December, 2006

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12/31 Mellie,

Is this the doc you spoke of??

www.wildlandfire.com/docs/2006/30mile_report_errata.pdf (pdf file)


12/31 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.

George Pozzuto

12/31 An excellent letter, Casey.


Hugh Carson
12/31 Thank you, Casey.

12/31 Ah, even on New Year's Eve...ain't ignorance bliss??

This link is to an "uneducated" editorial from the Yakima Herald www.yakima-herald.com/page/dis/287856322042718

Below...a response faxed today to them at 509-577-7767

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

<FWFSA Logo>

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 different.

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 the law.

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 does.

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?

Respectfully Submitted,

Casey Judd
Business Manager

Links to 30 Mile Report.

12/31 CA Seasonal,

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.


12/31 VFD

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 of firefighting.

The only truths in this job are:

  1. People are human, humans make mistakes.
  2. Fire is and will continue to be dangerous.
  3. 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.
  4. Most Parkies are vegetarian


12/31 Ab,

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 this board.

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 minimal experience.

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 years.

CA Seasonal

12/31 VFD Cap’n,

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 state?

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.

Misery Whip

aerial photo of Thirtymile fatality site
more photos: www.wildlandfire.com/pics/30mi/30mi.php

12/31 Uncle Louie,

You said:

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 should.


Links to 30 Mile Report.

12/31 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 the accused.

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.

Uncle Louie
12/31 Ab;

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.

12/31 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.

I foresee 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 happen?

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.

Sadly, Nerd on the Fireline

12/31 Way cool Game

Fight forest fires by picking up water and dropping it over the fire.


12/30 Dear GISgirl:

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 about.

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 beginning.

Casey Judd
12/30 vfd cap'n

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.

In General

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

Big Smooth, thanks for sharing your wisdom. Give our best to the rest of the family. Ab.

12/30 Here's an interesting article on the big fire in MT and questions being brought up
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 answer....


12/30 Re the List of Wildland Fire Terms, Nicknames, Jargon and Slang, here are some CDF terms:

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.

12/30 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.

Dick Mangan

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)

12/30 Todd-
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.

12/30 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.


Hayden Hamilton
AAHS Webmaster and Managing Editor
12/30 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.


12/30 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 immediate
problem, I can't even remember an important name...

Does anybody have a quick update on status of the Engine Captain charged in the
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 Ellreese.
All 3 issues affect all of us.

12/30 I do have to agree with vfd captain statement:

"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."

30 minutes, a couple chainsaws, and a few fusses can do a lot to improve a deployment
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 there.


12/29 KT,

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.

Rogue Rivers
12/29 vfd cap'n,

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.

12/29 vfd cap'n,

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.

Tahoe Terrie

12/29 Fire Geek,

When things go extremely bad on wildfires, much like the fog of war described
throughout the ages, there is a fog of "fire" that follows entrapments and fatalities
where people return back to the very basics of Maslow's self preservation.

The OIG and USA office don't quite understand that... yet.

12/29 vfd cap'n;

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?

12/29 Everyone,

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:

Dateline NBC
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.

12/29 vfd capt

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

12/29 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.”....

vfd cap'n
12/29 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 chopping block;
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 Cantwell and
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 problems. This
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 facing them?
How do they deal with that?

We cant bring back our friends and colleagues but we can work to change the culture
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 something
from this.

later Bushman 82'

12/29 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
12/29 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.

vfd cap'n

It all has to do with human factors: Crew Cohesion, Wildland Fire Transition, and Fatalities (pdf file)

12/29 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
these days.

I could go on, but being negative does not really
help. Thanks for the rant.

And There I Was
12/29 Mellie,

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.....

12/29 Gizmo,

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.


12/29 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!

12/29 Mellie;

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 DEAD OUT"?

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, thank you!

Ab(s), thanks for letting me vent yet again.

12/29 Gizmo,

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.

Fire Geek
12/29 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 scenario.

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.


12/29 FC180,

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 requirements that
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 interagency environment,
the differences for Department of Interior personnel and Department of Agriculture
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 circumstances...


12/29 Hi all,

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.


12/29 smkj79,

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 fire manager.

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 human...

12/29 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.


12/28 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 encouraged
to report errors and mistakes because of an ethical recognition that other
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 and
mistakes should be treated as normal and ethical human error.

Traditional organizational reaction to errors often includes punishment for
normal, or “honest,” human error. This inevitably results in the suppression
of error reporting and the collapse of a reporting culture.


12/28 Thanks Higbee. I knew someone here would know.

12/28 emt_mb,

USC Title 18, plus case precedents involving actions of people accused
of negligence or gross negligence under federal criminal statutes.

BLM Boy,

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.... it
will lead to answers in the future.

12/28 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.

12/28 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.

12/28 Ab,

Here is the full version copy (.phpl) 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 presentations.

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

12/28 Re: Human Error

> From Australia, Queensland Government, Workplace Health and Safety

"Human or worker error is not always the result of carelessness or negligence,
but follows from normal human characteristics. The desire for extra speed, less
work and making tasks easier, are some of the leading reasons why injuries

Read the rest.

Firey DownUnda

12/28 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.

Thanks, ab

12/28 Re: BLM Boy's research

Daniels is being charged in Federal Court, not state court. The WA criminal laws
are not what he's being charged under, but federal laws. I'm not sure where you
can find the federal standards, but I'm sure someone else here knows.

12/28 vfd cap'n,

You said,

"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 place.

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.


12/28 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: www.iawfonline.org/pdf/NEWS_30-Mile_Fire.pdf

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 taxpayers.

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: http://tinyurl.com/y9dxcy

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.

Excellent. Ab.

12/28 Ab,

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
in Washington:

  1. INTENT,

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
same situation.

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
same situation.

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.

12/28 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 debacle.

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

Casey Judd
Business Manager
12/28 Ab,

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."

- www.nifc.gov/ARB_Factual_Report.pdf

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.

vfd cap'n

12/28 Hycatal,

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.

12/28 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.

Missoula Squid

Welcome, former lurker. Ab.

12/28 Northnight,

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...

12/28 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,


12/28 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.

12/28 Montana patches

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 January.

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.

Squirt Gun

12/27 Ab,

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?

12/27 Lobotomy,

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....

12/27 This writeup is circulating behind the scenes and comes from numerous sources:


Supervisors worry about effects of charges in wildfire deaths


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

12/27 Ab,

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.


12/27 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: www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/htmlpubs/htm06512312/index.php.

The Region 5 Standard for helmets is as follows (Hotshots excepted):

Firefighter: Yellow
Asst. Fire Engine Operator: Yellow w/ a red stripe
Fire Engine Operator: Red w/ a white stripe
Captain: Red
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.

Their findings....

"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.....

12/27 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.

12/27 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
12/27 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...

12/27 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
(www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfpubs/pdf01512832/pdf01512832dpi72pt03.pdf 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?


12/27 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.

The Abs

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.

12/27 BLM Boy,

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, and Why.

A good primer for many people who study personal and organizational failures.

12/27 Ab,

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 firefighters.

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 I visit.

12/26 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

12/26 Dear Ab,

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 learned.

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.


12/26 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).

Scott Vail
Deputy Chief Fire and Rescue Branch
Governors Office of Emergency Services
12/26 From Firescribe:


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 the week.

"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.


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From the Abs at wildlandfire.com

12/25 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 suffered
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


12/25 If funds are needed to avoid Ellreese buckling under to a stupid plea bargain,
let's make it so. This whole thing is so wrong.

Tahoe Terrie

12/25 Dear Ab:

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
12/25 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.

12/25 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.

12/25 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 down flames.

"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 politics.

"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.

12/25 Santa's Helper fundraiser

Hi Ab,

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.


Thanks Annette and thanks to Peets for supporting our families at Christmas time. Ab.

12/24 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 index page.
Thanks to Sting for the great firey Christmas tree photo. Ab.

12/24 Ab,

Some interesting thoughts from the Missoulian's Editor about the role of the USFS in protecting structures in the WUI: www.missoulian.com/articles/2006/12/24/opinion/opinion1.prt

Dick Mangan


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.

12/24 OZ: Strike Team 1007 in Gippsland

www.ozfire.org./viewtopic.php?t=2181 < 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.

12/24 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.

Merry Christmas

12/24 Greatest good:

What happened to the greatest good for the most people in the long run?
Are they just empty thoughts?


12/24 Ab

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.

12/24 Misery Whip,

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.

12/24 Firefighting Injustice

Dear Ab:

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'

12/24 Ab

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. Ab.

12/23 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
Victoria Deployment
Dec 2006

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.

12/23 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
am floored.

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
my living.


12/23 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 season.

Dick Mangan

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:

12/23 Dear Ab,
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 6th
and they seem to have no idea what I'm talking about regarding the video.
Any information on where I can order one for the district fire folks?
Below is the posting that was listed on the 6th.

Thanks, JTO

-Cara wrote:
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 https://system.netsuite.com.

/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.


12/23 Hey all,

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 cracks.

"Free Ellreese!"

As always, Stay Safe! "Kicks"

12/23 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.

Please check the 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 here 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.

12/23 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 Incident Commander?"

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 overwhelming.

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?

It is. Ab.

12/22 Ab:

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...
12/22 Here are the e-mail addresses for the investigative news shows:

20/20: 2020@abc.com
Niteline: niteline@abc.com
Primetime: abc.news.magazines@abc.com
60 Minutes: 60m@cbsnews.com

12/22 Jay Lawrence,

Thanks for everything KFI is doing.

I heard your latest report tonight talking about the possibility of the Governor
signing an executive order to alleviate the State Franchise Tax Board problems...
that is very good news.

The Governor had tears in his eyes at the E-57 Memorial and it is good to see
he is trying to make good on his promises.

Thanks again Jay and all of the KFI crew for your compassion....

12/22 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 report."

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 sentence of 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."

12/22 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.


12/22 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 statement carefully.

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 myth.

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.

Free Ellreese.

Misery Whip
12/22 Bud,

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!!!

Rogue Rivers
12/22 Please welcome the new members of the Board of Directors (BOD) for the
International 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 active
in the IAWF. Many thanks go out to:

Tony Blanks
Howard Dupuis
Keith Harrap
Dick Mangan
Jim Tidwell
Domingos Xavier Viegas
Don Saari
12/22 Ab,

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."

vfd cap'n
12/22 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 qualifications
and just be a firefighter.

It will be real interesting to see how this pans out for years to come.


12/22 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.

Norm Walker
Div. 5
12/22 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.

Jay Lawrence
KFI am 640 radio
12/22 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.......


12/22 Ab,
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?

12/22 emt_mb,

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)
12/22 mjs,

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.

12/22 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.

12/22 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 December 19th.

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.


12/22 To all concerned: This story ran in this morning's San Bernardino County Sun newspaper 12-22-06.

Bush signs 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 prepared statement.

Good luck everyone and be careful out there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jay Lawrence
KFI AM 640 Radio

fair use disclaimer

12/22 To Ken and Kathy:

You cannot imagine the feelings that overwhelmed me when I read your post.

Thank you so much!

Sign me
Speaking for many

12/22 Ken and Kathy

How painful it must have been for you to write your post to Mellie, you show great understanding.

Your statement

"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 happens."

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 abilities.

Kathy and Ken thank you for expressing your thoughts. God bless and best wishes of the season.


12/21 Re charges in 30 mile fire:


Let me give you the perspective from someone who has had a son killed in a wildfire.

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 happens.

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

12/21 Hi Ab,

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.

12/21 Contact: Jason Vasquez, Phone: (202) 226-5365
December 21, 2006


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 compassionate Americans."

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 formula.

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."
12/21 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.....

12/21 The Yakima Herald has a number of things on their website including the criminal complaint. www.yakima-herald.com/

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 other 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 us.

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 this.

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.

12/21 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.


12/21 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 emily.langlie@usdoj.gov
(206) 553-4110


12/21 Looking for the "Interagency Hazardous Materials Guide/handbook"

BLM has a dead link to it here: www.fire.blm.gov/library.php under
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.


12/21 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 current law.

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 situation.

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 all ideas.

Casey Judd
Business Manager

12/21 BB,

Well said. We all will put our heads together and do what is right for Juan's family.

Misery Whip,

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 expert witness?

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 action.

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 dedicated professionals.

To all,

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 "roadblocks".

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.

12/21 >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 control.

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 some day.

Rogue Rivers

12/21 Q,

Welcome back!!!

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 years.

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.
12/21 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 to suffice.

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.

12/21 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??

Fed up

12/21 Federal Government

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

12/21 Ab,

We can re-institute collection of the Legal Assistance Fund if needed. Can
someone please contact me with any info as to what kind of legal support
Ellreese has.


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: Mellie's simple solution
It's easy. Exercise your rights and the responsibilities of living in a free and
democratic society. If not us, then who?


12/20 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.

12/20 Dear 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
12/20 AB -

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 jury -

My two cents

12/20 Mark Morey,

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 "biologist".


Good question. Do we have any leaders in the Forest Service with any "huevos rancheros"????

signed: Wildland Firefighter - NOT a Forestry Tech or Biologist

12/20 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-

Shawnee Fire

12/20 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 Liability Insurance


These are simple instructions for obtaining Professional Liability Insurance and reimbursement from the Government for 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 Administrative Section.

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 Insurance.

/s/ DLK


Government Agencies are required to reimburse up to 50% of the premium for this plan

Imagine this...
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)

12/20 Re: Juan Estrada

OK folks,

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!

12/20 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?


12/20 Ab,

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 now?

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.

Free Ellreese.

Misery Whip
12/20 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.


12/20 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 adjourn.

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 problems.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
12/20 RE : 30 mile Prosecution

How did this come to pass? Where's fire leadership?
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>

12/20 Greetings,

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 offer.

Mark Morey
Night Police Reporter Phone: 509-577-7671
Yakima Herald-Republic

There have been numerous posts here on this subject over the past years. Ab.

12/20 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.

12/20 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 little family.
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.

Vicki Minor

12/20 Out of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today, carried by the AP out of Spokane.

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 Winthrop.

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

12/20 Does anyone have information about an indictment of one of the
employees involved in the Thirty Mile fire?


12/20 Climb


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.


12/20 Aberdeen,

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.phpl. 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. Hood.

Fire geek
12/20 Climb


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
you AB.


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.

12/20 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 battle.

Sign me,

Sad and concerned
12/20 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 country
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.

Misery Whip
12/20 jimhart,

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.

Rogue Rivers

P.S. - Sign Buzz up also ... Thanks Buzz for everything you have taught me and continue to teach.
12/20 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?

12/20 Hmm This can't be good!



Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating Group
April 07, 2005

FirstName LastName
City,State PostalCode

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 years.

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 three months

Mike Spencer
Regional Training Officer

12/20 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.

12/20 Casey,

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 presidential action."

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.
12/20 Anyone know why E-57 was removed from the BDF CAD? Never Forget!?!


Always remember. Ab.

12/20 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 evacuated.

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.

12/19 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.

12/19 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.

12/19 FWFSA website

To those who have, or may visit the FWFSA web site, www.fwfsa.org recently:

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

12/19 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
it's December.

12/19 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.


12/19 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.

Jay Lawrence
KFI640 radio
Orange County reporter

Thanks Jay.

Everyone, there's still time to let the White House know our wishes. This bill should be signed asap.
Mellie's simple solution.

12/19 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. www.iawfonline.org/calendar/calendar.php

Bill Gabbert
International Association of Wildland Fire
12/19 H.R. 6429


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.

Jason Vasquez
Communications Director
US Representative Mary Bono
45th Congressional District
405 Cannon HOB
Washington DC, 20515
202-225-5330 (Office)

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.

12/19 Situational awareness and Esperanza

Dear Ab,

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

SA 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 overdue. Ab.

12/19 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.

12/19 AB,

Bush signed the bill or he didn't. Does anybody know?

Brother Cub

I've been trying to find out with no luck so far. If anyone finds out, please let us know. Ab.

12/19 Check the thank you cards from the kids in Jason McKay's extended family. (Go down a couple of posts.) Thanks kids. Ab.
12/19 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!

Information Diva

Haw haw on the joke. Ab.

12/19 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 www.courts.act.gov.au/ 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.

12/19 Fyi

Little bit of more info on Availability to Down Under that's making the rounds.......
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.


12/19 -blackliner:

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 http://sslgtw05.tamu.edu/website/kbdi/viewer.php).

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.

12/18 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)

Thank You Wildland Firefighters and Wildland Firefighter Foundation card

Merry Christmas Firefighters card

Thanks for the message, Brenda. Tell the kids many thanks for the cards. They're terrific. Ab.

12/18 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.

12/18 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
Engine 3461

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:
Green Sheet Shekell Fire Engine Rollover (doc file) (72 hr report)
Engine 1763 Rollover
Vehicle Accident
December 3, 2006
Shekell Incident

CDF/Ventura County Incident #CA-VNC-003565
Accident Review Incident #CSR-114

12/18 Ab,

On the bright side, it's good that the President is taking care of the Postal Service
today. Too bad he couldn't find time for signing HR 6429.

vfd cap'n
12/18 Now, I know we're all hot and bothered over the prospect of going to Australia,
but a friend from Texas called and said that his area of Texas is drier than last year.
Anyone got some SA on what's happening out east?

12/18 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)


Click HERE (doc file) for Mellie's simple solution.

12/18 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 metropolis MySpace.

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.

12/18 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: www.fcc.gov/mb/audio/bickel/DDDMMSS-decimal.phpl
* 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! :)

12/18 From Down Under:

Probe into NZ firefighters' injury - National - smh.com.au


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!!


Another update from Victoria for today... (doc file, situation report)

12/18 The Jobs Page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician Series) & Series 0455 (Range Technician Series) jobs pages and Series 0401 (Biologist Series) are updated. Each of these series include jobs for wildland firefighters. Ab.
12/17 Dear 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 www.tridata.com.

Mike DeGrosky
12/16 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 resources.

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.


12/16 Ab - here's an article I wrote up in early 2002 about firefighting in Australia.
While some of the information is a little dated (there have been several major
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

Dick Mangan

12/16 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!

12/16 Ab -

Here's a great NASA photo of the fires of the fires down under:


AK Old Timer
12/16 MOC,

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!

12/16 H.R. 6429


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?

Tahoe Terrie

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 time around.

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...

Click HERE (doc file) for Mellie's simple solution.

12/16 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 of CA?

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 speak up.

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.

12/16 A bit pear shaped: message from Down Under:


some of our Kiwi visitors have been caught in Victoria. The CFA web page has the following:

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 safety.

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 Links page under world.

12/16 Regarding Australia:

Ab and all,

This is starting to look like the Bitterroot in August 2000.

Dick Mangan

www.wildlandfire.com/docs/2006/oz/gippsland-complex.pdf (not large pdf file)

12/16 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.


12/16 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.

12/16 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 their objectives.

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.


12/16 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 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 region.”

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.


12/15 Mellie,

The ducks in Idaho died of fungal disease - confirmed not too long ago.


Thanks rmm, we got that news and posted it on Flu 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.

12/15 Ask the President to sign H.R. 6429

Click 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.


12/15 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
income tax.

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. comments@whitehouse.gov
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 lots
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
American citizens.

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"

Email follows:

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, 12/9/06.

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 name
my street addy
city, state, zip

12/15 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:

Wildland Firefighter Foundation
2049 Airport Way
Boise, Idaho 83705
(208) 336-2996

12/15 Maybe this 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.

12/14 Well,

It appears that the President didn't sign H.R. 6429 again today.

Contacting the White House:
Phone Numbers

Comments:    202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX:            202-456-2461

Comments:      202-456-6213
Visitors Office: 202-456-2121


Please send your comments to comments@whitehouse.gov. 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.

12/14 Dear Ab,

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 community.

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 have done.
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.

Vicki Minor

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.

12/14 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 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 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

12/14 Request for info from our wildlife management folks:

I posted this request on the 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.


12/14 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.

12/14 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 NICC.

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 fill.

This is not an application for individuals wanting to go to Australia. It's a management tool for use by federal managers.


12/14 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.

12/14 Anyone know if the Blue Sheets are out on the SLU and
VNC rollovers (CA) and where I might find them?


12/14 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

12/14 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)
12/14 Lobotomy,

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!!!

Rogue Rivers

12/13 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 ADs.

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.

12/13 Just Wondering,

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...

NorCal Tom

12/13 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 27th.

Just Wondering

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
12/13 Abs

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 FAQ page.

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 .

12/13 Ab

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


12/13 Hi Ab,

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.

Jim Felix
The Supply Cache, Inc.
12/13 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.php

12/13 Gizmo:

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.

12/13 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. www.wildfirelessons.net/documents/Buchanan_RX_Fire_1993.pdf (pdf file)

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.

vfd cap'n

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
Chair, NMAC

1 - Australia Availability Form

Anyone wants the form, let me know. Ab.

12/13 If anyone knows Matt Medford, Washington State DNR, could you please ask him to email Ab. Thanks.
12/13 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 charges:

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 or $6.50.

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 friends!


12/13 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.

Duane Morris
Bear Divide Hotshots
12/13 Casey,

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)
12/13 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.
12/13 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 Engine 57 Memorial Site page. The above versions are good to get a flavor of the service. Ab.

12/13 Casey,

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.

12/12 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 Affairs.

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 frequently.

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.

Casey Judd
Business Manager

Thanks for the detective work and your persistence with an AAR. Ab.

12/12 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


12/12 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 dj 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.

12/12 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.

12/12 mnm561

Would you please contact Ab regarding use of a higher resolution 30mile memorial photo?

Thanks, Ab.

12/12 Ab,

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 show!!

Merry Christmas and GOD bless,

Cap’n Jack, LSC (now retired)
NorCal T-2

Thanks Cap’n Jack for the good info and for your efforts. Ab.



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 cjudd@fwfsa.org.

Thanks for your patience.


12/12 What is going on with the Wildland Firefighter Advanced Apprenticeship Program?

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?

Rogue Rivers

From what I've heard people think good excitement will be generated by the activities at the Academy. Ab.

12/11 follow-up re Brown transects:


Check out this page: http://ncrs2.fs.fed.us/4801/dwm/methods/references/

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)....


12/11 AV

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 Station,
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.

12/11 AV,

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 newer models.

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:



12/11 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.

12/11 For AV

Brown's report is actually titled "USDA Forest Service General
Technical Report INT-16, 1974 (HANDBOOK FOR.

Hope this helps put AV on the right track.


Thanks, ht.

12/11 NorCal Firegirl,

No advanced academies have been canceled. (Although we will be
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
at www.wfap.net/dates.phpl.


12/11 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!

-NorCal Firegirl-

12/11 I was wondering if anyone out there can tell me where
I can find something on Brown's transects?


12/11 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.

Scott Vail
12/11 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 then some.

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!

Heather's Mom

12/11 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 teamwork.

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.

12/10 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 the
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 for the
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 "charitable
needs test" as prescribed by IRS regulations. These regulations are in effect until
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 notice.


Kenneth Kempter
Southern California Chapter Director
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association

12/10 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 together.

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...


12/10 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.

Thank you,
Cowboy of Fire

Welcome to theysaid, Cowboy of Fire. Ab.

12/10 From Firescribe:

Firestorm 'like a big cat, just sitting there'

12/10 Melissa is definitely our go-to gal! She called back after getting the scoop.

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.


12/10 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 miles.

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.


12/10 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?
Too dark?


They might have gotten washed away...
Did anyone finish?

All joking aside, I think they're fine, but the weather was not on their side.
I'm sure it was a very long slog in the downpour.
Chinese water torture? What could be worse for firefighters???


12/10 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.....

12/9 Ab

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.


12/9 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.


12/9 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

12/9 Ab....

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...

Eldorado IHC

12/9 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 hotshots in
their endeavor.

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

12/9 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 it.


12/9 Thanks to vfd cap't for the smaller jpg map of the location and, of course, thanks to GISgirl for the big ones.


12/9 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 IHC Captain).

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.

Whooo hoooo!

Current Weather Conditions
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Temperature: 57
Wind Direction: SSW
Relative Humidity: 88

Location map with weather updates: www.wrh.noaa.gov

12/9 They should have started the walk. I'm geared up for photos and description.

Pledges at this time: $53,835.60


12/9 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 file)

Dick Mangan

12/9 Been There;

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,
and a place to stand.

Casey and others are probably going to need a lot of support from us
for awhile until this all gets straightened out, but we've finally got an
anchor point to start from. So let's stay fired- up!


12/9 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, etc.

I'll be giving them updates on pledge figures throughout the walk.


12/9 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.

(From Wikipedia)


12/9 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 deployments there.

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)

12/9 OK, up and ready 0515 for the big Walk Day...

Keep those pledges rolling in!


12/9 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 think.)

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 the contribution.

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 theysaid.

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!


12/9 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 their ways.

12/9 Abs,

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 employment".

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.

12/8 Only $0.26 per mile from the goal of $52,000. Awesome!

Just went over the top!!! 1856 hours. Whooo hoooo!


12/8 Re Wonk:

About 10 years ago, someone told me it was "White House only, no knowledge."

Willie, broke the crank on the mandolin when I was in MSO. Have chosen the
path of fewer strings.


12/8 Merry Christmas to Abs and all-

We've been working the phones this afternoon trying to nudge the Eldo walk
towards the line, and it's really weird 'cause i feel like Jerry Garcia... Peace to
us all and to all a goodnight. Pray for good walking weather- it's gettin' a bit
stormy out there...


12/8 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.

12/8 Whoooo hooooo! Decals are out the door! Big shipment. Thanks OA for the all-day processing, packing and mailing. Way to raise the bar!

And 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.)


12/8 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.


Wikipedia on Wonk Ab.

12/8 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 hacks.

Mr. Drawers,

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.

Misery Whip

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.

12/9 Abs

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 stole Christmas."

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," Boss said.

"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 guidelines.

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."

12/8 Keep an eye out for Casey and Melissa and perhaps another surprise person tomorrow. Ab.
12/8 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.

12/8 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
12/8 Thank You Casey!

12/8 FYI

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 Waters.

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

Lucky Lindy

You got it on the MN Pack Test. Ab.

12/8 Ab,

Very good news regarding Lotzi's Home Rebuild!
Could you please post this for me? Thank you!

Lisa D


Help 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

12/8 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.

12/8 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.
12/8 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 community....

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.

12/8 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
12/7 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.

12/7 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.....

12/7 Robert Holt

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 hazardous atmosphere.


12/7 Re blood borne pathogens:

Ab and firefighters,

I will use all of this- Thanks! It is a help.


12/7 Ab;

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.

12/7 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 and/or http://training.fema.gov/emiweb/IS/is800.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

12/7 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

H.R. 5697
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 cjudd@fwfsa.org.


Casey Judd
Business Manager



12/7 Ab....

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.

12/7 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 years 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 Thing".

It goes something like this:

-Beware of new initiatives formed within the vacuum of one agency culture. 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 protectors of the exclusive, imaginary secret agency handshake. They are the poison which ensures our failure and the potential for our death during tactical operations.

-Beware of those who lack a demonstrated respect for fire on the landscape 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 personal/organizational shortcomings.

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 against us.

Miserywhip missed the dates but I applaud his recollection of the political 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

12/7 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

FMO Joeboy

12/7 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
gained there!!

Nikki Anne Schmutz

You're welcome. Ab.

12/7 Brooke,

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 Ultra-Walk. Ab.

12/7 Readers,

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.


12/7 Domaque,

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 impressions.

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 distributed.

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 Organizational Accidents.”

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 left unfunded?
  • 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 agencies?

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

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! Cheers. Ab.

12/7 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. OA
12/7 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.

12/7 Nate-

"Former Hotshot" stated that you should "ask a current hotshot" about Fire
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 would
like to debate their use, feel free to contact me.
Ab- please sign my real name

Robert Holt
Redding IHC

12/7 Palms Springs Field Office Recognized

Hey Ab,

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!

Fire Geek

Esperanza Fire vs Poppet Rx 494 K pdf file

12/7 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 tragedy.

"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 estate development."

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 wildfires.

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 nutty.

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 dangerous places.

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 attention.

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 areas?

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.

12/7 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
12/7 AZfirefighter:

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.

12/7 AZ firefighter,

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.

12/7 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

12/7 Re support for Federal Wildland Firefighter Emergency Response Compensation Act & Federal Wildland Firefighter Classification Act:

Dear Abs:

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.


Dear Kim:

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 "subscribe."

With best wishes.
James L. Oberstar, M.C.

Thanks, Kim. We'll keep you in the loop. Ab.

12/7 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 you!!!

Respectfully Submitted,

Kenneth Kempter
Southern California Chapter Director
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
12/7 Hey Ab...

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
them on.

Hope that's helpful.
Nerd on the Fireline

I'll make sure she gets the info. Thanks, Nerd. Ab.

12/7 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 jpharris1@sbcglobal.net email me and I will give you the info on our next class..


12/7 MR

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."

Uncle Louie

12/6 If anyone would like to read fire reports/plans for Australia, Dick Mangan sent some in and Ab will forward them on.

He said:

"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 map)

Thanks Dick. Ab.

12/6 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 BS.

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.



12/6 Ab,

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.

Vicki Minor
Wildland Firefighter Foundation

12/6 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.

12/6 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
12/6 Cooking on the 52 walk pledges. Only 25% more and we reach the goal.

Way to RAISE THE BAR: Feser's CIIMT 1.


12/6 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 together.

Can anyone give any feedback on these three packs?


12/6 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.

Rogue Drogue

12/6 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.

12/6 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 conditions).

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 problems...

Thanks for the great opportunity JP.. I know I learned as much as the students!
12/6 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
12/6 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 presenting soon?

Anything special you want to recommend from your experience that I should include/warn them about?


12/6 Mellie,

Watched the videos... how scary. At least the kid in the second video instinctively
"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 before
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.

12/6 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.

12/6 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.
12/5 NMAirBear,

You said,

"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: www.fs.fed.us/r5/sanbernardino/documents/riv_mast_nov2006.pdf

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 future.


Rogue Rivers

12/5 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
(www.fireandforestry.com) 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
12/5 The Jobs Page and Series 0462 (Forestry Technician Series) & Series 0455 (Range Technician Series) jobs pages and Series 0401 (Biologist Series) are updated. Each of these series include jobs for wildland firefighters. Ab.
12/5 >From 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 major disaster."

"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."


12/5 Retirement gift

I am a Wildland F/F with the State of Tn. Our crew is looking
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.

12/5 Cynic:

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.

12/5 Hey folks,

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 other theysaiders)

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!)

magnesium fire/explosion

flaming can of wd-40/explosion

12/5 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 and decals.
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.

12/5 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 download it HERE. It's a very big wmv file. Ab.

12/5 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 www.dse.vic.gov.au & a news page is www.theage.com.au/news/national/towns-on-high-alert/2006/12/05/1165080911348.phpl.

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
of control.

The Pilliga koala colony is one of Australia's most genetically
diverse, spread across a vast tract of bushland. (etc)

12/5 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.



12/5 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):


12/5 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 fire-service.

Waiting for snow…
12/5 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 MONITOR CLOSELY.

12/5 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 their situation.

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.....

Sign Me,

Keep Firefighters Safer

52 Mile Walk Pledge List
Some nice pledges coming in. Ab.

12/5 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 the ground
  • Wind has intensified greater than predicted, dust obscures your vision

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 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.
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 issue...

jp harris

12/5 Firefighter Hector "Sandy" McClune died on Sunday, November 26, 2006
while protecting his community from a grass fire.


12/5 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
www.cgs.org/publications/docs/Losing_Ground_Complete_Rev.pdf (pdf file)

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 prone areas.)
www-laep.ced.berkeley.edu/~itr/literature/IZone2001.pdf (pdf file)


12/5 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!

the cynic
12/4 GISgirl,

Thanks for everything you do!!!

12/4 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, etc???)

* 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!

-Upstream (treading)

Watch out about getting too close to the headwaters. Pretty remote country. Ab.

12/4 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?
12/4 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.

12/4 Private Property.

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.

12/4 MOC4546,

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.

12/4 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 forth.

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 insurance industry.

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...

12/4 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 than that?
  • 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.


12/4 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.


12/4 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 using.

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 longer shadows)
  • 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 mapping
  • 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 investigative process

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: AERIAL PHOTOS. Ab.

12/4 To 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 problem.

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.

12/4 Hi Ab.

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 are
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 volunteer
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 have
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
something unexpected.

I'll be the first to say "if the homeowner took little or no effort to keep
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". That
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.


12/4 Pyro5755,

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... wildland firefighters.

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 go.

NorCal FS F/F

12/4 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 riding
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?


12/3 nate

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
our job 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 penny.

Woodsman 20

12/3 JP,

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.

12/3 Ab,

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?

12/3 Ab.

From: www.reason.com/news/show/33856.phpl

Should the state and federal government encourage Californians to build houses in high-risk brush-fire zones? The brain says "no," but the policy means "yes."

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

12/3 NATE

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.


12/3 Drip Torch,

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.

Rogue Rivers
12/3 Ab,

Does anyone have any experience with the “Fire Finder” handheld IR device (specifically on mop-up)? (www.dyn-optics.com/mod955.php) 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


12/3 My 2 cents worth on FireFighters and Structure Protection

I recently 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.


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 SERVICE BROTHERS..

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.


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.

misc comments.

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 risks.

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 path.

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?


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.

12/2 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.

12/2 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 leadership."

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?

12/2 From Firescribe:
Nice page on the Forest Service Honor Guard. I think Ab said they are recruiting...


12/2 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 for.


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 little better...

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...


12/2 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

12/2 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.
Fire 32: www.wildlandfire.com/pics/fire32/fire32.php ; and
Engines 16: www.wildlandfire.com/pics/eng16/engines16.php

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"""". This
>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
>grass survived.

12/2 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 happen.

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.......

12/2 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 small excerpt.

Fire Geek

Risk Assessment (1,370 K pps/ppt file) Ab will put anyone in touch.

12/2 jimhart,

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 non-defensible."

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 protect).

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.

12/2 All I Want for Christmas is a Donation to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation

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.

12/2 To all:

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 use.

Drip Torch
12/1 www.signonsandiego.com/news/northcounty/20061201-9999-7m1fire.phpl

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

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 1961.

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.

Open fire

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 rest.)

12/1 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 same.

12/1 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 protect.

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 culturally-expected choice.

Expand? Clarify? I am really interested in understanding what you mean.

NorCal Tom

12/1 Pyro5755,

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.

12/1 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.
12/1 Ab,

Sounds like someone is out there advocating for sensibility in fighting interface
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
Keith Matheny
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.)

fair use disclaimer

12/1 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 deaths.

All it takes is one precedent to set civil case law for future firefighter safety.

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.

Rogue Rivers
12/1 Ab,

This has some good info and some contact names for those who want
to let their county leaders know what's on their minds.

SoCal FF

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
The Press-Enterprise


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 Press-Enterprise found.

"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 fire-prone areas."

Policy Questioned

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 such restrictions.

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 said.

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 development.

Other Inland officials disagreed. (click link at the top to read the rest)

fair use disclaimer

12/1 "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.

12/1 Thanks Alaskan FMO.

Here's the 58 page OIG Audit Report on the Forest Service firefighting
costs: www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/08601-44-SF.pdf (pdf file)

Tahoe Terrie

~Archive: November-06
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