"THEY SAID IT" ARCHIVES
Home of the Wildland
||HAPPY NEW YEAR, EAST COAST!
Is this the doc you spoke of??
www.wildlandfire.com/docs/2006/30mile_report_errata.pdf (pdf file)
||Ellreese Daniels is a friend
I've been reading with interest what many
of you are offering as insights into what is happening to Ellreese and
thank all of you who are offering your support.
I just read the letter from Casey Judd, faxed to the Yakima Herald, and thank
him for taking action. However, I was a line officer with a red card until I
retired in January 2004. I have remained active in wildland fire as an AD
employee since my retirement. Prior to that I had the privilege of being the
line officer for the unit on which Ellreese worked. Several of the other
line officers on that forest were also red card carrying people.
I cannot begin to say how deeply affected I am by what is happening to a
totally innocent human being. I worked with Ellreese for 9 years and can't
begin to believe he would ever place anyone in jeopardy nor would he lie.
Having said that, for my part I am contacting people who have the positions
and ability to take an active role in looking further into this sad
incident. As many of you have stated, if a person has not faced a large
conflagration they cannot begin to appreciate the awesome power Mother
Nature can throw at us in a very short period of time.
We need to do all we can to prevent this from going any further. I am really
fearful we cannot get this stopped before it goes to the next step, but we
must do everything we can to make sure justice does in fact prevail and Ellreese is honestly absolved from any wrong doing. He also deserves a very
sincere apology from all those involved in this horrendous injustice.
If at all possible, I encourage every one to avoid being anonymous and
become very active in the defense for Ellreese Daniels. He deserves it and
so do all of the rest of us who continually put our families in jeopardy
every time we respond to the call for action.
||An excellent letter, Casey.
||Thank you, Casey.
||Ah, even on New Year's Eve...ain't ignorance bliss??
This link is to an "uneducated" editorial from the Yakima Herald
Below...a response faxed today to them at 509-577-7767
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
FEDERAL WILDLAND FIRE SERVICE ASSOCIATION
P.O. BOX 515 INKOM, IDAHO 83245 (208) 775-4577
December 31, 2006
To the Editors
Yakima Herald Republic
P.O. Box 9668
Yakima, WA 98909
Dear Editorial Staff:
I had hoped to spend some quality time with my family this New Year’s Eve
but unfortunately, ignorance reigns supreme within the confines of your
editorial on the Thirtymile charges.
Isn’t it great to have the power and authority of an editorial column to
illustrate such irresponsible ignorance to your readers? Perhaps if you or
those who collectively wrote this hit piece had any semblance of wildland
firefighting expertise & experience, your commentary would be a bit
Let’s cut to the facts shall we. The majority of the wildland firefighting
community is concerned with this “politically aspired” (can we say federal
judgeship for the U.S. Attorney) persecution because, oddly enough, we do
have the expertise & experience in dealing with, this may come as a shock to
you…a dangerous occupation.
Suffice it to say, it won’t matter how many are prosecuted or how many
“lessons learned” to be published, wildland firefighters will continue to
die in the line of duty. That is a fact and the nature of the beast.
Your collective assessment of professions with accountability is absurd.
There are of course plenty of dangerous jobs. However nowhere in this world,
even in the structural firefighting environment, are elements and
environments as dynamic and unpredictable as wildland firefighting.
To equate soldiers raping people, truck drivers, farm & dairy workers to
fighting a nemesis that produces its own weather; can devour 1000 acres in
an hour; blow flames horizontally across a six lane freeway at 100 mph and
more often than not requires split second decision-making is unconscionable
and irresponsible. As is so often suggested, if you haven’t filled the
shoes, then you know absolutely nothing.
Case in point is the prosecution based upon the affidavit of a “postal
inspector” turned “wildland fire investigator” who, as I understand, has not
a day of practical wildland firefighting experience yet apparently has the
authority to second-guess and use the proverbial 20/20 hindsight to attempt
to take someone’s liberties away from them.
Moreover, while your editorial speaks of justice, explain the “justice” in
the OIG’s office violating PL 107-203 by relying so heavily on the Forest
Service investigation. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that
the investigator, Mr. Parker, had no expertise or experience in this field
and had to rely on the Forest Service investigation…again, a violation of
Now let’s talk about the law. After the investigatory debacle in the Cramer
Fire, I personally contacted staff in both Cantwell’s & Hastings’s office,
among others to inform them of the “unintended consequences of the law.” No
one, inclusive of the two offices who introduced the legislation, intended,
anticipated or expected criminal prosecution. In fact, all the law says is:
“…the Inspector General of the Department of Agriculture shall
conduct an investigation of the fatality. The investigation shall not
rely on, and shall be completely independent of, any investigation of
the fatality that is conducted by the Forest Service.
As soon as possible after completing an investigation under section 1,
the Inspector General of the Department of Agriculture shall submit to
Congress and the Secretary of Agriculture a report containing the
results of the investigation.”
There is no guidance from Congress to DOJ or the USDA OIG’s office with
respect to how to conduct the investigations. As a result, both agencies
have subjectively interpreted their authority under the law with respect to
bringing charges against Mr. Daniels.
Still further, why is the language of the law limited to fatalities to an
officer or employee of the Forest Service only? There are four other federal
land-management agencies. Why are they not encumbered by this legislation?
Heck, since we’re all for accountability, since you feel that professional
firefighters should feel the fear of prosecution for going to work and doing
their best each day, why not use your “editorial advantage” and call on the
State of Washington and every community in your state to pass a law for
state & municipal firefighters. I dare say you’d be run out of town.
Since we’re looking for accountability, why not charge President Bush with
manslaughter for the deaths of our soldiers in Iraq? How about the squad
boss in Iraq who orders his crew down a road only to have a roadside bomb
explode and kill his team? How about the mayor of New Orleans for the deaths
of his residents?
Sirs, wildland firefighting is an inherently dangerous job. People will
continue to die regardless of how much “pain” is relieved from prosecuting
someone. No firefighter in this country goes to work on any given day with
the intent of killing or maiming their co-workers.
We will continue to learn from each fatal fire…but there will always be
more. And let’s not be so ignorant as to think this isn’t an organizational
problem. The management of the Forest Service fire program is performed by
those with little, if any practical fire experience. From Mark Rey, Deputy
Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources & the Environment, the
“puppeteer” if you will, has no red card. Try finding a line officer who
By the way, have you seen Mr. Parker’s red card? Didn’t think so.
Very few of us were there at the scene and we are all entitled to our
opinions. However, the public would expect some semblance of experience or
expertise from the press when it talks about something as serious as this.
Yet you have none.
Perhaps when the season starts up next year, you, the US Attorney & Mr.
Parker might want to spend a couple of weeks cutting line, dodging snags,
enduring blowups etc. Heck, maybe we’ll even let you make some command
decisions since you know it all!!
As a nationwide organization comprised mostly of federal wildland
firefighters, we have nothing but admiration & respect for those that lost
loved ones on Thirtymile. But there are many, many others who have lost
loved ones on Storm King, Cramer, Esperanza and many others that despise the
prosecution of Mr. Daniels.
Maybe Mr. Weaver could take some comfort and solace in talking to those
families that have found other ways to deal with their grief & tragedy.
Mr. Editor, you expect accountability & responsibility in an extremely
dangerous and dynamic occupation as wildland firefighting. Shouldn’t the
public be able to expect the same thing from you?
This man is already being raked over the coals.
I understand your cynicism. The Cramer Report was a piece of work... and
lots of it white...
The 30mile report lacks discussion of human factors, but I think it pretty
well reflects what the people who were interviewed said happened.
I do know that when the report came out a number of people told me FS
Chief Bosworth made the 30mi investigators re-write the wording in the final
Report from "the order was given" (Ellreese told firefighters to come down
off the scree) to "the order was given but may not have been heard".
I know someone posted that on theysaid back in 2001 or 2002, but I can't
find the post now.
After seeing first hand the Cramer Investigation
process and reading the unredacted report, I will
never take any FS or OIG investigation as written
truth. These investigation reports portray to the
rest of our community and our families that the things
stated in the report are Biblical Truth. I don't
believe for a minute that the 30 Mile report did any
better. Most of the stuff written in these reports
are done to appease those who initiated the
investigations in the first place.
I choose to offer my support to Ellreese first and
will hold any judgment until I hear the TRUTH myself.
I know you and others are really big on these reports,
and you can learn something from them, just as you can
learn something from any other work of fiction. They
make for a good read, but usually miss the mark
significantly. Portraying these reports as absolute
truth isn't doing those that died any justice.
I am not saying you can't have opinion because you've
never worked for any of the agencies, have a ton of
experience, or qualified to certain levels. What I am
saying is that we do this day in and day out 365 days
a year and we deserve and should expect a little
support and when things go wrong. There are 1000's of
decisions made at this level and weighing each and
every decision against 50 + points, rules, and
regulations is just not practical. Sometimes you have
to rely on the common sense of your firefighters,
their squadies, supts, and so forth, and sometimes you
are wrong. Even if you do everything right things can
go strangely awry. Lobotomy and I probably look at
things through a different lens because we do this
everyday of the year. I don't think spending a few
hours on a volunteer agreement with the FS is going to
give you the perspective that we have.
Telling our young firefighters that you can eliminate
your risk by following these rules to the T, is just
not true and may actually be dangerous in itself. I
think it is a very narrow perception that the rules
will set you free. We will never eliminate the risk
The only truths in this job are:
- People are human, humans make mistakes.
- Fire is and will continue to be dangerous.
- You may very well die from someone's mistake, your
own mistake, or some random piece of sh*t rolling down
the hill or falling from the sky.
- Most Parkies are vegetarian
I have only done fire seasonally a little bit, and make no claims at knowing
people specifically involved in this, knowing any more than what the report
says, knowing what I would have done in this situation, and so on. As a very
interested observer I can only say what strikes me when I read the
entrapment situation, the counts against Mr. Daniels, and the responses on
It seems to me that many things are going on here at once. There seems to be
a sort of green and yellow wall you might call it, of firefighters trying to
keep their own from being prosecuted. I understand that malicious,
overzealous prosecution is wrong, but I also know that holding some people
above the law is wrong. The law enforcement community faces this kind of
thing all the time, and it doesn't seem to me to be all that bad if someone
who was totally negligent in the way they dealt with a situation is held
accountable for it. One cannot possibly argue that Mr. Daniels didn't know
that firefighting was dangerous, or that as a crewboss he would be
responsible for the well being of other people, perhaps people with very
If it is true, as some have said, that it was not obvious to the
firefighters involved that the danger they were in was great (as their
actions somewhat showed -- snapping pictures and so on), then it is hard for
me to imagine this man will be raked over the coals for not knowing what the
fire would do. However, it seems like there was a series of events that took
place, all of them mistakes, that led a group of people into a situation
that was fatal.
Fire is not an evil force of the devil acting against us in unknown ways.
That we don't always have the proper information about weather, wind, etc,
means that there are questions always in our minds about what will happen
next. This is exactly why we have 10 standard orders, 18 watchouts, LCES,
rules, regulations, things to keep in mind -- this is our job, it is risking
our lives. These orders are not meaningless -- they might as well be law to
us! To see any fire accident as simply a tragedy with no responsibility
anywhere means that we are dishonoring all the people who have died in the
past. If the actions of a firefighter are negligent to the point of being
criminal, a criminal investigation is called for.
I am by no means for a harsh sentence for Mr. Daniels -- I hope that the
trial shows that he acted, to the best of his knowledge, in good faith, but
miscalculated the amount of danger he was in, probably for a number of
reasons. But a criminal trial does not mean a conviction, and if this is a
way to get out the truth, or prosecute someone who should have known better,
then I say let it continue. Maybe if "fire professionals" are actually held
accountable for what they do (like people in almost every other profession),
a fire engine, or hotshot crew, or a bunch of 18-year-olds in a summer job
before going to college won't be burned to death next year, or in five
Don’t look now, but your hindsight bias is showing. You seem to have fallen
for Agent Parker’s still very UNPROVEN assertions that Ellreese lied about
his actions at Thirtymile, so therefore was guilty of trying to hide his own
mistakes that contributed to the fatalities. I think there is a far more
plausible and less sinister answer as to why there are conflicts among the
Thirtymile firefighters witness statements.
You could start by putting events in their proper context.
Don’t forget that NWR Crew 6 crewpersons had all worked the previous day,
had maybe a couple of hours of rest, then traveled the rest of the night and
worked all day on a tough fire. The investigation report equated their
sleep-deprived condition to a .10 blood alcohol level, or legally drunk. How
reliable do you think ANY of the firefighters statements are given that what
they were seeing and hearing was filtered through their handicapped mental
You (and Agent Parker) ought to know better than to expect everyone’s
witness statements to exactly line up following a traumatic event such as
this. I actually find it remarkable that there are so many statements within
the criminal complaint that corroborate Ellreese’s version of events.
Witness statements acknowledge that Ellreese yelled and gestured at one
firefighter to come down, that Ellreese expressed to other firefighters that
the road was probably the best place to be, that Ellreese told firefighters
to get shelters out and to “cover your buddies,” etc.
The criminal complaint cherrypicked the evidence against Ellreese to attempt
to portray that he had a careless indifference to safety. When viewed in
totality, the Thirtymile Fire Investigation Report reveals that significant
management failures outside of Ellreese’s control also contributed to the
overall outcome. The complaint makes it seem as though only Ellreese made
errors in judgment. And there is a large difference between being carelessly
indifferent to the safety of others and making honest errors in judgment.
The Thirty Mile abatement plan is a laundry list of admitted management
failures. For instance, work-rest guidelines were revised because of
Thirtymile. Working at the time under the old rules, Ellreese and crew were
attempting to make important decisions in a sleep-deprived state that would
have severely impaired their abilities to maintain good situational
awareness and make good decisions.
Another post Thirtymile management change is the restriction that personnel
cannot simultaneously be a crew boss and IC. That sort of “duty shifting” of
roles was common before Thirtymile, and was found to be a contributing
factor in this case. The fact that he was essentially pressured into
accepting simultaneous roles as ICT3/CRWB/trainer cannot be construed as
Ellreese’s failure, this was a management failure.
The complaint reveals a blatant hindsight bias in its interpretation of
events. The “Lessons from the Thirtymile Fire” training program was created
in response to the Thirtymile Abatement Plan’s mandate to share lessons
learned from this incident. Entrapment Avoidance training and entrapment
reaction drills only came about after Thirtymile. Again, these programs were
developed after recognition that this area was lacking before Thirtymile.
Post-Thirtymile Fireline Leadership training and post-Cramer ICT3 simulation
evaluations are additional belated acknowledgements that agencies had also
previously neglected teaching basic leadership and communication concepts.
Ellreese and company did not have the benefit of hindsight and leadership
training/evaluation specifically designed to help improve leadership and
communications during stressful circumstances like entrapments.
The complaint undercuts its own case throughout with statements meant to
bolster the prosecution’s interpretation that Ellreese lied to cover his
failings. I saw many indications that Ellreese did attempt to communicate
with the people on the rocks and expressed concern that everyone would be
better off on the road. Ellreese is a very soft spoken individual and does
not have a forceful personality. I very much believe that in his own mind,
he feels he did these things.
Remember, this was an extremely sleep-deprived person who was dealing with a
troublesome fire and some strong-willed individuals in his charge. The other
crewmembers were also sleep deprived and distracted by fear and side-events,
so their attention span and memory of what actually transpired is also
suspect. And even though the firefighters had been watching the fire advance
up canyon toward them, everyone at the upper site was surprised by the
suddenness and severity of the event’s onslaught.
Errors in judgment should not be construed as indicators of carelessness or
bad character. When you take into account that many of the key players were
operating under a severe sleep deficit and experiencing extreme stress, it
is not surprising that errors were made and that people have different
recollections of specific events.
At the time of the Thirtymile Fire, no training or method existed for
helping firefighters determine the size and location of safety zones in
various fuel and terrain conditions, and which locations might be especially
vulnerable to firewhirls and convective heat and/or gases. The guidelines in
the Interagency Response Pocket Guide are for radiant heat only. How can
Ellreese be faulted for not being able to predict something that fire
behavior experts still are unable to define? The effects and range of
convective gases and heat in relation to determining safety zone size and
location is still largely guesswork based on experience. And as we saw again
this past summer, firewhirls can emerge from nowhere and rapidly cross open
ground independently from the main fire.
Although the Interagency Response Pocket Guide contains safety zone size
specifications for protection from radiant heat, guidelines for protection
from convective gas/heat and firewhirls still do not exist today. The
firefighters at Thirtymile undoubtedly experienced an unusual fire phenomena
that is still not completely understood.
After the entrapment, Ellreese’s biggest error was underestimating how
severely the down canyon crownfire would impact their location, and
consequently failing to make deployment preparations. Once the situation
became deadly, there was really no opportunity for Ellreese to direct the
actions of firefighters and civilians. People simply reacted wherever they
were when the heat wave struck and deployed.
I still have an unforgettable memory from my first visit to the Thirtymile
fatality site. As I looked around, I realized that had I been in their
place, I very likely would have determined that anywhere in the general
van/road/rock scree area would be survivable without a shelter. And so I
very well might have made the same judgment as Ellreese, that the fire would
not heavily impact them and so would also have been caught unprepared.
I wouldn’t make the same choice today if I was caught in a similar
situation. Based on what I learned from Thirtymile, I would prep for the
worst and get everyone ready for a shelter deployment. But I have the
benefit of hindsight.
aerial photo of
Thirtymile fatality site
but to presume no culpability because he's one of us (as many of the
posts seem to project) is also wrong.
There are a number of reasons that the majority of wildland firefighter
posters and readers here know Ellreese is not guilty of manslaughter and
should not be brought up on charges. He is not culpable - that is, not
worthy of the kind of blame he's charged with. He is a person who made
choices in combination with others making choices under stress.
Those bringing charges in Spokane and the FS "leaders" allowing the
charges to be brought are acting from their own agendas. As time goes on, no
doubt some of the nittygritty of the scape-goating will be revealed unless
the "powers that be" find a way for all to save face. This action against
Ellreese should not have gotten as far as it has. As a number have said,
it's likely to get very ugly.
My question to you: Have you read ALL of the 30mile Report carefully? You
||Nerd on the Fireline
I think you express well what many of us feel ... just because we're
wildland firefighters doesn't exempt us from examination of our actions by
those outside the club.
History reflects that if we continue to push for "only cops can judge other
cops' we will end up with even more legal process calling for Civilian
Review Boards, composed of political appointees representing specific
interest groups seeking to further their agendas/voices at the expense of
Five years to bring a complaint before a Grand Jury is wrong, no question,
but to presume no culpability because he's one of us (as many of the posts
seem to project) is also wrong.
Would it be possible to have some temporary links established at the top of the
board, for OIG, US DA (Spokane) Office, MISTER Parker, various news
media, any other politicos appropriate, etc.? I know it's a mess of work, but
would be really helpful for those of us who are all- but computer illiterate.
We've got a lot of letters to write...
Sorry about asking for extra work; you guys have to be swamped right now!
Thanks for all you do;
Let's see how the day goes. We are busy. Maybe someone out
there already has compiled a list of contact info. Ab.
||I agree with vfd cap'n about the difference between a
just culture and no-blame culture. I don't mean that
justice is being served in the current situation; I
find it profoundly troubling that a person can be
charged under the law when a person's recollection
after the fact fail to coincide exactly with
recordings made in the midst of great confusion and
under great stress.
At the same time, I believe that
there is line beyond which an IC should be held
responsible. I've come under fire for saying that here
before, but I think that's where vfd cap'n is trying
to go. You're right, all of you, in saying that fire
culture is structured such that people who are
incompetent, inclined to lapses of judgment, arrogant
or uncaring don't tend to get very far. But we've all
dealt with the guy who got promoted beyond his
capability, the political appointee, or the guy who
got in over his head in a rapidly evolving incident,
and who is just trying to keep the lid on until the
cavalry arrives. Those people should probably not be
criminally liable, unless they willfully ignore their
own shortcomings and allow the situation to spiral to
the point of gross negligence, via unreasonable
distraction or arrogance.
I do believe that there are
circumstances in which an IC can behave indefensibly.
I'm not sure that any of the recent cases qualify,
but I think sticking our collective heads in the sand
and thinking that there is something wonderful and
special about fire training or the fire community that
prevents the arrogant, the stupid, and the
high-functioning sociopath from reaching the upper
echelons of command is leaving ourselves open to the
day when someone slips through the cracks.
that someday someone will reach a position of
responsibility, and, through arrogance, megalomania, or
undue pressure of politics or circumstances on an
otherwise good, decent, human being, that person will
do something indefensible. And this thinking, this
idea of protecting our own, will place us in a
position of knowing, with all the facts in hand, that
this person should be punished, that this person has
blood on his or her hands, and there will be no
mechanism for justice because we as a community
thought such a thing was impossible.
Tahoe Terrie is
completely right; innocent until proven guilty. But I
wonder if we aren't seeing like a golden age for the
fire community. Most folks would agree that we've come
a long way, in terms of safety, organization and
responsibility; the fire community is, in my
experience, cohesive, motivated, and selfless. The
best move to positions of command; the incompetent are
recognized and quit or are washed out. But what
happens as the WUI problem escalates, as contracting
becomes more widespread and more lucrative, attracting
less scrupulous operators, as political pressure
increases, and increasing liability exposure forces
good people out? What if a mandate comes down from on
high that we need to double the wildland fire
workforce next season, or double the number of Type I
teams, to meet some federally mandated goal? Do you
think the current standards of training, of personal
and moral investment in what we do will survive? What
if the average annual income for a wildland
firefighter doubles or triples? How would the fire
world change with an influx of people "just doing it
for the money"? Do we really want to make it
impossible for an IC to be prosecuted, even for gross
negligence or willful endangerment? Maybe it hasn't
happened yet, but do we want to bet it will never
I hope I'm wrong. I hope it never happens. Maybe most
of the scenarios I propose are impossible.
This post is longer and sadder than I had intended. I
hope that all ICs are capable and ethical and moral. I
hope that about all cops and all politicians too, but
look how well history supports that cheerful delusion.
Politicians and cops are just a larger sample size,
that's all, with more tangible power.
Nerd on the Fireline
||Way cool Game
Fight forest fires by picking up water and dropping it
over the fire.
There are so many eloquent, on-point comments posted here lately on TheySaid,
but your most recent post tops them all.
Each and every elected official that knows squat about wildland firefighting
(that should include the DA, Mr. OIG Investigator Parker & Washington State
Governor Christine Gregoire among others) should hear from you. As I
previously posted, all of you who have offered such insightful comments
should be proud of who you are and what you are, remembering that above all
else you are citizens of this country and, like we do here at the FWFSA,
have the right to "educate" the grossly ignorant masses that unfortunately
have the authority & power to screw things up on issues they know nothing
Ya wanna get fired up, I'd suggest the wildland firefighting community
embrace the Dixie Chick's song "Not ready to make nice" for
our anthem. Maybe AB can do that computer magic, find the song and put a
link on They Said.
The song has similar elements to our fight in that it responds to the wrath
the group received when it criticized President Bush for his war
involvement. We have a similar fight, only with different factions of the
same government. Not necessarily because they're wrong, they're just
"uneducated & ignorant" enough to be dangerous.
To all of you, my sincerest respect & wishes for a safe New Year. Let's make
a commitment that this isn't the "end" of anything... it's just the
You might have an old original copy of the Cohesion paper. The latest
version does not mention info you cited. This was changed after it was
pointed out that the Squad Boss and Daniels had known each other for many
years and had worked on a number of fires and had a good working
relationship the previous 12 years.
As far as Daniels lying, that is something we will never know. He may
actually believe that he did say "come down out of the rocks" and the other
things that he is accused of lying about.
One thing when discussing Thirty Mile: we have to look at it through the
guidelines and standards of 2001. Not 2006.
What was the definition of a safety zone back then? Thirty Mile caused a
general change in attitude in regards to what is or is not a safety zone and
actions to be taken at a safety zone. Any amount of prep work at the
fatality site of Thirty Mile would not of prevented the deaths of the four
people who died. They died because a cone of heat was directed at where they
deployed their shelters. What caused this cone effect to hit that specific
area has not been completely identified, although there have been various
theories. Given it has been five years and no one has come up with a
definitive answer, how is someone in the field suppose to be able know?
The families that are quoted in the papers truly believe that they are doing
us wildland firefighters a favor by making us safer. They see our world as a
black and white world, rather than the grey that it is most of the time.
They have read our training material and rules and guides and think they are
set in set in stone. They want guarantees that there will be no more
fatalities and think if we would only follow our policies exactly as they
are written, then there would be no dead firefighters.
As we all know, there are no guarantees in fire suppression.
BTW not all the families agree with what is being done to Ellresse.
Big Smooth, thanks for sharing your wisdom. Give our best to
the rest of the family. Ab.
||Here's an interesting article on the big fire in MT and questions being
about why some homes were not protected and others were...
Fire raises burning questions: Crowd demands answers about Derby blaze
CAFFS units that effectively foam and remain mobile could be the
of Wildland Fire Terms, Nicknames, Jargon and Slang, here are some CDF
Wood Pussy = Skunk
Quill Pig = Porcupine
Skate, refers to someone who can never be found.
Old School CDF
I added 'em to the list. Ab.
||Re: Lies, damned lies, and Government reports!
"Brownie, you're doing a helluva job!" President Dubya
"Saddam has WMD's; it's a slam dunk!" Former CIA Director George Tenet
(later named Medal of freedom awardee)
Pretty much the same quote: Sec of State/retired General Colin Powell,
before the United Nations.
"Mission Accomplished" - Dubya again.
"..... one of the lies told by Ellreese."
After 60+ years on this earth, 30+ as a USFS employee, and with 20+
entrapment investigations across the US under my belt, I'm more convinced
that I can't tell the truth (or lies) when I hear them/read them/see them.
"I am not a crook!" Richard M. Nixon, resigned President of the US.
Ab Note in an attempt at political balance: The list wouldn't be
rounded without the following:
(I did not have <snip><snip> with that woman! Bill Clinton)
I was in the militia and was redcarded 2001-2006. I have watched the fire
shelter movie every year as required. I was always given the impression that
in a fire shelter the thing you are protecting most is your airway and when
selecting a deployment site you are looking for lack of fuels whether
natural or made (to keep the shelter away from direct flame) and a place
where the air is not from the fire front (stay away from large gaping holes
air can pass through). I do remember after 30 mile they showed examples of
"good" rock screes and "bad" ones and talked about the differences based on
how the air would move so it became an explicit talking point. Now this may
not be worded technically right but I've received my training from multiple
agencies (just not FS) and the message was clear to me as militia.
Thank you, I'm sending that off.
I am concerned with the tactic being taken to use Ellreese's statements
against him. I mean do people understand grief? Regardless of the actual
ability to change events anyone dealing with a tragic event will wish they
did something different- because the outcome is tragic and they don't like
it. Regardless of the actual right/wrong of the decision we question
ourselves- even when it is totally illogical. I should have turned left, not
right; I should have stayed 5 extra minutes; what if I ate oatmeal instead
of cereal- would that have changed the events of the day? So to put a person
in a situation where they are obviously affected by the tragic outcome and
get them to run scenarios or talk about what COULD have gone wrong and
statements will be made that could be turned every which way. I have seen
AARs in training situations- wildland is trained to question themselves,
analyze the outcome and figure out a way to do it better next time. That
training does not bode well in an investigation wanting to blame someone.
Plus how you see the event changes over time because as time moves on your
system allows you to process things that maybe initially you were not ready
to deal with- that is basic grief. The rules changed AFTER the reports,
AFTER the interviewing, AFTER the investigations- so our brothers and
sisters spoke as if every word was going to be used to train, analyze, and
for lessons learned.
I have seen the presentation put together regarding 30 mile. I sat through
it stunned at how the swiss cheese lined up and reached the conclusion that
it was an accident and human factors. This has been on my mind since I
started reading about Ellreese being charged. Not everyone is a General
McAurthor under fire every single day and you will not find it out until the
bullets are flying in the worst battle you can imagine on your worst
personal day. You should not persecute a man for not being enough of what
you wish he would have/could have been. Hindsight is 20/20 and the survivors
pay everyday- I think this is a travesty. If I can help I will.
I pray this is a year of hope, honor for our fallen, continued legislative
victory, and safety. 2006 has been a hard year- while we can't change the
events we can learn from the many things we did right. Take care all and for
those working this upcoming weekend at Glamis, fire stations, and out in the
wildlands- stay safe and come home.
||I'm writing an article for the American Aviation Historical Society
Journal (www.aahs-online.org) on the history and evolution of aerial
tankers. I'm interested in obtaining a couple of hi-res images of the
original Stearman tanker (ground shots and/or operational shots) similar to
the one you have on your Air Tankers 18 page ("original Ag plane).
If you could provide or direct me to a source where I could obtain these for
the publication, it would be greatly appreciated.
AAHS Webmaster and Managing Editor
||Gotta teach them fire behavior and how to avoid "deer
in the headlights" while we're at it.
Leadership training came out of
30mile. Good thing. Not
all people are born or natural leaders.
||Abs., and others;
Don't want to divert attention from a critical issue (Free Ellreese!), but
just a quick
(related) question. It just occurred to me that I've been so focused on the
problem, I can't even remember an important name...
Does anybody have a quick update on status of the Engine Captain charged in
rollover incident in SoCal?
Also, any update on Juan Estrada Fund?
Both important, and I'd hate to see them melt into the landscape behind
All 3 issues affect all of us.
||I do have to agree with vfd captain statement:
"I also think there is culpability for leading firefighters into a
during a period of extreme fire behavior and doing nothing to prepare
for burnover for 30 minutes after entrapment."
30 minutes, a couple chainsaws, and a few fusses can do a lot to improve
zone. hindsight is 20/20, but maybe we should start teaching firefighters
how to improve
and burnout safety zones and deployment zones before the head fire gets
Congratulations to the Forestry Technicians of Utah State for their victory.
More work needs to be done to elevate the Fire Technician to the status
of Fire Professional.
I know it seems to be about semantics, but it isn't. Technicians support a
profession, while wildland firefighting is a unique and distinct profession
of its own.
I hope those in Utah continue the work and seek the end state.
I invite you to spend a week (the week of July 4th would be good to
stimulate your quest) in our shoes... You are invited to ride along for a
week under a volunteer agreement (assuming your basic training is up to date
and you have completed your refresher training and it is well documented).
A better week would be during our periods of extreme weather.... Your call.
Each area has their own periods of extreme weather and fire behavior.
Then (and hopefully), maybe then you will change what seems to be your "blame" attitude and
really look towards future firefighter safety and understand the true risks
of our full time federal wildland firefighters.
Ab can put you in contact if you want a ride along...
It is pretty easy to judge others until you have walked in their shoes.
Why did the young woman on the crew follow Elreese's order to
come down off the rocks and onto the road if he didn't issue it?
Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?
I know the way the system is set up: you end up paying as though
you were guilty, until you can afford to defend yourself.
When things go extremely bad on wildfires, much like the fog of war
throughout the ages, there is a fog of "fire" that follows entrapments and
where people return back to the very basics of Maslow's self preservation.
The OIG and USA office don't quite understand that... yet.
I have to agree with you that there is some degree of culpability when a
choice is made to lead a crew into a box canyon, or rather, when the only
choice LEFT is to lead them FARTHER into the area ahead of the fire, into a
box canyon, in a search for safety.
However, I'm still not convinced that the only appropriate disciplinary
action to result is to expose said leader to criminal charges, thereby
setting the legal precedence to expose the entire wildland fire service
community to similar actions in the future (not to mention the civil court
precedence, which didn't used to be a concern for us, as long as we acted
within accepted guidelines... see my confusion here?).
I just strongly feel that the US DA's Office has ordered a blind leap, off a
shear bluff, in the dark.
And even if Ellreese doesn't fully understand what he could have done
"righter", I'm sure he's more than cognizant of the results of the actions
that were taken that day. And I'm betting that there isn't a minute goes by
that its not in his mind, at some level.
Someone suggested something along the lines of a military court- martial
process, made up of true peers. Personally, I thought that was a brilliant
idea. Any of you deeper thinkers have any thoughts on that idea?
Here is our chance to flood Dateline with our e-mail, or letters. This is
the response I received when I e-mail them, regarding the 30-mile
indictment. Have at it folks...Let OUR VOICE BE HEARD!!!!
Thank you for your E-Mail to Dateline NBC. We are very pleased with the
enormous response we are getting. Although we cannot write a personal note
to each of you, we do print out our messages, look at them and discuss your
comments and reaction, and we do sometimes quote your E-Mail on the air in
our 'feedback' segment. If your correspondence is in reference to a specific
segment, that letter will be forwarded to the segment producer for review.
If you have a specific story suggestion please send it to:
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Several other people have told me they sent in a similar request and
have gotten the same reply. Ab.
It's easy to point fingers, make comments from the
bench, but for those of us that are with the agency,
those of us that respond to 50-100 initial attack
fires a year, we have to live in the culture of fear
that is handed down to us from the top. You seem to
make a lot of assumptions for someone that has never
worked for the FS, and those assumptions are hardly
||Re: Driessen's "Crew Cohesion" paper
Part of this analysis is based upon one of the lies told by Daniels:
pg. 6: Come Down Out of the Rocks—That’s Not the Place to Be
Let me try to explain why I feel the squad boss from the Naches crew did not
comply with “orders” from the crew boss who reportedly told him three times:
“Come down out of rocks. That’s not the place to be.”....
||Ellreese & The Wenatchee NF
The recent charges against E.D have failed to address the problems.
First, there were nine folks "disciplined" by R-6 and only one is on the
The lack of leadership on that forest at that time should be up on the
defendant stand for
violating known policy too.
Secondly we all need to develop a strategy to delist or change the bill
Hastings sponsored; all this does is identify scapegoats,
The FS redacts all the important items so with legal issues still
hovering no one will
discuss the details of any investigation so we can learn something.
This fight is worth fighting for, because it goes far beyond E.D and his
will affect the response in the future, coupled with IFPM they will restrict
a small supply
of ICs. I wonder, do our structural brothers and sisters have such laws
How do they deal with that?
We cant bring back our friends and colleagues but we can work to change
of protect the upper managers and crucify the trench warriors.
On a personal note I know Ellreese and I knew Tom. This is tough to think
out, I could
go either way. I wish him the best and hope that the FS/fire agencies learn
later Bushman 82'
||We get beat in to our heads to project and represent our agencies at all
times, but it seems that when the fire community needs the agencies'
support it is never anywhere to be found! How long do you think that this
can go on before things really do get worse? Now don't get me wrong, I
love the agency I work for and will go to my grave supporting them, I wish
that we could snap our fingers and everything would just go away, but until
that happens I think it is imperative that we all get the training and
knowledge to do our jobs to the best of our abilities. When lives are on
the line is not the time to stop and think about one year down the road,
but how to effectively save those lives, we have to trust in one another
and we as a community will get through this.
Thank you to all, and you ab
I think there is a difference between a "just culture" and "no-blame
I also think there is culpability for leading firefighters into a box canyon
during a period of extreme fire behavior and doing nothing to prepare them
for burnover for 30 minutes after entrapment.
It may seem harsh, but there is a line somewhere that was crossed by the
commanders at both Thirtymile and Cramer. I am reminded of a Wilford Brimley
line from the movie, 'Absence of Malice':
"What'd you figure you'd do after government service, Elliott?" -- Assistant
U.S. Attorney General James Wells.
It all has to do with human factors:
Crew Cohesion, Wildland Fire Transition, and Fatalities (pdf file)
||A few personal thoughts on recent posts.
One contributing cause I feel is Forests trying to
stretch their budgets more than is practical.
The Fire Officers have been forced into taking on more
than Fire duties with all the recent downsizing. The
FS is just asking them to do too much.
One tactic that I’ve seen FLTs use is to take their
time in filling positions to save money in salary.
Another tactic was not to fill due to someone being
more qualified than a favorite, or they don’t want
whoever was most qualified during a job interest
outreach, and wait a bit and try the process again.
Then again some places are just dysfunctional; I have
felt your frustration, Jumpin Jack Flash.
Another problem is that is very hard to fire someone
in the Forest Service. It’s easier to move or promote
failing or troublesome individuals. In the past when
I’ve complained, it seems to come back on me for
causing waves. Having problems now with someone that
qualified for their job with education and only a year
and a half of experience, this is at the GS-11 level.
Complaining has only gotten me conflict resolution
counseling. I have real doubts about some of the ideas
being taught in our higher education institutions.
Unfortunately, I can only see more budget cuts in the
future. There is also the Department of Homeland
Security wildcard that seems to pop up and grab what
it can, add to that the coming A76 study. I can
imagine the National Response Plan sucking us into a
National program that will reduce positions that are
duplicated due to 5 Agencies being combined, with most
of the grunt work contracted out. On paper it looks
like a savings and that is all that seems to matter
I could go on, but being negative does not really
help. Thanks for the rant.
And There I Was
While I agree with you that the Wildland Fire Community will probably have a
huge hand in trying to "do the right thing" with this latest 30 mile
Incident legal maneuver, I am totally appalled, but not surprised, by the
fact that the Natural Resource Agencies have let it happen.
Seems to just prove once again that the Land Mgt. Agencies have no business
controlling a Fire and Aviation program. Heaven forbid agency Forest
Supervisors, District Rangers, Field Managers, etc across the nation along
with Regional and National Fire and Aviation Managers (Leaders???) do not
come out publicly in support of their own folks....
Leaves one wondering.....
I do worry about myself making mistakes. I have confidence in my decision
making, but I know I can and will make mistakes. Whether it's based on not
having all the intelligence needed for the situation, fatigue, pressure,
etc. But I also worry about those people under my command but out of
sight/control. Not just for their safety but it seems like with these
accident/fatality fires, I will be held accountable for their actions.
That's my concern.
As for your questions:
In Region 5, jumpers carry a scaled down version of all the pocket cards of
the region. If we IA out of region, we try to print one up before take-off.
Also, our IC Kits have Incident Complexity Rating Sheets. This is common
practice amongst all the jump bases. One of the issues that makes our job a
challenge is that we go to many places where we are not familiar with unique
hazards or fire history. We do have a decent idea about areas that we jump
often, but there are many places we don't see often enough to have that
knowledge. We try to ask a lot of questions from locals. I also agree we
need to break down any barriers we have, work together, learn together, and
become a stronger organization together.
||It's been a while since I've posted anything here. I am appalled and
concerned about the manslaughter charges be filed and the statement that is
being made. We're all wondering who will step up and carry on as ICT3s, but
this is sending a clear message to ALL who supervise personnel on fires. How
many of us still believe in the fire doctrine as our guiding document and
believe that our agencies will stand beside us?
Let me raise a thought: What if we start losing single resources as well as
ICT3s? This is out of control!!! Who's next, maybe Status Check-in?
Somebody tell me what I can do to help out!
Thanks for mentioning the ThirtyMile families, and thanks everyone for
having the focus and class not to dump on them. As we all know so well,
they're hurt, and angry, and have been (I'm sure) missing a lot of sleep,
and always will.
If the OIG, DA, etc., want a whipping- goat, how about the MORON who left
his campfire unattended (despite 50+ years of highly intensive Public Ed.
fire- safety programs, produced at enormous expense, and now being cited as
one of the causes of our current mega- fire problem!). It happens all the
time, everywhere; but how can ANYONE not know to "always leave your fires
Re: setting legal precedent, perhaps if this rocket- scientist were not only
charged criminally for manslaughter, wrongful death, criminal negligence,
false statement (we all KNOW he'll say "I thought it was Safe to leave":
BS!), then exposed to resultant CIVIL charges (again, wrongful death, ALL
fire, life- and medical- insurance, etc.), AND did time for the
manslaughter, other such Einsteins might pay a little attention, given a
little media attention.
Meantime, we could all get on with the necessary business of improving the
SYSTEM, instead of simply living in fear, as line officers, of our next
mistakes being compounded, and eventually costing us everything we hold dear
(such as freedom of movement, and feeding our families).
Personally, as a line officer, I have never (yet) had a reportable injury to
my crew. I know that can change at any second, despite anyone's best
efforts. ANYONE can have an accident. I dropped my DIVS, STL, and TFL 7
years ago; I was tired of the headaches of paperwork. Now, I CERTAINLY have
no intention of regaining them. I'll continue doing what I'm doing, teaching
a few children at a time, but that's quite enough stress for this old man,
Ab(s), thanks for letting me vent yet again.
Your reply to smkj79 was eloquently stated. Yes, we've all made mistakes
from time to time despite the 54 rules of engagement that are intended to
help eliminate those mistakes from happening. Perhaps the lesson to be
learned here is to always tell the truth during a fatality
investigation or don't speak at all. Ellresse is facing seven counts
of lying to investigators about his role during the fire.
||Would someone please make sure Ellreese knows the support available to
him throughout the wildland firefighting community and see how he's doing.
What I'm concerned about is that
- he will not know,
- his Public Defender will not know (not know the precedent setting
legal situation we're in, be overloaded with many cases, etc, etc)
- no money to hire someone who does know,
- no network to find a (volunteer) lawyer who was a firefighter, SJ
(?), is father or son or family member of a firefighter, someone who
knows this particular kind of law and also who understands firefighter
training, fireground issues, fire culture, the fog of decision making in
high stress circumstances, etc.
I think our wildland fire community could put out the word and address
and solve those issues. As I understand it, the Wildland Firefighter Legal
Assistance Fund is still in existence. I bet the word could go out in SoCal
and we could beef it up, if needed. The loss of ICs in their part of the
country would be catastrophic. And loss of ICs nationwide is what we're
facing if Ellreese is railroaded into copping a plea because of what he
perceives to be no alternatives. The law is all about precedents. We're
already well down the slippery slope.
With our support if he decides not to agree to the equivalent of a plea
bargain and has to go to trial, I think we should be planning to go all the
way. If it came to it, this would be a good time to push for Supreme Court
review of the "criminalization of wildland firefighters".
I hope it won't go that far, but if I'm "in for the penny, I'm in for the
pound" and I'm just looking ahead to how to best handle the worst case
One other thing I've wondered... is about the person who brought the
charges: What "glasses" does he wear? How does he see the world? What
motivates him? What does he aspire to politically? What is his bias? I do
not wish him ill, however I do seek to understand him. He rises in my
estimation for having taken some firefighter training, but he could have
gone into that with a scapegoat already in mind. Guess I have some research
in front of me.
Please, please tell Ellreese not to agree to any "plea bargain". We need
time to chart the best course for all of us.
Thanks everyone for not blaming any of the families. They're part of us.
Thanks IAWF and FWFSA for stepping up and sending out your (our) press
release far and wide. You rock!
Ab, feel free to pass my contact info on to Ellreese, his lawyer, or
anyone who could help.
Much like the Balls Canyon Review, the lessons learned are often
overshadowed by process and the bias of personal opinions. FC180, great
review that you re-introduced to all of us from the heart.
The findings of the Devils Den Fire "Factual Review" stated the following,
"Written direction for the management of fires is numerous, confusing
and in some cases contradictory. There are separate or additional
relate specifically to the Agency which is responsible for managing the
fire. Forms are
duplicated with different names. As we continue to work in an
the differences for Department of Interior personnel and Department of
personnel do not appear until trying to sort which policies must be
complied with on
which fire. The lack of unified definitions, common and standard
language could easily
affect the method and manner the fire is managed."
Similar are the differences between the Forest Service and CDF... But we
all understand each other and watch each others backs nowadays....
We are getting there... someday we will have a safer wildland fire community
when we all have the same language and processes for looking for Lessons
Learned... and we can all speak freely as friends with similar
Media and politicians are really hearing the community of wildland
firefighters, in regards to 30 mile. Time to really "catch a gear" and
be heard... ripples in the pond.
We need to worry more about what we can do wrong, rather than worry about
what the folks beneath us do. It will keep you safer and better prepared
when things go gunnysack beyond our true control during future accidents...
We are human... and that simple fact can come back to haunt you and all of
us someday until we all learn the lessons of HRO's and Human Factors...
whether we're a smokejumper, a hotshot, an engine slug, a line officer, or a
I passed off command of an emerging fire to a Smokejumper who was on the
ground earlier this year (June/July).. he was a SMKJ in charge.... He had
his stuff together and was qualified as an ICT3, ICT4, and DIVS... But it
was a fire that could have easily progressed from a type 4 to type 1
or 2 complexity within a few minutes during initial attack.
Luckily it didn't.
Do smokejumpers carry pocket cards for the areas they are jumping into? Do
smokejumpers carry Incident Complexity Rating Sheets?... Do smokejumpers
know the unique hazards of the areas they are jumping into?... Do
smokejumpers know the fire history?
This post is not against you (or smokejumpers)... but against the culture
that continues to allow accidents to happen without assigning corrective
action where it is needed... we can make things better and not put up
barriers such as I am a Hotshot.. or I am an Engine Captain.... or I am a
Fire Manager... better yet, we must each just admit "I am a wildland
firefighter" and am capable of making mistakes... we have all been there and
done that... We all know we make mistakes from time to time.... we are
||The Utah State fire services has just officially completed their
transition from a Forestry Technician series, to a Fire Technician
Hopefully the feds won't be far behind.
||I was remembering how impressed I was with the
Balls Canyon Review this
summer, and in re-reading the intro, I feel those in our profession who have
not read it should, because of its fundamental difference from all other
investigations ever before. This quote says it all:
Just Culture is an organizational ethic where employees are
to report errors and mistakes because of an ethical recognition that
employees and managers must learn (and then make adjustments to
compensate) from normal human error. Rewards and punishments are
based on the employee’s values and how he or she acted on their values.
If an employee’s values are consistent with the organization’s values
(with the value of human life being the core value) then their errors
mistakes should be treated as normal and ethical human error.
Traditional organizational reaction to errors often includes
normal, or “honest,” human error. This inevitably results in the
of error reporting and the collapse of a reporting culture.
||Thanks Higbee. I knew someone here would know.
USC Title 18, plus case precedents involving actions of people accused
of negligence or gross negligence under federal criminal statutes.
As you know from working in the federal government, nothing is ever as
simple as it seems (or should be). I believe we are all working on the same
issues, just taking different paths.... Continue the research my friend....
will lead to answers in the future.
||Call me crazy, but I am an ICT3 and I have no plans to give it up. I am
very picky on what assignments I take unless they happen to transition from
a type 4 fire to a type 3 fire during IA. I'm also very conservative as an
ICT3 because it usually involves resources I'm not familiar with. I've
passed a couple of fires on to ICT2s because of being too conservative but
no one got hurt. As we all know, you can do everything right but someone
under your command can still do something wrong that's out of your
control/sight. That's what I worry about the most. As for now, I will
continue in this role and I hope others will also.
||I have a question about the Grand Jury process that some of you
may be able to answer.
In looking back at the history of the Grand Jury process, it is
commonly referred to as a Grand Jury of Your Peers.
Will the Grand Jury in Washington have true peers of Ellreese on
it or will it just be an uninformed public who have no idea what it is
like to be a wildland firefighter, or the personal risks these folks take
each and every day when they head off to work?
Original Ab's 2004 comments on
Why Federal Agencies Should Support Their ICs. Clear, prophetic. Ab.
Here is the full version copy (.html) of the abstract that vfd
cap'n was referencing. It is free copy and available from the Western
Journal of Medicine. I read it over two years ago and it is a very good
foundational read for those interested in Human Error/Human Factors.... but
you have to read it all to get the gist of where Dr. Reason is
going..... It will make you want to read all of his research and
It also has some very good information on blame, HRO's, and the failures of
people based systems that are currently in use.
Student of Reason
||Re: Human Error
> From Australia, Queensland Government, Workplace Health and Safety
"Human or worker error is not always the result of carelessness or
but follows from normal human characteristics. The desire for extra
work and making tasks easier, are some of the leading reasons why
Read the rest.
||30 mile fallout
After all the news of the pending lawsuit, and the
criminal charges, what
do they think is going to happen? One answer is who will want to step into
the ICT3 positions? I know that with the added pressure you can count me
out. I believe there is an article out entitled "where
have all the ICs gone"
I think that sums up how many of us feel.
||Re: BLM Boy's research
Daniels is being charged in Federal Court, not state court. The WA criminal
are not what he's being charged under, but federal laws. I'm not sure where
can find the federal standards, but I'm sure someone else here knows.
"Meanwhile, the wildland fire community also has had considerable
heartburn the last 5 years following the Forest Service investigation, which
mostly took a "system approach" by, among other things, creating the Thirtymile checklist for managers."
I must respectfully disagree with you, while I think we are trying to say
the same things. Most of the items within the Thirty Mile Checklist and
subsequent policies were also person oriented and directed towards the
troops on the ground, rather than looking at the latent systemic failures
leading up to tragedies.
After doing countless hours of research regarding the work and theories of
Dr. Reason, I feel the actions of the Forest Service following Thirty Mile
to be a prime example of concentrating too much on the failure, rather than
examining the organizational culture that allowed the failures in the first
By adding policies, checklists, or additional procedures to an already
overloaded "pilot" (ie.-IC or line officer), it does little to create a
safer "cockpit" (the wildland fire profession).
The "systems approach" recognizes that humans will always make errors. As
such, the organization realizes the inherent risks and designs policies,
operating procedures, and technology around the human to minimize their
chances of error. The actions of the Forest Service following the Thirty
Mile fire did none of these. In fact, they did the opposite by overloading
incident commanders and line officers, while shielding the latent systemic
failures that need to be corrected. Those actions also ensured that there
would always be someone to "blame" at the bottom rather than share the
"blame" throughout the organization.
The only actions that the Forest Service has done regarding a "systems
approach" was the Foundational Doctrine... and it appears to have stalled
after meeting opposition by some very vocal people in some of the Regional
and in the Washington Office.
||The following is a joint news release from the International Association
of Wildland Fire (IAWF) and the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association. A
cleaner version of this document can be found at:
Wildfire Groups Concerned about Public Safety and
Property Protection in Light of Criminal Charges
HOT SPRINGS, SD, December 28, 2006
Dick Mangan, IAWF President, (406) 543-0013
Chuck Bushey, IAWF President-Elect, (406) 248-8307
Casey Judd, FWFSA Business Mgr., (208) 775-4577
IAWF Offices: 605-890-2348
The International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) and the Federal
Wildland Fire Service Association (FWFSA) believe that the criminal charges
for involuntary manslaughter filed by the U.S. Attorney in Spokane,
Washington just before Christmas against the Crew Leader who lost four (4)
firefighters in July 2001 on a wildfire does not serve the Public’s needs
for fire protection.
Outgoing IAWF President Dick Mangan of Missoula, Montana and incoming IAWF
President Chuck Bushey of Billings, Montana stated their opposition to the
criminal charges today. Their concerns were echoed by Casey Judd, Executive
Director of FWFSA.
The charges against the Crew Leader, coming more than 5 and one-half years
after the fatal fire event, has had a chilling effect on Federal and State
wildland firefighters across the U.S., and is also being carefully watched
by Australian and European fire personnel. Since the announcement by
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Hopkins of his intent to bring the Crew Boss
before a Grand Jury, firefighters have been coming forward stating their
unwillingness to accept the responsibilities of making the sometimes
split-second decisions, only then to find their decisions reviewed with
20-20 hindsight for more than 5 years, resulted in criminal charges.
For the public at large, and for homeowners and others with property in the
areas generally described as the wildland-urban interface, this may result
in fewer highly qualified firefighters taking leadership roles on fires, and
a more conservative and less aggressive approach to suppressing wildfires by
those willing to accept leadership positions such as Incident Commander or
Crew Supervisors. The end result could be more acres burned, more homes and
other structures destroyed, and greater fire suppression costs to the
Mangan and Bushey of IAWF, with more than 50 years of professional wildland
fire experience between them, have both served in wildfire leadership
positions across the U.S. Both appreciate the uncertainty of some fire
situations, and the decisions that must be made under stressful conditions
with lives and property at risk.
IAWF and FWFSA believe that while holding firefighters and leaders
accountable is essential to safe and efficient fire ground operations, the
criminalization of firefighters for their decisions is counter-productive,
and fails to serve the public’s needs for wildland fire protection.
Note: the criminal complaint can be found at:
The International Association of Wildland Fire is an organization founded
to promote a better understanding of wildland fire, built on the belief that
an understanding of this dynamic natural force is vital for natural resource
management, for firefighter safety, and for harmonious interaction between
people and their environment. The IAWF Board of Directors includes members
from Portugal, Australia, Greece, Canada and the US.
The Federal Wildland Fire Service Association is an employee association
formed in 1990 by and for federal wildland firefighters. We are THE
political voice for all federal wildland firefighters. Our membership spans
the full spectrum of firefighter positions from entry level through
management officers. The FWFSA is dedicated and committed to improving pay,
benefits and working conditions for the Nation's federal wildland
firefighters as well as providing a forum for our members to become active
advocates in the process of increasing awareness and education among those
in Washington D.C. who are in a position to effect positive change.
I am replying to Higbee comment on my post. Also, I
did a bunch of research on actual ciminality of the
Daniels matter. Might prove to be interesting
Wow…I was referring to the state of mind and the
overall tragedy of the accident when I made the
statement about his “intention”. But since you
brought up the legality of the issue of intent I
figured I better clarify something for the readers of
your post and I want to make sure all of us go into
this with our eyes wide open. Our brother needs
defending since that defends wildland firefighting for
all of us regardless of any mistakes that were made by
any specific individual.
I did a search for the legal definition of the “common
man test”. The only results were uses in the United
Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. I think what you may
be trying to refer to is the standard of “Reasonable
Person” since the accident occurred in the United
States. But since we are dealing with a professional
firefighter in a leadership position the standard
could be “Reasonable Professional” standard. Then the
question would be "Would a professional acting under
the same circumstances, with the knowledge available
to the field at the time of the decision, have
concluded that the given decision was reasonable?"
However, Washington State does not follow the
professional standard but rather the more common
general public “reasonable person” standard.
In any event, “INTENT” is a key legal factor.
Washington State code reads
“INTENT. A person acts with intent or intentionally
when he acts with the objective or purpose to
accomplish a result which constitutes a crime.”
There are four elements that define manslaughter guilt
- RECKLESSNESS, &
- CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE.
Now the next issue is “recklessness” or “criminal
negligence”. Washington State defines them as:
RECKLESSNESS. A person is reckless or acts recklessly
when he knows of and disregards a substantial risk
that a wrongful act may occur and his disregard of
such substantial risk is a gross deviation from
conduct that a reasonable man would exercise in the
CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE. A person is criminally negligent
or acts with criminal negligence when he fails to be
aware of a substantial risk that a wrongful act may
occur and his failure to be aware of such substantial
risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard
of care that a reasonable man would exercise in the
Trying to figure out that is really hard since
Washington code reads:
Culpability as Determinant of Grade of Offense. When
the grade or degree of an offense depends on whether
the offense is committed intentionally, knowingly,
recklessly, or with criminal negligence, its grade or
degree shall be the lowest for which the determinative
kind of culpability is established with respect to any
material element of the offense.
Wow!!! That was painful. But it is for a purpose…
I was reading the actual criminal complaint again. In
each count it accuses Daniels of “gross negligence”
vs. “criminal negligence”. Interestingly enough in
Washington State the state’s code only refers to
“gross negligence” when dealing with civil law NOT
criminal law. It also states Daniels acted with
“reckless disregard”. So if they are going for
“recklessness” they have to prove Daniels performance
was a “gross deviation” from the standard. “Gross
deviation” is defined as extreme deviation from the
standard that would be expected of a reasonable man.
So either way…maybe, just maybe there is a break here.
Hope his lawyer is on top of her game...We’ll see!
Thanks for sharing some of the research. Ab.
||Good morning to all:
I spent a very sleepless, restless night as I often do crafting
correspondence in my head to those that need so much educating with regards
to the wildland firefighting community, what you all do and what you all
mean to this country.
First & foremost is the need to remember that, above all else, you are
citizens of this country entitled to certain rights such as freedom of
speech; the right to challenge the way the Government does business, etc.
The many posts here recently have passionate & often educated commentary and
we certainly should expect that a wide variety of folks read this forum. But
it is time to expand the audience to those directly orchestrating this
I know so many of you are concerned about reprisals, retribution etc. We
(the FWFSA & other organizations) can keep that in check through the
political process. And who would be doing the reprisals? Line officers who
make policy but have no practical fire experience or expertise?
Its time for all of you to be heard. Its time to be citizens of this country
and speak your mind and not be intimidated by letting folks know who you
are, what you do and what your position is. It is time to take your posts
and commentary directly to those involved whether it be the USDA OIG's
office & Mr. Parker; the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington State, Senator
Cantwell & Congressman Hastings from Washington State and of course your
federally elected representatives.
Speak your mind and do it proudly and without reservation or hesitation. But
do it in a way that demonstrates the class & professionalism found in this
community (no profanity laced tirades etc.).
Some posts have already listed contact information for some of these folks
and I will expand that later today. In the meantime, as AB has said, we are
getting press on the issue which is a clear hint to all of us to keep the
pressure up. There are other "networks" coming together to address not only
the specific issue with Mr. Daniels but the overall effects of the law.
You don't need sample letters from any of us. You need your conscience, your
passion, your experience & expertise as wildland firefighters and supporters
thereof. The more of us elected officials hear from, the more they will be
inclined to move on the issue.
And of course, as we all try to right this ship, let's be cognizant and
respectful of the feelings of those that lost loved ones on Thirtymile. We
may not agree with Mr. Weaver's assessments of the charges against Mr.
Daniels, but as a community we should work to respect those feelings.
For Northnight...please give me a call at 208-775-4577
Here's a link to an article James Reason wrote for the British Medical Journal in 2000.
Several people have commented that the Thirtymile prosecution (what Reason calls a "person approach" to safety) will make firefighters less safe as it leads to the latent condition of fewer qualified commanders being willing to stay involved in wildfire at that level.
Meanwhile, the wildland fire community also has had considerable heartburn the last 5 years following the Forest Service investigation, which mostly took a "system approach" by, among other things, creating the Thirtymile checklist for managers.
I see that as a latent condition (increased pressure on line/zone officers following Thirtymile) that contributed to Spencer Koyle's death at Devil's Den in August:
"The AFMO [Koyle] then met with the Fillmore DR and reviewed operational issues. At that time it was agreed that if progress towards containment was not made by 1400 hours they would develop a Wildland Fire Situation Analysis (WFSA) for the incident."
I think that pressure (get production on the line or else increase paperwork at the office) is why he felt compelled to go down the drainage to check the spot fires as their deadline approached.
Yeah it makes a big difference, we are a huge community. 30 mile has brought a larger issue to light is public law 107-203, and the first time a fireline supervisor is being tried as a accused criminal. This sets a huge
precedent.... At least one small dedicated grassroots group has started a lot of phone calls, letters, and e-mails to elected officials and their appointees in our state and washington state. We can not afford to lose this one.
lets get this going
This "Save Ellreese" effort is already going and
will be going better. There are a number of members of this community who
are already calling, making comments to the media as professional wildland
firefighters and writing letters. Plans are being made. The timing of the
announcement of the indictment was not chance -- when wildland
firefighters were taking time off for the holidays and after an election.
Emails have been passed behind the scenes. The effort has been is ramping
up. We'll need everyone's help and we'll need to fill the grand jury room
with respectful supporters willing to testify when the time comes. Some
excellent points were made in the most recent news article. Letter writers
could keep it simple and focus on those, if you haven't composed your
letters to your federal legislators yet. Ab.
I have been a lurker for 8 years and never felt I had anything to contribute since I was not a "firefighter", just a fuel truck driver, until now. I have driven a support truck/fuel truck for fire aircraft for 9 years, 6 with the state of Montana (98-03) and 3 in the private sector. Granted I am not a frontline firefighter just a REMF, but 6 years of IA with Montana and 3 years working fires with contractors has given me a great view from the outside looking in.
I was present the following year when one of the 30 mile accident investigators gave a briefing on what happened. From what he said, what I have read, and from looking at photos of the area pre and post fire I can only come to a single conclusion,
a horrible and tragic accident occurred. I was absolutely amazed and shocked that anyone could possibly find that 1 person to blame for the outcome of a decision that started with an order for firefighters. To try and place blame on 1 individual out of the masses who were there is nothing short of insanity. In the military we were always taught that the Commanding Officer has ultimate responsibility for what happens in their command. Why aren't the senior ICT members being named in the indictment? If the government feels the crew boss is criminally liable what about the squad boss, or the division sup, or (god forbid) the ICT1. Who ordered the crew into that position? Aren't they just as liable?
Does this mean that anyone who is involved in any way with the firefighting effort, from the porta-potty vendor to the company that makes the MRE's, from the volunteer fire department to the contract helicopter vendor can and will be held criminally accountable if something goes wrong? Will the US District Attorney file criminal charges against the chainsaw manufacturer when someone gets a cut? If this ridiculous waste of taxpayer money actually goes to trial I will be there
every day to watch, listen, and take notes. After the trial ends each day I will be pleased to give interviews to the press extolling the nonsense of this complete and total waste of tax dollars not to mention the travesty of trying to hold anyone legally accountable for an act of nature. What happened at 30 mile was an accident not a criminal act. 30 mile should be mined for lessons learned not for how we can blame a soldier for the decision of a General.
I have to wonder though that since the alleged criminal act took place while the defendant was actively employed by the Forest Service, following orders from Forest Service supervisors, fighting a fire on public land, if the Forest Service will provide any legal assistance? My money is on No. I will gladly put my money where my mouth is and contribute to a defense fund and do whatever I can to help stop this insanity. I have to agree that there will be a loud noise as firefighters refuse positions of authority for fear of being held criminally liable for decisions made in the heat of battle with only the information at hand and their own experience and knowledge to rely on. As another writer said, we have a second to make a decision that others can agonize over for years.
It is NOT my intention to offend anyone. I had to voice my frustration and incredulity at the complete waste of time and money in trying to blame 1 person for this tragic accident.
Welcome, former lurker. Ab.
The best things all of us can do... speak truthfully and from the heart.
Volunteer and (INSIST) your voice is heard and the Grand Jury hearings are not corrupted...
Many of us will be there.... See you there...
||It had been several years since I spent Christmas holidays with so many seasoned Fed
FFs. Nearly everyone shared a 2006 fire season tale. Unfortunately many were complaints about a screwed up system/a tirade about an idiot who made bad decisions from miles away.
Current events, political & legal ramifications, were a topic of discussion as was the trend towards ever increasing responsibility without equivalent classification, pay or benefits; and their individual personal liability quotient.
As a listener, I went to bed thinking about a frightening issue that seems to be looming on the horizon - attrition!
To those who are applying to a hopefully better working environment, best of luck. To those who are healing, prayers. To those who are vacationing, enjoy.
Happy New Year and good fortune,
||Please consider this response to a question regarding Los Angeles City Fire Dept “ ORANGE HELMET” .
Sir, LA City fire dept designated the Orange Helmet as belonging to the Task Force Commander. A typical LA city task force is a Two Piece Engine Company,
( Pumper with 1-2 ffs and a Wagon with Engine Capt, Engr and 2 ffs) The engine company is paired up with a Truck Company of 5-6 ffs . The Truck Captain is the task force commander in orange helmet, easier to see on the fire ground. Once truck companies are situated in a position on the incident they are there for the duration of the incident. Engine hose lays can be moved easier than repositioning the truck and all of its equipment. Orange helmets stick out on the incident, they once were wore by specialized crews only for instance Los Prietos Hotshots. Orange has gained in popularity in recent years.
I hope this helps.
Since I have been working in montana for the last 3 months, i could have gotten some patches from there to give to Nora for her Sr. project. When i get back,
i'll talk to the fire shops on both the districts I work on as well as the 2
SOs and work to get them sent in prior to my departure to FLETC in late
Ironically, I am back in sonora right now and, had i had them with me, I would have delivered them personally to Nora at school prior to her break.
Sorry i did not know there was a need. Congrats to her on getting the project approved by the school, though.
Ill get those sent in prior to going to Georgia.
I caught the news about Ellreese very late. I scanned all the posts about it but didn't see what I was looking for (easily could have over looked it though). How can I help? Is there a fund to help him with legal fees? I can write my Congress-people in the state of Colorado - would it make any difference if I wrote the ones in Washington State also?
How can wildland firefighters get our voices and opinions on this insanity out there and listened to?
You said, "I hope that some of the Thirty Mile survivor families who are still filled with anger and wanting someone to blame, look elsewhere within the Forest Service.... that is where you will find your answers...."
Maybe they need to look at the survivors' network of families and friends that the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and what the entire wildland fire community supports?.... Keeping
wildland firefighters safer and their families educated about the risks.
It will lead towards healing without adding to pain of others....
||This writeup is circulating behind the scenes and comes from numerous
Supervisors worry about effects of charges in wildfire deaths
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
YAKIMA, Wash. -- The government's decision to file criminal charges against the boss of firefighters who perished during a 2001 wildfire in Washington state has potential fire supervisors having second thoughts about taking on the dangerous duty.
Ellreese Daniels was charged last week with four counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from his role as a U.S. Forest Service crew boss during the Thirtymile wildfire in Okanogan County in July 2001.
Lawyers for Daniels and other federal employees targeted in the government's investigation of the Thirtymile fire's handling say the criminal charges are inappropriate. They say many of the nation's wildland firefighters now worry they could end up facing criminal allegations for mistakes they make on the job.
Several firefighting veterans said the new rules have them buying personal liability insurance to protect their homes and pensions in case they get called into court, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported in its Thursday editions.
We certainly don't want to see a fire season where we can't find adequate people to manage the scene because the DA in Washington state decided to bring manslaughter charges, whether it's warranted or not,"
said Casey Judd of the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association, which lobbies on behalf of federal firefighters.
Elton Thomas, a retired Okanogan National Forest fire management officer, said he believes Daniels could have done more to prevent the Thirtymile deaths, but didn't mean for anyone to die.
Whatever the outcome of the criminal charges, the case will change the nation's firefighting system, he said.
"There's maybe going to be a new `normal' out of this that people are going to have to adjust to, but it's going to be a significant effect," Thomas said.
Daniels' public defender called the charges baseless and contended he's being singled out among many in the chain of command who made mistakes.
Debra Roth, a Washington, D.C., attorney whose firm represented some targets of the Thirtymile investigation, also questioned the government's decision to prosecute.
"This is a guy who's going to work ... and he's doing his job, terrible things happened and four people died. It's not your typical manslaughter case," Roth said.
The deaths brought about changes in the way the Forest Service and other federal firefighting agencies attack wildfires, as well as new rules for reviewing wildfire deaths.
The families of the dead firefighters successfully pushed Congress to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to independently investigate whenever a Forest Service crew is fatally overcome by flames.
Ken Weaver, whose son Devin died at Thirtymile, said Daniels wouldn't be facing charges if the deaths were unavoidable. Daniels failed to guarantee an escape route, a cardinal safety rule in the Forest Service, Weaver contends.
"This is a poster child for prosecution," Weaver said. "As long as you follow the rules and do everything you can, you're not going to get in trouble. The only thing you get in trouble for is not following the rules."
Advocates for firefighters already are calling for Congress to reconsider whether criminal charges are the best answer for deaths on the firelines.
Daniels also faces seven counts of lying to investigators about his role in fighting the 9,300-acre fire, which grew from an unattended campfire.
Prosecutors allege Daniels knew, or should have known, the crew would be trapped and that he failed to protect them during at least 30 minutes they had to prepare for the approaching inferno.
Killed were Yakima firefighters Devin Weaver, 21, Jessica Johnson, 19, and Karen FitzPatrick, 18, and their squad boss trainee, Tom Craven, 30, of Ellensburg.
The government's approach raises questions about the use of manslaughter charges, Roth contends. The charge is more typically used in cases of unintentionally deadly conduct, such as drunk driving, or when police questionably use deadly force, he said.
"They are a stretch away from the kinds of acts or omissions that occurred or may have occurred in any of these fires," Roth said. "From a legal perspective, it's an interesting use of the statute."
Judd said Congress should reconsider what it wanted when it passed the bill.
He said he isn't suggesting that criminal charges be off-limits for every fire death. But he said the legislation - a well-intended effort to appease the grieving Thirtymile families - didn't consider all the ramifications.
"There was no thought process given to how the dynamics of the legislation would play out," Judd said. "I think if they actually had hearings and had firefighters there, maybe there wouldn't have been a bill, or it would have been written differently."
fair use disclaimer
So I have been lurking about the charges brought against Ell. I don't know the guy personally, but he is a brother. I will give what I can to help his defense and I am in Seattle till after the first of the year. I think we need to make our voices heard with the US Attorneys office. I am willing to drive over to Spokane this week or after the first of the year and have my voice heard. If Casey would like to meet up with me...Maybe
both of us and anyone else that would like to join can all meet up and get a meeting with The U.S. District Attorney? I'm willing to start doing the foot work to get the meeting set up and drive over there to deal with it. It may require me to take some LWOP but if It helps a brother out, I'm all for it. And I propose that if you can't attend. Send Me a formal letter addressed to the US District Attorney via email. I will hand them over to the D.A.
Elected officials and their minions fear nothing more than a public outcry against something they are trying to do! If this travesty continues the U.S. District Attorney's office might as well start getting ready to start accepting resignation letters from FFT1 on up. This has implications not only in the Federal side, but rippling on down to State and municipal settings. This case will set
precedent for every other fatality case nation wide.
||Re: I remember a study from the past.........
Many years ago, I questioned why Los Angeles City Fire Department captain's wore orange helmets rather than red like so many other surrounding fire departments.... Back then, I was told.... they did a study. All of us just thought they wanted to be different......
Now, over 20 years later... I found another study... hmm... duplicating previous research or just confirming it... or expanding upon it.... Who knows?
MTDC did a study this year comparing the heat stress of various colors of helmets.... Here is the study:
The Region 5 Standard for helmets is as follows (Hotshots excepted):
Asst. Fire Engine Operator: Yellow w/ a red stripe
Fire Engine Operator: Red w/ a white stripe
Chief Officers and Line Officers: White
Long ago, Region 5 adopted a color coding of helmets to let folks know the experience and responsibility level of the people you were talking to...
The MTDC study was very interesting, especially since a large portion of our injuries each year are heat related. Their study shows a heat increase of between a little over 1 degree fahrenheit to a little over 9 degrees fahrenheit depending on the color of the helmet and time of day..... then add in the "head" of the wearer and in some cases "shrouds".... important variables not yet considered.
"This test shows measurable differences in the amount of heat absorbed by hardhats of different colors. The data support the basic principle that lighter colors absorb less solar radiation, generating less heat inside a hardhat than darker colors. While the heating effect is less pronounced when temperatures are warmest, firefighters wearing lighter colored hardhats generally will be subjected to less heat gain throughout the day."
Sign me, .... One of the folks wanting to keep the "Chrome Domes" for Hotshots.... they were lighter and reflected more radiant heat...... especially if you took time to shine them.......
P.S. - Some time ago, the "Chrome Domes" were done away with under the guise of electrical hazards.... What was the true hazard? I don't remember any wildland firefighters being killed or injured from electrical hazards from their helmets.....
||Re: Thirty Mile Charges
Five and a half years later, Maria Cantwell's statement seems so ironic and so distant.... it talks about the courage and sacrifices of those lost, but also wildland firefighters in general. I wonder if she even knows how much harm her and Doc Hastings bill has created. While the intent was admirable, both the Senate and House Bills were authored during the heat of anger, not during the healing of compassion. As a result, the goal of improving firefighter safety was completely missed and irreversibly harmed.
The Hastings/Cantwell legislation is one of the greatest challenges for firefighters to EVER exist. It creates an atmosphere of blame rather than a culture of learning. It creates fear and resentment at all levels of the Forest Service..... This legislation has caused many of our true leaders to retire early, seek other positions within the Forest Service, or to simply drop fire qualifications.
This recent action by the USDA Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Washington will be the straw that dissolves the Forest Service fire program..... unless it can be corrected soon.
I hope that some of the Thirty Mile survivor families who are still filled with anger and wanting someone to blame, look elsewhere within the Forest Service.... that is where you will find your answers....
> Statement of Maria Cantwell, July 11, 2001
Statement (as prepared) by Senator Maria Cantwell on the Deaths of Four Firefighters in Okanogan County
Wednesday, July 11,2001
"It is with a heavy heart that I come to the floor today after learning of the tragic deaths of four firefighters in the Wenatchee National Forest in Washington state. These courageous firefighters died yesterday battling a wildfire in Okanogan County. A tragedy of this magnitude is felt throughout Washington state, but should also be recognized and mourned by a grateful nation.
"On behalf of the citizens of Washington state, I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the four brave men and women who gave their lives to protect their neighbors. Squad Leader Tom Craven of Ellensburg, Devin Weaver of Yakima, Jessica Johnson of Yakima, and Karen Fitzpatrick of Yakima gave their lives to keep us safe. This tragedy is compounded because these firefighters were so young - Tom Craven was 30 years old, Devin Weaver was 21, Jessica Johnson was 19, and Karen Fitzpatrick was 18. We join their families and friends in mourning their loss.
"I also want to wish the firefighters who were injured a speedy recovery. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
"The firefighters of the U.S. Forest Service come from all over the country and have been battling fires for many years. This year alone, 300 firefighting personnel are available on the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests. These firefighters work year after year in service to their country with little recognition. On behalf of the residents of Washington state and the nation, thank you for your hard work and dedication under some of the most difficult circumstances.
"This tragedy reminds us that we often take for granted the men and women who routinely put their lives on the line to protect us. Every state in the nation has experienced a serious fire and, tragically, the loss of a firefighter. This fire will be fully investigated and we will learn from it so we can prevent similar tragedies.
"I hope the families and friends of these brave firefighters can take some comfort knowing that the courage and sacrifice of their loved ones will not be forgotten."
I believe that bill was created with all good intentions but with a
lack of understanding of the consequences for our nation. When people,
including our legislators, don't understand the large picture, it's easy
to focus on the small part to the detriment of the nation's wildland
firefighting capability. It's time to revisit the bill, to educate
and to make corrections. Ab.
||Just wanted to update everyone on the status of the quilts for Eve Schiecke and John Greeno, Nora finally got her project approved through her high school. They initially rejected the thesis, but we reworded the goals and received the ok! She has received over 200 patches and we are in the cut, glue, stitch and layout phase. A number of the patches are really works of art! The final project is due in May 2007. Her father and I have found some old friends through this project, a walk down memory lane. We will keep you updates and we cannot thank Lori Greeno enough for her support and enthusiasm over this project.
Thank you again for the support and we can always use more patches, we really need one from Montana!
Marian and Nora Chambers
P.O. Box 4142
Sonora, CA 95370
|| BLM Boy,
You are right on target.
Even though the OIG investigator thinks he is qualified to evaluate, interpret, and judge the actions of a wildland firefighter(s), he is sorely wrong. OIG is the last place anyone interested in wildland firefighter safety should look at... especially the families that have lost loved ones.
The families that have suffered losses, and the Congressionals who are trying to meet the needs of their constituents, need to look down another alley for changes for firefighter safety and accountability throughout the Forest Service and USDA.
Everyone who has been touched by a wildland firefighter tragedy wants changes to be made... Families, friends, co-workers, and even the general public and elected officials. Some are more educated on the issues than others....
Even though Mr. Parker attended the S-230 (Crew Boss) class, he was not qualified to be in attendance. Specifically, he thinks he is now qualified to judge the actions of a Crew Boss and an Incident Commander Type 4... both positions he is not qualified to review or even capable of even understanding... He would not even qualify as an entry level firefighter position.... He took the classes that he thought were most relevant.... he missed the whole experience of being a wildland firefighter and understanding the true risks.
I am disgusted that Mr. Parker was even allowed to be in one of our classes...
||Re: The "Common Man Test" for proving gross negligence
Both the 1995 and 2001 version of "Your Fire Shelter" reference rock slides as preferred areas for deployment.
In particular, the 2001 version states
pdf file) (Ab note: if asked to sign in, the username is t-d and password t-d)
"Try to pick natural firebreaks such as wet meadows, creek beds, wet swampy areas, and rock slides" Part 2, Page 12.
"Large rockslides (right) can be effective deployment sites, but firefighters should deploy their shelters well away from grass, brush, and trees." Part 2, Page 14.
Is there any chance that the four firefighters who went into the rocky area were just doing what they were trained to do and just didn't recognize the convective hazards? Is there a chance that firefighters with similar training, experience, and education would have done the same thing?
||Ab Note to those of you in the Working Groups:
We Abs are willing to offer private breakout or briefing rooms on
the vBulletin (hotlist) forum for you to hammer out whatever needs
to be hammered out among your designated group members. All you need to do
is sign up for the hotlist forum, choose a moniker, perhaps one you have
not used before, and have your working group leader tell us who is allowed
into the particular breakout room. The site and what you communicate with
each other will not be visible or readable by others. We will keep all
confidential. It is good to see the collaboration and action being taken
behind the scenes by professional wildland firefighters.
PS. We're having serious winter storms. Right now the power is down
where I am and OA is posting theysaid. Hopefully power will be up later
today. The phone is working at the moment. Feel free to email or call OA
or me. Ab.
You said, "People will make mistakes in life. The key was it intentional?"
I wish it was so simple.... It isn't. The case of involuntary manslaughter
does not require an intentional act, just an omission of what most of his
peers would do under similar circumstances, training, and education. It
requires what is often referred to as the "common man test". In the case of
wildfires, the "common man" his peers....
First of all, we need to understand that there are truly no "experts" in
wildland fire except for the "ologists". Peers are never listened to when
things go gunnysack... <<<<this is tongue in cheek>... Peers under similar
circumstances, training, and education need to be listened to... they are
the true "experts".
As a 30 Mile Survivor said, it is more about the perceptions... did Mr.
Daniels know or understand his perceived actions..... ".gross negligence and
wanton disregard for human life knowing that his actions would place
firefighter lives in danger"?
I doubt it...... None of us "experts" understand the complexities of the
human mind when horrible compounding mistakes are made... Laurence Gonsales
has some pretty good understanding... Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies,
A good primer for many people who study personal and organizational
Thank you for the little plug on the amateur cancer research I have been
doing. I started it after Kirk Smith was diagnosed with cancer.... a very
rare form. Actually, my interest in the subject began after the death of
Paul Gleason, but I didn't see the link until Kirk began his battle.
The study on firefighter cancer risks will be shortly forgotten by many in
the wildland firefighting community. In other cases, some will view it as
non-relevant information because it didn't specifically address wildland
It is very important that the wildland firefighting community reads the
recommendations of the research group. Those recommendations are meant to
keep firefighters and their families safer. More importantly, look around
and read the They Said archives of how many of our brother and sister
firefighters we have lost from cancer over the last 7 years and what they
have been dying from.
Who would have thought a "fire booger" had the potential of being a
carcinogen? Who would have thought the smoke and soot covered clothes we
were bringing home could harm us and our families?
Wildland firefighters and their families need to know and understand all of
the risks of this profession. We all need to understand that "very rare"
cancers to the public aren't so rare to all of us.
I personally know of people within the wildland fire community with each one
of the cancers identified as elevated risk. That is not coincidence.
The research just confirms what I have been viewing through observational
and empirical studies over a few years. Thank you to everyone who has
provided information on They Said to allow me to rant and fine tune our
thoughts.... I have learned alot here and continue to do each and every day
||A look into our future with respect to fire
Here is a portion of an interesting article about the relationship between the increase in the Atlantic Ocean temperatures and wild land fire intensity in the Western United States. It states in part:
A look back across 500 years' worth of wildfire history shows fire season intensity across Western North America increases in direct proportion to, of all things, surface temperatures of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Given that the Atlantic warms and cools in 60-year cycles and the ocean is entering its next warm phase, researchers predict a decades long increase in widespread fires across the Western United States in the coming years.
And global warming only will exacerbate that trend.
The findings are being published this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. The research was led by Thomas Kitzberger of the Universidad Nacional del Comahue in Argentina and scientists at the University of Colorado and the University of Arizona.
The link to this article is http://www.chicoer.com/news/bayarea/ci_4901751. Of course, this is only one part of the puzzle, but an interesting part, none the less.
Nor Cal FBAN
The whole 30-Mile prosecution debacle is just that…a debacle. There was loss of life and that is
incredibly tragic and regrettable beyond words. But there is even more serious tragedy unfolding…that is
the fact that firefighters are now “lawyering-up” after an accident. That will lead to even more
tragedies since accident investigations will now be headed towards prosecution vs. prevention from lessons
But lets talk about some facts:
• We all are ultimately responsible for ourselves and our own safety.
• Firefighting is inherently dangerous; loss of life is possible.
• Fireline leaders are human and it is always possible for them to make mistakes.
• Making leaders fearful of making mistakes is not the answer.
Now, just for the heck of it let’s think about a couple of things:
• How many deaths and disabling injuries have taken place during professional sports events?
• Have the players and coaches ever been charged with a crime?
• How about the referee? Well, they are supposed to keep the players under control and playing safe!
I did not mean to compare firefighting with professional sports; there is no comparison…we
actually are productive members of society. But the point I was trying to make is what we do is sometimes
dangerous…it is a fact…and we all accepted that.
People will make mistakes in life. The key was it intentional?
So who made the mistakes? I don’t know, I have no first hand knowledge of everyone’s actions that day.
But I do know that criminally prosecuting someone for mistakes on the fireline is only going to make
everything for everyone worse.
One last point…I just checked in the IQCS database for a “John R. Parker”. Seems that the only two people in
the IQCS database don’t match the John R. Parker in the affidavit. Hummmmmm, so we have an investigator
conducting an investigation who doesn’t even have his qualifications on file in the official source. And
then again…when did he take his last refresher training, is he current with his quals? Kinda makes
you wonder just a little bit about his ability to conduct an informed or competent investigation.
||Thanks for the plug for going to work for OES Fire and Rescue. I hope
someone thinking about life after the FS or other wildland agency sees your
suggestion and will think about applying. There is a difference between
applying for the OES from the Federal Service-there is an exam. There is
also the minimum requirement of being at least a Battalion Chief (or its
equivalent, ie... ADFMO).
Deputy Chief Fire and Rescue Branch
Governors Office of Emergency Services
Thousands of volunteers battling forest blazes in Australia's south-east
corner received a timely Christmas present Monday when snow fell on fires
that over the last three weeks have burned 870,000 hectares.
"I didn't actually believe it until it actually came last night," volunteer
fireman Paul Koenig told national broadcaster ABC in the Mt Buller ski
resort in Victoria.
"It's put the white cover across the buildings and the white cover over the
ground, so it looks beautiful," he said.
In Melbourne, the state capital, it was the coldest Christmas Day in 70
years. In the neighbouring state of New South Wales temperatures also
plummeted with the Thredbo ski resort receiving a dusting of snow.
In Hobart, the Tasmanian state capital, children were throwing snowballs
where a week ago smoke plumed from a forest on fire.
"We've come all the way from England for a warm summer and here we are in
the snow in Hobart, but we're still enjoying it," one tourist told the ABC.
Weather bureau forecaster Scott Williams said the unseasonably low
temperatures meant fires in three states could be extinguished by the end of
"It's a terrific Christmas present for the firefighters," Williams said.
"It's going to go a long way to putting the fires out."
At their height, 4,000 firefighters were pitched against the blazes. There
were contingents from New Zealand as well as from the military. Dozens of
water-bombing aircraft have been in action.
Forest fires sparked by lightning or set by arsonists are a feature of the
hot southern hemisphere summer. Four years ago seven people were killed, 500
houses razed and 3 million hectares of forest lost - an area three times the
size of Britain.
Good news. Ab.
My best thoughts for Ellreese and his family on this Christmas day.
Cache Queen described him some years ago as a thoughtful and
gentle man. I'm holding him and his family and all who have
from this tragedy in my thoughts and prayers this Christmas.
Thanks Kathy and Ken.
Have a wonderful day everyone! (Boy is it storming in my
If funds are needed to avoid Ellreese buckling under to a stupid plea
let's make it so. This whole thing is so wrong.
On this Christmas eve, I want to thank Ken and Kathy from the bottom of my heart for their thoughtful, and for me, healing letter regarding Levi. They have moved a long way down the road of acceptance, a journey that I only wish some of the Thirtymile families would choose to make.
I am a survivor of the Thirtymile fire. As a father and a career firefighter, it is difficult to imagine the loss suffered by the wife, children, parents, and loved ones of Tom, Jessica, Karen, and Devin. The pain has to be enormous and beyond description.
Ken and Kathy mentioned blaming others and wanting answers to the many questions that inevitably arise. How can that be characterized as anything other than a perfectly natural response, particularly when investigations uncover errors and mistakes that contributed to the tragic outcome? Believing someone has to be held accountable and, if appropriate, punished for their mistakes and failures is obvious and therein lies the dilemma for management and now, the legal system.
Early on in the Thirtymile investigation process, I believe a decision was made not to place blame or culpability on Tom, Jessica, Karen, and Devin which may have contributed to their deaths. After all, they were not able to defend themselves. So, the failure, fault and blame must be borne by others, theoretically, based on the facts uncovered from 20-20 hindsight. However, this process leads to a significant bias!
The bias is introduced when the outcome is known. It is exacerbated by a belief that a diligent investigation can uncover the factors which lead to that outcome. Intuitively this is true; however, as often pointed out by Managan and Putnam; the human factors are not so easily understood. It takes a very good investigator using skilled techniques to work with eye witnesses and others to get the whole story. This did not happen in the Thirtymile investigations. The human factor side was sorely missed.
I believe this bias gave rise to the attitude Jim <snip> had when he arrived to lead the accident investigation team. From the beginning, he believed the Fire Orders were not followed, the 18 Situations compromised and his job was to confirm that belief because he knew the outcome. His arrogance was unbelievable!
The Thirtymile fire investigation did uncover many of the facts leading to the entrapment and fatalities. The significant failure, in my opinion, of this and the subsequent administrative disciplinary report was to waste an incredible opportunity to mine the “learning potential”. The attitude of the Regional Forester and senior members of the Chief’s Office was to punish the employees involved and make them an example to the remainder of the workforce. This resulted in employees refusing to discuss their involvement and expose themselves to further punitive actions, particularly when the OIG began investigating. At that point, the opportunity to learn from the tragedy was forever lost and it was never regained.
And now the legal process has entered the fray. Did Ellreese Daniels’ actions on July 10, 2001 constitute “…gross negligence and wanton disregard for human life knowing that his actions would place firefighter lives in danger”? That is the standard the U.S. Attorney will have to meet with the Grand Jury to indict him on charges of involuntary manslaughter. There is an adage that a ham sandwich can be indicted before a Grand Jury, so that may not be too difficult. However, when (and if) the case is tried, the U.S. Attorney will have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that
Ellreese’s actions meet these standards. I believe that will be an uphill battle for the prosecutor in front of a jury.
The false statement charges, in my view, are problematic. Ellreese was traumatized along with many other people on that day and I don’t know what to make of the allegations he lied to investigators.
I hope Ellreese gets a chance to mount a rigorous defense and clear these charges. This is a decision he and his attorney will make. I believe it would be a miscarriage of justice to accept a plea bargain that will undoubtedly be offered by the U.S. Attorney. He is a political animal and wants to get this mess behind him. He is looking for a payback at some point in his career...ie. federal judgeship when power shifts in D.C.
There is a great deal riding on this for all firefighters! When the opportunity presents itself to give
Ellreese (and by proxy every one of us) the chance to defend himself, I sincerely hope the firefighter community will stand behind him with money. It could take alot to make this defense.
A Thirtymile Survivor
Esperanza Firefighter's Fund
I just came across your site and wanted to give you a quick update. The Governor’s staff could not find a way past the
(CA) Franchise Tax Board’s rules so the fund (1.1 million dollars) could not be disbursed before Christmas. This disappointment and frustration will be corrected when the State Legislature reconvenes. We will get a State exemption similar to the Federal legislation as quickly as possible. Ask your members to contact their representatives and tell them to watch for the upcoming bills. They will be carried by Sen. Battin and Assemblymen Benoit and Cook.
The good news is we are getting some support to permanently correct this deficit in the tax code. Riverside County has added a permanent fix to its 2007 political agenda as a top priority. The County is a frequent wildfire victim and very much wants to fix this thing. United Ways in California public policy committee has expressed interest in supporting a national fix, and Central County United Way in Hemet looks forward to not only disbursing the fund as soon as possible, but will do all it can to help amend tax code to prevent this hang up from ever occurring again.
Thank all your members for what they do;
Bob Duistermars, President
Central County United Way (California)
Thanks for your work on this too, Bob. Ab.
Isn't there a big meeting in Reno coming up in January? Hopefully people will
speak up about the injustice that has hit Ellreese Daniels and the WHOLE
Wildland Fire community.
From Firescribe: Read the whole article, but here are some excerpts.
Forest Service veterans worry about precedent
The prospect became reality Wednesday when federal manslaughter
charges were filed against former crew boss Ellreese Daniels.
U.S. Forest Service veterans believe it was the first time criminal
charges had ever been filed in connection with wildland fire deaths, and
said it could worsen a growing sense among firefighters that their
homes, jobs and pensions aren't worth the seasonal thrill of knocking
"I would think this is going to have a real chilling effect on the folks
that are out there, the boots on the ground," said Jim Furnish, a
retired headquarters official who led the Thirtymile fatality
investigation for the Forest Service.
Furnish said after leaving the agency several years ago that he believed
some Thirtymile supervisors and managers should have faced more severe
discipline. None was ever fired.
Even so, the announcement of criminal charges so many years after the
fire surprised Furnish and others.
"I have to admit I'm kind of flabbergasted," he said.
Furnish suggested that allegations that Daniels lied about his role
might have spurred prosecutors to take a tougher approach.
Earlier, some of his statements prompted Furnish's investigative team to
revise their report that Daniels had surely ordered the firefighters off
the slope where they died.
Retired Forest Service fire investigator Dick Mangan is even more
blunt, suggesting that federal prosecutors took their sweet time
examining every one of Daniels' actions -- a luxury he didn't have in
the midst of a 9,300-acre blaze.
"Sometimes we have a decision space of 30 seconds, a minute, two
minutes -- and you don't always get it right," said Mangan, a
three-decade Forest Service veteran who has since served in active
operations and safety posts.
He questioned whether the charges were motivated by publicity or
"Five and a half years later, they have perfect 20-20 hindsight and
they can find things wrong? I don't find that very beneficial to the
fire service," Mangan said.
Santa's Helper fundraiser
Peets coffee collected a little over $150.00 in donations today; so with the company
match, the Fund will be receiving a little over $300.00. Not too bad for Christmas
Eve when a lot of people are not out and about. Would have been nice if it had
been more, but every little bit helps.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.
Annette and thanks to Peets for supporting our families at Christmas time.
Re Recent updates:
Now, THAT'S a Christmas tree! Merry Christmas, ya'll, and Happy and Safe New Year.
Thanks Pyro. We updated the top of this page and the photo on the wildlandfire.com
Thanks to Sting for the great firey Christmas tree photo.
Some interesting thoughts from the Missoulian's Editor about the role of the USFS in protecting structures in the
It's the Forest Service, not fire department - Sunday, December 24, 2006
SUMMARY: Masking, shifting fire protection costs encourages illogical development.
An audit completed late last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General hammers the Forest Service for burning money in the way it fights forest fires. Although auditors conclude the agency wastes money through poor cost containment and by fighting fires that might actually do more good than harm by thinning overgrown forests, much of the high cost of firefighting comes from protecting private property, not the national forests.
Indeed, depending on the degree of development, between 50 percent and 95 percent of the cost of firefighting may be attributable to protecting homes and other structures on private property, the auditors found.
That's not altogether surprising to anyone here in Montana or elsewhere in the West, where every summer we see the Forest Service pulling out all the stops to protect lives and structures - small armies of men and women on the ground, helicopters and bombers aloft, huge fleets of vehicles and a massive organization providing logistical support. When smoke's rising, virtually no one questions expenditures aimed at protecting private property - unless it's to complain they're insufficient. Recall last summer when Montana's Sen. Conrad Burns publicly blasted firefighters for not doing enough to save the grass in pastures on which rancher's cows could graze. After the massive fires of 2000, firefighters sheepishly conceded they'd spent more money protecting some buildings than the structures were worth.
But if the point made in the audit isn't new, perhaps it's time to take a new look at the problem.
To read the rest, click the link above. Ab.
OZ: Strike Team 1007 in Gippsland
< may need to join for free, but may be of
interest as lots of pics of scenes & appliances....
A follow up from Dick's link, the Cowwarr crew were out when a deliberately lit fire
came at the town from an unexpected direction resulting in a number of homes lost.
The best thing tho is there is rain falling around much of SE Oz which means we're
home for Xmas & hopefully NYE...
Have a good Christmas and New Year. Ab.
I have been on the front lines for over 30 years and this season has probably been the most difficult. My heart has been saddened by the loss of so many firefighters close to me. Watching my coworkers and friends deal with such tragedy has been almost more than anyone can stand. I have searched my soul and prayed to try to find the answers, cried a million tears. My strength has been praying that God will heal the hearts of all my coworkers, and the families of those brave firefighters that lost
their lives fighting for what they believe in.
My promise is to keep doing what I have always done. To do the job to the best of my ability. To also trust the people around me to do the best job to their ability. Not to let myself get caught up in anger and hate to blame the system. We are here to serve, and serve I will.
What happened to the greatest good for the most people in the long run?
Are they just empty thoughts?
It may be on the news up there but I did not hear it down this way yesterday,
but per the Internet Gov. Schwarzenegger broke his right leg skiing in Idaho
Hope he remembers the Esperanza families money before going in for surgery
after he gets back to LA.
While the case of Ellreese bypassed the Grand Jury phase that so many people thought would be looked at closely, the "simple" statement (52 page affidavit) of the OIG Investigator on Dec. 19th took the charges forward without a Grand Jury approval. "It" proved probable cause even though it (the OIG investigation) violated the law just as the OIG jerk wrote in his statements on the record without relevant real world experience.
Misery Whip, I am pissed off also... I have to wonder if a Grand Jury would have found probable cause....(I doubt it).... but then, the folks that the families of the fallen are supposed to trust.... VIOLATED THE LAW. They violated the trust of all of us.
Thankfully, Ellreese is free.. He has not been arrested or confined for the charges against him.
The initial story that said he was just going to have to testify before a Grand Jury are long lost.... He has been indicted.... He is going to court for his actions...
Ellreese is free right now... so are all of us free to point fingers at the processes and those that are
f**king up and not doing what is right......
/s/ I am ashamed to be a wildland firefighter when our supposed leaders sit silent... shame on them! Fingers not pointed at anyone, but hoping they look at the damage some are doing for firefighter safety in the future.
P.S. - The families of some of the 30 Mile Fallen need to be introduced to the families of the fallen who are healing and understanding the bigger picture, and some of the families of the co-workers and friends who were doing their jobs and are
similarly hurt by these actions..... They need to heal and go forward and work through the pain for the betterment of everyone.... just IMHO....
Sorry, sounds pretty abrupt and to the point.... All in compassion... I may be wrong.... beat me up if it feels good to you.... You have the right..... You lost a loved one.... So did I... A True Friend, a brother firefighter to all of us.
None of us go to work with the intention to kill a buddy..... or our buddies...... But each of us goes to work each day knowing that we don't know how the day will end......... It could be a good day or a bad day.
We are wildland firefighters.
I hope that our agency will figure out the travesty of injustice going on and that Bosworth and Harbour see first hand the tremendous amount of stress and tension going on in the fire organization.
All to often I have seen folks in their positions and line officer positions such as district rangers that lack leadership in every meaning of the word. I will echo Misery Whip and all the others that we need to band together and support
Ellreese Daniels and Allen Hackett. Maybe we should all go on strike this summer and see what happens. I am utterly disgusted with line officers who lack a backbone and those in D.C. that can flaunt the Pulaski Doctrine in our faces - that
makes me want to puke and MEANS NOTHING TO ME!!! How pathetic these line officer types have become by trying to 'not rock the boat' and support a firefighter that stuck their neck out to continue down the path of ICT3, but for what? To save some line officer type's a**!!!
I find it rather interesting how when s*** hits the fan, I have NEVER seen a line officer type ever take accountability or responsibility. What ever happened to leading by example? I work for a district ranger that is the most pathetic I have ever witnessed in my 20 year career. We broke our own escape fire and handled it with the utmost professionalism and safety - he was not even present during the fire initially
but tried to take credit for the decisions we made in his absence - and did not even have the backbone to
acknowledge good decisions had been made. I believe that bad leadership needs to be challenged here and now and these line officer types are NO LONGER EXEMPT from passing the buck. This one in particular, feels he doesn't need leadership courses - he never attended one and has no fire training beyond Guard School and calls himself a DIVS. How insulting!!! His lack of leadership and insecurities produced mass exodus from the district and I
believe that those in D.C. are also at the root of the symptom. Step up to the plate, boys, and get a backbone.
<snip> I challenge you to either lead this agency like you mean it - or go retire and let us step up and take care of our own who have stuck their necks out and will continue to stick their necks out as a "Band of Brothers and Sisters".
I am embarrassed to say I work for the US Forest Service because of the lack of leadership!!! However, I have the utmost respect for those Fire Staff and other line officer types that continue down the path of fire and lead by example and leading teams or participating on teams - right on and my hat is off to you folks. I would also congratulate the BLM by how they operate.
One other tidbit - we need to pursue that line officer types get adequate training and continuing fire education if they want to continue in line positions from DIVS and beyond. It's amazing how it gets buried in the crap of 'not rocking the boat'. As someone that has the duties of being the training officer for my district and challenged this very individual, I was told that my career would be over!!! I pursued it anyway and oh' how the retaliation kicked in. I would like to see this person put himself in
Daniels' shoes and try to feel what could possibly be happening. He doesn't even have the guts to do that. Because of his ineptness and incompetence, I am getting liability insurance.
I look at this as the tidal wave about to hit land and the ripple effect is just starting to become visible!!!
'Jumpin Jack Flash'
From Chief Goldfeder <yester>day, thought it might interest you. Too bad wildland
troops cannot be on clean air. RJM
Subject: Firefighting Cancer & FF Benefits (The Secret List)
This will be quick 'cause I am still not done shopping. Don't say a word...I've been busy.
Anyway.. the issue of firefighters and cancer is coming more and more into the
limelight... and not going away. Below is a link to an article related to a FF's family being denied benefits. Check it out.
But equally important is HOW WE CAN GET CANCER. For that, I was able to spend some time talking to Dr. Grace LeMasters who just lead that study on firefighting cancer. As a firefighter, the outcome of that recent study done by University of Cincinnati environmental health researchers will BLOW YOU AWAY. Their work-which directly impacts you, has determined that firefighters are significantly much more likely to develop four different types of cancers. Significantly. And they are not just talking about inhalation...for example, ya know that soot we "wear" for hours after a fire.......
Please take some time to LISTEN to "Part 1" of the discussions related to cancer and us. Here is the link:
And here is the news article from Canada:
Take Care-BE CAREFUL....at fires: use all your PPE...have no exposed skin....breathe nothing but clean air. Listen to the above interview, you'll better understand.
Lobotomy has ranted on the dangers of smoke and wildland firefighter
cancers for at least 4 years. Glad to see it's being addressed by a growing
number of researchers. Often it is a body of research that shows patterns.
Re: NZ Fire Fighters in Victoria, Australia
I have just returned from Victoria, Australia where I led the 45 New Zealand
(Kiwi) fire fighter who went over to assist them with the bush fires they
are experiencing. I note some postings re the Burn Over incident the NZ task
Force experienced on the 16th Dec on “They Said”. I’m very pleased to be
able to advise that all of the injured are doing quite well now. Five of the
six who were hospitalized were able to fly home with the rest of us
yesterday (as planned). The 6th has stayed in Melbourne for some further
skin graft treatment to his burns. Like your Marines, we didn’t like leaving
our wounded behind but John is in very good hands in a Melbourne hospital
and we expect him back in NZ after Xmas but before the New Year.
Our Task Force came back to NZ with our heads held high knowing that we had
done our best and made a difference in what is a tough campaign battle going
on in the State of Victoria. It is not all over yet and a few of the us who
were in the first contingent will grab Xmas/New Year with our families
before heading back to Victoria around the 3rd of Jan to continue the work.
I think that overall, we have come out of the incident stronger and a little
wiser in lots of different ways. We will welcome the findings of the
investigation (stand practice for an injury incident) and we will look
carefully at any “Lessons Learnt”.
On behalf of the NZ contingent I would like to thank those that keep the
forum informed of our incident. The emails and postings of support have been
gratefully noted. We are also conscious of the many of you who will have
shared that moment when the news broke knowing that you will have been
thinking of us and especially of our injured. The bond between Australia,
the US and NZ has been always been strong and many of you may have met or
worked with New Zealanders (Kiwis) in the previous deployments to US fires.
You have had your troubled times and I know you will understand more than
most what such an incident means physically and emotionally.
We are able to look forward to all 6 working their way back to full health
and fitness over the next month or so. They will do this in the full
knowledge of the tremendous support they have had from the Victorians and
their fire fighting colleagues from throughout Australia, NZ and the USA.
On behalf of the Kiwis, I would also like to wish all of you on this forum a
great Xmas and a safe New Year..
NZ Liaison Officer
Alan, Merry Christmas to you and yours as well. We're glad 5 of the 6
injured get to go home. Our best to John for a speedy recovery. Ab.
I have been a reader of They Said for many years.
I just finished reading the post and attachment from Misery Whip. I am
so pissed that our world has come to this. The court document affidavit
"overview" is full of subjective accounts and comments from Parker. I
With that, I have composed a 3 page letter in a word document that I
am sending to all media groups. The first thing I want to yell out at
"these" people is, This is a dangerous job! I am a Type 3 IC, this is
As we enter the Christmas holidays (called the "Festive season" in
Australia), it's good to forget about 1000+ hours of OT, portal-to-portal
pay, and more GS's for doing the firefighting job, and reflect on the
dedication and sacrifices being made by the volunteer bushfire fighters in
Victoria State in Australia in the midst of what promises to be a long fire
True spirit shines
December 23, 2006
BUSHFIRE may have stolen the Walker family's home, but it couldn't take
their Christmas spirit.
A deliberately-lit fireball that raged through their Gippsland property nine
days ago left them with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Those clothes are the garish orange of the Country Fire Authority -- a
uniform they now wear as a badge of honour.
.. Article continues.
Alternatively, you can cut and paste this link into your browser:
While going back through some postings on 'TheySaid" I found this:
I'm sure you have been inundated with questions regarding the entire
E-57 Memorial Video. I tried the link that someone posted back on the
and they seem to have no idea what I'm talking about regarding the
Any information on where I can order one for the district fire folks?
Below is the posting that was listed on the 6th.
CBS 2 has a video of the memorial service posted at
If you would like to purchase a copy of the video the form
and 800 number are at
/Cara, any updated info on where this can be purchased or who we
might ask? Anyone on Feser's Team know? Chuck? Ab./
I am waiting for final permissions to begin assembling all of the post
Engine 57 items which will include a full screen version of the Memorial.
That permission should be arriving soon and I would look for something after
the first of the year. The video will have the cameras we had on stage plus
we will include some cameras I had floating around the stadium. Down the
road also will be a DVD of photos and a book of photos and words. Engine 57
families and SBNF/San JAC folks first and then released to the world. The
number above is for the Webcast version which will not have the added
footage and is much smaller in viewing size.
In reference to the pending Thirty Mile Fire prosecution, I've
edited this post of all disparaging script. Except for one... Scrooge! What
kind of moron came up with the great timing? There, vented.
In another life, I've spent way too many years driving both brown and blue
cruisers. As a Deputy, I'd spent much time "babysitting" prisoners during
their Felony trials. Where I come from, police officers used to prosecute
their own Misdemeanor and Violation cases, so I've had plenty of opportunity
to do that as well. Honesty and Integrity goes a long way and I lost only a
handful of cases at most during my tenure.
Here's what I learned, down and dirty...
Get a good lawyer early on. Try to find someone who has been "successful" in
similar type cases.
Whenever possible, opt for a Jury Trial. You'll have twelve people listening
to the case. Unless you really went over the deep end, there should be at
least one person sitting there thinking "there but for the grace of God go
I". Also, "peers" tend to love firefighters.
I think that we, collectively, should support re-examination of the
statutes. Our forefathers had purposely built the "lag" into the law making
process with the intention of reducing hasty "popular opinion driven
legislation". This is a good example of one that got slipped in through the
As always, Stay Safe! "Kicks"
Good Morning Everyone,
I've been working today with Lillian at the WFF to get the
52 walk pledge/donation list updated and in order -- so our guys and gals at
the WFF don't have to spend days and weeks at this process.
52 Walk Donation List. To all whose names appear there:
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
If your name's not there and it should be, there's a good chance it's my
bad... or Swiss Cheese. Contact me. There have been minor glitches: a
problem with Paypal, Ab not entering ALL the data, crossed eyes, too much
spiked eggnog, a reindeer ate it, etc. We can fix it easily.
In addition, some contributions that were made to the WFF directly did
not get on the list. There were companies the hotshots got to donate and
fire businesses that helped out. There were firefighter associations that
are part of this community that stepped up. We'd like to thank and honor all
contributors and supporters. We're all in this together. Email me and we can
update to add you.
I know everyone is caught up in other holiday priorities right now: time
off, relaxing, not even checking the computer. When you get back to reading
theysaid , if you don't remember what you pledged, or if you're part of a
team, crew or group that's sending in your donation in pieces, and you need
info, please check
and/or email Ab. Let me say that this is a work in progress. This Ab is just
looking to expedite the process.
The goal is to say thanks to everyone!
In the meantime, thanks for your patience and cooperation. Any questions,
email me. Ab.
For those of your that are so disgusted about the criminal charges regarding
the 30 Mile Fire:
The California Office of Emergency Services (OES) is taking applications -
Coordinator (Fire and Rescue Services):
Senior Coordinator (Fire and Rescue Services):
I was contacted from someone earlier today.... His thoughts were, "Maybe all
of the Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, and Type 4 Incident Commanders should
seriously reconsider their decisions to "volunteer" for service as an
I have mixed feelings with that.... I would prefer to stay a federal Type 2
IC(t), OSC2, and a Type 3 IC, but the risks vs. gains are beginning to be
I think I am able to keep people safe most of the time, but what if someone
does something human and makes a mistake on my watch?.... Do I risk being
sent to prison?
What happens if I am actually human and make a mistake myself?.... Do I risk
being sent to prison?
People make mistakes... It is the basis of Human Factors research and the
prevention of accidents within High Reliability Organizations (HROs)....
Build a Better Cockpit.
Sign me, I already have Professional Liability Insurance and that doesn't
even come close to fixing the problem or making me feel safer in this
profession anymore, as people who can make a change sit on their thumbs
without personal risk to themselves and their families.
P.S. - Ab, I bet that is the longest moniker you have ever seen?
This is my first post to wildlandfire.com after a couple of years of reading
other's posts. Naturally, the subject
foremost in my mind is Daniels' indictment. I, for one, think we all need to
take his side against the almost
unbelievable situation that he is facing.
After 22 years in this business, I know we all have attitudes and egos, and
our own opinions on who's the best-our
particular unit, of course! Time to put that stuff aside. Every single one
of us could be in this situation the next
time we go to a fire. We've all made mistakes, and if we've been in the
business long enough, I think we've all been
in situations that were sketchy enough that we could have ended up in his
shoes. Sometimes the only mistake that
needs to be made is showing up to work.
Perhaps I'm stating the obvious, but we really need to show a united front
on this. Email your senators and
representatives, call them on the phone, write them letters, use the
thousands of dollars of overtime you made this
season to get a ticket to Washington and fly out there to support Daniels.
Don't take the easy way out and blame
someone above for inaction, take some action yourself.
Shamelessly hiding my identity-for now...
Here are the e-mail addresses for the investigative news shows:
60 Minutes: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for everything KFI is doing.
I heard your latest report tonight talking about the possibility of the
signing an executive order to alleviate the State Franchise Tax Board
that is very good news.
The Governor had tears in his eyes at the E-57 Memorial and it is good to
he is trying to make good on his promises.
Thanks again Jay and all of the KFI crew for your compassion....
Some quotes from the OIG Special Agent's sworn affidavit:
"I obtained access to voluminous materials from the Forest Service, U.S.
Department of Agriculture."
" I obtained these documents from the Safety & Accident Investigation Team's
Throughout the 52 Page sworn affidavit, there are literally hundreds of
references to materials and statements obtained from the Forest Service
investigative record, the Forest Service Administrative Review Team, and the
Forest Service Oral Reply Team.
On page 2 of the sworn statement, it states, "In the case of each fatality
of an officer or employee of the Forest Service that occurs due to wildfire
entrapment or burnover, the Inspector General of the Department of
Agriculture shall conduct an investigation of the fatality."
His sworn statement seemed to overlook and not include the second
7 U.S.C. 2270b (PL 107-203) that states, "The investigation shall not
rely on, and shall be completely independent of, any investigation of the
fatality that is conducted by the Forest Service."
As Mr. Daniel's attorney says, "smacks of looking for a scapegoat to me."
Ab and All,
Once upon a time, in the Middle Fork of the Salmon, a first
year firefighter was caught with portions of two handcrews, and was
surrounded by fire. The roughly 20 people retreated to the black, but smoke,
embers, heat and a main fire run coming up canyon forced a deployment . As I
stood there that day -- shielding my face from the over 200 foot flames, and
admiring nature beyond prudent judgment, Ignorantly being the last to get
under my shelter, and briefly taking in what 19 fire shelters deployed side
by side looked like -- my fate was in my own hands.
The only thing the crew boss said that day was "let's go to the black" and
"get your shelters out". The noise, confusion, smoky conditions, and almost
hypnotic circumstances dictated that you do what you were trained to do. Not
running off in different directions, not being out of earshot, but being
shoulder to shoulder with your fellow firefighter and making sure that the
person to the left and person to right and yourself got squared away.
All I can say is, let's don't run scared, let's stand shoulder to shoulder.
Ellreese Daniels is being railroaded: these charges are practically made up,
more than the fabrication that is alleged against him. We are are talking
politics, money, and emotions and not sure in what order. But in response to
the statement that Mr. Weaver made about "making it safer", my question to
him is "how is that true?" I would like to hear one objective fact on how
this will make it safer for the wildland firefighting community.
There are likely some reasons why Ellreese is being singled out, but that
is probably better for, as someone suggested, one of those network docudrama
shows to expose.
OH. MY. GOD.
I just read the criminal complaint against Ellreese Daniels. Is the US
Attorney really serious about using this f**ked up piece of sh*t to deprive
one of our fellow firefighters of their freedom and livelihood? This thing
has more f**king holes in it than Mr. Crusty Drawers’ underwear, and it
smells even worse. No offense intended Mr. Crusty Drawers.
Here’s the link to this atrocity:
OIG Special Agent JR Parker seems to be very proud of his fire training;
unfortunately, he seems to have acquired just enough fire knowledge to
become dangerous. There is a big difference between taking Crew Boss
training and actually having to BE one in the real world.
As I read his complaint statement, I thought to myself, this is a person who
thinks he has it all figured out but really doesn’t have a friggin clue
about what it is like to be in the midst of a traumatic event on a wildland
fire. EVERY SINGLE ONE of his assertions about Ellreese’s supposed failings
and misstatements can be explained if you read Agent Parker’s complaint
As for basing their case on the 10 and 18, I have to call bullsh*t. Matter
of fact, I’m going to offer another Misery Whip challenge: to any Crew Boss
who can successfully demonstrate to me that they can simultaneously attend
to important operational and supervisory details throughout a busy extended
wildland fire shift AND constantly refer to and correctly update their
present situation at any given time utilizing ALL of the Ten Standard Fire
Orders and Eighteen Watchout Situations while being sleep deprived and…
well, that’s probably enough. Anyway, the reward is two weeks of my
take-home pay, and I’m a GS-f**king 12, so that’s about $1,600.
I am absolutely serious about this. Come on, all you hot rod fire management
big dogs and fire investigators who insist that the 10 & 18 are our
operational guides. Bring it on. I’ll arrange payment through the Abs if you
think you’re up to it. Show me how you use the 10 & 18 in the fire
environment I described above. I’ve been doing this sh*t for over 25 years
and I still haven’t figured out how anyone could successfully execute that
task. Ted Putnam made this point years ago, yet we still perpetuate this
To Agent Parker and the Spokane US Attorney; you can spare yourselves a lot
of embarrassment by withdrawing this case immediately. You may think you
have hitched your wagon to a sure-fire winner, but you trusted the wrong
people and got sold a load of bullsh*t. You should read Ted Putnam’s &
Jennifer Thackaberry-Ziegler’s writings on the 10 & 18 before you dig your
hole any deeper.
Sorry about the profanity-laced tirade, but I’m pissed. I hate what these
people are trying to do to a fellow firefighter and I fear what this is
going to do to our wildland fire culture. In the end, more firefighters may
die because of this farce.
You said, "I'm not sure it is productive to blame Tom Harbour and Dale
Bosworth for actions by the US Attorney. They have no ability to convince a
US Attorney to do anything - they'd be accused of interference."
I agree with you somewhat. After seeing the remarks of Lobotomy, all of
those complicit in the losses of firefighers need to come clean with their
actions during the 30 Mile Fire and subsequent fires resulting in the losses
of life since 2001..... A F**ked up process willing to protect the agencies
rather than protecting the firefighters who are serving the agencies at
their own personal and family risk.
The Special Agent of the USDA-OIG seems to have broken the law.... Simply
said, he over-stepped his knowledge base and his jurisdictional
responsibility and broke the law as is clearly stated in Public Law
107-203. The US Attorneys Office allowed it.... simply said... case
closed... Point the finger where the finger needs to be pointed at..... For
God sakes... it is Christmas... shame on them for hurting the families,
friends, and co-workers of wildland firefighters. Stop hurting wildland
firefighters who are simply trying to do their jobs and adding a risk of
criminal prosecution to their already overloaded senses and duties.
Tom Harbour and Dale Bosworth are now aware of it.... they need to share it
with their supervisors and kick it up the chain of command (sorry for the
military references, but Tom has a Marine connection he probably hasn't
forgotten) or suffer the consequences. Their bosses are Mr. Rey, Mr. Johanns,
and the President. The ball is in their court now...
This has Supreme Court Case Law references that may be used in the future...
Ref: My Lai during the Vietnam War. Just because your supervisor told you to
do it, it isn't right and won't protect you in a court of law for doing what
is wrong!!!!! Do what is right now!!!
Stop this BS so people can have a Merry Christmas and so we can keep people
safer in the future!!!
Please welcome the new members of the Board of Directors (BOD) for the
Association of Wildland Fire. The new BOD members are,
effective January, 1, 2007:
Dan Bailey, Falls Church, Virginia, USA
Janice Coen, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Tim Dolan, San Francisco, California, USA
Gary Morgan, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Brett Shields, Bowral, New South Wales, Australia
Bill Sommers, Great Falls, Virginia, USA
Ann Walker, Salem, Oregon, USA
In addition, we have a new slate of officers starting January 1, 2007:
President: Chuck Bushey
Vice President: Paul Woodard
Secretary: Marc Titus
Treasurer: Elizabeth Reinhardt
We want to thank the BOD members whose terms will end December 31, 2006.
We greatly appreciate their service and we hope they will continue to be
in the IAWF. Many thanks go out to:
Domingos Xavier Viegas
We've digitized the text of the Thirtymile criminal complaint. It's included
in our S-230 crew boss pages, along with a 1958 article from Fire Control
Notes entitled, "Safe Practices Under Blowup Conditions - A Training Outline
for Fire Crew Bosses " and the 1982 "Basics of Fire Suppression" letter from
R-5 fire/aviation director Lynn Biddison.
In my opinion, the crew boss on a type 2 crew has the toughest job in
wildland fire, with the ICT3 a close second.
It's still true after almost 50 years: "The crew boss has two main
responsibilities: (a) To obtain an effective, fair day's work from his crew,
and (b) to look after the safety and welfare of his crew 24 hours a day to
the best of his ability."
30 mile charges
What I see from all this is other federal resource
personnel, outside of
fire -- such as biologist, timber and others -- getting out of the business
all together. Why would someone jeopardize their livelihood for a part time
job. I know a lot of people that want to give up their upper fire
and just be a firefighter.
It will be real interesting to see how this pans out for years to come.
For those of you who are concerned about E-57 not being in the BDF CAD,
here's what's going on.
The new Engine is indeed here but it's empty. It cost about $50,000 to
outfit a Model 62 and we're working on that. After the holidays we need to
transfer/promote/hire three high performance people to fill some big shoes.
The two firefighters who were not involved in the accident want to return
to their Engine (very cool, very brave)!
We will then do everything we can to support the new crew so sometime next
May you will hear "Engine 57 in service"
Thanks to all of you who continue to support the San Jacinto Ranger
District and the San Bernardino National Forest during these tough times.
For All Concerned .......
I am doing a follow up story on when the families will receive some of the
donation money. According to United Way of Hemet General manager Bob
Duistermars, no money will be handed out until changes are made to
California's franchise tax board law. He tells me the law is similar to the
IRS and the governor must now approve emergency changes. Several state
politicians say they are working on legislation, but action may not be taken
until sometime in January. Duistermars says there's more then one point one
million in the Esperanza firefighter fund.
KFI am 640 radio
What an awesome feeling it was to log on to TheySaid and amongst the news of
the latest 30 mile information to see that our President has signed HR 6249.
I can only imagine how this holiday will be for the families of the E-57
guys. Please know that we are thinking of you all this holiday. I know the
money raised will not bring back your loved ones.
In addition-please remember Juan Estrada (the VG Hotshot). I did not know
him, but his story is very touching. I myself will again be giving to the
WFF in his name to help support his family. Perhaps that is one last gift
that some of you could also give.
Bless all of you this season.......
Re: 30 mile: Just a thought....Maybe getting a hold of
someone at Dateline might help
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12319584/ (E-mail us), to
do a story of whats going on with this indictment, and
what might come out of the Esperanza fire. I think
that this would really catch the American public by
surprise and wake up those in Washington if Dateline
did a story on it?
You said, "I concur with you layering comments. If it sucks (double layers),
but saves your life, then embrace the suck. Wildland Firefighter
magazine published an article about CDF's recent studies on
double vs single layer protection."
It didn't save lives... it could have made those lives better.......
emt_mb, ask a Hotshot to see their injuries after being burned.... It will
convince almost everyone..... IMHO...
Gizmo (180 club member, 2006)
I feel your pain brother (sister)...
Put the personal anguish out of it and just share the facts no
matter how hard it feels right now.
Allen Hackett was a friend of mine, his prosecution
and plea has not made the world of fire any safer. In
fact it has made somewhat more unsafe. Those of us
with several years of experience, a career, a family,
and something to lose are not willing to put it out
there and get the job done. Those with less
experience will step up and fill those voids. I carry
liability insurance because I know that I am not above
making a mistake. If I wasn't more than halfway to
retirement, had 2 kids, a wife, a mortgage, I would
walk away from the job altogether. I am embarrassed by
the lack of support from the 30 Mile families, our own
agency, and the government. Jeff Allen was a friend
of mine as well, and I've seen first hand the nonsense
surrounding the Cramer Fire. Let's honor our fallen
by making it better instead of prosecuting those who
fail. How in the world is this going to make it
better? Shame shame shame
Thank you JD. I have heard the same from others privately and still
others have retired as soon as they hit 50. Under other circumstances it's
likely they would have continued in the job they love until closer to
mandatory retirement at 57. What we have in wildland fire (and facing
Incident Management Teams) is a brain and experience drain. Sure, there are
good and intelligent professionals coming up, but they do not yet match the
experience we're loosing at the top. We also have a huge hole in the middle
fire manager ranks. Ab.
Public Law 107-203 was signed into law on July 24th, 2002, after being
passed unanimously by the House and Senate.
The wording of the law states,
"In the case of each fatality of an officer or employee of the Forest
Service that occurs due to wildfire entrapment or burnover, the
Inspector General of the Department of Agriculture shall conduct an
investigation of the fatality. The investigation shall not rely
on, and shall be completely independent of, any investigation of the
fatality that is conducted by the Forest Service.
The sworn affidavit of John R. Parker (USDA-OIG Special Agent)
consistently VIOLATES Public Law 107-203 by relying upon information from
the Forest Service investigative record, the Forest Service Administrative
Review Team, and the Forest Service Oral Reply Team.
This is a clear and willful violation of the law by Special Agent Parker.
The U.S. Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Washington also
allowed this violation to be entered on their criminal complaint filed on
Here is the link to the
52 Page Affidavit of Special Agent Parker
So, who really violated the law here? Seems pretty obvious.
President Bush, Secretary Johanns, Undersecretary Rey, Chief Bosworth, and
Chief Harbour now all have factual information that they can act on, and it
is on the record here at They Said and will soon be shared with the Press
from numerous reliable sources.
To all concerned: This story ran in this morning's San Bernardino County Sun
bill for crew family
Measure eliminates IRS obstacle
Guy McCarthy, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 12/22/2006 12:00:00 AM PST
President Bush has signed a law that will allow more than $1million in
donations to be disbursed tax-free to the families of five firefighters
who died in the Esperanza Fire.
Internal Revenue Service restrictions could have affected donations that
were collected by the United Way in Hemet and solicited in part by the
Riverside County Board of Supervisors.
Three lawmakers from the San Bernardino-Riverside county area and the
state's two U.S. senators moved quickly two weeks ago to change the tax
law, securing unanimous passage of bills by both houses of Congress in
less than 24 hours.
The crew of U.S. Forest Service Engine 57 - Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20, of
San Jacinto; Pablo Cerda, 23, of Fountain Valley; Jess McLean, 27, of
Beaumont; Jason McKay, 27, of Phelan; and Mark Loutzenhiser, 43, of
Idyllwild - suffered fatal injuries Oct. 26 as they tried to protect a
home in Twin Pines.
Sponsors of the legislation were Reps. Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs; Ken
Calvert, R-Corona; Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein
and Barbara Boxer, both D-Calif.
Bush signed the Fallen Firefighter Assistance Tax Clarification Act of
2006 on Thursday afternoon, said Jason Vasquez, a spokesman for Bono.
The law's signing should bring a measure of comfort to families and
friends who lost loved ones in the Esperanza Fire, Bono said in a
Good luck everyone and be careful out there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
KFI AM 640 Radio
fair use disclaimer
To Ken and Kathy:
You cannot imagine the feelings that overwhelmed me when I read your post.
Thank you so much!
Speaking for many
Ken and Kathy
How painful it must have been for you to write your post to Mellie, you show
"The people in charge do not plan on having firefighters die nor do
the firefighters go to work planning on dying, they all go to work to
make a living at something they love. We hope that everyone stays safe,
but we do realize that accidents happen.
It will not help to charge someone for a firefighter's death, it will
just cause good firefighters to not be squad bosses, IC3's and etc. Many
good firefighters will leave for fear of being charged when an accident
is so true. Can you imagine the impacts if the FS were to lose most of
its fire-line leadership because of the fear of persecution!
Thank you for your sacrifice you know that your son died doing what he
loved, thank you for saying what has been quoted above. You have great faith
and an true insight into what it is all about. Someone many years ago coined
the term "Fog of War"; this applies equally on the fireline in a large,
dynamic incident. No "fire boss" at any level should be persecuted for
properly carrying out his/her duties; to the best of their knowledge and
Kathy and Ken thank you for expressing your thoughts. God bless and best
wishes of the season.
Re charges in 30 mile fire:
Let me give you the perspective from someone who has had a son killed in
Levi, was killed on Storm King along with 13 other firefighters. When
Levi was killed I blamed many people. There were many mistakes made. Ken,
was able to realize way before me that Levi had some culpability in his
death. Right after his death we all were given a claim for the things that
were in his red pack. After about the 4th or 5th time getting a letter back
wanting to know how many socks he had in his red pack, we both had it and
said we wanted 14 million dollars (it did get their attention). We were told
we could sue the government. But that wasn't our goal, we wanted to change
some things. Mostly being able to ask a question if things aren't feeling
right. Ken blamed people that we later found out shouldn't have been blamed.
We all must realize that was in the first months of Levi's death.
Twelve years later I feel that the pendulum has swung too far the other
way. The people in charge do not plan on having firefighters die nor do the
firefighters go to work planning on dying, they all go to work to make a
living at something they love. We hope that everyone stays safe, but we do
realize that accidents happen.
It will not help to charge someone for a firefighter's death, it will
just cause good firefighters to not be squad bosses, IC3's and etc. Many
good firefighters will leave for fear of being charged when an accident
There surely must be another way to approach this. We wish that congress
would not try to be so politically correct and do what is fair and right.
Ken and Kathy
On Sunday Dec 24th (Christmas Eve) Peet's coffee in Lake Forest CA
(Orange County) on El Toro Road right off the 5 freeway will have
complimentary brewed coffee and tea and are collecting donations for
the WFF Santa's
Helper Fund from 5:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The company will match the
donations up to $1000.00. So I urge any firefighters, friends and family in
Orange county to stop by for a cup of coffee and make a donation. We know
its too late for this year's Santa fund but we will have a head start for
next year and Christmas Eve is the day that the company does this. My heart
breaks for the children of the fallen, so when my daughter (manager of the
store) mentioned the event (each store selects their charity to collect
for), I immediately suggested the WFF Santa's fund. Hopefully we can raise a
few dollars for the fund.
Readers, tell 'em theysaid sent ya. Ab.
Contact: Jason Vasquez, Phone: (202) 226-5365
December 21, 2006
PRESIDENT SIGNS FIREFIGHTER BILL INTRODUCED BY BONO, LEWIS, CALVERT
Washington, DC - Congresswoman Mary Bono (CA-45) today praised President
George W. Bush for taking swift action and signing into law House bill H.R.
6429, the Fallen Firefighter Assistance Tax Clarification Act of 2006.
The Clarification Act will ensure that the families of the US Forest Service
Firefighters who were killed during the Esperanza Fire receive the full
benefits intended through the Firefighters Family Relief Fund.
As primary sponsor of H.R. 6429, Congresswoman Bono gratefully acknowledges
the support of original co-sponsors Chairman Jerry Lewis (CA-41) and
Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-44); and Senate bill sponsors Dianne Feinstein
and Barbara Boxer (both D-CA).
"Hopefully the signing of this bill by the President will bring some comfort
this holiday season to the families and friends who lost their loved one as
a result of the Esperanza Fire," said Bono. "Today is a proud day for
Congress, who swiftly and unanimously supported this critical piece of
legislation which safeguards the generous contributions made by many
The legislation will allow a 501(c)(3), in this specific case, to target and
limit its assistance to specific individuals as long as the payments are
made in good faith using a consistently applied reasonable and objective
Under current US tax law, charitable contributions made by 501(c)(3)
organizations are not classified as taxable income; only if they are made to
a broad group. Had this bill not been enacted, 501(c)(3) organizations, such
as the United Way, would not have been able to maintain their tax exempt
status if they made targeted/individual donations to the families who lost
their loved ones as a result of the Esperanza Fire.
"The remarkable outpouring of support for the families of the fallen US
Forest Service Firefighters from across this country has been a reminder
that the compassionate human spirit is alive and well," stated Bono. "This
Relief Fund now has the wings to fulfill its intended duty to assist the
families of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice."
Todays Seattle Times has a lengthy article on the 30 mile story, with links
to their archives, maps, and a copy of the charges. (Appears the US Atty.
in Spokane used the affidavit of the USDA-OIG Inspectors? - there is a link
in the story to that lengthy document)
...and also in the article, a quote from our esteemed Governor......
Governor Christine Gregoire issued a statement saying, "It is my hope that
the action taken by federal prosecutors today helps these families find
I'll be e-mailing my feelings on the matter directly to Ms. Gregoire.....
The Yakima Herald has a number of things on their website including the
The Thirtymile Investigation Report and other
materials have been located
at www.fs.fed.us/fire ; at the moment the whole Forest Service website is
down for maintenance so I couldn't get at it to link here.
It is worthwhile reading both the complaint and the investigation and
materials including the OSHA citations. There were long discussions on
"They Said" about the investigation and the OSHA citations and a lot of
concern was expressed about safety. A number of significant changes
regarding safety have been made - a lot of people worked hard to do this.
And we still have fatalities - more work on safety to be done by all of
I'm not sure it is productive to blame Tom Harbour and Dale Bosworth for
actions by the US Attorney. They have no ability to convince a US Attorney
to do anything - they'd be accused of interference. Harbour and
Bosworth's responsibilities are to be sure safe practices are in use, that
those practices are reviewed and revamped when investigations show the
practices are not working. Too often it's personal actions that lead to
fatalities - how do we deal with that as firefighters and managers? We
work in a dangerous world and this is a sad, sad story, repeated too many
times of people who have died and the too many people who are affected by
Reread the investigation, the OSHA citations, the criminal complaint, To
me, it's about safety and our responsibility. I'm sad about the criminal
complaint - is it meant to ensure compliance with safety procedures? I
really don't know what " justice" is when 4 people die and others are
endangered, all I know is I am sad.
Links to all the 30mile documents and reports are listed on the
Documents Worth Reading on the Archives page. The FS web has been down
but some links go to the Lessons Learned website. Ab.
From Bernie Weingardt, Region 5 Forester
I am extremely happy to announce
that Ed Hollenshead will be our new Regional Director of Fire and Aviation
Management. Ed has been our deputy fire director since March, and stepped up
to serve as Acting Director in early June for what proved to be an
exceptionally challenging fire season here in California.
Ed came here from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho,
where he was in charge of FS fire operations safety nationwide. His strong
field experience in fire-prone R-3, along with his forward-looking ideas,
make Ed a great fit for this extremely challenging and high-profile job. I
look forward to working with him in future years, as he continues to provide
solid and steady leadership in this critical program area.
Re 30-mile indictment:
I found who to send the letters to, but I keep
going off and need to
calm down before I write it.........
So here is the info for everyone else.
United States Attorney's Office
920 W. Riverside Ave , Suite 340
P.O. Box 1494
Spokane, Washington 99201
Phone: (509) 353-2767
Fax: (509) 353-2766
James A. McDevitt US Attorney
Public Affairs Officer
Emily Langlie email@example.com
Looking for the "Interagency Hazardous Materials Guide/handbook"
BLM has a
dead link to it here:
Guides and Publications.
Anyone else know where I can get it?
I concur with you layering comments. If it sucks (double layers),
but saves your life, then embrace the suck. Wildland Firefighter
magazine published an article about CDF's recent studies on
double vs single layer protection.
Re: Thirty Mile Prosecution/Cantwell-Hastings legislation
As we all
struggle with the news of charges in ThirtyMile (4 years after the fact) so
many of the posting are on point. I just want to add that politically, there
are a number of folks in the Senate & House who have offered to address the
Whether that means amending it, repealing it, holding hearings to address
the unintended consequences, I don't know. As we have so often seen,
agencies such as the D.A. poke their noses into environments of which they
have no expertise and this is the result.
The need to address this issue & minimize the impact to the fire program and
effects of the current law on firefighters has to be tempered with the
respect due to the families of those lost. The Forest Service has had ample
time to "educate" without interfering yet has done noting to diffuse the
There must be a deliberate, well thought out plan to address this whether it
be through Congress, the press etc. I am hopeful organizations such as the
IAWF & others will collectively work with the FWFSA to present a united
front in an effort to resolve the matter. We're certainly open to any and
Well said. We all will put our heads together and do what is right for
So right my friend. This was an organizational (cockpit) failure again that
is being misdirected to assign blame rather than "building a better cockpit"
as is needed. Maybe Dr. Reason could be called by the Defense Team as an
I don't blame any of the families of the 30 Mile firefighters.... they are
grieving in the ways only they can know. I was on the receiving end of one
of the fathers of the fallen when I drove through Yakima a short week after
the 30 Mile Tragedy. I don't blame him for his anger that was directed at
me, but I understand it more now.
The rumblings of this action have been well rumored for over two years as
the US Attorney Office was building its case. Tom Harbour and Dale Bosworth
had TWO YEARS to diffuse this situation before it happened (without
interfering, just educating and admitting organizational failures.... and
correcting them without the need to assign blame). They failed again.
Doctrine can be considered DEAD in my eyes. Lots of lip service, but no
Many of us who have fire qualifications are seriously contemplating
"throwing in the towel"... the Risk vs. Gain is not worth it anymore. How
far I throw the towel, I don't know yet.
Thanks for sharing the info from the Forest Supervisor. It struck me that it
may have had some political motivation from Cantwell's and Hasting's
Offices... I can't prove it, but the timing is very circumstantial... Not
the best thing for anybody suffering from losses this year.
I wonder how the other folks from 30 Mile are also doing? I met all of them
during their trip to Southern California. Fine group of folks and very
This is an awesome community and we will all come together to do what is
right and support each other as we always have in the past..... This is just
another "speed-bump"... We are all now expert witnesses and surely would be
able to meet the call of duty if needed.
P.S. - Re: HR 6429, it went to the President on December 19th after some
Lobotomy, If you're finding fault with part of the
statement from the Forest Supervisor, it may simply be what he or she's
required to say to keep the job. I think it's pretty clear that the Forest
Sup thinks this is a raw deal as well. Ab.
>From the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF Forest Supervisor statement:
"Since this is a legal matter in the courts, I'm sure our legal
counsel would advise us not to comment on it. If you are contacted by
the news media on this subject, you may wish to refer them to the U.S.
Attorney's Office in Spokane...."
.... or maybe NOT.
Screw the bureaucratic legal counsel advice and crap... call Mark Morey,
Night Police Reporter Phone: 509-577-7671 @ Yakima Herald-Republic or any
other contacts you have....
This is a National News story that needs a local and connected group of
experts commenting rather than mundane (AP) press compilations of the facts.
Use your moniker if you need to... or just say you are a WILDLAND
FIREFIGHTER who is simply pissed off but must remain anonymous due to Agency
B.S. and legal implications.....
Don't represent yourself as an "Agent" or "Representative" of the land
management agencies if you want to use you real name..... But share your
stories and your knowledge about how things are jacked up way beyond all
reasoning in the ways wildland fire supervisors and managers are treated and
thrown to the wolves when something goes tragically bad beyond their true
Ken Weaver is not to be blamed for any of this as some posters and some
Press may be thinking and pondering the basis or the outcome..... We all
need to step up and pay it forward.... Raise the bar.... Understand the pain
the families have been going through after each bureaucratic hoop doesn't
answer their questions or alleviate their personal pain and the fact
wildland firefighters keep dying each year from similar events.
It is a dangerous job, it is a HRO, and someone needs to take notice someday
and realize changes are needed. Somebody needs to follow and research the
work of Reason, Weick, Sutcliffe, and others and present it as an expert
You just walked into a hornets nest.... but you have some of the best
empirical observations and understanding about what is happening and why
things keep going gunnysack.
Have a great Holiday Season my friend...
On a community note,
After reading and visiting with some of the firefighters who have been
severely burned this year, I think we need to reconsider (without personal
bias) the single vs. double layer of clothing debate that has gone on for
Seems there are some very good facts to the double layer opinion.... but
there also needs to be some discussion about the related heat stress
issues... I don't know the correct answer, but a discussion needs to happen
before things get worse.
After talking to (and seeing) one of this years injured firefighters, I have
taken a 180 degree turn on my support of single layering. I now think that
double layering is the correct route and managing heat stress is just
another problem to overcome through mitigation.
Have a safe and happy holiday season everyone...
P.S. - I also think we need to continue the Work Capacity Debate if it
continues to kill firefighters.
Bureaucracy run amuck, yet again
re: Ellreese Daniels' pers- (oops!) prosecution;
I'm personally so outraged, on so many levels, that words won't even begin
On a ( possibly ) more useful level, did I understand correctly that
Ellreese is currently represented by a PD? If so, is a collection to fund a
defense team in order here? I realize this is, in many ways, a tough time
for all ( holidays, so many losses to help support, etc.), but it would be
tragic to let even one more brother twist in the wind.
We all need to come to the support of the CRWB in the 30 mile fire, It is
going to take phone calls, emails, and letters to US attorney's office in
spokane, washington state politicians, and our own congressmen. Collectively
we need to draw the line in the sand and say enough is enough. If we don't
help the CRWB, who will help us??
It does not surprise me (anymore) how big brother is
doing business. I have so many thoughts about all that is going on in Fed.
Wildland Fire. Firefighter vs. forestry tech, have not seen any time frame
on this issue. Portal to portal, Harbour himself said that was a joke. Kind
of discouraging when you see city and county firefighters on teams and
bragging about how much they are making not to mention how muck their agency
is making charging the fire for overtime back home (14 days+). Professional
Liability Insurance for Forestry Technicians, should it be Technicians
Liability Insurance. Now the 30 mile issue. Maybe the "let it burn policy
would work best. Sends chills down my spine thinking what might happen when
the dust clears on the Esperanza Fire. And it goes on and on. This is not a
swiss cheese issue its more like rotten cheese cloth. Thanks for all the
support W.O. Fire Management!
One thing I can say is "lets show them who we really are, stick together
like the family we say we are because that’s what real FIREFIGHTERS do".
To all my Sisters and Brothers, spend time with your families and a Merry
Christmas and a better, prosperous New Year.
Signed: Focus on the Family
We can re-institute collection of the Legal Assistance Fund if needed.
someone please contact me with any info as to what kind of legal support
HR 6429 is on the President's desk. Call and/or e-mail him telling him to
sign it. Get your family and friends to do likewise:
It's easy. Exercise your rights and the responsibilities of living in a free
democratic society. If not us, then who?
Global Warming and Mass Ignition
Of all the areas we cover each year in fighting wildland fire, there is one
we have yet to address: environment or global warming. I noted several years
ago the acceleration of fire from "moderate" rate of spread, to rapid, to
what I now call Mass Ignition (MI).
Everything seemed to be happening much faster. I asked Joann Fites of the
AMSET Enterprise team to look into it and from her own research, as will as
from contacts with scientists in South America who have been working in
similar fuels and weather, the speed of fire to reach this Mass Ignition
zone can be scientifically proven.
Mass Ignition is not new, rather it something that is occurring more
frequently. Thus the reason we need to address it. As you know, the
probability of ignition is the probability of a spark igniting upon landing.
I view mass ignition in a similar manner, only we are faced with hundreds of
thousands of sparks igniting upon landing, thus we have a mass ignition
almost at the blink of an eye.
This something we have discussed over the years and have noted that it seems
to be happening more often. Global warming will not go away and the
frequency of Mass Ignition will go up. As we have protocols for downhill
construction, so we need also to formalize protocols for recognition of and
what we will do when MI is about to occur.
Probability of Mass Ignition as we have for Probability of Ignition is one
component as well as fuel type, terrain influences, and other components
that need to be identified and repeatedly assessed as IA and support crews
are moving to an incident with this phenomenon in process. I suggest
contracting Doug Campbell and use the Bernie Bahro team of fire model
experts to make this happen.
This also means changing our tactics when we are within this environment
that could experience Mass Ignition. Static defense of structures is no
longer effective, nor is it safe in this environment. For years we have
discussed foaming structures and redeployment of engines vs static defense
of homes. When preparing for static defense, it takes alot of time to lay
primary hose as well as secondary lines for contingency. We have never had
sufficient engines in the state to protect every structure. The increased
frequency of Mass Ignition can no longer be addressed with static defense.
Fortunately our existing engines are configured with foam porportioners;
this is a start but not nearly as effective as converting all of our engines
to CAFFS units at a cost of about $20,000 each. This is cheap compared to
what we will have to pay otherwise. As we have successfully shown that our
ability to move our engines across the state is effective and efficient, so
also must we convert all of our engines to CAFFS capability.
Just a side bar here: if one believes we can avoid this by just not
protecting structures, we will be going against our own policies, as well as
creating total chaos with our local and state partners, as well as set us
back to pre ICS conditions. And, global warming will not suddenly go away. I
suggest the use of the simulation capability at McClellan for every Module
leader to go through an exercise using both CAFFS capability using foam and
move tactics, as well as static defense as we use it today.
Certainly the public will have to be informed their homes will be foamed
when these conditions exist. What that may do to a home seems less than
total destruction by fire.
I only write this because one's watch never ends and we need to address this
issue. You might also consider using during the simulation set up at
McClellan, L.A. County, CDF, etc....
As always… Q
Thanks for contributing Q-man. Ab.
Well, I hope Maria Cantwell and the families are satisfied with the recent
actions taken by the Eastern Washington District U.S. Attorney in Spokane.
He is a political appointee, nominated by the Senior Senator (Parry Murray)
and appointed by the Bush Administration. He appears to have done the
bidding of his Democratic Party handlers.
This is an extremely sad day for everyone involved with the tragic
Thirtymile Fire. Tom Craven's parents and brothers didn't want this. I can't
say the same for the other families, given the fact that they joined in a
lawsuit against the fire shelter manufactures, Underwriter's Laboratory, and
the Association of State Foresters asserting product liability with the fire
shelters. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount of money.
Then several families filed Constitutional Torte claims against two Forest
Service employees asserting the civil rights of their children were
violated. The fire shelters were disposed of following property regulations.
These families claim they would have gotten more money from the product
liability lawsuit if they had the shelters to use as "evidence". However,
they assert money wasn't the motivation. Yeah, right!
The families were prevented by law from filing lawsuits against the
government, so they had to find other ways to extract their "pound of
flesh"...or, to use their words, "hold someone accountable"! So now, the
U.S. Attorney will do that for them. I hope and pray the grand jury stuffs
this up his tailpipe and tells him to go chase real criminals.
I predict the effect this will have on the voluntary firefighting forces of
the five wildland fire agencies will be significant and it will likely spill
over onto the states and perhaps fire service personnel. Volunteers have
choices and I forecast many will refuse fire assignments and/or severely
restrict what they want on their Red Card.
The answer cannot just be to get personal liability insurance. There has to
be some Congressional action to stop this train before it goes further down
the track and get us back on a course that recognizes the high risk
associated with firefighting.
A Thirtymile Survivor
The action taken by the United States Attorney is in my opinion going to do
much more harm than good. It will do nothing to bring back the four
firefighters, and will at best make other line officers leery of accepting
assignments / responsibility.
On the other hand the US Attorneys office could have skipped the grand jury
and simply filed charges. To go to a grand jury at least shows that they are
not sure if charges should be filed and now put it in the hands of the
people to decide if this case proceeds or not.
Personally, I believe a grand jury will not find cause (but I am also not
privy to the information that is at hand also). One thing is very certain -
it would have not been an injustice to wait a month to send this to a grand
My two cents
This is going to have serious consequences in the wildland fire community.
As a result of the Cramer Fire I dropped my Incident Commander Type 3
qualification and bought PLI. I know many others that let qualifications go
as a results of Cramer. With the announcement of this indictment many folks
will be asking themselves why keep any qualification higher than
firefighter, especially when my job title is "forestry technician" or
Good question. Do we have any leaders in the Forest Service with any "huevos
signed: Wildland Firefighter - NOT a Forestry Tech or Biologist
RE : 30 mile Prosecution-
WOW- The US Attorney Office in Seattle should be
extremely proud of themselves
this christmas- I think we should all send them a christmas email-
RE : 30 mile Prosecution
Directions for all "Forestry Technicians" of The
USDA Forest Service,
from FFT2 and up; you must have a Red Card.
And boy does this piss me off......
Directions I received on 2/25/05 regarding how to obtain Professional
These are simple instructions for obtaining Professional Liability Insurance
and reimbursement from the Government for ½ the amount.
1. Make contact with an insurance company that offers Professional Liability
Insurance for Federal employees and apply. Go for the 1 million dollar
policy and this will give you $100,000 for legal fees Wright and Co. is one
source. One provider may offer a different policy than another. Go to the
attached web site for additional info.
You can also conduct a Google search and locate another provider.
2. After you have applied, are insured and have received a receipt, you may
start the process for reimbursement.
3. Gather the following to build a package and process through your Business
1. Copy of your Receipt from the Insurance Company.
2. Copy of a completed SF-1164. (See example)
3. Copy of the Omnibus Letter. (See attachment)
It is your responsibility to make contact with the insurance providers and
ask the right questions so you have a sound understanding and are
comfortable with what is provided. My intent is to provide information on
this subject and I'm not directing anyone to obtain Professional Liability
PROFESSIONAL FEDERAL LIABILITY
Government Agencies are required to reimburse up to 50% of the premium for
Three IRS employees found themselves defendants in a lawsuit brought by an
individual who was convicted of tax crimes. They were found guilty of
leaking information regarding the investigation. The penalties ranged from
$150,000 to $1,000,000 between the three of them.
A federal law enforcement officer pursuing a suspect on foot, and in the
line of duty, accidentally runs into an innocent bystander. The person
incurred several injuries and has decided to sue for medical bills and lost
wages due to missed work. (for the rest, go to the website)
Re: Juan Estrada
This is not going to be easy for me, and may not be easy for some of you to
hear, but here goes:
The firefighting community came up HUGE after the tragedy of the Esperanza
Fire. So did the general public and we all appreciate that! I have been
preaching to anyone that will listen since then that we need to continue to
support the Wildland Firefighter Foundation because they were there
immediately to offer support, but more importantly because they offer
support for ALL fallen and injured firefighters.
Now, Juan has passed after his battle with cancer. This will not dominate
the news as did the Engine 57 tragedy, but it is just as tragic to his
family. I implore everyone of you reading this to contribute to his family
AND the WFF in general. Fire is a family and I know you all will step up as
you did for E-57. This is another blow to the San Jac, but we were heartened
by your support in the past and will be again for support for Juan. He did
not have insurance and has a very young family, his newest only weeks old.
I have faith in my fire brothers and sisters!
RE : 30 mile Prosecution-
Is there a book coming out on 30mile soon?
Is this stuff related to something like that?
Where is this coming from?
Well, they went and did it. I heard rumors of this travesty months ago but I
still find it hard to believe the US Attorney is charging Ellreese Daniels
with manslaughter for his actions at Thirtymile. If Harbour & Bosworth don’t
have enough guts to tell Congress that this action is WRONG,
counterproductive to our advancement as a learning organization and harmful
to our safety culture, we might as well declare the Forest Service fire
management organization to be broken and give up fighting fire. After Alan
Hackett’s railroad job on Cramer & now this friggin' nightmare, who in their
right mind would want to take responsibility for ANYTHING on a USFS fire?
What must be going through the minds of the Esperanza firefighters right
This BS is antithetical to wildland firefighting doctrine and incompatible
with high reliability organizing. Dr. Reason would classify Thirtymile as a
classic organizational accident. Congress needs to do away with PL 107-203
before it can do any more damage.
Mark my words, this is going to get really ugly.
RE: 30 mile
Seeing this stirs up all these memories again. My thoughts go
out to the
rest of the fire community once again tonight.
Official word from the Senate is that HR 5697, The Federal Wildland
Firefighter Classification Act that passed the House was literally "lost in
the shuffle & flurry" of bills and the apparent urgency of Congress to
This certainly sounds plausible given the convoluted process of moving bills
around at the end of a session but am I the only one who thinks that after
200+ years Congress would find a more efficient way of getting things done?
Of course let's not forget the Government report that says if the Government
was reformed and made more efficient, it would fall apart!!
I have again spoken to staff from OPM this week who have assured me that OPM
has taken the House passage seriously.
In the meantime, the FWFSA web site has been "cured" of its technical
RE : 30 mile Prosecution
How did this come to pass? Where's fire
Will the Forest Service legal beagles be defending Ellreese?
If not, I hate to be so blunt but my big question is:
Do Harbour and Bosworth have no balls at all?
My apologies to Original Ab's mom for my language.
<heading to the bathroom right now with my bar of soap for a mouth washing>
I was wondering if you would mind posting a message for me. We are trying to
talk to line firefighters about the impact of the charges issued today
against the crew boss that was involved in the Thirtymile burnover in 2001.
I am interested in comments on how these charges affect firefighters'
willingness or ability to do their job? Is the charge good or bad, or are
administrative avenues more appropriate, that sort of thing. I will be
working through this evening on this story. Thanks for any help you can
Night Police Reporter Phone: 509-577-7671
There have been numerous posts here on this
subject over the past years. Ab.
Sent in by Mollysboy
From the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF Forest Supervisor:
The Forest Service has been informed this morning that the U.S.
Attorney’s Office in Spokane has filed a complaint with a grand jury
seeking an indictment of an Okanogan and Wenatchee Forest employee. The
complaint is based on actions our employee took in his role as crew boss
during the Thirtymile tragedy in 2001 and for statements he made
afterward. The complaint alleges four counts of involuntary manslaughter
and seven of false statements. We have now begun to receive news media
calls on this matter.
Since this is a legal proceeding, we are not privy to many details of
charges or the reasons they came to be filed so long after the event. It
is important to understand that, even if a federal grand jury issues an
indictment as a result of the complaint, this is merely a finding by the
jury that federal prosecutors have raised sufficient question to
indicate that a formal trial and consideration of the evidence is
warranted. An indictment is not a finding of guilt. Our employee is
represented by a public defender. Grand jury action on the complaint is
not expected until the end of January or February.
My immediate reaction to this news is a profound feeling of
disappointment that it has all come to this. The announcement more than
five years after the event and just days before Christmas is especially
disturbing to me. Thirtymile was a tragic, extraordinary fire. Still, I
have never seen any indication that anyone intentionally put
firefighters at risk. Our focus since 2001 has been on improvements to
make firefighters safer, including changes in training to help them
better anticipate or recognize changes in fire behavior that signal the
need to disengage and fall back to safe areas.
Since this is a legal matter in the courts, I’m sure our legal counsel
would advise us not to comment on it. If you are contacted by the news
media on this subject, you may wish to refer them to the U.S. Attorney’s
Office in Spokane at (509) 353-2767.
Juan Estrada, a Vista Grand Hot Shot passed way yesterday.
His service will be held at:
Central Christian Church
3131 West Av. J
Lancaster CA. 93536
Dec. 23, 2006
His wife Nicole has ask that any donations be sent to:
Wildland Firefighter Foundation
2049 Airport Way
Boise ID 83705
Put Juan Estrada's name at the bottom of the check.
He had no insurance with the Forest Service.
Juan has asked that people not wear black to his funeral.
He wanted his passing to be more of joy than sorrow.
I'm glad that is what he wanted... although that is not easy...
I feel sad he is gone.
Juan, in his short life, sure created a wonderful
He told Burk that he just wanted to live until his son was born...
and he did. I think his son was born on the Dec. 2nd. Juan also
has two other little ones: his oldest is just 8.
Out of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today, carried by the AP out of
Though you might want to post? - JIMBO
follow-up note from JIMBO:
From the local Forest - Apparently what has happened is that the US
Attorney's office has filed a complaint with a grand jury seeking an
indictment of an employee.
Manslaughter charges reported in deaths of 30 Mile firefighters
The Associated Press
Spokane, Wash. -- KREM-TV reports that federal prosecutors have charged the
crew boss with involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of four firefighters
at the Thirty Mile Fire.
Court documents says Ellreese Daniels was in charge of the firefighters who
died July tenth, 2001, in the Chewuch (CHEW'-uch) River Canyon near
Firefighters Tom Craven, Devin Weaver, Jessica Johnson, and Karen
Fitzpatrick all died when the fire raged out of control and swept over the
top of them as they deployed their fire shelters on a rocky slope.
Federal prosecutors say the crew boss was grossly negligent and his
decisions caused the deaths of the firefighters.
KREM-TV also reports that prosecutors have also charged Daniels with lying
to investigators. Daniels reportedly said he told the firefighters who died
to move off the rocky slope and they did not follow his instructions.
Prosecutors say Daniels never told the firefighters to move.
Daniels has not been arrested. He will make his first appearance in federal
court in early January.
fair use disclaimer
Does anyone have information about an indictment of one of the
employees involved in the Thirty Mile fire?
Well said, even though to the general public
it may sound morbid, you are absolutely correct.
Mountaineers and climbers (myself included) go out for
these "ordeals," simply for that, to face Mamma Nature
head on, and they and the general public should be
ready to accept the fact that sometimes mamma nature
likes to take away as well as giveth. Its a very sad
but very true fact of life, if you are going to take
risks by your own virtue, you had better be willing to
accept the consequences.
I think you’re comparing apples and oranges here. The motto of the National
Association for Search and Rescue, “These thing we do,… that others may
live” sums it all up. The search will continue on Mt. Hood as long as there
is a chance of finding survivors. If you know something different then you
are obligated to report it. If we stopped searching for Marvin Matsumoto in
Joshua Tree National Park because a firefighter not involved in the incident
thought he was dead, he wouldn’t be alive today
www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0703/search1of2.html. The law that prohibits
the WFF and United Way from providing donations to individuals has
absolutely nothing to do with the heroic search efforts underway on Mt.
You're right it didn't need to be said, what if you
were lost on Mt. Hood. Would you want people to come
look for you or say no it will cost to much. The
helicopters didn't cost us a dime because all the
hours spent were written off to training which is
already budgeted for the military. 90% of the
rescuers were volunteers that do a job that they know
is dangerous. Sounds like a wildland firefighter.
Put yourself in the place of the families and then ask
yourself if the money spent is well worth it.
Personally the money we waste every year on fires is a
hell of alot more than what is being spent on Hood. I
expect comments like these from Rosie Odonell but not
For clarification's sake, Aberdeen is not an Ab. There are only two of
us. Aberdeen's opinion on this is Aberdeen's opinion. We may or may not say
what our opinions are. The Abs.
I would assume that Engine 57 has been taken off the BDF CAD because it has
no overhead. The new engine is at the station (thanks to a generous
neighboring district), but it has no Captain, Engineer or AFEO.
At the rate Region 5 hires folks it will take some creative leadership to
get it staffed by the next fire season.
The human impacts of this tragedy have been talked about at length, and
rightly so. There are also management impacts. How many engine modules do
you know of that had three qualified engine bosses? E-57 did. Some very big
holes to fill and with the Regional hiring process, it will be an uphill
Sad and concerned
For all you fed employees who didn't get to go experience Australia fire
behavior, here's another potential opportunity to experience fire in a
with a warm climate:
Good news: You can leave your fire shelter at home. Bad news: You may
not survive long enough to see your home again.
Sign up viejo and Mollysboy for the WEZ group...
Both of these folks have lots to share for the betterment of the wildland
fire community... even though they have a propensity for pissing people off
<<wink>, and peace offering from a friend>> their friends and others...
LOL... Good friends as I see them right now after some good rest and clarity
even though they like to argue a bit.... so do I.
It will take a united and diverse effort of united and allied experts
working for a common cause and goal.... The cause and goal... firefighter
and community safety comes FIRST before the protection of houses or natural
resources (long term debate) continues... and the eventual betterment of the
profession for firefighter and community safety.
Simply said, "Houses, trees, brush, and grass always grow back in some way
or another." Our true losses don't grow back. Our true losses affect our
families, our friends, and our co-workers in ways we all cannot explain
except through our past, present, and future actions.
P.S. - Sign Buzz up also ... Thanks Buzz for everything you have taught me
and continue to teach.
At the risk of sounding insensitive, unsympathetic or just plain politically
incorrect , I believe the following needs to be said:
In October, we had 5 US Forest Service firefighters killed while performing
their jobs, in trying to protect property from wildland fire. Since then,
the wildland fire community has come forward in support of our own, raising
money to help the families. We're fighting an uphill battle thru government
bureaucracy to give them this money without being taxed.
In December, 3 gentlemen decided to try an climb Mount Hood in the dead of
winter at 11,000+ feet in elevation, a mountain that has claimed more than
100 lives over the past 40 years. We (the US taxpayers) are spending
hundreds of thousands of our dollars, and placing scores of County, State,
Federal and Volunteer rescuers at high risk in an attempt to find and/or
recover the remains of these individuals (remember the US Air Force Copter
that crashed on Mount Hood several years ago in a similar rescue attempt?).
All this activity and expense is being undertaken with out any expectation
of cost recovery or repayment.
Does anyone else besides me see something wrong here?
Hmm This can't be good!
Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating Group
April 07, 2005
The Engine Academy class has been hosted by the Pacific Northwest Training
Center for the past 25 years and has been a very dynamic class to deliver
and to rewrite. We have been trying to rewrite the course for the past three
NWCG has an approved course on the shelf which is S-231 Engine Boss. This
year we had three Subject Matter Experts look at that course and compare it
to the engine academy course. We found that S-231 does not have all the
things we did in the engine academy course, but we found that the local unit
could add foam usage, hazardous materials, GPS, hydraulics and portable
pumps to the S 231 course to meet what is taught at the engine academy.
The mission of the Pacific Northwest Training Center is course delivery not
course development and yes, at times, we do have reasons to develop courses
like L-380 and NW Safety Officer. But when we do this we know the courses
will be NWCG approved at some point and no longer be the training center’s
responsibility to rewrite every five years.
At this time we have five new NWCG courses that we will have to present this
year and next year that will eventually become required courses. The engine
academy is not a required course. The work load at the Pacific Northwest
Training Center has not decreased and only keeps increasing and we have not
been able to hand down a course to the zone level for many years.
The TWT and I have visited with many people and the feedback is the zones
can add to the NWCG S-231 course and present it at the zone level.
So the bottom line is the engine academy will no longer be presented by the
PNW Training Center and the zones will keep presenting the S-231 course.
I want to thank everyone for the feedback they have given us over the past
Regional Training Officer
Idaho Fire Babe,
I agree with you. There are some similarities with the other fires on the
poster, but there are also some very significant other factors that are
different. There are no "cookie cutter" fires out there, even though many of
us have wished there was.
Some of the factors that are different: slope/aspect, Foehn winds, excessive
fire history in the area, active structure protection, and a massive fire
organization on scene within the first 8 hours of the fires origin.
Some of the similarities: Human factors, risk analysis, and LCES.
After the reports come out, we all should begin discussing this.... the
goal.... Lessons Learned.
Right now, I think we all need to do more fact gathering rather than present
our premature ideas.... I know I have lots to learn and research.
Thank you for providing the information from the House Parliamentarian. He
speaks of case law from many of the "pocket veto" cases that have been
presented to the Supreme Court. I have been reading them for the last week
and it is very confusing. So confusing that it may have jolted 3 Rep's and 2
Senators to fire off a letter for the President to sign the Bill ASAP, not
realizing their own House Clerk and Secretary of the Senate weren't
communicating very well with the troops (congressional staffers).... or they
(the elected officials) knew how important it was to "grease the skids" to
make things happen.
Seems like a pretty simple process.... blue paper from the House to the
Senate.... White paper back to the House Clerk after the Senate approves....
House Clerk embosses and serves to the White House Clerk and receives a
receipt. If there are simple technical amendments before sending to the
President, a "star" is added to the Bill and it is embossed as corrected for
small technical or grammatical changes not changing Congressional intent.
The White House, the Senate, or the House can all add small technical
amendments before the Bill actually "Goes to the President" for signature.
Most of these amendments are purely grammatical in nature, but have caused
problems with other Bills in the past. Fingers crossed that this isn't what
is happening... There is Supreme Court Case Law on this scenario and it
isn't good for any of us.
Charles Johnson said, "In actual practice, the Clerk, or the Secretary of
the Senate when the bill originated in that body, delivers the original
enrolled bill to a clerk at the White House and obtains a receipt. The fact
of the delivery is then reported to the House by the Clerk. Delivery to a
White House clerk has customarily been regarded as presentation to the
President and as commencing the 10-day constitutional period for
During the George H.W. Bush administration, two mid-recess "attempted"
pocket vetoes were over-turned by the Supreme Court. At odds? When and where
does the 10-day period start; what constitutes true "adjournment"; and what
are the duties and time frames for reporting by the various clerks.
Time frames are equally as important as the duties of all of the Clerks.
/s/ Gotta love (or hate) the political process
Ref: All info from www.law.cornell.edu, House Clerks Duties and
Responsibilities Pages, and Congressional Record.... and a little bit of
worry and supposition that "simple things" can derail even the most noble of
tasks when it comes to getting bills moved through Congress and signed by
the President. IMHO.
Anyone know why E-57 was removed from the BDF CAD? Never Forget!?!
Always remember. Ab.
More information on the Bailiff Fire, October 1967:
After searching various news sources, I have been able to discover the
following information -
1. Wildland Firefighter Frank Rios was one of 200 hundred firefighters
brought in from Region 3 to help support the fire siege that was happening
in Southern California. Firefighter Rios was from Sells, Arizona and was 21
years old. Firefighter Rios was an AD firefighter employed by the Bureau of
Indian Affairs. One of the news articles mentions him as "Jack Rios".
2. At the time of the Bailiff Fire, numerous other fires were burning
throughout Southern California. Large fires were burning near Malibu, in
Ventura County, and near Corona.
3. Besides Firefighter Rios, 4 civilians died as a result of this SoCal fire
siege. On the Bailiff Fire, one civilian died in her basement along Gilman
Springs Road near the community of San Jacinto. News records say
firefighters passed by her house believing that all civilians had been
4. Two of the news articles mentioned the fire running down-slope towards
the crews' positions.
5. A fire in the previous year (June, 1966) burned upslope from Cabazon and
burned 3,800 acres in the same general area as the Bailiff Ranch. News
reports state that this fire had burned grass, brush, and timber and burned
all of Cabazon Peak.
6. The Bailiff Fire burned 16 structures.
I plan on doing additional microfiche searches at local museums, but any
investigative record / factual report from CDF, USFS, or BIA would be very
helpful on piecing together the record of this fatality fire, and honoring
the ultimate sacrifice that Firefighter Rios and his family suffered.
Phone message from aide to Senator Levin late Tuesday afternoon informed me
that the Bill 6429 has not yet reached the President's desk (he can't sign
what he does not have before him). Those wishing to can call 202 456-1414
and select options to hear recordings of status of Bills that have reached
the President and are awaiting signature.
Old Fire Guy
Good point. It's not the president's fault the bill's not
signed yet and he can't sign what he doesn't have. But in thinking about it,
I'm sure he could request that it get to his desk asap so he could sign it. Ab.
Jay Lawrence and Michelle Kube of KFI - AM640,
THANK YOU for your efforts on behalf of wildland firefighters!!! You dug down deep and supported us again with your outstanding network of listeners.
It is still a little funny that Rep.'s Bono, Lewis, and Calvert, and Senators Feinstein and Boxer sent a letter to the President last Wednesday asking him to sign the Bill ASAP, even though it now appears the problem is in the clerks office..... Broken government processes.
Lot's of people watching how this one unfolds.... once again, thanks for the timely help!!
Big thanks also to the Senators and Representatives for their timely
attention to the matter. Their actions certainly were right on. Ab.
To those who have, or may visit the FWFSA web site, www.fwfsa.org
According to our "webmaster" the Hosting company experienced some technical problems as a result of recent storms in the Northwest. As a result, some updates are taking place over the next few days and some pages from our web site may not be readily available.
In the interim, if you'd like to contact the FWFSA for any reason, please either call the business office at 208-775-4577 or email Business Manager Casey Judd at FWFSAlobby@aol.com. Once the problem is corrected we'll let folks know.
Thanks for your patience,
The Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
1700 acres burned in southern Arizona over the weekend. The fire was near
the small town of Sonoita. Local, State Land, USFS and BLM fire responded
with about 37 fire personnel. The area is rolling hills and grass. No structures
destroyed, however it sounds as if some ranches were threatened.
Just a heads up for those who might respond to similar conditions even though
Lots of interesting commentary on the "tax" bill and many opinions. The following is from
Charles Johnson, Parliamentarian for The U.S. House of Representatives dated 6-30-03:
Article 1, section 7 of the Constitution:
- Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States.
In actual practice, the Clerk, or the Secretary of the Senate when the bill originated in that body, delivers the original enrolled bill to a clerk at the White House and obtains a receipt. The fact of the delivery is then reported to the House by the Clerk. Delivery to a White House clerk has customarily been regarded as presentation to the President and as commencing the 10-day constitutional period for presidential action.
Copies of the enrolled bill usually are transmitted by the White House to the various departments interested in the subject matter so that they may advise the President on the issues surrounding the bill.
If the President approves the bill, he signs it and usually writes the word "approved" and the date. However, the Constitution requires only that the President sign it.
The bill may become law without the President's signature by virtue of the constitutional provision that if the President does not return a bill with objections within 10 days (excluding Sundays) after it has been presented to the President, it becomes law as if the President had signed it.
However, if Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, it does not become law. This is known as a "pocket veto"; that is, the bill does not become law even though the President has not sent his objections to the Congress. The Congress has interpreted the President's ability to pocket veto a bill to be limited to final adjournment "sine die" of a Congress where Congress has finally prevented return by the originating House and not to interim adjournments or first session adjournments where the originating House of Congress through its agents is able to receive a veto message for subsequent reconsideration by that Congress when it reconvenes. The extent of pocket veto authority has not been definitively decided by the courts.
Notice of the signing of a bill by the President is sent by message to the House in which it originated and that House informs the other, although this action is not necessary for the act to be valid. The action is also noted in the Congressional Record.
A bill becomes law on the date of approval or passage over the President's veto, unless it expressly provides a different effective date.
Sooo, given that Congress dispenses with its own rules on a frequent basis, we'll continue to try and secure an accurate assessment of the situation. Hopefully as a result of this issue, folks will come to realize just how incredibly difficult it is to navigate congress and get things accomplished...even when a bill scoots through the House & Senate as the "tax" bill did.
The president has not signed legislation clearing the way for firefighters families to receive donations tax free. I talked with Jason Vasquez a representative with congresswoman Mary Bono's office. He says there is no deadline to sign the bill. He says right now its stuck in the clerks office between the house and senate. I asked why. Vasquez says its because there are a lot of bills passed before congress took a break and it takes time to print up the final paper work. There is no time estimate on when the bill will be signed.
Orange County reporter
Everyone, there's still time to let the White House know our wishes.
This bill should be signed asap.
Tomorrow, December 20, is the 29th anniversary of the Honda Canyon fire.
On December 20, 1977, three people were entrapped and killed on a fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California, including the Base Commander Colonel Joseph Turner, Fire Chief Billy Bell, and Assistant Fire Chief Eugene Cooper. Additionally, severe burns were experienced by Heavy Equipment Operator Clarence McCauley. He later died due to complications from the burns.
A photo of the area from Google Earth can be found on our Wildland Fire Event Calendar. Click on the event, then click on the photo to see an enlarged version.
International Association of Wildland Fire
You have incorrect information posted on your Website; and as a result I am receiving a flurry of press calls. Please take the steps necessary to correct the mis-information posted on your Website.
Currently your Website indicates that December 18, 2006 was the last day for the President to sign the Firefighter bill into law. That is NOT correct.
The bill, H.R. 6429, has not yet left the House Clerk's office. It is expected that the House Clerk will release the bill for the necessary signatures that are required before it reaches the President's desk as soon as Wednesday, December 20, 2006.
When the bill reaches the President's desk, the President then has 10 days to sign the bill. But because the legislation has not yet reached the President's desk, the 10 rule for the President to sign a bill has not yet taken effect.
Should you have any questions or need any clarification, please do not hesitate to contact me at the telephone number listed below.
US Representative Mary Bono
45th Congressional District
405 Cannon HOB
Washington DC, 20515
Many thanks, Jason Vasquez. Always glad to have the correct info,
especially when it means there is more time. I'm glad to hear we have at
least eleven more days, maybe more, to call and email the White House with a
request for signature.
We won't call your office. News folks reading here, please don't call
Congresswoman Bono's office. Ab.
Situational awareness and Esperanza
In 2003, two young fire fighters (Shane Heath and Jeff Allen) lost their
lives on the Cramer Fire. A "situational awareness" poster was produced in
a partnership between the Boise National Forest and the Missoula Technology
Development Center comparing the landscape of this fire with the Mann Gulch
Fire of 1949, which resulted in the death of 13 wildland fire fighters and
the South Canyon Fire of 1994 which ended the lives of 14 wildland fire
fighters. This comparison showed astounding and shocking similarities in
the landscapes and alignment of these three tragic fires. Recently the
Esperanza fire took the lives of 5 wildland fire fighters. How similar is
this deadly fire to the Mann Gulch, South Canyon, and Cramer fires?? Click
on the attached icon to view a comparison of these four killer fires. The
similarities are shocking, haunting, and leave almost nothing left to say.
Wildland fire fighters must use their situational awareness to alert them to
all of the dangers that wildland fires have, and most of all they need to
continually assess this awareness and be prepared to only take appropriate
suppression actions when it is safe to do so. We don't need to add another
picture of a fatality fire to this album of killer fires.
Idaho Fire Babe
Poster image including Esperanza (powerpoint download file,1848 K)
Good poster, good to remember, Idaho Fire Babe. Thanks also to Kelly
Close who I think is one that is always bringing attention back to the common
factors in these fatality fires.
Doug Campbell has been pointing this out for many, many years. In the
last 7 years he and others have discussed repeatedly on theysaid such
fire behavior factors as slope/aspect, time of day leading to solar
preheating of fuels, wind vs topography-driven fire and alignment of forces
(wind, slope and solar pre-heat). He's made suggestions for drawing IAP maps
with alignment of forces, trigger points and making note right on the map of
locations are at risk after a particular time. Maps such as this are
routinely done in Spain and have saved lives when fires have blown up.
It's good to have other firefighters like Kelly Close publicizing the
same information from another direction. At some point -- with the
new recognition of changing climate, potentially longer drought conditions,
bug-kill, potentially more frequent instances of simultaneous ignition --
perhaps a basic fire behavior training that combines Doug's training with
LCES will actually be made standard for groundpounders. The need for it is
Well it would appear that the President is still signing bills today. Unfortunately,
it appears that he still hasn't signed HR 6429 or that he has any intention to do so.
The Constitution allows for ten days (excluding Sundays) for the President to sign
legislation while the Congress is in adjournment.
It would appear that the President has until Thursday to sign HR 6429 or it suffers
a pocket veto.
Check the posts above for the correct info on the timeframe. Ab.
Bush signed the bill or he didn't. Does anybody know?
I've been trying to find out with no luck so far. If anyone finds out,
please let us know. Ab.
Check the thank you cards from the kids in Jason McKay's extended family.
(Go down a couple of posts.) Thanks kids. Ab.
Ask and answer out loud...
Q: Why did the Three Wise Men wear Nomex?
A: Because they had come from Afar……
OK, I know, a corny joke from the south, but I couldn’t resist. In all honesty, I wanted
to send a big hug to those families and friends who have lost their loved wildland firefighters
this year, as well as those who have lost loved ones in previous years. Your losses do not
go unnoticed by the wildland fire community, we all send messages of good will to your
Best wishes for a Happy Holiday to all, and for a safe New Year!
Haw haw on the joke. Ab.
From Down Under: The "legalisation" of fire fighting...
Seems I'm almost daily emailing you at the moment!!
The Australian Capital Territory (our DC equivalent) Coroner has released her report in to the fires of January 2003 that destroyed nearly 500 homes & killed 4 people. Anyone having trouble sleeping might want to have a read at
BushfireInquiry: Canberra Firestorm Report. But much as I hate to say it, there is at the moment another fire in a direct line to the west of Canberra that has the potential to repeat it all over again if it breaks containment lines...
Thanks for the info. Ab.
Little bit of more info on Availability to Down Under that's making the
sent out on 12/15 from Kim Christensen, Center Manager at NICC.
Coordinators - Just wanted to give you an update regarding support to
Australia. They've had a little higher humidity and cooler temperatures in
the last day or two so have had some reprieve in terms of new starts. They
are engaged in the process assessing what capability they have left and
developing a strategy on specifically what they would come to us for. Per
our conference call with them this afternoon, they indicate its not a
question of if they will send a formal request, but rather when they will
have the specifics together and pull the trigger. I'll keep you
posted............ and thank you very much for getting the information
together on available personnel. If you get information from someone who
may not have seen the memo last week, please go ahead and forward it us.
Here is a link for current fire info.
Your friend in Texas is right about it being so dry. This is particularly the case in the southern and western parts of the state. (see
Also, due to last Summer's abundant rain, there is grass everywhere that is knee to waist high in Eastern NM and West Texas. This includes all of the plains/desert from the Big Bend to Carlsbad to Amarillo to the Hill Country to the South Padre Coast. Add the normal seasonal winds which usually begin in January and, presto, we will have some very large fires. We have already seen a few in the thousands-of-acres range with only moderately windy conditions.
I was talking to Betty the other day, expressing how I wanted to find
everyone to send thank you cards. She said to go to “they said” so here I
am. I truly have been blessed reading all the thoughts and prayers from
these pages. It is humbling to see how much everyone has been impacted by my
brother’s life, and changed by his death.
Expressing my thoughts thru my limited vocabulary is difficult. I shook
hands and hugged so many and didn’t come close to touching the numerous of
you who have impacted my life. Thank you seems such an insignificant word
when compared with the deep emotions which I have for all of you.
- Betty and Larry and all in Idaho from Chaplin Steve who listened
intently to my ramblings thank you.
- To everyone who helped organize, prepare, set up and tear down.
- To the Wildland Firefighter Foundation
- To whoever made such a beautiful tribute to E57 on this site.
All who had anything at all big or small Thank you. I have said before it
bears repeating, if I had 100 years to plan what everyone did in 8 days I
wouldn’t have even touched ya’ll. You kick butt. I know some are still
burning midnight oil for the families. Thank you, it means so much.
Everyone here has imprinted my life forever. I wont be the same, and I’m
grateful for that. Especially after spending any amount of time with Betty:
to you I send love. I wish I could have captured all the moments. This woman
made my children laugh and triple z smile. The children all send their love
and prayers as well as these cards.
I don’t want to take up to much space or time so in closing, we love you
pray for you all Thank you so very much and wish you a very Merry
Christmas and a safe new year.
Brenda Zimmerman & Family (Jason McKay’s sister)
You Wildland Firefighters and Wildland Firefighter Foundation card
Christmas Firefighters card
Thanks for the message, Brenda. Tell the kids many thanks for the
cards. They're terrific. Ab.
Re: Please Sign H.R. 6429 into law immediately
I am doing what I can on my
end. I am also working on some back doors.
Feel free to post Afrack's letter. He is also making telephone calls.
Michael S. Williams, Deputy Director
California State Firefighters' Association, Inc.
Thanks everyone for the effort. Afrack's letter basically asks the
Pres to sign the bill into law. Ab.
I'm not sure if anyone has supplied these yet. These are the green and
blue sheets for the SLU and Ventura incidents! Hopefully it helps the
person that was looking for them or anyone that hasn't seen them! I've had
them since the 12th so I imagine many more have had them since then!
Preliminary Summary Report (24 hr)
Fire Engine Rollover
December 3 2006
San Luis Obispo Unit
Investigation Incident Number
This Preliminary Summary Report is intended as an aid in
accident prevention, and to provide factual Information from the first 24
hours of the accident review. To that end it is published and distributed
within a short time frame. Information contained within this report may be
subject to revision as further investigation is conducted, and other reports
and documents are received.
On December 3, 2006, at approximately 5:50 PM, a CDF Model 5 Engine was
severely damaged during a vehicle roll over accident on State Highway 58
approximately 40 miles east of Santa Margarita in San Luis Obispo County.
On Sunday, December 3, 2006, at approximately 5:50 PM, CDF Engine 3461
(1986, International, Model 5) was returning to its home station, Shandon
#31, from a vegetation fire on the Carrisa Plain. The operator was a CDF
Fire Fighter I with a valid Class B Restricted Driving permit. The Driver
Trainee was supervised by a Fire Captain as the passenger in the right seat.
There were no other occupants on the Engine. While traveling west on State
Highway 58, west of Camatta Creek Road, Engine 3461 drifted off the roadway.
The Driver Trainee attempted to correct the drive path resulting in a
fishtail action turning Engine 3461 – 180 degrees and rolling in to the
embankment on the south side of the highway. Engine 3461 was on its top and
rolled back on to the driver’s side. No other vehicles were involved or in
the vicinity when the accident occurred.
The Driver Trainee sustained minor injuries. He was transported by ambulance
for treatment at Twin Cities Hospital in Templeton and released the same
night. The supervisor/passenger Fire Captain was not injured. Both Driver
Trainee and the Fire Captain self extricated from Engine 3461. Major damage
occurred to Engine 3461.
Recommendations for immediate corrective actions
• Safe speed for prevailing conditions
• Driver/ Operator and trainer must be aware of equipment limitations
For the Full Report with maps, etc:
Sheet Shekell Fire Engine Rollover (doc file) (72 hr report)
Engine 1763 Rollover
December 3, 2006
CDF/Ventura County Incident #CA-VNC-003565
Accident Review Incident #CSR-114
On the bright side, it's good that the President is taking care of the
today. Too bad he couldn't find time for signing HR 6429.
Now, I know we're all hot and bothered over the prospect of going to
but a friend from Texas called and said that his area of Texas is drier than
Anyone got some SA on what's happening out east?
Today is the last day for the President to sign H.R. 6429 that will allow
the money collected for the Esperanza fire families to go to them without
taxation and that will allow the WFF and United Way to pass it on to them
without risking loss of their nonprofit status.
Should President Bush fail
to sign this bill that has been passed by both houses, by 4:30 Tuesday
morning, it's the equivalent of him vetoing it. Will he "walk the walk"?
Cheer him on by contacting the White House by phone or email. Get your
friends and relatives to do the same.
(thanks Casey and Ab for the clarification)
HERE (doc file) for Mellie's simple solution.
Abs, here's a good message to you Abs and to all of us who share information
here. How true. Tahoe Terrie
Person of the Year: You
Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.
By Lev Grossman
Posted Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2006
The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish
philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but
the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful
and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory
took a serious beating this year.
To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and
disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got
bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and
Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got
the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile
nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.
But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story,
one that isn't about conflict or great men.
It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before.
It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge.
Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online
It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for
nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way
the world changes.
The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that
Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a
way for scientists to share research. It's not even the overhyped dotcom Web
of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing.
It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of
people and making them matter. <snip>
But it's really a revolution. <snip>
Thanks Tahoe Terrie. You all/ we all are an amazing community.
Thanks Original Ab for making real the vision. Ab.
Since vfd cap and his crew are mapping out fatality fire sites, I'd like to
do something similar.
Part of being a wildland firefighter, or any firefighter for that matter is
being proud of what we do and where we do it. I'd like to start my own
project to map wildland fire station locations.
So to start I'll need the following info:
* Agency (USFS, BLM, NPS, FWS, BIA, State)
* Specific Station/Cache name (Park name, district, etc)
* Lat and Long in decimal degrees. Here's a conversion website:
* Interesting tidbit about the station. Ex: "Mt Rushmore Fire, Defenders of
the Faces". OR "Almanor Ranger Station, Never Forget Engine 11." Serious or
silly, it's all good.
This will be just one of several of my side projects. Lets have fun with it
and see what happens. And yes, I know this is a big undertaking. I fully
understand that I'll have hundreds of stations/caches on my map. But it's
okay, I have cable Internet ;)
Please email the above information to me directly at fire. gizmologist@
gmail.com And Tim O, if you're reading this, I tell everyone about that
moniker you gave me! :)
From Down Under:
Probe into NZ firefighters' injury - National -
Bit of an update on the lads for you Abs. Interesting comment in there that
up to 300 northerners might come down this way. I'm still trying to get my
hands on the debrief paper done by the mob that visited in 2003 that might
be a bit of an update on Dick's very good article from a US perspective. And
if any of the Roosevelt Hotshots from Ft Collins are coming, can they drop
me a note - need some things brought down from my Dad's & Supply Cache!!
update from Victoria for today... (doc file, situation report)
The Jobs Page and
Series 0462 (Forestry Technician
& Series 0455 (Range
jobs pages and
(Biologist Series) are updated. Each of these series include jobs for
wildland firefighters. Ab.
Was scanning They Said today, and caught "Lobotomy's" 12/13 post wishing
that retired TriData employees would weigh-in on his opinions on the
implementation of the "TriData Study" (technically the Wildland Firefighter
Safety Awareness Study).
Having been a member of the consulting team, I can tell you that none of the
principal TriData staff, involved in the project, have retired (I'm not a
TriData employee by the way.) Some, but not all, of the agency movers and
shakers behind the project have, including those responsible for
implementation of the study's recommendations.
I expect you would find the TriData folk unlikely to comment publicly on the
quality of the implementation by the agencies - professional discretion is
pretty darn important in the consultant's trade. I also doubt that anyone
from TriData is participating on They Said.
However, I am certain that the President of the company, who was the Project
Manager, would entertain a call from Lobotomy. His name and contact
information are listed in the report and on the company's website
i have been reading for quite some time i am troubled by the fact that there
seems to be a "fire is bad attitude".
i have fought wildfires for about 15
years with the forest service and national park service. i have been on
several so-called wildfires that should have been allowed to do their thing,
as well as some prescribed ones that should have been handled differently.
this last season several (wildfires) were allowed to burn lack of
my question is when do we wait till we are out of people to fight fire
before we start go back to the original principle of fire, and that is to
clean the forest floor? yes it does cost millions to fight these so-called
mega fires but if they're in remote areas, why are we even putting them out?
i agree, some areas southern california you have to put them out, but
then get very active prescribed burning in these areas.
Ab - here's an article I wrote up in early 2002 about firefighting in
While some of the information is a little dated (there have been several
fire seasons in 2003 and 2005; there is now a Bushfire Cooperative
Research Council "CRC"), much it is still relevant.
Battling Bushfires in the Land of Oz
Good to hear our friends from the southern hemisphere are going to be
alright. Cheers, mates!
The pic OB sent up of the crew performing the Haka (Ab could you paste the
Haka photo link here) is an example of crew cohesion at its pinnacle.
The New Zealand All-Black's (New Zealand's national rugby team) perform this
Maori story-telling dance before the kickoff of each match, and it's
spine-chilling. Intimidating, too. If I can find a good link to the actual
performance I'll send it along.
We just weathered one heck of a storm here in Western WA, and it served as a
good reminder to have Situational Awareness 24/7, regardless of time of
year. Power lines and blowdown trees littered the road, driving was dicey,
and the wind was blowing. Ever sit in a Type 1 engine and have the wind push
it forward? It was a great reminded to have Lookouts in place, even if
they're riding in the front seat or back cab.
Situational Awareness and LCES, year-round!
Here's a great NASA photo of the fires of the fires down under:
AK Old Timer
I have more patches to deliver to Nora so I will get an update on where the
project is. I will be taking pictures of the progress. Since this quilt is
for her senior project, it will not be up for auction until May or June of
next year. She must take the quilt and all her "research" and present it
before a panel. I believe this takes place in May, so this isn't something
that will be completed right away. As soon as I have some pictures or
information, I will post it.
To the El Dorado Hotshots:
Thanks to the El Dorado Hotshots for a memorable weekend. I haven't talked
to a single person who didn't come away from the walk with good memories. It
was amazing to see those guys tough it out (but would you expect anything
less from a shot) and keep their spirits up the whole time. Maybe the
"fortification" on the trail helped!! It was great to see so many "bigwigs"
there - Vicki, Burk, Casey, Melissa, Ken and having so many family members
there was thrilling.
Being able to talk to Sylvia, Dee and Jake was truly heartwarming and heart
healing. Thanks you guys!
A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to all!
Does anyone know what happens if the President doesn't sign the bill for
the Esperanza firefighters families? Does it just become law after a certain
amount of time and money can be disbursed next year?
Terrie, I thought that bill would just die and the process would have
to start over. Being uncertain, I called Casey:
Bottom line is if the President doesn't sign the bill into law
within 10 days of close of the second congressional session,
it's the equivalent of a veto. Congress would have to start over.
This bill was passed just before congress adjourned. "Final passage took
place in the Senate at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning, 12/9/06." That means
the President has until that time on Tuesday morning to sign it or the
bill dies. No action is a veto in other words.
Since this bill involves the IRS, the President is likely to have
consulted Revenue for feedback or recommendations. He may be waiting on
their reply before signing.
The President has today, Sunday and Monday to sign and that's
about it, the Esperanza firefighter families won't get the money this
Ab Note: If this bill had been passed by both houses in the
first session of Congress just before closing and the President didn't
sign it then, it would become law 10 days later. The President's not
signing a bill at mid-year has the opposite consequence of his not signing a
bill at the end of the year. To be sure the President remembers and does the
right thing, I sent in my email and made my phone call...
HERE (doc file) for Mellie's simple solution.
Ab's and all
In spite of Ken Kemper's information to the contrary it appears that the
California State Legislature is on vacation (again) until next year. Anyone
have any idea how the Esperanza families' money can be disbursed (providing
the President signs) without action by the Legislature of the "Great" State
Is it possible that the Governor could issue an Executive Order? I think he
is friendly to the fire Services, if someone else knows differently, please
Anyone with ideas please come forward.
(Or am I missing something and the necessary actions have been taken in CA?)
Neither Casey nor I have the answer to that. Don't even know if it
requires state action, since fed trumps state law. Would every state that
has a non-profit then have to pass a similar law? Anyone? Call a local
legislator and ask what the process is. Ab.
A bit pear shaped: message from Down Under:
some of our Kiwi visitors have been caught in Victoria. The CFA web page has
Incident at Howqua Valley
Update of incident at 2.30pm involving New Zealand Firefighters
An incident occurred at the Howqua Valley, north of the Mount Terrible
fires, at 2.30pm involving nine New Zealand firefighters. This is a
particularly severe fire season and we continually remind everyone
involved in this massive fire to be conscious above all of their own
This incident involved nine very experienced firefighters, two of whom
were with us in the 2003 Alpine fires. Three have been air lifted to the
Alfred Hospital. They have suffered burns but all are stable and expect
to be released within two to three days.
The other six are being treated locally with minor injuries and will be
released in the next 24 hours.
Ewan Waller, Chief Officer of DSE said, "The safety of our firefighters
is always of paramount concern, but this incident is an example of the
risks that can never be completely eliminated".
"Every endeavour is made to ensure that our firefighters are not placed
in situations where their safety is at risk, but bushfire fighting will
always be dangerous", Ewan said.
"To date no firefighters have been seriously injured in the fires and we
are concerned and dismayed at this incident, involving our colleagues
from New Zealand. I would remind people to listen to their local ABC
Radio for up-to-date fire information and to use the DSE and CFA
websites", Ewan concluded.
Steven Pyne was on the ABC (Oz equivalent of PBS) on Friday night saying
it's great fire mateship to send the overseas crews in, but nothing beats
local fire behaviour. I think following on from the reposts of Dick Mangan:
yes, there is significant depth in front line firefighters in the volunteer
ranks, but as work is changing the world over, volunteerism is suffering.
And these fires aren't about to go out in the near future. As Dick said, yes
most fires run for a couple of days under the weather patterns that SE Oz
gets, but nowadays its just so dry across the whole continent that where we
used to have only certain parts of the country in drought which meant there
could be interstate deployments, now it's all of the country that in drought
& the crews are watching their own patches. As I said a while back, I
certainly see the need for overhead and remote crews, and yes even AAS types
(much to the chagrin of my AAS mate who has missed so much due to farming
commitments..). But while lots of Aussies will take Xmas (21 Dec to 15 Jan
off - we get 4wks annual leave as standard...), the fires will still run
until the end of March (hopefully, with the end of the season) and there
will be an exhaustion of volunteers that may even see the deployment of more
wet stuff/red stuff folk; we're even beginning to see it already...But for
those of you who do come, be safe, our bush was built to burn, and right now
it's in ideal condition to do so....
And on a funny side note (and this goes to the friendly Aus/NZ rivalry..), I
heard nth hand that one of the Kiwis when they arrived & heard the size of
the Gippsland fires said that 60 hectares (148.3 acres) was a big
fire to them....
And attached is a pic of some of the crew in better times doing the Maori
Haka - came from the news (not my pic..)
Yesterday Dick sent in map and comment about the current
situation, in which it's clear he doesn't think these fires will go out
soon. Look in the next post for that.
Thanks for writing in OB. We're concerned for you all "down there" in
Aussie land. Please update us on their condition.
Maybe there will be new ways created for our volunteers with lots of
fire experience to visit you to help.
Be safe. Ab.
Readers, we have a long-standing link to a conversion utility on the
page under world.
Ab and all,
This is starting to look like the Bitterroot in August 2000.
www.wildlandfire.com/docs/2006/oz/gippsland-complex.pdf (not large
News from Down Under:
Minimal information at this time - however reports
of six New Zealand firefighters entrapped while fighting fire in Australia.
One Kiwi is reported to be hospitalized in Melbourne, AU. Pray that they and
everyone involved in the firefighting efforts down there are safe and for
those involved in this particular incident that they heal completely and are
able to celebrate the holidays at home with their families. We may be
separated by a large body of water, however our hearts are as one.
If the call does come in for resources from America to head to Australia -
please be careful, this year has been a long one for all of us on both sides
of the pond already!
Will post more information as I receive it.
What is the update on the quilt that was being made with all the fire
agency patches that were donated? I'd like to see what it looks like.
Viejo - you bring up some interesting thoughts about the "Mega-Fires" that
seem to be occurring more often in the past 15-20 years, and asked for some
ideas from others.
As I read your posting, I sense that you're not real
supportive about the concept of Wilderness Fire, maybe because some of those
fires have become really large, and cost lots of bucks to finally contain?
Having been involved in the concept and application of Wilderness fire
since the 1970's, I completely support your idea that fire managers should
look at ALL wilderness fire plans using the criteria of land management
goals, seasonal severity and costs. Wildernesses in California, Orygun,
Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona all have
unique wilderness management objectives and fire conditions that require
specific fire management plans under a variety of conditions to achieve
As fire professionals, we've got to help the land managers understand the
fire implications of their decisions, including the costs and potential
risks to the land, firefighters and their budgets from less than full
suppression at the smallest size possible.
Fire has been present on lands in the western US long before any of us in
the fire management business were ever on the scene, and will continue long
after our passing. Our mission as professional fire managers, in my opinion,
is to be sure that the ultimate decision makers of our lands have a full
understanding of fire, its role and its impacts. Then, we must implement
their decisions to the best of our abilities, regardless of our personal
opinions and biases.
Viejo, you ask if the best way to prevent "Mega-Fires" is just to put
them out. But some of the examples you reference ("Dude", "Rodeo-Chediski",
and some of the Yellowstone fires like "North Fork") were all initial attack
escapes that became gobblers in spite of our best efforts.
Bottom line: you've raised some tough questions, many without easy
answers. Thanks for starting the discussion.
Just a quick note! I just wanted to let many of you know how honored I've
felt to serve you and minister to the McKay and Burger family. The hardest
thing to leave behind when I left the FS was the people. There has not been
a day nor a night (especially 2 am) that I have not thought about or prayed
for many of my BDF friends since the incident. I pray that this holiday
season will have enough joy in it to carry you through!
OES NEWS BULLETIN for: CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE OF EMERGENCY SERVICES
OES Presents Fire Engines to Local Fire Departments Across the State
Several fire departments across California have reason to celebrate this
holiday season after recently receiving new fire engines from the
Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES). The fire departments include
Fresno City Fire Department (FD), Georgetown Fire Protection District (FPD)
in El Dorado County, Montecito FPD in Santa Barbara County, Oakdale City FD
in Stanislaus County, Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue Authority in Sonoma
County, Susanville FD in Lassen County, Tehama County FD, Vista FPD in San
Diego County, and West Stanislaus County FPD.
“Stationing OES-owned fire engines in local departments statewide is an
integral and valuable component of the State’s ability to immediately
respond to the needs of
local governments during emergencies,” said OES Director Henry Renteria.
“Local agencies benefit from having the added emergency response capability
in their day-to-day operations, and the State benefits from having the
resources readily available to fight major fires and disasters in the
On a three-year cycle, OES presents select city and county fire
departments and districts throughout California with fully equipped fire
engines. These engines replace state-owned ones that had been in these
departments for nearly 20 years. During this latest cycle, OES has replaced
nine fire engines and will continue until they have distributed 21, at a
total cost of $5.8 million.
As part of an agreement with OES, the fire departments that receive these
state-of-the-art fire engines are required to dispatch personnel with these
vehicles whenever ordered by OES to any emergency or disaster situation in
the state. In return, the departments
are allowed specified use of the engines within their daily operations.
The OES fleet, which is spread throughout the state at various strategic
locations, currently consists of 110 fire engines and 12 water tenders. In
the 2005/06 budget, however, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger increased fire
engine funding by $5 million, allowing OES to increase the number of
engines to 129. These 19 additional engines, scheduled to be distributed in
2007, will further the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission goal of increasing
the OES fleet to 250.
The ducks in Idaho died of fungal disease - confirmed not too long ago.
Thanks rmm, we got that news and posted it on
Watchout page yesterday. Ab. Let me say how much we appreciate news from
the wildland network out there. It always helps to have a news release or
some kind of official announcement to refer to as well. Ab.
Ask the President to sign H.R. 6429
HERE (doc file) to download the message I have emailed out to
various friends in the fire community. Feel free to act on and send out this
message to your firefighting networks and their families. Our Esperanza fire
families deserve to have a fantastic Christmas without all this uncertainty.
See my message below for what I've been doing this morning. We can make a
difference on this! Theysaid has a powerful voice.
Thanks for the pledges to the Foundation everyone. It's been fun to
browse through the pledge list to see who I know.
Special thanks to those who are sending their donations in asap.
Doing this in a timely fashion means our Foundation folks will get the
bookkeeping done and some time off to be with families over the
holidays. Also means it can count as a deduction on your '06
It's a pleasure to know and work with you all!
Vicki, you're a HOOT!
On another topic --Regarding donations to families of our fallen:
It's easy to call the President's comment line (202-456-1111) and
request he sign H.R. 6429. From your personal telephone... The
person who answers may not know and will ask what that bill is
about. Just tell them:
It's about removing the IRS cap and allowing money raised for
the families of firefighters killed in Southern California to be
given to the families without penalizing the non-profits. Like
was done for families following 9/11.
If you'd rather email, do that, or do both.
From your personal email account...
You can go to <what Mellie added in her PS below> and copy and paste
that message to Pres Bush. Put your name and address at the end.
Put "Please Sign H.R. 6429 immediately" in the subject line.
Calling or emailing like this has a powerful impact on a president if
of people do it.
Do it yourself, then ask family and friends to do it for our families
and for our Foundation.
It's easy. Exercise your rights, privileges, and responsibilities as
Merry Christmas everyone! May we all experience some peace
and good cheer.
PS. UPDATE: Ab please post the email I sent to the President.
Everyone, just copy and paste and send this with the subject line that says
"Please Sign H.R. 6429 immediately"
Please promptly sign H.R. 6429 into law.
In October, five federal firefighters were killed in the Esperanza arson
fire that raged through Riverside County, California. Following that
tragedy, the local United Way chapter and the Wildland Firefighter
Foundation, both non-profits, raised over $1 million for the families of the
deceased firefighters. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Times reported on
12/7/06 that IRS rules typically prevent 501(c)(3) organizations from
raising money for specified individuals - and that the non-profits might
even risk losing their tax-exempt status if they released these funds. Faced
with the prospect of having to return the contributions it had raised, the
Wildland Firefighter Foundation and United Way then asked the California and
Idaho Congressional delegations for help.
Upon learning of this problem, the California delegation immediately
introduced corrective legislation (S. 4112 and H.R. 6429), which was
introduced Friday, 12/8/06. These bills were drafted to treat the Esperanza
fire victims in the same way as 9/11 victims for whom contributions had been
individually raised. In an act of prompt bipartisanship, H.R. 6429 passed
both the House and Senate by unanimous consent before our adjournment sine
die. Final passage took place in the Senate at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning,
This bill is now on your desk for consideration. Although Congress acted
with unusual dispatch, the non-profit organizations still cannot release
these funds to the families of the fallen firefighters until this bill
becomes law. With the holidays approaching - the families' first without
their loved ones - we ask to you to sign this bill into law promptly, so
that the outpouring of support from various donors can finally flow to the
families of these heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.
my street addy
city, state, zip
If anyone wants to still donate to the 52 mile walk, please enter your
name and amount on the pledge list now. We'll be wrapping up the list and
sending it to the Foundation late this afternoon.
For those needing
to send in your donation, please do so now to this address or call them to
make a charge to your credit card:
2049 Airport Way
Boise, Idaho 83705
is the reason that he hasn't signed the Bill yet?
Click on Barney Cam V link to the right.
Child safe viewing and actually a pleasure to watch, especially the end
seeing the kids and families at Christmas.
Don't forget Santa's Helpers at
the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.
Sorry, needed some brevity to remember that this is the Holiday Season.
brevity or levity??? Good to put a face on the OMB Director. Ab.
It appears that the President didn't sign H.R. 6429 again today.
Contacting the White House:
Visitors Office: 202-456-2121
Please send your comments to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the large volume of e-mail received, the
White House cannot respond to every message. For further up-to-date
information on Presidential initiatives, current events, and topics of
interest to you, please continue to use the White House website.
I don't know how to THANK all of you who put on the El Dorado fund raiser.
But to say THANK YOU.
I remember seeing a picture of Alaska and wanting to be there, but I never
really knew what it was like until I went there. Meeting the old timer, the
native, being part of their culture, watching how they care for the tribe.
Well, being among the shots was like that for me. I used to see pictures of
them, and knew some of them, but was never really amongst the whole tribe of
them. When I was actually there for this event with all of them and their families,
including some parents, I felt something that could not be bought. It was
the simplicity of a gathering of human beings for the greater good of the
There was unspoken love, respect, and gratitude. It showed on the faces of
forest personnel, some with tears in their eyes, remembering when they first
heard of the warriors down. The love I saw was there in the children playing
in the puddles… with the tribal shots watching for their safety and playing
with them. There was full respect for the Elders, and the fallen.
There were other Tribes that came to support, and were unwilling to quit, no
matter what the pain. One man in a wheel chair wheeled eight miles of the
walk and was back in the morning rain to wheel again.
There is not the language in me to express… to all… my thanks for what you
From the crew... to all that helped support… and to the generosity and love
of the donors...
Many heart felt THANKS to the Abs for the smoke signals that kept the
community included in this and other events -- which keep us all connected
and communicating freely.
PS. Sandy and the shots gave me an Eldorado hotshot shirt, in my size, for me to
wear. I put it on, felt it and I told him I didn't feel right wearing it,
that I hadn't earned it. He looked at me -- all serious -- and said, "Yes
Vicki, you've earned it." And I said, "No, I really want to earn this shirt"
... and they looked at each other and all started laughing (and it really
hurt this old 56 year-old bird's feelings...).
haw, haw, Vicki, you are something else. Good laughing with you on the
phone, too. Ab.
Senators, Reps. send letter to Bush regarding firefighters' fund
The Desert Sun
December 14, 2006 December 14, 2006 U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara
Boxer, D-Calif., and Reps. Mary Bono, Ken Calvert and Jerry Lewis, who all
represent Riverside County, have sent a letter urging President Bush to move
quickly in signing legislation that will ensure families of the firefighters
killed in the October 2006 Esperanza fire are not taxed on about $1 million
donated to them.
The bill was passed in both the Senate and the House last week It then moved
to the President's desk.
Here's the text of the letter sent Wednesday to President Bush:
Dear President Bush:
We urge you to prioritize consideration of H.R. 6429, and promptly sign it
In October, five federal firefighters were killed in the Esperanza arson
fire that raged through Riverside County, California. Following that
tragedy, the local United Way chapter raised over $1 million for the
families of the deceased firefighters. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Times
reported last Thursday that IRS rules typically prevent 501(c)(3)
organizations from raising money for specified individuals - and that the
United Way chapter might even risk losing its tax-exempt status if it
released these funds. Faced with the prospect of having to return the
contributions it had raised, the United Way then asked the California
Congressional delegation for help.
Upon learning of this problem, we immediately introduced corrective
legislation (S. 4112 and H.R. 6429), which was introduced Friday. These
bills were drafted to treat the Esperanza fire victims in the same way as
9/11 victims for whom contributions had been individually raised. In an act
of prompt bipartisanship, H.R. 6429 passed both the House and Senate by
unanimous consent before our adjournment sine die. Final passage took place
in the Senate at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
This bill now heads to your desk for consideration. Although Congress acted
with unusual dispatch, the United Way still cannot release these funds to
the families of the fallen firefighters until this bill becomes law. With
the holidays approaching - the families' first without their loved ones - we
ask to you to sign this bill into law promptly, so that the outpouring of
support from various donors can finally flow to the families of these heroes
who made the ultimate sacrifice.
fair use disclaimer
Request for info from our wildlife management folks:
I posted this request
Flu Watchout page in more detail... as
well as here.
More than 3,400 mallards have died along a southeastern Idaho
creek (near NV & UT) in the last few days. If anyone hears of the
cause, please let me know. Right now they don't think it's birdflu,
but they haven't definitively ruled it out.
Arson in Montana... JR
Arsonist pleads guilty to wildfires
By TRISTAN SCOTT of the Missoulian
Jonah Micah Warr, the 19-year-old firebug responsible for shaping western Montana's 2006 wildfire season, pleaded guilty to nine counts of arson Wednesday morning.
Warr, of Florence, appeared with his attorney, Kathleen DeSoto, in U.S. District Court in Missoula, where he faces possible penalties of 45 years in a federal penitentiary, a fine of $2.25 million and three years of supervised release.
“I find there exists clear and convincing evidence the defendant presents a serious danger to the community,” wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch in a brief.
Warr has been detained at the Missoula County Detention Facility on a federal hold since mid-September, when a handful of promising leads brought investigators to the teenager's family home.
I have been getting more requests and questions about the Aussie
Availability Form mentioned in a post several days ago. It really is
designed for Geographic Area Coordinating Groups and Geographic Area Coordination Centers.
The directions in the post yesterday say:
Available personnel need to provide the information in the attached excel spreadsheet form, thru established dispatch channels to
It's an Excel worksheet with columns for name, unit, agency, checkbox
for whether each person named on the list has a passport, expiration date,
and 4 columns to record which highest positions they're qualified to
This is not an application for individuals wanting to go to Australia.
It's a management tool for use by federal managers.
I have heard the term mega fires and have read some of the papers referenced on this forum. I offer this post to start some discussion on the subject.
The concept of mega fires is relatively new to this generation, but its been around for a long time under different names. Peshtigo, Tillamook, the 1910 conflagration were all mega fires. More recently, Yellowstone, Dude and Rodeo Chedeski fires all come to mind as huge costly mega fires.
There is no doubt mega fires are occurring with more frequency. Global warming, drought and increased fuel loadings are probably huge contributors to this. One thing that I have not heard mentioned is land management policy.
How many of these mega fires could have been averted if administration/ leadership had mandated different policies?
Wildland fire use, Modified suppression tactics and use of other than closest resources certainly has caused its share of problems in Northern California over the last few years.
I agree that when a fire becomes a plume dominated Mega Fire a change of tactics is mandated, but doesn't that imply that a change of overall strategy should be implemented?
For instance, last summer the Bake/Oven complex became a huge costly problem partly because of Wilderness Fire Policy. If that fire had been rapidly initial attacked using the closet available resources it may have been contained as a much smaller fire. The Pigeon Fire was also allowed to spread into a month long fire problem partly because the closest available resources were not dispatched. It would seem that Wilderness Fire Policy certainly contributed to the spread and duration of the Day Fire.
With an apparent change in climatic conditions shouldn't fire policy change to reflect that? Perhaps the concept of minimal suppression of some Wilderness Fires, especially in early or mid season should be revisited. There are some forests or areas where the entire concept of managed fire should be re visited, like the LPF or the KNF where millions, if not billions of dollars have been spent on unproven land management practices. Perhaps the WFU vs wildfire issue should be examined.
Is the best way to avert a mega fire simply to put it out?
I would appreciate hearing everyone's ideas on this subject.
Anyone know if the Blue Sheets are out on the SLU and
VNC rollovers (CA) and where I might find them?
I have heard the terms.... "Always Remember" and "Never Forget" on previous
losses to our community.... Tired of these losses and folks speaking from a
gain attitude rather than an accepting and understanding attitude of the
hazards that wildland firefighters really face....
Wildland Firefighting is a dangerous job with unique hazards that most of
us will never see.... hopefully.
How about.. always remember and honor, and raise the bar for all of our
"kids" and their families in the future? We can do it!!!!!
Just a thought
Honorable Senator Battin,
My name is Ken Kempter. I am a wildland firefighter and a friend of Mark
Loutzenhiser. I am also the Southern California Chapter Director of the
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association.
I trained Engineer Jess Mclean and Asst. Engine Operator Jason McKay during
their Fire Engine Operator Academy. I have been deeply touched and saddened
by our losses.
I wish to thank you for your legislation recently introduced. Please ensure
the California State Senate and the California State Assembly undertake this
legislation before Christmas.
While you are concentrating on the United Way in your press release, please
understand that the are other groups out there such as the Wildland
Firefighter Foundation who have been also raising funds for these families.
To date, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation has raised nearly $300,000
earmarked for our families.
Any legislation that is passed needs to be comprehensive and cover all
groups raising funds for OUR families. Also, any specific proclamation or
executive order from the Governor's Office needs to address all of the
allied groups raising funds.
Thank you in advance for your support.
/s/ Ken Kempter
Southern California Chapter Director
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association (FWFSA)
You seemed to overlook this part of the agreement.
"A participant may obtain, as appropriate, the participation of its
state, regional, local, private or tribal/aboriginal fire organizations
in the implementation of the Arrangement, subject to its national or
state laws and regulations."
Looks alot like talking heads once again not speaking the truth and
covering their tracks to reduce costs and assign blame "to the agreement"
rather than focus on what they are really trying to say.
Shame on them!!!
I just read the agreement between the Australian States of New South Wales, Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia and the USDI/USDA. The Australian Agreement starts on Page 145 of the National Mobilization Guide, 2006 Version.
Unless I am reading it wrong or missed it, it doesn't say anything about "fed only" specifically.
Technically, when an AD is hired, they become a "fed" by default. If there is a true need for the "air guru's" as described by several sources,
ADs will need to be hired to perform the mission. From what I have been told, during this last fire season, nearly 40% of the ATGS positions nationwide had to be filled with
I have a sneaking suspicion it has something to do more with costs, rather than the language in the agreement.... specifically the issue of portal-to-portal pay..... but it sure leads to a bigger understanding of how a bureaucracy works.
Watch what they do, not what they say. Actions speak louder
than words. Burns was transparent and look what that got him.
Others will reveal their true "self" in whether they sign or not.
We go from there...
Does anybody know why the President hasn't signed H.R. 6429 yet?
The Bill was sent to the President on December 9th. He has ten days to either sign it or it suffers a "pocket veto" since both the House and Senate are in adjournment sine die.
He has signed 11 other Bills over the last two days.
President calling Tom Tidwell, Deputy Regional Forester for Region 5 on October
P.S. - Seems that there is also a state problem with the California Franchise Tax Board regulations also slowing down the distribution of funds to the families of the E-57 fallen. Unless the California Senate and Assembly can be "urged" back into session, the funds may have to wait until after Christmas before they can be distributed.
Battin plans urgency legislation for Esperanza victims' families
I read "They Said' daily, however I have not registered as a user. My question would be if they need AD Air Tactical Group Supervisor. I am on an incident management team as an AD an have been doing the ATGS job for over 25 years.
Any information would be great
Ab comment: We're getting lots of questions like this and the next
one... do I need to be a fed?
You do need to be a fed. This line in that NIFC announcement
about sums it up...
Unfortunately at this time, current international arrangements with Australia do not provide for state or non-federal employee participation.
Almost everyone in Australia fights fire. Very few firefighters are
paid. Fed fire has an agreement with the Aussies, but it only includes fed
employees, and probably a limited number.
Here's a comment from Dick Mangan from 3 years ago that's posted on the
The Aussies have a relatively "closed society" and are able to maintain it because of the limited means of access! They don't let folks into the country just "because I want to do it". You must have a skill that the Aussies cannot fill from within their own workforce. Bushfire fighters are not in short supply: the Country Fire Authority (CFA) out of Melbourne has about 800 full-time paid employees and 65,000 volunteers; the New South Wales Rural Fire Service
(RFS) headquartered in Sydney has more paid folks, but 85,000 volunteers. Their fires generally last only a day or two, except under rare conditions. No staffed fire stations, no fire camps, everyone goes home at night!
Save your money and be a tourist, but don't count on going "DownUnda" as a bushfire fighter .
Was wondering if you needed to be a fed employee to go down under. STL Quals and Helicopter quals.
Let me know. How I could help..10 yrs being a fed guy and then went contractor
I wanted to remind everyone about the calendars, but it looks like you and Mellie beat me to it. We have sold over 1200 so far with about 2060 to
go. (Our printer donated some extras so we ended up with over 3000.) I’ll be mailing a check this week to the foundation for calendars already sold and our pledge to the walk. Congratulations to all those involved with that fund raiser. The Foundation greatly appreciates the effort and response from the community.
For the calendars, Mellie is correct that we have to manually change the shipping charges. So don’t worry if the website shows it is charging more. Your card is not processed on our site; it gets processed when we ship. Of course if we mess up and charge you too much we will refund you, (or donate it to the Foundation!!!) So get our calendars now. Our last shipping day is Tuesday the 19th. We close at 2 pm next Tuesday for inventory and then the Holidays.
Happy Holidays to all our customers, friends and fellow firefighters.
The Supply Cache, Inc.
Ab, vfd cap'n wrote:
We now have 33 entrapment fatality fires mapped in GoogleEarth.
Attached is a jpg of the Banning area showing Esperanza, Mack 2 and Bailiff fatality sites - all within 3 miles of one another. (It's a guess of sorts for the Bailiff location, from a crude map in the Mack 2 report.)
Can someone post the link so we can discuss this?
Looking around on his site, it's here: www.coloradofirecamp.com/honoring-our-fallen/fatality-sites.htm
What I referred to about the Senate suspending the rules was that rather than sending it to the committee, it needed to go to the floor immediately but there needed to be coordination between the committee leadership and those running what was going on in the senate chamber.
The staff person from Collin's office has been sick the last two days. I will get the scoop and fill everyone in. In the meantime, take some solace in the fact that OPM took the time to call and acknowledge the task ahead.
Nice work, Casey. I'm looking forward to you having some time off.
Tell one or more of those FWFSA guys/gals to take over replying here while
you get a break with your family. Ab.
I came across another gem in the Lessons Learned Center database. It's a compilation of documents from the 1993 Buchanan RX Fire in New Mexico. Firefighter Frankie Toledo was fatally burned in a wind event that lasted 8 to 10 minutes.
The summary report says that the FS investigation lasted 175 days, unlike the rush a year later to pound out a report for South Canyon. Buchanan was the first OSHA investigation of a FS fatality fire.
Another interesting point: Although no charges were filed, the BIA conducted a criminal investigation of the incident, 10 years before Cramer.
The report talks about a film crew being close enough to interfere with firing operations a couple times. Presumably that means there's video out there somewhere.
National Interagency Fire Center
3838 S. Development Avenue
Boise, Idaho 83705
December 12, 2006
To: Geographic Area Coordinating Groups; Geographic Area Coordination Centers
From: National Multi Agency Coordinating Group
Subject: Support to Australia
Much of Australia is experiencing a very severe fire season due to ongoing drought, little rainfall during their winter and a developing El Nino (typically their worst seasons occur during an El Nino). Fire activity began earlier than normal and at a more severe level than normal so far this season. Currently, the State of Victoria has burned over 1,000,000 acres and has fully committed its firefighting resources. Victoria is requesting assistance from other Australian States and New Zealand but these states are facing similar fire suppression challenges.
Based on the current situation in Victoria the State's Department of Sustainability and Environment is seeking firefighting assistance from the U.S. At this time they are seeking assistance in the areas of mid-level supervision such as Division Group Supervisors, Task Force Leaders, Strike Team Leaders, Helicopter Operations Specialists, Helicopter Managers, and Single Engine Airtanker Managers. Type 1 and 2 Command and General Staff, and Unit Leaders may also be requested. Depending on the length and severity of their fire season, it is possible they may request some level of support from the U.S. from now into the February time frame.
Two useful websites for information on the current conditions and activities in Victoria are:
The National MAC Group is requesting availability from the federal firefighting community. Interested individuals must have:
· A current U.S. Government official passport or a personal passport in order to be considered.
· Permission from their supervisors for a 30 day assignment plus travel.
Unfortunately at this time, current international arrangements with Australia do not provide for state or non-federal employee participation.
The arrangement with Australia does allow for reimbursement of salary. Therefore, WAE employees in non-pay status could be brought on for this deployment and not result in base 8 salary issues.
Available personnel need to provide the information in the attached excel spreadsheet form, thru established dispatch channels to NICC.
/s/ Tom Boatner
1 - Australia Availability Form
Anyone wants the form, let me know. Ab.
If anyone knows Matt Medford, Washington State DNR, could you please ask
him to email Ab. Thanks.
Ab, you said:
Remember to order your FIRE Calendars from
The Supply Cache.
All proceeds benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Last shipping day
before the holidays is Dec 19. Thanks for spearheading the benefit Jim. Ab.
I'd like to make a little clarification or testimonial on the shipping
I ordered two calendars and nothing else. $5 -- Great price on the
calendars, by the way. Shipping was supposed to be $2.00 for the first
calendar plus $0.75 for the second one. Via automatic basket checkout, I got
a message that I was charged the standard Supply Cache default for shipping
I want to let everyone know that in spite of this message, I was only
charged $2.75 for shipping. Each order gets checked and billing to your
credit card is changed manually to reflect the reduced price.
Very nice calendar! I'm going to have to order some more to give to
I want to thank NOR CAL TEAM 2 and all that helped the folks walking the 52. The support couldnt have been better. All aid stations were awake, even on lap 4 at 3am. People were in high spirits handing out food, water and plenty of
advil. Throughout the nite while passing or being passed by someone, words of positive nature were spoken, everyone united and forgot about all the hardships of this fire season. We all focused on the goal, not the 52 miles but the
purpose of the walk, the support for the families the support of each other and to support the
WFF. Even though I was 8 miles shy of finishing all 52, my saw partner 4 miles
shy (DAM* BLISTERS) we are glad we made the drive to folsom to be part of this event. I met alot of good people and had fun even though it rained all
nite, Thanks again NOR CAL T2 , Vicki, Eldo., and all who walked.
Bear Divide Hotshots
I have been reading about the Senate process (rules) for the last "few" days (years). The Senate doesn't "suspend the rules" as the House does, basically the Senate Leadership does whatever they want, when they want... the Senate doesn't have rules like the House.
As I understand it, after a bill passes the House, it is then nearly immediately it is reported before the Senate and assigned either to the appropriate committee, or sent to the floor as pre-approved by Senate leadership... neither action happened this time to everyone's surprise.
What confuses me is...... HR 5697 passed the House early during the day on Dec. 7th.... It never went to the Senate that was in session for the next 9-10 hours as the distinguished gentleman from Ohio was doing special order speeches to Honor the losses in Ohio.
HR 5697 was never forwarded to the Senate until the next business day, Dec. 8th, and was not announced on the Senate Floor EVER or assigned to Senate Committees on ANY day as required.
The Senate ended legislative business on Dec. 9 at a very early hour (0200-0400 EST) without ever hearing HR 5697 and its merits.
At no time other than the references on thomas.loc.gov and through Congressional Record and listening to C-Span 1 and C-Span 2 live footage do I have facts... but they are pretty sound facts... live and recorded in both Congressional and local records.
At no point during the Dec. 7-9th sessions was HR 5697 reported as being passed by the House as required before the Senate. What "rules" weren't followed?
Gizmo (sorry.. pissed off at process but thanks to those willing to question it and have an AAR for Lessons Learned)
Remember to order your FIRE Calendars from
The Supply Cache.
All proceeds benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Last shipping day
before the holidays is Dec 19. Thanks for spearheading the benefit Jim. Ab.
Forward from Hickman:
San Jacinto Ranger District Engine 57 Memorial Service Available for Viewing
EMMITSBURG, MD. - On October 26, 2006, five firefighters of the United States Forest Service lost their lives in the Esperanza Fire in Southern
California. On November 5, 2006, thousands of firefighters from across the nation came together in Devore, California to remember the ultimate
sacrifices of Mark Loutzenhiser, Jason McKay, Jess McLean, Daniel Hoover Najera and Pablo Cerda in service to their nation.
As a tribute to these firefighters, the United States Fire Administration, through its National Preparedness Network (PREPnet), has
made available a 2 minute and a 20 minute remembrance video package available through Web streaming.
The memorial service is available for viewing through the links below:
U.S. Forest Service Engine 57 Memorial Service (20 Minutes)
U.S. Forest Service Engine 57 Memorial Service (2 Minutes)
"We are honored to be able to share the Esperanza Memorial Service with all firefighters of this great nation," said U.S. Acting Fire
Administrator Charlie Dickinson. "We will never forget the sacrifices of these U.S. Forest Service
firefighters of the San Jacinto Ranger District Engine 57 nor should we ever forget all of the families who
have lost loved ones this year."
Readers, the full program is available via links on the
Memorial Site page. The above versions are good to get a flavor
of the service. Ab.
Even though you got a "handshake" and peace offering from OPM, make sure that the legislation proposed in the 109th Congress (HR 5697) continues in the 110th Congress!!!
There is History Here
We all know how bureaucracies work and how thy like to play shell games... they may agree with you one day, and then screw you over on the next day for their collective goals.... aka Tri-Data Study for improving wildland firefighter safety and "professionalising" wildland firefighting.
Somehow, people without expert wildland firefighting experience and knowledge determined that more education in the Biological Sciences was the key to wildland firefighter safety in the future..... and hence, the 0401 series was born, and a continuation of the subservancy of the 0462 and 0455 series was continued.
The Tri-Data Survey was a comprehensive survey of the field that was so sorely misinterpreted by a bureaucracy beyond control and oversight. The Tri-Data studies were NOT adequately interpreted by wildland firefighter professionals and implemented to increase safety. Instead, land management professionals interpreted and implemented their personal biased opinions on how to keep wildland firefighters safer without ever listening to the "Forestry Technicians" and "Range Technicians" who had the true understanding about how to make things safer.
Hopefully a retired Tri-Data employee or two, or retired wildland firefighters will speak up about the "history" and the frustrations involved in all of this.
More on Firefighter classification legislation
After a number of phone calls today, a bit of clarity has come to light on
the action... or inaction by the Senate on HR 5697.
Normally when legislation is sent to the Senate from the House, it goes to
the senate committee of jurisdiction. In the case of the classification bill
that would be the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental
After being informed by the Government Reform Committee of the House that
the bill would be on the suspension calendar, the FWFSA immediately made
contact with the top two Republican & Democratic offices on the Homeland
Security Committee. These included Senators Collins & Voinavich on the
Republican side & Lieberman & Akaka on the Democratic side.
Through the passage of the bill by the House, we received no negative
commentary from the Senate offices.
Because the Senate was itself winding down to the end of the session, it was
incumbent upon the current majority leadership in the Senate to suspend the
normal rules of sending bills to their committee of jurisdiction, so as to
get them to the floor sooner for action.
It appears the majority staff from the Homeland Security committee did not
communicate adequately with the floor leaders of the Senate to ensure the
bill got to the floor. I should know precisely what happened tomorrow.
As posted earlier, all is certainly not lost. I received a call from the OPM
Director's office late today acknowledging the passage of the bill in the
House and their expectation for commencing with the development of the
series in January. I reiterated that we did not want to see "401" in sheep's
clothing and feel comfortable that they will not trot that out and exclaim
"ok, we did it."
Congress is an incredible nightmare to navigate, especially when you
consider that the passage of many bills happens after the House & Senate
suspend their normal operating rules. As an example, it is against the rules
to legislate (a bill calling for a change to existing law) on an
"appropriations" bill. However, when it suits them, congress does it
We'll get some answers and learn from this and in January we'll stay on top
of OPM to ensure our federal wildland firefighters get what they have
deserved for far too long.
Thanks for the detective work and your persistence with an AAR.
I have two checks of people who pledged online for the 52 mile walk and
some cash- what address do I send it too? thanx! Melanie Hornsby
My mother-in-law pledged, but I didn't see her name on the pledge list. If
not, I can add her on there, I noticed there are still current pledges
getting added to the list....
Please do add your mother-in-law's pledge to the pledge list. We're
leaving it up until the end of the week to pick up anyone who might still
want to join the group. Then the Foundation will get it.
Please send in your checks everyone. It would be nice to get most of
this tallied up as paid before Christmas and certainly before the end of the
tax year. This is all deductible.
Wildland Firefighter Foundation
2049 Airport Way
Boise, Idaho 83705
Here are a few 30 Mile Memorial pics from '03 they can
use if they like.
That trip brought all kinds of feelings. I had been
there 2 years earlier, after the burnover. Base camp
was in the same field, a definite feeling of déjà vu.
The road was being prepared for a burnout operation.
The sight, sound and smell of a fire operation touched
all senses. The smell of smoke, saw exhaust and fresh
cut pine, the sound of chainsaws and helicopters with
radio traffic in the background, and the feeling of
being hot, dry and dusty with active fire visible every
now and then through the smoke. The fire we were
driving by was named the Farewell fire it made the
experience even more emotional.
Tried to go there again this year during Tripod Cmplx,
(camping again at 8 Mile), but the fire was too
And There I Was
Thanks for the offer. The person who asked was looking
for a larger version of
this photo. I'll send them the other photos in case one or more of those
will do. Ab.
In response to the Cowboy of Fires 12/10 post about the 100 mph wind speed
from the Bearmont RAWS, 100 is a default number where there is some sort of
error in the collection or transmission of data from the RAWS. In some
cases, it shows up as an MM. The fact that it reported a number of 100 does
not mean that was a recorded wind speed. I hope this adds clarification to
the earlier post.
Best wishes and be safe out there
FBAN for NorCal
Thanks, the person who had questions about this last
month got the information then that 100 was the default for an error. Thanks
for the input everyone. Ab.
Would you please contact Ab regarding use of a
higher resolution 30mile memorial photo?
The vendors that donated everything and anything I wanted were:
- Intents- Russell and Suzie Case;
- Tozier’s Clerical and Fire Support- Don and Gail Tozier;
- Abel Fire Equipment- Jeff and Laurie Abel; and
- Frontline Medical- D.J.
- The North Zone Cache- Mark and
- The California Conservation Core- Kari and crews out of Auburn, also
played a very big part in assisting with this event.
My Logistics Team and I set up a small version of a Base Camp/ICP to
support Sandy and the El Dorado Hotshots in this very successful Wildland
Fire Fighter Foundation fundraiser in-spite of the weather. I would very
much like to think that these vendors, the Core, and others came only
because I called but that would be a lie. They came with open arms, open
warehouses, open checkbooks, open hearts and strong backs because they
believe in the Wildland FireFighter Foundation and all the wildland and
structure fire fighters. Please remember them this week and perhaps the next
several weeks as they wash, dry, and repair all the tents, trailers, light
towers, wash stations, and much, much more.
I want to give a special thanks and Christmas cheer to NorCal T-2, Mike
Beckett, Mike ‘Sandy’ Sandoval, Hump, Barbara and The Eldorado Hotshots
for meeting all my concerns and deadlines. This wasn’t “just” a logistics
Merry Christmas and GOD bless,
Cap’n Jack, LSC (now retired)
Thanks Cap’n Jack for the good info and for your efforts. Ab.
SENATE STALLS CLASSIFICATION BILL
After watching with great pride as many of you did, the House of
Representatives pass HR 5697, The Federal Wildland Firefighter
Classification Act, the bill was sent to the Senate where it disappeared as
did many other House bills sent to the Senate last Friday.
I am still trying to get some answers as to what happened. Staff from the
House Government Reform Committee believe it simply didn't get to the Senate
floor by the time the Senate adjourned. It does not appear there was
opposition to the bill. The House staff reassured me that passing the House
was no small accomplishment for our firefighters.
So, what does this all mean? According to the House, having the bill pass
the House should give OPM a clear signal that it needs to get off its duff
and start this process without being legislated to do so. As I have
mentioned, HR 5697 was simply a mechanism to get OPM to do what it had
already promised to do.
Fortunately, one of the staff who actually crafted the legislation in the
House Subcommittee on The Federal Workforce & Agency Organization was a
detailee from OPM. He is now back with OPM and I have placed a call to him
to get some insight into OPM's thoughts on the matter.
It is extremely frustrating for me to know that so many of you watched the
House proceeding last week, feeling a deep sense of pride and accomplishment
then getting this news. I'll get some real answers but in the meantime keep
a perspective on the positives i.e. passage by the House and the signal that
sends to OPM.
This is a typical bump in the road in DC. We will persevere and get this
done and I will keep everyone informed of the process. If you have any
questions, please don't hesitate to contact me at 208-775-4577 or email@example.com.
Thanks for your patience.
What is going on with the Wildland Firefighter Advanced Apprenticeship
The way I read it is that so many Basic Apprentice firefighters have left
the agencies that someone feels it is OK to overstress the current staff to
"make things work" at their expense? Who made the decision... I can only
guess but have some good ideas where the decision came from........
Is something not working?
From what I've heard people think good excitement will be
generated by the activities at the Academy. Ab.
follow-up re Brown transects:
Check out this page:
On the links at the far northeast (upper right hand of the page)... click on
one of the two links.....
Both links seem to work right now and answer your question(s)....
The paper you are looking for is:
Brown, James K. 1974. Handbook for inventorying downed woody material. Gen.
Tech. Rep. INT-16. Ogden, UT: Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment
Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; 24 p.
There doesn't seem to be a copy online anywhere, but you should be able to
find one in a decent University library, or Forest Service Research Station.
I can make you a copy if you contact me via email thru Ab.
You asked, "I was wondering if anyone out there can tell me where I can find
something on Brown's transects?"
It is actually Brown's Planar Intercept Method. Since 1974, many new
technologies have been developed to supplement this sampling and data
gathering method. The BPI method is still used to verify data of the many
The answer below is from They Said archives of 2004......
From a 11/03/2004 message from FC180:
The original reference is:
Brown, J.K. 1974. Handbook for inventorying downed woody material. USDA
Forest Service Technical Report INT-16.
You may be able to find one in a University Library.
Down Woody Inventory Manual:
Hey Ab, Nevada BLM has announced all of their Seasonal and Career-Seasonal
positions for engine, hotshot, and helitack crews across the state. First
cutoff dates are 1/8/07 and 1/9/07 for each.
There's a handbook about the application process at:
www.nv.blm.gov/elko/fire/nvblmfirejobs.pdf (pdf file)
Walks you through the DOIFIREJOBS and BLM JOBS ONLINE website's steps for
applying. It also has all of the announcement numbers, position
descriptions, location information, and contact info. Great place to work if
you're into heavy IA. Thanks.
Brown's report is actually titled "USDA Forest Service General
Technical Report INT-16, 1974 (HANDBOOK FOR.
INVENTORYING DOWNED WOODY MATERIAL)"
Hope this helps put AV on the right track.
No advanced academies have been canceled. (Although we
running all three advanced academies at the same time this year! It
will be a busy month at the academy.) Academy dates can be found
Just got word, from a apprentice that at least 1 advanced academy,
if not more, has been postponed/canceled until further notice. Does
anyone know why? Is this a budget issue? Will people be losing positions?
Any overhead knowledge/help on this would be greatly appreciated.
Also just a huge thank you and congrats to everyone on the walk, I
was scheduled to go but got so sick and couldn't make it. The
Foundation is awesome!
I was wondering if anyone out there can tell me where
I can find something on Brown's transects?
The 52 Mile walk went extremely well, rain and all. It was better organized
and supported than many marathons I have run. It would've been a great
incident base as well. The leadership and dedication of the Eldorado Hot
Shots and the NorCal Team 2 was awesome. I admit to being prejudiced
having once been on the ENF but the young leaders (and the old ones) pulled
off a wonderful event that required a huge amount of effort and dedication.
I sometimes worry about the future of FS fire but when I see the
firefighters that pulled off a quality event in a relatively short time
span, I think fire in the FS will be in some pretty good hands. They make
proud to have been a small part of the ENF fire organization.
Well, I'm back in NY and I just had to write and let everyone know about the
amazing ultrawalk the Eldorado shots put on. It was a day energized by love
and caring, and unlike a wildfire, was not dampened by the pouring rain!
I'm so glad I made the trip! I went with the intention to support the
walkers and to fulfill a debt of thanks. Instead, I received gifts of the
heart that are priceless. Besides the warm hugs and sharing unspoken
gratitudes, I heard precious Heather stories. Valerie said that even though
she didn't know Heather, she thought of her every day when she got into her
engine. She said she does her job differently because of Heather. Tim told
me a story of Heather laughing and smiling on her last day. He said he would
have that picture of her in his mind always. For me to know that H was happy
and laughing before the accident is worth all the money in the world and
Thanks to all who introduced themselves and shared their thoughts with
me. For a mother whose journey through grief is ongoing, hearing that
Heather will be remembered always, and that her death was not for naught, is
indeed priceless! And congratulations to all the walkers who emerged looking
like tired, drowned rodents. I (and the Foundation) am very grateful. Soak
those tired, blistered feet and see you again the next time!
Rain, the sun occasionally peeking out from behind clouds, or a stiff
breeze, IMHO the Eldorado
Hotshot's ultrawalk event was a success far beyond the funds raised.
Although the weather could have been more cooperative, it was a good day!
** reunite with old friends; hugs; the opportunity to match faces with
familiar names; healing tears
shared with caring people; and enjoy an atmosphere of camaraderie and
We were overjoyed to see the glorious rainbow Saturday afternoon, and
later that evening see 2
local Sacramento TV stations air the events on their evening & again on late
night news, and
report Congress had passed HR 6429.
Rest assured once all errant pledges are processed, the final tally will
exceed the original goal.
Kudos to all who contributed to making this a huge success.
Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season
Glad you could make it River. Ab.
A special thanks to
- Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA),
- Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA),
- Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA),
- Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), and
- Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
for your rapid undertaking of H.R. 6429 and getting it passed and sent to
President at the last moments of the Congressional Session.
Both the House and the Senate passed the resolution unanimously.
H.R. 6429 provides that any non-profit entity that is/was collecting funds
families of the E-57 fallen will not risk the loss of their 501(c)3 status;
all donations a
re tax deductible; and charitable organizations will not have to perform the
needs test" as prescribed by IRS regulations. These regulations are in
June 1, 2007.
Also, thanks to everyone from across the country who contacted their elected
officials and got this piece of important legislation passed on such short
Southern California Chapter Director
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
Just got a call from Vicki,
An additional $11,784.30 was donated to the
Foundation at the walk event itself and that doesn't include t-shirts. I
just heard that Quintanar contributed $500 in honor of the Eldorado Shots.
He says he's proud of them and the whole event effort, but not surprised at
the success they've made of it.
Vicki says -- and others echo -- that the event is about so much more
than the money.
I've heard from a number of people that there were lots of meaningful
interactions and special moments.
- Dee met up with some Arrowhead Shots; neither knew the other would
be there. Hugs and stories and sharing about Dan and the crew.
- Sylvia heard a story from a couple of shots that were on the Stanza
fire that Heather was happily talking to herself and singing some time
before she got into the engine that night.
- One of the family members who attended Family Day in Boise was also
at this event and expressed a desire that more young firefighters
getting into the business could make it to that event.
- Hugs and tears and laughter and memories of those who have passed...
and sneaking around in the dark with "fortifications" for the diehard
walkers. Reminds me a bit of my childhood, of kids playing hide-and-seek
in the dark while the adults did whatever the adults do...
- FWFSA members disappeared for a brief time for a quick board meeting
late last night...
- A young boy slept snuggled in the cab of his dad's pickup as his dad
took a turn at the walking and other members of his hotshot crew -- his
other family -- carefully watched over. Dad crawled in and got 2 hrs
sleep before duties called him to rise this morning...
- And as Sandy said, there was a double rainbow at mile 8 that
everyone walked under yesterday as the sun came out for a brief time.
Some may know, but Jodi always has said she feels Shane's presence the
closest when a double rainbow graces the land.
Many such healing moments occurred. A larger pattern ties us all
Vicki said to tell you: There were a lot of wet folks around and many
more walking over the last few days. No one is dry, not the adults, the
little kids or the dogs. Mold may spring up between toes and in other
cracks. Some may sing "QUACK" for the next few days. Firecamp is being torn
down now, following a great breakfast. Soon people will be heading home,
those who haven't left already. Some few are gathering prior to plane
flights and car trips, savoring the last moments of physical presence.
I heard that Toziers and other venders contributed the trailer, tents and
lots of other stuff to the effort. I want to say thanks for that. Hopefully
Sandy or the Foundation or someone will give us a list of who helped out so
we can let the rest of the community know. It takes all of us to create and
enjoy an event like this.
We will meet again...
Regarding the question about the hypothesized Esperanza Fire wind gust:
And thank you “UTR” (Under the Radar). Several anomalies need to be
identified with the burn over of E-57. In my opinion a 100 mph wind at a
raws 8miles away cannot be linked to the tragedy. In fact how could this
100mph wind be so localized to only Beaumont? That raws is less than 1 mile
off the 10 freeway. The 10 freeway thru the pass from Beaumont to Indio is a
funnel of wind routinely. A 100 mile an hour wind would be caught by other
raws locally. Banning Airport for example. I also would challenge the belief
of this so called 100 mph wind would have made the news or have significant
damage associated in The Beaumont area. So I also challenge the logic behind
that the Beaumont raws only picked it up! If it is so local to Beaumont so
how did it affect the fire? No locals reported this wind nor did any
truckers going down the 10 freeway. Those of us that have lived in the area
see 18 wheelers tipped over with half of that wind speed. In relation to
fire behavior, a 100 mile an hour wind wide spread would not allow the smoke
column rise to the height that it did . That this 100 mph would have been
noticed is my point. I do agree that 100 mph winds can be attained within
the fire environment and wind is a reactive element of the fire itself. We
must wait for the experts within the investigative group utilizing all
supporting factual data available to figure out this tragic event we are all
touched by deeply.
Cowboy of Fire
Welcome to theysaid, Cowboy of Fire. Ab.
Firestorm 'like a big cat, just sitting there'
Melissa is definitely our go-to gal! She called back after getting the
Four guys finished the 52 miles, the last one crossing the finish
line at 3:46 AM. Mike Beckett (Eldorado supt) told Melissa that there were
some pretty broken up guys, what with the distance, the lack of terrain, the
walking surface and the rain. Sandy did 10 miles in the middle of the night
and he has a broken toe. Anyway, they made it and now at 7:30 everyone --
25-30 people -- headed out to do the last 4 miles.
Ken Perry said walking that distance on concrete is brutal, much harder
than running it and even harder than hiking up and down the same distance in
wilderness conditions when you use different muscle groups. Anyway, the
Shots and others learned some important things about doing long distances on
flat hard surfaces.
Spirits are up this morning.
Good job, All.
Final pledge amount is $55,005.60. Feel free to keep contributing and
readers please send in your donations to make good on your pledges.
Just talked with Melissa who is rounding everyone up at the hotel to go back
over to firecamp.
She hasn't heard for sure what transpired last night
after 9 when she and Lori Greeno and others left to get some sleep,
but here's what she said:
A fresh group started the 4th lap when they were leaving. A fresh group
had also started the 3rd lap. It was raining to beat the band the entire
time so walking was a soppy job.
The walkers probably finished sometime around 2AM except for the last 4
The plan was to finish all but 4 miles, to go back to the places of
lodging, get warm, get some sleep and regroup at 7:30 to walk the last 4
miles together. They expected the last walk would take about an hour and
they'd arrive at fire camp for the pancake breakfast at 9AM.
Melissa said she was in the middle of "herding cats" when I called.
No word from the 52 mile walkers.
No photos from the walkers.
Did we loose communications?
Were they having too much fun?
Cell phones and cameras wet?
They might have gotten washed away...
Did anyone finish?
All joking aside, I think they're fine, but the weather was not on
I'm sure it was a very long slog in the downpour.
Chinese water torture? What could be worse for firefighters???
Thanks to Casey and the hard working staff of the FWFSA for the first
important step in getting us recognized as Firefighters. Casey, right after
I hung up the phone with you my guys called me into the kitchen because
congress was voting on the bill. There were about 7 of us watching when
the vote came and we were all in shock when HR 5697 passed.
Thanks again for everything you have done for the fire community.....
The bill allowing for the release of the money for the families could not have
come at a better time. Christmas is coming and the start of another fundraiser.
Thanks. Congress has done 2 things right this Lame Duck Session.
OK, just finished the pictures of the start. Thanks OA:
Walkers are on their second 12 mile loop. Melissa said they had had a
huge deluge that just slacked off. Sounds like all is going well. The
announcement regarding funds was just made to those who were gathered around
Melissa. They were very pleased and excited that $$ could be disbursed to
the Esperanza families without problems.
JRB, thanks VERY much. I'll pass this excellent news on to the ultra
walkers. I hope this also applies to the WFF. Ab.
Just picked this off Yahoo news at 1537 Ca. time. Looks like the families will get everything.
re Bill exempting United Way; Esperanza Families
Bill helps dead Calif. firefighters' kin
By ERICA WERNER, Associated Press WriterSat Dec 9, 2:53 PM ET
As it did for relatives of Sept. 11 victims, Congress passed legislation early Saturday to ensure the families of five firefighters killed in Southern California get more than $1 million in donations.
The legislation allows the Central County United Way in Hemet, Calif., to distribute money to the families of the U.S. Forest Service firefighters killed in an arson in October.
IRS rules prevent tax-exempt charitable organizations from raising money to benefit individuals, so the United Way risked losing its tax-exempt status if it gave out the money.
The legislation applies only to money raised to help families of the firefighters killed Oct. 26 in a wildfire near Palm Springs that consumed more than 40,000 acres.
An auto mechanic arrested in the case has pleaded not guilty to arson and murder.
Congressmen and senators representing the area rushed the bill through both chambers before the GOP-controlled Congress adjourned for the year.
"Congress can move fast when it wants, and I'm pleased that this is one of those occasions," said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (news, bio, voting record).
The legislation ensures United Way can give out the donations while remaining tax-exempt. It also specifies that donors can write off the donations and that recipients won't be taxed.
The same exemptions were enacted for families of victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, which United Way officials have said is partly why they were confused about the rules when county officials asked them to handle the donations.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
fair use disclaimer
Here's the first update from the 52 mile walk, as our satellite is
back up. Our first walkers have just crossed the line and finished the first
12 miles. They are grabbing a burger and hotdog and getting ready for lap 2.
As they approached mile 8, they crossed under a double rainbow, as the sun
came out for a short time. Too cool. We will be sending more updates soon,
and, happy to say that we have broken $57,000! Thanks again to everybody, and
more to come...
Just wanted to let everyone know that "The Godfather" of the 52 milers, Ken
Perry, is in
attendance at the El Dorado Walk. What a joy to see him here supporting the
The base camp is amazing, like a fire camp, but with a
carnival-like atmosphere. Little kids,
balloons, Smokey Bear, dogs running around, and lots of camaraderie among
all the folks.
Wish everyone could be here to feel the atmosphere of love and caring.
Without all the work and pledges of you folks, this wouldn't be the HUGE
success that it
is becoming. Thanks to all......
The Fire Mamas
Update from Sandy:
Everyone got off, striding on out.
They passed the 4 mile marker a while ago.
It's a bit windy and cold, but there are some breaks in the clouds, not
raining hard, just drizzling or overcast.
Hopefully they'll find some way to get some photos to us. They're working on
Thanks to vfd cap't for the smaller jpg map of the location and, of course,
thanks to GISgirl for the big ones.
OA called in with start info:
They did take off at noon. Briefing this
morning said they would be keeping theysaid informed. People were excited.
How many? They were in a large herd, OA said 90-100 were registered, all
appeared to be there.
The first lap (12.5 miles) the Eldorado hotshots will be in the lead.
Melissa, Burk, Vicki are there, were presented with an award of
appreciation by Gary Humphrey (Eldorado NF FMO) and Mike Sandoval (Eldorado
Casey, Ken Perry of course Original Ab are present; great
support from SacMetro, NorCal Team II.
More details as I get them. Weather... It's started to rain a bit again,
not real cold, a little wind.
Current Weather Conditions
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind Direction: SSW
Relative Humidity: 88
Location map with weather updates:
They should have started the walk. I'm geared up for photos and
Pledges at this time: $53,835.60
A few new Aussie fire maps from today.
www.wildlandfire.com/docs/2006/oz/120906imtbound.pdf (213k pdf file)
www.wildlandfire.com/docs/2006/oz/120906predicted-impact.pdf (423k pdf
Yes, there are going to be an awful lot of definitions, limitations, and
other "...ions" to create, write, wrangle over, and debate. But at least
now, we have a niche in the wall, if you will, a place to put the lever,
a place to stand.
Casey and others are probably going to need a lot of support from us
awhile until this all gets straightened out, but we've finally got an
point to start from. So let's stay fired- up!
PS: HOOOAH, Eldo!
52 walk update, 0800:
Just talked with Sandy (Mike Sandoval)
Eldorado IHC Captain. He said things are popping. It's raining. Everyone is
getting ready. It's very busy.
Registration of walkers starts at 1000 hours. Walk starts at noon.
Bracelets for walkers. They want to keep track of everyone for safety sake.
He said there's good accountability.
They and a few others will be sending updates, photos,
I'll be giving them updates on pledge figures throughout the walk.
Wonk may refer to:
- Wonk (colloquial American English) was
originally a 1960s slang word applied to an
excessively studious person (equivalent to "grind" or
"nerd"). The origins of the term are obscure. It has
been described as a simple reversal of "know," linked
to an obscure Old English word, and attributed to
Royal Navy slang for a learned but inexperienced
- Policy wonk, presumably from the above, is
someone knowledgeable about and fascinated by details
of government policy and programs.
Australia's got lots burning and is facing even more dire straights. State
of Victoria, Australia, 1.4 million acres or 600,000 hectares are on fire.
I heard the FS has sent some FBANS and Weather folks to help out with the
fire meteorology and to conduct an assessment for possible future fed
Best of luck on the 52 Walk.
Firefighters brace for high-country hell
Stuart Rintoul and Padraic Murphy
December 09, 2006
IT has been the waiting time throughout Victoria. As several thousand
firefighters battled blazes in the state's high country yesterday, it was
with the knowledge that the weekend might bring a monster blaze to compare
with Black Friday in 1939.
Much of Victoria's east and northeast was blanketed by smoke last night,
with fears that blazes spreading across state forests and the Alpine
National Park could merge into a roaring 100km firefront tearing across up
to one-fifth of the tinder-dry state.
John Howard described the situation yesterday as "very scary", and said
Victoria would get all the commonwealth assistance it needed.
"It's very, very scary stuff and the terrible combination of circumstances -
high temperature, low humidity, all of those things - are very bad indeed,"
the Prime Minister told Southern Cross radio.
Victorian Premier Steve Bracks compared the threatening blaze to the state's
worst bushfire disaster, saying: "This is going to be probably one of the
worst fire periods we have seen in Victoria in the history of this state.
"Probably the only comparable time would go back to 1939, Black Friday,
where we saw a similar fire activity go through the alpine area and go
through to the coast as well."
The bushfires of 1939 burnt out more than 2 million hectares, destroyed
entire towns and killed 71 people.
(click link to read the rest)
OK, up and ready 0515 for the big Walk Day...
Keep those pledges rolling in!
Whoooo hoooo! Another exciting event. Talked with Lobotomy as he neared
Stockton last night on his way to Sac. Melissa called from the Boise
Airport, excited about reaching the pledge goal. Vicki and the moms were
nowhere to be found. Mellie (...Thanks for the clarification on EMBO, I
This came in for me from Sandy (eldorado shot). Thought I'd share.
Thank you for the phone call. My wife enjoyed talking to you. As she said,
the earrings did not make it today. She will be checking tomorrow, and when
she heads down to the walk, my next door neighbor will be looking for them,
and if they show she will bring them down for the raffle. Thanks again for
I am very excited about tomorrow, it looks like we will get some rain.
However, it is not going to stop us. The whole area looks so cool, like a
big fire camp with a cool backdrop, as the lake is in total view. I am so
proud of everybody contributing to this, I had so many phone calls once we
hit our goal. Just amazing.
Well, keep in touch with us, and we have a Fire Information trailer that
has satellite internet access, so we will be sending out live updates to
Okay, off to bed. I went to sleep around 10:30, but woke up starving, so
I'm looking for a snack! Didn't eat much today, didn't have time!
Today, for the first time, I was afforded the opportunity to watch the
Memorial Service for E-57. It truly touched my heart, pulled some emotional
strings, and made me think quite a bit.
Though I did not know the fallen personally, I feel like I knew them very
well. This is because of the association and brotherhood that is shared
among any firefighters. The memorial segment that I watched showed me how
much these people were cared about and respected. I feel fortunate to have
had the opportunity to work with the this nation's wildland firefighters. I
thank each and every one, past, present, and future for the bond that I
share with you all.
PS: I am glad that things are changing for the wildland firefighters now and
the the wildland firefighters of this nation are beginning to gain the
respect that is due to them. Each and every speaker said "Firefighter" and
not "Forestry Technician" when they spoke of the fallen as well as the rest
of us. It seems that now the firefighters are getting what they deserve or
at least seem to be heading in the right direction.
This is because people like Casey fight for us and represent us. I would
hope that the congresspersons and Representatives who spoke at this service
are not just spitting out words when they speak in public and then going
back to their positions in Washington and not supporting the bills placed
before them that move our firefighters towards equal pay for equal work. In
the event that they are doing this, I would hope that they decide to change
An item for discussion. The Workers Compensation legislation, the Public
Safety Officers Benefit program and the Federal Tort Claims Act legislation
all have language in them that talks about the employee being covered when
they are performing "in the line of duty" or "within the scope of
If your agency says that by National Policy that your agency only fights
wildland fires or that you have to have specific training and equipment to
fight other than wildland fires and you are injured or killed on other than
a wildland fire where are you? A look at the video of the magnesium fire
that was posted the other day should show how quickly things can turn bad.
How long before some mental midget at one of the agencies says, "they were
not performing in the scope of their employment or were operating outside of
the line of duty"? "We have a policy that says they are not supposed to do
that type of fire fighting'. For you supervisors where are you when someone
says, "they knew or should have known that that individual was operating
outside of policy"
I don't have an answer but am real concerned that someone trying to do a job
is going to be left high and dry by folks trying to cover their tracks.
Only $0.26 per mile from the goal of $52,000. Awesome!
Just went over the top!!! 1856 hours. Whooo hoooo!
About 10 years ago, someone told me it was "White House only, no
Willie, broke the crank on the mandolin when I was in MSO. Have chosen the
path of fewer strings.
Merry Christmas to Abs and all-
We've been working the phones this afternoon trying to nudge the Eldo
towards the line, and it's really weird 'cause i feel like Jerry Garcia...
us all and to all a goodnight. Pray for good walking weather- it's gettin' a
stormy out there...
I just wanted to write in and say----
the 52 mile walk is almost at their goal.... anyone who still hasn't posted
their pledge- let's show our support and exceed the goal. It's good to see
the families and friends supporting the community.
Also to those I know walking and those who I've never met- you are an
inspiration. Steady is as steady goes and I hope to be seeing images and
updates posted as I follow it from SoCal.
I am so proud to be a part of this community and my heart will be with
you even if I can't physically be there. As a member of Ken's support team
this year it's a life changing event.
take care of yourselves,
GIS girl, We've got $51,180 out of $52,000! WOW only 16
more people! I think I'm gonna have to bust-a-coldie! Cheers! Ab.
Whoooo hooooo! Decals are out the door! Big shipment. Thanks OA for the
all-day processing, packing and mailing. Way to raise the bar!
look at the
Pledge List! Closing in on the goal!!! Over $50,000 pledged!
Need only 26 more people pledging at least $1 a mile.
(Gawd, I feel like Jerry Lewis.)
Ab, what's a wonk? (Is it related to some part of the anatomy?)
While I'm at it, I never figured out EMBO either.
on Wonk Ab.
I didn’t mean to imply that you were part of a conspiracy to hide doctrine.
I assumed some WO wonk saw the post, freaked out, and requested that you
pull the document. I guess I’m just overly suspicious from being
systematically propagandized and lied to by this administration’s hired
Nice to meet you, interesting post. I detect some salt in those drawers,
they could probably stand up on their own. You should post here more often.
HAW HAW you young whipper snapper. We Abs got some salt in
our drawers too. Just check 'em with a salinity tester kit. WO wonks know
better than to suggest anything to us, but individually many of them are
nice people whose drawers definitely DO NOT stand up alone. Ab.
From today's LA Times
Donations for 5 fallen firefighters hit a snag: IRS
United Way chapter in Riverside County finds it can't give the money -- more
than $1 million -- to such a small and specific group as the families.
Officials are trying to get around the rules.
By Maeve Reston, Times Staff Writer
December 7, 2006
In their haste to set up a fund for families of the five federal
firefighters killed in a Riverside County arson fire in October, officials
from the county and a local charity overlooked one major detail that has
kept them from writing checks: IRS tax law.
After the five men of U.S. Forest Service Engine 57 were killed in a
burn-over near Twin Pines on Oct. 26, the Riverside Board of Supervisors
asked the Central County United Way in Hemet to handle the donations that
were pouring in.
But neither the county supervisors nor officials at the United Way consulted
tax attorneys, in part because they had never expected to receive more than
a million dollars in donations.
When Central County United Way's chairman, Bob Duistermars, made a
cautionary call to the Internal Revenue Service after the fund hit the
half-million mark, he was stunned to learn that tax-exempt charitable
organizations cannot raise money for a group as small and specific as the
families of the five firefighters. Doing so could jeopardize the
organization's tax-exempt status, particularly if it parceled out the money
without first documenting the financial needs of each family.
"A lot of this probably has do with our ignorance about the process,"
Duistermars said. "We were all moved by the fact that we had lost friends
and family; now we just need to catch up with the law."
Duistermars said much of his confusion stemmed from the fact that Congress
had passed a special law exempting the families of the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks from most of those IRS regulations.
Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, whose district encompasses much
of the area burned by the wildfire, known as the Esperanza fire, said he was
outraged when he learned about the tax-law complications.
"This was a spontaneous effort - there wasn't time to go to a bunch of tax
attorneys and CPAs," Ashley said. "We feel like the IRS is the Grinch that
On Wednesday, an IRS spokesman said he could not comment on the specific
case but said the IRS has clear restrictions on how financial aid can be
provided by tax-exempt charitable organizations such as the United Way,
which is classified as a 501 (c)(3) group.
Under federal law, such groups can give money to a group of individuals only
if those individuals or families are part of a broader class that is "large
and indefinite" and if giving the money ultimately benefits the community -
as was the case for money raised for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The IRS guidelines state that a charitable group "cannot target and limit
its assistance to specific individuals" and that donors cannot earmark
contributions to a charitable organization for an individual or family.
"The group of beneficiaries has to be open-ended," said Marcus Owens, a
Washington, D.C., tax attorney who used to oversee tax-exempt organizations
at the IRS and specializes in the laws governing those groups.
To say, "We're going to raise money to help those five families - it's not
an open-ended class," he said. "It's an appealing and appropriate cause, but
there were missteps" in setting up the fund.
Owens said that the IRS and the state attorney general's office, which also
oversees the activities of 501 (c)(3) groups, prefer charities "to describe
the purposes so that no donor is potentially misled into thinking their $10
is going to help those families."
Owens said one way the Central County United Way could remedy the situation
is to redefine the purpose of the fund so the money is available, for
example, not just for the families of the five firefighters, but for
families of fallen firefighters in the future.
But both Duistermars and Ashley balked at that idea.
"We're not willing to stand for that," Ashley said.
"This money was raised on the premise that these firefighters families
would get the money."
Members of the Board of Supervisors have appealed to California's
congressional delegation asking for special legislation to allow the money
to be specifically designated to the five families.
Duistermars said expanding the fund's reach would be "a last resort" but
that his organization intends to work within the guidelines set by the IRS
and follow the law.
If the fund is broadened, the United Way chapter will allow donors to get
their money back, he said.
Duistermars said he was also deeply troubled that IRS regulations ask
charitable organizations to determine the "need" of each family receiving
assistance, which he considers an invasion of their privacy.
Pat Boss, the retired U.S. Forest Service spokesman who has been speaking on
behalf of slain Fire Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, agreed. "To go to the
families and say 'What is your need?' - I don't think it's right,"
"This money was collected on their behalf, not on what their needs are....
How do you put a value of someone's life?"
The Wildland Firefighter Foundation, a tax-exempt charitable
organization based in Boise, Idaho, has received more than $250,000 since
the Esperanza fire and has already directed about $80,000 to the families of
the five firefighters. The organization is also struggling through the IRS
But the organization's executive director, Vicki Minor, noted that
her organization never solicited funds specifically for the Esperanza
firefighters; the money just poured in, she said.
"This is the largest amount we have had come in for a fire," she said.
"We didn't solicit it, but it has come in earmarked for that, and I just
want to make sure that this money gets right where it's supposed to go and
everyone's clean on it."
Keep an eye out for Casey and Melissa and perhaps another surprise
person tomorrow. Ab.
We need only 95 more people or businesses, each pledging at least a
dollar a mile, to reach the goal for the Eldorado Hotshot 52 Mile Walk.
Click on the pledge link above and see for yourself. Getting close!
Give a call to some of your equipment suppliers and ask them to kick
in a bit. It's nice to see a few of them showing up on the list. Ab.
Re: E-57 Decals
I received the new batch of
Engine 57 - "Always Remember" decals late yesterday. About half were
processed last night, with the remainder being prepared this morning. As
each order is completed, an email notification is sent. The majority of the
orders should begin arriving next Tuesday, but we're well aware that some of
our customers are more rural than others and their carriers take a little
longer. Thanks again for your patience. OA
Thank You Casey!
The 2006 Minnesota Incident Command System meeting just concluded with the
silent auction to support the 52 club raising over $450. Good job all.
Just before the E-57 burnover I read a post by someone who was wondering
what the Minnesota Pack Test had to do with Canoes. Since No one from the
Superior NF chimed in I will try to answer the question even though it has
been over 3 years since I worked there.
I am guessing that the Caone pack test is tounge and cheek since we Federal
FF's in MN do the pack test the same way as all feds. However since the
Superior NF has around 1 million acres of wilderness called the (BWCAW) many
firefighting operations require that we be flown into the wilderness and
dropped off most of the time by one of the three federally owned Dehavialand
Beavers float planes (Excuse the Spelling) This may require portaging the
canoes many times, and I am guessing that is what the picture was all about
that showed FF's carrying canoes with the LOGO Minnesota Pack Test. (This is
the Down and Dirty version) Look up the Superior NF website for more info or
the MN DNR website and click on blowdown for more reading.
Also just to clarify the two terms below are not interchangeable.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is along the canadian border
roughly between International Falls and the West shore of Lake Superior
between MN and Ontario.
This is referred to in many short cut terms as the BW or Boundary
This is not to be confused with the Headwaters which is the
area in North Western MN that is the start of the Mississippi River in and
around Itasca State Park, and around 100 miles south of Canada.
Also Good Job Casey and the FWFSA
You got it on the MN Pack Test. Ab.
Very good news regarding Lotzi's Home Rebuild!
Could you please post this for me? Thank you!
for hero's widow
Building project left undone by death will be finished
Guy McCarthy, Staff Writer
San Bernardino County Sun
Article Launched:12/07/2006 12:00:00 AM PST
IDYLLWILD - U.S. Forest Service Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser was still working to
complete an expansion on his family's home when he was killed while trying
save another home from the Esperanza Fire six weeks ago.
Now, volunteers are pitching in to help complete his work by rebuilding the
home for Loutzenhiser's widow and children.
"It's a statement for all the firefighters who died and the guys who are
alive," volunteer Mary Zimmerman, 59, said during a break from working on
the home Wednesday morning.
"To send a message to them that we will take care of their families if
something happens to them," Zimmerman said. "They take care of us, so we'll
take care of them."
Loutzenhiser, 43, commander of the five-man crew of Engine 57, died
trying to protect a Twin Pines home from the fire.
Maria Loutzenhiser, 38, and four of their five children are living in a
rental near the home that volunteers and Habitat for Humanity are rebuilding
on Middle Ridge Drive.
"Maria and the family are overwhelmed with all the love and support and
donations that are coming in," said Pat Boss, 63, a retired Forest Service
firefighter and close friend of the Loutzenhisers.
"The kids are having a hard time with their dad being gone and the
holidays coming," Boss said. The twin boys are 8 years old, and the girls
are 11 and 17. "We hope to get this finished by mid-February."
(to read intervening info, click the link)
The rebuild may cost as much as $150,000, Boss said. Donations may be sent
to Habitat for Humanity Loutzenhiser Building Acct., P.O. Box 1743,
Idyllwild, CA 92549. Volunteers can contact Gilden at (951) 659-2678
I just wanted to thank those who gave their comments on some
of the IA packs I am looking at for 2007. Having some insight
is very much appreciated.
This is for AZ Firefighter about the three packs.
This a ANF Firefighter, My engine crews goes with the wolf pack, I
personally have nimrod pack system, either one is very comfortable and very
compatible to are work.
To: Heather's Mom, Sylvia Kratzke,
You made me cry again as others have done over the last several weeks. I
don't know if the tears were tears of joy about things getting better, or
for our terrible losses we have suffered this year or in the past. In any
case, it just plain sucked for me but I know we all need to get together and
share for our betterment.... all of us.... Probably sounds a little
selfish... sorry.. not my intent or how my feelings are acting.... Feeling
pretty crappy right now.
There won't be silent hugs from all of us in Sacramento... There will be
personal hugs and heartfelt thanks about the pain and support, and
eventually the healing that hopefully we will all experience someday after
our horrible losses.
Thanks to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation for being there for all of us
in our healing and support...... and to all of the survivor families and
friends for providing support to all of us as things went gunnysack... When
I say all of us... I deeply mean all of us... the entire wildland fire
Hard to type when crying... hope it made some sense.. sorry... Off to
Sacramento tomorrow... Hoping to see and hug lots of good friends in the
next few days...
Feelings are normal, hugs often help. Main thing is, none of us is
alone in this event. Ab.
Did y'all see this? It looks like the health industry is facing the
professional culpability issues like we've seen in wildland fire.
Still Out There as an AD
To all of you firefolks out there,
I just wanted to remind you all to make sure your pledges are in for the 52
mile Ultrawalk. The ElDorado shots deserve all the support they can get. My
pledge is in and I plan to be there (all the way from New York) when they
start, and to be with them again when they cross the finish line at the end.
I owe them that. You see, when Engine 11 rolled over on the Stanza fire in
2002, the ElDorado hotshots were there. They stayed with the injured until
they were transported and they stayed with those who did not survive. They
stayed with them all night. They watched and kept them safe from further
harm. And in the morning, when the time came, they gently and lovingly
carried their fallen fellow firefighters down the mountainside. They did
this willingly, out of respect, to honor Heather, Steve and John. They did
what I was unable to do. They were with my daughter at the time of her
death. They held her and prayed and bid her godspeed, and for this I am
eternally grateful. I feel honored to be able to be there to support their
efforts to raise money for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. When they
cross the finish line, I plan to hug each and every one of them in silent
thanks, respectfully, for another job well done.
Heather's Mom, Sylvia Kratzke
Glad you're going to be there Sylvia.
Those shots were awesome in that situation. Always amazes me how connected
we all are, by success, by tragedy, by common experiences. I hope as many as
possible make it to the 52 walk with families and friends. Travel safe. Ab.
Re: The IRS and The Donations to the Families of E-57
Following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, and the subsequent anthrax
attacks, Congress passed legislation known as the Terrorism Tax Relief Act
of 2001. As part of this legislation, it allowed non-profit organizations to
be able to donate directly to the families affected by terrorism, and it
provided a tax exemption to those receiving the money, and a taxable
write-off for those donating the money. This law is still in effect for
victims of terrorism in the United States.
A group of Representatives and Senators is considering a small amendment to
the above act to include arson (domestic terrorism) under the IRS statute.
As Vicki said, there are several short term and longer term fixes being
addressed by local and national elected officials. I let everyone know how
things are unfolding.....
The Fire Finders' seem to be a great tool in the wildland. That is fine.
What I was talking about was some people trying to use then in areas where
fuel had been spilled, Propane tanks blowing safety disc, underground tanks
located etc. My professional opinion is they are not safe in a fuel or other
explosive vapor atmosphere area. That's all I was trying to say.
Just being safety oriented. Use in the wildland, don't use around
structures, vehicles, fuel spills etc.
Nuff said, Robert you understand.
Please everyone understand, for wildland, not structure, or any other
Re blood borne pathogens:
Ab and firefighters,
I will use all of this- Thanks! It is a help.
I read Kennedy's book.
Wildfire and Americans: How to Save Lives,
Property and Your Tax Dollars
It is a good read. It gives a pretty good history on how we got where
we are today dealing with the wildland urban interface.
Thanks 7107. I added your comments to the Book Reviews page. Ab.
Just making sure folks are aware of new Red Card
"To fulfill the training requirements of the NIC, all
individuals (including AD hires) qualified for
incident response or support must complete additional
training. All first responders (anyone with an
Incident Qualification Card) must complete “National
Incident Management System (NIMS), An Introduction”
(IS-700). All middle/upper level managers which
includes Strike Team/Task Force Leaders and above,
Unit Leaders and above, Command and General Staff
members, MAC Group Staff, and Dispatch/Coordination
Center Managers must complete “National Response Plan
(NRP), An Introduction” (IS-800)."
From what I have taken from my reading, the NRP has
re-created NICC with more layers of bureaucracy and
the potential for a lot of political appointees.
And There I Was
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
File Code: 5100-3
Date: October 6, 2006
Subject: All Hazards Training Requirements
To: Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Area Director, IITF Director,
Deputy Chiefs and WO Staff
The President issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive No. 5
(HSPD-5) in 2003. One of the primary intentions of HSPD-5 is “to prevcnt,
prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major
disasters, and other emergencies, the United States Government shall
establish a single, comprehensive approach to domestic incident management.”
In response to HSPD-5, the Department of Homeland Security initiated the
National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the NIMS Integration Center (NIC)
to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from All-Hazards incidents.
The obligation to remain a willing partner on All-Hazards response was
reinforced in the letter signed by the Chief on May 31, 2006. To fulfill the
training requirements of the NIC, all individuals (including AD hires)
qualified for incident response or support must complete additional
training. All first responders (anyone with an Incident Qualification Card)
must complete “National Incident Management System (NIMS), An Introduction”
(IS-700). All middle/upper level managers which includes Strike Team/Task
Force Leaders and above, Unit Leaders and above, Command and General Staff
members, MAC Group Staff, and Dispatch/Coordination Center Managers must
complete “National Response Plan (NRP), An Introduction” (IS-800). Each
course can take up to four hours.
The IS-700 and IS-800 courses are at the following providers:
- AgLearn – On-line (Password protected site and may require you to
submit a Social Security Number) at http://www.aglearn.usda.gov/
- AgLearn – Download course materials for local presentation (Password
protected site) at http://www.aglearn.usda.gov/
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – Emergency Management
Institute (EMI) – On-line or downloadable at http://training.fema.gov/emiweb/IS/is700.asp
Forest Service – Materials for an updated and approved IS-700 will be
provided to local course coordinators by their Regional Training Officer.
The NIC has also established Incident Command System course requirements
(I-100, I-200, etc.), but the NIC standards are equivalent to or lower than
the “I” courses criteria outlined in FSH 5109.17, therefore no additional
“I” courses should be necessary.
Certificates of completion may be issued automatically on-line or by mail
for a downloaded “hard-copy” course. A copy of the certificate should be
provided to the appropriate certifying official and/or Incident
Qualification System (IQCS) administrator.
Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Area Director, IITF Director,
Deputy Chiefs 2 and WO Staff
All affected employees shall complete the applicable training requirement(s)
by June 1, 2007.
Contact Jim Barnett, Branch Chief, Fire Training at 208-387-5350 or Steve
Gage, Emergency Management Specialist at 202-205-1558.
/s/ James E. Hubbard
Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry
The Utah State Department of Natural Resources is recruiting for the
Lone Peak Conservation Center which includes the Lone Peak Hotshots, a Type
2IA Crew, 2 BD Crews, and quite a few engines. See their new ad on the
Jobs Page. OA
The Federal Wildland Firefighter Classification Act
It is an incredibly proud honor to report that minutes ago the House of
Representatives passed HR 5697. With speakers from both the Majority &
Minority, outlining the need for the legislation, referencing the FWFSA and
the all-risk duties our federal wildland firefighters perform, it is my hope
that those who persevered through the nuttiness of the movement of the bill
earlier in the day and watched this historical action have a greater sense
of pride in who they are and what they do.
The bill will now be sent to the Senate and I have been actively working
with staff from several offices of the majority & minority leaders from the
Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee to ensure the bill
receives similar action in the Senate.
My sincerest gratitude to all of our Nation's federal wildland firefighters
for their patience through this process. There is still much work to do to
ensure the standards, position descriptions, etc., are accurately crafted
and reflective of the proud work you do but the FWFSA will do whatever it
takes to make sure OPM does this right. Should you have any questions,
please free to contact me at 208-775-4577 or
GOOD JOB, CASEY and FWFSA!!!
Here is the last update for the walk on our website. We will still
be answering emails, so feel free to contact us with any questions. I have
added links for directions to Nimbus Flat, the location of ICP, as well as
weather for the weekend, as we may get some showers. Reminder: bring a
poncho or rain gear, and if you are walking at night, a headlamp or
flashlight. We will also be making T-shirts at the event.
We are doing great with our
pledges, almost there! Thanks to everybody for their generosity, and it
will be great to see everybody this weekend.
Once again, thanks for all that
you are doing.
We're all ready for a GREAT time everyone. Carry on.
Congrats Casey. Wildland Firefighters are now one foot closer to
walking as firefighters. Ab.
Well done Miserywhip.
It's good to see that someone is beginning to question the "elephant in the
room" when it comes to the political context in which the wildland fire
profession finds itself.
But before I discuss that subject, I would like
to reaffirm your
observations regarding "The Doctrine".
Ever since I first read about "The Doctrine", I could not keep my 30
in wildland fire management from making me feel uncomfortable with what
appeared to be a whole lot of snakeoil in a shiny new bottle. I have
always welcomed new ideas and appreciate those brave civil servants who
think outside the box. However my 30 years have taught me as much about
people and their interactions within large organizations as it has about
the art and science of wildfires. As a preamble to "The Doctrine", I would
like to add "Mr. Crusty Drawers' Contextual Interpretations on the next Big
It goes something like this:
-Beware of new initiatives formed within the vacuum of one agency
Assumptions and expectations forged by decades of cultural reinforcement
are harder to get beyond without being able to freely question the basic
belief system of that culture as viewed from outside of it.
-Beware of agency career climbers who have the position, know the jargon
but lack the fundamental vision to ask the right questions.
-Beware of the agency turf minders, they are the self appointed
of the exclusive, imaginary secret agency handshake. They are the poison
which ensures our failure and the potential for our death during tactical
-Beware of those who lack a demonstrated respect for fire on the
and the family of wildland fire professionals who manage it. Those who lack
that respect will sacrifice people for buildings and forget the cost when
the hills turn to green once again.
James Reason is right- we live the consequences of our
Now back to the elephant in the room which Miserywhip mentioned in his
piece. I refer to it as the Big Government vs. Big Business debate -or as
those in talk radio would say- Tyranny vs. Freedom. It is the most
fundamental issue of our time and I believe that the problems that face us
as fire professionals and as a nation will not be effectively dealt with
until we come to grips with the fundamental role of government in providing
for what the Constitution refers to as the "General Welfare" of the people.
In the end we will have to put our ultimate trust in one of these powers.
If we are to believe the republicans- we as civil servants cannot be
trusted to do the right thing.
To these jaded politicians, only greed and the almighty dollar can be
trusted. If one were to ask an Iraqi citizen these days about the value of
an effective civil service you would probably get a different answer than
those getting spun by millionaires on corporate TV. Personally if the
people of the US told me that I wasn't needed, and to lay down my shovel
and go home- I would find a job that was a lot easier on the knees. If
government is deemed as not necessary for the "General Welfare", then lets
pocket the money and throw a party. The time has come to call BS on those
ideologue politicians who seek to discredit us, while stacking the deck
Miserywhip missed the dates but I applaud his recollection of the
rhetoric spewed by the republicans during those heady days before the Timmy
McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing scared the begeebers out of all those
flag waving patriots bent on taking down big government before we all
became surfs of the state.
About 13 years before McVeigh allowed us to look into the abyss (that
results when basic governance is left to those who don't even believe in
the notion), President Reagan informed us that "government was the
problem". A statement which was hard not to take personally, especially if
you happened to be charged with carrying out government work.
I was always amused throughout the republican years by those poor souls
within the agencies who weren't real savvy when it came to politics. Those
who could not figure out why they couldn't get anything done. They didn't
understand that they were never supposed to get anything done, in fact they
were supposed to fail. Like the whole notion of making government smaller
or balancing the budget. The republican leadership never intended to do
either. The budget was supposed to balloon out of control so as to provide
the incentive for the draconian cuts envisioned for the future. Government
as a whole never got smaller- only the parts of it that were deemed a
hindrance to big business (like regulatory agencies).
The Clinton/Gore years brought back a measure of rationality to governance.
The ideologues crawled back under their respective rocks and the President
and Congress chose wildland fire as one of the major priorities of the
nation. The National Fire Plan was passed and we were on our way toward a
rational strategy for dealing with fuels and the dwindling population of
experienced firefighters who would be charged with taking us into the 21st
century. As 9/11, Katrina and megafires came along, it became apparent that
wildland fire professionals possessed skills that were vital to the
national security of the nation. Skills that were just as vital to the
nation back when President Reagan deemed us as "The problem".
We do indeed live the consequences of our personal/organizational
shortcomings -just as we live the consequences of our nation's political
shortcomings, the misguided perceptions of those we elect and the illusions
of our own personal mythology.
Mr. C. Drawers
New IA Pack:
Go to Ruffian and have them build you a pack that specifically meets your
needs. I have been using the same line gear for almost 9 years now. The
only thing I have had done was to have it retrofitted for the new size
Hello, I'm a screenwriter who has been doing research for a project.
I can across your web page 'Wildland Fire Term's and found myself
entertained for an hour!!! Thanks for the laugh and the knowledge I
Nikki Anne Schmutz
You're welcome. Ab.
You can find bird flu info and discussion at
www.flutrackers.com/forum/. I noticed that the link to the bird flu page
is missing from this (wildlandfire.com) webpage, but flutrackers.com
is very active and Mellie does post there often, along with a host of
other professionals. Another website to check out is H5N1experts.org.
That website is a good resource. We did rearrange the header here
to focus on the WFF and E-57 families. Link to flutrackers.com is on the
Birdflu Watchout page. Oh, I see the link to the page disappeared
entirely... We'll replace the link to it at the top of theysaid after the 52
If you have access to C-Span, you should turn it on.
Interesting things happening in congress in the next few hours that affect
federal wildland firefighters.
I started to write a reply to your 11/27 post when I noticed that Ab pulled
the link to the
R1 doctrine publication. That alone should tell you volumes
about where we’re at as a culture. Apparently doctrine is still too
dangerous for public consumption. But since you asked, I’ll give you some
I’m not really sure why the R1 folks developed their own doctrine, other
than hazarding a guess that doctrine seems to be stalled at the national
level. The NIFC Doctrine website hasn’t changed this year; it still shows
the same info that was posted right after the first doctrine conference.
I heard several months ago that our national (ahem) leadership found some of
the previous doctrinal proposals unpalatable and gutted the January 2006
Fire & Aviation Doctrine Conference publication to the point it was no
longer recognizable. Maybe that is why it has never been publicly
My assessment is there has been some good work done on doctrine, but right
now it is just pretty words on paper. I doubt whether the vision of turning
the Forest Service into a highly reliable organization can be achieved under
the present hostile administration and their Bizarro world political
appointees. But I tip my hardhat to Regional Forester Abigail Kimbell for
signing off on R1 Doctrine.
The first important thing that must occur in order for us to have any chance
of becoming a real learning organization is the nullification of the
Cantwell/Hastings bill. The Esperanza Fire is the first time since Cramer
we’ve had to deal with an OIG investigation. Given the circumstances, I
think the CDF was wise to advise their employees to not speak with Esperanza
investigators. I hope this case focuses attention on how ridiculous this
situation is and why PL 107-203 needs to go away.
It pains me to say it, but my advice to anyone who is involved in a FS
burnover is: clam up and lawyer up. Until PL 107-203 is rescinded, you may
place yourself or other firefighters in jeopardy of criminal action by any
statement you make to investigators of any agency. At Cramer, OIG
investigators relied heavily on witness statements freely given to FS
investigators to make determinations about whether to prosecute individuals
who were prominently involved.
Additional infrastructure needs to be in place for doctrine to take root and
grow. A national cadre of trained, professional wildland fire investigators
patterned after the NTSB system must be created. If we can’t demonstrate
that burnovers and accidents can be professionally investigated in a way
that doesn’t threaten people and their careers, we will never become a
learning organization. And we need to apply the same kind of investigatory
zeal and expertise to near misses so that we can learn their “free lessons.”
We also need to expand the scope of investigations to reveal the cultural
and organizational influences of accidents. James Reason explains the
different safety philosophies behind the traditional person model and the
organizational model in his landmark book “Managing the Risks of
The person model “views people as free agents capable of choosing between
safe and unsafe behavior. This means that errors are perceived as being
shaped predominantly by psychological factors such as inattention,
forgetfulness, poor motivation, carelessness, lack of knowledge skills and
experience, negligence, and – on occasions – culpable recklessness.” Reason
goes on to say the “most widely used countermeasures are ‘fear appeal’
poster campaigns, rewards and punishments, unsafe act auditing, writing
another procedure, training and selection.” Sound familiar?
The organizational model is much different. Reason states “The
organizational model views human error more as a consequence than as a
cause. Errors are the symptoms that reveal the presence of latent (existing)
conditions in the system at large.”
In the fed fire culture, we are still stuck on the person model. We still
focus on the immediate participants and their actions without even pondering
the negative implications of organizational factors. The reason we don’t
address these organizational factors in our current investigations is
because we aren’t allowed to do so under our present policy. If you are only
asking local questions, you will only find local answers.
In my opinion, the Chief of the Forest Service should authorize turning the
Esperanza Investigation into a Dryden Report or Columbia Accident
Investigation Board style investigation. Let us honor our fallen comrades
from Engine 57 by doing something that will benefit our culture for
generations to come; a real investigation from the bottom of the
organization to the very top. Enlist the expertise of the Weicks and
Sutcliffes and Reasons of the world to evaluate our organization and our
culture. Just put it all out there and see where the chips fall.
My guess is that a Dryden Report style investigation would reveal many
organizational contributions to our recent firefighter fatalities. Ask
yourself this question; do the federal land management agencies currently
have long-term congressional and executive branch support to fully fund the
world-class federal wildland fire management system described in the
National Fire Plan? If you answered NO to this question, as I did, then you
have to ask some probing follow-up questions.
- Why have Forest Service fire management budgets been on a steady
decline despite recent years of record fire seasons and acreage burned?
- Why did R5 (and other regions) have large numbers of federal engines
parked and federal crews left unfunded this summer?
- Why do mid-level federal wildland fire supervisors feel compelled to
carry liability insurance?
- Why are so many fire resource orders going unfilled for long periods
during busy fire seasons?
- Why are critical functions of the Forest Service being outsourced or
- Why are significant numbers of burnovers and vehicle accidents still
occurring on wildland fires?
- Why are significant numbers of Forest Service employees leaving
wildland fire positions for wildland fire management jobs with other
There is a common thread between all of these questions. They all lead to
a cold wind that blew in with the so called “Republican Revolution” in the
90s, and was continued and accelerated under Bush, working in concert with
an all-Republican Congress.
The underlying problem I’m referring to is this foul anti-government
attitude that the fed land management agencies have suffered under for the
past decade. The Republicans haven’t been shy about proclaiming their desire
to “shrink government” and “eliminate excessive regulation.” This is, of
course, merely a smokescreen to cover what they are really trying to
achieve; an enfeeblement of regulatory agencies that prevent powerful and
influential interests (oil, mining, logging, etc) from exercising their will
on public lands.
I am cautiously optimistic that with Democrats now holding both houses of
Congress, better days may be ahead. I hope they realize the damage their
cohorts across the aisle have inflicted on our land management agencies and
wildland fire organizations, and move swiftly to put things on a more
logical and sustainable course.
There are four things this Congress could do to help put things right. Start
by rescinding PL 107-203. Next retire the misguided A-76 outsourcing
initiative. Then fund the land management agencies wildland firefighting
organizations at 100% MEL level or better. And finally, start treating
federal wildland firefighters like valued and respected citizens who are of
immeasurable value to our republic instead of like some useless wasteful
vermin that must be stomped out.
So, Domaque, in my weird rambling style, what I’m getting at is that I would
advise you to not intentionally violate any policy just yet unless you
clearly understand the ramifications. As a culture, we are straddling a
fence right now, one foot rooted firmly in the past and one tentatively
stepping into the future. But in spite of everything we have been subjected
to in recent years, the United States Forest Service is still here, we are
still vital, and some of us will outlast this current unpleasantness. Better
times are coming.
Misery Whip, this is what I said when I removed the link:
Ab removed the link to this. It was meant only for internal
circulation and will likely be changed this week. We'll post the final
version when it's available.
No one asked us to take it down. We did it as a courtesy. Since the
group was meeting last week to review/revise it, it made sense to wait for
the best final product. Today I got someone to call to find the status for
the official final copy and was told Forest Leadership meets next week to
review the changes the last group made and then it goes to the design person
who makes the actual pdf product changes. As you know, meetings and changes
take time, especially during late November/December. Our "pulling the link"
has nothing to do with the information being dangerous -- beyond the danger
inherent in the time it takes to complete any bureaucratic process.
As far as having to do with where we are as a culture, well yes, I hope we
Abs do err on the side of courtesy when push comes to shove and good things
are in the works.
Glad you're staying on top of all of it...
Have a cup of eggnog!
E-57 Decals from the WLF Store,
I'm getting several calls a day from folks concerned about the status of the
memorial decals they ordered from our online store. The newest update
is. . .they didn't show up yet, but I expect them on Thursday the 7th.
Since our deliveries are at the end of the postal service route and mail is
delivered at around 1630, the new estimated shipping date will be on
Friday. And that's if they show up on Thursday. Thanks for your patience.
Hi- What happened to the excellent bird flu info?????
Mellie says she's been busy. She says it's still coming and she'll do
an update soon. Ab.
"Former Hotshot" stated that you should "ask a current hotshot"
Finders, so you're getting an answer from a 20+-year Hotshot and current
I agree with Waiting For Snow's comments about the Dyn-optics Fire Finders
and hope that the other posts don't discourage you from purchasing one; my
crew runs 3 - one for each squad. Like WFS said, they are most effective in
desert and brush fuel types, and speed up cold trailing in those fuel types
exponentially vs. hand-feeling. Often, line isn't even needed in the
desert, and IMTs can sometimes be convinced of that if you tell them that
you will confirm your cold trail with a Fire Finder.
SRJS is correct in stating that "...the best tools we have are what god
gave us: hands, eyes, and nose", and I also agree that you can tell which
areas are going to be hot by using your senses, but after reading some of
the posts, it seems some people are incorrectly using the Fire Finder. The
Fire Finder should not be used as a replacement for hand-feeling during
mop-up, and I don't let my crew use them during initial mop-up. I do
encourage each squad to use them to confirm that they are done with an area
(after hand-feeling that area). However, mop-up should not be their primary
function; like I said, they really shine cold trailing out in the desert.
Also, like with any tool, users should be properly trained on how to use
the Fire Finder, especially when to use them.
As far as durability, they will break if improperly handled or stored;
Dyn-Optics provides a foam-padded case that provides plenty of protection
for the units when they're riding around in the buggies or supt. truck-
they shouldn't be stored in packs. I have also found that Dyn-Optics will
repair most of their units free of charge (as long as they weren't abused).
(As a side note to "ht" about the Fire Finders' military spec- The Fire
Finders are an offshoot of a military contract Dyn-Optics had years ago to
develop a heat-seeking system for a missile (I forget which one). The owner
saw uses for this technology in other fields, especially in ours, so he
developed the Fire Finder. Talking with him about 10 years ago, he told me
that he doesn't actually make any money off of the Fire Finders; Dyn-Optics
does that through their military contracts.)
With proper training, the Fire Finder is an excellent tool that should be
in any crew's complement because it greatly increase production in certain
If anybody out there has any more questions about the Fire Finder or
like to debate their use, feel free to contact me.
Ab- please sign my real name
Palms Springs Field Office Recognized
I'm proud to inform you that the Palms Springs Field Office of the BLM CA
Desert District received a wildland fire safety award for their cooperative
efforts with CDF in hazardous fuels reduction surrounding Poppet Flat during
last night's national fire management officers banquet, . Their projects
helped to divert the Esperanza Fire around the community and enabled the
residents to safely shelter in place. See attached accomplishment report.
Congratulations to Kristen, James, Chuck and Tim!
Esperanza Fire vs Poppet Rx 494 K pdf file
Here is a recent news article that I somehow missed. Good overview of the
WUI Problem. Good read.
Is public policy pouring fuel on wildfires?
By Tim Reiterman, Times Staff Writer
November 14, 2006
When 14 firefighters died in a wind-fanned inferno near Glenwood Springs,
Colo., in 1994, Roger G. Kennedy was struck by the senselessness of the
"They were not fighting to protect an ecosystem or even a railroad or a
highway," he recalled. "Those people went to their death protecting a real
Kennedy, National Park Service director under President Clinton for four
years in the 1990s, is the author of a new book, "Wildfire and Americans:
How to Save Lives, Property and Your Tax Dollars," that contends that
government policies have placed millions of residents in the path of
Southern California has recently experienced two severe wildfires. The Day
fire, which started on Memorial Day, burned more than 600,000 acres in the
Los Padres and Angeles national forests and took a month to contain. Then
the Esperanza fire destroyed property and killed five firefighters in
Riverside County. Are America's firefighting resources adequate?
The U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service are essentially
the national fire department, drawing people from other activities they
are supposed to carry on.. The Forest Service budget is systematically
distorted by more than $1 billion a year to accommodate the fact, which
is stupid.. The equipment tends to be obsolete; air tankers [owned by
contractors] get old. The planes used would never be permitted in
combat.. People are sent to the fire lines who are not always as well
trained as they should be, because it is not the primary thing they do.
It is very heroic but wrong.. This is like fighting in Iraq with the
National Guard and no regulars.
Are you suggesting that firefighting efforts should be year-round rather
than concentrated in the summer-fall fire season?
Yes. It is crazy not to have a national firefighting force that is in
the business of going where people already are and protecting them
better through prescribed burning and thinning.. We do not require that
municipalities have fire-wise ordinances saying that if you do not clean
up your place so it is safe from spread of fire, it's a violation and
should be a criminal violation because some are going to die.. We send
the feds in to rescue people from circumstances where a neighbor fails
to do his duty and leaves his place full of tinder and brush. It is
You assert that in the largest sense, wildfire is a people problem, not a
fire problem, because society has encouraged settlement in highly flammable
terrain. Please explain.
In California, more than 50% of the houses built in the last 10 years
were built in fire-imperiled places.. This is a dynamic situation which
is getting worse every day because more people are coming in and because
the climate is changing. Fires are getting bigger and more frequent. But
we built the roads and supplied mortgages and infrastructure to people
who had every reason to expect that we were going to provide a fire
department, as we do in the cities. Those expectations have been
disgracefully betrayed. We do not provide adequate fire protection, and
we don't provide adequate fire hazard diminution by professional people
year round. So we have to stop encouraging people going into these very
Other than population pressures, what historically has driven the
dispersion of urban dwellers to suburbs and rural areas?
When we came out of the second World War, the images in our minds
were of urban fire - Dresden, London, Rotterdam, Belgrade.. We knew all
about bombing. We were conscious of the danger of Soviets or others
bombing our cities, and the big lesson of the war was bust up the cities
because they are targets for the Soviets. The Cold War provided every
one of the major policies carried on to disperse the major cities.
Which policies drove this dispersal from the cities?
The panoply includes federally insured mortgages issued whether the
houses were in a dangerous place or not. There was no attention - in
fact there is very little attention today - as to how risky the location
was going to be. There was no attention given as to whether the highways
and feeder roads that we paid for would dump people out in safe or
dangerous places. No attention was given to natural systems and
dangers.. It is just in the past 10 years that we are paying any
You contend that President Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative for thinning
and logging of national forests to reduce fire danger is seriously flawed.
What are your concerns?
Promiscuous recommendations for logging overlook the historic fact
that killer fires in this country's experience have all been after
logging . in the slash of post-logging operations. Any program that says
to go out and log and turns to the lumber companies like that again is
crazy. Now, is it going to be important to thin forests on the run-up to
settled places and on the fringes of villages? Absolutely, and there
needs to be a lot of prescribed burning around the edges of
communities.. But lumbering where the commercial timber is - in remoter
places - does nothing to protect people.
How does society discourage development from going deeper into fire-prone
If you are a farmer and don't behave, you don't get a farm subsidy.
That is the way it should work in development. If you don't conduct
yourself in ways that provide for the safety of the people you persuade
to settle, you won't get the subsidies. We won't build roads to you. We
won't build power lines to you. We won't insure your mortgages. And we
won't permit the people you sell to deduct the interest on their
mortgages. That would do quite a lot right there.
What happens to the existing structures in areas susceptible to wildfire?
You have to do the best you can for the people that are in them. I
don't think anybody would seriously say we're going to let them burn up.
But we do a terrible job of forcing communities and developers to plan
properly to permit people safe exit.. We treat canyon communities as if
they were islands in the Gulf. In one case, you can't escape the
hurricane, and in the other case, you can't escape the fire.
fair use disclaimer
Book by Kennedy available at Amazon:
Wildfire and Americans: How to Save Lives, Property and Your Tax Dollars
I added it to the Fire Books page. When someone reads it, please send in
a review and I'll post it. Ab.
Hello Abs and AZfirefighter,
True North will be more then happy to send you a pack to demo
try out, beat the crap out of and see how you like it.
For demo’s we want our products to be used, because one a
firefighter is able to use our packs they will see how good it fits
and that you get more bang for your hard $$.
Please email the office and say you saw this on theysaid.
True North Gear
Even though I’m partial to True North due to quality, service and comfort,
I urge you to get from each a sample pack, load it up and try a hike with
each to determine what works for you. That way you won’t second guess
yourself after you choose the TN product… (lol).
I would recommend the Firefly since you can detach the main pack, still
have the small pouch for items while keeping your hydration pouch intact
on the pack.
I have used the Eagle Gear for years now being on crews and they are a
pretty good pack. I just bought a True North pack and wore it a couple of
times and to tell you the truth it is a pile of junk. Too many straps and
adjustments to mess around with, canteen holders and radio holders do not
fasten to the belt strap. I just spoke with a Wolf Pack dealer the other day
and he brought one to me to try on and I liked it and ordered one. The top
fill pack had a lot of room and a 102 oz Camel Bag inside (included). I will
let you know how it goes with the Wolf Pack.
Here in Washington, I've used both the "Spyder" engine pack and the
"Firefly" line pack by True North and have had great durability and
comfort with both. Being a medic I've carried a complement of ALS gear in the
True North and it worked great for that. My son just did his first season on
a hand crew in Northern California this past fire season and also saw great
performance out of his True North pack, so I'm pretty sold on them.
-The Brush Coat Medic
Re support for Federal Wildland Firefighter Emergency Response Compensation
Act & Federal Wildland Firefighter Classification Act:
Thought I would share the following response I received from my
congressman here in MN. Also please let me know if there is anything that I
can do to help put the pressure on the powers that be to ensure that no
other family has to go through what we have went through in the last few
weeks. I have been a community activist here for many years and am very
capable of holding my own in the political realm if I need to. So please
feel free to let me know if there is anything that I can do or people I can
contact to help make it safer for all those firefighters out there.
Personally I feel I have to do something and if advocacy is what is needed
then count me in. It is very important to me to feel that something positive
comes out of this tragedy.
Thank you for sharing with me your thoughts regarding wildland firefighters.
Again, I offer my condolences to you for your loss. Your brother's death is
even more tragic in light of the discovery that the deadly wildfire was
caused by arson.
I appreciate your advocacy on behalf of federal wildland firefighters.
Federal foresters estimate that an astounding 190 million acres of land
managed by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Interior are at
unnatural risk of developing into catastrophic wildfires. Those brave
firefighters who work long, dangerous hours suppressing fires and protecting
federal land provide a tremendously important public service.
The Federal Wildland Firefighter Emergency Response Compensation Act of 2005
(H.R. 408) was introduced by Congressman Richard Pombo on January 26, 2005.
This bill would require that wildland firefighters employed by the
Department of Agriculture or the Department of the Interior be paid for the
entire period of time that firefighters are away from their assigned duty
station when dispatched to an emergency incident. It would also treat
wildland firefighter compensation received pursuant to this act as basic pay
for federal retirement pay purposes. The Bush administration strongly
opposes H.R. 408.
Congressman Pombo also introduced the Federal Wildland Firefighter
Classification Act (H.R. 5697) on June 28, 2006. This bill would direct the
Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to reclassify federal wildland
firefighters to more accurately reflect their current duties.
Although it is unlikely that the full House of Representatives will consider
these bills prior the adjournment of the 109th Congress, I am hopeful that
the 110th Congress will consider this important legislation.
If you would like to receive periodic e-mail updates on issues before
Congress, please visit my Web site, www.house.gov/oberstar, and go to
With best wishes.
James L. Oberstar, M.C.
Thanks, Kim. We'll keep you in the loop. Ab.
Re: The Esperanza Firefighters' Families and Donations
After reading some of the news articles today, and hearing some of the
statements that IRS representatives have made, I feel the IRS is a
bureaucracy that it so caught up in policy and statutes that it cannot do
what is ethically and morally right.
Stand assured that everyone one of us in the wildland firefighting community
will stand side by side with the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and the
United Way, to ensure that these funds that were so graciously donated by
our communities and supporters nationwide (and in a few cases, worldwide),
go to the families as intended.
The threats of both of these charitable organizations losing their 501(c)3
status if they distribute the money against the wishes of the IRS and their
asinine regulations is simply disgusting to many of us.
This is totally unacceptable and will be corrected. We will all raise the
bar, in any area it takes, to work through this one, and any future
challenges we have when federal bureaucracies stand in the way of the safety
for our fellow firefighters and our families.
For everyone who has contributed to the families of the E-57 fallen, and for
those who have contributed to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation for our
future losses, there are lots of us throughout this community raising the
bar and willing to take on the folks and bureaucracies who think they are
untouchable. All of you who are raising the bar know who you are... thank
Southern California Chapter Director
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
Regarding MR's request for info...having been an EMS
director on a small town/rural fire department which
was somewhat reluctant to combine EMS and fire. I
found that the most important feature in making sure
BSI got used was to make it easy...we set it up so
that every fire fighter had his/her shroud in the
right thigh pocket of his/her bunkers, with a pair of
latex gloves under that. The left thigh pocket had a
pair of lineman's pliers, a roll of 3 mm cord, a small
flashlight, and a pocket knife, something easy to open
with gloved hands. I usually carried a PowerBar and
some Atomic warheads (the really sour lemon candy)
too, but that's because I'm always hungry and warheads
take the taste of smoke, mud, or foam out of your
mouth nicely. Extrication gloves went in the left coat
pocket, and structure gloves went in the right coat
pocket. A back up set of gloves went in an inside coat
pocket. So every fire fighter had gloves on their
person, anytime they were in gear. Part of the after
action review was cleaning out your pockets, making
sure you were re-organized, and replenishing if
necessary. I've been told by guys from bigger muni
departments that if you take a lot of flame, and go in
on lots of fire, this doesn't work because the stuff
in your pockets causes hot spots and can melt into
your bunkers. For small rural departments, where we'll
do interior attack maybe a few times a year, this
works really well.
We also made sure that gloves were everywhere, within
easy reach of every seat in every unit. For me,
getting gloves on was part of my mental preparation
ritual for every call...the page would go off, I'd
head for the station, get my gear on, jump on a rig,
and pull gloves on as we headed for the scene...latex
under leathers for extrication, just latex for
medical. Before you get off your rig, you look over at
your partner's hands to make sure he's got his on too.
Basically, just make it happen the same way every
time, and make sure every time you do medical
training, you wear gloves. Train like you fight,
right? Pretty soon it feels really weird NOT to have
Hope that's helpful.
Nerd on the Fireline
I'll make sure she gets the info. Thanks, Nerd. Ab.
Rogue Drogue and Yactak
Yactak, thanks for the nice comments, and I hope you will join in Tactical
Decision Making Process again... You are a great teacher...
Rogue my email is firstname.lastname@example.org email me and I will give you the
info on our next class..
Regarding blood borne pathogens ... there is a saying that sticks with
me from training; "if its wet and its not yours, don't touch it."
If anyone would like to read fire reports/plans for Australia, Dick
Mangan sent some in and Ab will forward them on.
"Looks like some active fire in the State of Victoria, Australia."
and sent State overview and Current Fire Situation Report 06 Dec 06 1600 hrs
"The Aussie's Strategic Plan for the next few days!"
and sent Executive Summary Victorian Strategic Operational Plan Fire (and
Thanks Dick. Ab.
Re Cap on Receipt of Donations:
After Vicki called this afternoon, it
fired up a bunch of us. I have made contacts with my House and Senate
elected officials and will know more in the morning about how to divert this
The Riverside County Press-Enterprise did a story on the problem today.
Hopefully after the story is posted in the LA Times, it will gain national
attention so the problem can be corrected.
The article from the Press-Enterprise has some pretty good quotes from
several local elected officials, who to say it bluntly, are pi*sed off at
the bureaucracy of the IRS.
I want to give a little heads up about an issue that might come out in
a Los Angeles Times article tomorrow. Evidently following 911, a new
statutory rules were
put in place that caps the amount of money families can receive in donations
following a tragedy. We were alerted to this recently by the United Way who
had a visit from an IRS rep. We immediately got our lawyer looking into it.
We've gotten word to Senators from Idaho and California who also will be
exploring short- and long-term solutions.
Let me make this perfectly clear: it is our intent and the intent of the
United Way to get the Esperanza families the money that has been donated to
them through our two organizations. As with other issues that come up
regarding our families, we'll just keep working through this one until we
find the solution.
Contract County Guy,
As they keep proving it themselves, OIG is clueless about most things
wildland fire related - and no one (other than us) will openly admit it.
That's how they get away with it.
The Help Wanted section of the Jobs Page is starting
to show increased activity. The Wyoming Lands and BLM Alaska Fire Service
are advertising openings. OA
Cooking on the 52 walk pledges. Only 25% more and we reach the goal.
Way to RAISE THE BAR: Feser's CIIMT 1.
New IA Pack
I am going to get a new IA pack for 2007. I have narrowed it
down to either the 1. Eagle Gear, 2. True North or the 3. Wolfpack.
Does anyone have any comments on these whether good or bad?
I need a detachable pack for engine work, but often times find myself on
crew assignments as well. I do NOT want a giant pack that covers my whole
back. I work in the desert. Something between 1500 and 2000 c.i. , with a
nice suspension system.
I have used a Pack Shack pack for my entire career, but I think its time to
look for something more comfortable and with better features. It has been
great when detachable, but I dont like it at all when I have it all
Can anyone give any feedback on these three packs?
JP & Yactak,
Is there a website or list of upcoming classes? I like what
I'm reading and would like to take JP's class.
Firefighter safety/WUI (WEZ) coordinating group.
If you think you have some extra time and would like to make a contribution
in putting together a comprehensive response to the issues we have raised
here regarding firefighter safety in the WUI, your experience and
perspective is needed.
Some of us have formed a loose group with the goal of developing legislative
proposals in California to help solve some of these things. We are currently
working with a state senator on the matter so we’re not just tossing around
a wet fusee. The hope is that this effort will be the beginning of something
bigger that will be picked up on the federal level as well.
Several folks have talked about the need for leadership in this matter. From
a personal perspective, it’s my feeling that some of the best leadership
comes from the folks on the ground who deal with this stuff everyday. If you
want to help shape some of that leadership, please contact Ab and they will
forward your interest to us.
Good group. Thanks to those already involved. Readers, please
email if you'd like to help out with this. Ab.
All re: JP Harris,
I had the good fortune to be on a couple of JP and Gary Harris's cadres at
LA County Camp 2 earlier this year. Besides being a class act, JP and Gary
have a wildland structure protection class that I have never seen the likes
of. It is fantastic!! In all my years as an FS wildland firefighter, I have
never been exposed to a more comprehensive, KISS structure triage and
firefighter safety in the urban environment (read: So Cal Santa Ana
I would highly recommend JP's course to anyone who (all fed wildland folks)
may be involved in any fires with structures threatened. IMHO, his course
should be adopted as a stand alone and taught at the Fed engine academies,
S-230 Single Resource Boss and refreshed annually during the fireline
refreshers. The field exercise time is invaluable and comprised the majority
of class time. No time is wasted as JP and Gary keep the students engaged
both on scene and during travel time with "what ifs" and pertinent fire
Thanks for the great opportunity JP.. I know I learned as much as the
Had a chance to take a better look at the OIG Audit on USFS Large Fire
Suppression Costs today. While the growth of the WUI is a righteous problem,
it seems wholly inadequate to blame the rising costs of large fires solely
on this factor. How did the OIG get away without a whisper of the effects of
climate change on the large fire picture? I know the administration is
hostile to the mention of global warming, but I am really curious how folks
on the ground think about this issue. To me, climate change and the
resultant impacts of bark beetle infestation and fuels dieback, extension of
fire seasons to include non-traditional times, more frequent episodes of
extreme weather etc. are major factors influencing the amount of acreage
lost and the increasing frequency of wildfire...... How can wildfire
agencies be expected to meet this increasing threat without an associated
increase in the firefighting budget? To me, this is the question that needs
to be addressed....this report has its head in the sand!
Does anyone else feel this way?
Contract County Guy
Readers, this is a frequent kind of request that comes in for photo use
and we give permission of course. However, after some back-and-forth,
another component emerged: that last line. Anyone who does medical aids want
to comment? Ab.
I am a nurse instructor who has been asked to teach firemen about blood
borne pathogens (this month) and I need to keep their attention. I have good
material and information, but your pictures will help, and the good
information on your site our small rural town firemen might not know. Do you
mind if I use your information and pictures in a PowerPoint I will be
Anything special you want to recommend from your experience that I should
include/warn them about?
Watched the videos... how scary. At least the kid in the second video
"stopped, dropped, and rolled" after doing something stupid.
The firefighter in the first video.... well, after being enveloped by
flame... maybe he
should have stepped back a second or two to evaluate what just happened
he jumped right in again.... If I am viewing the video correctly, the
firefighter is also
not wearing a self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).
Both are very awesome human factors videos.... thanks for sharing.
Former St.Joe IHC member John Shippe Jr. passed away from injuries suffered
in a house fire on Monday, 11/27/06. John was a crewmember for two seasons
before taking a perm/seasonal job on the neighboring district. He eventually
left the FS to work structure fire for the city of Spokane, Wa. Am posting
here as we have a few folks that we haven't been able to contact. John was
also a member of the Silver Mountain Ski Patrol and would routinely carry 60
pounds of explosives for avalanche control, then change into a Santa suit
and ski with kids. In my opinion he was probably one of the fittest
individuals I have ever met and shot life suited him well. Memorial was last
Friday and was attended by about 150 people.
During the fog of the Esperanza Fatalities that surrounded many of us,
another person died supporting the wildland fire community that most of us
never heard about.
Josiah Knowles Jr. was a volunteer staffing a lookout tower who tragically
fell to his death following his shift.
Even though the press is, and has concentrated on the events surrounding the
Esperanza Fire recently, keep in your thoughts and prayers ALL wildland
firefighters and their supporters that have given the ultimate sacrifice
this year and in previous years. Volunteers and private sector wildland
firefighters are very much a part of this community and their losses mean so
much to all of us..... the wildland fire community as a whole.
I personally want to thank everyone who supports the Wildland Firefighter
Foundation in their own very personal and very special ways somehow....
I talked with folks on the San Jacinto District of the San Bernardino NF...
they want to move on and keep folks safer in the future as most of us do.
Now, get back to work and support the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and
all the work they do behind the scenes that most of us fortunately never
have to see or experience...
Hector "Sandy" MClune also passed away this last week... Always Remember our
losses in the best way you can.
"After South Canyon there was pretty much universal agreement that
catastrophic failures similar to that one, and that includes Esperanza
in my opinion, can be traced back to failures in fire response planning.
I would further submit that these failures in planning are also the
result of failures of both legislation and policy implementation."
NMAirBear, I partially agree and in no way mean to offend you with the
rest of my post. The firefighting and response communities have been doing
everything they can under the current circumstances. Both San Bernardino
County and Riverside County have formed Mountain Area Safety Task Forces
(MAST). This effort began in 2001 or 2002. San Diego County also has
something similar called FAST. These efforts were called a great success
after the 2003 fire season.
Here is the most recent RCO MAST Newsletter:
As Higbee said,
"When I recently went to the San Bernardino National Forest on a
severity assignment, we were given a book that had all of the housing
areas within the forest color coded as red, yellow, or no color. It also
identified potential safe refuge areas, water sources, and staging
areas. If I remember correctly, the red meant stay the heck out, the
yellow was high risk, and the non-colored areas meant use your best
judgment under each circumstance."
I think (and it is a biased opinion so take it with a grain of salt),
that the contributing failures were not in the fire response planning, but
failures in the pre-fire planning and community design that the community
leaders, the elected officials, the regulatory agencies, and the insurance,
banking, and building industries allowed to happen for financial and
political gain... Pre-existing conditions (as Lobotomy calls it, a
"cockpit") that allows similar accidents to continue to happen in the
Hey Pulaski and emt_micah,
I've got some short clips I could mail (limited time
free shipping and handling ) on a cd or dvd if
you'd like. I'd upload them to my website
for you, but I'm currently
on dial-up and video is a no-go for a while. I've got
a few night dig clips and some daylight burnout clips
from here in R1, as well as SEAT drops, helicopter
drops, hover hooks, etc. Ab can send me mailing addys
if anyone is interested, or you can email me at the
address listed on my website.
Young and Dumb in Region One
The Jobs Page and
Series 0462 (Forestry Technician
& Series 0455 (Range
jobs pages and
(Biologist Series) are updated. Each of these series include jobs for
wildland firefighters. Ab.
Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy and Program Review, 1995:
"In general, the public does not perceive a risk from fire in the
wildland/urban interface. Further, property owners believe that
insurance companies or disaster assistance will always be there to cover
losses. When people believe the government will protect them from
natural hazards, the damage potential of a catastrophic event increases.
Fire prevention efforts, official pronouncements, and media depictions
of imminent risk have been shown to have little effect on those in
danger (Beebe and Omi, 1993). The effects of public education efforts
have not been significant when compared to the need. Unless a
catastrophic event occurs, wildland/urban interface protection issues
generate little interest. There is a widespread misconception by elected
officials, agency managers, and the public that wildland/urban interface
protection is solely a fire service concern."
"It has been suggested that adjustments to insurance company premiums
are the key to providing mitigation activities or to reducing
wildland/urban interface hazards. Insurance companies are not in a
position to provide large economic incentives to address issues locally
through a change in the existing grading and rating criteria or by
supporting prevention or hazard mitigation activities. There is poor
communication within and among the insurance industry and fire service
organizations. The insurance industry does not fully understand
wildland/urban interface problems, and the public and the fire service
do not understand the role of the insurance industry in the interface.
Currently, Insurance Service Offices/Commercial Risk Services (ISO/CRS)
grading and rating criteria do not reflect wildland/urban interface
hazards or protection needs at specific risk locations. Because fire
risk constitutes only a relatively small portion of the homeowner's
insurance cost, premium-reduction incentives are not necessarily the
answer. Insurance companies can, however, help with education,
improvements in building code rating systems, and revised protection
criteria in the wildland/urban interface. Antitrust laws prohibit
insurance companies from working together to establish minimum insurance
requirements, and in some States, laws such as the Fair Access to
Insurance Requirements Plan (FAIR) give homeowners access to insurance
coverage generally without regard to the wildland/urban interface."
"The interface has become a major fire problem that will escalate as the
nation moves into the 21st century. People continue to move from urban
areas to rural areas. These new wildland/urban immigrants give little
thought to the wildfire hazard and bring with them their expectations
for continuation of urban emergency services. The National Fire
Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that since 1985 wildfire
destroyed more than 9,000 homes and resulted in the deaths of many
firefighters and private citizens. In 1994 it is estimated that $250 -
$300 million of Federal wildland fire suppression dollars were spent in
protecting the wildland/urban interface. Since fiscal year 1970, the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided approximately
$64 million in fire suppression assistance grants to States for the
suppression of fires on publicly or privately owned forests or
grasslands that have threatened destruction that would constitute a
"Fire protection problems in the wildland/urban interface are very
complex. Complicated barriers must be overcome to address them. These
barriers include legal mandates, zoning regulations, fire and building
codes, basic fire protection infrastructure, insurance/fire protection
grading and rating systems, environmental concerns, and Fire Protection
Agreements. Political, social and psychological factors further
complicate the problems. There is no one simple solution. Leadership and
cooperation is essential."
I am a Wildland F/F with the State of Tn. Our crew is
for a print to get for our crew boss. Its called ( White Boots ).
Anyone know where to find it?
Crew boss Pumper 243 T.D.O.F.
Bingo!! What about protecting to death somebody's favorite fire dependent
wilderness or "endangered" species? Stupid!! Stupid!! (and where possibly
major league litigation will be the only way to change things....)
God help us all the next time we kill firefighters for this reason.
All we need is about 317 more people to contribute a dollar a
mile ($52 apiece) to the 52 Mile Ultra Walk and the Eldorado shots will
reach their goal of $52,000 for the Foundation. See for yourself.
52 Ultra Walk Pledge List C'mon, email your friends. Ask your
co-workers. Step up! It was a great season, lots of OT.
The 52 Mile Ultra Walk is this Saturday and Sunday, Dec 9 and 10,
a 24 hour event. They'll walk through the night! They might not be puking
like Ken was on the 52 and 104 run, but it should be interesting! (Ken, hope
you've recovered from surgery and can make it to cheer them on. Vicki and
Lori and Dan's mom and Heather's mom and Smokey will be there, plus lots of
I just heard from Sandy (IHC Capt) that all the food was finalized day
before yesterday, and they're are planning on feeding up to 500 people.
They actually have 2 CCC crews helping the whole weekend with setup,
cleanup, cooking, etc. They ordered them 25 shirts as a thank you for
volunteering their time. For more info visit the
hotshots page on the walk
Shaping up to be a lot of fun. A community effort. Memorable, no doubt!
Be there or be square!
PS. Since we're doing all risk, here are a couple of little clips. I
think you wildlanders should watch these short video clips, just so you know
what NOT to do! (DO NOT let your kids watch these!)
flaming can of wd-40/explosion
During the Esperanza Memorial week, the following members of the "Southern
California Province Buying Team" got together and made sure all 100% of
our buying team were 52 club members.
Allen Powers has received his pin
Bonnie Harris has received her pin and decals.
Betty Hartenstine has received her pin and decals.
Beverly Espinoza has not received anything.
Chuck Gibbs has received his pin and decals
Also we would like to listed as Gold members, as the "Southern California
Province Buying Team".
Thanks for all you do !!!!!!!!!!!!
Nice job, Chuck. I'm sure Beverly will get her goodies in the mail
soon. No doubt the Foundation will put your Southern California Province
Buying Team on the
Gold List soon, too. Good company on that list. Ab.
I'd be up for any of those files too. My A/V library kind of disappeared on
me while I was gone to Iraq. I'd appreciate any video clips I could get to
help rebuilding my library for prev/education programs.
This came in from Fire Geek:
Would you please forward this video clip to Pulaski? It shows the site
prep we did before the Poppet Flats Rx burn that has some burnout footage he
may be able to use. Unfortunately, all of our pains - taking efforts to keep
everything outside the burn unit green is now black. The good news is that
it helped save the homes when Esperanza blew through!
It was to big to send so I uploaded it to wildlandfire.com. You can
HERE. It's a very big wmv file. Ab.
From Down Under:
Things running rather amok down here. I'm making a suggestion that anyone
who has maintained their IMT quals or Remote Operations (Hotshot/Jumper
perhaps) might be invited for a 14 hr flight from LAX to SYD & points
further at some time in the new year. We've apparently got some Kiwis
arriving shortly for Tasmania as well.
You've already got on your links page the CFA & RFS, but DSE page is
a news page is
So hopefully we'll get Xmas done (although missed it in 01/02) but new
year might take its toll!!
OB, Saw this one a few days ago and wondered how you all are doing
"down there"... Be safe. Ab.
Grave fears for koalas caught in bushfires
The Courier Mail, Brisbane
December 02, 2006 02:24pm
Article from: AAP
WILDLIFE rescuers fear for a large koala population in the Pilliga
Nature Reserve in central NSW where bushfires continue to rage out
The Pilliga koala colony is one of Australia's most genetically
diverse, spread across a vast tract of bushland. (etc)
Not meaning to detract from the current excellent discussions but,
Its getting to that time of year where I am doing prevention & education
programs to school kids and went through my collection of video clips and
there are several topics that I don't have anything good on. With the
multitude of cameras out there Im sure there is a lot out there that
hopefully people are willing to share.
I am looking for short 10-30 second clips focusing on the following topics:
- hand line construction,
- burning out the line,
- setting up hose lays, &
- rolling up hose.
The list could go on, but these are my needs right now. AVI, MPG and WMV
formats work best. MOV files don’t seem to want to work within powerpoint
and I cant edit them.
If you have something you are willing to share, the Abs know how to get a
hold of me.
If you want a shocking experience to stimulate your learning or healing
processes, please visit the following page and look at how many lives
the wildland fire environment has taken and changed for 2006 (Both
structural and wildland firefighters):
USFA LODD Page
RE: RE: RE: RE: Fire Finders…Dyn-optics 955
Glad I was able to get a lesson on how to properly mop-up, but I don't think
that was the question. The 955's work pretty well, we've been carrying this
"new" version, on an actual hotshot crew, for a few years and have had them
in the shop for maintenance twice. The Dyn-optic company has been very easy
to work with and make needed repairs, mostly under warranty. They are small
and fairly light-weight. They can save a lot of time in the desert and
lighter fuel types. Although they are somewhat expensive, I think they are
worth the investment. Like any tool, if you don't take care of it, it won't
work properly. Buy one and give it shot, if you like it, buy more.
Additionally, the palm "night-vision" scopes are cool and can find heat in
all sorts of neat places from a long distance, although they are quite
expensive for the higher quality units. Good luck.
JP, good post. I think I may have read some actual ideas/thoughts on how
make better/safer/smarter firefighters instead of blaming
everything/everyone for our mistakes. Thanks for helping to make a better
Waiting for snow…
Norcal F/S FF;
Thanks for the heads-up. I don't personally know these guys (FS TopGuns);
don't even know much about them, as I'm no longer with the Agency and have
no line on inside scoop. But if they'll carry the ball, let's hand it to 'em.
What I'm proposing, is that we continue looking for fresh ideas on a very
thorny subject; there are some awfully bright folks on this board, and
surely someone on this forum has contact with the Big Boys, and can pipeline
new ideas to them.
Then, if I may offer a gentle suggestion, we do indeed Pay it Forward... and
I hate to ask this favor from my friends and my community.... but it must be
said from someone.
While I know most of us pledged what we can comfortably give to the Wildland
Firefighter Foundation..... Some can give more. Some can give less based
upon circumstances. Each person gives in their own special way regardless of
A good friend once told me "it isn't charity until it hurts"....... I know
what he meant now....... We each give what we can towards keeping our
firefighters safer and better protected... a goal all of us have and pursue
in different ways.
Whether you pledge and donate personally or with a moniker.. dig deep and
continue the spirit and cause in the ways you can add... Or contribute in
other ways for firefighter safety.....
Keep Firefighters Safer
52 Mile Walk Pledge List
Some nice pledges coming in. Ab.
From JP Harris LACOFD RET.
Let me answer your questions re safety zone, escape route and how
about survival zone. This has been our approach since 1996 AFTER THE
CALABASAS ENTRAPMENT, and what I still share.
First of all, a single resource will be given an assignment of structure
protection lets say on 123 X street. COMMANDERS INTENT IS YOU will
perform a size up (I like to call it TRIAGE, just as you would on a medical
call) and only accept the assignment at 123 X Street if it is reasonably
safe to do so..
You as the person in charge drive to 123X street provided you have clear
passage. As you approach your size-up will continue until you arrive, as you
arrive INSTANT RECOGNIZE OF HAZARDS will jump out at you. (PYRO'S
VERBIAGE) There will be hazards in all structure protection assignments,
as it is automatic, many watchout situations will be there. You as the
Captain/Engine Boss/Crew Leader must TRIAGE THE STRUCTURE TO DETERMINE 2
PRIMARY FACTORS PRIOR TO ENGAGING.
IS THERE A SAFETY ZONE FOR THE APPARATUS AND FIRE FIGHTERS, IF SO THEN YOU
MUST MAKE A FIRE BEHAVIOR PREDICTION. Now after making the FB prediction
under anticipated predictable changes in time and weather etc. you commit.
(I'm only scratching the surface here.)
You and your crew, by your determination (utilizing group decision is
recommended, depending on several factors) have a SAFETY ZONE AT THE
APPARATUS LOCATION. Now find a second Safety Zone, GENERALLY on the opposite
side of structure of the approaching fire. MY VIEW IS TO MAKE ENTRY INTO
STRUCTURE ONCE YOU COMMIT TO THAT STRUCTURE.
OK, now to answer your question. The Fire is approaching, do not waste your
water, wildland fires GENERALLY DON'T BURN HOMES DOWN BY DIRECT FLAME
IMPINGEMENT, But ignite STUFF we have on and around the structure.
But now lets say things go to CRAP such as
- The fire comes harder than you predicted
- Visibility goes to zero, large fire embers are flying so thick it
looks like snow.
- Smoke obscures the fire location
- Fire Whirls developed at your location that are pulling sage out of
- Wind has intensified greater than predicted, dust obscures your
IF AT ANY TIME THERE IS DOUBT IN YOUR MIND, TAKE YOUR CREW TO THE
OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE STRUCTURE AWAY FROM THE APPROACHING FIRE .. NOW IT GETS
WORSE! ENTER THE SURVIVAL ZONE INSIDE THE STRUCTURE....CREW
INTEGRITY IS MOST IMPORTANT, BE PROACTIVE don't wait until the crap happens;
go to the safest area at the first indication you under-estimated or
some-other factor was unexpectedly introduced to the equation.
THE PRIMARY HEAT WAVE WILL GO OVER IN 2 MINUTES, IT TAKES 20 TO 45 MINUTES
TO BURN A STRUCTURE DOWN.
The fire will pass rapidly; exit the Safety Zone or Survival zone and do the
best you can...
I hope I have answered your question, yes GO INTO THE STRUCTURE TO SURVIVE.
IS THE STRUCTURE TO BE CONSIDERED AS A SAFETY ZONE? NO! UNDER NO
If you don't have two safety zones at the structure DON'T COMMIT.
Your question regarding the Malibu area, is no different than any other wind
driven fire. Start at the point of origin pinch it and you will catch it
when the wind quits blowing or it runs out of fuel... Protect structures
where the resident and/or surroundings have provided a safety zone for our
apparatus and folks... AMEN!
Thanks for the question, there was a post about a month ago asking the same
Firefighter Hector "Sandy" McClune died on Sunday, November 26, 2006
while protecting his community from a grass fire.
Here is an interesting read for anyone commenting about the WUI problems.
Loosing Ground: How Taxpayer Subsidies and Balkanized Governance Prop Up
Home Building in Wildfire and Flood Zones
and another. It talks about such things as mitigation vs.
litigation and how the earliest Native Americans of California knew how to
build fire safe communities (fire resistive houses and not building in fire
www-laep.ced.berkeley.edu/~itr/literature/IZone2001.pdf (pdf file)
I guess I must be thick headed. Let me see if I have this right, someone
builds a house in a non defensible setting, have not met the recommended
clearances etc., but because we are heroic wildland firefighters, we are
going to risk our lives trying to protect it. There is something wrong with
that picture. What ever happened to turning down an assignment because it is
not safe. Forgive me, but I am not following anyone, I don't care who they
are in defending an indefensible structure. That is ludicrous!
Thanks for everything you do!!!
Quick Thoughts -
When I first got interested in disaster management, not knowing I was at the
time, here's why:
* In the town I grew up in, we had two 100-year floods and a 500-year flood
three years in a row. Kind of beat the odds, there - nature's comment
perhaps that we don't know all there is to know about flood plains (plus,
any development, flood activity, and Army Corps activity impacts the flood
plain...). Anyway, the houses that were flooded out were eligible for FEMA
money ONCE, and they could take the money and go live elsewhere, or take the
money and stay in the flood plain but never expect to get FEMA money again.
Based on my experiences with FEMA, I hate to hold the agency up as a model,
but there is something to this flood plain mapping and hazard mitigation
program stuff. HAZUS (a sort of software program) and related mitigation
programs are all about helping communities mitigate disasters. I think some
of this is legislated, and certainly is similar to the extensive WUI mapping
work the wildland agencies have been working on for years. It seems to me
that there is potential for change and improvement in here somewhere... (FMAGs,
* Of course, the public, myself included, is hesitant as we all know to take
preventive and mitigative (is that a word?) measures. I myself, upon moving
to a sketchy neighborhood, did not bother getting a $20 club to secure my
car. A friend asked if I had one, and I replied, "No, but I have
comprehensive insurance." The truth is I hadn't had time to buy a club or
find a store that sold them. Both were wrong answers: my car was stolen two
weeks later, and after a month of dealing with rental cars and driving all
over tarnation picking up my recovered vehicle, getting it fixed, finding
more problems later, and having lost a bunch of stuff from inside it, the
$20 investment in a club would have been well worth it.
* That being said, I never purposely live in a flood plain or a WUI fire
zone, except in government housing (where I've lived in both at the same
time and also been vulnerable to the hazards of bears, snakes, mice,
spiders, and seasonal employees).
* Furthermore, I've rented countless basement apartments because they were
cheap, and time and time again dealt with water and creepy-crawlies. Hard
lesson to learn over and over, even for someone supposedly enlightened to
"hazard mitigation". Duh.
I don't think the answer to the WUI lies in going after insurance companies.
I did like the line in one of the articles referred to here that said, in
essence, the federal government is spending a whole lot of money (and risk,
I'd add) to protect communities where they had no say in the local zoning
laws that help create the hazard.
Thanks again, Ab!
Watch out about getting too close to the
headwaters. Pretty remote country. Ab.
For John JP Harris,
The only fire fatality I know of down San Diego way
that involved structure protection was Steve Rucker
during the Cedar Fire. The three surviving members of
Novato E6162 used the structure as their final escape
route. This escape route was successful for them.
Although this was not a true WUI incident (because
the structure was singular in setting), I am wondering
if LACO considers the structure as an escape route
from the get go. I am not longer out there, but if I
was, I would make that a part of my operation. That is,
have the fire axe at the door, and ready.
I suppose people who build in these areas should be
told to expect just that. I hate laws...nah.. just do
what you have to do, but protect members of the fire
crew from later door damage claims... Yes?
P.S. Sounds like you have been into Malibu Canyon a
few times during your career?
The question of whether insurance companies have been held financially
responsible for suppression costs is a good one. I will say however that
some insurance companies have REFUSED to insure new construction or owners
buying an older house in high fire hazard areas This is the case in some
areas of So Cal because of the bug kill and increased fire loss the past few
years. I believe they are trying (a relative term) to educate owners and
discourage new policies because of the risk.
For fear of being called a socialist or something, we already tell people
what they can and can not do on their land.
Set backs, zoning, building codes, 24 foot high foundations after Katrina
(thanks Pyro, didn’t know that one), open space requirements etc., all limit
private property rights. The “let them die if they want because they have
the right” perspective was workable in frontier days, but in our
increasingly complex society it just isn’t an option anymore. That
realization likely played a part in passage of the motorcycle helmet law.
Yeah, you can ride around without a helmet, but you’d better post a $5
million bond to cover the medical expenses for the injuries you can’t pay
for instead of the rest of us covering it through taxes and higher insurance
premiums. So wear a helmet. Closer to the discussion here, although I am
willing to help the Katrina victims, I’m not willing to allow the same thing
to happen again on my tax dollar. Restrict those private property rights on
the Delta enough to protect the rest of us. Use the money saved to implement
the simple solutions Casey offered.
The private property issue really needs to be framed in different words that
reflect the world we live in today; you can do what you want on your
property as long as it doesn’t negatively impact your neighbors or the
society in which you live. Stupid homes built in stupid places in stupid
ways are killing our friends. And please understand I’m not saying that
anyone who thinks we can’t limit private property issues doesn’t care about
saving firefighters. I’m saying that all options really need to be on the
table if we want to successfully solve this issue. What we are doing now and
the attitudes we have now are not working.
Hurrah! Well said. You saved me lots of words and effort when you wrote
your post. I deeply believe that we cannot tell someone in America where
they can or cannot build on private land. Nor should we be risking lives
to defend where they do choose to build. As in floodplains, if someone
wants to build where they should not, they have to take full responsibility
and realize that the heroes will not be coming to their rescue when things
go belly up. As for insurance companies, they are idiots to provide full
fire insurance on places that cannot be defended. When we start to say
"no" to defending these traps and when insurance starts to say "no" to
providing coverage for them, perhaps people will start to "get it". For
those hopeless ones who don't care whether they have insurance or whether
they will be defended, then let them live how they want and die how they
want. Some actually do make a fully informed choice because it's worth it
to them, and that should be their right to do so in a free country.
However, they do need to understand that they are taking full
responsibility and will not be helped.
Is anyone aware of whether insurance companies have ever been charged or
asked to pay the cost of defending a structure during a wildland fire?
Perhaps if they did they would be more leery of where their clients' houses
are located before they insure them.
Abs, and others;
After re-reading the past few days' posts, I'm thinking that several of us
are on some part of the same page; however, several of you guys are a whole
lot more articulate than I.
So, in an attempt to clarify my thinking, here goes: As a baby engine capt.
in South Zone, (wearing aluminum Bullards), I adopted and used JP Harris'
criteria for selecting a job site, whenever I was given that option,
depending largely on who our STL, DIVS, etc. was at the time. It always
worked well for me, at the time, and in that country.
Now I find myself in North-central Nevada. As most of you know, the large
majority of the homes in this area range from Intermix to Very Remote,
(thanks for the reminder, Higbee), and rarely have adequate clearance (let
alone resistant landscaping) for the home itself, and little to none for
outbuildings or parking. Traveling back to the Old Country to visit, I find
the exact opposite appearance. More and more homes jammed into less space on
the fringes of town, backed up against unreal fuel/topography arrangements.
Different appearance, same net result: no room for FF's to maneuver: greater
risk to FF's: more lost homes.
To my simple mind, it seems we need to prepare ourselves better mentally,
decreasing effects of (common) human factors; working toward instant
recognition of hazards, contingency plans for each crew/engine, and so
At the same time, something has to begin happening with the homes
themselves, to re-educate the residents/homeowners that they have a greater
responsibility to the community than just their own interests. (Whether that
occurs through insurance, the media, building codes, clearance enforcement,
or a combination, I don't care; as long as it begins working).
Until BOTH changes take place, we're still just doing a running attack on
the heel of a 100,000 acre problem; useful, but not going to catch the head.
Regarding our (the WLF community's) ability to effect a useful change in the
Interface; JP, you have been one of my FireGods since, well... an awful long
time. But I must respectfully disagree. I left the GreenMachine in 1981,
when my second son was born, and I simply could not feed or house the family
on the wages they paid. That campaign has been ongoing; not in the bag yet,
but they're closer than ever to an accurate job classification and liveable
wage. As a result of Katrina, homes being rebuilt in southern Louisiana must
have a foundation 2 feet higher than the MSL before receiving a building
permit. In Plaquemines Parish, this means some of the homes farthest down
the Delta must have a 24 FOOT high foundation. That change was driven by the
The current situation (housing trends vs. mental preparation) is
unaccaptable. Major changes CAN occur. We just need to figure out What, and
How, and not quit until we're there.
Casey made an excellent point, albeit on another subject. Often, the answer
is quite simple.
Lobotomy, I'm trying to look a little farther north on the snake...
Retired in Corral Canyon and Chief Harris,
You guys are both right regarding Calabasas. Can we leave it at that??
I was the FBAN on the investigation team immediately post-incident on the
Calabasas Fire. All of my work ended up being "Campbellized" shortly
thereafter by Doug. Doug did a great job and now we are good friends and in
full agreement on the sequence of events.
Again, you guys are both right. The GFD engines were trying to escape from a
really bad situation and there was nothing there that remotely resembled a
safety zone for the apparatus or firefighters. Chief, I greatly admire the
efforts you made subsequent to that incident to bring the safety issues with
firefighting in the WUI to the forefront of training for LACOFD.
Moving on to the "legal beagle" issues:
I have known from the beginning of my career in wildland fire (about 38
years ago) that contentious issues will always end up in a court of law
(litigation) sooner or later. Several recent contributors have indicated
that they believe that is where we are now headed regarding Esperanza and I
certainly have to agree. My admonition, however, is that we all need to be
very careful of what we wish for here. Having been a subject-matter-expert
for both sides of contentious issues, I can say that the courts tend to
issue edicts that may not be very well founded in expertise and may later
become very difficult to live with for those charged with implementation.
After South Canyon there was pretty much universal agreement that
catastrophic failures similar to that one, and that includes Esperanza in my
opinion, can be traced back to failures in fire response planning. I would
further submit that these failures in planning are also the result of
failures of both legislation and policy implementation. I will end with a
couple of questions:
- Do we really want the courts to be dictating policy and
implementation regarding firefighter and public safety or are we smarter
- Why can't we finally get our planning processes to where firefighter
and public safety really is the number one priority?
I know what my answers are.
Re "Fire Finders":
If mop up and cold trailing is done properly, the back
of your hand is all you need. The last thing we need to do is pack around
more stuff. 99.9% of the time if the mop up was done correctly, you would
never need to use a "Fire Finder". In my experience the best tools we have
are what god gave us, hands, eyes, and nose. You can feel the ground with
the back of the hand; see little waves of heat, see a group of gnats flying
around; or get a small whiff of what still might still be burning.
The "Fire Finders" are more or less useless after awhile. I have never found
that it takes the use and abuse of ridding in the buggies, or Supt truck for
a season of two. Whenever we could have used it, it was usually back in the
buggies -- a ways from the location needed, and/or forgotten about. Once or
twice it has been nice to use after burning piles, but it usually got
dropped and broken; someone pointed it at the sun and fried it; or it just
does not work for some unknown reason.
A "Fire Finders" should only be used after we have completed our job, and
are just re-rechecking to see if there is any heat. If if there is still
heat I want to know who was working in this area, and why they did not get
it done right the first time (some potato patching of the area might
follow). All of the new or fairly new tools are nice, but if you just stick
to the basics, and do the job right the first time, we would not need them.
With exception to the GPS, Radios, headlamps, and the Kestral; most
firefighting is still done the old fashion of way of putting the hand tool
to the ground, burning out, or spraying wet stuff on the red stuff, and
let's not forget that.
This post is to address some discussions that were held both on theysaid and
behind the scenes...
There has been some discussion regarding the imagery that was used when fire
geek put together a fly through on the Esperanza Fire fatality site. The
imagery that was used was from ArcGlobe was stated as dated February 2006. I
looked at AirPhotoUSA which was taken during January 2006. It was used due
to the fact it was the most recent imagery, available, and what the fire was
FYI- I am not a remote sensing specialist, I do NOT work for ESRI, I do not
work for AirPhotoUSA, I was not a part of the fire, and I'm doing this
because folks expressed concerns related to safety and our fallen
firefighters and one happened to point the concerns directly at me
The concern that has been expressed is that when looking at the imagery it
appears to show a large buildup of fuels near the house. It has been stated
by folks who know the area that there was not a large buildup of fuels and
the imagery may be flawed. A concern has been expressed that some office
flunky will see the imagery and pass judgment on the decisions made in the
field without ever setting foot in the field.
Reliable sources have stated the following:
- the 2005-2006 rain season was record setting (thus lots of green)
- the sun is lower in the sky in January compared to September (thus
- the shadows can create illusions such as elevated structures (or
trees) appearing taller
- AirPhotoUSA "enhances the radiometric quality of the image by
increasing the contrast"
- AirPhotoUSA standard practice is NOT to remove or enhance shadows
- AirPhotoUSA makes a concerted effort to collect imagery at times of
minimal shadow length (13:28 for time image used here)
I have seen some comparisons AirPhotoUSA did of aerial imagery vs aerial
imagery but me being me- thought I'd do my own. I used 2 sources of data
from the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS- USDA) from Fall 2005
and the January 2006 AirPhotoUSA data- both 1 foot resolution and
georeferenced. I did some quick shots from Google Earth but I am not certain
of the date of the imagery for that.
Also- if the imagery was made ANY sort of transparent, the hillshade/digital
elevation model could have affected the darkness of the image. I do not know
if the imagery was made transparent or not (sorry FireGeek- forgot to ask)
but depending on the color ramp used (light grey to dark grey vs white to
black) and what stretch pattern is used (std deviation with n=2 (the
default) or none) the imagery could be greatly affected.
FYI- everything I have ever heard for VEGETATION imagery has said spring or
fall are the ideal times for imagery acquisitions. Also, when mapping
vegetation I tend to prefer imagery done by folks who are focused on it-
such as the government.
So my unscientific conclusions are the following:
- The imagery from AirPhotoUSA is not ideal for determining vegetation
- The shadows in the imagery or hillshade may be making the vegetation
seem denser than it truly was
- The fly-though that was intended for showing firefighters the
terrain and location of the structures should NOT be used in any sort of
Gizmo and No Name- if you have any additional questions let me know.
At your service,
Thanks so much GISgirl for your help way beyond the call of duty in
everything you do for this community, including the maps for the 52 ultra
walk benefit. A zip file (3,726 k) including all the aerial photos GISgirl
used in making her analysis can be downloaded:
John JP Harris
While I agree with most of what you said in your post, I do not agree
with your post concerning the Calabasas Entrapment. I have direct knowledge
of the incident. Personnel placed themselves in a precarious situation on a
ridge and were forewarned of the impending danger. They failed to recognize
the potential fuels on both sides of the ridge where they had positioned
themselves and only left their position when they were overrun, which
unfortunately was too late. I would hardly call what they were doing
Structure Protection. As for the engines that were overrun, they were
crossing a midslope road with fire below them as they were forced stop when
a civilian vehicle was abandoned. Some personnel were not wearing proper
PPE's. Per Campbell Prediction system, the issue was alignment of slope,
fuel, aspect, and time of day (15:00 pm). Not a structure protection
Thanks to L.A. Co. F.D., every officer in So. California was offered
training on the incident. Fortunately the lessons learned had a significant
impact on firefighting in the WUI. Also, thanks to you for your enormous
contribution and years of service. You were an icon.
Retired in Corral Cyn.
There has been good discussion on Wildland Urban Interface this week and
how some of us feel about it.
I'd like to address AZfirefighter for a moment about the fire gel. You
absolutely right about Barricade Gel being used as a
"Spray-it-on-and-Leave" method of Structure Protection. I met John
Bartlett, the developer, back in the late 1990s when he first marketed it.
It met with little interest until 1998 when Florida started burning, and he
went out with his own equipment and sprayed it on a number of homes,
including a doghouse with a tempermental dog in it. All the homes came out
intact, including the dog and the doghouse.
In 2000 the community of Concow-Yankee Hill (Butte County, Northern
California) had a Fire Prevention fair and the Barricade Gel was
demonstrated but no one attending would purchase the home defense kit for
the cost of $300.00. A few months later the Concow Fire went through over
1000 acres destroying 47 homes and outbuildings, and killed one person. In
2001 the same Fire Prevention Fair was offered with the Barricade
representative giving his demonstration, which included him dipping his
bare hand with the gel and moving it through open flame, with his hand
unharmed. Again, no one purchased the home protection kit.
Two months later the same community had two more major fires, just weeks
apart, destroying more than a hundred homes and buildings. When I asked a
person who lost his home why he didn't buy one, he said he could not afford
it. I have to ask, what is more cost effective, a gel home protection kit
or trying to replace photos, documents, and property that insurance won't
cover? Insurance paid for some of the house, but not for the property
inside it. Can you place a value on what you've earned over time?
The saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him
On the issue of Wildland Urban Interface, there has been some good
discussion of the positives and negatives of it. Having worked for the
Forest Service in Region 5 for several seasons I know the resistance there
is to structure protection, but it is one of the tasks we all have to do
when given the assignment. We all know that there are risks to wildland
firefighting, and even when we follow our training and rules things happen
that cause injury and death. It is part of of the risk we agree to when we
accepted this career, either as a wildland firefighter or structure
I work as a career structure firefighter now, but also serve as a
firefighter, and have been doing this now for 24 years. When I take a crew
out on a WUI assignment, I keep it basic with LCES, have a ready escape
plan, and decide if the property I am going to protect is Defendable, Can
Stand Alone, or is a LOSER. And in that assessment comes this decision: Is
this structure worth the loss of a $350,000 fire engine, or lives of four
firefighters? Unless I have a clear means of egress or adequate refuge
space, its a loser.
We can't tell people where they can, and cannot build. Our urban areas of
open land are dwindling, more and more people are building in the rural
areas because of the excessive costs of homes (here in California) and to
be able to own a home means moving farther and farther away from the work
location. I can't afford $400,000 to $650,000 for a home in the urban areas
of California, and many of you firefighters in California know what I am
talking about. I have a 70-90 minute commute to work each day to live as
close as I can in an affordable community. The Civil Right to do what you
want is the freedom we have in this country and it should not be
restricted, and banning the construction of homes outside of urban areas
treads on those rights. Do you want someone to tell you "You can't drive a
4WD truck or sports car because it burns too much fuel", or "You can't own
a home because there is no space left in the city", or "You can't have
children because WE SAY YOU CAN'T".
There is inherent risk in our jobs that we all accept. Last Friday in San
Diego County a CDF Chief had to weigh the risks of an aggressive attack on a
wildland fire versus the fire leaving an area that would have greatly
expanded the fire and the likelihood of property damage and injury. When I
go into a structure fire I go to save lives, protect property, and protect
the environment. There is a chance that I could be trapped by a collapse,
or a flashover, or fall through a floor while doing my job. But that does
not mean I plan to run into a fully-involved building or a structure that
is about to collapse. That would be a foolish waste of my life.
But there are things I am expected to as a firefighter to do my job. I
the right to refuse an assignment if it is too risky, or unattainable, or
if I don't have the skills to do it. My job as a firefighter has risk
involved, and I as a firefighter have chosen to accept those risks as part
of my job. Just as many of you have who visit this website.
I feel the loss of the crew of San Bernardino NF Engine 57 this last
summer. But reactions of "We don't do structure protection" will not sit
well with the taxpayers, something like "We have decided not to fight any
fires on Tuesdays". We are given assignments on the line, we perform those
assignments to the best of our abilities, there are risks to what we do,
and consequences if we screw up, and if we don't and nature throws us
I'll be the first to say "if the homeowner took little or no effort to
his property cleared or provide for defensible space, then I'm not risking
my engine or crew to defend it". I'll stand up to the homeowner and say
that to his face. I will risk my crew and equipment if there is a family
trapped in that same home and they can't get out, or if I can't get them
out. That is my job.
As to the issue of adequate funding of Wildland Fire Suppression with the
feds, there was a time when a single USFS ranger district had four engines,
a helicopter, a 10-man IA crew and a water tender. Today that same district
has been combined with another district and only has three engines to cover
twice the territory with a single helicopter for the whole forest and a Hot
Shot crew for the whole forest. Where has the money gone? Contractors used
to be call-when-needed, not been granted 40-hour work weeks for standby or
contract fire tasks like these outfits that exist now. We need to go back
to those days when a contractor was called when 50% or more of federal,
state, and local government resources were committed. Our FMO personnel did
Fire-Pro projects, not "today you will put a hidden water reservoir in a
remote location to improve the deer population, and tomorrow you will build
a fence for the bio-techs who are too lazy to do the work themselves".
Now it's "we have to service the contractor before the FMO personnel".
needs to stop. We take care of our own programs before we start dumping
money into a private company just so they can "stand-by" for the entire
season until they are called. How many more federal engines and crews can
be added by cutting off funding to resources that are on 'standby'. The
contractors will complain that I am being unfair and that they have to pay
for insurance and vehicle maintenance for their equipment and personnel.
That is the cost of doing business. That is what a towtruck company does, a
bookstore, a mini-mart, or other small business does everyday. But the
government does not guarantee them payment to stay in business. That is
what being a private contractor is about.
There is no doubt what we do is expensive. There are means to reduce the
cost of these resources and still pay our firefighters a good wage,
benefits, and retirement. That means consolidation of federal resources, we
all do the same thing the same way. We tell the state and local resources
what it costs, not $600.00 per firefighter per day. We pay the contractor
for responding to the fire, when they are needed, and not until then. CWN
worked fine in the 1980s.
This is an open forum, and these are my opinions.
We should be looking to three people for leadership... UnderSecretary Mark
Rey, Chief Bosworth, and Chief Harbour... They are now on the spotlight to
step up or step down... my personal and biased opinion and beliefs. One or
two of those three can step up and make changes now for future firefighter
safety that will be remembered by all of us in the future.
Pyro 5755, You said, "Thanks for the excellent analogies. My question,
however, is more about who do we look to for leadership on this issue (
improving WUI firefighter safety while improving safety of homes in the
interface zone )."
Both Dale Bosworth and Tom Harbour did some pretty cool stuff behind the
scenes to support the folks connected with the E-57 accident... how cool. It
takes a network and a history of actions to make things better.... It also
takes the same actions to make things better in the future for all of us...
Now, they have to raise the bar as all of us that have been challenged....
or as one hotshot said it a few years ago... PAY IT FORWARD..... and let it
NorCal FS F/F
Nate, regarding your question..
Ask the current hotshots and those former
Hotshots who are still around....
From what I have heard, the "Fire Finders" are as worthless as a tit
on <something> ass.... Good tool but they fail after a short period of
around in the buggies... and then just buzz alot.
Sign Me / Former Hotshot who still has roots to his Hotshot Roots
"The insurance company was the entity that allowed the house to be
built and was culpable in the act and/or omissions of the homeowner that
resulted in deaths"
Long before a company insures a structure (based on an agent's
assessment) or a lending institution finances construction anticipating "it
meets code", both are long after a Gov't entity authorized development in
that specific location.
Fire or flood, people expect emergency personnel to save their bacon or
blame others when their home is gone because of a natural disaster. Less
than adequate preparedness and/or defensible space won't mean squat until
folks in ivory towers understand potential ramifications: i.e. a home at the
top of a chimney, eventually a fire will run uphill OR a house at the bottom
of a drainage, expect flood & mud. Over simplification?
My elderly pea brain may have missed the finer points of some posts, but
isn't it time everyone acknowledges and accepts a degree of personal
responsibility? Aren't the first words in most mission statements: PROTECT
LIFE and property second or third?
I have the firefinders and think that they are an exceptional tool,
I've used them on mop up and they are a definite help in making
easier. Sometimes there is no smoke just heat (stump
holes). I've been able
to pick up a flame from a bic lighter at
15-20 feet depending on conditions.
Last ones we bought were
about 700.00 a unit I think they are worth every
Specifically to California, you referenced the "LAW OF FAIR PLAN INSURANCE".
There is no such specific law, but a conglomeration of laws, rules, and
regulations that are administered by elected officials and regulatory
agencies.... and the California Insurance Commissioner. There are not "un-touchables"
even thought they would like to think they are.
Many of us had our marching orders to raise the bar after Esperanza.... You,
as a retired firefighter also need to raise the bar and think about the
eventual end product that is desired.... Firefighter Safety.
JP, you also said "Many of the posts have discussed the issue of not
allowing property owners to build on their property, guys and gals you can
waste all your time in the world on this one and it ISN'T GONE-HAPPEN."
JP, focus your attention at the neck of the snake and not at the tail my
friend.... we all need to raise the bar and do and think about things in
ways we have never done before.
There are ways we can minimize the risks without firefighters taking the
burden of the risk.
As people start discussing the WUI, I thought I would add how the definition
has "grown" over the years and changed meaning.
Last I remember, the WUI is described as classic interface (San Bernardino
and LA Front Country), intermix (Esperanza Fire Example), and occluded
(Remote Cabins in the Middle of NoWhere). Lots of times the term WUI is
used, but maybe it would clarify things if these terms were also added when
people discuss their ideas?
Should the state and federal government encourage Californians to build
houses in high-risk brush-fire zones? The brain says "no," but the policy
In the riot-scarred year of 1968, Congress passed the Housing and Urban
Development Act, which allowed states to obtain federal reinsurance money if
they established property insurance pools of last resort to make homeowner
and business policies available to those who lived and worked in areas the
insurance companies considered to be too "high risk." The idea, which sounds
eminently reasonable, was to make up for the "market failure" of insurers
fleeing the smoldering inner cities, thereby allowing working-class
residents to obtain affordable property insurance in the ghetto.
These property insurance pools have come to be known as "FAIR" programs,
short for "Fair Access to Insurance Requirements, and more than 30 states
have created them. FAIR plans generally operate like this: Insurers who do
business in a given state are ordered to participate in a one-size-fits-all
policy of last resort, usually contributing the same financial support as
the company has market share in the state. The rates are generally approved
by the state's insurance commissioner, and the policies are backed by the
assets of all the insurance companies combined.
Not a Legal Beagle but
looking for my bark
Rather than spending a lot of money on fancy gear, just wait till it
gets dark and having strategically placed tankers and engines for a running
hose lay, use the eyeball to find the fire and p*** on it.
In all sincerity, if you looking for hot spots in the wildland, ask the
company for a loaner for a while. If they are reputable they will do so. If
you are using it for anything else stay away. The website indicates they are
qualified to Mil-Spec which sounds like the military uses them. This in no
way says they meet UL or FM approval for Classified areas. Military
Specifications are notorious for less than UL & FM standards. I deal with
that daily in my real job. If you even think you might need to use one in a
"classified" area demand UL, FM or equivalent approval, not Mil.
You said, "Having been around the wildland fire world for quite a few years
and having had the discussion about the WUI over time, I agree the insurance
industry needs to be the enforcer, but I fear that is an unrealistic dream.
To the insurance world houses lost to wildland fire are not a blip on the
radar screen, things like hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes cost the
insurance companies more per year than homes lost to wildfire."
You are partially correct... in terms of payout for insurance losses, most
of the time hurricanes are the top costs for the insurance companies in the
US.... This year, the hurricane season was a flop and the insurance industry
got rich. In 2003, the wildland fire season was extraordinary in the loss of
structures throughout the west, and the insurance industy made less profits,
but still had very significant profits.
As said before, the insurance industry balances a profit vs. risk scenario
when they set rates for homes they insure. Firefighters balance a risk of
coming home or not. Somehow, these risk vs. gain scenarios need to be joined
at the hip.
In terms of the WUI and keeping firefighters safer (what I am focusing on),
what is needed is a civil liability lawsuit with actual and punitive damages
awarded to jump start the insurance industry and get them to focus on
community and firefighter safety, rather than profit. This lawsuit would not
be about the loss of the structure, but the culpability in the structure
being built in a hazardous location for both the homeowner and firefighters
who would be protecting it. Five firefighters died protecting a structure in
an area where a home should have never been built due to known hazards...
The ones responsible... the insurance company and the local elected and
regulatory agencies who allowed the act of building the structure in a place
that the homeowner wanted to build for a view.... San Gorgonio View.
An insurance company has never been hit with punitive damages for their
decisions that ultimately lead to firefighter deaths... This needs to be
looked at seriously by everyone.
As I said before, all it would take is one good precedent case to change
firefighter safety for a long time.... Maybe we could get some of the
elected officials and regulatory agencies to become turncoats and sell out
the insurance industry for the first time since they will also be getting
pressure assigned to them for their culpability?... I know it is only a
dream... but this dream is going to bring lots of pressure, and hopefully,
eventual change for the betterment of firefighter safety.
Does anyone have any experience with the “Fire Finder” handheld IR
device (specifically on mop-up)? (www.dyn-optics.com/mod955.htm)
I know they were used on the So. Cal. Forests years ago and in my
experience, they were a great tool for finding hot spots. If you have an
opinion, please let me know, I am trying to justify the purchase of several
of them. Thanks
My 2 cents worth on FireFighters and Structure Protection
retired from Los Angeles County Fire after 38 years, served about 1/2 my
career in crew operations, crew supervisor and Camp Supt at Paid, Inmate and
Juvenile crews, last 6 years as BC in Saugus/Newhall/Altedena areas.
Served on Glen Alen Fatal Investigation,, Lead Investigator on Calabasas
Incident, Marple, assisted LA City on two investigations. Guest Speaker at
two Hot Shot Supt conf and been teaching (sharing) wildland fire safety
since 1972. and I still am allowed to share with all our new recruits for 5
hours and teach several ics classes at Camp 2 LACOFD
I have several statements to make that I am sure will create many comments.
First of all there have been several comments that FIRE FIGHTERS ARE DYING
ALL OVER THE USA DOING STRUCTURE PROTECTION IN THE INTERFACE??
I have reviewed many record but mostly LACOFD. Since 1919 there have been 83
Firefighter Fatalities on wildland fires in LOS ANGELES COUNTY, including
the ANF, all MUNICIPAL CITY AND UNINCORPORATED AREA. Not one of these 83 was
performing in the STRUCTURE PROTECTION Mode. I am sure most of you will
agree that the term interface firefighting was coined here in LA COUNTY.
So I would appreciate some feed back of actual Structure Protection
Fatalities. I'm not claiming they are not out there I just don't know of
any. Excepting of course the recent tragic loss of life of our FOREST
After the CALABASAS INCIDENT 1996 (Malibu area), 3 GLENDALE FIRE FIGHTERS
AND 3 LA CITY FIRE FIGHTERS WERE BURNED, one Glendale FF critically burned,
In fact Ted Putnam report on clothing was no other FF has taken so much heat
and survived...( double Layer clothing but let's not go there, this isn't
what this post is about.) The 3 Glendale FF were performing S.P. and the
LAFD members were on there way when they were burned.
Since the CALABASAS INCIDENT the LOS ANGELES COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT
ESTABLISHED A NEW POLICY ON INTERFACE FIRE FIGHTING THAT HAS BEEN TAUGHT TO
ALL INCLUDING ALL NEW RECRUITS.
WE WON'T COMMIT TO A STRUCTURE UNLESS THERE IS A SAFETY ZONE FOR THE
APPARATUS AND firefighters utilizing LCES AS OUR RULES OF ENGAGEMENT.
Why APPARATUS ahead of FireFighters is simple: it takes a much larger area
for a safety zone for the apparatus than it does for a FF. In addition once
we have made the decision to commit to a structure that has a safety zone
for the apparatus and FF's, we won't leave the safety zone at the structure
until the fire passes or until we are reassigned by the our boss. CUT AND
RUN IS NOT ALLOWED. Hit and move i.e. rolling hills, scattered dwelling is
ok providing several issues are available, i.e. visibility.
Now the hard part: what constitutes a SAFETY ZONE FOR THE APPARATUS? At MARK
L's encouragement Dr. Butler at the Missoula Lab studied and recommended a
formula for SAFETY ZONES. i.e. 4 times the flame length; I am opposed to
formulas, due to the many variables in making a FIRE PREDICTION, such as
slope, fuel bed and MOST IMPORTANT TERRAIN -- where does the structure lay
in relation to the on coming fire. If the structure is MIDSLOPE ( I define
midslope as any area where the slope is still rising beyond your location,
even if it is just one foot rise, then you are at a midslope location.) and
the "fire on fire" effect will invalidate the formula 4 times the flame
length, and of course the weather patterns also play an important role.
Since Calabasas Burnover I have been struggling with the issue of how do you
teach what constitutes a safety zone for the apparatus. The only way I have
found is by performing field trips and utilizing existing structures for
props. This has been very effective teaching tool and according to those
attending very beneficial. As an instructor the only way I will do an
Interface class is with field trips as part of the class. I have not come up
with a way to share in a wider fashion.
RUMORS: Rumors create problems for investigations and the reports
that follow. Every person that's on a serious or fatal mishap will tell
their own story or their view on what happened, then their story gets retold
and added to, soon someone's opinion becomes an irrefutable tale. On the
Glen Alen and Calabasas Incident there are stories out there that many will
swear to but in fact are not true. So I would ask all to hold all comments
on the Esperanza Incident until the reports are out and if they are done
correctly, they will deal in FACTS.
Have you ever thought that the FIRE ORDERS AND WATCHOUTS were NOT DESIGNED
FOR STRUCTURE PROTECTION? Probably the Watchouts are closer aligned to
Structure Protection. I am not saying we don't utilize the FO but in reality
they were designed for on-line use or direct-fire fighting. Yet these are
the Rules we will be held accountable to if we have the misfortune to have a
member of our crew injured. And as has been written before on THEY SAID how
unfair, i.e. base all actions on current and expect fire behavior. Post
lookouts, use scouts. -- hard to do if haven't been there before, or are on
a 3 person crew, but if you are working out of a SAFETY ZONE we lessen all
Many of the posts have discussed the issue of not allowing property owners
to build on their property, guys and gals you can waste all your time in the
world on this one and it ISN'T GONE-HAPPEN. Nor is insurance or lack of it
going to happen in California due to the LAW OF FAIR PLAN INSURANCE which
requires some good clearance requirements.
For municipal Fire Departments, one of our best tools is enforcing our
existing clearance laws... i.e. 100 to 200 feet for most of us.
A difference in agency handling of serious incidents, and not to pat LACOFD
on the back, But our Fire Chief on the second day of the Glen Alen Incident
1993 (2 fatal, 2 critically burned FF) called our lead investigator and said
to inform the Crew Supervisor that LACOFD considered the supervisor to be
performing within the scope of his employment. Meaning the Department would
back him against any action from any source OSHA, PERSONAL LAWSUITS, so when
we interviewed the crew supervisor with tape recorder going he barred his
soul and every thought he had, and Human factors were exposed.
How can management discipline (HURT) a supervisor more than he or she is
already HURTING after injuring one of our own?
I hope the Federal agencies can reverse the horrible road they are going
down in this regard, and I sure hope State agencies don't follow such a
These thoughts of mine are meant to help and not hurt, and I have touched on
several issues but they have been on my mind for some time so I wanted to
expose a little different view.
Also my wife usually fixes my writings so all you who are looking for
misspelled words and sentence structure consider the source just a grunt.
John JP Harris
LACOFD 1963 --2001
Welcome JP Harris. Thanks for joining us. I have a request for
clarification if needed: Could you please reference where on theysaid you
get information that causes you to make this statement below?
First of all there have been several comments that FIRE FIGHTERS ARE
DYING ALL OVER THE USA DOING STRUCTURE PROTECTION IN THE INTERFACE??
I would say that firefighters here have expressed concern about
defending indefensible structures on the interface and we at theysaid
believe this is an important issue to discuss. In no post have I seen any
comment that supports your statement in caps above, an I read 'em all.
That said, I do understand that you want to clarify and emphasize that
very few firefighters, historically, have been lost or injured as they
defend structures on the interface. Valid point. Thanks for writing in.
We need all experienced voices contributing on the interface issues. Ab.
Ab update: JP pointed out the post in a private message. He's right,
it was said. The deaths of the 5 loom large in our minds.
calculated risk A.I.A. What we do!
Your discussion about the Open Incident was most interesting. Yes, the
Chiefs made a calculated decision and they won the battle and the war. They
knew the territory, the environment, the ground cover. From the UT article
it looks like some ENGB's knew also, as they went to the head on their own.
Thank you all for getting a handle on that one.
Here is a link to a HPWREN video, mostly of the smoke; taken from Mt Woodson
PTZ camera. Time in the upper left corner. Shaky pictures are from the wind
vibrating the tower the camera is on. Camera about 16-17 miles from the
fire, so you can see how clear the morning was. Notice the smoke is white.
To Pyro 5755 & others:
I've read some very good commentary lately here about the OIG report, Forest
Service fire costs etc. Particularly the comments about the OIG reporting in
areas it has no expertise and Pyro's question of "who do we look for
In my humblest of opinions, I see the OIG report as simply another Gov't
bureaucracy reporting on another Gov't bureaucracy, both of whom work under
a larger federal bureaucracy. We've seen the same findings, conclusions and
recommendations from a variety of sources including the GAO for many years.
The status quo remains.
Until those those with fire ground expertise (with all due respect to "ologists")
start managing the fire program, develop & implement "firefighting-based"
policies, adhere to the National Fire Plan (i.e. staff at 100% MEL; deliver
all preparedness funds to the field without diversion to non-fire projects)
and strengthen the Nation's wildland firefighting infrastructure by
implementing pay & personnel policies consistent with the 21st century for
our federal wildland firefighters, we will continue to see report after
report, finding after finding & recommendation after recommendation with no
change in the way the FS does business.
Some elements of the OIG report contain pieces of a workable solution.
However, until the fundamentals get changed, it really won't matter. As long
as preparedness resources are diverted to non-fire projects resulting in
small fires getting bigger & more expensive as a result of a lack of
resources, the recommendations in the OIG report will be worthless.
And...for the facts that once in a while get folks irritated with me: until
the federal government strengthens its own federal wildland firefighting
corp by implementing pay & personnel policies that can reduce or entirely
eliminate recruitment & retention problems thereby reducing the
over-reliance on higher-priced non-federal resources, suppression costs will
continue to go up.
Some have taken exception to my illustrating the fact that in the West, the
vast majority of non-federal resources cost more. It is simply a fact.
However I have also gone on record by saying that there is sufficient
funding by congress to ensure the use of all facets of wildland firefighting
from feds, to contractors, to cooperators. The FS however, can use these
resources and still become infinitely more cost-effective & efficient.
So, fix the fundamentals first by 1) getting fire-based folks running the
program, being line-officers, being decision-makers etc. 2) implement pay &
personnel policies for federal firefighters, inclusive of health benefits
for temporary firefighters; allow temporary firefighters to be eligible for
FEGLI; implement portal to portal pay; implement hazard pay on prescribed
burns & create a new "all fire position" wildland firefighter classification
series which will reduce recruitment & retention, strengthen the "less
costly" federal wildland firefighting infrastructure and reduce the current
"over-reliance" on higher-priced non-federal resources.
OK, those that bristle at that sentiment can load your ammo. It simply is a
fact. Do these things and the government saves staggering sums of money and
we don't need OIG reports anymore. That was simple wasn't it?
Nice page on the Forest Service Honor Guard. I think Ab said they are
Re WEZ, cont.
Thanks for the excellent analogies. My question, however, is more about who
do we look to for leadership on this issue ( improving WUI firefighter
safety while improving safety of homes in the interface zone ) . Not being
politically astute, or connected, on any level, I have no idea, but am more
than willing and able to write letters, make phone calls, etc., in support
of an issue. And I suspect there are many of us out there in the same
condition; don't even know if there is an advocacy group addressing FF/home
safety, but ready to support the effort if there is.
Obviously, WFSA would be logical, but they're a little busy at the moment...
incidentally, thank you Casey for the heads-up on TheySaid re: FFF
classification/reimbursement. That's exactly the sort of info I'm looking
I'd never heard WEZ before, but its great! Going to adopt the term for all
future intro-to WUI training from now on. Maybe it'll help the Kids hear a
Lobotomy, jimhart, obviously you guys are more connected to breaking
info/sources. Please just let us know if anything comes up that we can jump
on. I like your thinking.
Please excuse the rambling...
Has anybody had any luck getting Caltrans/local
government action to abate fire hazards on that kind
of public lands? I was talking to a California
property owner about defensive space (her property is
located on a ridgeline at the head of a chimney). Her
defensive space is pretty well maintained, but the
only access route is straddled by 10-15 acres of
large, old eucalyptus on a steep slope. The grove is
partly on Caltrans property, partly county. Is there a
channel through which either entity could be pushed to
maintain the defensible on the road necessary to
protect the homes?
Nerd on the Fireline
Does anyone know?
We got photos this summer of the Derby Fire. They
started appearing in our inbox about 9/15/06. The group of 7 photos include
several of the fire blowing up, of a horse in a burned pasture, of several
of cooked and bloated deer, beat and one of an engine rollover but upright
in a shallow river. One set of photos came in from Loryl B who was passing
them on. I posted only
two photos and asked on the photo description page if anyone knows who the
photographer is. Evidently from the description below the person was a
resident near the fire, but it was a big fire.
To see the 2 photos: On both
photo pages... Third row down, right hand side.
www.wildlandfire.com/pics/fire32/fire32.htm ; and
The reason I'm asking is that a mom of one of the firefighters who worked
on that fire would like to find the photographer to get a better version
suitable for making a poster for her son.
Anyone know anything? Who took 'em. Any contact info? How this mom might
find the photographer? My guess is that this series of photos might have
been posted on a site where people can post their own photos. Or on a blog.
Here's the message from the photographer about the photos. It was passed
on to us with the photos attached. Sounds like a hairy scene.
>From a person living in the area of the Big Timber fire:
>Things are slowing down in our area with mostly spot
>fires to deal with and clean up. 200,000 acres and a minimum of 40
>homes and untolled other structures. Our neighbors lost 3 barns a
>house and numerous other buildings in what looks like a war zone.
>Attached pictures were taken from our front deck.
>1. Fire front with 50 mph winds in what is called a wind """"event"""".
>was the most frightening as we didn't think it could be stopped. We
>had hoses spraying down the house and pumping water from the pond. The
>pilots """"bombed"""" with fire retardant slurry at least 20 loads on my
>neighbors ranch complex and then the wind switched directions at dark.
>A cold front hit and things blew into a fire storm. The fire direction
>turned 90 degrees and roared across the Stillwater River wiping out
>most of the homes documented in less than 5 minutes.
>2. Bomber doing retardant drops just to the west of our house.
>3. Front before the wind switched with cattle on our irrigated fields.
>4. Neighbors lonely horse in burned out pasture. They lost their home
>even though they had hoses on it for six hours. Burning embers hit
>deck and the rest was history.
>5. Fire truck that was caught in the fire storm and smoke and couldn't
>see where the river was and rolled. They were lucky in that if it had
>ended upside down the occupants would have drowned as the cab was
>6. Dead fawn by my friends house where the fire came through a mile
>long canyon in less than minutes.
>7. Dead bear at neighbors place that was literally cooking in its skin
>from the heat. The house survived by a miracle, but not a blade of
Human Factors 101: Building a Better Cockpit
Re: "What I hope you mean is that you feel it's your own decision to act, or
not, relying on your own KSAs and you're willing to assume responsibility
for the outcome, be it good or bad."
Lesson #1 - Firefighters are just as stubborn as homeowners, and if we
continue to make mistakes in judgment, how can we insist that the homeowners
will not when they decide on their home locations? Without a better built
"cockpit", human factors for both firefighters and homeowners will persist.
Lesson #2 - Since wildland firefighters continue to die protecting
unprotectable structures, and homeowners continue to build in high risk
areas without caring about the risk, we need to look for other tools and
technology to "build a better cockpit".
Lesson #3 - Basic principles of the Swiss Cheese Model and Cockpit Resource
Management are designing out and eliminating the areas where human error can
A good discussion on "building a better cockpit" has started this week.
Hopefully, in the future it will keep firefighters safer and the communities
they protect safer.
... to be continued.......
The truth is out there...
I offered to share the spatial analysis on hazards, risks and values
conducted on BDF with jimheart if wanted graphic proof of the absurdity to
build homes in some of the WUI (WEZ) areas. This offer is good to anyone who
could use some additional documented evidence of the problem. Agency
administrators, politicians and bureaucrats have limited attention spans and
geographic pictures can be very powerful to prove a point. Attached is a
Risk Assessment (1,370 K pps/ppt file) Ab will put anyone in touch.
You said, "There needs to be a statewide effort here to identify the same
kind of dangerous, high fire risk areas and PUBLICLY flag them as
When I recently went to the San Bernardino National Forest on a severity
assignment, we were given a book that had all of the housing areas within
the forest color coded as red, yellow, or no color. It also identified
potential safe refuge areas, water sources, and staging areas. If I remember
correctly, the red meant stay the heck out, the yellow was high risk, and
the non-colored areas meant use your best judgment under each circumstance.
During our inbriefing, we were told not to share the book with the public as
it was confidential information and that it was not meant to be shared with
the press. It was also told that the book had been the root of much
controversy with the press (wanting the higher ratings) and the public
(wanting to know the areas that the firefighters were probably going to not
What is so bad about sharing this info with the public? A friend from the
San Bernardino NF said that the intent of the book was to keep firefighters
out of the extremely hazardous areas and high risk areas. She said it was
used for the first time during the Old Fire of 2003.
In many cases, during the Old Fire, the areas that were identified as
"extreme" and "high" risk were still protected by firefighters who felt they
had a duty to act and place themselves at risk even though the hazards had
been identified by their peers beforehand, without the "fog of war" clouding
their situational awareness.
All I Want for Christmas is a Donation to the Wildland Firefighter
We all get asked from our families "What do you want for Christmas?" My
usual answer is "Nothing, I/we don't need anything".
If you're in the same situation, ask for a donation to the WFF. Either a
52-Club Membership, donation to the Eldorado walk, or ANYTHING.
Also, please consider donations for your gifts to others. I even that think
most kids would be very proud to have a 52-Club pin to have and/or wear to
school if they have a wildland firefighter friend or relative they know.
The 52 Club is at 2234 members now, let's get it to at least 3000 by the end
of the year. (or 5000???).
Just a thought.
This message may jump around here a bit, but here goes. Having been around
the wildland fire world for quite a few years and having had the discussion
about the WUI over time, I agree the insurance industry needs to be the
enforcer, but I fear that is an unrealistic dream. To the insurance world
houses lost to wildland fire are not a blip on the radar screen, things like
hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes cost the insurance companies more per
year than homes lost to wildfire. To the insurance companies enforcing
defensible space is not seen as an issue because they do not pay out that
many bills on a yearly basis due to wildland fire. Remember the insurance
companies look at national trends, not just homes lost in one state.
Know to jump to another topic...wildland fire use. As has been said on this
page many times, things need to change. With our current rules, the WUI, and
the current workforce it is unrealistic to think we can staff every fire.
Fire is part of the ecosystem, in many areas managing fire in the summer for
resource benefit makes sense. There are many parts of the west where the
only time fire will burn is in july and august. The Big Bar complex this
year cost the taxes payers millions of dollars, and was just a repeat of
past history in the part of the country. The Megram fire in 99 and all the
fires of 1987 proved that we are (due to terrain, access, inversions) not
very successful fighting fire in that part of the world once they escape
initial attack. That country is adapted to fire and needs fire to keep it
healthy. It is a wilderness, it cannot be thinned and the areas outside of
the wilderness are too steep for thinning. Instead of spending millions of
dollars, risk firefighters and aircraft to exposure to a multitude of
hazards, why not do fire use. Protect the communities and let the fire burn
in wilderness. If people would pay attention to history, once fire gets
established in that country it is not going out until a season ending event.
After reading the OIG report, it is not saying to use WFU on every fire, nor
would a line officer make that decision, nor is all the paperwork in place
to do fire use on every forest. What we need to do is use it as a tool where
appropriate and accept that in some parts of the west (lodgepole pine
forests of Montana) that may include crown fire. There is not enough
hazardous fuels dollars, nor personnel to treat all the acres that need
treating, wildland fire use is just another tool to use and OIG is pointing
out that we need to use it more and change the rules to make it easier to
After all the thoughts and feelings I have been reading here this article
struck me as not odd but interesting, I want to say so many things right now
but I think I will post this link and let you read the article and tell me
your thoughts and feelings...
Signed: calculated risk A.I.A. What we do!
Downed power line blamed for morning blaze that burned almost 300 acres
in Santa Ysabel
By J. Harry Jones
and Kristina Davis
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS
December 1, 2006
SANTA YSABEL – Shortly before sunrise yesterday, a risky, even daring,
decision was made that may well have prevented the county's next huge fire.
About 5:30 a.m., strong Santa Ana winds had downed a small power line just
east of Santa Ysabel, starting a fire that quickly climbed up a hill.
Winds were howling, and the humidity was low. The flames were heading
southwest, a few hills away from thousands of acres that hadn't burned since
At 6:20 a.m., Battalion Chief Ray Chaney of the California Department of
Forestry and Fire Protection was in a spotter airplane, watching as the
flames crested a ridge and headed into a small valley just north of state
Route 78 about a mile west of state Route 79.
Chaney, who heads CDF's Ramona Air Attack Base, concluded that firefighters
had about a 10-minute window of opportunity. As long as it was in the
valley, the fire was moving slowly because it was shielded from 40 mph winds
by the mountain behind it.
Division Chief Bill Clayton and Battalion Chief Kevin O'Leary, who were
in charge of the ground attack, were in constant radio contact with Chaney.
Together, the three men decided on an aggressive and potentially dangerous
plan: attacking the fire head-on. (Click link at the top to read the
Another CDF BC, you are absolutely right that no one factor will determine
why a fatality occurs (or anything else for that matter).
Regarding Public Law 4291, you’re also right about the fire service not
having much (if any) input into the bill, the original or the amendment. The
vague language has caused all sorts of grief in the field because the
standards are not clear as to how to do 100 feet of clearance. Actually, the
amendment was an attempt to deal with this and the concern by
conservationists over ignoring the flammability of cultivars like palm
trees, pines trees, Eucs, etc. while at the same time singling out native
plant species as the enemy. The amendment removed the bias. I don’t believe
the insurance industry was in the loop.
Basically, it’s this one-size-fits-all approach that is causing so many
problems. Using the term clearance is confusing because “clearance” implies
taking it down to mineral soil or maybe mowing everything down to below 6
inches (even though the law doesn’t say this and allows for large specimen
plants). As I mentioned earlier, while such a treatment will reduce the fuel
load, it creates a whole set of new problems (increase in flashy fuels,
erosion, ugly landscapes, etc.). We need to dump the term clearance and
replace it with “thinning” and emphasize the creation of sustainable,
fire-safe, drought tolerant vegetative cover.
It is difficult to understand how some of these bills get written and who is
being listened to, but when I heard Senator Feinstein at the memorial talk
about all the non-native brush that needs to be removed in the backcountry
it became clearer. Political advisors don’t do their research. I sure wish
there was some law that required any new wildfire bill to first pass the
muster of a committee (maybe a pack is a better word) composed of a few hand
crew members, an engine company, and a couple resource people who know about
fire ecology (yeah, they all need to talk to each other…now that ought to be
an entertaining experience for everyone) BEFORE it gets sent to the floor of
the legislature. Get Bill Clayton in there, he’s retiring soon. He’ll be
able to shake ‘em up. Maybe on the next round we can get a bit more balance.
Yeah, enforcement is a dead end issue. As you suggest, it needs to be a self
regulating event. Criminal liability for poorly maintained/designed homes
that lead to firefighter fatalities is certainly one way. The idea of a
court-ordered “Do Not Protect” sign is an excellent way to deal with
violations too. But I must disagree with Waiting for Spring regarding
strategy. Yes, the homeowner needs to have the primary responsibility, but
those who enable the home to exist must share that responsibility. This
includes the insurance company, the builder, and the political entities that
allowed the structure to be built.
Take for example the Scripps Ranch community in San Diego. It wasn’t a
secret that shake-shingle roofing was extremely dangerous and that building
at the bottom of little basins surrounded by hills covered with vegetation
was a recipe for disaster. But the city allowed it anyway, and did nothing
to fix the problem despite years of warnings by the San Diego Fire
Department. It has taken almost a century (starting at least since the 1923
Berkeley Hills fire) to finally convince political leaders to tell the
roofing industry to take their kindling-on-the-roof roofing and shove it.
This is a pattern we’ve seen time and time again. The automobile industry
resisted seat belts and the cigarette companies claimed their products were
safe. Where there is money, politicians will compromise the safety of
citizens until the screams get loud enough to force a change.
And while I’m on Scripps I’ll address the issue you brought up about all the
unsafe houses already built out there. Believe it or not there are remain a
handful of homes in Scripps that survived the fire and still have their
shake shingle roofs (even more ridiculous is that a number of folks replaced
their burned wood fences with new wood fences). There is a strong
possibility that these houses will be responsible for taking out 2 or 3
homes around them next time a wildfire shows up. These roofs need to be
changed out now, either by giving these people no interest loans, fire-safe
grants based on need, or just requiring their removal within a certain time
period. The same goes for other communities with stupid designs. In San
Diego County, $45 million has been spent to cut down dead trees, but not a
dime to correct unsafe community design. Plants and trees grow back. A fire
safe design is permanent. What’s more expensive?
In some areas in Australia they openly flag homes where fire risk is too
high and they just let them go. This allows them more resources to attack
the perimeter and reduces the chance firefighters being caught defending
structures that may be consumed in one of those unexpected events. There
needs to be a statewide effort here to identify the same kind of dangerous,
high fire risk areas and PUBLICLY flag them as non-defensible. There’s no
way firefighting will ever be as safe as a desk job, but I think with the
continual expansion of the Wildland Entrapment Zone, and constant budget
pressures on local firefighting resources, we need to change our standard
operating procedures and reduce risk as much as we can.
The environmental issue is a thorny one because there have been numerous
examples of abuse on both sides so the desire to compromise has vanished.
Extreme positions have reduced it all to who can legally outmaneuver who.
Fuels work is obviously critical around structures and strategic placement
of prescribed burns can make a huge difference in being able to establish
anchor points and getting a handle on things. Unfortunately, there have been
some vegetation projects that seem to be driven more by politics and
available money that effectiveness. The only way to sort through them all is
some kind of process whereby a third party examines the details. That slows
things down to be sure (as you know it can take years to get a burn
approved), but in a world with competing interests, I don’t know of any
other way to do it. I’m not particularly fond of elderberry either, but I
think some manzanitas are pretty cool. A northern California colleague of
mine in the CDF told me he considers manzanita a terrorist. A buddy in the
USFS told me he hates whitethorn ceanothus. Having cut a line through some
of this stuff, I can certainly understand such viewpoints, but they’re not
the only valid ones.
I think it would be tremendously helpful if those with conservation as their
primary concern could connect with the fire service, either by spending some
time with a crew or at least making a commitment to maintain a regular
dialogue. After all, fire is a major part of the environment in California
and people need to figure it into their conservation plans. And it would be
equally useful to include a fire ecology component in wildland firefighter
training. You need the right kind of folks to do it, but honestly having a
handle on the environment we spend so much time in really makes the job a
lot more enjoyable.
I’ll tell you one place you could start. They are building a new fire
station right below Sierra Peak in the Trabuco District of the Cleveland in
Orange County. Make ‘em build a nature center right next door. Then pave the
road that goes up to the Tecate cypress grove above (an endangered plant
community that puts out some really great black smoke when it burns, which
it did this year in the Sierra fire) and build a combo safety zone/picnic
area somewhere up top. The preservationist/purists are going to have to be
convinced of this because they don’t want any disturbance up there, but they
have to understand that without some pre-fire planning the grove is going to
be lost to repeated fires anyway. It’s in a fire corridor. Hello! So the
public is able to access the area easily to learn something about the
landscape they live in, the Tecate cypress has a chance of surviving the
next fire, and most importantly you have rangers talking to firefighters and
firefighters talking to rangers.
From all I know about Mark Loutzenhiser, he was the kind of guy I would most
definitely trust with my life. His experience was obviously excellent and he
definitely looked out for his crew. Regardless of what the final reports
come up with, the fact remains that the crew of E57 was a brave bunch of
guys who were willing to risk their lives for the public good. They made an
assessment of the situation and determined it safe based on all they knew.
The problem was what they didn’t know.
My point is that we should do everything possible to reduce those unknowns.
Right now, we don’t. We depend on our experience and training while the rest
of the world builds death traps. Of all the responsibilities our government
has, protecting first responders needs to be right at the top of the list.
We issue fire fighting orders, watch outs, and fire shelters, but the
government allows archaic private property rights and greed create
impossible situations for us. I’m sick of it. It’s really time to turn the
mirror around and let the public and their political leaders take a good,
hard look at what they are enabling. They have a responsibility and they
need to be forced to take it, either through the threat of criminal
liability or being cut loose from the safety net they expect is their right.
Well, in the Wildland Entrapment Zone, fire protection is not a right, but a
privilege. If you don’t follow the rules, you lose it, period.
I may I’ve mentioned it here before, but that quote from a woman in San
Diego after the Cedar really nails the problem. She said there should
have been more firefighter fatalities if they had been doing their job
properly. There really needs to be a societal change in how we view what
is expected of the fire service.
Thanks for taking the time and energy to write your perspective. It has
obviously come from a remarkable firefighting career. Wish I could say the
Another CDF BC, you said
I worked for good aggressive supervisors and others not so. My
opinion? I prefer the more aggressive type and view them as
"safer" overall. It is too long of a concept to try and articulate here,
but it makes sense to me for some reason. Basically, you can survive a
boring dead assignment with an aggressive supervisor, but you'll have an
interesting time in a hot piece of line with someone <who>
doesn't "like" to fight fire -- face it -- there are those types out
there (and what a miserable time inside they must have).
You also said
Even if you were able to "take on the building industry" as you
suggest, what about the millions of "existing-non-conforming" structures
out there. I'm sorry, but as a public safety servant, it is my duty to
at least make an assessment of those structures using my KSAs and act
accordingly. Sometimes we leave them, but most of the time we do not.
If I get injured or killed doing it, someone needs to investigate it,
try to learn from it what they can, and move on. At that point I will
have become a member of a unique group of firefighters unfortunately.
I know I'll be Monday morning QB'ed, blamed for something I forgot, and
beat up. I know this going in-and I get paid a living to do it. I
accept it willingly and hope that it doesn't happen and I am afforded an
opportunity to retire at a relatively young age and have my health and
fond memories of a career well done serving the citizens I am sworn to
I don't believe I know you, but the words you choose in your post concern
me.... What it seems you're saying at first read is "I am ready to die for
my cause, I am a firefighter.... make me a martyr.."
It isn't heroic or honorable for anybody to protect an unoccupied
structure and encounter the risks for ourselves and our family..... We all
need to do the best to come home each day.
Ask a family member or friend of someone who has been killed protecting an
unoccupied structure or a piece of grass or tree-covered ground before you
reply..... Lots of folks out there with those RPD slides other than the
Esperanza Fire families and friends.
If you think that is part of your duty and what you signed on for as a
firefighter... you are a part of he "human factors" problem that has yet to
be fully addressed.
What I hope you mean is that you feel it's your own decision to
act, or not, relying on your own KSAs and you're willing to assume
responsibility for the outcome, be it good or bad.
And I hope you'll make choices based on the safest "we all come home"
choice, not based on what's the most aggressive or the CDF
Expand? Clarify? I am really interested in understanding what you mean.
You asked about how firefighters could help. If you will allow me, I'm going
to try a different style of writing to express a point.
Imagine you (us) have been trying to "kill a snake for over 40 years"....
That snake = the WUI problem.
We as firefighters have been "chopping" away at the snake, but our blows
keep hitting the snake in its tail, and it keeps healing and living on, year
after year. Each successive year, that snake gets bigger and bigger.
This time, the wildland firefighting community needs to aim for the head of
the snake and "cut it off". The head of this snake = the insurance industry,
uninformed elected officials and regulatory agencies, and lastly the public.
We need to focus our aim before we swing, and the public is the last place
we should be holding people accountable at. We have been trying to hold the
public accountable for over the last 40 years and we can see how well we
"keep cutting off the tail of the snake" with that approach.
The best way all of us firefighters can help is to stop "trying" to chop off
the tail of the "snake" and concentrate on a good blow to the head of the
snake. If we are unsuccessful in killing the snake, it will continue to
spread its offspring throughout the country.
It takes a good and well focused swing to start killing "snakes".
Sorry for all of the analogies... it helps some people understand the
problem better, so that they can focus on the answer.
Remember to order your FIRE Calendars from
The Supply Cache.
All proceeds benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Last shipping day
before the holidays is Dec 19. Ab.
Sounds like someone is out there advocating for sensibility in fighting
wildfire. Thanks to Richard Halsey. He's on target. Thanks also to Keith
Matheny/Desert Sun for the good article.
Auditor: Forest service shouldn't shoulder all costs
The Desert Sun
December 1, 2006
The U.S. Forest Service is spending too much money as it fights large
wildfires, a federal auditor's report found.
Forest Service firefighters now spend most of their efforts and funds
protecting homes in the "wildland urban interface," neighborhoods built in
rural areas prone to wildfires, a new report by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's Office of Inspector General shows.
More of the costs of defending homes should be borne by state and local
agencies, the report states. The Forest Service spent more than $1 billion
on wildfire-fighting three of the past six years.
"There's such a huge expansion of this wildland urban interface, I don't
think, frankly, the firefighting community has been able to keep up," said
Richard Halsey, a firefighter, ecologist and wildfire researcher with the
Escondido-based California Chaparral Field Institute.
Crews from the Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and Fire
Protection and local agencies worked together on the desert's two major
wildfires this year - July's Sawtooth-Millard complex fires and October's
Esperanza blaze that killed five Forest Service firefighters while they
tried protecting an unoccupied home. (Click link at
the top to read the rest. Halsey has a number of good comments.)
Spring in NC,
NC, I feel you are slightly off course.
NC you said you didn't agree with my statement of "sue the living hell out
of the insurance companies." You misquoted me.
I said, "... should sue the living hell out of the insurance company."
The insurance company was the entity that allowed the house to be built and
was culpable in the act and/or omissions of the homeowner that resulted in
All it takes is one precedent to set civil case law for future firefighter
Old Sawyer, chime in if you think I am getting off course with my limited
knowledge... I know there are differences in civil vs. criminal case law....
and I have been up late trying to get all of the answers.
This has some good info and some contact names for those who want
to let their county leaders know what's on their minds.
Audit: Firefighting too costly
REPORT: It recommends local agencies shoulder more of the burden to curb
growth in blaze-prone areas.
10:15 AM PST on Thursday, November 30, 2006
By BEN GOAD and DOUGLAS QUAN
Federal firefighters were lauded for heroic efforts to save homes during the
devastating firestorms of 2003, and last month a U.S. Forest Service crew
paid the ultimate price when the Esperanza Fire overtook them as they tried
to protect a home.
Now, an audit of the Forest Service has concluded that the agency shoulders
too much of the financial burden when fighting big wildfires.
The U.S. Agriculture Department's inspector general found that protecting
homes in areas of extreme fire danger has greatly increased the agency's
firefighting costs. The Forest Service has spent more than $1 billion
fighting fires in three of the last six years.
Placing greater financial responsibility for fighting wildfires on state and
local agencies might encourage them to restrict building in fire-threatened
areas, thus reducing the threat to human life and firefighting costs, the
audit released Wednesday found.
Most Riverside and San Bernardino county leaders have been unwilling to
prohibit home building in even the region's most fire-prone areas, citing
individual property rights. However, since the Esperanza Fire, at least one
Inland official said he now is questioning those long-held policies.
The 2003 Old Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes in San Bernardino County.
Yet, in the 18 months after it was extinguished, Inland cities and counties
issued permits for more than 2,500 homes in areas the state designated as
facing "very high" or "extreme" fire danger, a 2005 investigation by The
"The buildings sprout back faster than the brush does," said recently
retired San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor Gene Zimmerman. "We do
need to do something relative to this continued building in these incredibly
There is no Inland area where residential building is outlawed on private
property because of fire threat. None of more than a dozen local and state
officials interviewed during the 2005 investigation said they would support
But in the wake of the deadly Esperanza Fire, Riverside County Supervisor
Bob Buster said he wants to examine possible restrictions on development in
such areas. The Twin Pines home that the five Forest Service firefighters
died trying to save last month probably shouldn't have been built there, he
At his urging, supervisors last week agreed to form a committee of fire, law
enforcement and planning officials to explore ways to prevent a repeat of
the Esperanza tragedy.
Buster said Wednesday he wants the committee to consider the feasibility of
buying vacant but currently buildable lots in order to prevent future
Other Inland officials disagreed. (click link at
the top to read the rest)
"Another CDF BC",
You said, "It is easier to wait for the fire than to spend your time getting
beat up." I agree with you on that one.... it is easier.
..... But is it that the right thing to do when our brother and sister
firefighters are dying each year throughout the country to protect
structures? I would rather get beat up a little bit than have the feelings I
have had over the last five weeks and take the easy way out.
The right thing to do is begin a very honest and frank discussion with
homeowners, insurance companies, and the elected officials. We also need to
be honest and frank within our own wildland fire community and stop talking
the macho, heroic stuff like you said in your last two paragraphs. All that
does is put more people at risk including yourself.
Thanks Alaskan FMO.
Here's the 58 page OIG Audit Report on the Forest