"THEY SAID IT" ARCHIVES
NOVEMBER, 2005

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11/30 Ab,

One check line option for the retention problem in R-5 could be the continuation and development of government housing. As a former tenant of a tired but comfy two bedroom Forest Service house, I can attest to the fact that it made my transition from a temp. in R-1, to an Apprentice in R-5, easier for myself and my family. Of course, the isolation of the compound was difficult, however the house provided a very affordable option to a long commute and pricey rents.

I am not proposing that affordable government housing is the solution to the whole issue of federal firefighter (oh right... I mean forestry tech.) pay in California, I hold on to the fantasy of one day owning my own place, however it dose seem an avenue that could be addressed. As it stands on my Forest most of these homes are slated to be razed in the very near future, of course most are in disrepair and have stood vacant for years. Perhaps these homes could be an asset (if made livable again) in the recruitment and retention of dedicated employees.

I know that for me it was a benefit, not only financially, but in imparting a sense of family, place, loyalty and history. I don't pretend to understand Forest Service economics, though I do think the above qualities are far more valuable than the price of continuing the upkeep of these properties. I think it will take more than a one pronged approach to solve the retention and pay issues in R-5, housing is going to be a huge factor that portal to portal or better government housing cannot solve alone but with multiple approaches hopefully, most of us will elect to stick it out for the duration in an expensive but challenging locale.

007

11/30 Just passing this on.

COMT

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

<image: Safety and Health Working Team>

The National Interagency Incident Communications Division (NIICD) of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), has been made aware that previously unknown problems exist with Racal radios that are currently in use within the interagency fire community.

Radios operating with the most recent firmware version (7.1) have been found to exhibit the following problems:

  • Radios will unexpectedly cease transmitting with no indication to the operator. In order to correct the problem the radio must be cycled off and then on again.
  • After having been shut down, the radios will intermittently display "Empty" on the LED display. In order to return to the desired Bank/Group, the user must access through the program mode.

All Racal radios currently being used on Wildland and prescribed fire should be immediately recalled from operational use. The NIICD has been informed that an upgrade to correct the problems will soon be released by the manufacturer.

If you have any questions call your agency communication specialist or the manufacturer.

Jim Anger
State Occupational Safety and Health Manager
California State Office
janger@ca.blm.gov

11/30 DeeAnn B,

Try the Styles Check company. Thats who I get mine through.
Few different styles to choose from.

Crash46

11/30 Ab,

My wallet with checks was stolen at work. Trying to order more fire checks but
a porn site shows up for <snip the "rescue" website> where I used to get them.

Any suggestions? I know I should work on this more and not depend on your help.
But know you'll sort me out.

Appreciate it,

DeeAnn B

Thanks for the fire photo DeeAnn. I'll post it to photos over the holidays. Readers, do you know of any place you can get fire checks online? Ab.

11/30 Santa's help needed:

Dear Ab,

Our Community has 12 little ones who need a little help from Santa this year. They have lost their Dads, and Moms are stretched a little thin. Two of the little ones were born after their Dads passed on.

Last year, Shane Heath's (Cramer Fire Fatality) Mother called me and said she wanted to donate the money she normally would have spent on Shane for Christmas to a needy family. We sent the money to a mother of 4 small children. Mom received the money just before Christmas and she called with a big Thanks, expressed through her tears of thanks.

When we had our first Family Day this year with fallen firefighter families, we discovered more little ones whose Moms could use a little help from Santa.

If you want to help, call the Foundation at 208-336-2996 and give us your information. When we send the donations to our Moms, we will include the names of those who helped Santa this season. This information is also on our website: www.wffoundation.org.

What a wonderful community we live in. Thanks for all the support.

Vicki Minor
Wildland Firefighter Foundation

11/29 Ab,

I've seen the latest post about BOISE and NIFC not acknowledging the Pandemic
threat.

There are three (out of five) NIFC Agency Directors (members of the
National MAC Group retiring between Dec. 30 and March 15. - Do people
really think that NIFC is thinking about the 'pandemic'?

BLM is bouncing around real bad today as their Director was asked today to
report to DC for official duty and said "No, I'm retiring."

KG

Um hummm. I hope local groups are working in their counties and cities to get prepared with their local plan. I called to see what plan the schools have in my area. I was told that they will be doing what the county tells them. This is a very poor rural county. The county doesn't yet have a plan. I don't know if they even have a plan for a plan. In Canada the plan is if 25% of students are absent, the school shuts down. Kids spread germs to other kids and their families. Personally, I think this is how a pandemic would spread most readily if/when it comes. Those of you with kids in school, at least ask your schools what the plan is. If you don't have one, take local action to make one. Ab.

11/29 Ab,

You hit a nerve. It was a good nerve.

Regarding your “speculation”, wildland firefighters always put themselves or their families at risk in one form or the other, it is part of the profession. That risk equates to many things such as potential loss of life, livelihood, loss of time seeing kids grow up, loss of companionship, and generally a lower standard of living than people doing comparative hazardous jobs. Risk can be minimized, but only after it is recognized as inherent to the profession. Avian flu, as well as countless other hazards, is inherent to the profession when latent safety factors exist.

Here are several latent safety factors that can be fixed to prevent future active failures (accidents).
  1. Recognize Forestry and Range technicians who specialize in fire as emergency responders and give them an appropriate classification for the hazards they perform. (A GS-5 who picks up trash for a living cannot be compared to a GS-5 who puts themselves and their family at risk each day.) Recognize these jobs as inherently hazardous.
  2. Recognize and correct the recruitment and retention problems for wildland firefighters.
  3. Require relevant education under the IFPM.
  4. Give managers the power to manage for the safety of their programs without being told their mission is agricultural, biology, forestry, or natural resources in nature. Managers are primarily managing people in the fire program, secondarily managing the mission. Emphasis needs to change to safety.

The number one PPE for wildland firefighters is their brain. Any amount of PPE cannot replace the safety provided by someone who is educated, informed, and prepared for the hazards. Recognition Primed Decision-making (RPD) is the best PPE. Without RPD, good information, training, and discussion is the next best thing.

Wildland firefighting has greatly changed over the years. At some point, the focus on keeping people safe has shifted to appointing blame and keeping agency liabilities at a minimum. This shift began the process of appointing blame to an individual or group of individuals while shifting direction away from the real causes. It began when the Swiss Cheese Model (Accident Causation Model) was hijacked by Agencies without understanding what it really says. In short, what it says is that people will always make errors (active failure) and that cultural, agency, and systematic approaches should be in place to minimize these latent failures.

The accident causation model works from the bottom up. The last act in the chain is the active failure (act or omission). The underlying (bottom of the pyramid) failures allow the person or people at the top to make human errors when they don’t have the slides to be prepared for the event.

> From Human Errors, Dr. James Reason

“There is a growing awareness within the human reliability community that attempts to discover these latent failures will have a greater beneficial effect upon safety than will localized efforts to minimize active errors.”

“One of the consequences of the developments outlined above is that complex tightly-coupled and highly defended systems have become increasingly opaque to the people who manage, maintain, and operate them. This opacity has two aspects: not knowing what is happening and not understanding what the system can do.”

As far as Avian Flu, or any non-traditional response, or any type of simple preparedness…. The people who make decisions need to act on the latent problems….. Be leaders, give direction, set policy… inform and prepare the troops for the known hazards, the potential hazards, and the potential consequences. If not, when a pandemic strikes, I am going to give a refusal (and a middle finger).

Remember the hazards of the 9/11 response (silicates, asbestos, PAH, stress, etc) and the unknown hazards of the Cerro Grande fire. How many wildland firefighters were informed of these latent hazards before saying… “Can Do”? How many wildland firefighters have, or will have problems from these duties in the future?

Doctrinal review anyone?

Lobotomy

11/29 Ab's new and old.

Here is a shot of the one of the fires down in Mexico. No fire but an interesting cloud.

As an aside, "whycome" do you not get a lot of information from the Midwest guys who are having their season now? I see posts from the Midwest occasionally but mostly the West. And of course people looking for information, which as I have been reading the archives, always get great help from people who seem to know what they are talking about. Also NPS people never seem to be on the site. I know they use "pick up crews" trained and red carded but not full time firefighters.

Too bad there has to be so much politics discussed. I think T.O. Ab wanted forums about how a crew or engine did a save or were faced with a situation and how they handled it. (Not much of that I have seen though.) But at least it gives people a place to vent and discuss life issues. Too bad the USFS is the way they are about jobs and pay. Too many other federal workers are paid too much for doing nothing. (I deal with many, no job quals just in the position.) Shortly after the Cedar fire I met and talked with a "senior" USFS captain who told me the first thing he had to do, after he was called for the Cedar fire and got to his (unstaffed) station; was to get the drip torch out and defend the station and an adjoining CDF (Schedule A) station that was empty. It worked, I saw the results and it is "too close to my house".

I also know that USFS crews have assisted CDF crews on medical cases around here. I have heard on the scanner USFS being dispatched to assist CDF with "extended" CPR and they have self dispatched (came upon returning to quarters) to at least one incident where CDF was trying to control a busy intersection for a medivac helo landing, and the USFS crew radioed in they were on scene assisting with traffic control. Everyone is on the same side; all you Fire Service people care; your job is too protect life and property, may not be the exact job description but that is what you do. I certainly appreciate it.

ranting again
RJM

Thanks for the calendar picture idea. I forwarded it on for consideration. As far as who contributes, this is the time-off season for many between Thanksgiving and year-end, before training classes come on hot and heavy. Regarding demographics, we have posters from the Midwest. They're busy with fire and getting ready for the Holidays. We have posters from the NPS. We have retired NPS firefighters who post and have been posting good information since the early days of the site. We have posters who began FS, went to DoD and came back to FS. We have posters who have similarly shifted between NPS and BLM and the FS. Many posters are from the West because most of the large National Forests and National Parks that burn during hot summers are western. There are lots of lurkers from the east... Stick around a season or two and you'll get a real sense of the variety, ebb-and-flow of the site and the interagency contributions. Ab.

11/28 A note from this Ab on behalf of the Original Ab who pays the wildlandfire.com bills... and lets me do the part I like to do on theysaid, etc.

Readers, if you're looking for that special gift that supports this online forum, check our Wildlandfire.com store. Original Ab has done a lot of work on the store. This Ab thanks him greatly for that. OA's work on the store, the Classifieds page and the page sponsor signups lets this website stay up and running in the black with bills paid. Black is good.

I feel I haven't thanked Original Ab enough lately. I really appreciate his inspired original idea for theysaid, his work to create this site, his re-entry and support of wlf.com upon his retirement from the Forest Service, and his continued dedication. Good man ==> Original Ab. Thank you so much! Carry on.

Readers, here's another way you can support us: If you're buying online and can make your purchase thru Amazon.com, please use our special affiliates link here to get to Amazon: Amazon WLF.com Affiliates Link. This link is also available on the FireBooks page (top right black link or any book link). We get a small percentage commission on all purchases made via our link, be they books, computers, household items, whatever.

We're still working on the 2006 Wildland Fire Calendar. If anyone has photos of big flames, send them in. Last year we had some CDF big flames or some LA County big flames as well as photos from the private sector and fed firefighters. We could use some more if any state, county or city wildland firefighters are reading <haw haw> I know you are. Wildfire flames are excellent! Last year the interagency feel of the calendar was very nice. One of my favorite months, June, had a night shot of Native American firefighters in silhouette with drip torch. Looking back, they all were veeeerrry nice!

When you send in photos, if you could put "Calendar Photos" in the subject line, it would help me direct the message and photos to OA. I am behind on posting photos to the photo pages, but should get to that early next week after the FWFSA Conference. I will forward possible calendar photos on to Original Ab.

Last year's calendar was dynamite. We're hoping this year's will be as good. Please send those photos in.

Ab.

11/28 Ab,

You probably have already seen this but I thought I'd forward this e-mail chain to you just in case. It's a little outdated, maybe 5 weeks. There has been a rapid spread of H5N1 in wild and domestic birds in Europe, Africa, and BC and Manitoba, Canada with fall migration. China has not been forthcoming with info and probably won't be until the Chinese New Year in February. (In the SARS epidemic they fessed up then; they didn't want to disrupt their national cash flow with negative press during that season of celebration and spending.)

Avian Influenza: Department of Homeland Security, 10/05 (1,560 K pdf file)

Folks are starting to get prepared -- some key people are starting to listen and forward preparation e-mails and ask questions about how we will do business in the advent of a global pandemic.

Many of these people forwarding the e-mail are decision makers; hopefully they will act and just not forward e-mails. There needs to be an official USFS, BLM, NPS, BIA, F&WS, etc... direction memo on how we do business, or how we have continuity of operations (if needed) if/when something bad happens. Asking questions and spreading the preparedness info is good; providing a solution or recommended action is better. Decision makers need to step up.

For me, if things go gunny sack, I'd be happy to just take my hundreds of hours of sick leave and respond from home if needed. It is pretty funny, the things I have stocked up on (rice, beans, top ramen, chili) are the same things I had to stock up on the first ten years of my career to survive the bleak winter months. Thank goodness for Sams Club.
Keep safe.

NorCal Tom

We have gotten this pdf file from a growing number of interagency sources. Thanks ALL contributors.

Some of those who have sent the pdf have sent a brief link to stories that city and state first responders have been having emergency preparedness drills, for emergencies like earthquake, terrorism, tsunami and bird flu. Those are a bit out of date now.

Speculation: On the fed side, I think there's a lot of denial (Houston we have a problem) in Boise and in the Washington office. It also could be that NIFC feels wildland firefighters are not trained in epidemic or pandemic emergency response. I've heard some team members feel they haven't signed up for this kind of duty if it puts their families at risk. It's not clear that there is or will be enough PPE like that needed for the Exotic Newcastle Disease chicken choking assignments. I've wondered myself, what if teams just say no? I also have heard there are a lot of people retiring; the rest are very busy and overworked; many are in the "use it or loose it" mode on time off; some still remain on hurricane relief assignment.

Fact: We plan to stay up and running with the best info available through whatever comes.

Be safe. Ab.

11/28 Readers,

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation is still collecting on pledges made for the Ken Perry 52 Mile Run.

This is the time to send in your donation. 208-336-2996 and Melissa will help you. (She's the one who rode her bike along supporting Ken ... she has the NICE muscled legs. Photos, what a neat event. )

You'll get to write it off on your 2005 taxes -- and it's a very good cause, providing the support our community needs.

Ab.

11/28 Hello there.

I am a 21 year old male living in Ontario Canada, looking for work in the field of firefighting.
I do have wildfire experience and I am also an American citizen.
I was wondering what kind of information you could give me about application processes
and if there are any jobs available.
thank you for your time.

Vince

11/26 Dear Old Fire Guy:

We've chatted before and I appreciate you wanting to disengage from the dialogue of current legislation, but I ask for your patience in letting me clarify a few things.

You felt as though congress wouldn't vote to give one small group of government employees exorbitant pay raises.

As you may recall, and as you may have already benefited from, congress did just that in 2000 by eliminating the overtime pay cap for federal wildland firefighters only. Despite opposition from OPM and USDA, congress approved language in HR 2814 which the FWFSA sponsored through Rep. Pombo.

It should be noted that the increase in pay for exempt folks has certainly not been exorbitant. It has however, allowed those qualified to act in exempt positions, to do just that rather than wasting their qualifications and experience by taking non-exempt positions just to make overtime and get paid logically, more than those they out-rank.

It should also be noted that despite the desires of the Administration and other federal employee groups (8 in all) trying to get the pay cap removed for them, only federal wildland firefighters received the benefit as a direct result of the homework and lobbying done by the FWFSA.

HR 408 is not intended to bring pay parity to federal wildland firefighters. It has nothing to do with buying a house, cost of living etc. It has everything to do with a long-standing inequity and contradiction in the way the federal government pays for wildfire suppression and offers a plan for the agencies to be more cost effective and efficient while improving permanent staffing and compensation for it's own firefighters and saving the American taxpayer money.

As an "old guy" you should already know the five land management agencies have discussed the benefits of portal to portal for over 20 years. This is nothing new. What's new is an organization (FWFSA) willing to go to bat for federal wildland firefighters when the agencies don't, and work to educate congress on the issues and earn their support.

What about timber, recreation, engineering etc? Again, I must remind everyone that HR 408 was written by federal wildland firefighters, for federal wildland firefighters. Again, as an "old guy" you should know that our wildland firefighters are multi-tasked just as any other municipal & state firefighter in the country. They are still working side by side their counterparts in the Gulf states doing the same work for less pay.

As a result of the evolution of the 21st century firefighter, wildland firefighters are planning and preparing for the fire season all year long. Maintaining equipment, running on a variety of calls etc. Just like any other firefighters.

With all due respect (and I've discussed this point before) the timber & recreation folks, known as militia, do not perform fire related duties all year long and are not eligible for the federal firefighter special retirement provisions. Sadly, the FWFSA cannot do anything about that. Such an issue is the exclusive territory of NFFE.

However, that being said, I have reminded many militia and NFFE representatives who had balked at supporting HR 408, that many years ago, a NFFE case against OPM re-established the definition of primary firefighter which allows for a far broader interpretation of what a firefighter is in the federal sector. I've suggested NFFE run with it if they want to.

The current "focus" is on portal to portal simply because it is what the current pending legislation is all about. Don't forget about the provision that includes hazard pay as base pay for retirement purposes. However the FWFSA is certainly not that myopic and narrow-minded. We are crafting legislation to bring hazard pay to those on prescribed burns; bringing basic health benefits to seasonals/temps that risk their lives and get nothing.

These are not new issues either and oddly, they too have been discussed by the agencies & OPM as things that need to be done. All the FWFSA has done is simply stepped up to the plate to get it done. Unlike appointed agency leadership, the FWFSA doesn't have to protect our political rear-ends. We have no chain of command. We've told the agencies we'd like to work with them but if they don't want to, we've simply suggested that they give us the ball and move out of the way.

Surprisingly, a number of top agency officials...off the record, continue to encourage us in what we are doing.

We're not trying to get rich. We're simply looking for a more fair and equitable compensation process which, if the agencies embrace, could reduce or eliminate recruitment & retention problems, and save significant sums of suppression costs each year. All we're seeking to do is re-direct about 3% of the annual suppression funding back to federal wildland firefighters.

Respectfully,

Casey Judd
Business Manager
FWFSA
11/26 Old Fire Guy,

You have been offering suggestions for years. I really appreciate them. They just don’t work. Your suggestions always seem to offer a temporary, short term fix or a masking of the underlying problems. Or your suggestions are prohibited by current rules, regulations, or laws.

You said, "I believe it a "reality" that Congress is not going to vote to give one small group of government employees exorbitant pay raises. Why only ff's? Are not the timber, recreation, engineering techs also entitled to living wage in areas with high cost of living?"

My answer - I agree that everyone in the federal government should get a living wage where they can provide for themselves and their families. H.R. 408 would still only take federal wildland firefighters within 40-60 percent of the wages of local government in the Western United States. H.R. 408 is pay computation legislation.... not an "exorbitant" pay increase. It works to align the pay computation, not the pay rate, with the computations of fellow firefighters. The Federal Wildland Fire Service Association (FWFSA) represents wildland firefighters through legislation. Ask NFFE and AFGE why they are not representing the interests of the folks in timber, recreation, or engineering. Maybe NFFE and AFGE should form employee associations and not concentrate on collective bargaining as a means of improving workplace conditions. The FWFSA is an employee association and not a union.

One small group has got legislation passed to better the wildland fire community. The legislation that got passed was opposed by the NFFE, AFGE, FMA, and several other parties that had no interest in wildland fire suppression or the issues surrounding it. They were, and are, more interested in collective bargaining and settling grievances.

You also said, "Looking to establish an entry wage that allows employees to afford the "median" home (2000 sq. ft. 1 1/2 bath, 2 car garage?)" Uh, uh. How about entry wage persons buying entry market housing..... my first was a 900 square foot "fixer upper" (emphasis on the fixer) bought it for less than half of a "median" house."

My answer - I rent a 900 square foot home. I pay $850 a month for it. If I want to buy this home, it will cost me $250,000. This amount is not much higher than the median price for a home in the U.S. Entry market housing in most areas of the Western United States is still near $140,000..... well beyond any "entry level" employee of the federal government. Even well beyond my mid career wages as a Wildland Fire Manager.

You also said, "I don't recall any tragedy that would have been avoided had the victim had a larger paycheck."

My answer - Open your eyes. You need to keep the best of the best. If you continue to promote the "C" and "D" students, you cannot expect an "A+" safety record. Yes, there are a few "A" and "B" students who stick around, but overall, the class curve is lowered.

And then you said, "Sorry, but bottom line is I just don't think it's going to happen. Best wishes to those who want to focus their effort on portal to portal."

My answer - No reason to say that you are sorry. Lots of people who haven't taken the time to get educated on the issues think it will not happen. Get educated and look at all the issues that the FWFSA is pursuing. The bottom line is safety. Portal to portal is just one of many things the FWFSA is working for. You seem to harp on portal-to-portal.... get over it. Look at the big picture for the wildland fire community. The FWFSA is working to improve safety.

Old Fire Guy, if you aren’t a member of the FWFSA.... it would be a good time to join. Don't let the damned young guys dictate your future if you are so pleased to be a mentor as you profess... learn as they do. You said, "I'll continue to focus my energies on getting people permanent assignments, training, and career ladders. So far, that's been very productive for me in keeping good folks (and I'm extremely proud of our ff's)."

Rogue Rivers
11/26 Re: Recruitment and Retention, Swiss Cheese Model, and Where Do Federal Wildland Firefighters Work?

Here is some interesting data regarding Forest Service permanent career seasonal (PCS) retention rates for the 0462 series. This data can be fact checked by using the FedScope program. FedScope is open for all to use. It is probably the only database out there that you can get accurate info from the Central Personnel File Database (CPFD) without using government computers and Agency internal databases.

Permanent career seasonal positions are a less than full-time appointments that the federal government uses for many of its non-temporary and less than permanent full time appointments. These positions do not account for apprentices who are accounted for in the SCEP database. I am working on getting the national loss numbers for apprentices but don't have access to that database.

GS-0462-3/4/5/6/7/8/9 Forestry Aid/Forestry Technician Losses – Oct. 2004 – June 2005.
         # of PCS Positions    # of Losses    Percentage Loss
GS-3          5                    2              40.00%
GS-4        131                   20              15.27%
GS-5       1002                  111              11.08%
GS-6       1140                   79               6.93%
GS-7        726                   33               4.55%
GS-8        144                    6               4.17%
GS-9         80                    2               2.50%
GS-3 thru GS-5
# of PCS Positions: 1138
# of Losses: 133
Overall Percentage Loss of Permanent Career Seasonal GS-0462 employees, Oct. 2004-June 2005: 11.69%

GS-3 thru GS-9
# of PCS Positions: 3228
# of Losses: 253
Overall Percentage Loss of Permanent Career Seasonal GS-0462 employees, Oct. 2004-June 2005: 7.83%

Note: If loss rates are this severe at a permanent position that has benefits, retirement, thrift savings plan, etc…. imagine what the figures would show at the temporary firefighter level. Imagine what it feels like for a GS-4 Apprentice, who signed a service agreement (servitude agreement), struggling to provide for his or her family for the 2-4 year apprenticeship and then having to stay around until the service agreement is completed while living just above the poverty line ($22,610 - Family with 3 children, HHS, 2005).

Safety starts with effective recruitment and retention. A loss of over 10% of our entry level permanent career seasonal positions, and an approximated loss of 40-50% of our temporary workforce is unacceptable.... especially during a single nine month period.

Also, I misspoke the other day when I said that 90% of federal wildland firefighters come from the Western United States. It is closer to 80%.... <(document attached to e-mail titled "Facts")>

Lobotomy

P.S. - I cannot understand how some people can't recognize recruitment and retention as a latent safety failure. It was addressed back in 1957..... It has been addressed for over 50 years. After reading Human Errors by Dr. James Reason, the mind behind the Swiss Cheese model, it is pretty clear that we need to get away from concentrating wholly on the causal factors and start plugging holes where we can effectively. Latent factors are things we can fix..... Active failures (intentional or unintentional unsafe acts or omissions) are not the first act in the causation model as many people in the wildland fire community claim. Active failures are the last act..... unfortunately the last act for far too many of us. Read the book.... latent failures allow active failures (causal factors) to occur. Latent protections can help prevent active failures.... but bad things do happen to good people. Deep Survival explains this best.
11/26 Median home prices:

My only input on this cost of living discussion is that it was an issue in 1967 when I stated, came to a head in the Carter Admin with the Grace Commission report, and our Association has taken it up recently. The discussions are familiar, I remember rational about GS-7's doing just fine in Southeast forests in the 70's for not increasing pay, maybe that's why the locality pay crumb came about. What was shocking about the Grace report was that in the late 70's, granted with crazy high inflation, the buying power of a GS-6 had shrunk to a GS-4 in the 60's. Regardless of the rational used in the 70's and now, and regardless of what some feel are the political realities the Forest Service FF is under paid, making them a general biologist won't fix it, and in fact will make it harder to separate from the non-fire fighter types, the fat ones with sandals, sorry couldn't resist. I am disappointed that our FF community, our Rangers, and Forest Supervisors, and association have not taken a stronger stand on this. My input as an association member, career FF going out Mandatory soon is to support the association, don't let the pay issue die, and resist the 401 series.

CBork

11/25 To Everybody;

I've been thinking long and hard about this bird flu thing. I'd like to sum up briefly what I've seen so far, and then continue on with my personal conclusions.

I see the situation as this: experts tell us that we are overdue for another influenza pandemic, which will in all likelihood effect the whole world in a matter of months. This pandemic will most likely strike in the fall, and will most likely involve a strain of influenza A, or avian influenza, to which the majority of humanity has no effective immune response. In 1996/1997, a strain of influenza A emerged in Hong Kong which appears to meet the criteria to be a pandemic-inducing candidate virus. Over the last eight years, press coverage of this particular virus has been increasing, as cases have slowly been appearing, in individuals and clusters, over Southeast Asia. Right now, confirmed cases, including cases of human-to-human transmission from outbreak patient to a first generation, have appeared in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, and China. I'm not sure about Laos. Statistics out of China are almost certainly suspect, given Chinese government policies. The US government appears to be taking the possibility of a pandemic seriously. We were told to watch for human to human transmission; this has occurred. Now we have to wait for transmission to go from clusters to chains. We have not yet seen infection more than one generation beyond the outbreak patient.

I am currently a graduate student, living in a shoebox. I expect to move three times in the next six to nine months. I am not in a position to stock up on food and medication. My influenza preparedness plan is based on staying informed, and hopefully taking myself from where I am now to somewhere where I can realistically protect and isolate myself and my family (about 2,700 miles from my current position) before the wave hits. If that fails, I suppose I will have to count on the fact that as a female of childbearing age with useful skills, society has a collective and biological interest in keeping me alive (fairly grim humor there).

For my small rural fire department, I am suggesting adding a box of 100 masks and a box of ten body bags to every EMS supply order we put out. I'm suggesting adding a case of MREs to every fire order we put out. I'm also taking a hard look at our in-place preplanning, looking for (or adding) things like preplanning for utility failures, temporary morgue facilities, and points of distribution for food supplies, etc. The response I consistently get is "But won't FEMA (or the Red Cross, or Public Health) deal with that?" Maybe, maybe not. It can't hurt to think it through like they won't.

This is a worst-case scenario plan; in all likelihood this will blow over like Y2K did, with appropriate preparation from a variety of angles turning the event into a non-issue. Statistically, we are more likely to see an event like the 1957 or 1968 pandemics than the more serious 1918 pandemic, but we will see a pandemic; maybe not this year, maybe not this virus, but we will.

>From the point of view of the wildland fire community as a whole, the implications of a pandemic are far-reaching. In unconventional response after unconventional response (SARS, the Columbia Shuttle Recovery, various Hurricanes), the wildland fire community has shown itself to be the most flexible and easily deployed federal response pawn on the board. There's been a lot of talk about FEMA; let's bear in mind that FEMA supplies resources and organizes responders; FEMA is emergency management, not emergency response. In one way or another, wildland firefigthers will almost certainly be deployed to areas affected by a pandemic, in some capacity. The flip side of that coin is if the federal government institutes restrictions on movement in order to control the spread of disease. I'm not aware of any recent precedent for this, short of declaring martial law, but it could cripple the nation-wide wildland fire response system we've come to expect. Upshot: We may have to simply defend the urban-wildland interface and let the wildlands burn.

Realistically, do I think it will get that bad? No. Do I think it could get that bad? Hell, yeah. I'm not worried about my small rural community. I know there's enough poached elk in those freezers for a good long while, and if the power fails we can just pack everything in snow. I worry about the inner cities, where folks aren't prepared for days- or weeks-long power outages, where they buy dinner on the way home from work and expect the government to come save them if something goes wrong.

With apologies for going so long,

Nerd on the Fireline (or in this case, call me Cassandra)

11/24 Today, Friday, November 25, is the 49th anniversary of the Inaja fire, which was in eastern San Diego County near the 2003 Cedar Fire. Eleven firefighters lost their lives in 1956. More information can be found at our web site: www.iawfonline.org -- then click on "Wildland Fire Event Calendar".

Bill Gabbert
Executive Director
International Association of Wildland Fire

11/24 All,
Many wildland firefighters in Southern California (and beyond) know retired San Diego FD Battalion Chief Kenny Rice. He was a division sup and later an ops on one of the SoCal Type 2 IMTs.

Kenny has been ill with lung cancer for the past two years. He valiantly fought back after an operation where he had about a lung and a half removed as well as a lot of other stuff. Now, almost two years later he's relapsed. He'll be brought home from Alvarado Hospital to his home in Descanso for hospice care soon. As he lives so far out, hospice will only come out to the house one day a week. His wife Nancy is asking for volunteers to help during Kenny's final days. For the time being, he enjoys hearing from family and friends. Anyone who knows Kenny knows that he loves to spin a yarn. Even with only half a lung to do it with!

Anyone wishing to visit Kenny or help with his care can contact me at jfisher1@ cox.net I'll pass on contact info. I'll also let everyone here know more as I know it.

John Fisher

Thanks for the info, John. Give our best to Kenny and his family. Ab.

11/24 RR:

Sorry I jumped down your throat. I was perhaps reading something into your note.
As far as the "reality" of economics, I'll offer the following, then will disengage from future dialogue on this subject. See archives for past proposals I have offered.
  1. I believe it a "reality" that Congress is not going to vote to give one small group of government employees exorbitant pay raises. Why only ff's? Are not the timber, recreation, engineering techs also entitled to living wage in areas with high cost of living?
  2. Looking to establish an entry wage that allows employees to afford the "median" home (2000 sq. ft. 1 1/2 bath, 2 car garage?) Uh, uh. How about entry wage persons buying entry market housing..... my first was a 900 square foot "fixer upper" (emphasis on the fixer) bought it for less than half of a "median" house.
  3. I don't recall any tragedy that would have been avoided had the victim had a larger paycheck.

Sorry, but bottom line is I just don't think it's going to happen. Best wishes to those who want to focus their effort on portal to portal.

I'm done on this topic. I'll continue to focus my energies on getting people permanent assignments, training, and career ladders. So far, that's been very productive for me in keeping good folks (and I'm extremely proud of our ff's).

Old Fire Guy

Hi Old Fire Guy. Just a bit of a note here. In socali, the homes that are below the median are, for the most part, in very dangerous neighborhoods. I wish it were as simple as finding a 900 square foot fixer upper and going for it. Ab.

11/24

 

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HAPPY--..--THANKSGIVING --..--HAPPY--..--THANKSGIVING --..--HAPPY--..--TURKEY!

v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v
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The Abs.

11/24 AB and All

Happy Thanksgiving to all, hope there are no wildland issues over the holidays and you all can have some semblance of a decent day at home; or a least a good dinner at the firehouse. You deserve a break.

Saw some TV footage of the Mexican FFs working some of the wildland stuff South of Tijuana. Those poor guys looked like old time FDNY types. Long Black turnouts and looked like the really old Leather Helmets, out there humping hose in the brush and the heat.

I remember, a few years ago, seeing pictures of Mexican army soldiers doing direct attack in chaparral, using shovels. They were dressed in, what US military would call Service Dress; with street shoes and a rifle slung over their shoulder.

We did that (less the weapon) in early 60's fighting "grass" fires in NY State. No PPE but at least we wore boots; Kept snakes off the ankles. Scratch line, get a farmer with a D2 to open something to get a tanker in and after dark, laid a hose line and pi**ed on the red. Didn't even use a nozzle most of the time, one guy would control the flow by squeezing the hose while another aimed the coupling. Always tried to have the tanker "up hill" - gravity feed. Usually tanker did not have a pump. Going up hill was harder, had to have a pumper and a nozzle, harder to control.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and thank you Professional Firefighters for all you do to protect us.

And thanks to you Ab for this forum.

RJM
11/24 To Old Fire Guy and others,

Get your head out of the sand! What Lobotomy and others are trying to do is make ALL of our lot better off!

You seem to be out of touch with the modern day reality of economics, it is increasingly difficult for Forest Service firefighters... oops... forestry technicians and aids... to actually afford to have a decent life in much of the western states, if not other areas!

Why you dispute this is beyond me! It is REALITY!

And that reality is sad for anyone that cares about the Forest Service: with low pay, FPA, IFPM, EUSC, SERCO and a host of other idiotic program directions it is scary!

Why naysay anyone that fights to send us in the right direction?

"Wondering"
11/23 Old Fire Guy,

First, I apologize..... I don’t want YOU to fade away.. I would like non-factual and non-researched views to fade away. If people are going to discuss things, it is best to have all the facts in the bag rather than scattered thoughts... It is also better not to take pot shots at each other when the overall goal is the same...... Note The-Tongue-in-Cheek.

I looked at the Region 9 Apprentice Vacancy Announcement on the FireJobs page. It said there are only three apprentice positions available in Region 9.... Is that correct?

I guess Region 9 doesn’t have a recruitment or retention problem.. Or they have a very limited fire hiring program. This would appear much like Region 8.

An old supervisor of mine used to say, “Don’t come to me with problems unless you can offer a way to fix them”. Unfortunately, he left the Forest Service as a GS-9 ADFMO because he realized there were people who knew how to fix the problems but sat on their thumbs and took the easy way out as he lost his family and house.

The FWFSA is offering a fix to one of many problems in the recruitment and retention of federal wildland firefighters, that being wildland firefighter pay computations. They are also working to have a proper classification series…. health benefits for temporary firefighters... and proper recognition for the distinct profession that wildland firefighting is. They are also open to other ideas offered by their members and invited guests at conferences.

Are you offering a potential fix... if so, present it;  if not, as my former supervisor would say.. “Get out of my office until you can provide a fix to the problem”. We all can bitch and moan about things... it takes someone to step up and offer a fix if you don’t like what is going on. 300+ members of the FWFSA have stepped up. You said, “But your suggestion that one either agrees with you or should "just fade away" is counter to dialogue at best, and arrogant at worst.".. I accept your chastisement... The ball is in your court now. Facts speak louder than your opinion that I am countering dialogue or arrogant.

Portal-to-portal doesn’t sound like a pay rate fix to me. It is a pay computation fix that is being used by firefighters around the country. Federal employees know their basic pay will never be on the same keel as the local or private sector.

You keep incorrectly saying it is a California thing trying to be like CDF and LA County.. As long as people think that changes are only a California thing, or God forbid that federal wildland firefighters are greedy or have other itineraries… changes for safety will never happen and the latent failures of the federal wildland firefighter profession will continue.

Have a great Turkey Day.

Rogue Rivers
11/23 "Yes, it is me": Wish I were in a position to help in some way.
Well-executed GIS work really is noticed and appreciated by at least some of
us. Sometimes skills need to be at least partially developed outside the
fire community and that makes it tough for the I-started-by-carrying-a-rake
crowd to understand.

Still Out There As An AD
11/23 Thanks yactak!!!

The Santa Barbara South Coast (as seen on the link provided by you) is above a million for a median priced home.... but Santa Barbara is a diverse area when it comes to the costs of median priced housing. In any case, most federal wildland firefighters cannot afford to buy one of these houses in California or other areas throughout the Western U.S.

Sept. '05 (3rd. Quarter) - Median Priced Housing from the California Association of Realtors by zone.

California Median Home Price - $543,980

Central Valley $361,290
High Desert $312,410
Los Angeles $560,990
Monterey Region $712,800
Monterey County $680,000
Santa Cruz County $750,000
Northern California $434,690
Northern Wine Country $639,390
Orange County $708,840
Palm Sprgs/Lwr Desert $371,250
Riverside/San Bern. $389,450
Sacramento $383,920
San Diego $612,030
San Francisco Bay $709,980
San Luis Obispo $602,160
**Santa Barbara County $610,710
**S. Barbara So. Coast $1,475,000
**No. S. Barbara County $462,700
Santa Clara $733,000
Ventura $678,380

Nationwide Median Home Price: $215,900 (Not just a California problem anymore.... but who knows, an argument that it came from California could be made by some.)

The key to the whole discussion is that recruitment and retention issues will always be a problem when the root causes of losses are not addressed. Those root causes are pay, benefits, and working conditions.... not necessarily in that order.

Everyone keep safe and have a Happy Thanksgiving !!!

For this forum and the people on it who take the time to discuss the issues, inform, educate others and be educated at the same time.... for family and friends.... for the continued safety of everyone in this community.... and for knowing the Wildland Firefighter Foundation is there to help support us in times of need.... for these things, I am truly thankful this Thanksgiving.

Lobotomy

 
11/23 Old Fire Guy,

Would you like to know how much I take home a pay period as a GS-5 step 3? $550. I am wondering how you can presume any person taking home that amount of money could possibly purchase a house. I would love to own my own home but it is impossible. I live in an area with a median home price of $180,000. Perhaps, the GS- 5's you knew "came into some money", which allowed them to purchase a house. Keep this in mind. I am a very budget conscious person, extremely good with money, almost no debt, incredible credit, and excellent at saving money. I take offense that you presume someone with that meager wage could buy a house!!

sign me, 1508
11/23 Lobotomy,
Get a dictionary, then re-read my original post.....note the tongue-in-cheek.

Rogue Rivers,
You make some excellent points. I think we are in agreement that firefighter retention, (and pay is a key issue), leads eventually to a safer working organization.

You, and many others, see the solution as portal-to-portal, with the objective of achieving wages that are competitive with CDF, LA County etc. That could very well be the solution you need.

Where I'm at, we hire seasonals, eventually they get on board in targeted GS6 PFT positions.

We do lose some to other agencies....same as we do with forester, biologists, engineers. Most have stayed on board, bought homes, and are growing in their training and experience. Their experience and education will have them well prepared to climb the ladder to ADFMO, FMO, and higher (yes we have ladder positions identified). I would not be surprised to see one of them sitting at my desk some day.

But your suggestion that one either agrees with you or should "just fade away" is counter to dialogue at best, and arrogant at worst.

Old Fire Guy
11/23 To Frustrated FF

I have to agree with MT Jumper. As one of the North Dakota Firefighters that have benefited from having the jumpers on several of our fires, I have said many times "I am glad those jumpers showed up"! The USDA Forest Service in 2001 just started standing up a more robust fire program for the National Grasslands. We don't have the depth of fire experience that some other forests are able to call upon. I am an engine boss with approximately ten years experience, but on some of the fires out there , Including the Rough Draw Fire, it was all I could do to keep track of all of the engines and FFs assigned to my division. Now, I am a strike force leader trainee, and as a trainee, I wish to learn from those more experienced than me. Enter the Jumpers. They provided the qualification and experience to safely fight the fire. In recent years, they have re-invented themselves and offer a whole host of experience to keep the jump program healthy. I hope they stay around for quite some time.

Frustrated FF, I would recommend that you get out and work on some more districts. It will challenge you and change your perceptions of firefighting, and might teach you different ways to use all of the firefighting resources that we have.

MT Jumper, sorry for not weighing in on this one sooner.

Domaque.
11/23 All,

I wanted to wish all y'all a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!! Most of us have so much to be thankful for
this holiday season, let's count our blessings. Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday weekend.

Thankfully Yours,
Information Diva

P.S. If you had reading my message, "all y'all" is plural so it means everybody on WildlandFire.com!
11/23  Lobotomy,

For the record median price homes in Santa Barbara topped $1 mil in 2004..........

www.newspress.com/millionhome/

yactak
11/23 Do you use a map on fires? If so this affects you.

Bottom line-
The Fire GIS community has tried to create standards through the NWCG process and someone is playing politics at the last minute and threatening YOUR safety. We, the people making maps, have been policing our own through grassroots efforts because your safety is #1. The NWCG right now is threatening to reject those efforts after years of seeming support....

The long version of the story-

I work on incidents as a GIST and have been part of the NWCG process of creating an incident support function called the Geographical Information System Specialist (GISS). Folks in the ICS system (ICs, PSCs, end especially SITLs) had come to the Fire GIS community about the varying levels of skills and knowledge they were receiving. My personal favorite- the person who showed up and saw the standard software being used and commented- "Neat software, I'd like to learn that on this assignment." Fire assignments are NOT the place to learn core software competencies. The GIS folks themselves have begged for training assignments so to learn on the job in a safe environment (for you- the people who are the customers).

We, in the Fire GIS community, realized that standards needed to be developed. GIS folks needed to know the software, ICS, and the fire culture (YES- we sleep in tents). A number of people from numerous agencies have invested hundreds of hours in the past few years to do things the NWCG way though all the correct channels. A formal study on Incident GIS was studied by the Missoula folks, a national training class was implemented, a task book was written following the NWCG guidelines for task books, and standard operating procedures documents were drafted and are under review. A white paper was written showing how the position meets the six criteria of an ICS position. The GAO created a report about the promise of geospatial technology on wildfires and that challenges remained- one of the challenges listed? The LACK of national standards or qualifications.

The IRMWT supported the Geospatial Task Group (GTG) in these endeavors. The GTG is a staff group under the IRMWT. The GTG with support from the IRMWT worked with the IOSWT over the past year plus to include the GISS position in the PMS 310-1 for 2006. GISS was in the draft 310-1 published in 2005. The transition documents were written, delivered, and simply needed to be signed.

Then- on the day we were supposed to hear that everything was finalized- we heard that suddenly the decision was made that the GISS position was no more and NWCG is sticking with the technical specialist. This decision was made without any contact with the subject matter experts. This decision negated three years of work. The IOSWT blamed the IRMWT stating lack of support, the IRMWT documented their support (thanks again IRMWT for being so stand up!). The IOSWT has not gotten back to the Fire GIS community (or formally to the GTG) for over a week + to say what is really going on.

I know engines, helos, and boots are much more fun to discuss. I know some of you are not super enamored by your computers. BUT if you use maps on an incident- this directly affects the products you receive.

If anyone reading this is on whatever team that is making the decision, has any influence in the NWCG, or has a friend who is- this is the field speaking- We have done the work to police ourselves and formalize it through the correct channels. This is 2005 and there are over 750 people in this position right now (I've got the numbers and names to back this up). Word of mouth no longer works- we NEED standards.

I haven't given up just yet...
Yes, it is me.
11/23 Lobotomy,

It was quite interesting looking at all the comparisons you did. It's amazing to me that all of CA doesn't make the pay that SoCal does. Here in our neck of the woods, we are on par with them as far as housing costs, gas costs, etc. Yet the pay here is a whopping $41, 772 for a GS 9-1. I know that the argument they used was the inability to retain personnel, but we can't even get people to apply here due to housing costs. I guess it isn't such a big shock when you look at the cost of housing and gas in other states. People have told me that they want to come to CA but simply can't afford it. Maybe one day the powers that be will get the message and adjust the pay accordingly, but I for one won't be holding my breath.

Lori
11/23 To Frustrated FF

I don’t profess to be an expert on several of the topics you addressed, however I do know a lot about Jumpers and Helitack, having spent 10 years doing one or the other. To say that Smokejumpers are “totally ineffective and the least efficient of all resources” is insulting. The Smokejumper ranks are filled with 10-20 year fire veterans, most are GS-5, 6, 7’s, many with advanced college degrees, who are incredibly qualified as ICT3’s, Division Supervisors, Helicopter Managers, Burn Bosses, etc. Many are seasonals! The state of North Dakota was happy to have jumpers man several of their fires in 2004, including the Rough Draw Fire. Instead of mobilizing their ICT3 team from all corners of the state (over several days), a single load of jumpers were able to provide a type 3 team (in a few hours) and a cost savings of tens of thousands of dollars per fire!

Jumpers are adapting to change in the federal fire program very effectively, filling much needed roles in supervision and incident management Region One Smokejumpers have also taken leadership roles outside of jumping fires. Teaching fire classes around the country, directing the Region One staff ride program, as a Fire Use Module, as tree climbers, prescribed fire specialists, saw certifiers, managing and staffing helicopters, and directing FEMA relief teams are just a few of the various duties I have served as a Smokejumper. Not bad for a bunch of GS-6’s who are only guaranteed 6 pay periods of work per year!

I hope you really don’t believe these things have “long lost their usefulness to the wildland fire community”. As both a jumper and a rappeller I have caught fires that would have gone big. Who knows? Maybe if budget cuts had not closed the Cave Junction Smokejumper base, the nearby Biscuit Fire would have been caught small by jumpers. That savings alone would have funded the entire Smokejumper program for close to a decade.

A few other points:

  1. The hourly rate of a DC-3 with 16 jumpers and 1600 pounds cargo is less than many helicopters. It also has a range and payload capacity that exceeds any helicopter.
  2. Most decision makers at NIFC are not former Smokejumpers.
  3. The decision to staff single tree lightning fires is managements, not a Smokejumper, rappeller, or any other initial attack resource.

Every single tool swinger out there is important to our mission. We all need to work together and cooperate, regardless of how we chose to get to a fire. I encourage you to think critically and keep talking to all on the fireline, including jumpers. They may surprise you!

I’d also be happy to talk to you as well, encourage you to detail as a Jumper to Missoula, or for some interesting reading check out the 2004 Smokejumper use summary at the following address: www.fs.fed.us/fire/people/smokejumpers/2004_rpt.pdf

MT Jumper

PS- Thanks to Cbork, whatmousewouldsay, and ClassC for thoughtful posts!

Welcome to theysaid MT Jumper. Ab.

11/23 Old Fire Guy,

You said... "I have nothing but admiration for the firefighters in California that stay dedicated to their work while facing the challenge of limited opportunity to own a home."

It is a whole lot bigger picture than owning a home.... It is a picture about the future of federal wildland firefighting. It is a problem of getting people to look at facts and actually understand the big picture of where a profession has been heading since 1957 and before.

When did it become a California problem and not a WILDLAND FIREFIGHTER COMMUNITY problem?
Did the Chief say he was only interested in improving safety in California during his DIRECTION in 1957?

You seem to focus on your personal observations and not look at the profession as a whole through research. The work in the WILDLAND FIRE COMMUNITY is not a work from California. It is a work from the WILDLAND FIRE COMMUNITY as a whole through research, fact checking, and peer review> and yes, I'm shouting. Wildland firefighting is wildland firefighting no matter where you are from... US, AU, CN, SPN, PTU, etc..... Safety is Safety.... Equity is Equity. Simple facts, wildland firefighting is wildland firefighting....... even as you appear to present ideas that may divide and conquer.

There are lots of challenges for the wildland fire community. The biggest challenge is to understand that sociology and psychology are the biggest players for safety.

Old Fire Guy, thanks for coming to the table to discuss these issues. Someday you will understand that it is not hyperbole but fact. It is not a California problem but a community problem.

"Those that fail to heed the past are doomed to repeat it." vfdcap'n gave a great example yet again. While pay and promotions may be the underlying factors, they are the factors that have continued since the Report to the Chief in 1957..... Recruitment and Retention of quality employees are LATENT underlying factors for wildland firefighter safety. Latent vs. Causal Factors.

If you can't recognize these things, I hope you play good soldier and act like General Douglas MacArthur and just "fade away".. "Good soldiers never die, they just fade away".

There is an easy fix... Federal Agencies can stop being a puppy mill and keep the best of the best on the roles as federal wildland firefighters. Become competitive again in the recruitment and retention process....Become competitive again in PROVIDING A CAREER with a future!!!!!! Recognize that sociology and psychology have critical components as to why someone is or wants to be a wildland firefighter.

Stay Safe OFG..

Rogue Rivers
11/22 The Jobs Page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages and Series 0401 ("professional" Biologist) are updated. Ab.
11/22 Re: Who gets paid what, who can afford what, and can a GS-5 (or even a GS-9) afford a home in areas where the majority of federal wildland firefighters work and live.

Here is a sampling of how the Southern California Special Salary rate for the 0462 and 0455 series actually pays in contrast to several Western United States Locality Pay areas, the Rest of U.S. locality pay area, and the nationwide base U.S. salary rate. Below each GS sampling is the median home price for comparison (Money Magazine, June, 2005). Note: 3rd. quarter home prices rose between 10-14 percent of these values.

Special Salary Rate (0462/0455 – Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo Counties).
GS-5 Step 1 - $32,084
GS-7 Step 1 - $39,738
GS-8 Step 1 - $44,004
GS-9 Step 1 - $47,358

Los Angeles/Long Beach $442,000
Riverside/San Bernardino $329,000
Orange County $610,000
Ventura County $550,000
San Luis Obispo/Atascadero/Paso Robles $475,000
San Diego $554,000
Santa Barbara/Santa Maria/Lompoc $445,000

San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA Locality Area (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma Counties)
GS-5 Step 1 - $31,189
GS-7 Step 1 - $38,634
GS-8 Step 1 - $42,786
GS-9 Step 1 - $47,257

Oakland $535,000
San Francisco $750,000
San Jose $619,000
Vallejo/Fairfield/Napa $449,000
Santa Rosa $500,000
Santa Cruz/Watsonville $599,000

Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Truckee, CA-NV (El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Yolo, Douglas County and Carson City.)
GS-5 Step 1 - $28,571
GS-7 Step 1 - $35,614
GS-8 Step 1 - $39,441
GS-9 Step 1 - $43,563

Sacramento $376,000
Yolo $379,000

Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA (Clackamas, Columbia, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Washington, Yarnhill, Clark, and Skamania Counties)
GS-5 Step 1 - $28,608
GS-7 Step 1 - $35,436
GS-8 Step 1 - $39,245
GS-9 Step 1 - $43,346

Portland /Vancouver $226,000

Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia, WA (Island, King, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Snohomish, and Thurston Counties).
GS-5 Step 1 - $28,756
GS-7 Step 1 - $35,620
GS-8 Step 1 - $39,448
GS-9 Step 1 - $43,571

Seattle/Bellevue/Everett $315,000
Tacoma, Wash. $212,000

Rest of the U.S. (RUS) (Those areas not included in other locality pay areas.)
GS-5 Step 1 - $27,569
GS-7 Step 1 - $34,149
GS-8 Step 1 - $37,819
GS-9 Step 1 –$41,772

United States Median Home Price (Nationwide Median Average) - $190,000

Note: Nationwide median home price is now calculated at $215,900 by the National Association of Realtors > Realty Times, 11/16/2005.

Other Relevant Median Home Prices
Boise, ID - $151,300
Missoula, MT – $170,253
Bozeman, MT - $199,959
Flagstaff, AZ - $205,254
Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale AZ - $242,300
Albuquerque, NM - $163,052
Salt Lake City, UT - $155,000
Spokane, WA – $167,500
Las Vegas, NV - $285,000
Denver, CO - $250,000

Lobotomy
11/22 I got this a few days ago. Should of sent it sooner.
KD

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PRELIMINARY (24-hour) SUMMARY
REPORT

Wildland Firefighter Fatality
November 17, 2005
MARVIN FIRE

This Preliminary Summary Report is intended to provide factual information from the first 24 hours of the accident review. It is published and distributed within a short time frame. The information contained within this report may be subject to revision as further investigation is conducted, and other reports and documents are received.

Synopsis

During fire fighting operations on the Marvin Fire in Buchanan County, Virginia, a single firefighter, was overrun by fire during the early afternoon of November 12, 2005. The fatality occurred during the initial attack phase of what would become a 350 acre incident.

Narrative

During the early afternoon of November 12, 2005 the Oakwood Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to a reported wildland fire caused by an equipment malfunction (lawnmower caught on fire). The Department’s Chief, who lived near the fire department, was the first resource to dispatch to the incident. The immediate priority was the protection of a residence, and specifically a propane tank located near the woods. Prior to any other resources arriving on scene, the Chief began constructing a handline to protect the propane tank and residence nearby. Initial information gathered indicates that strong winds and very low humidity caused the fire to cross the handline below the Chief and then to advance very quickly up-slope, ultimately overrunning him during his retreat. The Chief died at the scene.

11/22 Old Fire Guy,

Do you have any facts to back up your claims that a GS-5 could afford to buy a new home in the current market in the Western United States? I know you said “many” areas, so I would like to concentrate on the areas of the United States that has 90% of the federal wildland firefighters. How’s that for countering a hyperbole presented by you?

If you can provide the facts, I would like to use a mortgage calculator to run a few figures and see just how well they can survive in the current situation. In fact, I would also like to run the figures for a GS-9. (FYI, I have run the figures for the Missoula, Flagstaff, and Boise areas and a GS-9 doesn’t even come close to being able to purchase a median priced home in the current western market).

Also, locality pay is set by the President’s Pay Agent (PPA) and the Federal Salary Council (FSC). Were you talking about special salary rates that agencies and OPM can pursue by mistake? If so, please know there are limits on the use of special salary rates and they are usually only a temporary fix to slow the sinking of the ship. Chief Don Feser wrote an excellent position paper on this subject.

Another key hyperbolic statement you presented…. A PFT GS-5?...... In most areas of the country (including California and the Western United States), federal wildland firefighters do not get PFT employment status until they are GS-7’s or above. In some areas, there are still GS-9’s working career-seasonal or WAE appointments.

In an effort to avoid hyperbolic statements, there are many places that you can find the facts. I would recommend www.fedscope.opm.gov as a starting point.

Lobotomy
11/22 CDF Handbook 7013 Update - Firing Operations

As a result of some "outlaw firing" I assume....good info.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FYI. New communications required prior to conducting firing operations.
Please distribute as appropriate to your troops.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Subject: Handbook 7013 Update - Firing Operations

Importance: High

There has been an update to Handbook 7013 regarding communication during firing operations. See red section below. Also, you may click on the link below to go to the electronic Handbook. Please ensure all operational personnel are aware of the communications “clarification”.

INCIDENT AUTHORITY 7013.4.2
(No. 1 November 2005)

The Incident Commander has the overall authority and responsibility to set a backfire or burn should the need exist. As the incident organization expands, the responsibility and authority to backfire or burnout may be delegated. A normal progression of delegation, depending on the complexity of the incident, would be from the Incident Commander to the Operations Section Chief and could  extend down to the Branch Director, Division Supervisor, Strike Team Leader, Task Force Leader or Single Resource.

Communications When Firing:
Except where immediate firing is necessary to prevent the loss of life or major property damage, all firing operations shall be communicated to the appropriate ICS supervisor prior to the commencement of the firing operation. The officer supervising the firing operation shall remain in communication with his/her ICS supervisor and adjoining forces to the extent possible.

The level of backfire and/or burnout authority should be identified as early as possible. Radio net announcement at the incident will be made prior to backfiring and/or burnout. This will be communicated on tactical and command nets and will identify general location of geographic area to be burned.

This is notification that there has been an amendment (#1) to the 7000 Fire Operations Handbook; revises Section 7013.4.2 Incident Authority.
(No. 1 November 2005)

The 7000 Handbook is available through CDF's Intranet, CDF Issuance Publication. General questions about the handbook may be directed to: Rich Green, Fire Protection: (916) 653-7370.

Shortcut to: http://cdfweb/Pubs/Issuance/7000/7013.pdf#7013_4_2 (Requires having access to the CDF intranet. Ab.)

11/22 Mellie,

Thanks for the heads up on the PBS programs. I really enjoyed them and
they sure gave me some insight on this whole situation. See you in Reno!

Lori


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Thanks for all you do.
11/22 Hey Gang,

For those folks who threw their papers in for the CDF captains exam,
your supplemental app should be in your mail boxes this week, if you
made the first cut.

Best of luck!
AZ Trailblazer
11/22 Jumpers are a tradition, as are many traditions, that have lost their usefulness, but several studies over the years have shown that the JMP program is wildly more cost effective than helicopters, even after changing several of the inputs of the study.

If we're interested in saving $

* stop heli mopping
* Most light Helo's are mainly for overhead to see the fire without the encumbrance of actually going on the line.
* Most bucket work with Mediums is not as cost effective as addition FF'ers, regardless of how they get there.
* Heavy Helo's are costing about 100K/day on fires make sure they are really used for IA, get rid of the poor performers, forget fancy ways of calculating their flight rates.
* Until there is a functional fixed wing at a reasonable cost that program should be buried.

We should all remember that helicopters are not an escape route, and its the FF on the ground whether he's attached to a hose, dozer, or handtool that ultimately has to slam that line.

CBork
11/22 Ab,

Had to comment on Frustrated's post on a couple of issues regarding smokejumpers. His comments aren't new - they are the same one's that have been trotted out at least for as long as I have been in the business (1976).

The contention that helicopters and rapellers can supplant jumpers as an economical alternative have never been shown to be feasible in resource allocation studies that go all the way back to the 70's. Intuitively this makes sense, particulalry if you've spent any time in the business. For example, compare the cost of Hobbs time on a deHaviland twin otter or Casa 212 compared to a Aerospatiale or Bell Rappel ship, then factor in a personnel delivery ratio of 2-3:1.

There have been many studies conducted over the years that reaffirm the economical viability of the jump program. The archives at the Region 1 headquarters in Missoula and BIFC in Boise have them for your edification.The argument that jumpers are a historical artifact that are kept active as a public relations showcase is just plain ignorant and is negated by these studies. The jumpers have had to prove their economic and practical viability since their inception in 1939 and that paper trial is irrefutable to anyone that takes the time to learn the facts.

With regards to "broken down" jumpers and an accelerated rate of OWCP claims - that also is a canard, a blatant falsehood not borne out by the facts. Jumpers do not have a higher rate of accident or injury claims than other firefighters, nor do they account for a higher percentage of OWCP compensation. I can only speculate that is because of the higher fitness standards jumpers are held to, despite the increasing bastardization of the concept that fitness levels in physical endeavors are indirectly proportional to on the job injury rates and claims.


Joe Hill
- former USFS smokejumper
11/21 Tahoe Terrie,

There's going to be a couple of specials on PBS tonight.

9PM pacific time ; rebroadcast at 1AM
Influenza 1918 - As the nation mobilized for war in the spring of 1918, ailing Private Albert Gitchell reported to an army hospital in Kansas. He was diagnosed with influenza, a disease doctors didn't know much about. Before the year was over, America would be ravaged by a flu epidemic that killed 600,000 people -- more than died in all the wars of this century combined -- before disappearing as mysteriously as it began.

2AM pacific time -
Secrets of the Dead - Killer flu
- Modern scientists in both the U.K. and U.S. are in a desperate race to determine why the 1918 flu pandemic -- which killed an estimated 100 million -- spread so quickly throughout the world and with such virulence at the tail end of World War I.

The American Experience website: Influenza 1918
Secrets of the Dead website: Killer Flu
Schedule search is HERE.

Mellie

11/21 To Old Fire Guy,

As far as pay in CA goes, So Cal has it a whole lot better than the people
in Northern CA. I could only wish the pay had been that good here. Should
would make it easier now.

Lori
11/21 Frustrated FF -

Your comments hit a nerve:  (Ab indented them in blockquotes.)

Enough of the Bird Flu talk, with all of the funding and budget issues I propose that the people on the ground start throwing out ideas on how to save money so the people who make the decisions in DC know what our issues are.

The people in DC know what your issues are. They don't like to see firefighters come home in body bags. That's why millions are spent on making sure ff's have the best tools available - like the new fire shelters ff's asked for, and the improved qualifications of line-going overhead, and better healthier compadres to work shoulder to shoulder with on the line (aka wct.)First of all, congress funds the Fire agencies - however, it's fire money that's paying the office rent, the vehicle leases, the barracks, those all mud-trak tires, and your training. If you knew how much fire budgets dollar went to fund the "rest of the organization" I think it would surprise you that we still have a fire program. Quit your griping. Ask your line officer where the fire dollars are going - ask to see "the budget" on your unit and see who is paying for what. Don't forget those DC slugs worked in fire also. Thinking about the good old times when a ff made $2.65 an hour. Funny, Mark three's still weigh the same. But we didn't have those mini-pumps and all the "lightweight gear now available.

First of all, how about cutting back on some of these so called Type 1 Training Crews that haven't gotten their Type 1 rating yet. Three years, if you don't have it by then your axed. Don't get me wrong, their are some great IHC's that have been formed over the last few years, but there are also a lot of bad ones who don't deserve to have the word Hotshots in their name.

What's the difference between a Type 1 training crew and a Type I firefighter? Years of experience, more exposure to different types of fire management? If the crews don't do anything else other than cut line, I agree - what have they learned. And it makes me wonder why there still are type II militia crews that can outperform mentally and physically these T1 training crews.

Secondly, and more importantly, when was the last time you heard "It was a good thing we had those jumpers on our fire".

If smokejumpers are doing what their mission calls for, then you shouldn't see them on your fire. And it you do, it just may be as overhead. The jumper mission is changing, and has always evolved. If you don't know the scope of the program and the skills these Type 1 ff's bring to the arena, don't be so harsh to criticize them. Walk a mile in their boots.

When the axe falls the first place it should land is on the jumper programs, FS and BLM. If you have a chance, look at how much money is budgeted for these programs. It is a ridiculous waste of money

......sorry, have to cut in here. There is still value to keeping some fires small - especially those mid-summer nightmares that can go on forever. It's been proven over and over that the efficiency rate of using jumpers effectively is a boon to ALL of the agencies. (and besides, they don't just fight fires, spend a day with some of the gals and let them tell you what a smokejumper does for project work.)

when you look at how much funding gets to the engines, crews, and helitack programs. I don't know if it is just me, but in today's world jumpers are totally ineffective and the least efficient of all resources.

Since you wanted to spark a discussion, can you rationalize that statement? Give some examples.

I know in AK they are needed, but in the lower 48 give me a helitack / rappelle crew for anything that engines and crews can't access. It would be interesting if we could go one or two seasons without smokejumpers and see just how if affects our IA success rate, put that money into a few more helitack crews and extra CWN ships.

What, helicopters don't cost money? They can fly further and faster than fixed-wing? They carry larger loads, more firefighters to a bust area? - When you can get 12-16 highly qualified firefighters into 1 aircraft - you have capabilities to catch up to 8 fires on one flight out - or the equivalent of delivering one IHC direct to a fire.

Of course, this will never happen because who do you think sits up at NIFC and makes the decisions on where our money goes, that right, all ex-bros.

Sorry, but the last mule in charge of oats left the station about a dozen years ago. The FIRE AND AVIATION budget comes out of the Congress and the Agencies National offices, NOT NIFC. And definitely not for the Forest Service. NIFC does assist and helps provide severity authorization - but that mostly for crews, helicopters, engines, prevention techs. Smokejumpers, because of their efficiencies are nationally funded resources - they earned it because they are proven? And as for the NIFC decision makers being all Bros - can that drivel. There isn't a current NIFC Fire Director that's ever been a smokejumper. In fact, the two largest fire program directors at NIFC never dragged a shovel in their careers. And the ones who have fought fire, were highly motivated, positive thinking pounders.

Smokejumpers are nothing more than a tradition that has long lost it's usefulness in the wildland fire community. And it's not just the funding part, how much money is sucked down by broken down jumpers on workman's comp who augured in on a single tree fire that would have burned itself out if left alone for another 30 minutes.

And do you know how many former jumpers who gave years of service to fire are unable to walk, let alone can not get assistance from OWCP. You know, rather than letting you piss off a bunch of good people that have the moxy and cajones to meet, greet and challenge their dreams - Mopping you up isn't worth the effort because I just feel you'll never be open to looking at the heart of a true smokejumper. Smokejumpers have been to the moon, been the first to take on the most dangerous face of Everest (and win), and in our own small world - run 52 miles for the 52 club - the Wildland Firefighter Foundation that will be there for you - if ever anything other than your ego should seriously suffer.

Well in the question below this, you ask I wonder how many think the "same way I do"

-- Well, I don't. An old saying with the smokejumpers to maintain situational awareness used to go like this - when you get into a rut, and your frustrations run on for seasons - it's time to get out of the business because you are putting yourself and others at risk. I truly suggest if something is bothering you that bad about all of the above - please don't sign on to be the weakest link in my chain! Good luck. And by the way - have a nice day.

I don't mean to rant and rave, but this has been something that has really frustrated me over the last couple of years. I am curious, how many others out there think the same way I do? Hopefully, this starts a hot discussion.

-FRUSTRATED FF

What Mouse would say...

11/21 I've been hearing rumors for a while now about the experimental fast-roping system being tried in R5 on some of the helitack programs, the Eldorado's for one, and I'm curious about it. Could anyone point me to some more information about it? I'm curious which crews are using it and how the system actually works. (and how I might get on such a crew ;) )

I'm also interested in seeing some video of the system in action. If anyone has a crew video or training video with fast-roping on it, I'd be willing to buy a copy or set up some kind of video swap to get one.

On a side note, I thought that I'd let you all know about a new website I put up at www.fireandforestry.com. It's just some pictures from the past few seasons, mostly small IA stuff. There are a few short videos from last season, one of which has a few shots of Copter 522 from when Peppermint Helitack was up here in southeastern MT on the Bighorn fire.

Young and Dumb in Region One
 
11/21 Ab,

Friday will be the 49th anniversary of the Inaja Fire tragedy. We finally posted an .phpl version of the report to the Novato FPD section of the Cedar Fire investigations. www.coloradofirecamp.com/cedar_fire/inaja_fire_introduction.php

Apparently, the federal pay issue is really nothing new:

"The investigators pointed out that in general, although not related in particular to the Inaja fire, present Government salary and wage rates make it difficult to obtain and hold competent fire control personnel."

The agency tendency to conceal parts of the investigation was also an issue then, as it has been in recent investigations:

"However, it became evident that the public interest in this particular fire disaster was so great that the interviews should be made public."

And, of course, I'm sure everyone will be as pleased as I was to read this entry in the glossary:

"Tanker.--A truck equipped to carry water or other liquids used in suppressing a fire."

vfd cap'n

11/21 Hi Abs, All;

A comment on what Frustrated FF said-- before I had actually rappelled, I held kind of the same viewpoint. Now I know better. Rappel operations take as much time to get two to four people on the ground as jump ops take to get anywhere from two to ten.

Admittedly, as an earthpig, there have been times on fires, especially in my stomping ground of the western great basin, when jump ops have adversely affected our ability to fight fire effectively. When jump ops are overhead, air ops stop, and sometimes this has prevented us from "turning the corner," as it were.

Then again, the reason you don't hear "boy, I'm glad that those Jumpers showed up" is because usually you don't hear about the fires they've been on unless they loose them. We in the shot world have a tendency to criticize jumpers for being lazy and sitting on the helispot while we go to work-- but be sure to consider the 17 to 24 hours they worked before we got there.

Another point to consider-- I've been on fires with jumpers where we take one flank with our 20 and they take the other with their 6. We put in a 40 foot saw swath and a 1 foot scrape, they put in a 5 foot saw swath and a 4 inch scrape. Both firelines stopped the fire, but ours looked better. Who cares, as long as it stops fire?

I am not immune to the jealousy that shots feel towards jumpers. We are the red-headed stepchildren when it comes to the public's eye. Even so, before piping up and snapping off about how derelict the jumper program is, get the facts straight and be fair. 6 seasons a hotshot now, and no desire to jump, yet I can see their value and have met and worked with several competent and professional jumpers.

Sorry for lurking this long, been busy with end of season projects.

Class C Sagebrush Faller
11/21 If I've said it once, I've said a million times...... There's too much hyperbole on this site!
NZ helitack.... We are not the "lowest paid firefighters in the world...".

FS firefighters in California are obviously at an extreme disadvantage in comparison pay. I have no idea how anyone at any GS level can afford to buy a house there.

Drum roll...... but pay disparity IS NOT a universal problem. In many parts of the country a PFT in fire (or any FS position) can readily afford to buy a home once they have reached the journeyman level. I know GS5's that own their own homes, and GS-9's that have some really nice houses and acreage...... but they wouldn't stand a chance of achieving that dream in California.

Maybe a better approach would be to pursue "locality pay" to bring employees up to parity with their counterparts in other agencies. That might be a better sell. Right now I think Congress is hearing "pay firefighters to sleep" and that is an inaccuracy. Still, with the cost of war, hurricane disasters leaving so many without shelter, looming pandemics, and limited desire to go further in debt, I have my doubts that Portal-to-Portal will pass as written.

I have nothing but admiration for the firefighters in California that stay dedicated to their work while facing the challenge of limited opportunity to own a home.

Old Fire Guy

11/21 Maybe "Frustrated FF" should change his/her name to "Frustrated Smokejumper Wantabe"?

There have been studies over the 20+ years rappelling has been in existence and all have
shown the need to have both forms of delivery.

Firehorse

Eh, Firehorse, glad yer still lurking out there. Ab.

11/20 My thanks to BLMer and Lobotomy for their replies regarding health plans.

After spending several more hours researching the options, it appears my best choice boils down to staying with Blue Cross/CA Care or switching to Blue Shield Access+. Since I've been with Blue Cross/CA Care for around 15 years and have been happy with them (until now), I haven't paid much attention to the other plans. Does anyone have any input on the Blue Shield Access + plan? The two plans appear near mirror images of each other with a couple of minor exceptions, but the latter is $100 p/month cheaper. Without knowing any better, it looks to me like Blue Cross wants out of the FEHBP business as demonstrated by their outrageous premium increase.

SteveM

11/20 Ab
Old Fire Guy

I give up. Keep KFCX as your mnemonic. <chuckle>

Only reason I even mentioned KFCX might not be good for "Killing Chickens duty" was I knew the NWS used that ID as I had spent WAY!! too much time in Virginia. The NWS will never know, and I was trying to be funny.

Really hope that it never has to come to that; HOWEVER, heard on the news today that the FEDS are writing a response plan for a flu Pandemic, that they "hope" to have done in a "couple of years". WOW great planning time! They are dolling out the usual BS, it should take no more than 3 or 4 months to do something like that if they had competent people to do it. Guess they have to Contract it: go for bids, select an unqualified buddy, reject the plan after paying for it and then do it all over again 3 or 4 times. Hell of a way to protect the country.

I have to deal with the Federal contract change process in my real job; it is a pain in the a**.

RJM

I got some chuckles out of it. Ab.

11/20 Re: 20+ Years and still happy without or with the pay.

Kudos Casey, I believe its that type of mentality that
a lot of folks who have the potential to change things
have. Regardless of whether or not you believe we
should be paid more, we are the LOWEST paid
firefighters in the world aside from VFDs. We can't
all "skip in the woods, and smell the flowers," when
there are bills to pay, and groceries to buy.

The FWFSA is a voice, and a sound one at that. I'm sure
you wouldn't refuse a pay increase... a pay increase
that the FWFSA is fighting for, even if you do like
"being in the woods."

NZ Helitack

11/20 Ab,

Enough is enough. This ME cat has got to settle down. First off, what is his or her experience, IHC, RHC, or SKOOKUM or ....? I am like alot of overhead on new crews in that I was on a IHC before. I take great pride in the crew that I have helped build from the ground up. Has ME done this or did they just show up on day one and get the shirt that someone else allowed him to wear. My shirt was earned on the line and off the line, I like so many other new crew o-head took a chance and left the safe world of existing crews for the unknown. Are you, ME prepared to say that a guy who was a captain on a IHC and is now the sup on a RHC is not a REAL hotshot anymore? Are you ready to disrespect these guys like that? Think about it guy, we all want to have the best team on the field and we all want to contribute, but if us new guys start to actually take money out of the IHC pockets then maybe we should go away. My experience is that there is plenty of work to go around, history shows that when it's busy we all make OT and when it's not, we don't.

Another thing to realize is that the crews in R5 have to abide by what the IHCOG says. These are the same rules that LP or Sierra or any other IHC follows. Our management wants ALL crews to be the same, qualifications wise. No doubt about it though, my crew will never have the same amount of tradition as some of the IHCs that have been around for twenty or more years. Anyway, can't we all just get along and cut some line. By the way, we may be looking for a GS-6 Squad Boss soon, wait, only IHC applicants will be considered.

DUDE
11/20 The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, District 1 in Hammond, LA has had the SE Louisiana Interagency Type 2 IMT in place since September 28th. To date, the IMT has assisted LA A&F in suppressing 217 wildfires in the Saint Tammany, Washington and Tangipahoa Parishes totaling 1,215 acres. Most areas in LA have not had significant rainfall for over 55 days! Hurricanes Katrina and Rita blown down forests have significantly increased available fuels. The KBDI drought index is severe exceeding 700. A record low 10% Rh was recorded in Hammond, LA for 11/18/05. 113 out-of-state personnel from some 18 different local, state, federal, and private sector wildland fire agencies on two week rotational tours are providing state assistance. 10 Type 6 engines, 3 Type 2/3 Tractor-Plow strike teams, and 2 Type 2 water dropping helicopters supplement 11 LA Forestry's District 1's JD650 or 450 tractor-plow units. Averaging 2-5 wildfire responses per day since September 28th. Majority of the wildfire causes are debris burn escapes and arson. Burn bans continue in all three parishes. To date, out-of-state tractor plows from North Carolina Forest Service, Florida Division of Forestry and Georgia Forestry Commission have built 29 miles of pre-suppression firelines protecting structures in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes. The SE Louisiana Interagency IMT are planning operations through the month of December. Access the Southern Area Coordination Center's website to monitor the increasing SE US wildfire activity.

Eric Kurtz
SE LA Interagency IMT Ops Chief.

Welcome Eric, thanks for letting us know what's going on in Louisiana. Watch out for that flaming spanish moss. It can get mighty dry in drought years. Ab.

11/19 Dear Happy:

I'm thrilled to see you and I are on a first name basis!

Given that you apparently have been loving the outdoors and all the travel for the last 20+ years, I'd assume that you are in an FLSA exempt position (please correct me if I'm wrong).

Curious to know if you noticed a change in your pay about the year 2000. Until then, many exempt employees were actually paid less than lower ranking non-exempt employees because of the overtime pay cap. Many exempt employees took non-exempt positions on fires simply to earn overtime and be paid properly.

I would suggest that if you have benefited financially from the elimination of the overtime pay cap for federal wildland firefighters, (courtesy, I might add, of the "isn't going to do nothing FWFSA" ) you turn some of those earning over to your colleagues that are trying to raise a family on GS-4 pay; being taken off the clock on assignments while the federal government pays others significantly higher sums for the same job, or maybe the seasonal firefighter who doesn't get basic health care.

Isn't it great to be self -righteous? (I wouldn't know) And those "other" organizations that you suggest our folks go to...why do they pay so much more than the feds? Because they have organized groups fighting for them. They have the ability to negotiate pay and benefits with their employers, feds don't. Feds must change the law. That's what the FWFSA does.

As far as Ricky Henderson is concerned, I don't recall him ever risking his life for his millions of dollars. I don't recall him employing coyote tactics, not showering for a week or sleeping on dirt and rocks for his millions. What a stupid analogy! The wildland firefighters I know love their job. They aren't asking to get rich doing this. What they do deserve is fairness. They should expect their employer to consider them valuable and compensate them for the staggering costs of the 21st century.

Loving one's job doesn't necessarily pay the bills does it? I loved bagging groceries as a teenager. I dare say I couldn't raise a family doing it now. With all due respect sir, I commend you on your love of nature and travel. However your attack on those that simply seek fairness in the workplace i.e. similar pay for similar work, and your attack on the FWFSA, an organization working to educate the bureaucracy on what you all do, the sacrifices you make, the issues that affect you and making changes for the better, is reprehensible.

I would suggest that should the FWFSA's current legislation pass, you forego the payment of portal to portal compensation the next time you're on a 14 day assignment and you refuse to include your hazard pay as base pay for retirement purposes.

I know hundreds that will take it off your shoulders.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
FWFSA
11/19 Re: More on the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and A-76 Outsourcing

> GAO Report, 11/17/2005 www.gao.gov/new.items/d0687r.pdf

Lobotomy
11/19 I was told you may have an answer for me on a specific question.

Is there any standard regarding silk screening on nomex shirts? If you
could shed some light on this it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
Rick
11/19 Hey They Said Readers,

This is for those of you who may live outside the Sacramento Metro Area, and do not receive the Sacramento Bee. The Sac Bee, has been writing a series of articles regarding the living and working conditions of "contract" forest workers within California, Oregon, and Washington, who are legal foreign workers invited through a guest worker program. It has been a week long article, culminating in an article in today's paper telling of the rise of "caring" lawmakers rallying the House Committee on Resources to look into the treatment of these workers, starting from the top with the Washington D.C. office of the U.S. Forest Service, and working its way down to the contracting agency. I wanted to send this out, due the fact that at some point it may affect every Forest Service worker directly or indirectly. Happy reading.

www.sacbee.com/content/news/projects/pineros/

A Newspaper Reader!
11/19 Old fire guy
Re: 11/18 Killing chickens

I think the good weather people of Roanoke, VA would take exception to your Mnemonic of KFCX for "killing chickens" even though I take great pleasure in your suggestion. I never dine there.
Suggest you try "KFCE"; as your suggestion is a NWS station Identifier for Roanoke, VA. I Goggled KFCE and it is not a US ship or NWS identifier. Stuff in other languages shows up but it should work. Hope it never comes down to that.

RJM

But the x fits the Rx or "Prescribed fire" assignment designation. I vote for chicken killing identifier being KFCX. It's soooo clear. haw haw. The VA weather folks may have to find a new identifier. Ab.

11/19 Hey Mellie-

There's even a use for that rice and beans- when training for the pack test I took a backpacker's backpack, loaded it up with 45 lbs of rice (forms nicely to the back and you can use different weight bags to work your way up), and would go out walking.

I'm going to try training up for arduous again this year (I had to do light for a couple years due to health) and that's what I'll be doing. Why just store things when they can be useful on a daily basis ;-)

BLMgirl
11/19 Enough of the Bird Flu talk, with all of the funding and budget issues I propose that the people on the ground start throwing out ideas on how to save money so the people who make the decisions in DC know what our issues are. First of all, how about cutting back on some of these so called Type 1 Training Crews that haven't gotten their Type 1 rating yet. Three years, if you don't have it by then your axed. Don't get me wrong, their are some great IHC's that have been formed over the last few years, but there are also a lot of bad ones who don't deserve to have the word Hotshots in their name. Secondly, and more importantly, when was the last time you heard "It was a good thing we had those jumpers on our fire". When the axe falls the first place it should land is on the jumper programs, FS and BLM. If you have a chance, look at how much money is budgeted for these programs. It is a ridiculous waste of money when you look at how much funding gets to the engines, crews, and helitack programs. I don't know if it is just me, but in today's world jumpers are totally ineffective and the least efficient of all resources. I know in AK they are needed, but in the lower 48 give me a helitack / rappelle crew for anything that engines and crews can't access. It would be interesting if we could go one or two seasons without smokejumpers and see just how if affects our IA success rate, put that money into a few more helitack crews and extra CWN ships. Of course, this will never happen because who do you think sits up at NIFC and makes the decisions on where our money goes, that right, all ex-bros. Smokejumpers are nothing more than a tradition that has long lost it's usefulness in the wildland fire community. And it's not just the funding part, how much money is sucked down by broken down jumpers on workman's comp who augured in on a single tree fire that would have burned itself out if left alone for another 30 minutes. I don't mean to rant and rave, but this has been something that has really frustrated me over the last couple of years. I am curious, how many others out there think the same way I do? Hopefully, this starts a hot discussion.

-FRUSTRATED FF
11/19 Everbody can harp on pay and what  we don't offer but what we do offer is the great outdoors and being able to travel all across the nation to what ever national crisis needs our help that is the product to sell. the fwfsa  isn't going to do nothing so casey go with it but Im proud to do my job and if I wanted more pay I would  move to another orginization but I love my job no matter what the pay, for the others who need  more pay ala ricky henderson years ago their is the door go through it and good luck

20+ years and happy with or without the pay

11/18 For new posts on the Flu Pandemic developments see the Bird Flu Watchout page.

Readers, a suggestion:

If you haven't started stockpiling food, please, my friends, set the goal of going to Costco, Sam's Club, Canned Food Warehouse, Grocery Outlet, Cash and Carry or some similar store this weekend that carries bulk grains and beans.

For about $52 you can buy:

  • 50# pounds of rice (2 - 25# bags) for $12
  • 50#  of pinto beans (2 -25# bags) for $18
  • a bottle of multi-vitamin for $12 (500 ct)
  • a bottle of vitamin C for $10 (500 ct 1000 mg; take 1/2 a C a day, 500mg).

Someone wise once said, you only have to start.
Take the first step.
Start by doing what's necessary,
then by doing what's possible,
soon you'll be on your way to achieving the impossible.

You don't have to eat well to survive, you only have to eat what's necessary.
Look at purchasing and having a food supply as insurance.
It's your "fire shelter equivalent".

The smoke is getting thicker. It's beginning to build into a column... LCES

Mellie

11/18 bluezebra,

I'm in New Jersey taking care of family. Thanks for the info.

Novato

11/18 Hello everyone,

I just wanted to chime in here and say a few words to folks. I do not know how fire folks out of R5 cope with bills and health care, but I know how I do -- "beg for extensions". LOL sounds funny huh? IT'S NOT. I just wanted to say that the folks who think that the GOV is going to do us right and take care of us are wrong. I have been doing some research on my own and we are the lowest paid professional fire dept in the country in base pay. Those that make 1000 hrs in OT -- that does not count. Now I hear some of you saying only the guys in R5 think they're a fire dept, well guess what, no mater where you are in the fed fire organization, you are a fire dept whether you like it or not. I do not mean to sound like I am slamming other regions, but hey folks, the FWFSA is something worth looking into.

I talked with Casey the other day and he convinced me that it's worth the few bucks a month. If we can get OPM to get off their asses and see the light, then we can be fairly compensated for our jobs. One last thing here then I will be done, OPM doesn't care about you and your bills or if your newborn child needs special care they do not care. All they worry about is how long can they go to work and not do a damn thing for anybody but themselves. I bet they all pay their bills on time and can afford a home???

OPM is not your friend. CHECK out FWFSA. It will help all of us if we help it.....

NorCal
Capt

11/18 Sad news about triple nickel. Along those lines it's
always good to have some humor in a dismal
situation... with that, and the interest of saving
money, can we have your helitender?

NZ Helitack

11/18 Novato:

The “pandemic” drill you refer to in San Francisco is part of the statewide WMD drill. It is not a “pandemic” but an alleged dirty bomb. Some agencies drilled up to 2 days early (Alameda County and Oakland) for some reason.

Your name is interesting, as your local hospital also participated in the drill, receiving about a dozen patients. The other Marin hospitals also participated, as did many local FDs and Haz Mat Teams. No Fed involvement as far as I know- this drill was limited to local first responders, hospitals and local and county gov’t level officials.

bluezebra
11/18 Regarding Federal Employee Health Benefits:

This may be of interest to some people. It describes how the premium costs of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) is going up for fiscal year 2006. These costs are important to current and retired federal employees who are still utilizing the FEHBP program. It may also be interesting to people who are interested in the overall state of the federal wildland fire program.

Some "facts" from OPM. (Believe them or investigate them if you chose to.)

> From GovExec Online 09/15/2005: www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0905/091505r2.php

1. Most people will see an average increase of 10% in their premiums.
2. 80% of people will see their premiums increase by 2.5-15%.
3. Some people will be far left of, and far right of the average increases.
4. OPM is actively advertising Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA).

I wonder if the federal government is trying (or allowing) the premium increases to cause employees and others to switch over to FSAs and lower priced plans that cost the government far less? I also wonder if these cheaper providers and FSAs provide the same benefits as the original programs, conditions, and the future I first signed the dotted line on.... 22 seasons ago when I took my Oath of Office as a Federal Employee.

In any case, with federal workers already falling far behind the private and local government sector with pay, benefits, and working conditions, this appears to be just another way to force the privatization of federal jobs and to take away benefits from current employees and retirees.

Remember, there has been recent talk of not having, or lessening yearly pay increases.... talk of changing high-3 to high-5, talk of outsourcing, and even talk of reductions in firefighting capability. There has also been talk about lowering the benefits that federal employees receive when they retire.... and even talk about lowering the benefits that current retired employees receive years after they have retired (breech of contract, breech of ethics, breech of trust).

Trivia Quiz: 1.) Which employer in the United States is the largest employer who offers no health benefits to a very large numbers of its employees? 2) Which employer in the United States is the largest employer who does not offer competitive health benefits with other private sector programs?

With all this talk going on, it's time for the federal wildland firefighters to be heard. Join the FWFSA.

The FWFSA is working hard to improve the safety, pay, benefits, and working conditions for ALL federal wildland firefighters. It takes lots of voices in unity to be heard.

Lobotomy

P.S. - 22 years ago, I had better pay, benefits, and working conditions than a CDF seasonal firefighter when I signed on as a "fed" and turned down CDF jobs my first two seasons. Now, seasonal CDF firefighter positions (Firefighter 1) recruit and retain our GS-2 thru 6 employees after they gain experience. Entry level permanent CDF firefighter positions (Firefighter 2, Fire Apparatus Engineer, and Fire Captain) have and will, recruit and retain our GS-6 thru 9 employees until the federal government gets competitive again. Other agencies recruit and retain our GS-9 thru 13 employees through early retirement incentives.

It is pretty sad that the federal wildland fire program has fallen so far behind to allow a CDF Fire Captain to be paid a wage that is more than most Forest Fire Management Officers (Fire Chief) in the United States. It is just an indicator of an underlying problem.

(Note: CDF folks.... this is not a slam on you!!!.... it a slam on people who just sit back and say "I love my job" or "I'm not in it for the pay" or "it's just a California problem" or "somebody is already working on it".... while they sit back and lose their families, their property, and eventually their health, prosperity, and potentially their lives to be "fs green" or "proud to be a fed" without knowing the risks and the history behind the profession, and the losses to our federal wildland firefighting community).
11/18 Ab,

Could you post the following? Beth is a great "people resource" of the Colorado State Forest Service. She serves as part of Krugman's type 1 IMT and has worked for years with the Colorado Wildfire Academy.

vfd cap'n

------

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Many of you know Beth Anderson with the CSFS, Salida District Office. Beth has been and continues to experience a serious recurring cancer-related health problem.

This basically means Beth needs more surgery, which will require expensive travel and medical care at the Mayo Clinic. In an effort to help financially we are asking for your support through these options:

1. Monetary donations (tax deductible) may be made to the UAVWF Benefit Fund earmarked for Beth. These donations may be mailed to UAVWF, c/o Wendy Fischer, 2465 South Townsend, Montrose, CO 81401.

2. Donate items for a silent auction to be held at the Great Plains Wildfire College in early January in Sterling. Please drop off donated items to the Salida District office by December 31.
.
Your generosity toward our colleague in need is greatly appreciated.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call me at 719-539-2579 or Stephanie Scott at 719-687-2921 or stephanie.scott@colostate.edu.

Damon Lange
District Forester
Salida District, CSFS

11/18 Ab,

Well I have seen a listen to this Debate going on for the last four years and I knew at some where down the road after MEL 2001 This would hit. I can not speak for other Regions other than 5 but to cut lose the regional crews now would break the moral of all the MEL crews in the Forest Service. I started with the FS in 1971 and in 1972 we had the Safety plan which changed alot of things with the Forest Service; some are still in place Today. My Old crew the Mill Creek Hotshots were started in 1975 and Cut again in 1978 by Budgets but it was reborn again in 1980 to be cut and in '81 or '82, Now it's back again as a Crew in Region 5 looking at being cut again. As are all the Type MEL Crews In Region 5 and more than likely other Regions. In 2001 When MEL Started I saw the 1972 Safety Plan all over again in my mind and I see the same Things happing to your Crews and Engines.

I reach out to the National FMO Tom Habour: lets not let this happen again. Tom pull some Folks in, even us Old Ret Dogs to look at this and see if We who worked in the Lean years can help make MEL stay around

Terry W. Molzahn, Mount Whitney FMO, Inyo National Forest, Ret

Terry, as I understand it there will be no troop reductions in R5 in 2006. Regional crews won't be "cut loose". It's simply that there will be hotshots, all meeting the same R5 qualifications; other crews will be Type 2 IA until they qualify as R5 IHC. It appears that other regions and fed agencies will be cutting personnel. As far as MEL (Most Efficient Level) and NFMAS, well, that planning and budgeting tool is on the way out. The new system, based on faulty modeling and assumptions, does not work and probably can't be made to work, but Congress will find that out sooner or later. Higher ups in the FS as in the WO folks know that, they're just not willing to burst Congress and the President's bubble. My 2 cents... Ab.

11/18 Well to add to all the discussion, our helitack crew KEENE HELITACK, BAKERSFIELD BLM RAPPEL MODULE was just told yesterday or today that they are being dismembered as a module due to the whole break down of the funding issue. So they will no longer exist. Sucks to lose a good crew and module all because of war and natural disasters.

I wish all you guys that had a job and now are with nothing, a big luck -- and hope your management will back you and place you in a good spot for the time being.

anonymous FF
11/18 Ab

No jail, "home" confinement link to San Diego UT article.
Likely you already have this.
I am tired of hearing how the Fire Service failed.
They did the best they could. No troops, everybody and everything up north.

Likely you have this a 100 times by now but just in case.
www.signonsandiego.com/news/fires/20051117-1911-cedarfire.phpl

Joe McDonald
11/18 Mnemonic for chicken killing is KFCX.

Old Fire Guy
11/17 Regarding health insurance...

As someone with a chronic condition requiring regular medicine and specialists I switched last year from Healthnet to Blue Cross. I am in NorCal and while I was happy with Healthnet, Blue Cross was better for someone who used health care monthly.

The coverage has been the same in terms of treatment, options, and keeping my doctors.

Blue Cross has a higher premium monthly.
Blue Cross also had lower reoccurring costs for medicine, out patient procedures, and specialist's visits.

Healthnet had lower premiums but would have cost me more money since I use my health insurance so much.

Check out OPM's health care comparison guide:
www.opm.gov/insure/06/index.asp

Take into account how many medicines you use monthly, how many times you/your family goes to the doctor, how often you typically go to the ER, if you need outpatient procedures, etc. Stick with the HMOs for the best coverage overall -- but there are a variety of HMOs.

Also if you switch be sure that any medicines you take are on your new plan's formulary (you can call and ask). Also make sure that you contact your primary care doctor's office prior to switching and let them know what you are doing.

Good luck and I've spent hours on this stuff (reading even the small print) -- but it IS worth making a knowledgeable decision.

-BLMer

11/17 San Francisco is having some kind of pandemic drill today. Anyone know
exactly what? Any fed fire fighters involved?

Novato

11/17 PPE for pandemic flu:

Does anyone remember what we were required to wear for PPE when we were
killing chickens?

That's what we're going to need.

Panda Bear

11/17 FEMA doesn't have a plan yet. They're busy dealing with hurricanes and that
about has them overwhelmed.

I heard someone asked and that's what they said.

R8 FF

11/17 Ab,

This webpage lists 65 hotshot crews as of January, 1998.
www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Gorge/5561/hotshot1.phpl
So, maybe 29 new IHC's in the last 7 years?

vfd cap'n

Thanks vfd cap'n... Yeah, we had this list from ihc2000 and this one from ihc2001. Ab.

11/17 Ab,

Arroyo Seco earned their IHC this season and they are not on the
contact list of Interagency Hotshot Crews.

-A

11/17 SteveM

Stay away from mailhandlers. Although they're reasonable priced, the service is terrible. I've had them for years. This last year, I had to have appendix out (emergency operation) and wound up having to pay over $6,000 out of pocket expenses that mailhandlers would not cover. Needless to say, I'm looking for another provider also.

TC
11/17 Has anyone asked FEMA what their birdflu pandemic plan is?

NorCal Tom

11/17 AB

You said that there are no longer Regional shot crews,
when did this happen? We currently have four Type 2
crews on our forest and all they talk about is being
Type 1 RHC. We have Supers' with 10 years of service
and less then half of that is with shot crews. From
what I've seen you don't have to meet a lot of
standards to be certified Type 1 in region 5. Yes you
have to meet the NWCG standards but there is a big
difference in a Type 1 crew (RHC) and an IHC. These
crews around here think they will get some kind of
respect by having HOTSHOT on the side of their
buggies, heck we can't even get them to do project
work.

Later
ME

I'm surprised word hasn't reached you. A number of months ago, the Region 5 Board of Directors decided to do away with the RHC designation. Former RHCs must undergo hotshot review by the Safety First Committee. If they pass, they're IHC. If they do not pass R5 certs - even if they're certified type I by NWCG - they are designated Type 2 IA. As I understand it, this next season in R5 ALL will be or will have been evaluated as IHC or not.

I have heard that this action came about because one socal RHC supt (maybe 2) admitted to be resting his crew on their NWCG Type 1 cert, not trying to move toward full R5 IHC status (with the work Safety First review that entails). In R5, the NWCG Type 1 cert for RHCs, was viewed simply as a step toward R5 IHC certification and an opportunity to get experience on fires as a Type 1 crew.

It will be harder (impossible) for some of our excellent Type 2 IA crews to fight fire and gain experience in or out of region as Type 1 crews even though they're Type 1 NWCG certified. The only thing holding back some of our remote crews that have been working hard is loss of experienced FF and inability to attract permanent replacements because of the shortage of GS-5 Sr FFs and GS-6 Squaddies and Captains. Crews who loose any experienced folks can't get replacements and will undoubtedly be bumped back to Type 2I A in spite of all their efforts to qualify.

ME, if you have several crews on your forest, perhaps they can be combined so that at least one of your crews (crew with the most promise?) can qualify as IHC. Ab.

11/17 Hi Ab & All,

This topic probably won't interest all of the readers here, but may be of interest to some. It's currently open season for federal health care plans. For many years I've had Blue Cross/California Care HMO, which I've been very happy with. Their monthly premiums and annual increases have always been an acceptable amount, similar to other plans, but this year, their Self & Family plan is jumping a whopping $133 per month.

I thought there was government oversight that held the health care plan to reasonable price increases. The plan is the only one with anything near that high of increase and now leads all HMO's by around $80 per month. I guess I'm looking for a couple types of info from others. One issue is where's the best place to complain about the price increase of this specific plan, and since I can't afford to pay that much, I'd like to hear any information on how folks have fared with other plans. I'm in Northern California, so am most interested in plans available in that area. I'm not really looking for the cheapest plan and I realize that one plan won't fit every family. Support and reliability are my two highest concerns along with cost.

If anyone has some kind of spreadsheet they are willing to share that helps compare plans with cost vs benefits, I'd love to have a look. Thanks in advance for any help!

SteveM
11/17 IHC discussion:

I am coming from an IHC in region 4. The whole cali regional hotshots -I think is funny.
People I have talked to say it sounds like it is a race just to get a fire call.

Also why is cali stacking up on shot crews when there are such $$$$$ problems. Now
the rumor mill is rolling with IHC being cut on the blm side ( I believe).

You make a great point about fasttracking. I know personally it is happening and with
the retirement rate only going up ?????.

thanks for info everyone

SK

There are no more regional hotshots. In California a crew is a hotshot crew or it's not. To be a hotshot crew in CA it has to meet more than NWCG standards. Otherwise it's just Type 2 IA at best.

Hasn't it always been about getting a fire call for any crew or resource? Face it, that's what we live for. Ab.

11/17 NorCal Tom,

I'd also ask how we fight a campaign fire in the middle of a pandemic
living in Fire Camp,etc? Camp crud? Symptoms are the same as
influenza - dry cough,etc.

Todd

11/17 Has anyone thought about what they're going to say when the flu pandemic
hits San Francisco and the teams are asked to set up a D-MORT? Did we
sign up for this? Are we trained? Do we have PPE and procedures in place?

NorCal Tom

11/17 SK

Just a couple of thoughts about someone asking about the Squad Leader Qualifications.

If we are talking about the MEL crews in R5, the individual must meet

  • INTERAGENCY HOTSHOT CREW OPERATIONS GUIDE (2005 Version)
    • 24.3 SQUAD LEADER
    • APPENDIX B – Squad Leader
  • 5109.17 Chapter 41.1 - Hotshot Position Competencies.
There is no set minimum but most likely progression is:
  • Crew Member 2-4 Years
  • Apprentice 2-4 Years
  • Senior Crew Member 1-3 Years
  • So lets Say 5 years experience of the Low end and 8-10 on the high end.

    I would like to add that this is one of the toughest positions to fill at this time here in
    Region 5. There are just not enough quality-qualified folks out there.

    SR

    11/17 Ab,

    I want to pass on that a defense fund has been set up for Van Bateman. We're asking for donations:
    Bank of America Acct #0043 7413 4475 under the name of Van Bateman.

    The Fire Department of New York asked that we set up the defense fund to help him. He's made a lot of friends over the many years, and apparently a few enemies also. Geraldo At Large scalded him pretty good last night, which really pisses me off. He has a really good attorney, the former Attorney General of Arizona. This attorney said he doesn't take cases if he thinks the guy is guilty. He only takes cases if he thinks the guy is innocent or getting screwed by the system. However, he's not cheap.

    Everyone is entitled to innocence until proven guilty. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial, if it comes to that. Folks, check your buggies for gps tracking devices. I hear the FS has some out there. I hate to say that of my own agency.

    As Larry said, I also heard that Van hasn't seen one shred of paperwork on this case. He was just called into the Forest Supervisor's office and given administrative leave and told that 4 felony indictments were coming out.

    Tahoe Terrie

    11/17 SK

    I think you bring up a good question and like AB said
    it depends on the person. Also are you talking IHC or
    the R5 RHC, because what I've seen in R5 is you don't
    need as much quals to move up in the RHC world. I
    think they need to do something about these crews
    receiving type 1 status with minimal crew members ever
    seeing the real Shot world. I'm seeing to much back
    stabbing and fast tracking just so these crews can say
    hey we're a shot crew. A lot of people need to
    realize that just because you did four or five years
    on a shot crew doesn't mean you're ready to run one.
    Practice being a good Type 2 crew first then move on.

    ME
    11/17 Ab,

    Here's the contact list of 94 Interagency Hotshot Crews: www.fs.fed.us/fire/people/hotshots/IHC_list.phpl

    They are distributed as follows:

    Pacific Northwest - 12
    Northern California - 9
    Southern California - 16
    Northern Rockies - 8
    Eastern Great Basin - 8
    Western Great Basin - 4
    Rocky Mountain - 7
    Southwest - 21
    Southern - 4
    Eastern - 1
    Alaska - 4

    vfd cap'n

    Anyone know which ones of those are new? Ab.

    11/16 Hi,
    There is a new, updated website for the new radios. It has
    programming and troubleshooting information for most of the new
    narrowband handhelds, mobiles and avionic radios.

    http://radios.nifc.gov/Index.aspx

    This should help with the radio usage problems that have surfaced the
    last couple of years.

    RadioGuy
    11/16 Van Bateman has apparently been charged for 4 felony counts. However, no one
    really knows because Mr. Bateman hasn't seen one shred of paperwork yet. I've
    worked with him for over 25 years and know the charges are not true. The USFS
    has hung him out to dry. He was indicted one week after turning in his retirement
    papers. Thanks Van for 35 years, and as your reward, here's 4 felony charges.

    Larry Humphrey
    11/16 How much time on a shot crew do you think one needs before he/she
    is smart enough to run their own squad. Just wanted to throw one of
    my thoughts out in the open. Very interested now because of ALL the
    NEW shot crews.

    SK

    I'd say it depends. You talking about someone with serious potential from the getgo?
    Out of curiosity, how many new IHCs are there since MEL buildup? Ab.

    11/16 Fire Management Today, a publication produced by the USDA Forest Service,
    is seeking entries for its annual fire photo contest. Please share this
    information by adding a link on your website. This contest is open to all,
    prizes are awarded, and the deadline is March 3, 2006.

    The attached flyer and winning photos from past contests are posted at
    www.fs.fed.us/fire/fmt/

    Thank you for your consideration and assistance in distributing this announcement.

    Karen Mora, for Fire Management Today

    Original Ab is still collecting photos for the 2006 wildlandfire.com calendar as well. Ab.

    11/16 Take "Fire Tech" classes and earn your Associate of Science Degree in Fire
    Technology completely on the Internet at Allan Hancock College in
    California. The Spring 2006 Semester runs from January 23 - May 19, 2006.

    View the information

    Dan

    11/16 Silver City Hotshots are now flying one GS-5 13/13 Lead Crew member. This
    position is being flown on AVUE and will be flown as both Demo and Merit.
    The Merit is out now with the Demo soon to follow. This position will
    close on 12/12.

    We will also be flying one GS-6 13/13 Squad Boss position here in the
    near future. If you have any questions you may call me at 505-388-8213.

    Thanks
    Eric Miller
    Assistant Superintendent
    11/16 Good Morning,

    I found your site by accident, and love it. I'd like to be able to contribute / comment (if allowed).
    I guess my question is what's the procedure for posting a question or comment?

    I'm a government worker in Kansas, and the administration here has been told to keep quiet
    about anything on the flu. Kind of reminds me of how they reacted to the old Y2K bug.

    Thanks for your time.
    ETI

    Welcome ETI. Posing a question is easy, you just did it. No firefighter I know at any level has told people to keep quiet about the coming flu pandemic. In fact the highest medical and DHS officials are trying to get the word out to get prepared. Firefighters have lots of incentive to spread the word. There are ideas on the Bird Flu Watchout page on how to get ready and links to educate yourself. As I understand it, people will need to hunker down for a while and will need food and water and whatever meds they usually take. Dr. Osterholm (Department of Homeland Security) has said when it comes, the illness will come through in waves over a year and a half or two years. There was a good show on the Discover Channel in which he encouraged getting ready. It reminded me of clearing a safety zone and having a plan. Ab.

    11/15 Interesting article about Mr. Bateman

    I'm sure everyone on this site will treat him as well as they
    would a contrctor whom had the same complaint.

    And, incidently, I'm sure my certificates signed by him will
    not be questioned at all.

    pvi

    11/15 Bambi Bucket Winch:

    I was wondering if you had any exploded views of the winch system. My friend is flying a KA-32A over in South Korea and his mechanic is having a hard time figuring out why the bucket keeps opening right after being filled. I was thinking that the "prepare" locking device isn't engaging and that the "deploy" locking mechanism is doing all of the work. This could've been caused by the one-time "dunking" the winch took into the ocean while training and the subsequent missions with build-up on all the internal parts may be causing a malfunction with the locking devices. I thought if we had an exploded view or a detailed diagram of some different winches we might be able to get a better idea. Most of the manuals they currently have are in Russian and they don't have anything on the winch. Any advice you might have would be great.

    Thank you for your assistance,
    Sean

    I'll pass any info along. Always willing to help the guys in uniform. Ab.

    11/15 Hello, do any of you CDF'ers out there know how I can get the CDF wildland
    firefighter training in SoCal this winter? I've called around and have checked with
    the Clark training center but have not been able to find any solid information.

    Thanks!
    DS

    11/14 There's another large price reduction on Aaron Evans Type 4 Engine. See full description, photos, and contact info here: Evans Type 4 Engine.

    Ab.

    11/14 Ab,
    This just came across AP:

    The burned remains of a volunteer fire department chief were found in the woods after he went to battle a brush fire alone.

    A search party found the body of Max Willard, 68, chief of the Oakwood Volunteer Fire Department, on Sunday morning.

    Willard went into the woods with a fire rake about an hour after the blaze started Saturday and never came out, said Randall Ashby, Buchanan County Sheriff's chief deputy.

    Ashby said it was not immediately clear whether the fire, smoke inhalation or something else caused Willard's death.

    "His body had been burned by the fire," Ashby said.

    The fire apparently started after a malfunctioning lawnmower ignited leaves, he said.

    It spread to hundreds of acres in this southwest Virginia county. Dispatchers said the fire was mostly extinguished by Sunday night.

    Fish

    Sorry to hear that. Ab.
    11/13 The Discovery Channel is having a special on the coming flu pandemic
    called Killer Flu, on in a few minutes at 10 PM Pacific time.

    Firescribe

    11/11 Mellie posted some answers to questions on the Bird Flu Watchout page. Link is just above. Ab.
    11/11 For Doug Campbell,

    Marv was my District FMO in the late 70's and last I new (probably 6-8 years
    ago now) Marv still lived in Santa Ana, CA in the home he lived in at retirement.

    HRM

    11/11 Well it has been a while since I have written in but this site and your help has always been one of my best sources for information in the fire community. I went and talked to the B.L.M smoke jumpers in Boise and I would like to find a list of names and job descriptions of the jumpers who work there. I heard a lot of different names and I would like to compile a list of the people there and what they do. I feel this will help me a lot when I am talking to them throughout the winter and doing my best to convince them I am the one for the job.

    Sincerely,
    Ty

    Ab will pass on any info. Glad to see yer still at the firefighting, Ty.

    11/11 El Cariso Hot Shot Crew movies

    In 1961 and 1962 I carried an 8mm Kodak movie camera with me in the pocket of my Filson vest and recorded some of the action the El Cariso Hotshots were involved in. I was the Superintendent, Gordon King, Walt Friauf, Ted Zrelak, Mike Rumbaugh and Marv Stout were crew foremen during that period. The condition of the film was deteriorating so I had it made into a video and then rendered to a DVD. It is one hour long and has fires and situations that these folks would recognize. I don't know where Marv Stout is but I would like to send him a copy. I haven't heard from Mike Rumbaugh since he left the crew but he was a fine young man and I think of him often and wish we could visit sometime. These young men were the core of the El Cariso Hotshot crew and I learned a lot from them and owe them for providing for the safe and hard work of the crew. The film shows how it was in the days before fire shelters and downhill rules. Some of the footage may not be understood by those who were not there but to those of us who were, we will remember the scenes.

    Lynn Biddison was the Forest FMO and was a great influence and help in formulating and guiding the crew that was re-formed after the Decker Fire that took the lives of some of the former crew.

    To those of you who would want a copy; It takes me hours to make a DVD one at a time. I cannot furnish everybody that is curious a copy as I sit before this computer enough as it is. But I will consider requests for good reason. Being selected by Lynn Biddison as the Supe of the El Cariso Hotshots was the best part of my 30 years in the Forest Service. I know that Hotshots before and since probably agree. So where are you Marv Stout?

    My thanks to the Crews of  '61 & '62 for the chance to work with such fine young men.

    Doug Campbell

    11/10 Well here's some interesting news: http://tinyurl.com/94dxf

    Apparently Van Bateman's been charged with arson. Wow.

    Fish
    11/10 Anyone have anymore info on Van Bateman allegedly
    starting a couple of fires in AZ in '04, and having
    charges brought against him? Hope its not true.

    Ex-Arizona wildfire commander indicted
    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com

    NZ Helitack

    I hope it's not true. Ab.

    11/10 After reading the comments regarding my agency I just had to respond... The
    BLM in many ways has been leading in many forums and attend anyone of our
    FMO meetings you will hear pay, retention, training etc addressed- I know
    because I do attend.

    Fact of the matter is we have a MUCH smaller organization and amazingly
    these people have to deal with NFPORS, Fuels, FPA, safety, fighting Boise
    to keep SCBAs, IFPM, staffing levels- oh yeah and fire suppression too.

    The BLM has an equivalent acreage in R5 with an overall staffing of 1 BLM
    employee for every 5 USFS employees. Our acreage is very scattered with a
    very broad use policy and one FMO may have to deal with multiple forests,
    parks, and refuges just to do normal business. It's a great agency with
    many wonderful people. Fact of the matter is we care- we just have much
    smaller staffing and people only have 40 hours in the week and that's
    barely enough to deal with all the mandated work.

    sign me,
    A BLMer

    Thanks for chiming in, BLMer. No one of us can really know what pressures, duties and realities folks in other agencies operate under. I remember one old tall, hardened firefighting BLM codger from Prineville Oregon or nearby late 1990s, probably retired now, who was a ball of fire on the political scene. Man he was an inspiration... but it's hard to maintain that kind of energy and purpose on your own with all other responsibilities.

    I still say that there's strength in a shared plan, shared responsibilities and with like-minded people helping pay the costs of trips to Washington to meet with Congress, etc. Ab.

    11/10 Ab,

    I am a member of the r-5 captains group (Angeles). I have the study -- at
    least the Angeles part -- of the housing study. Chris Fogle, R-5 Captain
    Chair has the full study. After talking to my real estate agent, I found it would
    take an income of about $135,000 to qualify for a median house-with stellar
    credit. This is not going to happen in Southern Ca with a one income family.
    It takes two -- with decent incomes -- and the F.S. income falls far short. My
    wife works for a horse racing track as a group planner, and makes more on
    "base salary" than I do. You will find this is the case with most F.S. families.
    I do the job for the love of the job, but it's increasingly harder to keep
    doing the job I love when the bills are due. There comes a time when we
    have to decide between the love of a job or the reality of the real world.

    LB

    11/10 Re Collar Brass

    Battalion/ DFMO
    Captain-Foreman
    Fire Boss-IC
    Sector Boss-DIVS
    Same/Same

    ICS for the Fire Service began in California in the 1970s as Firescope. Common terminology was paramount. Engine Types, IC structure and Task assignments were the same for all California agencies. I believe this was the beginning of the shift to common Fire Service Ranks for most agencies. 310-1 and CICCS is another effort to standardize the Fire Service.

    I have worked as a CDF seasonal, work closely with BLM and the USFS and I am currently a Local Govt. Battalion Chief. Each one of these organizations have exemplary people that perform flawlessly in most cases. I am in awe with the intelligence, depth and commitment of these operators.

    USFS service personnel are not the only people frustrated in California. It may be the state of the State and not the state of the Forest Service. You can't blame collar brass for the economy.

    Its not the bugles, the badge the color of the shirt or the engine that matters its the wonderful people that make the Fire Service such a rewarding life, profession and calling.

    Jay Bee
    "DFMO"

    11/10 Ab,

    I thought it would be appropriate to send in this link www.sbsun.com/news/ci_3173174 as we are discussing retention and recruitment at all ranks of the federal wildland fire agencies. Many of you may know this person, as he was a former Deputy Chief (Forest Deputy FMO) and former Type 2 Incident Commander.

    He retired shortly after becoming eligible, accepted a job as a battalion chief with a local fire agency, and then progressively worked his way back up to his former title... Deputy Chief.

    O.K..... so why is this important?

    San Bernardino City Fire Deputy Chief.......... $136,260 per year.

    Forest Service (L.A. Locality Area) Deputy Chief............... $65,690 - $85,774 per year.

    California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Fire Captain..... just over $85,000 per year without unplanned overtime.

    The recommendations of Chief Feser are deeply rooted in facts, and his concerns for the agency to continue to safely and efficiently continue to perform the mission as it evolves... It took a lot of guts for him to take a stand and I am really appreciative of it. I will be most appreciative when someone in the Washington Office and Congress steps up to not only address these problems, but works diligently on ways to fix them wherever these problems are being encountered.

    Thanks again Ab for this forum where people can just kick back, share stories, discuss issues, read news, lurk, or find very useful information about wildland firefighting.... and have fun all at the same time.

    Lobotomy

    P.S. - Does anyone have a copy of the cost of housing study that the R-5 Captains Group was preparing that they would be willing to share? It would be interesting to plug in federal wildland firefighters salaries into a mortgage calculator and see just how many wildland firefighters can afford to purchase a home these days out west. Sorry, just an attempt to gain more facts and get them on the record.... even in states outside of California.
    11/10 I became an ADFMO on the Angeles National Forest in 1988 at the time the Engine Foremen and Asst Foremen were GS-7 and GS-6 which was a big step for that forest. We still had some Engines with only two channel Radios and no Ht's for anyone on the engine. I did have an FMO who believed that the Forest Service needed to move forward with our sister Depts at the time, so He ordered Collar Bass for our district. His Name was Pat Cooney and I was His BC until he RET from the Forest Service in 1996. Pat and I also wore White Ball caps with the Bass for our Rank on them. This caused alot of problems with our forest fire staff at the time, But in the end We were right. Show others our Firefighters' Rank and they will respect us, like we them. That's the only reason for all the Brass --just like the color of hard hats in ICS

    TM.SPIKE

    Pat Cooney is a legend. Thanks for a bit of a walk down memory lane. Ab.

    11/10 Wasn't the first major wildland urban interface fire in Peshtigo, Wisconsin and not in California? Maybe those darn mid-westerners shared their fire problems out west? Maybe the "Big Blow" of 1910 didn't really happen?

    "On October 8, 1871, at about the same hour, two devastating fires started, one in rural Peshtigo, Wisconsin, the other in downtown Chicago." One was a wildland urban interface fire and one was an urban conflagration. Both these types of fires are related to each other in the ways they spread and are controlled. Even though they are related, each has been dealt with in different ways since the 1870's.

    "Both fires remain today among the worst natural disasters to befall the Midwest."

    "The Peshtigo, Wisconsin, fire of 1871 left 1,300 dead and over one million acres charred. Newspaper headlines and government debates flourished."

    Both great professions share some history, lessons learned, and future knowledge required to be someone who specializes in fire science. The end result... people died and lots of natural resources and infrastructure were burned up.

    > From these websites:

    www.wisconsinhistory.org/publications/books/peshtigo_fire2.asp
    www.nifc.gov/preved/comm_guide/wildfire/fire_8.phpl

    Student of Fire Science

    11/10 Ab

    Great discussions on the issues of pay and retention. The group that reads "They said" could be a very powerful group to help guide and direct our future. To the person that posted pay and retention issues is largely a Region 5 issue - I can assure you it is NOT a Region 5 issue.

    I am deeply saddened by the fact that many new permanent part time employees that got their first appointment during the "National Fire Plan" slave auction of 2001 are still in the same position they were 5 years ago and no further along in their career - some by choice, but most by necessity due to inherent nature of dual income families to stay out of poverty and off of food stamps. A career of "any age and 25" has already spent 20% of their career IN THE SAME POSITION!!! I am not advocating pencil whipping and strapping on rocket boosters BUT as mentioned in a previous message those that have the ABILITY to relocate may not be the ones we want as future leaders - but, guess what folks - they are all we have to pick from!

    Imagine a "Captain" "Engine supervisor" - pick your term of the day..... is working as a GS-7 for only 18 pay period per year - has to collect unemployment during the winter months for the 8 pay period they are laid off (they would MUCH RATHER WORK FOR A LIVING!!) tries to raise a family and pay for a mortgage in a housing market that is out of control. Now you tell me what kind of message that sends to our troops.... very, very, very sad indeed....

    I went to the FWFSA website and I hope Casey is right - they have a lot of work to do on the site - the cost is an immediate turn off - I would hope you could leverage members through a voluntary sign-up just to get a solid group working. I couldn't find out what the dues were used for, the last posting of "news" was 11/2004....

    I often wonder if a good Labor Lawyer could advocate on our behalf a class action law suit that shows federal wildland firefighters are harmed by Forest Service pay regulations that discriminate against federal wildland firefighters but favor local union structure firefighters on wildland fires with each fire fighter doing the EXACT SAME JOB! - One getting reimbursed for over $150 per hour while sleeping and the other firefighter getting paid ZERO!!!! Guess which one is which???????

    Now I sound like I am getting close to retirement - but I'm not......

    Mettle
    11/10 Whoa, Lobotomy,

    I would ask you to re-read what I wrote and find where I said the R-5 folks lost focus. What I said is you lost your identity (I guess I am assuming you are in R-5 from your response).

    I will peruse the web site you suggested. I took a quick look but it will take time to get into in depth when I only run at 26.4. A cursory look did not show me any surprises but like I said I will have to dig into it. Rest assured I will give credit where it is due. My experiences with OPM have not been entirely favorable but I will give the web site a good look. Thanks for the link.

    I look forward to getting back to you, but it is going to be a bit, so be patient. I am going to Mississippi Friday morning.

    the cynic
    11/9 To Ab and all that have chimed in,

    Thanks! A lot of different views, but they all seemed to echo the same thing. ;) It's not to say that I don't want to step up my career. I'm just kind of dragging my feet for the fact that there is alot of promoting too fast.

    I saw an apprentice convert into the SR position on my engine and 8 mos later he was offered a 5/6/7 engineers position and now is an engineer down south after working a li'l over 6 months in the engineer's position here. They pushed him through his engine boss at a speedy pace. "I wouldn't follow him to the dairyqueen much less anywhere else." I don't want to be this guy. He is way over his head and is too arrogant to realize it. I want to be promoted because I deserve it and am ready for it. Not because there is a lack of anyone better and we have to fill the position.

    I'm looking to fortify and earn my operational quals, not have them handed to me. I currently have apps out for AFEO positions and then SR. FF on Handcrews. It is the next logical step for me. Sequoia Capt. you sound alot like my Captain that originally hired me into the Apprentice program and being a 5 step 2, I would be happy to talk to you about your 6. It sounds like the type of place I am looking for and the ideals I am looking for to further my career correctly. Abs, if Sequioa Capt is interested, plz forward on my e-mail addy.

    Thanks for all the help,

    Paranoid

    Will do. Ab.

    11/9 Dear Green:

    What, might you ask, do Don Feser & Lobotomy have in common? They are both long time FWFSA members. They know they can make a difference, they know the Association can and has made a difference.

    When congressional hearings were held on our portal to portal legislation this past August outside of Las Vegas, they were actually held at a BLM fire station. Those of us there to testify on behalf of the legislation took the time to chat with the firefighters on duty. At the time, a BLM crew from Arizona was assigned to the station.

    It was incredibly disappointing to discover that they really didn't have a clue with what was going on in the political world on their behalf, nor did they seem interested. Maybe it was apathy, maybe it was because they are satisfied with the status quo.

    The FWFSA does have members in all five land-management agencies. In fact we recently were honored to have an AFMO from Fish & Wildlife in Minnesota join the Association. Let's face it. It doesn't matter how many rah rah e-mails Chief Dale Bosworth of the Forest Service sends out commending the work of our firefighters, the bottom line is the leadership of all the land-management agencies are not going to be the eyes and ears of our firefighters or for that matter, do a whole lot for them.

    I think with respect to those in BLM such as you mentioned, they have yet to recognize the tremendous impact they can have on their futures like so many FS firefighters have. That being said, we all, (regardless of agency) have to communicate with each other whether it be on fire lines, in camps, at training sessions etc., to reach out to all federal wildland firefighters that regardless of agency, they can make a difference in their futures.

    The FS & R5 may seem to lead the way simply because of the sheer numbers of firefighters in the region and working for the FS. However I think a lot of it has to do with the mind set of firefighters in R5 that they have come to realize that they can make a difference.

    So, the next time you speak to BLM folks, educate them on what's going on. Try to generate interest in them to recognize that they can make a difference and can be part of a larger voice. The potential for a united voice for federal wildland firefighters across this country is enormous. Yet it is obvious there is still a great deal of pessimism about the future and one's ability to improve it. If we all just communicate with one firefighter at a time, let them know they do have a voice and can make a difference, in time, our successes will be even greater than they have been in the past.

    The FS knows the FWFSA is a player in all this and knows we have the ears in Congress. However I still get the "who are they" from personnel with other agencies when mentioning the FWFSA. That's OK, we'll take them one at a time and educate them on their responsibility to themselves, their families and the federal wildland firefighting community.

    Respectfully,

    Casey Judd
    Business Manager,
    FWFSA
    (916) 515-1224
    11/9 The cynic,

    It appears that R-5 Forest Service employees are trying to do the usual trail blazing for everyone else. It would be nice to compare data from other fed agencies, if they're even trying to do any research! I say that because when I talk with folks from BLM about retention pay they say things like "Oh, we'll just sign a 'me too' clause when you guys get it." These people need to jump on the bandwagon, research some number, and become contributors instead of living up to some colorful agency acronym.

    To those of you like Lobotomy, Donald R. Feser, and some others I can't think of off the top of my head, thank you for leading the way and doing what you can to help all of us.

    Green Gestapo

    Green Gestapo, there are many wildland firefighters working to educate all of us. There are good folks in all agencies at all levels of government and also in the private sector. One advantage that R5 Forest Service has is that we're so large we've been able to band together (BOD or FMOs of the R5 Forests; Chief Officers; Engine Captains; Hotshots; etc) explore options, set priorities, divvy up the work, educate others and move on it -- at all levels. R5 Fire is a professional organization. FWFSA extends that: it's not just an R5 organization although it started in R5. It's a way for all feds who may not have a large group at home to participate in making professional change for all of us.

    That said, Green Gestapo, I echo your comment to Lobotomy and to Don Feser and other FMOs who are telling it like it is.

    Thanks Lobotomy for your tirelessness. You continue to "show up" and in so doing, you continue to make a difference. Don does too.

    Readers, you got talents --> it's your responsibility to use them. Join the FWFSA to make a difference. Leverage your talent. Explore your leadership. We're stronger and have more resources available as a collective. Ab.

    11/9 Fire Community,

    We're gathering fire photos for the 2006 Calendar. Horizontal format only, please, unless you might have a good big one we can crop. We're looking first for BIG FLAMES as we did last year. We also like photos with big flames and interagency firefighters doing their jobs. These could include engines, etc. Last year we had contributions from fed, state, local, and private sector firefighters. In my opinion, the 2005 Calendar was outstanding and reflected this community.

    If you think you might have a photo (or two) and would like to talk to us about it before sending it, shoot off a quick email (abercrombie@wildlandfire.com) with your phone number and good time to reach you and we'll give you a call. We're more likely to do that in the mornings. If you have a photo (or two) on hand, just attach it in its original form to an email. Thanks to those who are sending in photos snail mail on disk... whatever works most easily for you. We're willing to browse. Contributors, we can send you our snail-mail address too if that's easier for you.

    I am trying to get caught up with posting photos this week. As always, it's a fairly time consuming process. Many THANKS to all who contribute. You do a service to the entire community, as they are used in special projects and training powerpoints by many of your brothers and sisters across the US.

    Ab.

    11/9 The cynic,

    You said, “I do not know of any (and I may be wrong) state organizations in the west (other than CDF) that offer the same opportunities when it comes to wages, benefits, training, experience, advancement etc as the federal agencies.”

    Wages and benefits are two things that can be factually shown as incorrect in your statement. As far as training and experience, you may be correct. As far as advancement, you hit the nail upon the head and you probably didn't even know it.

    The federal land management agencies are offering non-competitive pay and benefits..... providing an excellent opportunity for training and experience..... and the ability for our employees to "advance" right on out the door to other agencies who are offering better pay, benefits, and working conditions.

    cynic, this may be a good tool for you... it gives you the ability to fact check the information that is being incorrectly provided by some people. Believe it or not, it actually comes from the Office of Personnel Management. When you learn how to use the program, you will be less of a cynic and more of a believer. www.fedscope.opm.gov/

    Lobotomy

    P.S. - I believe there is a unique culture in the Forest Service that concentrates on safety and the mission, contrary to your assertion that R-5 has lost focus. As far as collar brass and titles, it's not just a R-5 thing anymore. Just like the problems of the wildland urban interface, or the problems of recruiting and retaining employees, it started in California.... but these problems are now prevalent throughout the West in one form or another.

    2005 SEASONAL WILDLAND FIREFIGHTER PAY SCALES FOR THE WESTERN UNITED STATES (excluding California) as of February 2005.

    NEVADA DIV OF FORESTRY SEASONAL FIREFIGHTER:
    Firefighter II
    Grade 28, Level II  $14.49 - $20.25/hr
    Firefighter I 
    Grade 26, Level I   $13.36 - $18.58/hr
    WASHINGTON STATE DEPT. OF NATURAL RESOURCES SEASONAL FIREFIGHTER:
    SEASONAL
    Forest Firefighter 
    Crew Member         $ 9.13 - $10.45/hr      $1672 - $1461/mo
    Natural Resource 
    Worker 2            $12.24 - $15.43/hr      $2468 - $1958/mo
    *POSSIBLY PERMANENT
    Forest Crew 
    Supervisor 1 
    (Helitack Foreman, 
    20-person foreman)                          $2053 - $2586/mo
    Forest Crew 
    Supervisor 2 
    (Helitack Manager, 
    20-person super.)                           $2249 - $2841/mo
    Forester 1 
    (similar to district AFMO)                  $2586 - $3291/mo
    Forester 2 
    (similar to district FMO)                   $2911 - $3727/mo
    *Note: I do not know if these 4 above are seasonal positions or not. 
    These were provided by FireBill -- thanks.
    OREGON DEPT OF FORESTRY SEASONAL FIREFIGHTER:
    Forest Officer      $11.26 - $15.35/hr      $1951 - $2660/mo
    IDAHO STATE DEPT OF LANDS SEASONAL FIREFIGHTER:
    Resource Technician
    Fire                $10.83 - $13.77/hr
    MONTANA DEPT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND CONSERVATION SEASONAL FIREFIGHTER:
    Hourly Rate:        $ 8.92 - $11.52/hr
    FEDERAL SEASONAL WILDLAND FIREFIGHTER 
    (Outside of Locality Areas or Special Pay Areas):
    GS-2 -              $ 8.63/hr
    GS-3 -              $ 9.41/hr
    GS-4 -              $10.57/hr
    GS-5 -              $11.82/hr
    
    11/9 Fireside:

    Thanks for the nice comments. However, one caveat. Our website is in serious need of modernization and we've received several proposals and are reviewing them. I'm hoping that whoever visits the site is aware of that.

    Until we complete the modernization process, anyone interested in the FWFSA can contact me directly at FWFSAlobby@aol.com or 916-515-1224. Additionally, if you know a Board member, they can be of assistance as well.

    It is extremely clear as I've said that there is a disconnect between the WO & the regions. There is no justifiable reason for any reductions etc. As long as the FS knows that we know what's really going on, I'm hopeful they'll think before they act in any detrimental fashion towards our firefighters.

    I also want to reiterate that the FWFSA is not a union. Simply an employee association whose members range from entry-level firefighters to FMOs & a new chief! This diversity has allowed us to be far more knowledgeable about what is going on in the field than the bureaucrats in DC want us to be...thus, congress has learned to accept what we say as what is really going on.

    Thanks again for the kind words but this effort is the result of many voices joining together to make a difference. I never said it would be easy or be done overnight, but I am confident that federal wildland firefighters will come to realize the pay and benefits they have so long deserved.

    Casey

    11/9 KD,

    I don't know why the Forest Service began to use collar brass or to change titles in
    region 5.... but CDF began changing titles in the early 1980's. A small portion of the
    Forest Service began it in the late 1980's.

    maybe it was just change..... or the resistance to change.... or preservation of the
    things important to the mission. In any case, it seems to work.

    I think they may have understood that a Forester 1 designation was not a proper
    classification for someone who performs the profession of wildland fire suppression.

    Gizmo
    11/9 Good Morning,

    I am Robert Cerrato. I am trying to figure out what i have to do to get a red card
    and be qualified to work on a wild fire fighting team. Can you please give any information
    you may have. Thank You.

    Robert Cerrato

    Robert, I think you mean firefighting "crew", such as handcrew, engine crew, hotshot crew. ("Teams" are high level management. After you've had a number of years of a career in fire, you might serve on an "Incident Management Team". To see who they are, you can look HERE and HERE.)

    For jobs and redcarding, take a look at the FAQ page. That will lead you to other links and collected information on training. Basically you will need to apply for seasonal fire jobs in January or February 2006. Now is a good time to be planning ahead for next season and working up to getting in top physical shape. If you are hired, you will be trained and redcarded (if you pass). I see you're emailing from a university. You might take a look at our schools and universities links page for good training opportunities if your university doesn't have a fire emphasis. I am sure there are some in this community who are in school who can advise you on that if you plan to make a career of fire. Ab.

    11/8 Copter100,

    The agreement between the Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection states that the first twelve hours is free for certain resources, primarily engines and overhead. If the response extends past the twelve hour limit, then the response is deemed "assistance by hire" and retroactive back to the time of dispatch for payment purposes. This is a reciprocal agreement between most of the federal land management agencies and the State of California.

    There are two main other agreements... the California Fire Assistance Agreement (CFAA) and the California Master Mutual Aid Agreement. One agreement is signed by the majority of the federal land management agencies and the State of California and the other isn't. The CFAA has the same payment provisions as the agreement above.

    Then there are local agreements between federal and local government agencies. These also mirror the payment provisions of the above agreement between most of the federal land management agencies and CDF.

    Note: The majority of land management agencies have not signed the California Master Mutual Aid Agreement because it constitutes a violation of federal law requiring a division of powers between the states and the federal government (not to be confused with separation of powers in the Constitution). It requires reciprocity for like services shared based upon mission and direct protection responsibility. The problem comes when people, executives, legislators, and others come together and don't understand that firefighting is firefighting..... service is service... protecting people, communities, infrastructure, and natural resources is what ALL firefighters do (no specific order of importance).

    There needs to be an understanding that people can, and will perform the primary mission of their agency or department, but that firefighters are a different breed of people than normal land managers. They can, and do, cross jurisdictional boundaries on a normal basis. They are firefighters, wildland firefighters, and fire managers of all creeds and beliefs.... all are people who can, and willingly do "other duties as assigned".

    Firefighters are firefighters.....

    Sign me,
    Future Fisherman and Avid Hunter
    11/8 Its been awhile since I've heard the numbers, but I believe the Sequoia
    has lost 33% of its employees to other than federal agencies over the
    last 4 years. In addition, over the last 4 years about 30% of Kern County
    Fire Department's new hires were former federal employees. I also know
    for a fact that a few of their GS-5s, 6s, and 7s have gone to KRN in the
    last year.

    Green Gestapo
    11/8 This has been circulating behind the scenes and was sent in by several people in light of the current discussion on retention of highly trained and experienced federal firefighters. Ab.

    USDA Forest Service, Angeles National Forest
    Fire and Aviation Management
    Briefing Paper
    Date: November 4, 2005

    Topic: Firefighter retention issues on the Angeles National Forest (ANF)

    Issue: The ANF continues to lose career firefighters and the training investment to other fire departments due to disparities in pay and lack of full-time appointments.

    Background: The ANF has been a traditional firefighter training ground for fire departments in southern California due to the ability of local cooperators to recruit skilled firefighters for better pay. In 1988, the ANF proposed a special salary rate for firefighters in an attempt to stem the tide of attrition. In 1990, the Office of Personnel Management approved a special salary rate for personnel in the GS-462 series for the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino National Forests.

    The special salary rate did provide some relief for a time, but the advantage eroded with the inception of locality pay areas and increases in fire department salaries. The following table displays the current disparity in the comparison of the GS-462 special salary rate with other agencies in three key positions.

                                    Starting Annual          Firefighter             Captain
                                       Salaries               Engineer
    Los Angeles County Fire Dept       $47,494                $70,279                $83,105
    Los Angeles City Fire Dept         $65,724                $77,064                $90,360
    Burbank City Fire Dept             $51,228                $60,564                $70,812
    California Department of Fire      $49,690                $58,278                $74,621
    Angeles NF (GS-5/7/8)              $32,084                $39,738                $44,004

    It’s not difficult to rationalize why a GS-8 engine captain with 10 years of experience would leave a full-time position on the ANF to accept an entry level firefighter position with another department.

    Key Points:

    • The ANF has 258 career fire positions (excluding fire apprentices), of which 105 positions are currently vacant. 81% of the vacancies occur at grades GS-5 through GS-7.
    • Over the past three years, 35 ANF fire personnel resigned for better paying jobs, 29 of which were hired by local fire departments and law enforcement agencies. Within the past ten years, over 100 career ANF fire personnel have joined the ranks of local fire departments.
    • Twenty years ago, firefighter attrition was prevalent at the lower grades, but less frequent with personnel vested in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). With the portable properties of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), firefighters at all grades have greater mobility, and attrition has become a greater threat to continued viability.
    • 10 of the 14 fire leadership positions GS-9 through GS-13, on the ANF are currently encumbered by personnel eligible for retirement; the remaining 4 employees will be retirement eligible in less then five years. The loss of some of the best and brightest due to attrition over the years severely limits the potential applicant pool to replace fire leadership in the near future.
    • As previously noted, the current special pay rate is not commensurate with the cost of labor in the non-federal sector, nor is it commensurate with the cost of housing in Los Angeles County. The median cost of a house in Los Angeles County is $494,000, and the average apartment rental is $1,400/month.

    Recommendations:

    • Inadequate pay and lack of full-time appointments are the real hurdles to overcome in achieving an effective, diverse fire management force. Placing the focus on improving recruiting, coaching and training will not be effective in producing long-term positive results.
    • Increase firefighter compensation to the extent possible, and closely monitor attrition rates for annual adjustments.
    • Implement full-time appointments for all career firefighters including firefighter apprentices. Due to significant increases in unemployment compensation benefits and associated administrative costs, little if any savings are realized by traditional seasonal lay-offs.
    • Right-size the fire suppression force commensurate with the capacity to train, retain, and provide skilled, competent leadership. The emphasis on retaining firefighter production capability on paper in spite of reality does not promote unit integrity and cohesion.
    • The course of inaction if continued will result in unacceptable consequences related to firefighter safety and standing in the fire community. Positive measures are needed now to reduce the rate of attrition, and to develop a succession strategy for fire leadership positions.

    Contact: Donald R. Feser, Chief, Fire and Aviation, Angeles National Forest, (626) 574-5223.

    11/8 I have a question that has been bothering me for a little while now.

    Why did R-5 Forest Service change from the Nationally recognized
    Federal titles i.e. District Fire Management Officer, Engine Boss etc.
    to the CDF titles?

    KD

    11/8 Ab,

    Can you please post the new web address for the Diamond Mountain
    Interagency Hotshots. This is an unofficial website that is a work in
    progress, but should give some answers to general questions about hiring,
    contacts, and such. The address: www.diamondmountainhotshots.org

    Thanks
    Steve
    11/8 Casey,

    Nice information, it match's what we are hearing for the 2006 staffing, which is no decreases. Now, the Grand Pooh Bah you met with needs to tell his boss (Chief Grand Pooh Bah as he's known in the WO), to get that in writing and send it to the Regional Grand Pooh Bahs, who will sign a letter for the Forest Supervisor Grand Pooh Bah's so they know they are not permitted to reduce firefighting resources in FY2006 at the Forest level. This formal process is needed so we don't get any wildcard Line Officers in meetings worried about a fire budget going deficit and start thinking about cutting firefighting resources. Again, nice work Casey.

    Gullible,

    The information I'm hearing and now confirmed by Casey/FWFSA, who by the way has done an excellent job looking into this, is that the roller coaster wont be going down in 2006. Anything could change until the Pooh Bah's get official information on the FS staffing levels for 2006. Many people were ready to make a lot of noise if the decision was to reduce.

    Which leads me to this point, speaking of noise...............

    To All,

    I really hope that every Wildland Firefighter (supervisory or non supervisory, GS-2 to GS-13) in any region or at any agency that is not already a FWFSA member, strongly reconsider joining. I was a non believer, so I picked up the phone and started talking to them and learning what they are trying to do for us. EVERYONE, EVERYONE, EVERYONE, please seriously reconsider FWFSA. Log on to the web page and read the information, get a contact number and call them and ask a few questions, get to know them. Have an open mind and I think you will be surprised to hear everything they are doing for WILDLAND FIREFIGHTERS.

    Having someone in a position to ask a Grand Pooh Bah questions is very important. Again, all I ask is that if your not a member, take another look at joining FWFSA. Get those phones ringing at FWFSA HQ, call the FWFSA leadership, ask your questions and if you're ready, sign up............

    Fireside......
    11/8 R5 folks, just so you know, the R5 Board of Directors did a very large pair of
    multiple-day FUTURE-ING meetings. Their goal was to brainstorm, come up with and
    evaluate recommend implementation and suggest timeframe of changes to EVERYTHING
    except firefighters
    to reduce costs. It was awesome! This region is doing its share
    at the budget level to be a lean, mean firefighting machine! Congress should look
    at how we do business.

    FMOs, Ray Q, Gary Biehl and RO staff, EXCELLENT WORK! I'm blown away by the
    brain power, the focus, the thinking out of the box by leaders in this region. (This is the
    only region I have experience with.)

    Mellie

    11/8 Hi AB,

    I have been following the pay/retention issue for several days now. First of all I want to say that I fully support the sisters and brothers in R-5. But that said, I think this is largely an R-5 issue. A casual visitor to the site would likely draw the conclusion that this is an agency wide issue (talking Forest Service here), and I do not believe it is. I do not know of any (and I may be wrong) state organizations in the west (other than CDF) that offer the same opportunities when it comes to wages, benefits, training, experience, advancement etc as the federal agencies. That is my perspective, maybe I am wrong, but I have worked with most of the state agencies in the west and we were hiring their folks. That says to me that we had the better deal to offer.

    I have hired (actually recommended to the hiring official) several folks from R-5. Without exception these have been highly committed, highly experienced folks and without a doubt an asset to our organization. What they all had in common was they just wanted out of R-5. R-5's loss and our gain! But again I think this high lights the fact this is an R-5 problem and should be treated as such. The way it comes across on the board is that we are all disgruntled employees looking to jump to another organization and that is just not true.

    So, I think it important to tag the issue for what it is. It is the good folks in R-5 that are caught in the grinder, but actually the rest of us are doing pretty good.

    I wish the best to the folks in R-5, but I would be the last one to encourage someone to stay with the FS if there is a better deal out there. You have to take care of your other organization I have to believe if things get better with the FS you would be able to get back in due time if you so desired. You can bleed green if you want, but eventually that is fatal just as if you were bleeding red!

    This is not intended as a cheap shot, but when you went to bugles on the collars and being branch chiefs, division chiefs, captains, etc and all that garbage you lost your identity. I just hope the rest of us do not get dragged into the same thing. Not your fault, but that is the essence of it. Thank the fire gods that I got to retire as a DFMO and not a Battalion Chief!!

    Good luck to the folks in R-5, but please recognize there are a lot of us that are plenty happy where we are and we are doing just fine.

    the cynic

    So if I read this right, you're retired FS and not from R5? Ab.

    11/7 Hi,

    I just wanted to share a website that might help some people meet the
    401 series. The link is http://401series.net

    The site has recently been re-done and is hosted by the University of
    Idaho, but there are many institutions featured on the site. You can
    find out about online and workshop courses that can be used to meet
    the 401 series.
    Check it out and pass it on.

    MP
    11/7 Believe in what you are doing, take ownership in your job, be proud of who you are.........

    Just some of the words my dad shared with me my first year on the Hotshot crew I was on. I think that it is tremendous that the fire service has a place like this one to express opinions and feelings on this site. I read posts everyday by new posters and "OLD" ones like LOBOTOMY (just kiddin). Recently I see that retention and pay are at the top of most everyone's mind. And I have read some very well put together dissertations on subject matter we all know can't be brought up in Captains meetings, workshops and or DIVs meeting without sounding like we are complaining. Where do we go from here? Who has the answer? What will fix the pay issue, retention issue and moral of thousands of hard working Firefighters? Is it a union? Is it the future leaders that will ultimately change the course of many. How many battles have to be won to win the war? Do we truly want a "all risk" agency? What do other agencies do when their "old dogs" retire and the young "pups" must step up? Do we have enough time to train the up and coming, are we doing it right? Is it better to broke and train well, or rich and clueless. The forest service that I worked for was proud, well trained and professional. Guess what,..... it still is. Growing pains are just that, PAINS. Without change the fire service as a whole would SUCK. People retire, people move on to other jobs and people as a whole aren't comfortable with change. Remember when Levi's and Kaki shirts were the norm? Or when the fire shelter wasn't a mandatory piece of equipment? Or when LCES was just a bunch of letters that didn't mean anything? Look at us now, Remember the ones who gave all so that we as a whole could learn from mistakes made. Just because it's raining doesn't mean we have to call the game. Change is coming, be patient, nothing is broken we just need a little tune up. Stay safe all.....

    Signed,
    05/18/05
    11/7 I defected from FWS for a full time position for USFS, FWS offered numerous training opportunities and MUCH less bureaucratic nonsense that my current agency. It seems although that it is a place to get status and then be competitive for the bigger agencies. I would have stayed but had pretty much maxed out as a GS-6 with no openings in the near future...

    NZ SFEO
    11/7 RE GS-6

    Currently I am a GS-6 with the USFS. I am the only GS-6 on my District out of the 6 positions funded for the Engines and the Crew. I know other districts are in pretty much the same boat throughout the Forest. I have noticed several problems that have been created to cause this dilemma here in Region 5.
    • First, the Apprenticeship Program has folks that are qualified and who would normally move up, but are being held back until they convert. Also, we have several seasonal crewmembers with a good amount of fire experience, and qualify as a Senior Crewmember both with qualifications and time in grade, but would have to go into the Apprenticeship Program delaying their ability be become Senior Crewmember by several years. Therefore these guys and girls will probably move out of Region 5 to other regions.
    • On my district we have 8 out of 8 Senior Firefighter positions unfilled. Those positions are being held for apprentices to convert into. Last winter we tried to fly the jobs DEMO, but got shot down, and then tried to directly reassign folks from out of region, but nope. These positions are being held for all of the current apprentices to convert into. So until we get a pool of GS-5s we are going to have to wait on the pool of GS-6s.
    • Also, we cannot fly the GS 6 jobs as 5/6 therefore counting out folks outside of region 5 who have the qualifications and the experience, but not the time in grade. I have heard this option is being discussed by the BOD, but never heard if it was a go.

    I hate to be a Problem Identifier, and not a Problem Solver, but these problems are out of my hands and we just have to work with the system currently in place.

    5th year rookie,

    “If someone knows what I can do to help this problem out (and still survive on my paycheck) let me know. I am sure that I am not the only one who feels this was about the agency.”

    Join the FWFSA!

    SRJS

    11/7 Hello All.

    Working with the USFWS has been one of the most rewarding experiences that I have had during firefighting career. At my station we offer great training as well as a great chance to do many other things other than firefighting. ie: heavy equipment training.

    I highly recommend the USFWS if you are in interested in Rx fire.

    In addition USFWS has seemed to be a relaxed and a growing agency during my 4 seasons of service.

    3150 Engineer
    11/6 Joatman,

    I know a Battalion Chief that is key to our program that put in for CDF
    captains' jobs for obvious reasons!

    It is really sad, they will give him much better pay, benefits and retirement.
    But will they use his real talents?

    Not immediately, but likely eventually.

    We cannot afford to loose folks like him, but are to cheap to keep him.

    Penny wise, pound foolish!
    11/6 Hello all,

    Been lurking recently, but now i feel like I need to speak up about some of the retention problems seen here on the forum.

    I am currently entering my 2nd year as an apprentice in Region 6 and I have to say that although many of the current apprentices see the FS as a stepping stone to other agencies, I see the Forest service as a down but not out organization. I think that although there are problems with it now, I can be one of the people to fix and restore the pride and enthusiasm of the organization. I want to help out and make the forest service fire section a great organization. I plan to stick it out as long as I can and do what I can. I dont really care what other apprentices do, I love my job and want to make the Forest Service rise from the ashes (yes i do see us as "in ashes" but i think that we can do much better). If someone knows what I can do to help this problem out (and still survive on my paycheck) let me know. I am sure that I am not the only one who feels this was about the agency.

    5th year rookie

    PS Anyone who is wondering what the name means, it means that although I am in my 5th (almost 6th) season, I have the enthusiasm of a rookie. Maybe I can fuel this fire in others some day.
    11/6 Paranoid: I don't understand how receiving an inquiry can make you paranoid.

    You must have done something right to get someone to look at your application. This a great opportunity to get to where you want to go. I wish I had this many opportunities when I started 20 some years ago. Just do your homework before you accept a job. Another advantage is that it should be easy to move if you end up unhappy As a captain on the Sequoia it is a good place to work. Like any other place it has its good and bad. The management has supported me and allowed my career to grow. The vacancies are just normal and we are not any worse than any other forest. I am also trying to fill a GS-6 vacancy. I can tell you the process is not easy. The AVUE system is not a good one. I have many applications that will not rate out as 6 if they are selected. The quality of most of the applications is poor. Some have not been updated in more than a year. Some only have one or two sentences describing their experience. Most do not include support information to the quality selection factors. Very few include their redcard qualifications.

    I feel I also should respond to Weeping:

    The FS is still a proud organization. The people we serve tell me we are doing a good job. Times are tough for the FS and all fire agencies. Why did CDF have an open captains list? Why are so many cities and counties hiring now? Things are only going to more difficult in the future for the FS, with no end to the shortage of qualified applicants in sight. The conversion to the 0401 series. And competitive sourcing studies in the near future. We must now educate our customers as to our situation. Change at the regional and national level will be difficult without their support. We must also discuss our concerns with our managers and supervisors and enlist their support. We should also join organizations that support our causes.

    Thanks for this forum Ab.

    Sequoia captain

    11/6 In response to all who are complaining about the Forest Service and feds in general, I ask this question: What then are those of us who are just getting started to do? We can't all work for the CDF, and at least in my state there just aren't any non-fed wildland fire jobs that do offer better pay and benefits. So my options then are to wear the green (or yellow or whatever) underwear and at least have a fighting chance of working my way up and making a difference in the organization, even if it's just on one crew or one district, or get out of wildland fire and do something else. I think I'll stay in fire and roll the dice.

    Don't get me wrong here, I wish the agencies were doing a better job of treating fire folks like they deserve, but at least in my neck o' the woods there aren't many options aside from the feds. I'm not trying to pick a fight, just asking for a possible alternative. There seems to be a lot of talk of people not staying with the FS, but where are they going? CDF? NPS? BLM? FWS? Local fire departments?

    And just because I'm curious, is this retention issue just an R5 problem, or does it extend beyond into other regions?

    Young and Dumb in Region One
    11/6 HUU FC...

    Sorry to disappoint you there FC...but if you think the Federal Government is going to pay the State of California to provide fire protection on any of it's forests, then you just haven't been keeping up with the times my friend. When CDF responds now to a legitimate request on a National Forest, CDF is reimbursed after the first 24 hours according to the established pay rates of personnel and equipment. After the incident is over and CDF presents it's bill for services rendered, the Federal Government reimburses the State of California. Unless there is a greater need for Federal Employees on other incidents, USFS, or NPS, or BIA, or BLM will ask for and obtain releases for CDF personnel/equipment ASAP. It's all about the money. CDF does not intend to spread it's forces to protect another agencies' property while there is already an agreement in place to do so upon a valid request. Remember, CDF personnel are full time paid firefighters... seasonal FF's are exactly that... seasonal.

    CDF will often "move up and cover" FS stations during an extended attack but that is most likely a local situation/agreement. The cover assignment does not last long and is usually only in place until the requesting agency can cover with it's own forces.

    Federal employees cost their agency much less than any "contracted" employees and with current fiscal policies already in place, don't look for any changes soon...or later!

    COPTER100
    11/6 HUU FC

    I know that your comment was a joke at least I hope so,
    but if it wasn't the reason we wouldn't contract is we
    couldn't afford to lose that many fires and there
    isn't enough hotel rooms.

    Now before people start flouding AB, it was a joke.

    PYG
    11/6 The Jobs Page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages and Series 0401 ("professional" Biologist) are updated. Ab.
    11/6 Regarding vacant GS-6 positions,

    As a GS-5 step 3 (USFS) working on our helicopter crew, I simply make more money than I would with one of our engines as the GS-6 AFEO. This may not be a smart idea as far as an onward and upward career goes, but hey, I gotta feed my kids today first. Make it a 6-7 ladder and folks might bite....

    I am however, applying to many positions available out there...... NONE ARE WITH MY OWN AGENCY...Why? I bet you can guess why.

    Also, I haven't met very many apprentices lately that WANT to stay with the FS as a career ( and I work with a lot of them from different forests and regions every year...). There is an overwhelming attitude that the FS doesn't respect them so why should they respect it back? Most view their time with the agency as a sort of purgatory. Service Agreement or not.

    We all know that there is the positive and the negative to any job. I hate to dwell on the negative here, but in regards to a motivated person at the low-to-mid range pay scale, looking for a safe and prosperous CAREER in the firefighting world...... The USFS is, as of right now, simply a poor choice. Our apprentices are not stupid, they see this. It is recognized by our "up and coming leaders" as the best place to get experience, some benefits for the time being while pondering decisions, and make connections for a future elsewhere. Even if it's not in a fire career at all.

    -Joatmon

    P.S.- How many extremely qualified folks do you know from the USFS that applied for CDF captains positions? How many of them will make the move if they get the offer?
    11/6 Pay

    How about contracting fire suppression on forests in California to CDF?
    Better integration of service and all of the pay issues that I see posted
    would not be a problem.

    HUU FC

    HAW HAW Got yer rod and yer bait. Oh, is this one o' them "barb-less hooks"? Ab.

    11/6 To the person with the question about the Sequoia

    Another BIG reason for the mass exodus from the Sequoia is that if you live in
    Bakersfield or thereabouts, you can commute to the Los Padres and get the So
    Cal COLA and make more on base than OT on the Sequoia. The commute is
    the same but the pay and call volume going south is much better.

    DS

    11/6 With concerns about the direction of the agency, (I presume most posts are referring to the Forest Service) recruitment & retention etc., I want to re-emphasize and reiterate that the ability to change the status-quo, the ability to change the direction of the Agency and the ability to make this a worthwhile career & the place to be a firefighter lie within all of you.

    Let's face facts. There is a clear disconnect between the WO and the regions. Whether it's fair to say that the WO is afraid politically to ask for the funds they need for fire, or afraid to properly prioritize such spending can be debated.

    Why $500 million has sat around for two years and now is being given to hurricane relief instead of being used to eliminate current preparedness deficits and to compensate our firefighters properly and properly staff the federal wildland firefighting service is a question that only the WO can answer. Their answer: "It's complex."

    Phooey! I don't buy it for a minute. There is more than enough money to accomplish all these things even with the need for hurricane relief. Relying on the WO, or complaining about this or that won't effect change. The WO is clearly hesitant to go to congress and ask for money. Great. we'll do it ourselves. However, the FWFSA's message to congress is not that the Agency needs more money, but that the funding given to the Agency needs to be managed properly, more efficiently & effectively which would allow for the elimination of deficits and allow for proper compensation.

    Put things in perspective. In FY '04, the total fire suppression costs for all land-management agencies was $890,000,000. Given the fact that payroll for federal wildland firefighters amounted only to about $70,000,000, how much within the remaining $820,000,000 was for significantly higher-priced resources?

    Legislation pending before congress, HR 408, would approximately require an additional $33,000,000 to be spent on payroll. That is 3.5% of the entire budget for FY '04. Meaning that the agencies could very easily re-direct that 3.5% to its own firefighters, reduce or eliminate deficits, and still save the American taxpayer money.

    IT CAN BE DONE...By you. When the agencies and the Administration opposed the elimination of the overtime pay cap for federal wildland firefighters in 1999, we still prevailed and many of you our there are seeing the benefits. Now, as we navigate the current legislation through congress, even more will stand to recognize what your voices can truly accomplish...significant pay reform. And there is a litany of other issues to address as well.

    No one person can effect such changes. It takes considerable time and expense to educate those in congress that can in fact effect positive change for you. It takes a loud, coordinated voice of federal wildland firefighters from across the country to stand up and recognize they do have a say in their future and can make a difference.

    This post was not intended to be a solicitation for the FWFSA. However it is the ONLY coordinated politically active voice for federal wildland firefighters in this country.

    Respectfully Submitted:

    Casey Judd
    Business Manager
    Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
    (916) 515-1224
    11/6 Lobotomy wrote:

    "It is hard to recruit and retain a diverse workforce for the future when you are competing with other agencies that offer better pay, benefits, working conditions, and schedules."

    Ain't that the truth.

    vfd cap'n

    ps, We are recruiting for all positions at my station, including captain. If you have to ask what we pay, you can't afford it.
    11/5 As usual Lobotomy was much more eloquent and rational, but we
    said much the same thing.

    Sorry Ab, I am not as optimistic about my beloved agency as you.

    Weeping for a once great organization
    11/5 From Cathy Rucker:

    Firefighter widow's mission

    11/5 Unnaturally paranoid lately in Region 5,

    First, apologies to Ab, I have no specifics on such forests as the Sequoia, but I do have a rant. You are soooo correct in your statement at the the end of 'Unnaturally's" post, but there is more...

    I fear greatly for the future of the organization that I love and have worked for for over 20 years!
    Many other jobs go wanting for applicants, good jobs, GS 5 thru 11s, at least!

    Why?
    Because we are not valued!

    We are not recognized as the professionals we are, not paid as such and do not realize the benefits that our counterparts in other organizations enjoy!
    Many valuable folks retire early to reap the benefits that have not been forthcoming from the FS, their gain, our loss.
    Now a cadre of politicians even wants to keep our measly 3.1% annual increase from us, to pay for the catastrophe that many of us have responded too!
    Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, but I would be hard pressed to advise anyone to stick with this organization if they we not 'locked in' like I am.
    That is why so many jobs go wanting for applicants, we do not offer any incentive.
    That, and our hiring morass is sooooo broken, as Ab alluded to.

    Sign me,
    Weeping for a once great organization!

    Oh, I think it's still great, just could be better. Ab.

    11/5 Unnaturally paranoid,

    Ab hit the nail upon the head. Losses at the temporary firefighter, apprentice, and the GS-5 through GS-9 levels are having a roller coaster effect in hiring positions. At and above the GS-9 level, early retirements are rampant and not counted in loss rates that OPM and Agency officials are using. When the 0401 component of IFPM kicks in during 2009, you will see a mass exodus at the GS-9 through GS-12 level nationwide due to early retirements.

    At one of the Southern California forests, the loss rate for apprentices and temporary firefighters is about 50%. On that forest, they tried to hire 99 apprentices, were only able to hire 88 apprentices and only have around 43 left. When they convert and gain more experience, they are targeted as future employees at other agencies.

    It is hard to recruit and retain a diverse workforce for the future when you are competing with other agencies that offer better pay, benefits, working conditions, and schedules. Those agencies are also looking to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.... like I said several years ago, the federal wildland agencies have become a "puppy mill" that the other agencies are free to chose the pick of the litter from.

    CDF and other departments are a good examples of how to properly compensate their employees on a competitive basis.... they are paying an appropriate wage and offering competitive benefits. (Attachment CDF 2006/2007 Salary Table)

    Pay, benefits, and working conditions should consider the risks involved in the profession, the education and experience required, the housing costs in the area, the cost of living, and competition with other departments for a quality diverse workforce to meet the agency mission.

    When you lose the pick of the litter, year after year, you lose the ability to continue to safely and efficiently perform the mission. This problem, originally identified as a California problem, is now found throughout the Western United States where the majority of federal lands are.

    Lobotomy
    11/5 GreenLawn,

    We may be arguing semantics....but there is an important distinction.
    The key point is as you state, that HR will determine if you are qualified for a "position". They will look at your education, and the fire qualifications listed in your application. Those "fire qualifications" (red card quals) are not determined by HR, but by the agency requirements. ie....HR will not determine if you are qualified as a Division Supervisor. They will look to ensure that you can prove that qualification when you apply for a "position" requiring DIVS.

    We've already had folks apply for "401" with no trouble with the process.

    Old Fire Guy

    11/4 On Monday before heading out with the crew, we heard the news that Mike had passed.

    That was a shock to many folks that knew him. Mike's health had been declining over the past few years. Even so we thought he would heal up and return to us, just like he had in the past few years.

    Mike was a great mentor, friend and he was a fire fighter. He served in many roles and positions throughout his career and during his retirement years.

    Many fire programs have Mike to thank for their equipment, training and for their greatest assets - their people.
    Mike started and mentored many careers in this world.
    Mike, we have you to thank for it.

    I learned many things from Mike, he taught us from his rural background starting in Kansas (mxing seed for EFR rehab, laying out projects and fighting fire).
    He was a great wealth of knowledge and experience in fire and in the kitchen (My first turkey for thanksgiving under his guidance) and his experiences in the Great Basin and beyond.
    Thanks for sharing your life with all of us, Mike.

    He always supported the folks that worked, planned and researched. He offered encouragement in the tough times,
    as well as a kick in the fanny when we needed to get things rolling.

    We will all miss you Mike, and even though you're in a better place and the fishing is great, you’ll always be a part of us.
    And when the sh_t hits the fan as it does in the GB, that booming fatherly voice inside of us will lead us in the right direction.
    Mike, we'll carry your legacy forward every day.
    Thanks Chief.

    John Jensen
    BMFO FIRE
    Fuels Tech and past Engine Foreman.
    11/4 Old Fire Guy,

    Just FYI…. HR does the incumbent declaration reviews and determines qualifications (education, experience, and fire qualifications) under the IFPM standard …. fire managers do not. HR makes the ultimate decision regarding if a person is qualified or not for positions that many of us have been doing for well before the standard was implemented. ….. and like I said, it will be very interesting on how this process works with the Forest Service centralizing its HR staff in New Mexico.

    If you would like to check my facts, feel free to. Here is the document that you should familiarize yourself with: www.ifpm.nifc.gov/implementation/implementationplan/FullImplementationPlan.pdf

    GreenLawn
    11/4 So I have a question...Why have there been so many vacancies on forests such as the Sequoia?  I am really curious as I got an interest call from the Sequoia and They are missing alot of AFEOs for their engines.  Which tells me there has been alot of upward or lateral movement away from those positions.  The question is this: isit due to management and their policies or is it just natural attrition on the forest being heavier than normal? 

    This is a big ? in my head.  I'm looking to light someplace for at least 3 to four years and If I have to start looking for a new job right away I'm gonna be unhappy.

    Thanks
    Unnaturally paranoid lately in Region 5

    As I understand it, the number of firefighters available at the GS 6 level is very limited. There has been attrition; some firefighters working on forests near the large cities of SoCal have left the FS - going to state, county and city departments. Until the newer people in the pipeline are trained, get experience and move up, there are going to continue to be holes in the organization at this level. The reason for the MEL buildup was to get us through this workforce problem. We're not there yet.

    Another thing that hasn't helped is that the process for hiring GS6s, 7s has been very  slow. It's taken a while for the HR people -- who are following the mandates of the Hispanic Decree -- to understand that the reason there are not "enough" Hispanics applying and being considered is there basically aren't any firefighters of any ethnicity at this level who want to move jobs - thus no applicants. The problem is region-wide.

    Readers, feel free to chime in. Any good info specifically on the Sequoia? Ab.

    11/4 C-Span will be re-broadcasting the Congressional Hearings on pandemic
    preparedness at 6:29 and 10:35 p.m. today November 4th.

    Lobotomy
    11/4 From Firescribe: I wonder if the US will also have a "drill" before the year's end?

    Britain to head European flu pandemic exercise

    11/4 Ashley,

    Needs to contact her Training Officer in the unit she works, from there
    she will be put in contact with the Chainsaw Program Coordinator for
    the unit. Winter is coming so she shouldn't have any problem finding a
    course to attend.

    Samuel Sanchez
    Fire Captain, CDF/RRU
    Chainsaw Program Coordinator
    11/4 Ashley,

    I know it is far from you, but Antelope Valley College: Lancaster, CA offers Wildfire
    Powersaws (S-212). It is offered as a four day class coming up Feb. 24, 2006. They
    also offer an Associate Degree or Certificate in Wildland Fire Technology. www.avc.edu/

    -Amanda
    11/4 Ashley,

    If you are willing to travel, these may help.

    You may want to check with American River College in Sacramento. Last year they offered an S-212 class. It is titled CDF 1080 - Wildfire Powersaws(S-212). www.arc.losrios.edu/

    Treasure Valley Community College, Ontario Oregon
    (541) 881-TVCC ext. 281
    www.tvcc.cc.or.us/Academics/Workforce/firetraining_schedule.cfm

    S-212 (NATR 017) Wildfire Power Saws
    May 11-14, 2006
    COST: $175 per person
    Wildland Fire Chain Saws, S-212, is an instructor-led course intended to be presented at the local level. The course lessons provide introduction to the function, maintenance and use of internal combustion engine powered chain saws, and their tactical wildland fire application. Field exercises support entry level training for firefighters with little or no previous experience in operating a chain saw, providing hands-on cutting experience in surroundings similar to fireline situations. **Successful completion for entry level. Does not constitute Certified Faller designation.
    Students will be required to provide the following: *Chainsaw-Gloves-Boots-Hard Hat-Safety Googles-Chaps
    PREREQUISITES: Qualified FFT2, current certification in Basic First Aid and CPR

    Gizmo
    11/4 Ashley

    All classes by Federal Agencies, and many from non-Federal agencies, are supposed to be listed here.

    http://nationalfiretraining.net/index.php
    11/4 Ab, for Ashley... have this guy/gal mail me we're putting one on here in the SF area.

    MG

    11/4 I am sorry to report that Mike Boyd passed away on Monday. Mike was
    heavily involved with the fire program with the Winnemucca Nevada fire
    program. He will be missed. There has been a fund for donations in Mike's
    name set up at www.wffoundation.org. His wife wished that we all have
    a beer in his honor....

    NVJims
    11/4 Green Lawn,

    Please re-read my post. The process is HR folks will review listed
    college courses to determine if applicants meet the requirements for the
    401 series. It's always been that way, and I was just sharing that
    information. No where in my post do I say that HR will determine "fire
    qualifications". That will continue to be done by fire managers adhering
    to agency direction...... 5109.17 for the FS.

    Fear the idea of non-qualified fire managers? Look at IFPM. It contains
    both positive education requirements, AND fire experience (quals)
    requirements. ie.....no longer can a surplus forester/biologist/engineer
    be "reassigned" to a fire manager position. They would have to have the
    red-card quals to get the job. Isn't that the bottom line? Ya gotta
    have the quals to get the job.

    You can continue to rail against the system if you choose; I was merely
    sharing information, and suggesting what might help someone pursuing a
    career in fire management.

    Old Fire Guy
    11/4 bg

    hmm, a snow storm in aug in north carolina -- sounds like a line....

    ncbrush6

    11/3 BG,

    You can look at the National Situation Report in LINKS on this page and
    check the archives for sit reports back to 1994. I looked in August 20's of
    2001 and did not see much in the way of fires in the SE. Had plenty out
    west though.

    BBFS

    11/3 Hi,

    I am a CDF seasonal Firefighter 1.  2005 was my first season, and I loved it.  However, in order to expand my horizons between now and next season, I am trying to earn more certifications, namely Chainsaws.  Do you know of any chainsaw equipment use classes offered in the near future?  Or do you know where I might find them?  I have been googling it, but I haven't found anything specific yet.  Any help is immensely appreciated!

    ~Ashley in Santa Clara, CA
    11/3 JD,

    Regarding not getting all of your overtime. I was a non exempt GS8 Asst
    Helitack supervisor in R5 for over four years. I got all of my overtime,
    everytime. As a nonexempt employee you are entitled to ALL of your OT.
    There is no cap for nonexempt employees. Your HR person is wrong. Have them
    show you in writing where it says that nonexempt are capped. I think they
    owe you some back pay. I was involved in the space shuttle recover in
    Texas, non-emergency, and got full overtime.

    Fellow rotorhead
    11/3 trying to verify a story:

    I was at a conference and heard a speaker reference wild fires in North
    Carolina in August of 2001, I think. They supposedly were very much
    out of control and on August 28th a snowstorm came to assist. Can you
    tell me if there is a way to verify that claim?

    BG

    11/3 Dear Gullible;

    The question is a bit difficult to adequately answer given the fact that dynamics in R5 are often different than other regions of the country. There are a number of forests running deficits and have done so for the past few years. Many have been waiting on word about '06 levels.

    After a meeting yesterday with a Forest Service WO high-ranking "grand-Pooh-bah" type, it is my understanding that levels will remain the same. Currently work is being done with respect to those "preparedness" budgets that are in the red.

    The discussion also centered around the Administration's recent proposal to transfer $400 million from the suppression "pot" to Hurricane Katrina relief. According to the WO representative, $500 million was received in a supplemental appropriations two years ago. This was in addition to the normally received $700 million for suppression. Forest Service expenses for suppression did not exceed $700 million in each of the last two years so the $500 has simply sat there.

    As I candidly expressed to the FS representative, too bad a portion of that couldn't have been used to properly compensate our folks...

    Since the money just sat there, giving it to Katrina efforts "shouldn't" have an impact to the budget according to the WO rep. Obviously I asked another dumb question which was "why not transfer the proper amount from the $500 million to the under funded-deficit riddled preparedness pot before giving some of it to Katrina efforts. Got the same answer as the "properly compensating your folks" question..."it's complicated."

    I did get a sense that there are those in the FS WO that really do want to see us succeed in improving pay & benefits for our federal wildland firefighters. Obviously they are employees of the Administration and have to tow the proverbial "company line." In other words, if OPM, representing the Administration says it opposes our portal to portal legislation, then the FS simply must fall lock-step behind them.

    We discussed that too. I candidly pointed out that OPM's opposition to federal employee compensation reform is nothing new and nothing we haven't dealt with and triumphed over before. I went on to suggest that we don't necessarily mind the opposition... if it was based on an educated understanding of the facts and dynamics of the issues and how they affect the employees. I told the WO rep that when I was summoned to Washington DC by the OPM Director to discuss HR 408 in July, the Director was not even aware that our firefighters are "GS" employees and was not aware that our seasonal/temporary employees do not get even basic health benefits. I also apprised the WO rep that we quite frankly blew OPM "out of the water" during hearings on our legislation in August.

    Thus I suggested that opposing legislation without being educated on the issues is a typical bureaucratic response we've come to know and expect from OPM and it hasn't hindered our efforts in the least in the past.

    The WO knows the FWFSA get a great deal of information from its members which range from entry-level to FMOs and even chiefs and knows that we have developed substantial credibility on Capitol Hill. They have asked us to keep the lines of communication open with them on issues and I in turn repeatedly indicated that the issues we are forging ahead on are not new, that the FS & OPM have discussed the merits of portal to portal and other benefits for over 20 years and that it is time to get things done. They can either work with us or get out of the way.

    Maybe all this doesn't completely answer your question but I did get the sense that levels would not change. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me.

    Casey Judd
    Business Manager
    FWFSA
    (916) 515-1224
    11/3 Ken Perry....

    The wildland fire community has "got your back"... We will always support you as you find new ways to support the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

    Good luck on the Ultra Run..... you bring the fun back to fundraising...... You ROCK and are indescribable in your commitment to firefighter safety!!!

    I pledge $10 per mile in anticipation of this event.... and challenge others to do so.... it is for us, our families, our friends, and our traditions of being a wildland firefighter. Ken.. You have a skill and ability that most of us do not... run like the wind!!!!

    There is nothing more important than supporting the wildland fire community and the families of fallen and injured firefighters.... I hope others soon realize they can also make a difference.... 1) Join the 52 Club... 2) Support and Spread the word.... and 3) Support and spread the word on future Wildland Firefighter Foundation Events. Every single person can make a difference when it comes to safety and supporting our families and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

    Wildland Firefighter Foundation www.wffoundation.org

    Lobotomy

    Hear Hear! *raises glass in agreement* However with that many miles, I hope he runs at a reasonable pace. "Wind" is too fast. Ab.

    11/3 Hi Ab, long time lurker, 1st time replyer, to Old Fire Guy-

    Your post on 10/31 yeah, I wore the Duck too, one of the proudest days of my life when I earned the right to wear the darn thing, I'll always be proud of the fact that I was an El Cariso Hotshot. None Better! And Nerd on the Fireline-Are they Crazy?! What happens when it drops in the pot again and no funds to pay for the help, etc. I wouldn't want to be the one to explain that to John Q. Public, man, that would be Ugly. Ab, thanks to you all for a great forum, hope to be a regular on it in the future.

    Smokey

    Welcome Smokey. Ab.

    11/2 Ken, you can count on me being there again. It was amazing to watch you run the
    52 miles last year. I can't even fathom 104 miles. Are you eating your Wheaties? :-)
    I look forward to cheering you on and helping out in any way I can.

    To Ray, one big huge ATTA BOY!! If anyone deserves this honor it is you. I still
    remember how fondly John spoke of you and how kind you where to me at his
    memorial. Thanks for everything you do for us families and friends....

    Lori Greeno
    11/2 Ab, or anyone that knows,....

    Will the USFS be cutting MEL funded resources in the near future? If so, what will happen when we have a busy fire season in the future? Will they build up again or stay at minimal levels? I hope that this is just a rumor and I'm at the gullible end of a bad joke. We need to keep up the same levels if not more of fire staffing. Just because the budget is in shambles doesn't mean we need to knee jerk. Great job to those that do so much and sacrifice for others. Good to have a forum like this one.

    Signed,
    Gullible
    11/2 Fire community,

    This morning Ray Quintanar was presented with the Wildland Firefighter Foundation Humanitarian Award at the meeting of the Regional Fire Directors in Sacramento. The Foundation Director and Board of Directors are pleased to share with you the statement accompanying this award. Dennis Hulbert did the honor of presenting it. In attendance were almost 40 people from across the nation, including some from Washington DC. Ray got a standing ovation. Many tough old fire dogs in the room did not have a dry eye, including the recipient. Here's what Dennis said:

    Dear Ray and Regional Directors,

    As many of you know, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation is a non-profit organization that, among other things, provides emergency financial assistance to the families of fallen firefighters, and helps support their young children.

    Many firefighters, firefighter families and members of the public love what the Wildland Firefighter Foundation does and they support it. Over the years a very few individuals have stepped out from the crowd of supporters to contribute to wildland firefighters and the Foundation in significant ways.

    Ray Quintanar, you're one of those. You've made a difference with firefighters who are injured, with families of fallen firefighters, and you make a difference with firefighters who are still serving. What you've done, you've done behind the scenes, quietly, with no desire to be recognized. Your drive to help wildland firefighters, and this Foundation that serves them, is not about self-recognition or self-aggrandizement, but stems directly and naturally from your desire to support the firefighters. We know first hand what you've done for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Beyond that, however, the only way we've learned about some of your person-to-person contributions is from fire people who stop by the Foundation and tell us what you've done for them and for their families.

    I was talking with John Wendt, retired FMO of Six Rivers National Forest, several days ago. When I mentioned to him that we planned to honor you -- Ray -- with an award, John said, "Ray deserves that. He has a raw kind of integrity at all levels." John went on to provide bit of historical perspective on Ray's professional vision and spoke to Ray Quintanar's leadership, Ray's focus and his contributions to fire... Here's what John said:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Ray stepped up as Assistant Director in the mid-nineties and took a good look at the fire organization in Region 5 and beyond. He recognized that it was ill prepared to meet a rapidly developing future. He stepped up at a time when there was no clear, cohesive message shared by the organization at-large. The R5 FAM Board of Directors was redefining itself. Huge challenges confronted us. Ray ushered in an era of strategic thinking and planning and demanded that we look beyond the horizon. The many accomplishments and competed tasks under the R5 FAM Strategic Plan are but one concrete expression of Ray's visionary influence; more important, perhaps, is the fact that Ray has markedly raised all of our sights along the way.

    Despite the fact that Ray's job as R5 Director has often taken him to far and distant places, and has been more than filled with heady concerns, badly conflicting issues, and difficult high-level decisions, he has held fast to two basic notions critical in developing a professional fire organization:

    • the firefighter comes first; and
    • "production capability" is really about a workforce of trained and capable people who must earn and be given respect. Ray has allowed no diversion to distract him either from the safety and productivity of each action or from the well-being of each firefighter. He always thinks of what a decision means both to the mission and to the firefighter.

    I am very pleased that Ray is being honored with this Wildland Firefighter Foundation Humanitarian Award. I cannot think of a more worthy recipient. Ray has worked tirelessly both to discover and to show the way. To the degree we have followed, we are all much better at what we do than we would otherwise have been.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    As I mentioned, when people step out of the crowd, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation likes to make a humanitarian award of a small bronze wildland firefighter statue to that person. The Foundation has made this award only six times in the past. The statue is a small maket of the 8 foot Bronze Statue at the Monument at NIFC. This same small statue is also the one we present to each fallen firefighter's family.

    Ray, it is an HONOR for this Foundation and its Board of Directors to present this humanitarian award to you. This statue is to remind you of the many faces of the injured or fallen firefighters and their families whom you have helped by your acts of kindness and compassion, your words of comfort and your generosity to this Foundation. In addition we hope it serves to remind you that policies and programs you've helped put in place and the vision and leadership you've provided also have made a difference in firefighter safety and professionalism. Thank you.

    Vicki Minor
    Executive Director
    Wildland Firefighter Foundation

    11/2 www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9896714/
    Redirecting wildlandfire fighting reserve monies for
    Katrina? Comments?

    Nerd on the Fireline

    11/2 LNU Capt.,

    Thanks for your comments and opinions.

    Causal factors vs. contributory factors. This is an accident that will be discussed for years and many lessons will be learned by all of us. There will always be a fine line between what makes something a contributing factor rather than a causal factor. I would bet the investigative team even had a hard time in preparing this report.

    Farsite runs were done during the investigation. From the investigative report, "An independent firing operation was conducted at 930 Orchard Lane, south of Engine 6162’s location. The firing operation appears to have had an effect in drawing both the main fire and the fire at 930 Orchard together near the accident site, and likely caused a minor but potentially significant decrease in the amount of time available to react to the changing conditions. Simulations run without the firing operation indicate that one to two minutes of additional spread were likely needed for fire to impinge on the accident site."

    "...Minor but potentially significant..." Would one to two minutes of extra time have been enough to seek refuge in the structure since their escape route was cut off from the main fire?..... I guess we'll never know.

    Regarding the Calabasas Fire and using a vehicle as a preferred refuge rather than a fire shelter or structure, I just happen to have been on that fire and have read the report. I would recommend that people also view the video "Firestorm '96" that is available in many firehouses and training libraries. It is also available for purchase from Alan Simmons Fire Videos. The "video features LCES, Safety Concerns, Hazardous Conditions, Dangers Of Mid-Slope Roads, Aircraft OPS, Staging, Structure Protection, and Radio Communications starting with the original dispatch."

    It it equally as important to know about the things that led up to an accident, as well as how people act as the incident is unfolding. When I was an engine captain, I began actively studying each and every accident report to prepare my future actions to protect my crew in the unlikely event we were in an entrapment situation. Entrapment situations are pieces of situational awareness that few people have "slides" of. On the Blackwell/Corral Fire, the study of these things paid off and I added a new slide to my toolbox. If you haven't read Deep Survival, you probably won't understand what this means. Seemingly insignificant actions are many times the difference between life and death.

    Lobotomy
    11/2 MS

    As far as I know there isn't any pool of KSAs or outline, or framework. I have seen many different styles and types of KSAs over the last few years.

    The one that I saw that was the most impressive, and got the individual the job, was a resume' with each KSA point written as a chapter of the resume'.

    If you know people who have been applying for jobs around the fire world see if they can, or will, let you look at theirs. If you are lucky enough to get 2-3 styles as examples you can form your own basis on how to do them. MAKE SURE YOU KEEP COPIES of all the ones you do yourself. Electronic and hard copies is my suggestion.

    Last but not least try to answer everyone of the KSAs with references in the rest of your application to back them up.

    KD

    11/2 mann gulch virtual field trip

    Here is a good presentation on Mann Gulch put together by a science teacher
    from Helena, MT. On the par of a layman's virtual Staff Ride.

    BBFS

    http://formontana.net/gulch.phpl

    11/2 Old Fire Guy,

    Great...(tongue in cheek). Thats all we need is people (Human Resource Specialists) with no fire experience in Albuquerque, NM determining peoples fire qualifications. I thought that supervisors had that responsibility at one time or other. Oops... I forgot, many people making decisions for a big portion of the fire management program no longer have fire experience, none the less fire management experience.

    Doesn't that simple action lead to increased holes in slices 2,3, and 4 in the Swiss Cheese Model of accident causation? SInce slices 2,3 and 4 are jacked up from the git-go with federal wildland fire policies,  doesn't it set up a culture for slice number one to get into alignment much easier? It is just a small problem right now but a future underlying factor that represents possible and likely failures of the future.

    GreenLawn
    11/1 the next WFF ultra-run
    52x2<25

    Just to let everyone know, Melissa and Vicki at the WFF and I have made a tentative date for the 2006 run. It is June 2nd and 3rd. This will be 104 miles with a 25 hour time limit (52x2<25). Looking at doing it in SoCal again… just can’t imagine any more support than what we got here in Sept. I am hoping that the firefighters at Sta. 126 will help us out again.

    We'd like to make a plan that teams of runners (I’m sure Texas Canyon and Bear Divide will be there again in force) will start a relay at the 52 mile mark. So let me know if any crew might be interested in something like that.

    We’re not asking anyone to pony up just yet. We hope the good folks at THEY SAID can set up a pledge page again after the New Year. Quite frankly, I need the motivation…the goal set, so that I can begin to prepare myself…physically and mentally.

    So there it is…. I said it. See you in June, and as thing are firmed up, I will write in.

    Kenneth Perry

    Sounds like a plan. I'm sure OA will do that again. Ab.

    11/1 Thanks to FKU Capt for providing info in response to Lucky Lindy's question. Ab.
    11/1 Can anybody tell me where I can find some good info on how to
    write K.S.A.s for my resume?

    MS

    11/1 LNU Capt,

    I sense a bit of running up the other hill to compare apples and oranges.

    Within the Swiss Cheese Model, there is a distinction between the unsafe acts of the Novato and CDF captains. As the HFACS paper states:

    "The unsafe acts of aircrew can be loosely classified into two categories: errors and violations (Reason, 1990). In general, errors represent the mental or physical activities of individuals that fail to achieve their intended outcome. Not surprising, given the fact that human beings by their very nature make errors, these unsafe acts dominate most accident databases. Violations, on the other hand, refer to the willful disregard for the rules and regulations that govern the safety of flight. The bane of many organizations, the prediction and prevention of these appalling and purely “preventable” unsafe acts, continue to elude managers and researchers alike."

    The rogue firing operations on Orchard Lane fall within the category of "exceptional violations....isolated departures from authority, not necessarily indicative of individual’s typical behavior pattern nor condoned by management."

    vfd cap'n

    11/1 LNU Capt raises an issue that I don't think I've ever seen addressed well in
    any training: when is it safest to remain in a vehicle when a burnover is
    eminent? I've heard safety folks say how dangerous it can be to stay in due
    to the height off the ground, hazardous materials that can burn etc., then
    the same people turn around and give examples about how well folks have done
    by pressing their fire shelters up against the inside of windows to ward off
    radiant heat. I've always assumed that if I were in that situation, a
    decision would have be made considering the nearby fuels, the lay of the
    land, other alternatives etc. Sure seems like this would be a good topic for
    the yearly refresher training.

    Still Out There as an AD
    11/1 LNU Captain

    I thought your post was very well stated. You pointed out some salient factors
    that have been too often either disregarded or glossed over.

    Thank you for reminding all of us.

    COPTER 100

    11/1 Dear Lobotomy,

    I understand your confusion regarding what was posted here on 10/26; since you’re missing one piece of Swiss Cheese, here it is. That text was cut and pasted from an entirely different discussion. It was part of a thread from a different website trying to assign 100% of the blame for Steve Rucker’s death to the CDF FC and discussing the adverse actions that he merited. My contribution was to point out that there was another FC involved that was also making very bad decisions that day. In fact there was a cadre of folks that didn’t seem to be in top form that day. There is, as you say, the Swiss Cheese.

    As to the rest of your conclusions, I cannot entirely agree. Not because of any need for redaction, but simply because I don’t believe your suppositions are born out by logical conclusions based on the facts. Many experienced and educated people agree that the effects of the firing operations are largely irrelevant in the final analysis for the following reasons:

    The fire that hit the ridge causing the tragedy was the main fire. The main fire was going hit that house with tremendous ferocity due to a combination of fuel, weather and topography as you put it “simple fire dynamics“. If you have the opportunity, run the data through BEHAVE (Or Farsight if you have it, I don’t) and look at the output. It is likely that the burning on the ridge increased the ROS and fire line intensity. Unless you can ascribe a lethal difference between the two scenarios (with firing and without) it is useless to dwell on the firing operations as causal, they merely become contributive. Take it from someone that worked in San Diego and watched this type of fire behavior on many occasions, the main fire was going to hit the top of that chimney like a freight train even without a firing operation. I leave it to you to decide how much 3334 and 6162’s burning operation added to the problem.

    The Captain of 6162 predicted that the fire would come from the NW quadrant, he stated so in the report. The fire arrived from the NW quadrant. The first flames they reported seeing and the fire that cut off their escape route came from the NW.

    You have a good point about the recent (and some not so recent) research regarding the sole use of vehicles as a refuge. I suggest everyone read the report on the Calabasas burn over before being too dismissive of the protection afforded by a vehicle. An experienced Captain analyzes his surrounding well ahead of time to extrapolate what is likely to happen when the fire arrives. If you wish to present to me your reasoning that an order to seek refuge in the engine would have led to a worse outcome that day feel free to do so. I should state now that you would have an uphill battle convincing me. On that day, in that situation, the engine would have been the best choice because it had a burned out area around it, was parked on pavement, and it didn’t involve playing chicken with the arriving fire front. It does not require hindsight to determine this, these fact were available in situ.

    It is important in these occurrences that we learn from the mistakes that were made. It is equally important that we truly and deeply explore the core errors that led to a tragedy and not merely dart a convenient target. By all accounts Steve was an admirable and noble person, I wish I had the chance to know him. For his death to have meaning we must focus on the true reasons things went wrong that day.

    LNU Capt.

    Welcome LNU Capt. Thanks for elaborating. Ab.

    11/1 For those of you already thinking ahead to the next fire season in your area. . .there are one type 4 and one type 6 engine on the classified page whose prices have been decreasing monthly. The owners are committed to selling and are highly motivated. If you're interested and watching, don't wait too long. These are two very nice engines priced far below their initial cost.
    OA.
    11/1 The Jobs Page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) jobs pages and Series 0401 ("professional" Biologist) are updated.

    Union IHC has an outreach for a Senior Firefighter position. Ab.

    11/1 Old Fire Guy,

    Thanks for your suggestions. Fire Science is also a natural science concentrated on fire dynamics, behavior, and research, but intermixed with safety training, business management, political science, psychology and sociology. Fire science classes are tailored to inter-relate and educate on a real world level on the things that fire managers need to know to be successful regardless of whether it is a wildland or structural environment. Please note that a Fire Science degree is not a Fire Technology degree that comes from a community college.

    A technology degree from a community college shows you how to do things. A science degree from a four year college teaches you how to understand, manage, and change the processes and outcomes of your profession.

    How about having the biologists, archaeologists, botanists, hydrologists, foresters, rangers, and forest supervisors all be required to take 24 units of Fire Science (18 hours upper division / 6 hours lower division)? It has been said that fire and fuels management is so important for the Forest Service, so why not introduce “upper level” fire science education to other specialties to meet the National Fire Plan?

    Why don’t we just make everyone a 0401 series employee? We all have the same mission.

    Simple answer… if you make people concentrate on things that other “ologists and scientists” should be doing, you distract from what you should be doing, or adding to in the mission. Each professional comes to the table with their diverse skills, experience, and educational background.

    I am a lower level Fire and Fuels Manager (ADFMO on an IFPM Complexity Level 1 Forest) and fully understand the interdisciplinary process that goes into managing federal land management programs. Each discipline needs to focus on the sciences that they are trained to do. I agree that Fire and Fuels Managers should have some knowledge of other disciplines, but should not overlook the foundational knowledge of what a Fire Science degree brings to a Fire and Fuels Management Program.

    Little has changed since 1957 when the Chief of the Forest Service appointed a task force to address the problems of safety that were plaguing the agency. Then, as my professors always remind me to, please look critically at the report and suggestions from the task force. How many of the items were ever really addressed, corrected, or actually met the intent of the task force (Making people safer and improving mission efficiency)? Would not a degree that teaches people to manage people, processes, and science be best fitted to the profession of wildland fire management?

    Would not the simple small statements about wildland firefighter classification and education be the missing links? A profession overlooked throughout the history of the Forest Service even though it has always been a visible key component of the mission. www.fireleadership.gov/toolbox/staffride/downloads/lsr2/lsr2_resource8.phpl

    How many of these problems remain today?.... Just like in 1957, the Forest Service has sponsored a “task force”…. After nearly identical failures of the 1930’s - 1950’s, and again during the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s (Safety First 1980-Present continues today as the voices of the R-5 Safety First Committee who are committed entirely to safety and mission)… a Doctrinal Review group has attended the Pulaski Conference and suggested changes for the future.

    Student of Fire Science
    11/1 Long Time Lurker,

    Loop Fire.

    After spending the 1994 summer all over the west I came back home for my lay-off period. During this time I was introduced to an ex-hotshot who stated that he was the worst burned survivor from the Loop fire. His badly scarred face and missing digits spoke volumes. I have been trying to contact him for the last few years. His positive attitude, passion for firefighting and personable character have given me the desire to get in touch with him so he can speak at our yearly refreshers on firefighting and anything else he may want to.

    I have done searches on the internet and have come up empty handed. I have not come across his name on anything I have read about the Loop fire.

    Here are the details of what I can recall from the conversation. If any of the old-times can help me out with locating him I would appreciate it.
    • I believe his name was Jim Chase. Not completely sure about the first name.
    • He stated that it was his first season as a firefighter and shot, (Must Be El Cariso) and that he was the most badly burned survivor of the Loop Fire.
    • I met in Mantorville MN, I believe he was farming in southeastern MN, around the Dodge County area where he lived then, and most likely lived when he was a shot.

    If anyone remembers him, or would be able to give me some ideas on how to get in touch with him, please get in contact with me through this web-site.

    It is very possible he has passed away or just does not have a phone.

    It is also possible I have my information wrong so if someone thinks this is the case, I would also appreciate that being passed along as well.

    Sign Me
    Lucky Lindy

     
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