks a rock or a tree falls every day, and there is no preventing that. It just so happened that on these two days, a ranger and a firefighter were standing in the fall line.

Some will surely ask, "How can we prevent this from happening again?" The answer is we cannot — unless we quit going to work, and neither Suzi nor Danny would approve of that. The hard reality is as long as we carry out the rigorous duties that we do amidst the magnificent — but wild — landscapes of national parks, we shall continue to be in harm's way.

Suzi and Danny knew this, and the telling thing is that they went to work anyway. Just as we do every day. They accepted the risks, "fully knowing the hazards of our chosen profession," to paraphrase the U.S. Army Ranger Creed. Just as we do every day.

This is exactly why we should all congratulate every retired law enforcement officer, firefighter and other emergency services worker we meet. We should congratulate them not just for a successful career, but for living through it.

It's quite the wake-up call to realize that living through our careers — and for that matter, our next shift — is not at all a given. If it was, we would not have walls all over our country memorializing those who have fallen in action, especially those with blank space waiting for new names.

But that's precisely what makes what we do for a living such a beautiful and sacred thing —we band together in answering a higher calling that often tempers our bonds amidst difficult circumstances. We don our uniforms every day and radio 10-8 in a line of work that requires us to answer harrowing calls, to face the fiery dragon's breath, to give of ourselves oftentimes "that others may live."

And on many occasions, we place our own welfare in the hands of our brothers and sisters. We enjoy in our line of work a rare and sweet camaraderie that can only be forged through shared adversity. We are a band of brothers and sisters, and the glue that holds our band together is the ever-present knowledge that we have all "been there, done that." We have all responded to some pretty hairy calls, and we know that any given shift could be our last. In short, we can relate to one another the way no one else can.

In a profession historically punctuated with line-of-duty-deaths, we are mindful to never take for granted the time we have with our brothers and sisters. Again, that gold watch and pension are not a given for us. Suzi and Danny remind us of that. Of course we do all we can to work safely — we look up, look down, look all around, but we can never remove the dangers 100 percent. If we did, it wouldn't be rangering. It wouldn't be firefighting.

I'm not saying we should acquiesce, throw caution to the wind and surrender ourselves to the attitude of "if we die today, oh well, then we die today." Of course not. I'm simply saying we cannot send firefighters, law enforcement officers and rescue professionals into their respective arenas and expect that line-of-duty deaths will never happen. Sooner or later, they will. And when they do, we remember our fallen. We pay tribute to them. We honor them.

We most recently sought to honor Suzi and Danny. We graced their caskets with our national colors, we rendered crisp salutes as they passed by one last time, we played sorrowful ballads on the pipes, and we shall engrave their names on our walls.

But we can honor them best by picking up their rifle, by picking up their Pulaski and carrying on where they left off. We go back to work doing the same work that snuffed out their light so tragically early. And we do it because we know they would have done the same for us. They were our sister and our brother.

Suzi and Danny died doing what they loved. They died serving their country. And they died with their boots on.

~ Kevin Moses, Big South Fork

2/18 Oliver,

I know, you're right, I certainly can't complain. At least you had a maul -
the old-timers tell me they had to use their pulaskis to beat their gravel
out of the rocks...and may Big Ernie help them if their blades weren't all
sharpened and ready to go at the morning line-out. The foremen was MEAN
in those days.

2/18 Greetings,

The Big Rivers Forest Fire Management Compact has a brochure for this year's Midwest Wildfire Academy posted.

Registration isn't open yet. I believe that in the past acceptance has been on a first come first served basis (it was when I went) so if it is important to you to get a spot in a hard to get class you may want to check everyday at www.mufrti.org  for the catalog and registration to appear for the Summer Fire School and Midwest Wildfire Academy. Good luck.

It's almost fire season in central Missouri. We get mainly grass fires that then spread into the woods (it would be an insult to you western folks for me to call it forests). Anymore the escaped prescribed burns from the quail "farmers" with their CRP fields of warm season grasses have caused a significant increase in our fire calls. Does anybody in other areas of the country have this problem?


2/18 I'm looking to upgrade one of our 6 portable water tanks to a SnapTank (trademark). Anyone have any history with these? Ease of setting up, comparable to old fold-a-Tank? Durability? The literature states that it can be assembled in less than 4 minutes...true?

Thanks for any info you might have.


Ps...BLM Bob...your agency provided instant breakfast? My agency instructs us to make our own gravel from the rocks we slept on and I have to tell you that I really enjoy the feel of a 10lb. maul in my hands at 5AM with the crew singing "Big John" in the background.
2/18 I've updated the Jobs page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages and Series 0401 ("professional" Biologist).

There are lots of fed jobs out there folks, especially in the GS-9 to GS-11 categories. During MEL buildup OPM had many jobs listed across GS ratings but especially at the lower and mid range. Seems to me we're seeing lots more this season at the upper end. Guess I shouldn't be surprised, what with retirements. Soon we'll have a predominantly Generation X fire world.


2/18 Rogue Rivers, you asked

Does anyone know if a Civil Rights Impact Analysis (CRIA) was completed
for the implementation of the IFPM/401 stuff? If so, do you know where I
can get a copy?

Are you wondering about how special salary rate will be affected by changing
from Series 0462 that has the special rate to Series 0401 that doesn't? Lots of
us have been wondering about that. I'd like to see a CRIA too.

Tahoe Terrie

PS thanks for fleshing out the teaching requirements, SRJS.

2/18 Does anyone know what rates ADs are going to be paid at?
Will the 2005 rates hold or be rolled back?


2/17 Abs;

I read Dick Mangan's letter in Wildfire magazine (and his post on 2/13) and agree with the sentiments. His post and Goat's post on 2/12 got me thinking on accountability. There was also an article in the current issue of Wildfire magazine (sorry, couldn't find a link) titled "Accountability Back in the Hot Seat". It talks about how accountability is important to good leadership. It defines accountability as "the quality or state of being accountable, an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions."

I agree with that definition and feel that I am accountable for my actions and my crew or engines actions on (and off) a fire. I take my job and the safety of my crew seriously, as does almost everyone else in this business. This is nothing new for most people. Some have varying levels of experience and that does affect how effective you are at safety and your job.

But the prosecution of Allen Hackett by the U.S. Attorney Office makes me ask What am I responsible for? I do not want to get anyone killed or injured in the process of doing my job, but fire fatalities have happened to people a lot more experienced at fire than I am, so it is possible for something bad to happen to me or someone under me. Does that make me a criminal if an unlucky set of circumstances strikes me or my crew down? I do realize that 70-90% of all accidents are human caused and that I might cause one of them. I happen to be human. What actions on a fire warrant criminal prosecution?

But back to the question of accountability. I feel that if a fatality happens on a fire that I am the IC on, or something bad happens to one of my crewmembers, I have to step up and figure out what went wrong, what mistakes were made. This may lead to my prosecution as a criminal, but hopefully the truth would get out to the rest of the fire world.

Many have mentioned that we should have a system of accountability similar to the U.S. military, specifically the U.S. Navy. When a Navy ship runs aground, the captain is usually relieved regardless of whether he was on the bridge or not. As a former active duty sailor on small-boys (slang for destroyers, frigates, and cruisers), I have seen this accountability in action. The difference between the Navy and the fire world is that the captain and every member of the crew has very defined sets of responsibilities and lots of training. To get to be a captain of a ship is not an easy process and usually takes 10 to 15 years, depending on the ship. Further more, when a captain is relived of command, he doesn't face criminal prosecution. He (or she) is usually reassigned to a different post, or retired.

I love this job, but what do I have to do to avoid being a criminal in the process of doing my job? If a fatality happens on my watch, I will have enough guilt over what I did or didn't do without the criminal prosecution.

Very respectfully,

Excellent questions, excellently written. We'd all like the answers. Respectfully. Ab.

2/17 Letter of Response to Blackwell - R5 Captains

I like what this rep has to say.

Green Gestapo

2/17 Hi Abs

The GAO's new report on wildland fire management is up.
Some of the folks on They Said might be interested in reading it.



Lobotomy sent in this link the other day, I believe, but it's worth posting again. I need to read it myself. Ab.

2/17 Hi,

I was wondering if you had any info on forest firefighting in Australia. I'm a
forest firefighter in Canada and might be going to australia next winter (their
summer) and am trying to find info on the best time to apply? what
qualifications they want? start of season? Ect.. Any help would be greatful.

Thanks Chad

Hi Chad, this gives me a chance to point you and others who are looking for wildland firefighting jobs to our newly updated FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page. Just yesterday Dick Mangan, who has been DownUnda often, sent in the very answer to your question. Prospects for an "Endless Summer" of firefighting and getting paid for it are slim to none. But read what Dick says. Ab.

2/17 Oliver,

You had moss and leaves to put in your boots? Sheer luxury! Why, when I were a lad fighting fire in the Sierra, all we had were Yaller Pine needles and Gooseberry bushes. We slept on the rocks with no blankets, and when we got up we just spit in our boots, pulled 'em on, and went to work. All we got for breakfast was gravel, COLD gravel. And we LIKED it!

Don't you talk to me about deprivation, boy.

2/17 AXE, 

I'll never forget watching a very young-looking guy trying to stay ahead of a 
Congressman who was brushing off a pre-flight briefing and manifest questions. 
He didn't get the Congressman's full attention until he asked for the fiber 
content of his underwear and weight!

Still Out There as an AD
2/17 Has anyone heard any more on FAM trying to clarify what Doctrine means? 
Is it being discussed with groundpounders? with interagency cooperators?

I haven't been to chat since that night there was some discussion on it, 
but I'd like to know more.

NorCal Tom
2/17 New mapping utility from Google


Run a test by putting in your home address. Then navigate
to some distant and remote fire site real or imagined. Gives
details and distances.

R3 Dispatcher

I added it to the Links page under geographic. Thanks to Jim at the Supply Cache for sponsoring our links page. Ab.

2/17 Socks??? My agency pay scales are so old and out of touch with reality
that most of us can't afford socks. We use moss and leaves for wicking
and cushioning.

2/17 Class C Sagebrush Faller, Nerd, Still out there as an AD, AXE, R2 localyokel, et all

I too take ibuprophin pre-shift (3), but I am proud to say I also paint over any blister with nu-skin,
put a moleskin on it and wrap it in the white duck tape stuff I order special with little pink redcrosses
on it. Creates a stir in camp too when I disrobe my footsies. Remember, with the ibuprophin in your
system, do not cut yourself while on-shift as you will be a bit prone to extra bleeding.

Three (3) ibuprophin before bed after tipping a few in the off season is also a good idea, or if you think you
can't remember to take them then, take them before drinking. Not acetominophin (tylenol).
Combined with alcohol tylenol fries your liver. Again, if you expect to cut yourself while drinking, it's
better to have a fuzzy head in the morning than take the ibuprophin. Plan ahead!

I really like silk sox and I go for Nicks - boots, that is.

Sally the EMT (pronounced sallie) <laughing>

2/17 Hi all,

I am presently preparing for my fifth year on an IHC crew, and my seventh season (6 and a half is more accurate, maybe) overall. What I have learned is that being on an IHC is all about pain management. Therefore, I believe in the power of preventative Ibuprophen. I usually take one before any shift starts, not because of how I feel at the time, but because of how I might feel afterward.

I would submit that this is not a sally-ish practice, but instead a smart survival technique. Therefore, extra cushioning for blisters is sallyism, but taking ibuprophen is not.

(Chuckling merrily in the background,)

Class C Sagebrush Faller
2/17 Ab, I just haven't been able to let this go. on 2/6 Misery Whip said:

My question for the folks who feel that blame [of individuals] is deserved, what training program was used to train the people on the Cramer fire to assess what we now all recognize in hindsight?

Remember, at the time Jeff and Shane rappelled, fire behavior was subdued and did not appear to be an imminent threat. So how did the people on Cramer learn how to assess, from an aircraft no less, what a reasonable safety zone was for the given fuel and terrain conditions, and how the fire might behave under drier and windier conditions hours later?

I know what the answer is, I'm just curious if the people who want to affix blame on the Cramer participants know the answer.

All I can think of is that first off there is no serious training in human factors altho leadership courses get at some aspects of it.

More important though. There is no serious training in tactical on-the-ground fire behavior for newbee or almost newbee F/F. The basics are all a jumble of fire details and a list of rules from memory where you have to know fire behavior but you don't realize that when you're a newbee.

There's no common shared fire behavior logic or language outside of Campbell's Prediction Method training for flammability curve, alignment of forces, "tracks", trigger points, etc, etc. Some of his terms have crept into the training mix like hot and cold slope and trigger point, but the complete logic of CPS is missing. What if we all were on the same page and the helo crew could raise the flag if the IC missed it and the helitack could be looking for a logical reassessment at a logical time???

It was good to see the FS Cramer ppt... they got some of it close, why not all of it???... To have vfd capt suggest inserting Campbell's PPT with it, good idea! I don't understand why Campbell's method is not taught to everyone??? How can we expect F/F to assess LCES & 10 &18 if they don't know what the fire is doing or going to do?

The professional military newbee is not so ill prepared coming out of boot camp. Is our training really focused on crew safety?


Many new firefighters today are from cities and don't understand the differences in drying on north and south aspect. We no longer have BD crews to provide accelerated fire experience on the ground. Ab.

2/17 Response to "Still out there as an AD"

Something you said made me chuckle......

You said:

"Silk sock liners do just about everything the new
high tech ones do, and are safer since they are a
natural fiber; i.e., you can be in helicopters with

When I did helicopter work, we always chuckled at
this. While I understand the importance of wearing
natural fiber undergarments, but --

If the helicopter fire burns through the leather boots
you are wearing and is still hot enough to melt your
sock liner, you've got bigger problems.


2/17 Class C Sagebrush Faller – So cushioning is for sallies, but ibuprofen
for pain is acceptable?!

I kid, I kid…

R2 localyokel

2/17 Socks…

I wore the Smartwools last season, liked ‘em okay but like Sagebrush Faller said, they squish down. I’m trying out the Remingtons now, and I’m pretty impressed with them but I haven’t really put them to the test yet. I don’t like doing the two-pairs thing because I’ve found that the inner pair tends to wrinkle, and it’s a PAIN to straighten them out again. I guess when I find somebody who never, EVER bitches about their feet I’ll do what he/she does. Till then I’ll keep experimenting. Ditto for gloves.

Nerd on the Fireline
2/17 Maybe no one has an opinion on this... Does it seem likely that the current litigation
stuff that's started in the FS will come to haunt us state wildland firefighters too? I'm still fairly
far off from retirement from CDF. I love what I do, but sometimes that LACo FD job
feels like it might be less of a threat. I know we don't admit it often, but I bet we all have had
a near miss in this job... socal firestorm, vehicle accident, a pump blowing up with
shrapnel hitting the tree near your head.


2/17 Joe Hill... All I have to say is talk to the folks who are still employed and working for the Federal Agencies as line level firefighters and managers.

There have been technology and technical changes, but there has not been cultural changes that promote firefighter safety and better working conditions for federal wildland firefighters except in Region 5..... ie - Safety First Program.

The changes in nationwide technologies may have been successful in stopping a few "chainsaw" cuts, but what has been done is a pretty piss poor job about keeping wildland firefighters safe and coming home to their families each night. We, as the wildland fire community, can make our jobs safer for ALL if we decide to stop sitting on our hands and throwing stones at each other.

The "Safety First" program (nearing 30+ years ago) addressed proper classification, full time vs. seasonal employment, and basic skills for supervisors and firefighters. Many of these changes were implemented in Region 5 (California) but always got a bumm wrap from other Regions until they experienced the same problems.

Some of these many changes that seem to come out of California are slow to take hold.. ie - GS-8 Engine Foremen (Permanent Full Time)..... It was a battle won in California.. but these are battles now celebrated in Regions 3, 8, and 9. (Nationally certified position descriptions)

Joe, are we reinventing the wheel? I would say yes!!! (and we waste alot of time doing it as folks die from rare and specific forms of cancers that have alot to do with our profession).... These battles, discussions, and commentaries have been happening for years..... even back when you wore your Frisco's and I wore my Filson vest on the fireline....

2/17 Socks:

Silk sock liners do just about everything the new high tech ones do, and are safer since they are a natural fiber; i.e., you can be in helicopters with these. They also weigh next to nothing. Same's true for the long johns if you're ever stuck out on a mountain at night working a spring fire.

Ol'Timer's perspective:

Thanks, Joe Hill, for the old-timer's perspective. You might be able to remember something that's just beyond my memory since I came into the organization right as ICS was taking hold. It seems like under the old large fire organization, Forest Service line-officer positions were tied to fire boss qualifications. In other words, to be a district ranger, you had to be qualified to command x-sized fire and to be a Forest Supervisor, you had to be able to handle y-sized ones. Does anyone out there remember? This is more than a history lesson and relates to an awful lot of what's been discussed in the forum lately.

Still Out There as an AD

2/17 Can you have "Flagstaff IHC send me their "Nuttall" PowerPoint by Email?

Dick Mangan
2/17 Thanks for the help, if it came out in the 80s then I must have had it
and the record of stuff is buried deep, off I go to the archives and start
digging. Have they invented a shovel for paperwork yet? Hope so I
think I may need one!! LOL

  Ab, is there some way we could get the Nuttall Powerpoint.
Also. Could someone send in the Review. It seems so silly to
me that some legal beagle threatens us for sharing something
that could potentially save lives.

About bureaucratic process: "Even if you're on the right track,
you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers

Tahoe Terrie

Tahoe Terrie, I'll send it to you - hardcopy - if you give me your addy. What are they gonna do, put me in jail? It's a good review, looking at it from where I stand, and should be shared for lessons learned. If it's not up on some website by Monday, we'll post it. They said weeks ago it would be out, so I was waiting to let them do their job... Ab.

2/17 This came in from Hickman. Thanks Hickman. Ab.

Firefighter Safety: Calling the Mayday Release
Date: February 15, 2005 Emmitsburg, MD -

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) announces the National Fire Academy (NFA), in partnership with Firehouse.com Training Live, will deliver a free Web cast class titled Firefighter Safety: Calling the Mayday. The Web-based training broadcast will be Wednesday, February 23, 2005 from 3 pm to 4:30 pm EST. "This on-line course regarding the call for a Mayday contributes greatly to our nation's efforts to reduce the loss of firefighters' lives," said U. S. Fire Administrator R. David Paulison. "This effort represents our continued commitment to maximize all available training delivery methods for the fire service. With our 2000 students per day average in our distance learning programs of the USFA, this learning tool developed by Firehouse.com continues to expand the reach of all programs designed to support firefighters, and ensure Everyone Goes Home."

Dr. Burton A. Clark, EFO, CFO, and a Training Specialist at the USFA and Chair of the Management Science Program at the NFA, will conduct the on-line course. Dr. Clark has been researching, writing and lecturing throughout the nation on Mayday Doctrine for more than four years.

This course will be of interest to all fire service levels, from firefighter to command officer to others who enter an Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) environment and are faced with calling a Mayday for themselves.

Students who complete the pre-course reading assignment, participate in the on-line delivery, and pass the on-line exam will receive a NFA Certificate. Go to www.firehouse.com/clark to sign up for this free course offering, today.

Upon completion, participants will be able to:
1. Define Mayday
2. Identify the reasons for failure or delay to call Mayday
3. Identify the Mayday decision-making parameters
4. Identify the process for calling a Mayday
5. Identify Mayday training and drill needs/methods for the fire service

FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.

2/16 Does anyone know if a Civil Rights Impact Analysis (CRIA) was completed
for the implementation of the IFPM/401 stuff? If so, do you know where I
can get a copy?

Rogue Rivers
2/16 I always wore 100% cotton inner socks and heavy, plain wool outer socks for 21 years on the line and never had a problem. Of course, I also wore the finest logging boots ever made for 19 of those years: White's "Smokejumpers".

I refute the implication that the wildland fire service keeps revisiting the same policies. When I broke in we also wore Levis, Friscos or "Can't Bust 'ems" on the line, used military web gear exclusively, ate K and C-rations (some still had cigarette packs in them), used Homelight and McCulloch chain saws, called El Cariso "El Morte" (with great respect, I might add, and not to their faces), flew night ships out of Tanbark on the Angeles, worked with Fire Bosses, Sector Bosses, and Air Service Managers, had B17's, F7F's, B25's, DC4's and 6's to paint the line pink, had one "Handi-Talki" per crew, never heard of fire shelters, wore metal Bullard hard hats, mopped up in T-shirts, carried napalm grenades and fusees on our belts in the helicopters; CDF had contracts with Ford, Dodge and Chevy to make their brush rigs, CDF seasonal firefighters worked a 120 hour week (USFS paid better with more time off).

blah, blah, blah, sorry for running off at the mouth but some people post on this website that we keep "re-inventing the wheel". They make implications that the USFS and others are mired in myopia (e.g. the "100 years of tradition unimpeded by progress" thesis), I take exception. Sorry, A lot has changed, most of it for the better. When was the last time you saw someone have a saw cut on their leg because wearing chaps was optional?

Joe Hill
2/16 The 2005 fire refresher does talk about the Nuttal and Gibson fires but not
about the shelter deployment. If people have questions about the Nuttal
fire they can contact the Flagstaff IHC. We do have a power point that we
keep working on and will be glad to give out information

Flagstaff IHC
2/16 Hi all;

For two seasons I wore regular Remington wool hunting socks. They worked well.

For the last few seasons I have been wearing Smartwool boot socks. They will last up to 6 days, though after 4 the cushioning is pretty well shot. They also bunch up sometimes around your calf, but I haven't had any blow out yet. Never got into using the polypro liners--synthetic fibers+heat+skin=bad situation.

For you new folks out there, don't use moleskin for your blisters. It will peel off around the 10th hour of your shift and bunch up, causing more blisters. I buy nu-skin, paint that over the blister, and wrap it up with duct-tape. The duct tape is smooth, preventing further irritation, and very sticky--I haven't had any problems with it bunching up like moleskin. Take some Ibuprophen for the pain (cushioning is for sallies.)

I am wearing my new boots now-trying to break in my feet for the coming season.

Class C Sagebrush Faller
2/16 Sox:

Everyone has a different idea on socks and not everything works for all.

Avoid Cotton as it holds the wet stuff.

A liner sock along with a set of thin Smartwools work for me.
Some type of blend usually works best.
Do some research online and go to REI or that type of store and talk to them.

It matters if you have feet problems also. I do, so it took me a while to figure it out.

Take a blister kit along; especially your first year. Second Skin works well.
The medics at a fire will show you how to take care of blisters if they arise.

Happy Walkin!

2/16 Oooh... who doesn't love a brand new pair of socks?

In my limited experience I've tried a bunch of brands, and
just last season fell head over heels (forgive the pun) with
Ingenius socks by WigWam. Merino wool on the outside,
wicking liner made of Olefin on the inside.

I have no doubt the sock debate will now rage on as long
as the boot discussion.

2/16 Little more clarification on what certification you need to teach NWCG classes.
Use the Field Managers Guide December 2004 edition www.nwcg.gov/pms/training/fmcg.pdf  for:
  • Course Description
  • Objective
  • Target Group
  • Minimum Instructor Qualifications
    • Lead instructor
    • Unit instructors
  • Course Prerequisites
  • Course Level


2/16 Carol, AB, Everybody,

Please let Jerry know about this option for cancer treatment at Loma Linda in So Cal. It unfortunately is not all that well known (for $$ reasons basically money hungry Dr's.), but has been very successful for thousands of people. There are approximate. 17 of them in the world and cost 270 million bucks each. This treatment works very well with certain kinds if cancers and for some it does not work well. So here is the web site and it goes well into detail on how this works, its pretty impressive. For all other people out there who knows or has a loved one with cancer, please consider this option. www.llu.edu/proton/.

LPFig Friend
2/16 Sox

With all the talk about the right Boots to wear and Fire Fighters mostly only using one type because they are so good -- what about SOCKS? We are on our feet all day and when they hurt you're not much good anymore. With all the Hi Tech types of socks out there and so many different styles what kind do you use? Are they Wool, Cotton, Wick Drys, 2 Pairs - one thin nylon and a thick Wool - etc.

What socks do you prefer to use to keep your feet comfortable all day?

New to these Boots!

2/15 Tahoe Terrie is correct, but in R-5 you also need to be or have had Fire Instructor 1A (CA State Fire Marshal) or M-410 "Facilitative Instructor" in order to teach any 200 or above courses. I believe this is an NWCG requirement. Other regions probably have by now M-410 or similar instructor courses.

2/15 Zimm,

Check your dates on S-230. I took it in 1995 and have the dated certificate
to prove it. I think you need to go back a few more years.


People who wrote in last week remember it back in the 1980s. Ab.

2/15 FYI: to teach those S courses, you have to be redcarded at at least one level above the course.

Tahoe Terrie

2/15 Abs, et. al,

Thanks for the link to the 17 week workout. A couple years ago there was a Pack Test training progression posted here. Is that still around?

Lobotomy, here are a couple other job titles and wages used in WA-DNR's fire program.

Forest Crew Supervisor 1 (Helitack Foreman, 20-person foreman) $2053 - $2586/month
Forest Crew Supervisor 2 (Helitack Manager, 20 -person super.) $2249 - $2841/month

Forester 1 (similar to district AFMO) $2586 - 3291/month
Forester 2 (similar to district FMO) $2911 - $3727/month

*no Hazard Pay or night/weekend/environmental differential, no portal to portal for WA-DNR employees.

There is no differential or allowance for location, you make the same if you're in King County (Seattle) as if you work in areas near the OWF or COF on the eastside of the state.

It may be worth noting none of the job titles at WA-DNR (with the exception of the entry level) contain the word "fire".

Make your summer travel plans to R6 now, avoid the rush. It's dry, dry, dry.


Was that training progression a link on our site or to somewhere else, or was it embedded in the page? I don't see it right away on our server as a separate logically named doc. But some days I am not so logical. Got SA? Nope, not this Ab, not today...

FireBill, no named fire professionals in yer woods either? I think we should demand they rename structure firefighters: Highrise 1 and Highrise 2 or CityTech 0462. Ab.

2/15 I found somewhere webbing the other night a date indicating??? that S-230 came out in 1996.
this whole thing is starting to make little sense. Off I go to NWCG and ask the question?
Gads, way to much paperwork. The fire is going to go after we'all burry it in the paper.

2/15 Carol;

I think it’s a little extra hard to hear stories like Jerry’s. We spend so much time and effort and training toward understanding the hazards and risks of our chosen field, only to hear about a brother firefighter fighting something as incomprehensible and scarily unfamiliar as a tumor. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that all our good wishes are going out to Jerry, as well as to Krs and to every other firefighter taken down by something outside the scope of the 10 and 18.

Sadly, Nerd on the Fireline
2/15 Hi all,

As I understand it, and the way we have always worked it, is that there is a two-to-one work to rest policy. This means that our typical shift is 16 and 8, though when we go over the hill (R-5) and work for the Red Army we will go 32-16 to better synch up with their 24 on 24 off policy.

So, depending on who's fire on who's jurisdiction, shift length will change. As a tender operator, I realize that it is impossible to double shift a truck--you would get one and a half shifts. If you rotated staffing, though, you could get it to even out. I don't know if this is possible with a contractor, but could you try doing 24-24? It would balance out.

Also, for all of you that asked--

Information regarding the Nuttall Fire entrapment can be found at www.wildfirelessons.net.  It is a good review, and focuses on what was done right instead of blaming everyone else.  The incident within and incident just goes to proove that we cant always account for everything.

Class C Sagebrush Faller

Taking a little break from the Cramer thread.

I couldn't find the 36 page document that on the front page is entitled "Nuttall Complex Fire Shelter Deployment Review, Factual Report and Management Evaluation Report, December 6, 2004 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."

Can anyone provide the link for that? Presumably with the threat removed? Wonder if the threatmaker is the same OGC person who applied whiteout to the Cramer Report. Gimme a break! Let's put some'o'them lawyers on the fireline for a day with their mouths taped shut! They can take their whiteout if they want, but they gotta pack it. Ab.

2/15 Ab -

Less than a month ago Jerry Bishop, an engine captain on the Sierra
National Forest, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor located deep
in the lower back part of his head. Jerry met with his doctor last
Thursday and is aware of his situation. He has elected to proceed with any
treatment options available that might prove effective in slowing or
arresting the cancer. Jerry had surgery on Friday evening to re-route a
shunt that drains excess fluid and relieves unwanted pressure in his brain.
On Saturday, the doctor decided that radiation would not be beneficial at
this time but would only serve to further weaken Jerry's condition and
cause him additional pain and discomfort (apparently surgery and
chemotherapy are not viable options for this type of cancer at this stage
and location). Right now everyone is in a holding pattern based on how
much strength Jerry regains and what the tumor does. In some very rare
cases, these types of tumors spontaneously stop growing or even disappear

Jerry is doing good this morning, and may be strong and stable enough to be
released from the hospital tomorrow. They are currently planning to bring
him home to North Fork, where he will receive in-home nursing care from
family and friends.

The Bass Lake District fire management staff and the district employee
association are making plans to sponsor some fund-raising ventures to
assist his wife and family with some of the substantial expenses for treatment
and care they are facing. Direct donations are welcome and can be sent to

Dave Otto
Bass Lake Ranger District
57003 Road 225
North Fork, CA. 93643.

Any help with donations and prayers would be appreciated.

Carol Henson

Hi Carol, so sorry to hear that. My thoughts and prayers for Jerry and his family.
Mellie researched a clinical trial going on now that has success for brain cancer. I'll put you in touch.
Was Jerry at Cerro Grande? We should be keeping track of these cancers. Ab.

2/15 AB; A question for the Fire Fighters out there: What are your normal hours you fight a Wildland Fire?

Last year it seemed to be done in 12 hour shifts broken down into Day and Night Crews on the Fires. This worked out for the Contract Tenders to do Double Shifts filling Engines. The USFS has now increased the Tenders Hours to 16 on 8 off and it seems it will be hard to do double shifts with out messing up the 24 hour day? Also 16 hour days will make a double shift with 2 Tenders working at the same time for 4 hours a day? Real Hard to use the same truck for a Double Shift! This being said if we worked 8 hours or less in a Day Shift, we were paid for a Half Day Rate instead of a full days pay. I am concerned that having our day rate increased to 16 hours they will also increase the half day rate to 12 hours or less and they'll just work us 12 hours a day and only pay us for a Half Day Rate! I am Emailing the USFS about this and waiting for a answer, but don't the Fire Fighters normally pull 12 hour shifts unless it is IA, then you work more hours in a row?

a concerned Contract Water Tender Operator wondering how to make a living this year in Region 6??
2/14 Dick - no disrespect here also intended, but my questions are a lot easier to answer from folks with different "slides" of information to draw from. These are the folks like Paul Gleason, Lynn Biddison, Mark Linane, Doug Campbell, Ron Regan, John Wendt, and countless others. These are some of the champions who fostered safety in wildland firefighting. These were folks who put their asses on the line for safety and were not afraid to speak out about safety each and every day.

Over 30 years ago, the former California Region hosted a process called "Safety First" and it continues to this day. As I look back at the results of the "Safety First" committee, I think we have gone back full keel to reinventing the wheel.

The questions are pretty easy to many who remember or participated in the past........ These questions have been asked and answered in the PAST.... why do we have to continue to ask them in the future?

2/14 Salamander - no disrespect intended, but your questions are a lot easier asked than they are answered!

The history of criminal legal actions in the US shows that charges are brought against specific people for specific crimes, not against "agencies" because they "are unwilling to change to promote safety". Bad answer, but unfortunately probably reality.

You've also got to accept that the USFS, all the USDI firefighting agencies and the Department of Justice ALL work for the President, and this President in particular doesn't like embarrassments! So, chances of the Attorney General Torturer in Charge bringing any kind of criminal or civil charges against another Agency are slim to none at best. Read ex-EPA Director Christie Todd Whitman's latest book about her years under the current Administration, and you'll have a good sensing of what isn't going to happen in the world of wildland fire accountability! Our problems are miniscule on their radar screen, compared to 1400+ troops dead and an $82 Billion budget request for Iraq.

Hate to sound so pessimistic so early in the week, but that's my view of the reality of Agencies and their "higher-ups" being held accountable for firefighter fatalities where recurring mistakes are made and not addressed.

In "Fire on the Mountain", John Maclean talked about an end-of-season pizza party and cash awards at Grand Junction District for jobs well done - except, of course, for the 14 dead firefighters! Ten years later, have we gotten better, and more accountable??

2/14 Centralized fire or 'Stove Pipiing'

Our forest, and some others, have had centralized fire for years. I amazes me that the WO and many others seem to be unaware of this! Our Rangers did not get 'down graded' they just seem to be chosen for different "skill sets" and are basically clueless about fire. What is equally disturbing is that there has been no clear designation of 'line officer' since the centralization, so that the Rangers are still on the hook vis a vis the 30 mile crap!

And yes, I mean crap! because that is what it is!

Disgruntled (in fact I do not remember when I was ever 'gruntled'.)
2/14 Is it too much too ask that the folks at South Ops update
their site at least minimally?

McCORMICK is retired, and Vail is too!

C'mon folks, I realize that the job is unfilled, but this is
pretty simple stuff.


I thought Scott was waiting for his birthday in April. Ab.

2/14 Thanks Dick,

I think you missed the key points of my question, so I will repeat them again to see if you can answer them: I still work for the Agency and can't answer them, but have my opinion.

When my Agency is accused of being liable for 5 Violations ( 3 "Serious", 1 "Willful" and 1 "Repeat"), What are the managers of the Agency being held accountable for? (When I say managers, I mean Regional and National, not unit level)


Should changes (or charges by the US Attorneys Office) be levied towards AGENCIES or individuals when the Agencies themselves are unwilling to change to promote SAFETY? I probably should have rephrased my question to read... AGENCIES rather than individuals.

2/14 The new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titled, "Wildland Fire Management: Important Progress Has Been Made, but Challenges Remain to Completing a Cohesive Strategy" is now available online.

Abstract: www.gao.gov/docsearch/abstract.php?rptno=GAO-05-147
Highlights: www.gao.gov/highlights/d05147high.pdf
Full Report: www.gao.gov/new.items/d05147.pdf

2/14 Since the Nuttall event is supposed to be emphasized in the 2005
Annual Refreshers, does any one know where there are good
photos or a PowerPoint?

2/14 Best way I have found to get in shape, is to stay in shape, I try to keep the same schedule year round. Run 3 mi 5-6 days a week, run against the clock, work out on the home gym 5-6 days. Seems to work for me. Just had the WCT (pack test} in our Dept. I came in with 36.05, Not bad for a 68, pushing 69, year old. Some call it bragging ie Ab last year, but I call it leadership by example. If the old man is doing it, then none of the youngsters can complain about doing it.

Simper Fi
Old Man of the Dept
2/14 Here are the forms required by FS Dispatch here to
participate in fire this season.

WCT Informed Consent
Health Screen Questionnaire
Health Screen Process Clarification

I see this as CYA for litigation. Another step to
prevent paying out for health benefits by the FS. If
you kick the bucket, you accepted the risk by signing
the form with your Doctor's OK.

Just another example of Management treating the FS as
a business instead of Public Service.

Other FS examples, using temps to avoid paying full
time benefits, using contractors that require their
own insurance, limiting FS liability caused by
firefighter decisions (if found to be negligent).


2/14 We've been getting lots of questions about how to get in shape for the season from young people and older ones gearing up for fire season. I asked one of our hotshot contributors to give them a few tips on how to prepare. He sent in his schedule and some more pertinent info.

17 week workout schedule


2/14 Ab,
We have hired several wildland f/f's over the past 30 years (ground pounders, HELITACK, shots)
smfd.ca.gov, check employment.

Rush. NorCal 2 DMOB

2/14 Anyone hear any more about the Nuttall Complex Fire Shelter Review?
I thought it was supposed to be out several weeks ago.


2/14 Goat,

I hear what you're saying loud and clear.


2/14 Mellie,

I appreciate the response, but maybe what I said left the wrong impression. I was speaking of specific individuals who were well aware of specific problems on the North Fork RD and chose to do nothing. Not only did they do nothing, they tried to deny that they were made aware of those situations by several people, some well before the Cramer Fire. It wasn't an open comment on all Forest Leadership, but directed at the very people who could have and should have lifted a finger but chose not to.

2/14 Ranger Downgrades:

It would seem that the decision would be based on the Complexity of the
unit's (District) program of work.

If the District has a high complexity, high frequency fire, fuels and other
fire related program - then the DR would probably keep the grade.
However the trend in the agency has been that as some older District
Rangers move on to retirement, attrition, etc - usually the Forest
Leadership Team looks at the District's total work program. Often in these
cases - the District's become consolidated, some fire duties become zoned,
and often the replacement for the District Ranger position is either
downgraded, or recognized as an "Assistant" District Ranger. This is
occurring in Region 6 and has occurred in Region 8, With decision -making
on what once were "District level" NEPA projects - decision making now is often
made by the Forest Supervisor. This is fairly common with consolidation of
ranger districts and with decision making authority on projects bumper up
to the Forest Supervisor level.

- anonymous Jon

2/14 Mellie

I thought there were three ways to get a shirt!! Be one, Do one, or ?. I
will let you figure out the other alternatives. Anyway as you know I have
been approached about the possibilities of writing a book. The only problem
is that its hard for me to put my thoughts and stories on paper. I have
stories for many of the shirts, but there are a few that just have some
history. Anyway the collection has grown to 106 and going strong. Right now
I am concentrating on finding some of the older shirts. Like I said before
they tell the best stories. I will keep you informed of the progress.


Updated t-shirt list
Wildland Firefighter Foundation

2/14 Salamander: go to www.coloradofirecamp.com/Cramer and you'll find
all the OSHA info, and the USFS response. The repeat violations were
those that carried forward from South Canyon and/or Thirtymile fatalities.

2/14 Howdy Abs

A follow up to Lobotomy and his survey of wildland firefighter wages.
I pulled these numbers off of the CDF page, they are current as of today.

Here goes:
FFI seasonal
$2333.00 - $2837.00 month + benefits and overtime for a 94hr. work week
FF2 permanent appointment and limited term $2777.00- $3374.00 + benefits and overtime for a 72hr. work week
FAE (Fire Apparatus Engineer) also permanent and limited term $3325.00 - $3849.00 + Benefits and overtime, also a 72 hour work week

Our contract is up to renegotiate in 2006, these wages are the best we will see for quite some time due to budget concerns here in the state. FF1's are hopefully going to see a change in in their work week and salary after 2006. These future changes are desperately needed for these guys!

Interesting discussions regarding the state of USFS and other federal agencies lack of willingness to back their ICs. A sad day indeed.

Makes me glad I only have to worry about dealing with structure fires and medical aid calls rather than have to deal with a fast moving brush fire only to have my every move second guessed by some chowder head in Washington.

Misery Whip was dead on with his post. Excellent work Whip!

Enough for now.

On a personal note, my daughter's husband arrived in Iraq yesterday, good thoughts from you fine fire folks would be appreciated!

Captain Emmett

Our thoughts are with all who serve our country overseas. Ab.

2/14 ab

I have been reading they said lately regarding the Cramer Incident, and would like to voice an opinion.

It seems to me that there are two camps when it comes to the Cramer incident, one camp has the perspective of the typeIII IC. The other camp has the perspective of the ground pounder. I think both of these camps are seeking the same thing, clarification on what is / will be expected of them and what support ( if any) will be given. I hate to say it but the general attitude is that the Fed. be it Forest Service, BLM, NPS, or Fish and Wildlife will only seek to protect itself if and when things go wrong. Most of us accept this as a fact of life. Sadly most adults don't have the integrity spoken of by goat. It would be great if those in upper management would admit when their short comings are a factor in some accident whether it leads to a loss of life or not, but I do not see this happening any time soon. I wonder if they even realize that their own action or inaction can and often does play a part in accidents.

Would a professional Firefighter series help prevent accidents? I do not have the answer to that, but I do think that being recognized as professional Firefighters and being able to set a minimum standard for fire supervisors, and training would go a long way toward accident prevention. A Permanent Full Time Fire Force would help facilitate training and provide a much needed leadership on the Fireline, and off, it would also give us the manpower needed to accomplish Rx Fire projects. What are the chances of this happening? I do not believe that this will occur unless we push for it. Hopefully HR 408 will make it through Congress, but we need to let our Congressmen and Senators know that it is something we want. So send off those e-mails, letters or phone calls.

I tend to agree with Misery Whip, Human Factors is where we need to focus our attention. Will it make Fire Fighting accident free? No, but I think it will go a long ways towards reducing the accident rate. Human Factors have played a part in every tragedy fire that I have studied, lack of communication, instructions not given or understood, not to mention the lack of S.A.

I do appreciate all the posts on They Said, it gives me things to think about and to discuss with my crew when the season gets here.

I do not think that any one of us wants to do a poor job in this profession, but some where along the way things get in the way and mistakes are made, and the best laid plans go awry. I have been fortunate to have some good mentors along the way, and my current supervisors are topnotch. My District FMO not only preaches safety he makes it a part of HIS daily activities.

JD was asking if anyone had something good to say about their agency, well here goes. I do LOVE my job, I think most of us feel this way or we would not be here. I will admit that there are some problems with the Federal Fire agencies, but I would not want to be anywhere else. I have worked for both the USFS and the BLM and have worked closely with the other agencies. Most people in Fire Management are topnotch. Fire Management has a reputation of accomplishment (sometimes a bad thing, e.g. engaging a fire when we should sit back and let it do its thing) that is envied among the other functions.

Sorry for the rambling but there have been a few topics that I feel merit discussion, thanks again for the place to have such an open forum.

Here is my quote" I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!"

Thanks to all who post here and voice their opinion it is very beneficial!!

2/14 Dick Mangan,

I just read your information about the 3 separate investigations that occurred as the result of the Cramer Fire and the charges and "administrative actions" that were levied towards individuals.

When my Agency is accused of being liable for 5 Violations ( 3 "Serious", 1 "Willful" and 1 "Repeat")..... What are the managers of the Agency being held accountable for?

Dick, what exactly were the "Repeat" and the "Willful" violations? What were the 3 "Serious Violations".... Were they something that an individual could change or was it something that only a change in Agency culture could propagate?

Should changes (or charges by the US Attorneys Office) be levied towards AGENCIES or individuals when the Agencies themselves are unwilling to change to promote SAFETY?...

2/13 Does anyone know for sure if District Rangers would face a drop in GS level and salary if fire were centralized? Several (2) people have said that, presumably because Dist Rangers would be supervising fewer people if District FMOs and Asst Dist FMOs worked under the Forest Fire Staff . Four people who are pretty high up in management have said that this is not the case. At the moment, I am limited to taking a vote!

If it was the case, why has it not affected pay of the CA Dist Rangers on the centralized fire forests? Or has it?

Nice job Lobotomy. Nothing speaks louder than facts.
Nice job Misery Whip. And I couldn't find one grammatical error to ding you on! <just kidding, of course>
Backburnfs, hug to you, m'dear! Thanks for keeping the kidlets safe. I really appreciate your service on all counts.
Goat, I honestly think people higher up in the FS ethers, especially those who have never fought fire, don't believe they bear any responsibility when fire tragedy hits. Most of us do the best we can with the best of intentions most of the time. My guess is that those folks are too removed to perceive they are a part of the decision-making process that led to a problem. I don't think it's a lack of integrity, it's the failure to see the link between their decision made (or avoided) years ago or a week ago and today's outcome.


2/13 FYI, OSHA fined the Forest Service as a result of Cramer, but did that change anything?


2/13 What Dick, Lobotomy, Misery Whip, Backburnfs, Mellie,
et. al. (and others) have said....

While each of these people have different backgrounds and
"slides" to put forth and rely upon, each person seems to agree
that some big time changes need to happen for wildland
firefighter safety and working conditions to be improved. I hope
we all don't get tired of talking until we are "blue in the face"
and the agencies actually act upon the field recommendations.

Rogue Rivers

I think some good people at higher levels are working on suggestions. I hope so. Change is possible. This is the time for each of us to do what we can to foster change and to encourage our leaders to demonstrate their leadership. I am optimistic. Ab.

2/13 Lobotomy here….. I thought some of the folks who keep saying that wildland firefighter pay and benefits are only a California problem would like to look at the following info. The comparisons are for entry level to regular returning pay scales for seasonal firefighter employees outside of California. This comparison only includes the differences between State and Federal agencies and does not compare benefits for its seasonal employees. A future comparison will have information on the pay, the benefits, and the working conditions (Seasonal and Permanent) between all the Western U.S. Federal, State and Local Government agencies. This future comparison will not (but should) compare WalMart, In-N-Out Burger, or other private companies who pay their employees comparable wages but do not require their employees to put their livelihood, their careers, and their families welfare on the line everyday as Federal Wildland Firefighters do.


NEVADA DIVISION OF FORESTRY Seasonal Firefighter Pay Scales:

Firefighter II - $14.49 to $20.25 PAY GRADE: 28 – Level II;
Firefighter I - $13.36 to $18.58 PAY GRADE: 26 – Level I

Washington State Dept. of natural resources Seasonal Firefighter Pay Scales:

Forest Firefighter Crew Member
Approx. $9.13 per hour ($1461 per month) to Approx. $10.45 per hour ($1672 per month).
Natural Resource Worker 2
Approx. $12.24 per hour ($1958 per month) to Approx. $15.43 per hour ($2468 per month).


Forest Officer - Seasonal
$1,951 - $2,660 Monthly
$11.26 to $15.35 Hourly


Resource Technician – Fire
$10.83 - $13.77 per hour


Hourly Rate: $8.92 to $11.52

Seasonal Federal Wildland Firefighter (Outside of Locality Areas or Special Pay Areas):

GS-2 - $ 8.63 per hour
GS-3 - $ 9.41 per hour
GS-4 - $10.57 per hour
GS-5 - $11.82 per hour
2/13 Backburnfs - Gawd, you must be as old as me, if you can still remember the smells of burning bras and Draft Cards! Seems like there were a few other odors that were prevalent during those years, too!

I completely agree with your latest post; it's not a good time to be a USFS firefighter if the recent events related to Cramer continue to progress in future years! Attached is the latest write-up I did for "Wildfire" magazine as the President of the International Association of Wildland Fire. In my opinion, the implications for the future are scary at best!

A minor point of clarification about OSHA: they don't go after individuals, they address the failure of management to follow their own rules. If its in the FSM, Red Book, 310-1, then OSHA considers it to be legitimate direction, and they review an event in the light of that background material. Managers are held to task, but not individual "worker bees" on the ground as firefighters!

Dick Mangan


Wildland Firefighting on a Slippery Slope

In May, 1987 along China's Great Black Dragon River that separates China and Siberia and is known in the West as the Amur River, brush cutter Wang started a wildfire as he was refueling his mechanical brush cutter without waiting for a cool-down period. The fire spread out of control, and burned together with other fires in the area that had been seen by satellites, but not reported to forestry officials. It eventually burned more than 3 million acres, and killed 220 people. The Chinese Red Army was brought in to suppress it, but the General in command was unable to control the fire, and consequentially was relieved of command and sentenced to time in jail for his failure.

The investigation of the 1994 South Canyon Fire in the US State of Colorado that killed 14 firefighters found that local fire managers had failed to follow their own rules and policies, but no one was held accountable, and some even received cash awards for their actions during that fire season.

Australia's "Linton Fire" in December 1998 resulted in the death of 5 volunteer firefighters from Victoria's Country Fire Authority (CFA). A "Coronial Inquest" was held to review all the events and facts (the equivalent of a US Grand Jury Investigation), involving over 100 witnesses, more than 17 lawyers, and thousands of pages of testimony. It was the longest running and largest "Coronial" in Australia's history at that time, but no one was charged with mis-conduct or went to jail.

And then, in July 2003 during the Cramer Fire above Idaho's Salmon River, 2 U.S. Forest Service helicopter rappellers were burned over and died on a "Type III" (Extended Initial Attack) fire on their home forest. Three (3) separate investigations were conducted: one, by the USFS; another by the US Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General (parent organization of the USFS); and a third by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is required by law to look at any fatality of Federal employees.

As a result of these investigations, the USFS decided to take "administrative actions" against some of their employees, ranging from letters of reprimand to termination of employment. Although it has been more than 18 months since the fatalities, most of those "administrative actions" have not been resolved within the USFS.

OSHA found the USFS liable for 5 Violations ( 3 "Serious", 1 "Willful" and 1 "Repeat").

But in my opinion, the most significant actions resulting from the Cramer Fire fatalities are those taken by the U.S. Attorney in Boise, Idaho: they explored, based on the findings of the 3 investigations as well as information that they had gathered, bringing CRIMINAL charges against the Incident Commander based on his actions, and the resulting deaths of the 2 helicopter rappellers. A news release in early December 2004 announced that a pre-trial agreement had been reached: The IC lost his job with the US Forest Service and would be on Federal Probation for 18 months.

Fighting wildland fires is a curious mix of science and art in a rapidly changing environment, with an often-unknown combination of factors determining what occurs. Since my 1st wildfire suppression action in the mid-1960's, I've never been 100% sure that all my actions and reactions were absolutely correct and "by-the-book". And the "book" keeps getting thicker and more complex every year! It's relatively easy for an outsider, with weeks and months of time, to review the decisions I had to make in seconds or minutes, compare them against the hundreds of pages of direction found in the Fireline Handbook, the "Red Book", the Incident Response Pocket Guide, and various Training Manuals that cover the past 40 years, and find errors in my judgment or decision-making. Does that make my conduct criminal?

Throughout my entire career, I've been blessed to never have a firefighter seriously hurt or killed while working under my direction. But, I'd be a fool to think that this was all the result of nothing but skill, ability and experience: pure, dumb blind luck has kept me, and the firefighters who have worked with me, out of harm's way more than once - and out of the US Attorney's gunsight. For that, I'm eternally grateful!

So, where do the Extended Attack ICs for the 21st Century stand after the actions of the US Attorney in Boise? Are they going to risk their careers, homes and jail time to take charge of fires that are threatening to burn out of control into valuable natural resources and or into residential areas? How about Initial Attack ICs? What about Prescribed Burn bosses who knowingly and willingly light fires in the woods?

I've got this new-found fear that wildland fire has entered onto a "slippery slope" that we won't find it easy to get off of in the coming years, and that the fallout from the Cramer Fire will ripple throughout the wildland fire community world-wide, resulting in fewer and fewer folks willing to take the personal risks required to be an IC on a wildfire or prescribed burn. If that happens, the land and the public that we serve will suffer the consequences.

Maybe a US Attorney will step up and become an IC during a busy fire season.

Safety Summit 2005

Planning efforts are going full steam ahead for this year's 10th Anniversary of the 1995 Human Factors Workshop in Missoula, Montana on April 25-28. More details are being added to our web site daily, so check them out, and get registered right away. Information can be found at www.iawfonline.org.

2/13 Times Online - Sunday Times

Ab, On Jan. 30th an RAF C-130 Herculese was involved in a fatal crash in Iraq.
The right wing fell off. It seems to have gotten them to thinking about "our" aircraft

As always, Stay safe! "Kicks"
2/13 Dear An R-5er

The Forest Service, under the USDA, is but one of many federal government agencies who raise the "budget" flag every year for one purpose or another. Employees fret about their jobs; money is diverted from the purpose intended by Congress into some pet project desired by a government bureaucrat; and the choreographed "budget" ballet is played out every year.

I have learned in my 15 years of representing federal firefighters in the halls of Congress that despite the annual "the sky is falling" budget predictions, whether they be at the Forest level or the USDA or even the Department of Defense, there is plenty of money... if you can convince Congress that the manner in which the current financial management is being performed at any Agency is not cost effective or efficient, or that money earmarked for one expense is being used for another causing the "bleak budget" forecast in the expense that has been raided.

Probably not making much sense am I? When you have a Forest Service mucky muck from DC come and tell your forest (in R5) that there is plenty of money, and during the same briefing the Forest Supervisor comes and tells you how dismal and bleak the budget is and there is no money, that should be your first clue that someone needs to educate congress on some poor financial management.

I'm certainly not saying that's easy. But it has to be done. If someone in the food chain says they are going to bring on 100 apprentices, then its our job to see that its done and that funds are not diverted for other purposes.

Last session of congress, a number of congressional members criticized the Forest Service Chief for not asking for the money he needed in the first place which resulted in the Chief having to borrow funds from other programs for suppression. Congress provided for a $500 million supplemental appropriations so other programs would not have to be raided but implored the Forest Service to simply ask for what it needed in the first place.

The FWFSA, as the sponsoring organization for HR 408, (portal to portal) has had the task of educating congress on how the Forest Service can be more cost-effective and efficient by paying you what you deserve while reducing the reliance on others that cost far more. Congress is listening to us because the Agency sure isn't going to ask congress for funds to pay you properly.

How sad that the Agency each year asks for suppression money to pay others portal to portal while they take you off the clock. That is a clear example of why congress needs to be educated on what is going on. They simply didn't know that was happening. NOW...they do.

So, rest assured. Despite the annual rhetoric about budgets, and despite the unfortunate state of affairs that we have to fight the Agency simply to compensate you like every other firefighter in the 21st century, we won't rest until those that have the responsibility and authority to appropriate money to the Forest Service (congress) recognizes the need for a "reprioritization" of spending habits for suppression within the Agency and mandates the Agency to change their ways.


Casey Judd
Business Manager
2/13 So this is the last thing I am going to say about the Cramer Fire/ICT3 fiasco….NOT.

In the 60’s and 70’s Feminists burned their bras, and Draft Protesters burned their Draft Cards. Maybe it is time to do some Red Card Burning. We are all waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is only a matter of time before it happens again.

There is no way to make to make the Wildland Fire Environment as safe as the Washington Office. Somebody needs to tell the freaking OSHA suits and lawyers the truth about this job. It is DANGEROUS!!! We don’t like it when our friends die, we don’t like it when they get hurt. We try our best to serve the public and do the safest, best job in the world at what we do.

We have a great safety record, the insurance companies don’t even charge us extra for life insurance. I don’t know the statistics on farm industry deaths or logging deaths per 100,000 man hours or what ever unit of measure is used. I am sure commercial fishermen in Alaska and the North Atlantic have it a lot worse than us.

What do we get for our trouble? Maybe a couple thousand a month base pay after 30 years of experience, I don’t think anyone is in this profession for the money. Our families go for months every year not being able to plan a simple birthday party, anniversary or other important life events without knowing if we will be around. I think the divorce rate is higher than average but again no stats.

And now the powers that be have made it so it is not worth it to do any extra for the cause because they have made the price of failure so high, that only a moron would make a bet in Vegas with these high of stakes.

I say let the OIG and US Attorneys lose the wing-tips, lace up some White’s walk a few hundred miles in our shoes.

August is coming.

2/13 With the budget in R-5 being in trouble, how are we able to pick up 100 new
apprentices? Why would anyone want to apply for the apprentice program
with the possibility of losing their job because of a massive budget cut in the
near future?

I have always supported the program but I would be scared to come into the
Forest Service right now with all the talk of cutting resources after the 2005
fire season. There is a position that I have been working hard to qualify for
over the years that is open now but I am scared to put in for the position
because it is a MEL resource.

It's going to be interesting to see what will happen to our budget in the next
couple of years.

2/13 More on the Cramer Fire Organizational Structure...

What's been said about structure is right in the way it was presented.
Allen Hackett was at the low rung on the district fire ladder, he was the District Asst. FMO.
The District Ranger was in charge of Allen and the District FMO (He may have been gone on another assignment.) The District Ranger has responsibility / authority to overturn command of a Type 2 IMT - that's a lot to give to a non-fire Ranger but that's not the Ranger's fault in my opinion.

The Forest Fire Staff Officer, or Forest FMO that worked for the Forest Supervisor - was the position that had been vacant for a long time. At the time of Cramer was filled by the Dist Ranger's "significant other". However, the Forest Fire Staff Officer also had the timber, recreation, range, engineering responsibilities....... so that too was a multi-hat position. The Forest called it something like a "Forest Operations Staff Officer".

Pre-1990s, the Salmon NF and Challis NF used to be separate National Forests with a traditional Forest Organization. They merged, sometime in the early 1990s. So apparently, over time, with the consolidation, and then the adding on of duties - they were setting themselves up for failure. There is a group out there that feels the Regional Forester, the National Fire Director and the Regional Fire Director should also have been held responsible for the management oversight and the way the Forest had been running.......

Unreasonable expectations of fire staff? Unreasonable expectations of non-fire Rangers and non-fire Forest Supervisors? Broken outdated forest fire structure with the current fire responsibilities we face? Concerned's suggestion that District Rangers become a Board of Directors for the Forest Supervisors makes sense. We need an organizational recognition of fire professionalism.

We need our leaders to get the best professional fire minds together, make a commitment to change structure (to centralize fire on western forests), and we need them to make it so. If Rangers are making life and death decisions, they need to face the same criminal liabilities as we Hacketts of the fireworld face. If they're not required to take all our professional training including OJT, the policy-makers (our leaders?) need to face the same criminal liabilities as we Hacketts of the fireworld. Whose fault is it when Rangers and Forest Supervisors are only required to take Barbeque 101 and then get a slap on the wrist when people die on fires?


Mellie, I'd like to be a fly on the wall when you ask a hotshot that t-shirt question!

2/12 Hey, Rowdy,

I was wondering how you got all those 103 hotshot tee-shirts?! The ones you put on the wall at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation? You musta done a lot of pushups! Good man! Job well done!

I heard to get a hotshot shirt you had to earn them: you had to be one or do one.
Was that one push-up at a time or all 103 at one stretch? Or is it cumulative, the number up to that point each time you ask for another one? I assume someone has to watch?  Hmmmm, I'd guess those hotshots would want you to do more than one pushup, probably it was cumulative...?? ... I need to find a hotshot and ask... I hear you have a story for each tee-shirt. Are the stories about the push-ups? Will there ever be a book coming out of this?

Evidently there's still a lot of the details I have to learn about this wildland firefighting stuff. I'd love to hear those stories.

<ppsssst> <whisper> <I'm curious. Did you make anyone at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation do any push-ups when you had that hanging party and turned those shirts over to them to display for the year? Have you collected all the tee-shirts you were missing by now? Just wondering... More push-ups?>


PS Don't forget to renew your 52 Club membership for 2005! I have. Please join me!

2/12 Was anyone really surprised that Forest Management refused to talk to OIG? What would they say? Would the District Ranger come out and say "Not only was I warned the day before the Cramer Fire, but I was told 2 years prior that there were problems with district's fire program, but I chose to ignore the complaints and do nothing," And you won't get the Fire Staff Officer to say anything about the North Fork District Ranger because they are married. Is CYA really new to anyone out there? I was thinking about making it Federal Policy. What would you say if your lack of action was indirectly responsible for 2 kids deaths? Hopefully nothing, that would require integrity. Accountability is a pipe dream, we need to go for the easy target, Alan Hackett. It was his fire. We should always go for the easiest way out, or make a big political statement like firing a single individual. Why should we actually look any further? I appreciate everyone's efforts of trying to find the root cause of this tragic accident, but we've given you the easy way out. It was all the IC's fault... pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

On the other hand wouldn't it be refreshing for someone from the Salmon Challis to stand up and say, "I dropped the ball and here's how...." That we could all learn from and not just from the facts, but from the courage and integrity it takes for someone to say their actions contributed to tragedy. I'm sure Heaths and the Allens would find that kind of honesty painfully refreshing.

My 3 year old nephew told me yesterday that he scrached my car with a rake, he told me without being prompted by his parents. "Uncle, I hit your car with my rake...we should figure out what to do." Integrity.

How about Management saying "We made some mistakes that probably contributed to the unsafe work environment, and we should figure out what to do." Integrity.

2/12 I've been lurking through all this Cramer discussion, and there is a lot of good information being passed around but I am a little surprised there has been no mention of the deaths in the FDNY as in some ways it is similar to Cramer and 30 mile in my opinion,

6 firefighters put over the fire without a hoseline due to a mistaken belief that the line on the fire floor was broken (they were told to give up the line to the crew working below), 6 firefighters were forced to jump 50 feet since the safety ropes they used to be issued were taken back earlier this year due to age and no new ropes issued due possibly in part to the cost of replacement. Two fatalities and 4 serious injuries resulted. I don't post this to point fingers at anyone in the FDNY, it is simply that many seem to say structure fire IC's are being held accountable in a similar manner to the USFS at 30 mile and Cramer, I think it will be interesting to watch this incident and compare how and where the investigation goes. Certainly there are some differences the primary one being they were conducting a search for possible victims (it turned out there were none on that floor as far as I've read but they didn't know that) but there are many similarities.

For those who may not be familiar with this incident here is a link to the story



2/12 Ab,

On this fine Montana morning, I have been pondering the relationship between General Patton, Sun Tzu, sage grouse, and the Chief of the United States Forest Service. I admit, on face value, it sounds like a pretty odd grouping; two of them are dead, one is disappearing fast, and the other, I believe, is still alive and well in Washington DC.

What, you may ask, is the connection between this eclectic group of characters? Let's start with General George Patton. By any account, he was a complex and unique individual. On one hand, history has recorded some of his more infamous gaffes, such as slapping soldiers with combat fatigue (post traumatic stress syndrome), and suggesting that we enlist the defeated German army to fight the Russians at a time when the Russians were still our allies. But historians agree on this point; old George was a leader.

My father, who served under General Patton in north Africa, and during the invasion of Sicily during WWII, was a motorcycle courier from the Signal Corps attached to an artillery battalion. My dad had personal contact with General Patton on numerous occasions, and I asked him one time what he thought of the famous general. My father said that, on one hand, the troops under Patton hated his guts because he ordered MPs to fine soldiers for not wearing helmets, ties, or spats, or for being unshaven, regardless of whether they were in frontline combat units or REMFs (Rear Echelon M***** F*****s). But they respected his martial spirit and felt that his aggressive nature probably saved many soldiers from being killed in the long run.

It is General Patton's aggressive nature that I have been thinking about today. One of my favorite quotes from General Patton fits both warfighting and wildland firefighting very well:

"A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan later".

Exploiting opportunities is what this quote is about. General Patton felt it was better to take some measured risks in order to exploit the enemy's weaknesses. If you wait until you have developed a perfect plan, you may allow the enemy to become better established and prolong the conflict in the long run.

Isn't this what initial attack wildland firefighters do? We take measured risks in order to prevent fires from becoming larger and exposing more firefighters (and the public) to more risks for a greater length of time. And the benefits are financial as well, keeping fires small prevents them from becoming large, expensive fires.

Sun Tzu is next on the list. I first learned about The Art of War, Sun Tzu's timeless classic, from a buddy of mine who worked for Paul Gleason when Paul was the superintendent of the Zig-Zag Hotshots. Paul introduced many people to this ancient wisdom. My own copy is dog-eared from much use over the years, and I still re-read it from time to time. The Art of War's tactical lessons on warfighting (and wildland firefighting), and the humanistic lessons on leadership, are as pertinent today as they were two thousand years ago. I'll return to Sun Tzu shortly.

Now for the sage grouse. I read an article today about the recent decision of the US Fish & Wildlife Service to not list the sage grouse on the threatened and endangered species list. The article pointed out that the political appointees who presently run the USFWS felt that sufficient protections already existed for the sage grouse, even though scientific evidence points to a steadily declining population of sage grouse. The article also stated that 44% of USFWS biologists who were polled said that they had been subjected to non-scientific (political) pressure in recent years to alter their opinions on biological matters. Similar concerns have been voiced recently by rank and file members of other government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, and our own United States Forest Service.

Which brings me to the Chief. What I am wondering today is, has our Chief caved in to the politicians at the expense of rank and file members of the Forest Service, particularly the grunts on the ground who still fight wildland fire? I can not think of any other reason why there has been such an absolute lack of information about, or even acknowledgement of, the problems that presently confront the USFS wildland fire community. At the same time we are being asked to manage natural disasters (including terrorist incidents), do more prescribed fire, be safer, and keep fire costs lower, our legs, and budgets, are being cut out from underneath us.

My own radar tells me that we are fast approaching what may be an unprecedented fire season. The chickens from Cramer have returned to the roost, and they are in a "fowl" mood. NOT ONE of the Type III ICs I have spoken with in the past six months, except for those who are required by their position descriptions to perform as such, have said they will accept Type III assignments under the present circumstances. This may be the summer when we find the answer to the question, what if they gave an extended attack fire and no Type III ICs came?

Look at the tone of many of the recent posts on They Said. Don't trust anyone you don't know, cover your own ass, incompetent contract crews, watch out for incompetent supervisors on fires. Is this what the "greatest wildland firefighting organization in the world" has come to?

You cannot execute "a good plan violently" with troops who are afraid to engage and ready to disengage at the first hint of trouble. We need help now, not from managers, but leaders. I would be happy to loan the Chief my copy of The Art of War. Here's a freebie from Master Sun:

"So there are three ways in which a civil leadership causes the military (USFS) trouble. When a civil leadership unaware of the facts tells its armies (wildland fire managers) to advance when it should not, or tells its armies to retreat when it should not, this is called tying up the armies. When the civil leadership is ignorant of military affairs but shares equally in the government of the armies, the soldiers (firefighters) get confused. When the civil leadership is ignorant of military maneuvers but shares equally in the command of the armies, the soldiers hesitate. Once the armies are confused and hesitant, trouble comes from competitors (fires). This is called taking away victory by deranging the military".

See the connection now?

Misery Whip

I do. And Original Ab saw the writing-on-the-wall way back when regarding the ICs... Ab.

2/11 "vfd cap'n" asked how you could say "NO" to an OIG investigator?

When Uncle Sugar hangs a big sword over your head, there are some
laws out there the pre-date the abomination passed by Washington
State's Cantwell and Hastings: they're called the US Constitution and
Bill of Rights, guaranteeing you against the right of self-incrimination.

So, when OIG flexes its muscles, just ask to have your lawyer present
before opening your mouth!

2/11 Hi ab,

I have been watching this whole debate formulate between parties
regarding the Cramer Incident and overhead liability vs. personal
safety and after much thought I seem to find more merit in statements
that C Sagebrush and AC had regarding it. I agree with Mellie, Rhino
and Misery that Hackett and others were overtaxed and made some poor
decisions but I cant help but wonder, how many poor decisions are made
on each forest during each season because of outlying reasons. The
more I thought about it the more contributing factors came to mind,

What if Hackett or someone in his position had a manageable workload,
competent superiors and support on each level but had a burden
comprised of personal problems that altered or affected his judgment.
Yes, the OIG investigation details what the infrastructure lacked on
the surface, but what about underneath the surface? For that matter
what if the IC or other contributing overhead on the incident was
overstressed, depressed, had anxiety, paranoia, irrational fears? Any
of these factors could come into play during any incident, anywhere in
the world. We cant fix all of these, thus like AC stated, we have to
make do with the situations on the ground once there.

C Sagebrush stated, the system is flawed but will never be fixed
because it protects itself. There are stratifications of flaws here,
some that are touchable but most that arent. Will we need to see a
psyche profile on each IC and misc. overhead posted on the interest
boards at firecamp in order to determine if we will listen to their
requests on the IAP? I think not.

When my hotshot crew arrived at the 30 mile fire shortly after the
incident blew up, several things struck me. There was a feel about
the place I cant describe. After talking with a few Entiat Hotshots
about it, it struck me....everyone was a little nervous at the
forest's desire to suppress the fire immediately prior to blow up.
Some felt it wasnt right, others werent sure including the crew that
was overrun. We cant be sure 100% all the time. We find ourselves in
a spot undesirable more often that not and we have to deal with it
using our training and let the investigators determine if there was
more to the story after the fact....we cant afford after the fact with
our judgment on the line. We have to be accountable for what we do
on scene or pay for it, with our lives. Unfortunately , thats the
cost for mistakes, at least on our end.

2/11 The Region 5 Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program announcement for 2005 is now posted on the WFAP website.


The region will be hiring approximately 100 apprentices. The announcement closes on February 22.

2/11 Ab,

This footnote to the OIG investigation caught my attention:

"6 OIG's investigation determined that the private contracting crews at the Cramer Fire performed poorly. OIG is continuing to work with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon regarding the investigative findings on the private crews."

And, how is it that this happened???:

"8 Per the advice of his attorney, the Operations Staff Officer declined OIG's request for an interview on the events at the Cramer Fire."
"9 Per the advice of her attorney, the District Ranger declined OIG's request for an interview on the events at the Cramer Fire."

I didn't know you could just say 'no' to OIG.

vfd cap'n


I agree with your post, although I highly doubt that Mr. Blackwell will say or do anything. The WFSA went over and well beyond his control. Blackwell is one of those "Managers" who forgot where the came from. Remember....he has a 100 fires under his belt!!!. I have always wondered if he has taken L-180, L-280, L-380 or some kind of leadership class. Maybe he should. I have never seen nor heard of him coming down and into the field to see what "us firefighters" are doing".. Isn't that what a leader is supposed to do, especially someone in his position. I know no matter how high up the ranks I go, no matter what politics, paperwork, etc ; my people who work for me great or small come first above all things. I always look back and REMEMBER where I started from.

Sawyer R-5
2/11 Well, Misery Whip has done it again! A smokin' post that goes straight to the heart of why we must talk about the Cramer incident. We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding human factors and applying principles that are well-known and common-place in other high risk work environments. Ten years after the first Human Factors Workshop (and the Snowbird conference, and the TriData Study) too little has changed in the federal wildland fire agencies.

I have been arguing that until the OIG investigation was public, we really didn't know what we were talking about when it came to the actions following the Cramer tragedy. Well (now that the reports are public) I guess we can now know all there is to know. I hope everybody carefully reads OIG enclosures 1 & 2 before expressing further opinion about the matter.

Sign me,

2/11  Hello all-

It's almost time for another season and some of you have
asked "Will you come talk to us this year?" The answer is yes.
The speech takes about 1.5 hours & I'll need your laptop &
projector. No group is too big or small and I will come to you.
Get me there & back, feed me and give me a place to sleep (if
needed) & we're even.

If you are wondering "is he worth it" ask around amoung the
crews I've talked to. (Plumas, Lassen, Tahoe, Mendo, Redding,
Laguna, etc) Last year I put about 5,000 miles on the van going
hither & yon so apparently someone thought hearing me was worth

If you'd like to check dates and / or sign up you can do it
here: www.krstofer.org/speaking.php
Also should you or anyone you know become injured this
season (I didn't think it would happen to me either...) I've set
up an "OWCP help board" here:
crew13.com/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.cgi There aren't many
members yet but we try to pass information back & forth on how
best to deal with OWCP. I'm a bit bitter with them but this is
neither the time or the place...

Anyway if you'd like me to talk to your crew ask and I'll
be there. If you have no idea why I should come out and talk,
start reading here: www.krstofer.org/firstyear.php and
you will get the idea.


I think we would all like to know the stance of the R-5 Forester as it relates to US (wildland firefighters) in the fire management program (ie- Reply to the Captains Group)....... So far, it seems that the Regional Office has been less than supportive, but Matt Mathes gave some hope and help in recent official press releases.

I would also like to know how the stance of the R-5 Forester differs from the leadership of the House Resources Committee? And how his (The Regional Forester) stance is driving opposition to HR 408 by folks in the National and Regional leadership arena (ie- uninformed comments at National Fire Directors Meetings?)

It seems the folks who provide the direction, funding, and oversight to the FS want some changes (see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/query .. it seems the OLOGISTS of the Forest Service don't want changes. It is time to PUT THE CARDS ON THE TABLE FOR ALL TO SEE.........AND LET THE RUBBER HIT THE ROAD.


I couldn't get your link to work. Ab.

2/11 RE:  County Cooperator posting. . . lives at risk,

Holy Sheeit Moslems Ab., what State or area duz that Forest
Service Fire Department
hail from?  I want to make sure I
stay way the heck away from them!   Iff'n I git dispatched and
find out they are running the show, I ain'ta goin'in!

Bubba Steve
2/10 Ab,

It was a sobering experience reading Jodi Heath's post this morning. It definitely gives some perspective to the ongoing dialogue on They Said. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to read emails every day from people debating about events that led to the death of your child. I hope Shane and Jeff's families realize that everyone who posts about Cramer on this site feels passionately about what happened to their children, and that we all have the same goal of preventing other parents from ever having to go through a similar experience. I think I can also safely say that we may differ in our opinions, but we all empathize with the Heath and Allen families, and wish them well.

A concept that still seems very difficult for some people to grasp is the major role that human factors play in an accident like Cramer. One reason I have been so persistent in my postings is that many people do not yet understand that there is a large body of existing science that could really help improve firefighter safety, yet we have barely tapped into it. Ten years after the first Human Factors Workshop, and the federal wildland fire agencies are still woefully lacking in their understanding of this absolutely vital area.

I found a publication today on the web that may help They Said readers understand more about human factors and Crew Resource Management. This publication was developed by the US Fire Administration and the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and is a wonderful example of what WE should be doing to improve firefighter safety. It is mainly aimed at structural firefighters, but there are references to wildland fire. The title of this document is "Crew Resource Management: A Positive Change for the Fire Service". I predict that if the federal wildland firefighting agencies were to adopt this style of training and fire management philosophy, they would find the same kind of success at reducing the number of accidents that the airline industry and some branches of the military have experienced in recent years. Here's the link:


Kudos to Class C Sagebrush Faller, GGFire, and, of course, Mellie, for your recent posts and insights.

Misery Whip
2/10 Does anyone know if R5 Blackwell is going to make any kind of a
statement to us the R5 feds who risk our lives and then get trashed
by a simple minded politician. Or is he just going to sit back and
pretend we do not exist until fire season???????

2/10 Hey Everyone,

We've been contacted by the Weather Channel.
Producer of their show, Storm Stories, is looking for any photography and/or video footage of the Bear Fire from August 11th, 2004 and the days that followed. This includes anything of the actual fire and smoke to people around their homes, people evacuating, aftermath of trees, houses, rebuilding, pets being evacuated, pets found after fire, etc..

We've put their producer in touch with people who have contributed Bear Fire photos here, but there may be more of you out there who would like to participate. I don't know about how much $ might be involved, if any. Photographers are on their own for negotiating.

Send Ab an email if you have photos or video footage.

Would someone (Vicki Minor, Melissa) ask Cache Queen (retired) to get in touch with Ab?


2/10 The Forest Service Fire Department needs to get its command and control
house in order. All of our lives are at risk.

County Cooperator

2/10 Hi abs, all

I would like to respond to GGfire's post about the law of unintended consequences. This sounds very similar to chaos theory's butterfly effect. This is why I have been advocating the stance that ultimately you have to take responsibility for your actions on the ground. You are not always able to change the situations you are put in, because there are too many inputs that you cannot see -- too many layers of cheese, if you will. You can only affect your layer, and if you are lucky, maybe the one above you, in any given situation.

I don't want this to be miss-represented, though, and I don't want to be labeled as a blamer. I fully recognize that the climate that those guys were operating in was ripe for a disaster. To paraphrase misery whip, all members involved in that situation were victims.

I guess I have been focusing on what we as on the ground personnel can do to make us safer. Some things we don't have input in. It is all well and good to say that we need to change policy, or that the agency failed us, or what have you, but I believe that this is weeping in the wind, or fixing the blame at a different level instead of addressing the problem. I believe that the system is flawed, but it will never be fixed. The system protects itself. This is the real problem -- as long as the agency protects the agency at the expense of its employees, we will have scenarios such as this.

Somebody's head had to roll, and you can bet your genie that it wasn't going to be a GS 13 held accountable. I accept that I, in my present capacity, am not going to change this climate, even though it sucks and isn't the way it should be. So I deal with it. The cheese is lined up, so we all need to be extra careful about our layers and the things we can change.

About 70% of this post is what I really believe--the other 30% is just stirring the pot.

Class C Sagebrush faller

I submit that we can influence all layers of the swiss cheese where we see systemic problems. We have already provided input to the WO policy-makers by speaking our concerns and by educating each other here. Collectively we are a powerful PROFESSIONAL firefighting force to be reconed with.

Groundpounders and managers, it is still true you must remain situationally aware for your own and your crew's safety. Got SA? Ab.



After adding (clarifying) some terminology in the structure of the Forest Fire Organization to include non-R5 references, here's what I substituted:

So back to the Cramer Tragedy...
On the Salmon-Challis, the Forest Fire Staff or FFMO position with all its many responsibilities was unfilled (or there was an acting). Alan Hackett, Assistant District FMO was trying to fill the District FMO position (although it's unclear if he was signed off on a FF52). He was doing District FMO duties, interacting with the Line Officer (District Ranger), doing the best he could. The District Ranger had oversight for all people on her district. The Fire Staff or acting Fire Staff (if there was one) and his superior, his Forest Supervisor, also had responsibilities for overall forest functioning including oversight via the fire chain-of-command.

Here you have a relatively low totem-pole person - Hackett - just above Engine Captain or Handcrew Captain in GS rank and experience trying to fill in wearing too many hats on a dysfunctional forest. Could he have refused? Who knows? Then came another hat: the Cramer Fire started. He was the IC Type 3 with too much else going on at a time when fires were going gunnysack all over the forest and all over Idaho/Montana. Complexity rose exponentially.... and then came the tragedy.

What part did having too many responsibilities in several different mental and physical locations play in Alan's decisions leading to the tragedy? Seems to me his tragic failure in oversight was more of a "sin of omission" than a "sin of commission". Human factors of job overload/too many hats/ too many expectations placed on a "journeyman" fire supervisor -- rooted in a FS system  requiring lots of paperwork, communication with the Forest Supervisor with no fire experience, etc, etc. -- all were important.

I have to say, I'm in accord with Misery Whip who cited the importance of both human factors and decision making processes in high complexity organizations and with Rhino who said,

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.


Added it. Ab.


Good morning,

I was sent this yesterday, it will be released to the media today. In my mind it pretty much says it all. I have been reading the posts everyday and I have so many thoughts on all of this mess. I hope that at some point I will be able to put it all down in writing that will make some kind of sense to people.

Thanks so much
Jodi Heath

Thanks Jodi. You know how hard this has been for all of us. You and the other members of the families are still in our thoughts and prayers. Ab.


Washington, D.C. 20250
FEB 8 2005

The Honorable Mike Johanns
Secretary of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Mr. Secretary:

As required by Public Law 107-203, the Office of Inspector General (DIG) of the Department of
Agriculture (USDA) hereby submits its investigative report of the Forest Service (FS) fatalities
that occurred in the Cramer Fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Idaho on July 22,2003.
This statutory requirement stipulates that whenever an FS fatality is caused by wildfire
entrapment or burnover, OIG shall "conduct an investigation of the fatality. ..completely
independent of: any investigation of the fatality that is conducted by the Forest Service.
"1 After
completing such an investigation, OIG is required to submit a report containing its investigative
results to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Congress.

The OIG investigative report of the Cramer Fire fatalities is our thiJ;"d work product since
September 2004 related to FS wildland fire activities and programs. On September 23, 2004,
OIG issued two separate reviews. The first was the OIG audit report of the FS Firefighting
Safety Program.2 The audit examined FS procedures to implement safety recommendations and
FS compliance with established firefighting safety practices. On the same day, OIG also issued
an Informational Memorandum to the Chief, Forest Service, which provided an analytical
overview as to whether common factors existed in the three most recent wildland fires involving
FS fatalities.

To place DIG's investigative findings on FS fatalities in the Cramer Fire in a broader context of
how FS flfefighting safety programs and management controls can be improved, brief summaries
of the key findings of DIG's Firefighting Safety Program Audit and its accompanying
Informational Memorandum are contained in the first enclosure (Enclosure 1) to this letter.
DIG's official report to the Congress on our investigation of the fatalities at the Cramer Fire is
provided in the second enclosure (Enclosure 2).

We hope you will find this report informative. Our intention is that the entirety of OIG's work
regarding FS firefighting actions and capabilities in 2004 will assist agency managers in
improving their firefighting training, oversight, and effectiveness. Each year thousands of
FS personnel display dedication and skill in protecting vast areas of public forests and
neighboring communities from devastating forest fires. A thorough examination of the facts and
circumstances surrounding any FS fatalities that occur during these efforts can help agency
officials refine and strengthen their firefighting policies and procedures and, thereby, limit such
tragedies in the future. OIG extends its appreciation to the Chief, Forest Service and FS
officials and regional personnel for their assistance and cooperation as OIG conducted this

A similar letter is being sent to The Honorable Richard B. Cheney, President of the Senate, and
The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House. Copies will be provided to the
leadership of the congressional committees and subcommittees with oversight for the Forest

Phyllis K. Fong
Inspector General

1 Public Law 107-203, enacted July 24, 2002
2 DIG Audit Report No. 08601-38-SF.

OIG Cramer Enclosures 1 & 2

2/10 Ab,

Good news for those advocating the use of the Campbell Prediction System in the NWCG curriculum. The powerpoint for the Situational Awareness theme poster on the NIFC Annual Refresher website www.nifc.gov/wfstar/index.php borrows some slides from the powerpoint Doug put together to discuss the alignment of forces at Cramer.

I suggest folks download both powerpoints, and use the NIFC one (8 slides) first to talk about SA, then present Doug's (25 slides) for more detail on the alignment concept.


vfd cap'n

ps, For Mellie's sake: everybody please correct the error in NIFC slide 3 and Doug's slide 14 -- it's supposed to be the "Cache Bar" not "Cash Bar" drainage. It is true that from my experience, neither one has been particularly kind to firefighters. One drainage is not a place to be during alignment of forces, the other is what happens to your wallet.
2/10 Zimm,

S-230 came out early to mid 80’s before that it was called “Foremanship”, I will look tomorrow at my copy in the training library. The copy I have has a picture of the Redding IR Crew waking behind Charlie Caldwell with his sleeves rolled up, Filson cruisers vest and no gloves. I also have a video copy of the 1962 “Crew Boss “ movie. I believe they started making the training films such as “Crew Boss” “Sector Boss” etc. as a direct result of the Inaja fire in 1956 same as the 10 Standard Fire Orders. If anyone can find the copies of the other early films I would like to get hold of copies on video or DVD. They are great entertainment and have some good application for us yet today. Kind of like watching old Lassie shows with the old FS rigs, uniforms and all that.


2/10 I took S-230 in 1980 on the Arapaho-Roosevelt NF, Redfeather Lakes District.
The student workbook does not have any dates, but it looks very mid-70 ish.
Gary Cargill was the Director of Fire Training, if anyone can date that

2/10 <hahahahahaha><falling off chair>
Misery Whip,

You'd better believe if I could find any chinks in your armor I'd school you a little you a little too, Dude! Listen, I've had my share of being corrected on this forum. (Lobotomy still tries sometimes in chat.) I try not to make mistakes; precision is my middle name. I count on being corrected. Here's a good one. If you can believe it, at one time 4 or 5 years ago I didn't know who Vanna White was, for gosh sakes! Thought she or he was some higher up controlling fire money or something! So, pull no punches when it comes to correcting my accuracy or increasing my precision (or my spelling). I'm up for hearing it all.

Ab, would you please go back and correct my original post in case sometime in the future an archeologist finds only that artifact? Thanks. I should have caught it amidst all the report redactions.

AC, I apologize for shredding your initials. Typing one fisted as fast as I do, I make mistakes. Acronyms and initials are worst because my spell checker doesn't pick them up. Either that or I had a subliminal desire to change the energy from AC to DC. Either way, please accept my apologies.


Corrected it. Ab.

2/9 AC,

I don't believe I ever did read something into your posts that you didn't put there. You were the one that started this little tiff by saying Rhino's statement was erroneous. I felt it was necessary that your statement about Rhino's post not go unchallenged, because I felt your own interpretation of Rhino's statement was erroneous.

As to hitting you over the head with my fire experience, I was responding to your statement "Im not sure how much spotting you have done, or if in fact you rappel or have rappelled before or even what your fire background is". I think most people would interpret that as questioning my background or the validity of my opinions about what happened at Cramer. That is why I responded as I did.

I'm glad you told me about your fire experience, because it makes me feel that maybe we're not as far apart as we might appear to be. Hell, as long as we've both been in the business, I'd be surprised if our paths haven't crossed before. I heartily agree with you that safety ultimately resides with the people on the ground. Maybe one difference between us is that I feel that organizations, and the kind and amount of training that firefighters receive, are equally or more important to discovering the root causes of fire fatalities. I prefer to look into what makes people tick and how people are trained instead of looking at just the actions of individuals who were directly involved.

Based on your description of your experience, I'm pretty sure I know which base you're from. There is a good chance I'll be visiting your base this summer, if I do, I'll try to look you up, introduce myself, and buy you a beer after work if you are a drinking type. I would genuinely enjoy talking with you about what happened at Cramer and firefighting in general.

This has been a little painful for both of us, but as Mellie says, we are serving a purpose by making others think about these very important issues. I want to thank you for having the guts, and caring enough, to post on this site. It isn't always easy.

OK. Time to pick on Mellie. It isn't DC, its AC. And someone pointed out to me today that it was the district FMO position, not the forest FMO position, that was vacant.

Geez. Now I feel really bad, like I slugged my mom. I'm sorry, Mellie, I just like accuracy. You know I would take a bullet for you.

Misery Whip
2/9 I am a big believer in the "law of unintended consequences." Unintended consequences happen because we live and work in a complex world that we don't completely understand. We make decisions that have effects beyond our little sphere, and some of those effects are neither what we wanted or expected.

I hope you all can agree that good intentions do not necessarily produce good results - not on the fire ground and not at the policy maker level. I've been thinking a lot lately about the law of unintended consequences and the Cramer Incident and aftermath. Nobody on the incident or in the Salmon-Challis management intended to hurt anyone, but that didn't keep it from happening. Nobody intended to scare and demoralize the workforce by holding the IC accountable, but that didn't keep it from happening.

I have long believed that the idea that "everyone is responsible for safety" is a classic example of the law of unintended consequences in action. Who can argue with the intent? Everyone is responsible for maintaining their own situation awareness. Everyone is responsible for keeping themselves safe, should not hand their safety over to another, and should act on their own behalf if something goes wrong.

But what about the unintended consequences. I believe that when the Forest Service adopted the principle (or is it a slogan?) that "safety is everyone's responsibility," safety inadvertently became nobody's responsibility - declaring that "safety is everyone's responsibility has become little more than a way to avoid honest assessment and accountability above the individual firefighter level when things go wrong.

Sign me,
2/9 An even later afternoon note, welcome to the IAWF as the new They Said It sponsor!  Click on their banner at the top left to find out about the upcoming Fire Safety Summit.  OA
2/9 Hey all, Late afternoon message...

Firestorm Wildland Fire Suppression is advertising for several positions on crews, engines, and equipment.  Many working locations to choose from in California. Check 'em out on the Jobs page.


2/9 DC, Misery Whip, and others who have contributed to the Cramer thread:

You may already know everything I say below about communication on theysaid, but I need to say it anyway...
If you want to skip this, here's my main message: <cheerleading pompoms in hand>
THANKS CONTRIBUTORS! Also -- thanks for the forum Ab, and thanks to forum supporters/advertisers.

I think the current back-and-forth on the Cramer thread boils down to people having varying points of view, varying points of focus and varying needs. Unrecognized human factors getting in the mix!? Some of us may be looking for closure on our loss, others for an understanding of what we need to do differently to be safe either on the ground or managing the line -- or... something else. Why you're involved, why I'm involved, why someone else writes in -- the reasons differ.

If we're writing in for different reasons seeking our own understanding and resolution, wanting to make our own point, we may be talking past each other on topics that we're passionate about. We assume others are concerned about them too -- issues relating to safety, death, human tragedy and those caught up in it (one ICT3, all ICT3s, etc) who have been blamed or might be blamed next season should tragedy befall (or be created or not mitigated) again. Many of us are trying to make sense of tragedy... again. No wonder it's hot -- it shakes our world every time.

Words... and meaning... communication...
Communication in real life is richer than the printed word. Body language, tone of voice, inflection, facial expression, and gestures contain 70% of message content in face-to-face interactions. They help us clarify, punctuate, and convey our meaning in subtle ways. We don't have any of that here unless we toss in a <tongue in cheek> or a <grin> every once in a while. The <sob> or <cry>  or <tearing up> are a little harder and might be misinterpreted.

Sometimes we know the person posting, but more often not. We may not know where they're coming from or what their issues are, how old or young with what kinds of experience, if they seem like us or really different. Some who write often on the same issues, we kinda know them or would like to... or not...

So on theysaid, one limitation of the medium is that the message is the words. The words usually focus on issues, opinion, information and occasional venting or a quick verbal poke when we feel someone reeeeeaaalllly needs it. The words can perfectly convey the message when the poster is a master of wordcraft. More often for better or worse, the reader fills in some blanks.

For me, it's the trying that counts. I like it that we have folks from all perspectives, all levels of fire, agencies and organizations who are willing to discuss issues, share information, opinions, and persist, albeit sometimes with emotion -- until we feel we've clarified or made our point or agreed to disagree. We educate each other. Sometimes in profound ways. Thanks! Sometimes -- like for me in the last few days -- it's a lot of work just to type all my thoughts down. I've been researching and I wanted to share. Last few days, I've got to add: thank goodness for spell checkers!

I've learned so much here. Thanks EVERYONE for sharing your opinions, your information and insights -- yourselves!


ps While I'm in the love and cheerleading mode...
Love ya Original Ab. <smooch> Again, thanks for everything you do to keep this place up and running moving to new servers, etc... Thanks to Ember who moderates Chat and is currently in firefighter training! <hahaha> another one, hooked! 180 club?? Thanks to the other Abs too...

2/9 Trying to find out when S-230 was created. I can not find that I ever had the
class. Interesting enough I have taught the class several times in the 90's.


2/9 Misery Whip,

Im sorry you feel the need to read outside the lines of my post. I'm also surprised that you feel the pressing need to hit me over the head with your 25 years of fire experience as a testimonial, when in fact, I never asked for your resume.

Although I wont counter your objections to my post, as they are entirely your opinion, I will say this. My experience (with the exception of 5 years on 2 different hotshot crews is exactly similar to yours minus 4 years of experience. I have spent and currently help run a medium rappel program that often boosts the Salmon-Challis, I have rappelled with Indianola as a booster, knew Jeff and talked often with him during his off season about fire and knew the area in which the tragedy occurred well (I spent 21 days on fires on the forest in 2000). All meaningless facts really, but it seems that you asked.

Your quote:

Since you have taken it upon yourself to "dispel myths", you should consider this: I've read the report, I have and still do fight fire, and I agree with Rhino & Mellie. I'm sure there are quite a few other people who would also agree with us, so it appears your assumption, and this statement, is flawed.

Since when does a disagreement constitute a flawed statement? If you read my post in regards to Mellie's you will come to understand that I agreed with her emphasis, I just felt it all boiled down to personal safety.

Have a nice day,

2/9 Does anyone have any input to a GS 11 Federal Center Manager position remaining unfilled and the Center Manager duties delegated to the two GS 9s?

The title of "Center Manager" would be delegated to a CDF employee in a Co-Located Interagency Center where the State employees do not engage in the FEDERAL Dispatch projects, but the Federal employees do answer and dispatch the 911 calls.

Looking for the Pros and Cons and Specific examples in either direction.

Looking for Feedback
2/8 There's a new ad on the FireJobs Page from a private company.  This one's for a full time Assistant Fire & Fuels Forester position.  Check it out.  OA.
2/8 I've updated the Jobs page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages and Series 0401 ("professional" Biologist). Ab.
2/8 Found the proposed 2006 Budget. I'm not sure what the percentages of the USFS, NPS, BLM, etc's total budget are purely presuppression or suppression, but after looking at Department of Homeland Security's budget I think we would be able to do alot more, instead of scraping by like now.

"The Budget provides $281 million for USDA’s Forest Service and $211 million for the Department of the Interior for high-priority brush removal and other projects that provide the greatest reduction of risk posed by catastrophic wildfires."

I don't know, but maybe we would actually get that money instead of being absorbed mostly to the Forests.

"Arizona Border Control Initiative

In April 2004, DHS announced a joint initiative between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. The Arizona Border Control Initiative strives to deter illegal crossing, disrupt smuggling organizations that transport illegal aliens into the United States, and reduce the overall number of deaths of migrants crossing the desert into Arizona from Mexico. The President’s Budget includes $50 million for enhanced personnel, technology, and aviation assets."

Just a few thoughts:

* Our own agency ran helicopters, and airtankers instead of contractors, modeled after Border Patrol and Coast Guard.
* Utilizing equipment and possibly manpower during non-fire season to other departments.

Here are the Numbers

Thinking Outside the Box

2/8 Federal Wildland Firefighter Emergency Response Compensation Act of 2005 (Introduced in House) on Jan 26

HR 408 IH
1st Session
H. R. 408


2/8 AC,

My focus is on Rhino's quote and your comment. All I'm saying is 1) there are human factors at play at more levels than the groundpounder level and 2) the structure of an organization can minimize risk and we should look at that (plus OSHA and OIG if they're looking at anything).We should be looking at EVERYTHING at all levels that can be improved to make the pattern of fighting fire safer.

What I hear you saying is that you're focusing on the groundpounder level: you have to count on yourself for your own safety. You did and you do and you're just fine. OK, I also rely on myself for my own survival. Some have called me a deep survivalist. If you ever meet me in person, you'll know why. That said, I know that good, capable people make judgment calls every day at their own level of understanding, experience and situational awareness and with the intent of taking care of themselves; on occasion they clearly make the wrong call. If we can't ask them what happened, we'll never know for sure what transpired even if they're good friends. However, if you believe the Swiss Cheese Model for looking at accidents is valid, you have to ask why they were there in the first place. It's usually the case that many holes have to line up for a tragedy like Cramer to happen. To break it down, the model looks at

  1. Unsafe Acts;
  2. Preconditions for Unsafe Acts;
  3. Unsafe Supervision; and
  4. Organizational Influences.

Go read Hugh Carson's good review of the Swiss Cheese Model on the Docs Worth Reading.

Will you ever find yourself in a really bad spot because you missed something critically important? I hope not. If you do, I hope you don't waste any time in disbelief that it couldn't wouldn't shouldn't really be happening to you because you know you make the right choices. The seconds you remain in that state of denial and disbelief might make the difference between living and dying.

My quote of the day based on experience:
Prepare for the worst, expect the best. When sh*t happens, do the best you can.

AC, I'm sure we agree on many more things than we disagree on. Our focus right now is simply different.

Yahoo, life is great!

2/8 Mellie,

You make some good points about the hierarchical structure and how some implemented changes might affect the chain of command in a positive light, no doubt. But although I think you make some great broad strokes with the dilemma of Hackett and the forests issues, much of the tragedy boils right back down to moments before Allen and Heath were overrun.

I was on a fire (Tobias, Salmon-Challis NF) with similar topography, fuels, aspect and elevation on the same Forest less than 60 miles away at the same time the blow up occurred at Cramer. Its important to mention I was also on a helispot. Our fire behavior diminished rather than increased. Our spotter (manager) had inserted us without any reservation into a helispot that needed improvement and we took the same precautions just like we always do in assessing our risks. Our situation didnt change while meeting our objection so it wasn't necessary to change our safety zone, location or escape route. Had this happened, it wouldve been necessary to reassess and count on other avenues for escape, safety and potential deployment.

I understand that SA is just that, situational. I also understand that there was a great deal of saw work and a lot was expected them.. and this is where I have to be careful - especially since Jeff was a friend of mine - Wildland Firefighters ultimately have to be responsible for their own safety once on the ground. Yes, there is a support network and resources that you might have at your disposal but when it comes down to it...think for yourself, use your training because situations change.

God knows how many times I walk into a convenience store and buy a soda, in fact I take it for granted I can safely go there and get one often. If it gets robbed and things go gunnysack, im not going to count on the police, the state legislature, the corporation running the chain to save my but I'm going to make some sound decisions under pressure and hope to God my good judgment will get me out of that mess. The firefighters cutting that helispot were better trained than a civilian in a convenience store... although there are a lot of things wrong with the forest and the fire's management you can bet it was the last thing on Jeff and Shane's mind at the time.

2/8 AC,

You are correct if you perceived that you are one of the people I was referring to in my 2/6 post.

I want to address a few statements from your recent posts. From your 1/31 post:

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.

Since you have taken it upon yourself to "dispel myths", you should consider this: I've read the report, I have and still do fight fire, and I agree with Rhino & Mellie. I'm sure there are quite a few other people who would also agree with us, so it appears your assumption, and this statement, is flawed.

And since you saw fit to question my qualifications in your 2/7 post, I might ask the same question of you. I've spent over 25 years in wildland fire, most of that as a smokejumper, rappeller, and, yes, rappel spotter. What's your background?

This statement from your 1/31 post also bears scrutiny. You said:

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 (sic) paid for it with their lives.

Whether you realize it or not, there are many excusable reasons that people make bad judgment calls. If you have never made one, you are either very exceptional, very lucky, or not very experienced. Or maybe you have made bad judgment calls but just failed to recognize it.

The comment of yours that really caught my attention was "I know that the rappellers had allowed themselves to become complacent and rely on air support as a potential escape route". How can you KNOW that? Were you there with Shane & Jeff? There is a large difference between knowing and assuming. Maybe you just didn't choose your words carefully enough.

I have also been accused of being a "blamer" on this site in the past, but my motives really are aimed at revealing systemic flaws that led to this tragedy. Yes, ultimately, Shane & Jeff were responsible for their own safety once they were on the ground. Saying "they allowed themselves to become complacent" sounds to me, and others, like you are BLAMING them for being careless.

I feel the root causes are based in a system that failed to give them and others the kind of screening and training that would allow the people at Cramer to detect potentially hazardous situations and deteriorating conditions, react correctly, and avoid the burnover that ultimately took Jeff & Shane's lives. Jeff & Shane were victims, just as Alan Hackett and others at Cramer were victims. I would also say that you are probably in the minority if you feel that the dysfunctional conditions on the SCNF did not contribute to this accident.

AC, I'd recommend that you read up on human factors and do some careful personal assessment before you start telling They Said readers how things are. You might find that the world is not as cut and dried as you seem to think it is.

Mellie, As usual, I enjoyed your post today.

Misery Whip

2/8 Concerned about the Future,

This is a great plan that would work for our forest and I don't know many folks who would oppose it. Except for the District Rangers. Their positions are graded by OPM on how many people they supervise and if you take away the fire shop directly from them it would decrease them from a GS 13 to a GS 11 and in a few districts a GS 9. The District Rangers that I know will not stand by and let their pay degrade without a fight. But it would be fun to watch.

Also this is not a cookie cutter way of how to operate, it might not work where the suppression dollars are minimal such as in Eastern Regions and forests where there are only a few suppression personnel, or suppression forces are split with fuels dollars, or split into zones.

The District Rangers also have a huge bite into our fire management budget. If you actually go and look at line items we pay for most of the building space on the districts as well as electricity and other associated costs. If you took away the ability for the district rangers to borrow from fire, there would be no district.

I personally rather work in this proposed environment, but we probably loose the Forest Service as we know it if we do, and get sucked up into the Department of Homeland Security.

Devils Advocate

Not necessarily. Read what Concerned is really saying. Ab.

2/8 Hmmmmmmm.
........so the Forest FMO works for the Forest Supervisor.

Is this the reason why the Forest Supervisor left the Forest rather
suddenly in August
and went to DC as a special assistant to the Chief?

Was it a Freudian slip when he sent his goodbye letter to the Forest
Employees and put
"Thank You" in the subject line............

Hey, who's watchin' the boat!!!!!
It's running with the tide and the bowline's slipping
through your legs while you're standing on the dock!!!!

............. just tell me it isn't so, joe.......
2/8 Wow, thanks Masked Man (or Woman as the case may be).
Would someone please send that to the Chief?

I promise never to whine about fire budget again if such a such a structure were adopted.



Forest Service Fire Organization: Facts, Issues, Suggestions

  • Line authority in the Forest Service was congressionally set and is bestowed upon the Chief and delegated to Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Forest Supervisors, and District Rangers.
  • Staff positions, such as those filled by Fire Management Officers (FMOs), do not possess line authority and act only upon the authority of the line officer.
  • FMOs may regularly act as Forest Supervisor, and District Fire Management officers (DFMOs) may act as District Rangers and in those capacities exercise line authority, but it is limited to specific delegation by the line officer of record.
  • The traditional and, in most places, current organization places fire managers under non-fire line officers. Most of the line officers today do not have substantial experience with fire, and there is nothing in place aimed at materially changing this; there is no fixed requirement that one meet any level of familiarity or facility with fire management and operations as a prerequisite to becoming a line officer.
  • Consequently, the FMO or DFMO has come to BE the unit or subunit fire representative and must attempt to comply with all the existing and emerging standards related to fire operations, qualifications, program management, and supervision while at the same time meeting the needs and wishes of the line officer. There are often conflicting demands made upon fire managers and there is always more to do than time allows, so focus and priority become critical. The principle interest of the line officer may not be on issues related to fire, and fire organizations are not uncommonly viewed as utility work forces that are available for any purpose when not actually fighting fire. In this setting, providing maintenance and developmental training, drilling for proficiency, tending interagency relationships, updating fire management and other plans, preparing and managing budgets, and more -- all become extremely difficult.
  • It is critical that standards be met, that SOPs are shared and implemented, that fundamentals are taught and reinforced. Under the current decentralized organization, the FMO is responsible for the fire program under an arrangement that, classically, assigns responsibility without authority. FMOs are charged with outcomes, but are not necessarily given the wherewithal to directly effect activities on the Ranger Districts. At minimum, the FFMO must work with and through the District Ranger in order to influence compliance and activities on the Districts.
  • The subject of vacancies should be aired - even if parenthetically - inasmuch as they commonly occur and impact employees, performance, and outcomes in important ways. When vacancies occur, they are often lengthy, given the timeframes required and the level of human resource support. Remaining employees must attempt to perform the duties of the vacant position along with their own, and there is little recognition of the impacts upon the individual or on the program. The effect of multiple duties on one's attention and performance is a mitigating circumstance that seems to have been "increasingly underappreciated" in recent investigations.
  • It's not that centralized fire organizations make sense so much as it has become extremely difficult to meet current requirements under the existing organization. This is not a matter of preference. Many of us even in fire would prefer to see the traditional organization continue but, in the command and control environment of emergency response, it hinders more than it facilitates in meeting the realities of fire preparedness.
  • The District Ranger is a key position, overseeing a large and varied program of work and representing the agency in the community. Some District Rangers, and others, are greatly concerned that centralizing the fire department will exclude them and fracture their workforce.
  • Many DRs care deeply about fire and some are very capable at it, and they should remain involved, but in a way that aims first to enable the fire manager to direct fire preparedness and operations.
  • Meaningful District Ranger involvement can occur under a centralized fire organization by their sitting on what is essentially a board of directors, with the Forest Supervisor. The FMO reports to the Forest Supervisor, so the line authority remains on each National Forest. FMOs needn't have line authority; they need to deal with and through others' line authority in reasonable measure.
  • The liability of District Rangers would be described in the board of director context, and would stand to be more focused, more appropriate to the way the unit does business, and better described. The responsibilities laid upon the Forest would ultimately be borne by the Forest Supervisor, as it now is.
  • This is not a stove-pipe organization that operates beyond the bounds of the Forest Supervisors' reach. Programs of work and the fire departments' contribution to District activities are subject to Forest Supervisor and District Ranger direction but, in this setting, critical fire program needs can be more cohesively identified and planned for than the current arrangement allows.
  • The Forest Service should recognize the fact that the fireground has become much more complex and that its employees face greater liabilities than ever before. The Forest Service ought to respond by directing that its fire organization be made more likely to survive and succeed by establishing a fire department that models effective command and control organizations rather than doing what we've always done.

Concerned about the Future

2/8 AC,

I disagree with you and agree with Rhino when he stated

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.

There is a potentially systemic problem in the way the Forest Service administers fire and aviation. In my opinion, the organization structure is outdated and fire managers have too much expected of them -- and this is under the best conditions. I think this  problem was a MUCH BIGGER PROBLEM on the Cramer because of the holes in the fire organization on the Salmon Challis NF. I doubt the OIG investigators even have a clue how big a problem it was/is. In my opinion, Jeff and Shane were victims, as was Allen Hackett. Alan was set up to fall, not intentionally, but set up by the way the system is organized and the way a key position was not filled. Too much was expected of him. When push came to shove and OSHA said "second willful violation", Alan became the scapegoat. When DOJ threatened jail time and fighting that was way beyond his financial means, he cut his losses, as most of us would do.

Let's begin with forest structure, responsibilities, and chain-of-command. The Forest Service is a marriage of many functions, one of which is fire. Right now fire is the cash cow -- the way logging used to be when timber was king. Fire is also the riskiest function -- and therein lies part of the problem. Many other functions are being centralized within the Forest Service putting additional stress on Incident Management Teams, but fire is evidently not being considered for centralization within the FS. To consider alternative structures apparently threatens power, money, egos, tradition. Line Officer (Forest Supervisor and District Ranger) control is sacrosanct and defined by law. I'm just wondering if there's not another better more centralized way that would let line officers retain control while streamlining operational structure for safer Fire operation and absolving Line Officers of threat for litigation.


Some points and issues:
Each National Forest with many districts has a Forest Supervisor at its head. He/she supervises the District Rangers and the Fire and Aviation Program (FAM) and is responsible to the Regional Forester. The Forest Supervisors and District Rangers who "provide oversight" to the Fire Program usually do not themselves have fire experience. When the needs of fire and fire safety come in conflict with other needs on the forest, these non-fire supervisors likely have other priorities and projects.

I have talked many times about the fire budget (formerly MEL) and what Congress budgets for fire resources on the forests (ie, pre-suppression funds). Well, every year Congress designates money for fire, sometimes increasing the budget incrementally over the budget of the year before. By the time the money reaches the ground, there have been rakeoffs at every level of the regional and forest organization. When I ask about that, I'm told, "Well that's just the way it's always been. Fire pays the way for many other functions on the forest like timber used to." This year although money budgeted for fire was increased, money reaching the ground is even LESS than last year. But, I've digressed...

Back to structure and chain-of-command. Consider the Fire and Aviation (FAM) structure on a typical forest (like the Salmon Challis NF), on which fire is not centralized.

Forests that have an active fire program - with lots of complexity, including a great deal of seasonal fire and fuels reduction - typically have the following positions:

  • A Forest Fire Management Officer (FFMO, usually referred to as the Forest Fire Staff Officer, member of the Forest Leadership Team or FLT),
  • an Assistant FMO (Assistant Fire Staff Officer),
  • a Fuels Tech (many used to be old Brush Disposal or BD foremen when timber was king),
  • a Fire Planning Specialist who also knows NEPA.
  • Each part of the forest, or district has
    • A (District) FMO (FMO, Division Chief in CA) and
    • an Assistant (District) FMO (DFMO (AFMO, Battalion Chief).
    • Each district also has a variety of Module Leaders (Captains):
      • Engine Capts (4-6 per district in my neck'o'the'NorCA'woods), and
      • Handcrew Supts including HS Supts.
    • Can have Fuels Techs at the district level

The Forest FMO or Forest Fire Staff Officer is a critical position, overseeing the whole forest's fire and aviation program, including each district's fire budget, planning, training, safety, aviation, etc. Goodness, the responsibilities are so great I don't know where to start. In addition, either the FFMO or the Assistant Fire Staff Officer performs duties of the Forest Aviation Officer, including contracts, CWN and any fleet, even overseeing flights for bug inspections! Larger aviation programs have a dedicated Forest Aviation Officer.

The FFMO and Assistant Fire Staff at the forest level work for the Forest Supervisor who works for the Regional Forester. The District FMO, Assistant Dist. FMO and those on down the chain who work on the ground work for the District Ranger, NOT for the FFMO Fire Staff Officer. The District Ranger has congressionally delegated line authority for all that fire personnel do on a forest. In other words, the Ranger needs to sign off on it. When there's a large fire on a forest and an IMT is called in, it works at the discretion of the Ranger, as well. Legally, when things go wrong on a fire -- under the current set of rules currently understood by OSHA and OIG/DOJ (10 fire orders are violated leading to burnover, accident or death on a FS Managed fire) -- the Ranger is also at civil and/or criminal risk for some mess-up or oversight on something he or she signed off on that was required under their job description.

As I mentioned before, today Forest Supervisors and Forest Rangers usually have no background in fire. In the olden days when things were simpler and the marriage of functions all pervasive, Supervisors and Rangers had often fought fire seasonally, worked briefly on a BD crew or had been Forestry types and done some timber cruising/pile burning, in other words, they had some woods and fire sense -- sense of hot slope/cold slope and how fire burned on the land. Not many of those old dog Rangers/ranger supervisors remain. (Dave Freeland Ranger on the SQF and Kent Connaughton, R5 Deputy Regional Forester are two wonderful exceptions who come to mind.) As Lobotomy points out, most Rangers and Supervisors today are "ologists" and therefore suspect for not being "fire professionals" when it comes to fire safety. [Aside: By training in one of my prior lives, I am also an 'ologist; and everyone in my family is an 'ologist. Nothing against 'ologists, but they/we have a very different view of the world and a different set of priorities than is needed if you're working for safety as a fire professional on the fireground!]

So back to the Cramer Tragedy... On the Salmon-Challis, the Forest Fire Staff or FFMO position with all its many responsibilities was unfilled (or there was an acting). Alan Hackett, Assistant District FMO was trying to fill the District FMO position (although it's unclear if he was signed off on a FF52). He was doing District FMO duties, interacting with the Line Officer (District Ranger), doing the best he could. The District Ranger had oversight for all people on her district. The Fire Staff or acting Fire Staff (if there was one) and his superior, his Forest Supervisor also had responsibilities for overall forest functioning including oversight via the fire chain-of-command.

Here you have a relatively low totem-pole person - Hackett - just above Engine Captain or Handcrew Captain in GS rank and experience trying to fill in wearing too many hats on a dysfunctional forest. Could he have refused? Who knows? Then came another hat: the Cramer Fire started. He was the IC Type 3 with too much else going on at a time when fires were going gunnysack all over the forest and all over Idaho/Montana. Complexity rose exponentially.... and then came the tragedy.

What part did having too many responsibilities in several different mental and physical locations play in Alan's decisions leading to the tragedy? Seems to me his tragic failure in oversight was more of a "sin of omission" than a "sin of commission". Human factors of job overload/too many hats/ too many expectations placed on a "journeyman" fire supervisor -- rooted in a FS system

I have to say, I'm in accord with Misery Whip who cited the importance of both human factors and decision making processes in high complexity organizations and with Rhino who said,

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.


2/7 This came in to me from Lance and I'm taking the liberty of posting some of it, as similar info has come from Matt's mom. If anyone wants to stop by and visit Matt, contact Ab for more info on how to do that. It's easy and your visit would be appreciated. Ab.


Here is an update on Matt Taylor. I was able to see him today. He was in good spirits, laughing and reminiscing about fire stories and getting caught up on people he knows. Heidi B another friend from his Prineville Hotshot days stopped by as well, and with her good nature, kindness and laughing spirit had Matt laughing and remembering stories from firefighting when they were both much younger. We took him out for a walk in his chair, wheeled him around his neighborhood and walked around his old elementary school and in and around the kids. I think he was up for a trip up Pilot Butte, and a wild ride down. <etc, snip on visitation info>


2/7 Hey Ab:

Two good quotes from Class C Sagebrush Faller which got my attention and I think are worthy of the list. I think both can be applied to much of what we do in and out of life:

1) Don't leave your SA behind, even for a minute, in life or on a fire. As soon as you do, life will sneak up on you and bite you in the ass.

2) I'm just lucky that this happened in a parking lot, and not on a fire.

- Class C Sagebrush Faller 2005


What many, past and present, seem to be asking of themselves and others... Got SA? Ab.

2/7 SoCal CDF

Back East the windshield wiper law is pretty common. Here is an article that mentions the windshield wiper/headlight law (its a little dated, but it does list some of the states with the law already on the books). However, in some states the police can't stop you just for the headlight violation, they can only ticket you after they have stopped you for some other traffic violation.


www.detnews.com In addition to, at that time, a possible new law in Michigan...

Currently, 14 states mandate headlight use when wipers are activated: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia. Headlights also are mandatory during the day in Canada, Scandinavia and Hungary.

2/7 Headlights and Rain...

This takes me back to my baseball barnstorming days in North Carolina. All along the highways they have signs "Must Burn Headlights When Using Wipers" or words to that effect. Thus, I'm assuming that was what the law and not just a suggestion. They have a lot of other laws that seemed odd to me, but I was continually reminded I was from "out West". At least they didn't call me a Yankee (or a Yankee fan) <grin>

2/7 If anyone had time tagged Jeff and Shane's location from the getgo
as a SOP, it would have been automatic to reevaluate whether they
should have been there past the timetag. Maybe they would have
been reevaluating their position too.

I heard more helibase mgrs have been interested in Campbell's
method. I recommended it to some. It should be taught
more widely to our new less experienced folks in my opinion.


2/7 Note for those coming to CA to fight fire or other wise.

There's a new CA law that if you have your windshield
wipers on, you must have your lights on. I know, I know,
if it's raining who's fighting fire? But sometimes there's
overlap with rain and mopup/rehab. It makes sense. Most
of us have lights on for safety already. Just a heads up.

Anyplace else have this law?


2/7 Misery Whip,

I dont believe anyone is "affixing" blame, to Hackett, to the spotter, and especially to Jeff and Shane other than those that were obligated to point the finger (I dont think thats any of us). Blame is a moot point here and if anything we use what happened at Cramer as a lesson more than anything else.

Yes, the old adage of history always repeats itself if we forget it rears its head and I think that most sliders want to file away in their minds what befell Jeff and Shane so that they might never find themselves in the same position.

Im not sure how much spotting you have done, or if in fact you rappel or have rappelled before or even what your fire background is and I'm not sure it really matters but as rappelling progresses we will see more and more synonomous procedure similar to the way the R6 rappel program is where a Red Carded or recerted rappeller or spotter can boost any slider base in the region. I think the eventual goal is to make that a national rather than regional standard. With that will come other operational standards that some bases implement such as, hot mics until the 'get ready' hand signal, flight suits vs. nomex pants/shirt, belly bag vs. let down gear, etc.

Just like any other firefighter, rappellers need to assess the changing conditions and respond accordingly. I think that I was a second year district firefighter when I learned that safety zones do in fact change when the conditions change and that 'head down' work is careless work though some still think its part of an ethic. Years from now, after we've perfected and been able to implement some of these skills and even learned new ones, tragedies will still happen. Blame doesnt do us any good but maybe thinking about mistakes that others made will keep them from happening to you.

2/7 Ab,

First of all I would like to thank the Wildland Firefighter Foundation for hosting the T-shirt collection. Also I need to thank Vicki and you all for the great post (1/27) and replies. I hope as the summer passes by that everyone who gets a chance stops in and sees it.

I also appreciate and thank those that have offered up a few more shirts to the collection over the past several days. Especially for the older shirts. Those shirts tell the best stories. Someday I hope to have them all, but I don't want to take away from me having to earn them. I feel as if over the years I have been on many Hotshot Crews and have enjoyed working with each and every one. You have to understand as NorCal Tom pointed out in a post a while back, that part of having the collection comes from me wanting to become a better leader. How else to become a better leader than to walk several hundred miles with some of the finest leaders in the fire organization? Where else to learn about decision making than to learn it from those who made the right decisions. Walk and talk with those that recognized and identified the risk of the assignment rather than read about someone who never identified the risk in a fatality investigation report. As someone mentioned we have the "right to refuse risk" protocol, but if you can't identify the risk then what good is it?

You see I have a different take on all of this. I would rather learn from those that I would say identified the risk and made the right decisions, rather than from those that maybe ignored the risk or didnt see it coming. It's hard for me to understand what exactly we get from reading and talking about the risk that no one identified. Especially from those that are not around to share it with us. It seems to me that we should be interviewing and talking with the folks that identified and made the right risk assessment and are around to share it with us. If the military learned what they know about leadership from those that didnt identify or ignored the risk, we wouldnt have any Generals. The same goes for the T-shirts, there's a reason for having old Hotshot T-shirts. One reason is to remind us that there's always an inherent risk with everything we do, but its how we identify it and mitigate it that counts!!!!

Just my Thoughts

Send us a list of t-shirt additions when you get them and we'll update the t-shirt page. (list of shirts) Ab.

2/7 Ab,

I found an interesting site this weekend, if you read this paper with wildland fire in mind you can see some of the parallel challenges faced by the airline industry and our own occupation. Here's the link:


I have two new quotes for the list from one of my favorite books, Zen Lessons: The Art of Leadership. This book is a translation of wisdom from the Chinese Song dynasty (960-1279 AD).

"Safety is not the safety of one day, nor is danger the danger of one day. Both safety and danger come from gradual development".

"A superior person is one who when safe does not forget about danger, and who in times of order does not forget about disorder".

This quote is from James Reason, the risk management guru:

"Error-prone people do, of course, exist, but they seldom remain at the hazardous sharp end for very long. Quite often, they get promoted to management".

Misery Whip

Added 'em to the Quotes page. Ab.

2/7 Hello all,

I am coming to you somewhat subdued tonight. It would seem that I have failed to practice what I preach.

I went snowboarding today. I locked my PDA (Personal Digital Assistant - handheld) and my cell phone in my truck, as usual, and went up the mountain with my wife of three weeks to have a day of fun on the slopes.

When we came back down the mountain, early I might add so that we might watch the superbowl, I found a window broken out on my truck and my PDA, my cell phone, and my camcorder gone. I gave my info to the Sheriff, and off we went. I am now $1500 less in assets and a little wiser in my attitude.

You see, I am equally at fault for leaving my valuables in my truck. I didn't cover my as*. I didn't leave myself a way out. I got burned over. I should have known better.

For the next week I will not have any way to purchase groceries, fix my truck, or pay for my rent. My wife will have to pick up the slack for my failures. This blows. I have to close all accounts and re-open them again with different numbers because everything was in my PDA.

Please, folks, cover your as*es. And don't leave valuables in your truck--even behind the seat. The bast*rds will find them.

Hopefully this will help some of you all out.

Don't leave your SA behind, even for a minute, in life or on a fire. As soon as you do, life will sneak up on you and bite you in the ass.

I'm just lucky that this happened in a parking lot, and not on a fire.

Class C Sagebrush Faller
2/6 About longline helicopter personnel rescue operations in the federal government land management agencies (fire). Think outside the big green box. Go to the www.oas.gov, select document library, handbooks and references, helicopter short haul handbook. The longtime experts are at the Grand Canyon NP helitack.

LIONA (Lots of Info/No Answers)
2/6 A few personal thoughts on the Forest Service being sucked into supporting
Homeland Security for All Risk Incident Radio Support.

I came up through the ranks from AD mop-up crews to today, an Electronics
Technician. Fire is in my blood, and I would still rather be cutting line on an
active IA, but I now need longer to rest up.

That is what I initially signed up for. Go out to the Forests and set up Comm.
As Mel used to say "It's all about the food and the view.", while we watched
the sunset on lightning IA.

The Incidents have been getting larger, more complex and varied in nature.
Stress levels go up and it starts to become less fun, more of a military operation .

I guess the FS Radio Program made a very good impression in helping recent
major incidents.

I do really enjoy the work. The adventure, travel, and excitement. Typical
adrenaline junky. It also makes me feel good when I can contribute my part,
and everything comes together for a common cause, the camaraderie and sense
of purpose are great also.

But sometimes when I get home after an intense assignment, I just want to hug
my family and stay home.

2/6 Ab,

A number of recent They Said posters seem to want to blame Alan Hackett, the Cramer rappel spotter, or Jeff and Shane themselves, for failing to realize how dangerous it was to insert the rappellers into H2. My question for the folks who feel that blame is deserved, what training program was used to train the people on the Cramer fire to assess what we now all recognize in hindsight?

Remember, at the time Jeff and Shane rappelled, fire behavior was subdued and did not appear to be an imminent threat. So how did the people on Cramer learn how to assess, from an aircraft no less, what a reasonable safety zone was for the given fuel and terrain conditions, and how the fire might behave under drier and windier conditions hours later?

I know what the answer is, I'm just curious if the people who want to affix blame on the Cramer participants know the answer.

By the way, I have another saying to add to the list. This one is from Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun.

"Chieftains must teach their Huns well that which is expected of them. Otherwise, Huns will probably do something not expected of them".

Misery Whip

I put your quote and the sagebrush faller's quote on the Quotes page. Ab.

2/6 I believe I have stumbled upon the root cause of dissention between those of us on this board regarding Cramer. The two camps can be simply divided into those who believe that others are responsible for their safety, or at least liable for their safety, and those that believe that their safety is in their own hands.

I am not advocating that you shouldn't trust your IC, or your AFMO, or your supe, etc. My dad had a saying, one that I have taken to heart. It was "trust your friends, but cut the cards." Most shot crews follow this advice--only if you personally know and trust a lookout posted by another crew do you not post your own. This is why the good lookout spots on campaign fires usually have representatives from all crews working in the area. Trust your friends, but cut the cards.

My analogy regarding a shot crew on the helispot was an illustration only. My point was that the rappel crew should have tried to deal with every aspect that a shot crew would have on the spot. It doesn't matter if there are only two folks out there or twenty--LCES needs to be mitigated by personnel in the area of operations, not by someone ten miles away.

I know the argument that is coming next--well, why was he ten miles away? Maybe he shouldn't have been.

I will use the argument somebody made against my point of view against them. "The point we need to get across to folks is to be aware that you may be working for an individual that may or may not be fully qualified/experienced for all aspects of fireline supervision, regardless of what they may have on a redcard."

This is absolutely correct, but it seems that a few of you are just realizing this now. The climate I came up in took this as a given--take nothing for granted, plan for mistakes to be made, always cover your ass, always leave yourself a way out, in effect--trust your friends but cut the cards.

Red card quals say nothing about the character or abilities of an individual. Their actions do.

Class C Sagebrush Faller
2/5 A big thanks to Mellie for the update from our family on the battle Matt is facing
now with a brain tumor. The cards and well wishes have been coming in already
and are so appreciated. It helps me just to know that so many among the firefighter
brotherhood are thinking and praying for him.

Thanks! thanks! Thanks!
Sarah Larson (Matt's mom)

Best wishes to all your family. I'm glad the cards are reaching you. Readers, if you'd like to read the update and access Matt's address to send cards, click HERE. Ab.

2/5 Thanks to Duncan and Jim for info on T-130's tail number. Your emails went in the spam filter as they sometimes do for new posters. I white-listed you so it shouldn't happen again. We appreciate good info from first-timers.


2/5 Re the meaning of Doctrine:

Doctrine is a precept or principle.

I see using Commander's Intent as a guiding precept or underlying
principle for how fire is fought by professional wildland firefighters
who are trained in leadership, fire behavior and all the other aspects
of their profession. Here's one definition of doctrine.

Time for my kicks. Sunny in my neck-o-the-woods, too. Thanksgiving
for sunshine!


PS. Nerd, let me see what I can come up with on Gilmartin's talk.

2/5 In all the talk about clarifying the FS Fire Doctrine to Commander's Intent, the thing I don't understand is where Doctrine fits into the big picture? I know it's conceptual rather than concrete, but how does it inform our policies? How does Doctrine differ from or relate to Safety Guidelines, Orders, rules and regs, how we conduct business, Policy.? Mission and Vision, I'm familiar with those. FS mission is "Caring for the land and serving people."

I was outdoors doing my PT this morning and the thought arose...

NorCal Tom

2/5 CA guy,

There was some kind of longline med rescue procedure
under consideration last year. Don't know what became
of that. Anyone?

Bitterroot Ted

2/5 Interesting letter to Blackwell.

I can't wait to see his response to this.


2/5 Tahoe Terrie:

Good question on the National Interagency Incident Radio Cache... The Communications Duty Officer (CDO) at the cache makes the final decision.

I'm one of the heavy users of radios for non-fire incidents. The BurningMan Incident on the Black Rock Playa in northern Nevada has used cache radios in 2002 and 2004, and I plan to use them this year. The event is held in late August, ending on Labor Day. In 2003, despite having our request for the Racal radios from the cache entered months ahead of time, 2 days from the start of the event I was notified that we wouldn't be getting any radios. It was a scramble getting enough radios from other sources to run the event. We were using three boxes of the Racals for digital channels, and now encryption, for law enforcement.
I'll be down at the Imperial Sand Dunes in southern California over Presidents Day, and was down there the last couple of Thanksgivings, where we will have 10-15 boxes of King radios that we will be issuing to Rangers, Sheriffs, CHP, first aiders, and others working the event.

They were used on the Shuttle Recovery, in New York after 9/11, at the Olympics in Salt Lake City, at the Rainbow Gathering events, and other non fire incidents over the last few years.

The National Logistics Workshop will be in Reno on March 14-18 at the Atlantis Hotel, and in the Communications breakout we will be discussing more on handling these all-risk incidents.

2/5 Thanks Firefly. Interesting about helicopter rescue. I don't think
the FEDs have that.

Do you know the communication procedure or the SOP that the
CDF Flight Crew follows as they land and engage fire? Do they
post lookouts? Is their comm SOP similar to what NWRG, JoeBoy,
AC and Class C Sagebrush Faller suggest the FED comm SOP is? It
seems that procedures vary between crews at least a little bit. I wonder
how they differ between federal and state agencies. Do any other
states besides Calif have flight crews?

Do flight crew supts have to size up fire behavior and anticipate how
it might change? Seem like it could be a transition point where chain
of command shifts. Transitions shout watchout. Any thoughts or

CA guy

2/5 COMT or anyone,

I've heard NIMS not only relies on our Incident Management Teams, but also relies on our cache of communications equipment.

This is what the talking points from (All Risk Incident Support Radio) say are requirements

"Provide for Interoperable Radio Communications and Computer support on all risk incidents
o Wildland Fire
o Law Enforcement activities
o Homeland Security and FEMA incidents
      o Terrorist activities or other man made disasters
      o Floods
      o Special events
      o Earthquake
      o Volcano or other natural disasters"

What happens if there's a need in a variety of categories that exceeds resources. Who decides priorities?

Tahoe Terrie

2/5 For all you all-risk wildland FF that may not know what
you're getting into when you protect the wildland from a
vehicle fire...

Vehicle fires can hold more dangers

Be Safe,

2/5 Ab,

In response to your request for feedback on the book "Beyond Tranquillon Ridge".... I also read the book after participating in the "draft" Honda Canyon Fire staff ride as did An-R5er.

The book is a great read for any student of fire and a must read for anyone planning on attending the staff ride. The four individuals killed on the 1977 brush fire at Vandenberg AFB included the Vandenberg Base Commander, the Vandenberg Fire Chief, Assistant Fire Chief and a Dozer Operator. This book is written by Joseph Valencia who was a firefighter with Santa Barbara County Fire and on one of the first in engines to the fire. Besides the 4 fatalities, 7 entrapments occurred on the fire.

The Vandenberg Hotshot Superintendent is in the process of putting the staff ride in the format needed for inclusion on the staff ride section of the Fire Leadership webpage.

The Los Padres Vandenberg Training Center is currently looking into including the staff ride in a number of fire classes next year and possibly offering it as a stand alone class / event.

The final staff ride fine tuning is currently a joint effort including the Vandenberg Hotshots, Santa Barbara County Fire and the USFS Los Padres and Boise Office. I am sure I have missed a few.

The Staff Ride has been the work of one of the Vandenberg Hotshot Captains, who has worked on this for the last 8 or so years........ He wrote the forward for the book "Beyond Tranquillon Ridge".


Link to the book is on the Books page. Link to the Fire Leadership web page is on the Links page near the bottom under Safety. Excellent site. Ab.

2/5 Answer to CA guy

CDF does not have rappellers.
Our Helitack crews can "Helistep", (a low hover where the firefighters
exit the ship) but the only ropes we use are for our "short haul"
program. Short haul is a process where the rescuer is lowered to the
ground from the helicopter to aid an injured person. After the injured
is assessed for their injuries, they are connected to the helicopter,
(along with the rescuer) and flown a short distance to a better access


2/5 Sagebrush,

I agree with you on your statement that if a twenty person shot crew had been at that helispot on Cramer that the sup's head would roll. Two things to think about, however. 1.Any TYpe one crew that was worth the line gear on their backs would have been done and into Phase II of the operation which may or may not have put them at greater risk or 2. The sup would have flown it and come to a compromise on strategy and tactics and , potentially, would have turned the assignment down.

Lastly, I am a firm advocate of being fully aware of all that is happening around you at all times. However, if we start teaching or advocating to folks to never trust the IC or overhead they are working for on any incident then, with the current retirement situation unfolding around us, we may as well all just hang up our boots and get jobs slinging burgers somewhere. The point we need to get across to folks is to be aware that you may be working for an individual that may or may not be fully qualified/experienced for all aspects of fireline supervision, regardless of what they may have on a redcard.

2/4 vfd cap'n

Can you provide a link to the interview transcripts please?

2/4 Here is some info on how the Forest Service is going to handle All Risk
Incidents. The organization is still in transition so the final product is
still coming.


All Risk Incident Support Radio (html)
IRM Transition Update (pdf file)

2/4 Bill, the tail number for the aircraft was:


2/4 I am building an RC model of the T-130 air tanker that crashed.
I am getting close to the paint stage. Can anyone tell me the FAA
tail number of that airplane? Any and all help would be appreciated.

Bill Richardson

Anyone from AAP reading? Ab.
2/4 Brush faller and yellowjacket

Thanks for the good input the last few days on the
Cramer topic. Too many times this discussion becomes
a heated battle and people tend to loose focus and
then the rambling starts. You guys made some good
points and I hope it made people think.

Have a good weekend

2/4 Thet thar Classy Sagebrush Feller makes a very good point.

Helispot construction and management is quite often an "operation within an operation" where the helitack folks or rappellers work for the helibase manager, after all, who signs their timesheets???

Can one of you Helibase Manager types please confirm for me that it is a standard procedure that before you send rappellers, helitack crews, or helispot managers into a remote site that you

(1) provide them the names and freqs of "adjacent resources";
(2) provide them with a safety briefing that includes the trigger points and threshold information for the Division they are working in (as discussed in the division briefing);
(3) specific directions that clearly identifies who their ground contact and supervisor will be and directions to report to them;
(4) who the established lookout is;
(5) their own escape plan; and
(6) that all this communicated to the DIVS, IC or ground supervisor before any insertion occurs.

If this isn't happening, then there are serious command and control breakdowns that will continue to bite us.


2/4 vfd cap'n:

Thank you for inserting that page in "They Said." I was unaware that that was Indianola's SOP--though it is fairly standard to have the Rappellers not hot-miked from the folks that I have talked to. On our ship, we would stay plugged in until just before we threw the ropes. I guess I was incorrectly applying our procedures to those guys--in effect assuming that what we did was what they did.


You are correct in saying that Jeff and Shane had no reason not to trust Alan, and also in the fact that after rappel operations you are another firefighter on the line. What I was trying to get across about rappel operations and the isolated nature of them (if you need to slide it, it is by definition inaccessible any other way) is precisely that--once on the ground, you are on your own. It is easy to get sucked into the fun of dropping trees, and working ahead of other elements on the fire. Because there is only the two of you, it becomes harder to cover all of your bases and get work done.

In effect, if you slide it with your stickmate, you are essentially a two-man crew and need to mitigate LCES within that crew. The tendency is to get tunnel vision and to let some things slide. If it had been a 20 person shot crew that had been dropped there, my guess is that the supe's head would roll instead of the ICs. I am advocating the position that on site lookout posting must be done by those on site, be it a rappeller, smokejumper, shot crew, or what have you. All firefighters on the fireground have the primary responsibility of covering their own ass, even single resource type assignees.

I was taught this from the onset by my old Supe. Whenever I was posted as a lookout, the first thing I was trained to do was evaluate escape routes and safety zones for myself in case something bad happened. This is also true when snagging in front of the crew--you have to evaluate your own LCES because you are out there on your own. I see no reason why this situation should be any different.

Another question I have, and it may betray my ignorance: Were there no more rappellers available at the helibase? In situations like the above, I would usually call for another stick to help dump trees and for the extra eyes, and so would the other crewmembers on the ship I was on.

I am unfamiliar with the someone with 30 years of fire experience saying that something was wrong -- I admit I may be underinformed about parts of this topic, having only read the Summaries from both OSHA and the FS investigations, and listening to the scuttlebutt on the board here.

I would like to say that I appreciate all posts on this board. Discussion generates thought, and thought stimulates action. Even if we disagree about the withertoo's and wherefor's, it is good for us all to be thinking about these things as we start to gear up for next season.

Stay safe, all, and thanks for your posts.

Class C Sagebrush Faller
2/4 Clint,

I don't have the paper, but check this link to a different Gilmartin article at his website - on police stress.


He spoke at last years Division Chiefs (or Chief Officers) Conference. Firefighters exhibit the same hypervigilance he describes in police officers. If there's interest, I'd be willing to type up what I remember. It was an excellent talk.


2/4 Does CDF have the same communications procedures with their rappellers?

CA guy

2/4 In the 2005 BLM fire refresher workbook, John Krebs references Dr. Kevin
Gilmartin's lecture "Behavioral Science Aspects of High Intensity
Firefighters". Can anyone tell me where I can find that transcript?

2/4 Sagebrush Faller,

You wrote:

"As you fly into the Rappel area, you are talking constantly with the spotter and your stickmate about fire behavior, rappel zone, safety zone, etc."
Apparently that was not what happened on the flight into H2. This is from the interview transcript with the spotter:
"A. ...So approximately 9:20 I had two rappellers, Shane Heath and Jeff Allen, ready themselves for departure to insert into H2. Once over H2 we took a loop out around and showed them their escape route down the west side and safety zones options in the black on the west ridge or in this old burnt area, provided that the grass in the there -- they knew about the grass. We discussed also the workload on the ground. This is one-way discussion too; it's not two-way. They can hear me but they can't talk to me. You're familiar with that?
Q. Yes.
A. All I can get from them is --
Q. Nods, yes or no?
A. -- we understand. Yeah. We discussed the workload on the ground to be about -- and we all know that things look different from the air than they do when you hit the ground. We discussed it to be about an hour's worth of work. And they looked at the area, you know, they had a good look at everything and just give me the okay. They knew we wanted to get the crew inserted in there. Like I said, the rappellers confirmed to me that they understand. We went to a sterile cockpit for rappel operations...."
Earlier in the interview the spotter said this about the recon flight:
"So, let's see, again H2 would require insertion of two rappellers to take out what me and the pilot discussed to be approximately six trees and one short snag in the middle of the opening. We could have landed, like I said, if the snag wasn't there, but if we're going to put folks in there to clean it up to make it a two-way heli-spot we figured there was about six ponderosa that needed to be cut out of there."
The interviewers came back to this towards the end of the interview:
Q. One thing I was curious, I know you said when you guys dropped them down, rappelled them down that it was one-way communication. I guess I don't know what that means?
A. No, the heli-spot was a one-way heli-spot.
Q. What does that mean?
A. We like to be able to have a heli-spot where you can fly in; instead of having to back out like this, you can go out this way.
Q. Oh, okay.
GEORGE JACKSON: I think what you're probably referencing to is the fact that when they're in rappel mode --
THE WITNESS: Oh, okay. Yeah.
GEORGE JACKSON: They're not hooked up to hot mikes. All they can do is listen. They don't have --
Q. Yeah, because that's why I was confused there. You said that --
A. When we start rappel operations they could pull down their mike and talk to me, I mean; they're plugged in; they can hear what I'm saying. They could pull down their mike and talk to me but we don't instruct them to do that.
Q. So you can talk to them?
A. Yeah.
Q. They get down --
A. And they can look at me and give me the I understand.
Yellowjacket could be right about me going in the wrong direction. But maybe so was Norman MacLean: he kept starting over looking for the 'missing parts' of Mann Gulch. Like he wrote, "we have to know a story and a wildfire when we see one."

vfd cap'n

2/4 DM makes some good points about sliders and in a perfect world, the DIVS or the IC would be on top of the operation, knowing when it would transpire and the proposed length of time for it. Unfortunately, cutting a helispot is an operation inside of an operation and like DM said, often occurring on a timelime beset by several factors:

-Is there a rappel aircraft available or is it tasked out doing buckets, recon, etc..

-When does the aircraft leave the helibase with the rappellers for the proposed helispot and how long will the recon of the spot take

-What are the communication restraints if any and how soon will the pilot or rappellers let the helibase know they have commenced work

Although the DIVS or the IC should be somewhere on the chain, the helibase, HELCO or Air Attack are usually the first to know whats happening down there and if they dont inquire it will be totally up to the rappel team to make the call, not only in regards to completion but also about safety, which evidently was make way to late. Which leads me back to mandate that this, without a doubt, is where safety should start.

2/4 This is in from Representative Pombo:

The Pombo Report


For more information on these and other issues, please visit my website at www.pombo.house.gov.

Richard W. Pombo

2/4 C sagebrush:

I'm very familiar with rappel operations, and I think the communications SOP is fairly similar between the various federal rappel programs. I don't believe that was a problem with Cramer. Maybe you're forgetting that once you're off the rope, you're a firefighter: you are on the line, you are part of the fire organization. The IC was very aware that the rappellers were there: he picked the proposed helispot and he was at the helibase the entire day. The problem, once again, was Jeff and Shane couldn't see the fire, the IC couldn't see the fire (he was about 10 miles away), and he didn't bother to post a lookout that could! As DM stated, it was a broken system, and someone higher up should have intervened. They should have listened when someone with 30 years fire experience told them something was wrong, that the radio traffic with the IC sounded disorganized and chaotic, that someone was going to get hurt or killed. Those that turned a blind-eye and a deaf-ear have all gone to better places (retired, transferred, etc.) with not so much as a slap on the wrist.

It seems the ultimate blame always comes back to Jeff and Shane, but I want to ask you something: Is it fair to assume that someone with 3 or 4 seasons experience should know not to trust that your FMO, who's now your IC, is covering your back? I grew up in my career without a reason to not trust FMOs, BCs, engine Captains, helitack Foremen, etc. I doubt that it ever occurred to Jeff and Shane to not trust Alan; to not trust that someone who could see the fire knew where they were, to not trust that if the IC decided to not use the helispot he would let them know, to not trust that someone would tell them that the fire was hooking around below them, to not trust that their identified safety zone would work.

2/3 Hello once again, all.

yellowjacket raises a good point, so I will address it first.

You, sir, are correct in that assessment. It is the Div S or equivalent thereof that is responsible for a helispot. I would like to make some observations about the character of Rappel operations, though, or at least how we did them.

As you fly into the Rappel area, you are talking constantly with the spotter and your stickmate about fire behavior, rappel zone, safety zone, etc. After you reach the ground, the first thing you do is get your radio out of the rappel gear and contact the helicopter and your spotter. Most of the time, you don't change the channel off of air to ground.

Since you are about to undergo an unbridaled saw fiesta, and dumping trees is fun (and noisy), communications is probably not going to be the best and it is also not going to be uppermost on your mind. You may even perceive the radio to be an unwelcome distraction--you are having fun falling trees, even if it is taking 15 minutes longer than it should....or an hour....or two.

Our helicopter manager (or foreman) made it his responsibility to ensure the safety of his rappellers. This became especially important on large fires, when you may be cutting a helispot with no Div S around, Or on an IA or smaller fire with fewer resources. The bond is between members of the crew, and as such the crewmembers are going to contact each other before they contact the Div S, or IC in this case.

Incidentally, I have read reports that there were communications between helibase and the rappellers, but I have heard of none between the IC and the rappellers. Communications is a two way street--the guys on the helispot had just as much of an obligation to contact him as he did to contact them.

Not to say that this is what happened on the cramer, but it is possible to fly out, slide, cut a helispot, have backhaul, fly back to helibase, and still have the Div S or IC or powers that be be unaware that rappel operations have even taken place yet. If they are never notified, they never know. This occurred with me on a very large fire, but it just goes to show that it can happen.

For DM--

I respectfully disagree with your opinon, for reasons I have posted before. I do think that if there is a fatality, in hindsight you would see most, if not all fire orders being broken. If there was a fatality:

1. Someone probably misjudged fire weather conditions or forecasts.
2. You obviously didn't know what the fire was doing at all times.
3. If you don't know what the fire is doing, you cant base actions on current and expected behavior of the fire.
4. Your assessment of the time it takes to get up the escape route is skewed by the lack of 2&3
5. You either didn't post lookouts because you didn't think it was dangerous (Judgment call) or else they weren't effective (murphy's law, judgment call on their part).
6. Obviously you weren't alert to possible danger, and therefore you didn't think clearly.
7. When it goes gunnysack, no one can get through on a radio. so much for commo.
8. No commo, kind of hard to give clear instructions or to insure they are understood.
9. If you cant communicate your instructions, how can you maintain control of your forces?
10. You obviously didn't provide for safety well enough.

My point is that a failure of just one can lead to a cascade effect, and the rest become compromised.

Class C Sagebrush Faller.

P.S.--sorry about the length of this rant.
2/3 Class C Sagebrush faller

First off I like the name, been a desert rat for a few
years. But you stated that hind sight is 20/20 when
looking at the 10 and 18's and your right but one
thing you have to think about. Is it hind sight when
all 10 orders were broken? I would understand if it
was one or two orders but not all 10. To me, in this
case, the IC is responsible but also people above him
should have been held accountable also. This was a
broken system at the forest level not just the
district. But you know what that will never be looked
at, instead the people above the IC were promoted or

2/3 vfd cap'n:
You're definitely heading the wrong direction. That crew was the most cohesive I've ever experienced, and that had little to do with the Indy foreman.

c sagebrush:
So you've rappelled before, you should know a helispot is under supervision of a DIVS, or in the absence of such, the IC. Alan was the bottom guy.

2/3 Someone asked so....
The attached link is for looking into and possibly taking out some
Professional Liability Insurance. The agency will pay half as outlined in
the FSH 6109.12 amendment 6109.12-99-3, chapter 70.
Seems it is necessary and useful in this day and age.



2/3 Abs, all, and especially SRJS;

I was taught that way also, and it is what I relate to others. I am not advocating a stance that says it is ok to break the 10. What I am saying is that on a tragic fatality fire, by definition the 10 have been broken.

If you look at the OSHA investigative summary for the Cramer, it is quite clear that they take the 10 and 18 having been broken as the primary source of negligence for the managers involved. Now, what I am saying is that hindsight is 20/20, and if you apply the 10 and 18 to anything in hindsight, you will find failures in such an event -- because of the language in the 10 and 18. Criminally charging someone because of a faulty filter (10/18 used in investigations) is in my opinion unfair.

Also--As a squaddy, I have to follow something called the "Chain of command." I have the right to refuse risk to a supe or a division or whoever, and the link in the chain directly above me also has the same ability.

So, in this instance, why is someone so much farther up the chain being held accountable? You had the rappellers (which I have done for a season, so I know what that's like) saying OK, you had their foreman saying OK, I'm uncertain as to a Helibase manager, but as there was a helibase I am assuming that there was someone in the god box listening to the radios and saying OK, and then you have an IC trying to manage a butt load of resources who said OK.

If we have all of these layers of command to protect both the bottom guy and the top guy, why are we only lynching the top guy?

Class C Sagebrush Faller
2/3 San Bernardino County Fire Chiefs’ Association Lessons Learned Report
Fire Storm 2003, “OLD FIRE”

During the final days of October and the beginning of November, 2003, thirteen wildfires occurred in Southern California. One of these wildfires occurred in San Bernardino County and named the “OLD FIRE”. The “OLD FIRE” created an I-Zone fire that impacted the residents of Crest Forest, Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs, and the city of San Bernardino. This fire will probable redefine the concept of the wildland urban interface fire. The SBCFCA has suggested there is a difference between a Wildland Urban Fire and a Wildland Conflagration.

In case 2005 is as bad as 2003.


2/3 Re: Human Factors 1995

It's all here in the FS T-D (Technology and Development) Library.


username is t-d; password is t-d.

Ab has the library listed on the Links page in the federal section for future
reference and research.

The Lessons Learned link which also has three of the four parts has a link
in the Safety section of the Links page.

Dick-a-pooh Mangan must be off teaching something or he would have
come up with this first! Ab, no disrespect meant, just getting him back for
the last time!


2/3 SRJS,

One part of the OSHA Cramer files we haven't added to the website yet is the 26-page Inspection Report. It includes four pages discussing the 30-Mile checklist. Here's what they wrote about quals:

"13. Are personnel only assigned to fireline positions for which they are qualified, as certified by their employing agency?
Some subjective questions about the IC's Task book completed by only one person involving mostly only one fire. However, minimum Forest Service standards appear to have been met."

In a couple other places in the file, there is mention of "pencil-whipping" in regards to both taskbooks and crew performance evaluations.

One thing I've been thinking about the last couple days is the "unsafe supervision" slice. The Indianola helitack foreman wasn't at Cramer that day or with the crew on their previous assignment. He was filling an Air Ops trainee slot on an IMT in Wyoming.

Maybe I'm missing something, but there had to be a lack of crew cohesiveness and leadership in a situation like that. The 310/5109 requirements are a good basis for quals, yet does anybody really think that training only takes place in the NWCG class setting?

vfd cap'n

2/3 Student of Human Factors,

here is a link: www.wildfirelessons.net/Library/Safety_Health/HumanFactorsWksp_1995_Part1.pdf


Anyone know where we can get the other three parts and appendices? Oh, just found Parts 3 and 4 by substituting those numbers. Only Part 2 (and appendices) are missing. Ab.

2/3 Oliver,

The IRPG is also available on the web at



I am not an expert but here is my take. Trainee requirements include completion of all required training courses and prerequisite experience prior to obtaining an initiated Position Task Books (PTB). The only exceptions are those Command and General Staff positions that include S-420, S-520, and S-620 as required training. PTBs and the qualification process can be initiated for those positions prior to attendance and completion of these three courses. This will allow trainees to gain experience that will prepare them for passing these advanced courses. FFT2 is a prerequisite for HECM, therefore the trainee should not even of had the HECM PTB until after completion of the PTB, and agency certification as FFT2.

The biggest problem we have is lack of knowledge on how the PTB system works. The are too many trainees out there with PTBs that they do not have the prerequisites for. So my suggestion is to really double check that the trainee has all of the prerequisites for the PTB before issuing the task book, and/or signing off any tasks. It is also the responsibility of the trainee to make sure he/her has the prerequisite experience.

Is the system perfect no, but it keeps honest people honest. Also there are different requirements for different agencies. The USFS follows 5109.17 where as everyone else follows 310-1. So just make sure that you know the trainee's agency and their agency’s prerequisites before signing any tasks as completed.

In my little crystal ball the next step after Cramer is for OIG to come after who trained the person who made the mistakes, and if the person was not qualified to be in that ICS position, or if the trainer was not fully qualified - that’s where the burden and litigation may fall.

Class C Sagebrush Faller,

The way I have been taught, and instill in the folks that I teach is that we do not break the 10 Fire Orders and LCES. Period, no questions, no discussion! The 18 situations that shout watch out, are there as trigger points or trip wires, we use but can be mitigated. I want to make sure folks know that we don’t stop fighting fire because one of the 18 is broken. But instead we need to look at what’s happening and why, and lets take measures to mitigate the situation, by changing tactics, strategies or both.

Enough said…

2/3 Ab,

I read "Beyond Tranquillon Ridge" after I went on the staff ride at Vandenberg. It was great meeting Joe and hear some of his accounts from the fire that were not mentioned in the book and seeing the actual site brought the whole book together for me.

On a personnel account, I think this book has brought my father and me closer together. My father was on the Honda Canyon Fire and is mentioned in the book a few times. After giving the book to my dad he brought it back to me 2 days later and told me it brought back a lot of old memories that we sat down and talked about for hours.

I really liked the book and I couldn't put it down until I was almost done with it also. The most amazing thing about the book is reading about how many folks got burned over on this fire and the amazing force of the winds they were dealing with. If you haven't read it, I would go out and buy it.

Joe, you did a great job writing this book....

2/3 ok, some will scoff and cite logistical issues... fast tracks aside.
have any who are worried about a NOW decision later "biting" them considered a voice activated recorder?
in some situations it sure cooled things down fast. in a few, it made a big difference in the outcome. sometimes for one's own edification and sometimes for rebuttal info, even if it's not allowed in court.

sad state of the union, when doing a job to the best of one's ability & training comes down to personal CYA, regardless of agency.

2/2 Oliver,

The assignment Turn down protocol is from the Incident Response Pocket Guide, Page 18 in the 2004 edition,
NFES # 1077, they are the little yellow books all the feds carry, you can order them lots of places, including
the Supply Cache company in Colorado.


There is a link to Supply Cache on the Classifieds page and there's a banner at the top of the Links Page. Ab.

2/2 Tip of the Week – Serious Consequences for Violating Veterans' Preferences Requirements

Veterans' preference requirements are not just technicalities; they are the law. And the Office of Special Counsel seems to be stepping up its enforcement efforts. OSC has filed charges against one federal manager who it claims violated veterans' preference requirements in order to hire a friend over a disabled veteran who was entitled to the position. As reported in the November 23, 2004 issue of FEDmanager®, OSC is seeking, among other possible penalties, the manager's termination, debarment from federal employment for five years, and the imposition of a $1,000 civil fine.

OSC claims the manager intentionally evaded veterans' preference requirements by canceling a vacancy announcement after learning that she was required to hire a candidate who was a disabled veteran. Instead, OSC alleges, the manager re-announced the position at a grade for which the veteran was unable to qualify. According to OSC, the manager manipulated the system in this way to hire her friend. OSC will bear the burden of proving its allegations, and the manager will have an opportunity to put on her best defense in a hearing before the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Managers must always be scrupulous about complying with veterans' preference requirements. Even when a manager is innocent of intentional wrongdoing, defending against allegations of such statutory violations as part of performing official duties is stressful, time-consuming and --at least, without professional liability insurance-- expensive. Also, don't be fooled by the label "excepted" service when making appointments. Veterans' preference requirements also apply to excepted service positions.

forwarded from JLGR
Do you think the Regional Forester will be held accountable if we're forced to select hispanics over vets? or could we get sent to jail? - hire-the-wrong preference = criminal negligence? Which group does get the top preference? Maybe it depends on which one threatens the FS with the biggest lawsuit?

Do I need to purchase me some of that thar peace-of-mind insurance? Did we ever hear who's selling that stuff and how many arms and legs its costing? I only have two of each...

Kinda kidding, but maybe not...

2/2 As a non-fed...the first step to recovery is admitting the problem <grin>

I'm looking for any documentation on how to properly refuse an assignment. Any current or past publications on this topic?

A National type 1 IMT I worked with several years back had a one page sheet with the title " How to Properly Refuse an Assignment" as part of the IAP. I would like to borrow some of the wording they used and if I could I would like to tie it to an existing guideline or publication.

This one page listing from the team stated: " Every individual has the right and obligation to report safety problems and contribute ideas regarding their safety. Superiors are expected to give these concerns and ideas serious consideration. When an Individual feels an assignment is unsafe they also have the obligations to identify, to the degree possible, safe alternatives for completing that assignment. Turning down an assignment is one possible outcome of managing risk."

"A "turn down" is a situation where an individual has determined they cannot undertake an assignment as given and they are unable to negotiate an alternative solution. The turn down must be based on an assessment of risks and the ability of the individual or organization to mitigate or control those risks. Individuals may turn down an unsafe assignment when:

1. There is a violation of safe work practices.
2. Environmental conditions make the work unsafe.
3. They lack the necessary qualifications or experience.
4. Defective equipment is being used.

The list ended with several action items as bullet statements. I won't list all of them but the last one put the process in perspective.

" * These actions do not stop an operation from being carried out. This protocol is integral to the effective management of risk as it provides timely identification of hazards to the chain of command, raises risk awareness for both leaders and subordinates, and promotes accountability."

I've looked through the publications I have plus my old S-400 course work and Fire Management Leadership for Agency Administrators and have yet to find anything additional about how to properly turn down assignments.

Any thoughts or help directing me in the right direction would be appreciated.

I really don't want another checklist. Just looking for additional training material prior to finalizing this season's fire school curriculum and to add to my IC tool bag.

2/2 Just a note to let you all know, we've taken a chainsaw to our calendar price and established a big undercut! Two reasons for this, the first is that with our new server move, I've got the store back up and running. Second is that it's now February and if you don't have one yet, you've missed looking at the fine January photo. There are only around 30 left and we won't be reordering. Click on the Shop-WLF link at the top of this page to check the price and get your order in.

Thanks to those who've already purchased; the Wildland Firefighter Foundation says thanks too!

Original Ab.

Link above. The January calendar photo was one of my favorites. Ooooo, nice one on February, too. Best get yours quickly; I know there aren't too many left. Ab.

2/2 Colorado Mountain College Foundation has a scholarship. Looks like the eligibility criteria are broad.

To whom it may concern:

Enclosed please find a copy of our Storm King 14 Memorial Endowed Scholarship application. A description of the scholarship selection process is also enclosed and should answer most of your questions. However, please contact our office at 1-800-621-8559 and speak with Carol Brown in the Foundation office should any question arise.

Please make copies of the application as needed and distribute to those eligible (a child of a member of a firefighting unit, an immediate family member of one of the fallen firefighters, or a student interested in pursuing a fire management or natural resource degree or certificate program). The student may attend the college of their choice. Colorado Mountain College Foundation holds the endowment, organizes the selection committee, and awards the scholarship(s).

The application and supporting documents are to be received by the Colorado Mountain College Foundation by March 01.

Storm King 14 Memorial Endowment Scholarship cover letter and application

Scholarship selection process document was not included in the email. Here's the contact email for the Foundation: info@cmcfoundation.org. Ab.

2/2 Has anyone read Beyond Tranquillon Ridge by Joe Valencia?

I have gotten one recommendation but would like to hear from other wildland firefighters. I have heard it is about the 1977 brushfire at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in which 4 men were killed.

2/2 LH&JR,

I agree with you to a point that the IC should have some responsibility for what happened at the Cramer Incident, but to put total blame on him I feel is not right. I, for one, do not put all of my trust in someone that has a lot on their plate while dealing with an incident. It is "all of our" responsibility when it comes to the safety of our crew let alone our self.

That is why we follow the go/no-go check list, 10 and 18s, LCES, down hill check list and the list goes on. If we are not taking responsibility for our selves and our crews, then none of us should be fighting fire.

I for one will listen and follow the direction that an IC, Division, Branch, or Task Force / Strike Team Leader will ask of me and my crew but if I feel the assignment they give is unsafe, then I will not have a problem telling them no. I will give them my reasons for declining the assignment and discuss what mitigations we can agree or disagree on to have a safe assignment.

2/2 Does anyone know if there's a pdf file of the first Human Factors Workshop
from 1995 available on the web? There used to be.

Student of Human Factors

2/2 Here's something that came in some time ago that might be of interest. Just got to formatting it in html. Ab.

PNWCG Memorandum -Guidance

Pacific NWCG Actions to Improve Quality and Performance of Contract Fire Suppression Resources DRAFT

2/2 From Firescribe:

Forest Service Takes Stock Of Fleet As Wildfire Season Nears
2/2 I've updated the Jobs page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages and Series 0401 ("professional" Biologist).

If you sent in a message during our server switch and haven't seen it here, let us know. I don't think anything got lost, but if something is missing it might have ended up in our spam filter to be deleted. Ab.

2/2 I am the author of Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why (W.W. Norton) and will be speaking to groups of wildland fire fighters this spring about human factors. I am not a fire fighter and would be grateful to anyone who wants to suggest some areas to talk about or some particular incidents that could use more human factors analysis. I just want to make sure that when I speak to these seasoned professionals, I'm talking about something relevant.

Many thanks in advance.

Laurence Gonzales
You can reach me directly at:
click on "contact"
2/1 401 vs 462

As we make this switch will folks who are in the 401 group have to work
longer since they are now professionals in the eyes of OPM. Does anyone
know about this?

Seldom Seen
2/1 Misery Whip's post of 30 January pretty well describes one of the major problems with the fire service, both wildland and structure, the failure to address Human Factors.

A CEO of UNOCAL once made a statement on the business section of the LA Times that is so true. "You manage things, you lead People."

Often we forget the factors that relate to how PEOPLE notice, think about and make decisions, including the humans who are leaders and the people they're leading.

Old Man of the Dept
2/1 Here are a couple more AZ Fire Science Programs we've recently found. RJ

www.coconino.edu/kdrive/Curriculum/DEGREE%20&%20CERT%20OUTLINES/Certificates/Firesc1.doc (word document download)

www.sc.maricopa.edu/catalog/cat2004-05/04FSCPrograms%20p63-98.pdf (pdf download)

Thanks, I added the institution links and the catalog links (above) to the 2- and 4-year college/university list, always available on the Links page under Training and Education.

For Fire Managers trying to achieve IFPM requirements remotely over the internet, I also added the link for the Series 0401 U of Idaho website. If you click the ON-LINE link mid-page, you can download the Excel spreadsheet that lists IFPM Web-Based Classes. If anyone has questions about this list and does not have Excel, drop me a line. Ab.

2/1 AB-

Not sure how you want to post this Jobs/They Said. I have attached the announcement. R5 is currently taking "Apprenticeship" applications. What we are hearing is the region is looking to hire 100 apprentices. I believe that comes out to about 20 per forest. This is a good opportunity for anyone looking for a career start.


Jim Huston
Laguna Hotshots

Here's the announcement: Apprentice

The shift to our new server went quickly and easily, although that rope change might'a strained the Original's back a little. Tongue firmly in cheek: He's not as young as he used to be and those years on the line take their toll on backs. We're hoping for a speedy recovery. In any case, I'll be updating jobs today. Ab.

2/1 Why is CDF holding out resisting a qualification system? NIMS, CICCS.

Are they beyond accountability?

County Guy

2/1 Rich Hawkins we appreciate you. Thanks for what you've done.

This is in regards to no particular decision, just want to say thanks
and acknowledge how hard our FMOs work to keep us and the
public as safe as possible on our interface laden, tinderbox world
of flashy fuels and complex cooperator relations.

Thanks to your wife too.

Cleveland Claire

2/1 Congratulations on a successful move to the new server (and hanging on to the rope ;-) ).

I deeply appreciate all the information you provide, and the open forum for discussion of
issues important to the firefighting community, as well as to the individuals/communities
which the wildland firefighters protect.

Thank You!


You're welcome. Ab.

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