"THEY SAID IT" ARCHIVES
January, 2007

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1/31 Type 3 IC

According to the 5109-17 a Type 3 IC is required to pass the WCT at the Arduous Level. I am looking for input. Does this position need to be arduous? Should it be a Moderate level WCT. My point is I have been an ICT3 for over 15 years and would like to keep performing as said position. Unfortunately I have suffered a back injury which might prohibit me from caring 45 pounds.

How many times is an ICT3 going to be packing 45 pounds (Or anyone else).

Before I get attacked let me explain, I was a Hot Shot for 12 years a long time ago, Engineer, Captain, DIVS, OPBD, OPSC and in good shape, work out daily, my back just can’t hold 45 pounds for 3 miles. Does an ICT3 really need the Arduous?

My question is, As an ICT3, I am over seeing the fire but still on the ground with fire line personnel and working on the ground with them. If we keep this position at Arduous, I will have to remove it from my quals.

Brush Boy
1/31 Re Orange fanny fire shelter pack:

I have one hanging on my wall. found it on e-bay so you might try that.

Firerev

1/31 The final 2006 Safety Gram

MEMORANDUM To: Chair, National Wildfire Coordinating Group
From: Chair, Safety and Health Working Team
Subject: 2006 SAFETY GRAM

The 2006 SAFETY GRAM is attached. It summarizes reported wildland and prescribed fire fatalities, burnovers/entrapments and other serious accidents for all wildland fire management organizations throughout the United States in 2006.

Twenty four fatalities occurred in 2006, when employees were performing actions associated with wildland fire management. This is a substantial increase from the 12 fatalities that occurred in 2005. The 2006 fatalities are separated by category and listed below:
Aviation – 8: Eight fatalities occurred with two helicopter accidents and one lead plane accident.
Entrapments/Burnover – 7: Seven fatalities occurred with entrapments and burnovers while firefighting.
Driving /Motor Vehicle – 4: Driving related accidents accounted for four fatalities.
Heart Attacks – 3: Three individuals suffered heart attacks while firefighting.
Hazard Tree/Felling – 1: One fatality occurred on a prescribed fire when a snag fell.
Other (Fall) – 1: One fatality occurred when volunteer fell from the stairs at a lookout tower.

Accident prevention is enhanced when our fire fighters and fire managers are made aware of serious accidents that have occurred. Learning about these accidents can identify where our future safety emphasis areas should be. Please provide wide distribution of this 2006 SAFETY GRAM to your respective agencies and organizations. Please contact me if you have any questions or need additional information at (208) 387-5175 or michelle_ryerson@ nifc.blm.gov.

/s/ Michelle G. Ryerson

pdf attachment (details)

1/31 For those who can go to Ken Fahey's Memorial Service this Friday. It's in South Carolina:

Ken Fahey's Memorial Service Info (MS word .doc file). Nice pic, too.

Map to get there.

Our thoughts and prayers for his wife, children, other family and friends. Ab.

1/31 Ellreese's court appearance:

Ab,

At the risk of sounding too dramatic, it was a dark day for firefighters
yesterday in Spokane. I was in the court room when Ellreese was read
the charges against him, and I can tell you, my gut was in a knot!

When you hear the judge say: "The Government of the United States
of America is bringing formal federal charges," it's awful. There's no
doubt the full might of the federal government is going to try and put
Ellreese in prison for at least 3 years, and fine him 250,000 dollars.

If you are a firefighter, and you have ever been on a fire when you
didn’t know everything you needed to know to make good choices,
this could be you!

If you ever declared you said "this" or "that" in an overwhelming moment,
believing you did, only to be told later that others in the heat of the same
moment didn't remember it that way, this could be you, being tried for
lying!

There was not as much support standing, sitting or being present at that
court house as there needed to be, with a few notable exceptions.

Now is not a good time to lurk in the weeds firefighters! Stand up and be
counted!

This could be you!

N166Z

1/31 Didn't I read the DASHO in R5 is the same Tidwell
who doesn't seem to be coordinating with Safety
Officers in a timely fashion? Coordination with the
DASHO at least in R5 might be a problem.

SoCal groundpounder

1/31 See Tom Harbours note on the Senate hearing on Tuesday 1/30/07
Rod Altig

Ab note: Thanks to those of you sending this in, Rod included. It is important news.

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

From:     Tom Harbour/WO/USDAFS
Date:      01/30/2007 11:22
Subject:  NRE hit a home run!

This morning there was a successful hearing in front of Senate Energy
Natural Resources. In answer to a question from Senator Dominici (R-NM),
ranking minority member of the full committee, Undersecretary Mark Rey this
morning outlined three steps the administration would like to take to
improve our focus on firefighter safety (risk management). Mark indicated
(1) we need to amend PL 104-208 sec 636 to allow fireline supervisors the
ability to have the same reimbursement privileges for liability insurance
which we now afford other supervisors, managers, and law enforcement
officers (2) the FS will proceed with implementing the concepts of
"privilege" in accident investigations so complete and candid information
is offered to improve our risk management practices, and (3) he urged the
committee to work with the administration in clarifying the intent of PL
107-203 to allow both our firefighters and our partners the full measure of
both lessons learned and any appropriate administrative or criminal
charges.

This is a wonderful announcement and should go far in showing our
firefighters that the Chief, the Undersecretary, and members of this
committee are supportive of them.

As we discussed last week, with the exception of amending PL 104-208, these
actions are complex. Moving to "privilege" won't happen immediately and
requires close coordination with the DASHO. Clarifying the intent of PL
107-203 will require negotiations with the committee and individual
members. Nonetheless, this is a watershed announcement which is
extraordinarily gratifying to me and which I wanted to share with you.

This is good news.

1/31 Ab, this has come out and is circulating...
Our R5 Safety Manager is stepping down.

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

It is with great displeasure that I send to you my decision to part company
with the Forest Service so soon.

As I had stated to all of you at Monterey, that I would address to
management your concerns and the state of the Regional Safety Programs in
hopes we could develop a course of action. I did address some of your
issues with the Regional Forester which I was concerned with here at the
Region 5 headquarters. That was over three weeks ago and there is still no
answer.

I had also addressed some of your concerns and the Region 5 safety office
concerns to Tom Tidwell, in a four page e-mail last week. However the only
issues he has discussed was that management was not going to make available
the safety vehicle for me to take home as it was used by D<snip>.

I believe without pointing fingers that there are concerns which need to be
addressed across the board as it pertains to safety, and these concerns are
in management's hands at this moment.

Budgets issues are of the utmost concern currently with management, not how
programs are run, or who is being trained.

Budgets do allow us to complete are daily tasks, however I was very
concerned as to the many issues which were left unanswered by management,
and the lack of supervision and support the region safety office and
regional safety field personnel have received over the last six months.

I wish you all well, continue to support management and to educate them as
to what and how we perform our jobs.

Edwin R Bunker
U.S. Forest Service
Pacific South West Regional Safety Manager
1323 Club Drive. Vallejo, Ca. 94592

1/31 Ab:

This was posted in the Natl. Park Service "morning report". Interesting!

See www.nps.gov/morningreport. I cut and paste.

TX Lobo
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Service First” Interagency MOU Announced

On November 24, 2006, the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management signed an historic MOU enabling all four agencies to effectively share resources, re-delegate authorities, duties and responsibilities and generally simplify the reimbursable process. The four agencies announced the completion of this historic MOU at a recent federal land management agency head roundtable meeting in Washington D.C.

The Service First Program has three broad goals: 1) improve customer service; 2) increase operational efficiency; and, 3) enhance land stewardship, resource protection and conservation. This MOU streamlines the administrative processes permitting the agencies, when working together, to more efficiently accomplish day-to-day activities. The program allows the approval of intra-governmental orders and task orders in a fiscally prudent and timely manner. It also greatly enhances the ability for a partnership created under Service First to help attain shared mission goals.

Service First was originally developed as a joint BLM – USFS initiative designed to improve customer service. Authority for Service First was provided by legislation in 1997 covering only BLM and USFS. More recent House Appropriations language added the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service to the program as potential partners. However, the recently approved MOU was required to formalize this relationship. The Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Army Corps of Engineers are currently considering whether they are interested in joining the program.

Interagency partnerships are not new in the National Park Service. Lake Mead NRA has been involved in a partnership with BLM, USFS and FWS called the Southern Nevada Area Partnership for eight years. Superintendent Bill Dickinson believes Lake Mead will benefit from Service First by 1) reducing costs by pooling human resources and property; 2) eliminating redundancy in service; 3) offering one-stop shopping to the public; 4) leveraging employee skills and expertise; and 5) providing better coordination and collaboration on common management objectives. While Lake Mead has been using an interagency partnership for years, they still feel that this MOU will be helpful in their relationship. And, we suspect that the document will be useful to those that may be looking for a more efficient way to work with our sister agencies.

Service First materials are now posted on the National Park Service partnership webpage at www.nps.gov/partnerships/support_contacts.php. The information is posted at the bottom of the support contacts page in the resources section.
[Submitted by Gerry Gaumer, Public Affairs, WASO]

1/31 Irony,

You said, "We need to stop practicing law without a license"

I agree for the most part, but I also think those with a "law license" need to read the following and understand, and stop violating wildland firefighter basic rights and concentrate on the end goal for wildland firefighter safety and family safety:

The United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights


Apologies in advance: Each American needs to understand and defend their basic rights that are obtained through the Constitution and the various amendments, and defend those rights.

Every wildland fire investigation since South Canyon - Thirtymile to Esperanza - has violated MANY basic Constitutional rights of those being interviewed, and lessons are NEVER learned.

Every investigation since South Canyon has sought to assign blame, rather than Organizational Learning and Correction.

Someday, the Forest Service will become a Just Culture and eventually a Learning Culture, and in the future, wildland firefighters will be safer.

PL 107-203 is just another example of a Systemic (Organizational) Failure.

Touche

1/31 Does anybody know where I can get one of the first fire shelters? Just to help jog
some memories, these were the ones in the orange fanny packs. I would like to be
able to use it in my class room portion of the S-130 I teach. Please e-mail me
escovel@ co.marin.ca.us

Thank you
1/31 Ab,

Ok, so maybe I was listening for what I wanted to hear, but this is a quote from the National Academy of Public Administration testimony:

"Local firefighters are usually the least costly to use—if they are properly trained and equipped. Too often they are automatically dismissed from the fire scene as soon as a national Incident Management Team arrives (and replaced with higher cost resources), because there is no way to know whether they are qualified."

I've been hearing rumors that the Rural Fire Assistance grant program (that provides training and equipment) may not be funded this year, even though Congress is likely to pass the funding resolution at last year's level.

vfd cap'n

1/31 jd,

PL 107-203 does not care if you are a Forest Service employee, a BLM employee, a USDI employee, or a state or local government employee. If you work with the "humans" that are employed at the Forest Service, you should be aware and concerned.

The law simply says,

"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."

USDI folks, state, local, and volunteer agencies aren't immune from the hands of the USDA Office of Inspector General... nor are Forest Service folks... nor is anyone from a group (USDA OIG) that has been legislatively allowed to investigate "potential wrongful deaths" of federal employees without the relevant field, technical, or specialized experience necessary to complete a factual investigation.

Before PL 107-203, the sole responsibility for federal employee wrongful death was administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under Title 18... As a result of PL 107-203, wrongful death of Forest Service employees is NOW INVESTIGATED UNDER Title 7 which specifically DEALS WITH AGRICULTURE.

Don't even bring up the Constitutional issues of how PL 107-203 violates so many basic protections. The USDA OIG and the Constitutional issues of PL 107-203 will be revealed to all at some point in the future.

After everything is said and done on the prosecution of Ellreese, I would venture to guess that that fingers of "blame" will be pointing back towards Special Agent Parker and the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

Hopefully we will concentrate on learning and being a just culture.... SA Parker and the Asst US Attorney simply screwed up.

I bet that is everyone sticks to their guns, that this will eventually be presented before the United States Supreme Court.

/s/ Sign me... feeling somehow like a slab of bacon to accomplish the USDA "Mission".
Sign me also... Lobotomy

1/30 We received a question about the confidentiality of the survey we are conducting about the 30-Mile fire and the impacts of the legal proceedings. As we stated in our original email announcement that we sent on January 28 and later through FireNet on the 29th, "The survey will remain confidential--no names will be associated with any of the results." It is impossible for us, the survey managers, to access any information about the identity of the people taking the survey. In taking the survey, the respondents are not asked for their names, email addresses, or any other identifying information. It is possible, however, that the survey software at Zoomerang, the survey hosting company, keeps track of IP addresses. This is to eliminate the possibility of multiple responses from the same computer, or "stuffing the ballot box". But again, we do not have access to, nor would we ever request access to, this information.

The last question in the survey is the option to type in some remarks. As stated on the screen, these remarks may later be made public as part of the report from the survey, but they will not be associated with any names or other identifying information. Nor do we have the ability to associate the remarks with any names.

As someone from one of the agencies said,

"individuals certainly have the right to state their own personal opinions on matters such as this, so long as it is clear that they are speaking in their individual capacities and not as representatives of (their agency or organization)".

We advise that you take the survey from your home, rather than a computer at your workplace.

If you have not taken the survey, it can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/yo7nj6
You can only view or take the survey once, so don't plan on browsing and taking it later. The second time you visit the site, you will only see a screen thanking you for taking the survey.

Our reasons for conducting this survey are to:

  • Determine the impacts to wildland fire personnel and their organizations from the 30-Mile Fire legal proceedings;
  • Serve the wildland fire community by providing this communication tool;
  • After the survey, help develop recommendations to mitigate any adverse impacts that may be identified in the survey;
  • Enhance the safety of wildland fire personnel by helping to identify issues that may have an adverse impact on safety, and recommend mitigation measures.

We are NOT attempting to influence or affect in any way the ongoing legal proceedings.

If you have any questions, let me know.

Bill Gabbert
International Association of Wildland Fire

1/30 Bud, Bud, Bud:

I don't think I know you personally but the wildland firefighting (firefighters) community I represent suspects you are a devoted WO employee who has been designated to post views here to "throw a wrench" into the FWFSA's efforts on behalf of federal wildland firefighters.

That is evident by all of your collective posts addressing me personally. I want to make it very clear that what I offer is the voice of our firefighters... the ones in the field who do the job and know what the heck is going on. Nothing that comes through the FWFSA or via my posts isn't obtained from our nationwide membership.

Let's examine your post. You reference the witness panels such as Undersecretaries, GAO, IG etc. An obvious question... Where are the firefighters? Where are the true "experts" in the field of wildland firefighting... the firefighters? You've listed nothing but bureaucrats whose collective wildland firefighting "in the field" experience is certainly suspect.

If one listened to the testimony, or for that matter read the testimony from Nita & Mark, one wouldn't know if it was from '07, '06, '05 or any previous year. It is all the same rhetoric. "Our Departments share these concerns and are committed to reducing these costs" or "we welcome these assessments & recommendations" blah, blah, blah.

You said: " increasing fire suppression costs come from the very large fires." Astute observation. How did many large fires in this past record-breaking season become large? 100,000 acres ignite at once? ALL fires start small. It could be in the middle of nowhere or it could be in Lake Arrowhead. How did so many get big & expensive this past season, or for that matter any recent season?

Federal resources, you know, the ones that are more cost-effective (OK, cheaper) than non-federal resources weren't around. Why? They weren't funded? Why... the diversion of preparedness funds for non-fire projects like Albuquerque. Units stayed in their home forests because they knew resources wouldn't be available.

How many "unable to fill" lists did you see this year and how many pages, instead of lines, were they? If you think it makes sense to fill an order for dozers on a fire in Nevada from Florida... no wonder the fire program is askew. What happens to small fires while you wait for the resources necessary to meet that 98% IA? They get bigger. And, according to you, more expensive.

The alternative of waiting for federal resources that should have been available in the first place, and with all due respect to our counterparts in the municipal sector, is to bring in higher-priced non-federal resources. That equates to: increased fire suppression costs.

Isn't it ironic that those touting all the other "remedies" to the cost problem such as fuels treatment, wildland fire use, cost sharing etc., are the bureaucrats and not the true experts...the firefighters?

Mr. Bud, with all due respect, Mr. Rey has been misleading congress on preparedness levels for some time. It took us all of last year to demonstrate that fact to Congress but we did. The budget information posted on the Forest Service web site you refer to has, itself, been called a "shell game" by members of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.

I do like the "arrows of evidence" whatever that means. It means virtually nothing to firefighters and, after today's hearing means increasingly less to Congress. Mr. Bud, credibility is everything. Until your leadership accepts their culpability in this mess, as well as the mess in South Carolina which I suspect you should be aware of, then this ship will continue to sink. The only folks keeping it afloat are the men & women who risk their lives on the fire lines, not the career bureaucrats like timber industry lobbyists turned undersecretaries.

One last point. While I was pleased to see Mr. Rey speak up about the liability issue, everything he said, whether it was a concern about staffing of fires, what needs to be done, i.e. amending 107-203 is what the FWFSA submitted to the Agency 2 1/2 years ago and which they did nothing with. Now, with the almost mutinous, collective voice of their firefighters being heard across the Nation, the Agency takes a position...Our position. Hey, maybe we're making progress.

Rest assured the FWFSA will submit its written testimony within the next 10 days. I don't like being this candid with someone I don't know, and it isn't personal, but these issues are far too important not to be candid and straightforward. Our Nation's federal wildland firefighters deserve nothing less.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
FWFSA
1/30 Maybe I'm just being a spoiled firefighter, but I am curious how everyone else
would feel if they were told they could only be a fire fighter from Oct to
April? I know I'm in region 9 but I had more hopes from the Forest
Supervisor, since he came from a professional Fire organization. I am only
funded at 51% fire, yes, even as a primary firefighter. While personnel that
don't have a redcard are funded, out of fire, at a much hire percentage. Is
this mis-appropriation of fire funds or am I just being childish? I've been
forced to have fewer fire assignments that the local rec techs. If you have
any suggestions, please post. If you have more direct comments, maybe the Abs
will give you my email.

Nota
1/30 Re: Mark Rey Fibbing To Congress (again)

Wow.... just listened to the audio tapes of the Senate Hearing....

Mark Rey got caught in the act of "moving the shells" around and got lambasted.... Information and facts initially provided by numerous FWFSA members and concerned wildland firefighters.

Imagine.... it initially started with $10.45/gallon "ice tea".... and Mr. Rey's denial of the facts.... It ain't rocket science.... It is on the contracts of the caterers. (Also known as two scoops of instant ice tea mix + 3 gallons of water = $10.45/per gallon)

I'd be amazed if Mr. Rey makes it the next two years if he continues to lie under oath before Congress.

Game on.... Folks.... listen to the audio and/or video of the Senate Hearing.... and listen to the hole that Mr. Rey digs himself into..... and his panel.

"47 Management Efficiencies" provided by Mr. Rey.... I am still laughing.

Gizmo
1/30 In yesterdays Senate testimony, it was stated that the federal land management agencies were successful in suppressing 98% of the fires during initial attack.

I keep seeing this 98% used year after year, but have not yet been able to re-create or find the data set that they use for making this statement, year after year........

When I use data from KCFAST, it would appear that the success rate is actually closer to 88%, well below the number that keeps getting used. It is even worse in some Regions........

Any help on what data set is being used, or are folks just pulling numbers out of their backsides and deceiving the Congress and the American people?

FedWatcher
1/30 Re: The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Hearing on Wildfire Costs

Mark Rey is at his same old smoke and mirrors game. You can read all of the
testimony of the hearing or watch a video archive by clicking on the link below:

Full Committee Hearing: Costs of Wildfire Suppression.

Lobotomy
1/30 Jan 30, 2007 Senate hearing on Costs of Wildfire Suppression
here's the link:
http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=1597
And there is an archive video of the hearing.
A number of witnesses including 2 Undersecretaries, GAO, IG, National Academy of Public Adminstration , Wildland Fire Leadership Council,National Association of State Foresters testified.

In a nutshell, increasing fire suppression costs come from the very large fires. Costs could be reduced by actions such as hazardous fuels reduction, wildland fire use, implementation of Community Fire Plans and FIREWISE, States sharing of costs. But read for yourself.

Casey, all arrows of evidence (including the budget information posted on the Forest Service website) do not support your contention that fire costs are increasing because of " policies such as the continued diverstion of fire preparedness funds by the Forest Service to pay for non-fire projects."

Bud
1/30 From Firescribe:

Today's Senate hearing on Energy and Natural Resources on
Costs of wildfire suppression [active webcast available]

The purpose of the hearing is to consider the status of Federal
land management agencies’ efforts to contain the costs of their
wildfire suppression activities and to consider recent independent
reviews of and recommendations for those efforts.

Trial date set for deadly wildfire charges

A March 26 trial is scheduled for a former U-S Forest Service
crew boss charged with involuntary manslaughter and lying to
federal investigators in the deaths of four firefighters.

Ellreese Daniels is charged with four counts of involuntary
manslaughter and seven counts of making false statements to
federal investigators. Pleas of not guilty were entered for him
oday in U-S- District Court in Spokane.

Thanks to all who are sending this in. Ab.

1/30 does anyone know how all this cr@p is going to affect
DOI employees? are they under the same scrutiny as the
USFS folks? would jumping ship from the FS to BLM
work or is staying with the feds all the same?

jd
1/30 Irony,

Of course the criminal reports plus trial need to occur first, followed by the non-criminal reports. It's well established in law that that is the sequence needed to insure fairness to all. Has anyone heard anything to the contrary? No doubt going out of order could be grounds for a court case if that were to occur. I hope our firefighters who survived don't have this stuff hanging over their heads for the next 5 years!

The San Bernardino County Sun needs to support our firefighters AND HONOR OUR FALLEN. Or are they only about money? Those of you who live in socal, contact them and tell them to grow a set of values! CDF, FS, we're all in this together when it comes to getting the CRIMINAL that started the fire and protecting our guys/gals who happened to be nearby.

Here's where you can send online feedback: www.sbsun.com/feedback
Here's the page where you can find phone numbers and addresses for snail mail: www.sbsun.com/info

Tell them not to jeopardize the criminal case with FOIA demands!!! GREATER GOOD! More important to "society" than crucifying the arsonist in their media is putting his a$$ in jail for a good long time so he doesn't do this again! Arson is like pedophilia -- a compulsive behavior -- and thus, one that requires no motive and has a high recidivism rate. Poor jerk, in a very real sense -- because of his brain chemistry -- he probably "couldn't help himself", but that's exactly why he needs to be in the hoosecow where he can't hurt anyone else!!!! I heard he started several more fires after our guys were killed, not exactly the action of a sane person using his noggin'!

As far as all the different agencies go... they must get on the same page to make this thing work! Something the San Bernardino County Sun could do that would truly support firefighters and the communities would be to research the law and educate the public to the process. Let's get the public demanding due process so the criminal ends up in jail and the innocent firefighters have the sword removed from above their heads!

What a topsy-turvy world! Ab, theysaid has got to be the John Wayne in all of this!

Mellie

It is. Here's what he might say in this instance...

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.”

Ab.

1/30 DozerShot

Your posting hit the nail square on the head ! It is eloquent, inspiring, crude and spoken from the heart and your gut. I always thought of myself as normal, it was all the others that were alittle twisted. Well, I guess maybe I am twisted too.

We all find ourselves locked in the biggest battle of our careers, with the issues surrounding criminalizing fire fatalities. I have never known my brothers and sisters in the wildland fire community to back down and give up when faced with a challenge. We have all looked eye to eye at a fire dragon and have always come up with a tactic to be able to succeed. Sometimes it takes us multiple shifts to come out on top, but we keep trying. Now is the time for us to to continue to press ahead, to not allow our voices to go unheard.

The rules have changed as far as our "Can do" attitude. We need to ensure that we follow all the rules, don't hang your butt out, be aggressive with anchor and flank. If the hair starts standin up and your guts in knots, make sure your decisions are based on sound tactics and strategies.

I also believe we must be there to mentor, train, and do a mind meld with those that are coming up behind us, giving them the benefit of our experiences. I could have retired 3 yrs ago, but working with the next generation, both at home and on large fires are what keeps my head in the game, and what I see in their eyes is truly a inspiration. Yes there are days that the BS within the Agency drives me crazy, but when the fire bell goes off, and I get to work with the finest men and women that are part of the wildland fire community from all agencies, I know that I am blessed to be a part of a very noble, and honorable profession.

Yep, now is the time to get engaged, have frank, open discussions within your fire community, with your Line Officers, and be part of the solution. For failure is not a option.

Rod Altig
Gorge FMO

1/30 Ab

You said:
Aberdeen was making a funny. I saw his tongue in his cheek. Ab.

I was trying to do the same thing. Just poking at him. FED FIRE encompasses a lot.

The top of the 2nd page shows a plane dropping retardant, could be an old CDF S2.
Engine ?? Could be fed when they were red down here now they are all Lemon Yellow.

ht
1/29 The Esperanza Fire, which resulted in the deaths of 5 Federal Employees, is in fact, a homicide. The investigators have determined that the fire was the result of arson. A person has been charged with the crime under California statutes. Keep in mind this is also a federal crime and could also be tried under federal statute.

The Federal provisions covering murder of federal employees are covered in 18 U.S.C. to wit:

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 51 > § 1114

§ 1114. Protection of officers and employees of the United States

Whoever kills or attempts to kill any officer or employee of the United States or of any agency in any branch of the United States Government (including any member of the uniformed services) while such officer or employee is engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties, or any person assisting such an officer or employee in the performance of such duties or on account of that assistance, shall be punished—
(1) in the case of murder, as provided under section 1111;
(2) in the case of manslaughter, as provided under section 1112; or
(3) in the case of attempted murder or manslaughter, as provided in section 1113.

Since the case is being tried in Riverside County under state law, I am presuming that the Federal Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) in Los Angeles has agreed somehow to let the case be tried within the state statutes. The AUSA could exercise his authority to take the homicide case to the Federal level at any time if he wanted to.

Think about this.

The Esperanza Fire is the murder trial of 5 federal employees.

The case is being tried in Riverside County under California Statutes.

Now, enter the complications of the Cantwell Bill regarding 30 Mile and Cramer Fires.

Federal employees were compelled to provide information to the Serious Accident Investigation Team (SAIT) and to OSHA, so as to not violate their Fifth Amendment rights.

OIG is lurking around. Yes, the same “verySpecial” Agent Parker was asking all the same questions regarding Esperanza as he did with 30 Mile. Did we mention that OIG was NOT part of the Federal/CDF SAIT nor was OSHA! (Congratulations to the Forest Service!!!!)

Did it occur to anyone that the SAIT or OSHA reports could actually detract from the murder case of Mark, Jason, Jess, Pablo and Danny? How so? Have you ever seen a report which lauded anyone for doing the correct things when people die?

So, the question needs to be asked. Who is really in charge of all the legal wrangling associated with Esperanza, 30 Mile and Cramer?

Did we fail to mention the implications of the FOIA which were blasted by the San Bernardino Sun for the failure of CDF to release documents which are likely part of the criminal prosecution?

Can you imagine the impacts of the premature release of information?

There is an opportunity to try the entire Esperanza Fire and any one associated with it in a criminal court!

Are we “reading the book with a straw”?

The Forest Service, OSHA, Department of Justice, CALFIRE (aka CDF), Riverside DA and all others need to be on the same page!

Here is the strategy:

  1. The criminal procedures need to play through first! This is essential. This is the order of precedence.
  2. Upon completion of the trial – regardless of outcome, then the SAIT and OSHA reports can be released.

While we fully need to understand the events of Esperanza, we also need to recognize we are in a different world than we were prior to 2000. Times have changed. We are in a legal world now.

We need to stop practicing law without a license. The sacrifice will be timely release of information so we can learn from it. This will also protect our employees who are acting in good faith when thing go bad.

Irony

Thanks Irony. Ab.

1/29 Thanks to everyone taking the survey about the fallout from the 30-Mile Fire. 

If in trying to go to the survey web site at   http://tinyurl.com/yo7nj6   you see a page that says "Thank you for taking the survey...... " , it means someone using your computer or another computer on the same network with the same IP address already took the survey.  If this happens, you will need to use another computer to take the survey.  Send an email message to your home email address including the above link, to remind yourself to take it from home.

The information from this survey will give us some actual data that we can use when we talk with the decision-makers that can fix this situation.

Bill Gabbert
International Association of Wildland Fire

Ab note: Readers, you can't log on to the survey just to browse, expecting to take the survey later. If you open it, take it. You will not be able to return again on that computer.

1/29 Casey – you put it so eloquently, let me follow up with a little bit more of a crude approach, attempting at inspiration….

This isn’t the time to quit. If you’re retired, I understand quitting, but I wouldn’t call it that. You’ve put your time in and done your duty, now it’s time to enjoy everything else life has to offer you.

But the rest of you, c’mon! Why did you choose to fight fire in the first place? Firefighters are not like the majority of the population. Most of us are rather strange by “normal” standards, aren’t we? We’re the type of people that enjoy skydiving, rock-climbing, skiing, snowboarding, hunting, fishing, whitewater kayaking and traveling to strange places hoping to get lost just to increase the adventure. Firefighters are “fighters”. They’re people who don’t back down from a challenge or danger. They enjoy and thrive on helping those that are sick, injured, less fortunate etc. Firefighters are the type of people that will stop to help a stranded woman give birth without blinking an eye, risk their lives to save a dog trapped in an RV in front of an oncoming forest fire, jump into a class 5 river to tie off their buddy stuck in a strainer, walk through an area hot enough to melt the vibram of their boots to rescue a stranded fawn. Firefighters never ever give up on their calling, their friends, their peers or their families.

If you quit and just walk away, you’re not one of these people I’ve described above. If you quit to make a stand against what we all believe is wrong, then follow through by going all the way; go to Ellreese’s trial, write your senators etc. don’t just quit in silence, make it count for something that will make a change.

There is danger and a huge challenge ahead of us. Maybe we can do something good with it. Do you really believe that you’re the type of leader that will get in the same situation that Ellreese was in? Maybe it is time to take a look at how you’re leading. The “can do” attitude has to be reigned in now, doesn’t it? You know you take risks, we do. There are crewbosses that still allow crews to have a beer or two off hours while on assignment…. but no more. There are times when we engage without the proper resources to watch our back door, now, we can’t do that anymore. The crewmember that is insubordinate will not receive a warning, but will now be sent home on the first flight or bus because they are a liability. In essence without rambling on and on with examples, we now have to change our tactics so to speak. The result will be that we have more large fires, thus incurring larger expense. The initial attack percentages that line officers are supposed to achieve will not increase, but decrease, due to lack of engagement.

It’s simple circle logic.
We know that part of fighting fire is the inevitability that people will die and, sick as it sounds, that is what lures a lot of us to it. However, we can be better, we can be safer. We just have to back off on the mass hysteria and think about how you as a leader can fight fire smart. If you know you’re in over your head, don’t go deeper. Listen to your gut, get the training you need. Don’t accept a signed off taskbook if you know in your heart that you can’t take the worst assignment that position has to offer you. If you feel vulnerable or exposed with your current quals, back off a few and start over.
We need to be there for the younger ones that need us. We need to be mentors, we need to tighten up how we do business and be professionals. So WHEN not if, the next fatality happens, you can sit through an investigation with confidence that you did everything right.

Things will change; they will get better because so many people are fighting for our justice. Don’t you think it would be cowardly to walk away in the heat of a battle?

-Dozershot

1/29 Please see the R-6 Regional Forester, Linda Goodman's note about the 1/22
editorial in the Oregonian and her encouragement to raise our concerns and
fears when talking about this with the media and congressionals.

Rod Altig
Gorge FMO

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

I know some of you may have seen this Oregonian Editorial but wanted to
make sure you shared it with your employees. Unfortunately, there isn't a
lot we can do for Ellreese Daniels as he goes through the legal process.
However, we can and have raised our concerns about what this trial does to
our firefighters as a whole and talked about the need to be able to have
employees tell us what happened after an accident without fear of
prosecution. When talking to either newspapers or congressional staffers,
we should be mentioning our fears and concerns when possible. Thanks.

Linda Goodman
Regional Forester
Pacific Northwest Region

1/29 Ab

Please inform Aberdeen that FED FIRE is already taken by the Federal Fire Department that protect many military bases and military housing complexes in San Diego.

In San Diego it is mostly operated out of Navy Bases. The equipment all is labeled "Federal Fire Department", and they are called FED FIRE. I am sure other consolidated federal fire departments exist also, in other areas of the country but they carry the name of the sponsoring agency or installation.

Here is a link to San Diego: http://home.san.rr.com/fedfire/ (notice the "FEDFIRE") The marines do not participate under that name. Each Marine base has it's own fire department. (Even though they are technically part of the Navy.)

ht

Aberdeen was making a funny. I saw his tongue in his cheek. Ab.

1/29 The International Association of Wildland Fire is concerned about the legal fallout from the fatalities on the 2001 30-Mile fire in Washington state. As you know, manslaughter charges are being filed against a U. S. Forest Service employee. Our concerns involve how this will affect fire personnel and fire management in the future.

In an attempt to gage some of the short and long term effects, we have put together a survey for wildland fire personnel in the United States. It should take less than 3 minutes to complete and we hope that you will help us by taking it.

The survey can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/yo7nj6

The survey will remain confidential--no names will be associated with any of the results. It can only be taken once from each computer.

The survey will close at the end of the day on February 15, 2007. Shortly after that we will post a summary on our web site at www.iawfonline.org

Please forward this invitation to take this survey to other wildland fire personnel in the US.

Bill Gabbert
International Association of Wildland Fire

Thanks very much Bill and IAWF for taking on, creating and administering this survey. Well done. It seeks answers to the critical questions and is addressed to

  • Primary Firefighters,
  • "Militia" Firefighters and
  • AD or EFF Firefighters .

The Abs.

1/29 Anyone know why the Forest Service web is down?

KK

It was shut down today due to a security breech yesterday. They're fixing it.
1800 update. All fixed. Actually it turns out the security breech did not occur. Ab.

1/29 Hey everyone -

You now have a chance to be heard about how you feel about
the indictment of Ellreese, thanks to IAWF - Fill out the survey that's
posted above from the Abs. Start circulating the site so no FF is left
out, don't forget the ADs!

ADs -

For liability insurance check with your homeowner insurance carrier
and ask for a "blanket coverage". It's what alot of Doctors use. My agent
said it was $300.00 a year and provided one million dollars in coverage -
and your home is protected.

-Dozershot

Re the IAWF survey: Don't forget to alert the "Militia" Firefighters as well. Ab.

1/29 This came in from a firefighter in the mid-west, not Kirk Bradley, although the forwarded email is from Kirk Bradley:

The Fire Equipment Working Team of NWCG is asking for your assistance in updating the NWCG Engine and Water Tender Typing Standards.

The attached document, FEWT proposed engine and water tender typing with rationale 11_06.doc, is the proposed new standard and contains comments concerning the rationale for each of the changes.

The attached document, NUS_Engine_FEWT recommendations 8_06 showing changes.pdf, is a proposed list of equipment that should be carried on each engine or water tender type.

Please review these documents and submit written comments to me by March 31st. I will present your comments at the April FEWT meeting for discussion.

Thank you.
Kirk Bradley
Administrator, Roscommon Equipment Center
Roscommon, MI

FEWT rationale.doc (proposed new standard)
NUS Engine FEWT recommendations.pdf (recommendation showing changes)

1/29 To Higbee,

Sorry, I missed the memo detailing the exact way to type our new name. (There are actually detailed instructions on how to make it look proper in email signatures, if you can believe that!)

On your other concern about how Open List hiring occurs, yes, I am sure that the promotional candidates have the first shot at jobs. Now that being said, there are a lot of ways they can opt out. They can set a geographical, or job specific (camp, unit, or both) preference, or they can decline a particular offer or time base (L.T. vs. Permanent). When you figure the size of the state, and how much people are willing to move for a 5% to 15% raise, you can eliminate a lot of people right away.

I'm not sure where your friend was hired, but if it was in So. Cal. it was probably one of the more remote camps. If so, it's not a matter of the spot being "bad" as much as it is being inconveniently far away.

A lot of people are hesitant to take a camp job that is greater than 30 minutes or so from the camp because of the very real possibility of getting stuck there for protracted lengths of time.

Anyway, I'm not arguing the need for a solution for Forest Service Retention (I'm former Forest Service myself), rather I'm just trying to put in my two cents because there is a lot of bad information out there regarding this process. Mainly because you hear rumors of hundreds of Forest Service people coming over and the actual numbers don't bear that out, at least on the Captain's list.


To "moving into the Safety Zone"

I don't know how informed I am but I can try to help...

Getting hired into CDF (sorry, CAL FIRE) as an FAE does not require you to be a paramedic. Paramedic jobs are hired off of an entirely separate list. FAE is an open position, anyone who makes the list and scores well enough on the supplemental would have a decent chance of being hired.

I will say that the CDF supplemental process definitely favors those with a broad basis of experience, and education as well as those with experience with the state. On any given FAE list there will be well over 1000 candidates, so the competition can be pretty tight, with the advantage going to those already working for CDF and/or known to those who make the decisions.

If you qualify for the Open Captain's test and want to be a camp captain, it may be faster to get hired that way, particularly if you are willing to move for a job. If you are hired as an FAE making the promotional list requires a minimum of three years as an FAE and completion of a JAC apprenticeship (although if you qualify for the open list you can bypass that requirement).

First Responder is still the minimum medical cerification required, although EMT is desirable. EMT may be required in some units and many Schedule "A" contracts hire primarily paramedics.

I wouldn't rule out trying to get a Firefighter I position, it doesn't pay bad, has full benefits, gets you into the CalPers retirement system, gets you used to working the 72 hour shift, and most importantly gets you familiar with the department and those who make the decisions about who gets hired.

Good Luck!

CAL FIRE Capt. (Better?)

Appreciate the clarification. Ab.

1/29

Fire  Suppression Cost Hearing Set for Tomorrow

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee will conduct a hearing on wildfire suppression costs tomorrow in Washington DC.

The FWFSA has made it crystal clear to that committee that despite conclusions offered in a recent GAO report on the subject, the root cause of such skyrocketing costs stem from policies such as the continued diversion of fire preparedness funds by the Forest Service to pay for non-fire projects.

Many of you saw first hand this past season the manifestation of such policies in "unable to fill" orders, small fires getting larger, more dangerous & more costly while waiting for resources that should have been readily available had preparedness resources not been ripped off up the chain.

It is our hope that the hearing tomorrow will be the first in what will be several that will give the Agencies a clear understanding that Congress has now been educated on what it really going on with the budget mess and that Congress will take clear steps to ensure that preparedness resources are fully funded, that the $$ gets to those who know how to use it and we won't see circumstances that plagued the West last season.

Once I get a handle on the proceedings of the hearings I'll let you know.

Casey Judd
Business Manager

1/29 We are still getting copies of the whitepaper from the R6 FAM Chief Snell. We posted that on 1/18. Given continued interest, I've put it on its own page Snell Whitepaper on 30mile issues and placed a link to it in the Documents Worth Reading section of the Archives page.

Thanks to all who send in information. Occasionally we do not get something important because everyone assumes we already have it; so in my estimation, redundancy is good. Thanks.

Ab.

1/29 30 Mile and Justice

Ellreese Daniels did not kill those four people. The negligent campers that
abandoned their campfire killed those people. They are the ones that
should be made an example of. That would be justice. Publicity of their
prosecution would heighten awareness of others and lead to fewer future
deaths. Shouldn't that be the goal of the prosecutors? If Ellreese Daniels
is found to have responsibility for the deaths then must not he also be
judged responsible for saving all the rest, including the two civilians
that sued the Forest Service. I ponder how the campers can sleep at night.

No name please

1/29 LK:

The AD Firefighters Association has had for a few years a group deal for
liability insurance with Wright and Company.

Check http://www.wrightandco.com/ for contact information.

KnuckleDragon

1/29 Mollysboy,

Here is what I think is a more appropriate quote, given the circumstances of "30 Mile"

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce" (Karl Marx)

Joe Hill

1/29 Dear ab, and Adios muchachos,

Can you tell me where an AD can get Liability insurance?

LK

1/29 Its time to get behind Ellresse Daniels.

We need to stop the whining and get into the action plan
Dick Mangan has got going.

Check it out.

Thanks Ab.

KPL

1/28 Aberdeen,

Read "Human and Psychological Factors", Chapter 5 page 5. There is a lot to
promoting a safety culture wrapped up in what professional people call themselves
and what they are called.

www.nifc.gov/safety_study/studies/phaseiii.phpl

Mellie

1/28 Hi All,

You may have received this information through other means, but I thought it best to make sure the info gets out to those who might help support Ellreese by personally attending this Tuesday's hearing. To get the "where/when" info, I made a phone call on Friday 1/26/07 to the (Federal) Public Defender's Office; Ms. Tina Hunt in Spokane. The Legal Assistant that I spoke with asked that the word gets out.

*Arraignment Hearing for **Ellreese Daniels *
_Date: _ Tuesday January 30th, 2007
_Time:_ 3:00pm (1500 hrs)
_Location:_ Thomas Foley U.S. Federal Building
920 West Riverside
Spokane, WA
_Courtroom:_ Magistrate Imbrogno Court

Those coming are advised to arrive 15 minutes early to go through the Security check point; bring photo ID (WA driver's license). The Arraignment Hearing is expected to last 15 to 30 minutes. You could also support Ellreese by waiting outside the Courthouse. I know a good group of local USFS supporters will be there on Tuesday.

Thank you,
Heather A. Murphy
Retired USFS, Colleague and Friend

Thanks, Heather. Ab.

1/28 After reading all the comments for the past years about "Forestry Technicians"
really being firefighters, I've got it, by Gawd! From now on, the USFS, BLM,
NPS, FWS and BIA folks should only identify themselves as belonging to
"FED FIRE" (caps required!!). Instant Credibility and Professionalism achieved.

Aberdeen
1/28 Hey, I'll bite.

Maybe I am the exception but I sent 13 hard seasons in the shot world, several more doing suppression work with engines and as a Single Resource, and worked winters in the ski industry, loading chairs and saving pilgrims. Doing those winter months I skiied and rode hard every off day I had. Between fire and snow I chased elk and mule deer as hard as I could. I have yet to have any physical problems and still go fairly hard when I can.

I think you need to go into the past of some of our employees and see what they did or do for fun. Some of the past pastimes I can remember from my shot days were bull riding, white water kayaking, mogul skiing, and motocross riding. I also remember a number of high school and college football players, and ,at the end of my career, several college wrestlers. Don't let me forget to mention that I have seen very few fire folks who didn't push their physical limits and compete all the time.

This is not an easy job and it does take a toll on folks physically. However, I don't believe that the line of employment is solely responsible for the injury rates you guys are saying are there.

Just so you know, the worst injury I have suffered to date was marking timber when I slide off the bole of a tree while wearing snowshoes and stretched ligaments in one of my knees.

FMO Joeboy

1/28 Ab

Here is the straight, hot skinny about the name of the 2nd largest fire department in the
country. Right from Sacramento Public Affairs Office.

PDF but single page, loads fast.
www.fire.ca.gov/newsreleases_content/downloads/2007archive/CAL_FIRE_NR.pdf

ht

1/28 Cal-Fire Capt.-

You seem like just the informed CDF Employee who may be able to answer a question I've had since
the end of last fire season. I am a seasoned FS Firefighter with experience on crews, engines
and helitack. I am CRWB and ICT4(t). I recently decided that my long term goal in fire would
be with the state, perhaps working in a camp. I was wondering if you could give me insight on
the best way to achieve this long term goal. I was thinking of entering CDF as a Lt. or FAE,
but it seems they are only looking for medics at this time. If I continue with the FS much
longer I will be qualed up to the captain level and my fate with the feds will probably be
sealed. (or) At that point I would have to get in on the open Captains list which (according to
your post) seems more difficult. Also I had kicked around the idea of going backwards and
applying for the FFT1 or FFT2 position, but that most likely won't happen. Can you give me some
advise please? Also what medical quals do I need? Does the state hire First responders or only
EMT's? Thanks for your help.

Sign me,
moving into the Safety Zone
1/28 Just found a quote that seems especially appropriate, given the charges against
Ellreese and the response of the wildfire community:

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that
matter"..... Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mollysboy

1/28 RE: Injuries and Surgeries

A few years ago, I did a study for NIOSH (thru the University of Washington PNASH Program) looking at fire injuries on a few of the fires in 2000: Clear Creek in Idaho, and the Bitterroot fires in Montana, The basis for the study was the material in the Final Fire Packages, including the Medical Unit logs of treatments. I was trying to correlate injuries with type of person/crew, time on fire in number of days, etc.

Even though the USFS-F&AM folks at all levels supported the concept, the HR Privacy folks forced me to submit FOIAs, and then redacted lots of the names, etc. Several of the FOIA folks were a great help in wandering thru the system.

But the biggest problem was the absolutely inconsistent, and often times plain LOUSY, job of documentation that was done in the Medical Unit. Often times you couldn't tell if a person had a blister, a headache, or was gut-shot!

I took my concerns to the NWCG Safety & Health Working Team Chair, and he was putting the word out to MEDLs to improve their record keeping.

The data I did get and analyzed didn't set off any major alarms, but was a starting point for future work, if it ever becomes a priority.

So much we just don't know............... !

Dick Mangan
1/28 Missfire,

The charges are independent in the sense that a jury considers each charge separately in returning a verdict, based upon what the prosecution proves.

The defense's job for the manslaughter charges is made much more difficult by the false statement allegations, because in applying the reasonable person substitution <the defense alleges> that the defendant has already said what he thinks he should have done, i.e., order the squad off the rocks.

In a larger sense, if the alleged false statements hadn't been made and accepted as material fact, the original Thirtymile investigation would have probably gotten enough of the full story to satisfy the families. They would have still been angry, but maybe not "go Congressional" angry.

If the truth had come out to begin with, then Congress and OIG wouldn't have gotten involved like they are today. And, as near as I can see, Daniels might have been fired five years ago, but he wouldn't be facing criminal charges now.

vfd cap'n

vfd cap'n, regarding your last statement: you make it sound pretty simple, but in my experience when people are upset for right reasons, or due to lacking full information, they latch onto whatever small or large detail they can to justify their upset. Another face of human factors. Ab.

1/28 A question that I don't think I've seen address: what is the liability of entire IMTs?
We've had a lot of talk regarding ICs and FMOs, but what might a member of a
team face on an incident with a fatality?

Also, can anyone give some background on the R-5 decision to not have regional
office fire staff on teams? May they still go out as a single resource?

Still Out There as an AD

1/28 Re: work related surgeries

Off the top of my head, in the last 4 years, 4 people from our hotshot
crew have had work related surgeries. Of those 4: 2 scoped knees,
1 disk fusion, and one ankle reconstruction. Only one of them, one of
the scoped knees, was due to a traumatic injury-- the rest were the
result of years of wear and tear. I also have a small flap in my left knee
that will require surgery sometime in the future, so I guess you could
make it 5.

All of us with the joint or back problems have been in for 7 years or
better, and it is almost impossible to get workman's comp to cover
any of it without evidence of a point-source injury. Thank goodness
for our medical insurance! A bargain at twice the price!

I think it would be a grand study. Show some of the folks wanting to
blame us for everything exactly what it is that we sacrifice.

Class C Sagebrush Faller

1/28 Howdy all,

Just a thought, what is the average or percentage of ex, or current wildland
firefighters that have had or will be having some type of surgery related to
a injury on the job or related to the job? I.E. knee, back, shoulder, neck
etc, etc? Even with a good PT program does anyone else but me see a pattern
in work related injuries after long stints of wildland duties? I think that
the numbers if generated would be impressive. Anyone with any guesses? Mine,
81% of all ex or current employees of any fire organization has or will have
work related injuries that require surgery.

Signed,
Kinda bored, always thinking
1/28 Ab

A question I have after reading a good part of the OIG report of complaint against Daniels:

Are the charges of manslaughter contingent upon information implicated in the charges of having made false statements? In other words, if he were not found guilty of having made a false statements directly relating to the four deaths, would he still be charged with manslaughter?

Sagebrush Faller brought up something I have been suggesting for years -- a liability form that releases individuals supervising within the agency from being legally bound to well-intended decisions made in an environment that is not always within human control.

As the climate warms, and our budgets continue to be diverted, with fires getting increasingly bigger, we can only expect more challenges in fighting the fires of the future. As long as it is just as dangerous to take supervisory responsibility for risk of a federal grand jury indictment, as it is to fight wildfire, we will find fewer sensible people willing to take the lead.

Missfire
1/28 to emt_mb,

The NPS's mentoring program is still around. I think apps come out once
a year... a guy in my office is doing it. Sorry I can't tell you more.

Hycatal
1/27 I worked with Ken Fahey while he was on the Pisgah District in North
Carolina in 2004 and 2005. He had been an Asheville hotshot, as was I.
My heart goes out to his wife and kids as he was one of those guys that
was passionate about his family and his job.

I would like to challenge all you ex-Asheville Hotshots (I know there is
a pile of y'all) out there to contribute to the Wildland Firefighter
Foundation
on behalf of Ken or just in general. He deserves our
support..

firepup21
1/27 NO BAILING...

If the FWFSA can work on your behalf 365 days (OK 364 1/2) a year, you can all hang in there a bit longer.

No, this is not the "stay the course speech," this is the "hang in there speech."

Management is responding in many a strange way to your voice. The Agency apparently "hears" you but is not "listening" to you. One of the obvious problems is that the responses so far are lacking decision-making by FIRE people and lacking a cohesive strategy and most importantly, are only addressing the "mutinous" voice, not the underlying issues causing that voice to resonate across America.

Help us in fixing this mess by providing us with factual information on the ideas/actions etc., of Agency officials that you deem to be ineffective or detrimental to you and the fire program. For example as I previously posted, there are some odd, regressive ideas coming out of the R5 office. At the BOD, representatives of the Regional Office suggested the R5 fire program has gotten away from the Forest Service and it is their intention to return it to the Forest Service... perhaps as it was in the 20th century.

We all know that Congress and the public in California will not tolerate such archaic, regressive policies but if that is what is being dished up, then we have to respond to it appropriately and allow those in a position to throttle such nonsense (Congress) to do their job.

I cannot emphasize enough that I have heard from nearly the entire California Congressional delegate inclusive of both Senators on their willingness to take action regarding the R5 RO's new (OK, really really old ideas). However whether we like it or not, there are procedures & protocols they must follow in the nutty world of DC. There are committees of jurisdiction that have to be communicated with; they have to get over the frequent partisan nonsense that takes up so much time etc., but we've got to give them the chance to act. If we don't, we will surely lose Congress as an ally in this matter.

Hey, maybe the R5 RO will invite the FWFSA to be a participant on the "leadership team" or at least allow us to try [emphasis added] to locate some Forest Supervisors & District Rangers that have some semblance of fire background. I won't hold my breath...

Casey Judd
Business Manager
FWFSA
1/27 Well, Ab,

At least one of the "good for nothing new breed" will be sticking around for another year. I have a wife and a mortgage that has to be paid, and none of the jobs that I have looked into with my experience and a BS in forestry will pay close to my overtime, so I am stuck.

I think alot of us younger folks (coming up on season 8.5) are caught in the meat grinder, which is why we are so disturbed with what is going on. If I had known 5 years ago what I know now.... well, I would probably still be a hotshot.

People either know, or they don't. Our job was hard enough when people who know were looking at every decision in context... now we must suffer the additional cross of people who don't know and never will, but feel compelled to place blame anyway.

I was wondering, what would happen if, upon hiring for this season, we had each crewmember sign a hold harmless clause stating something to the effect that "firefighting is a dangerous job, and I accept the possibility that I could be injured or killed. I further hold harmless" etc etc, like they make you sign when you go skiing so you can't sue the resort if you crash into a tree.

Maybe I can get my squad to sign off on it, anyway.

Discouraged, but returning

Class C Sagebrush Faller

1/27 Now more than ever is the time for all wildland firefighters to join the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association (FWFSA). FWFSA is uniquely poised to represent, through legislative means, the current concerns of all of us regarding both criminal and civil liability and, ultimately, our own safety. Please join me in paying your dues early this year if you are a member, or joining up if you are not already a member.

The website is www.fwfsa.org and can also be reached through the links button at the top of this page.

I feel that the power of numbers represented by this professional organization is our best means to effect change. Writing your congressional representatives is also helpful but in many cases such as mine those representatives are the ones who got us where we are now and they appear to be no part of any eventual solution.

Please join me now in supporting the FWFSA!

Thanks as always, Abs, for the great forum.

KnuckleDragon
1/27 Re: sinking ship /brush boy note

Don't throw the lifejacket out yet !! and I thought things where bad when
I left 9 years ago. Now I think I left in the good times.

Good luck to anyone who stays looks like you will need it plus insurance,
Is 1 Mill $ enough??

Sign me ,

Glad I Am Gone

1/27 Ken Fahey was a totally standup guy and a bright and shining star with worlds of promise.

He had recently built his OWN sand table to practice on. What a sad, sad loss for the
Francis Marion as well as the firefighting community at large. BE SAFE OUT THERE!!!!
Tell your loved ones EVERY DAY how much they mean to you.

GFS

1/27 Stand by R-5 Firefighters, help is on the way

The R-5 Regional Forester has established a new committee. It will be called the “Fire Management Leadership Team”. This team is comprised of a Forest Supervisor and a District Ranger from each province in Region 5 and will focus on Fire Management issues within the region.

Thank God, I thought I was on a sinking ship.

Brush Boy

HAW HAW! I wonder if this is when they spring the accountabilities on those line officers: tell 'em they have to catch 98% of starts, tell 'em they're going to jail for 30 or 90 days if they fail to remember even one safety protocol and tell them they must maintain safety even as their budget is being cut drastically. No systemic problems here. No sir-eeeeeee. F5 Forester's solution: have a meeting! Put the burden of accountability on those who for the most part only have taken "Intro to Fire" --Fire 101.

If I sound a little angry, it's because everybody and his/her brother/sister contacted me yesterday saying they're ready to bail. Ab.

1/27 I had the opportunity to work with Ken Fahey this summer while he was
detailed to the Malheur Rappel Crew. I found him to be knowledgeable,
safe, and an all around good guy. It truly saddens me to know that we
have lost a good person. I send my condolences out to his family and
the rest of the co-workers who had the pleasure of knowing him.

Squirtgun
1/27 Ab

My heartfelt condolences go out to the family of FF Ken Fahey and his
co-workers. May he rest in peace.

If you have never been in that area, you have no idea how dense those
woods are and it is absolutely beautiful area to look at.

Driving through the pine forests in the Charleston area sometimes seems
like driving in a tunnel.

ht

1/27 Ab,

It has been awhile since I have written you, I have been reading the
various posts about the 30 mile indictment, and it scares the he*l out
of me!! I am a retired firefighter working as a AD, and I am wondering
if I should continue as a AD given this problem. I am also wondering
just how many people will actually not work this fire season. I read
some posts that say they will not work this year and I am inclined to
believe them.

Is it possible to have a poll on this subject? It might make the
powers that be, aware just how dissatisfied we are. Just a thought...

4200

1/27 Regional Forester (R8) Chuck Myers has asked me to share some very sad
news with you.

Around 8 p.m. last night, Forest Service employee Ken Fahey was killed in a
car accident while assisting with smoke patrol activities on the Francis
Marion National Forest in South Carolina.

According to initial reports, Fahey's Forest Service vehicle collided with
a tractor-trailer near the intersection of Steed Creek and Halfway Creek
roads in Charleston, SC. The driver of the other vehicle also died.

Further details are not available about the accident, but early reports
indicate that smoke was not a factor.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating. The Forest Service also
has dispatched an accident investigation team to the site. We’ll share more
information as it becomes available.

Ken Fahey was 35 and is survived by his wife, Amy, and two children. He
joined the Forest Service in 2001 on the Pisgah Ranger District in North
Carolina. In October 2005, Ken moved to the Francis Marion National Forest,
where he was a forestry technician and a firefighter.

This is a very sad time for all of us, and especially for everyone on the
Francis Marion National Forest. Please keep Ken's friends and family in
your thoughts and prayers this weekend.

Stephanie Neal Johnson
Public Affairs Director
US Forest Service - Southern Region (R8)

Please offer our condolences to his family and friends. It is sad news. Ab.

1/27 AB-

When we first heard of the US attorney filing charges on 30 mile - I voiced my opinion that i did not see how a grand jury could find to file charges.

Never did I believe that charges would come from the Jury. Man, was I wrong.

I believe that there will be an exodus of some of the nations best IMT personnel, and why the hell not? If the agency can just sit there and not even voice an opinion either way it is going to tank morale. A vast percentage of managers are a hair from retirement anyways, so why not sit back, refuse to take on a management position and fight fire like they did when it was fun - with no responsibilities???

Eric

1/27 Regarding the "just culture"--

It would seem that the agencies are not promoting a "just culture" or
establishing trust when every recent fatality investigation appears to
be a witch hunt.

Class C Sagebrush Faller
1/27 Ab

Even being a non-ff; but with a good general knowledge of the subject, the post today; quoted below, scares the h**l out of me. Talk about a "brain drain". Just my random thoughts.

R5 Regional office fire staff have been banned from serving on California
Incident Management Teams. I hope you/we can capture the impact that will
have on the number of IMTs that will be fielded this next season.
SoCal firefighter

AND CDF is CDF forever; in my mind at least, I will not change calling it that.

ht

1/27 Rod,

Thanks for sharing the "note" that the Region 6 Deputy Regional Forester Liz Agpaoa sent out.

Since nothing else seems to be coming out of the various other Forest Service Regional Offices, and especially the Washington Office, I am glad that we are able to share these "notes" on They Said for folks outside of our general area to look at.

I wonder why the R-6 Deputy Regional Forester only identified Ellreese Daniels by the words "employee" or "the individual" throughout her "note"?

I don't know the Deputy Regional Forester, but for me this reply to the current situation seems less than genuine and not from the heart of someone who is truly concerned. This is only my interpretation and I may be completely wrong since I don't know Liz Agpaoa.

Gizmo

Protecting the employee, as on a fire when someone is injured, names are not available over comm transmissions. My guess: part habit, part kindness. Ab.

1/26 > From: A Roadmap to a Just Culture: Enhancing the Safety Environment.

Reprinted by permission from the Global Aviation Information Network.

"The term 'no-blame culture' flourished in the 1990s and still endures today. Compared to the largely punitive cultures that it sought to replace, it was clearly a step in the right direction. It acknowledged that a large proportion of unsafe acts were 'honest errors' (the kinds of slips, lapses and mistakes that even the best people can make) and were not truly blameworthy, nor was there much in the way of remedial or preventative benefit to be had by punishing their perpetrators. But the 'no-blame' concept had two serious weaknesses. First, it ignored-or, at least, failed to confront-those individuals who willfully (and often repeatedly) engaged in dangerous behaviors that most observers would recognize as being likely to increase the risk of a bad outcome. Second, it did not properly address the crucial business of distinguishing between culpable and non-culpable unsafe acts."

"In my view, a safety culture depends critically upon first negotiating where the line should be drawn between unacceptable behavior and blameless unsafe acts. There will always be a grey area between these two extremes where the issue has to be decided on a case by case basis. This is where the guide-lines provided by A Roadmap to a Just Culture will be of great value. A number of aviation organizations have embarked upon this process, and the general indications are that only around 10 per cent of actions contributing to bad events are judged as culpable. In principle, at least, this means that the large majority of unsafe acts can be reported without fear of sanction. Once this crucial trust has been established, the organization begins to have a reporting culture, something that provides the system with an accessible memory, which, in turn, is the essential underpinning to a learning culture. There will, of course, be setbacks along the way. But engineering a just culture is the all-important early step; so much else depends upon it."

James Reason
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lobotomy

1/26 Cal-Fire Capt.,

After reading your post, two things struck me.

1) CDF prefers, and has actually issued direction that it is to be referred to as CAL FIRE (no hyphens and all CAPS),

2) Are you sure about your statement about "All of those 158 candidates on the promotional list must be given an opportunity to take a job before the "open" list can be used."?

The reason I ask question #2 is that a Forest Service engine captain who was serving as a detailed battalion chief was recently hired by CDF as a fire captain in one of the Southern California CAL FIRE units.

I am wondering if all the 158 promotional list candidates thought the place this former FS captain was so bad that they turned down the job offers?....

I heard that at a recent CDF 67-hour Firefighter 1 course that well over 80% of the attendees were current Forest Service employees of the San Bernardino National Forest at levels ranging from Sr. Firefighter to Engineer to Hotshot Captain.... The issue of recruitment and retention is real and must be addressed soon or otherwise fire engines, crews, or other modules may not be able to be staffed.

If you talk to the Forest Service folks about why they attended class.... you will know what their intentions are.

Higbee
1/26 Ab,

I believe that NWRG hit the nail on the head when he said "you were liable the moment you took the assignment." The point I was trying to illustrate is that now, any time we engage, we take on the responsibility of being criminally liable.

I don't believe that the agency would defend me in any of the scenarios. Since I was in charge of the crew, and effectively the IC of the incident (since the IC was a 3 hour hike away in his command vehicle) I was responsible for any unpredictable events that were to occur.

Given the situations unfolding regarding litigation, it doesn't matter what quals anyone else has, just who is in charge. You can't tell me that a 30 year old squad leader with years of experience (as I read it) lacked the necessary judgment or experience to evaluate his own environment. He thought he was fine in the rock scree, and so did those with him. Sad to say, but true, he was wrong. Legally (apparently) it was the crew boss's fault.

You can't tell me that a helicopter boss or helicopter manager can leave two rappellers on the hill and shut down his ship for maintenance and not jeopardize his people, but apparently it is the IC's fault. He was in charge, after all, and ordered the mission that put them on the hill.

I am not trying to point fingers, and I wasn't trying to get an answer to the scenarios posted. I was trying to make the point that we often find ourselves in situations where if one little thing goes wrong (all the holes in the swiss cheese line up) the results can be catastrophic. We are the last line of defense, trying to keep our guys safe, trying to plug all the holes, but sometimes it goes wrong.

All of these events were tragedies. The legislation and current climate being generated, though, is one that will worsen. My advice to anyone -- If involved in an accident, refuse to answer any questions until provided with an attorney. If they are going to treat us as criminals, we should demand our due process.

One further note -- on an IHC, 3 hour hikes are not uncommon, nor is operating without air support. In the Great Basin, temps regularly top 100. If we refused assignments based on these criteria, we would probably respond to fewer than 10 fires a year. That is the point -- how often, honestly, are we out there with our asses hanging, but because we "make it work" we pull through? Honestly, we don't do business any differently than any other crews that I know of. One thing goes wrong, and ........ bang. Felon.

The circumstances of the actual events were tweaked somewhat for the sake of argument -- we had more than enough experience on the line to deal with both emergencies, but often you may find that you don't. The crewmember wasn't suffering from heat stress, he was hyponatrimic. I called our Supe, who was out scouting, and had him take over the slop while the other EMT and I dealt with the crewmember. Everyone came home.

Oh, the 3 hr hike in was through the black.

I have made some bold statements here regarding 30 mile and Cramer, and I would like to reiterate that I am not trying to point the finger at anyone, or single anyone out. In hindsight, mistakes are glaringly evident. As the events unfolded, it all probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

This leads me to another rant regarding using the 10 and 18 as judgment criteria, but I will save that for another time.

Class C Sagebrush Faller

1/26 Re CISD:

"It's not worth it"

You can, by law, request an individual Critical Incident Stress Debriefing with
a medical professional asap following a critical incident. There's a 1970s law that
says if you witness something that is psychologically traumatic or if you are
injured on the job you are entitled to immediate medical care. Just ask. They're
required to arrange it even prior to the investigation interview. Your long term
health demands it.

I'll try to get the details on the exact law.

JB

1/26 Dear SoCal Firefighter & all others:

While I have yet to personally contact several of our members who are in that position,
any & all documentation regarding this matter would be appreciated.

Congressional staff are "standing by" to hear about this and other "new ideas?" coming
from the Regional office that could set the fire program back just a few decades.

Those providing information will of course be kept confidential. Any such information
can be sent to cjudd@ fwfsa.org or by fax to 208-775-4577.

Thanks in advance.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
1/26 Ab,

R5 Regional office fire staff have been banned from serving on California
Incident Management Teams. I hope you/we can capture the impact that will
have on the number of IMTs that will be fielded this next season.

SoCal firefighter

Is this true in other regions as well? Ab.

1/26 Sagebrush Faller,

Fact is, you were liable from the moment you accepted that assignment. A three hour hike in the desert just to get to the fire? And no air support? What if that wind shift occurred during your hike in? Let me throw in another scenario;

Scenario 0.5 – Your crewmember dies during your size-up. (Thankfully this was not the case!) I’m sure the investigation would focus on how that crewmember was allowed to become dehydrated & etc. Were policies, guidelines, training, and rules followed? Were outward signs of the illness observed and disregarded? Given the overall situation, was there due vigilance to the potential of heat illness impacting your crew?

Regarding the other scenarios, I’m sure your agency has fire suppression priorities along the lines of;

  • #1 Life,
  • #2 Property,
  • #3 Resources (priorities 2 & 3 may be in different order)

LIFE is number one!

Sounds like your primary fire duty was to function as a Crewboss, but it appears that you were IC of the overall fire. In your scenarios, as an EMT & Crewboss & IC, your number one priority would be the lives of your crew, so you would not have left the patient unless you were confident that the care provided by the other EMT was adequate. You also would have determined whether or not you had somebody qualified to lead the crew while you were treating the patient. If nobody was qualified, then the crew would stand down and let the next 5000 acres rip. Responsible for the loss of additional acres and two lives?? I don’t think so, since you followed your agency’s #1 priority by saving your crewperson’s life and preventing harm from the rest of the crew. Somebody would have a tough time proving that you could have stopped the fire and saved your crewperson’s life. Call me Pollyanna, but I’d like to believe that your agency would totally support your actions of standing down your crew to prevent the impending death of your crewmember.

NWRG

1/26 Re Situational Awareness and fire forces:

Ab,

The smoke column is building but I hear that in Washington managers are being told there is no problem. They are being ill advised as to what's occurring in the ranks by people who do not have a clue.

Is there any way wildlandfire.com could create a database we could enter our data into that could allow us to remain anonymous? The goal is to provide needed intel so all can remain situationally aware. We could also let Congress know how bad this is likely to get if some sort of correction is not made asap. To name a few who have written in here and/or I've talked with:

  • ATGS -- does aerial size-up of fire -- this is a cert that requires years of specialized field experience obtained at 20,000 and 10,000 and 3,000 feet and in between. The cadre is often filled by former smokejumpers, former hotshots, forest FMOs. Many continue to fly and size things up after they retire. If we loose such people, we'll be up a creek without a paddle. Safety will be affected.
  • Similarly for SOF. Safety Officers are part of a team's Command Staff.
  • DIVS and BRANCH commanders are critical on the ground and were in short supply last fire season.

How do people leave?

  • Many of our senior fire managers (FMOs and ICs) are already 50 years old and eligible to retire. I am hearing from more of them that they're ready to do just that, as others have in the past, unless corrections to the current legal situation occur before next season. There is a sense of chaos and confusion as things are. People who are used to being part of the solution do not see how they can make change.
  • "The Militia" -- those wonderful FS people who are not on the "fire retirement path", yet who serve in finance, logistics, etc. -- those people just decide to not do it any more. Their forests line officers don't make them do it. Teams cannot function without them.
  • The FS retirees who have many years in fire and have returned as AD. It's no longer worth the low pay, the risk of criminal prosecution, the cost of liability insurance. The option of a non-fire life and real retirement seems more and more attractive. Outside of California many teams are comprised of more of the non-fed firefighters, militia, state and county, AD firefighters. I am very concerned for those teams if their members feel they will be hung out to dry.
  • Not to mention state, county, local, vollie forces that feel the personal risk is just too great.

Ab, a questionnaire? data entry format? where we can provide info on redcard quals and some other info, where you will keep our identities confidential? We could spread the word. I remember you said there were 3,500 people registered on the hotlist forum before you switched to the new format. Lots of people read theysaid...

How else do we educate the WO and Congress on this critical issue?

NorCal Tom

Let me get with Original Ab, the creator of secure databases, to see if we could do this. It would be secure. We would also need to do our best to make sure the list was not being padded. Ab.

1/26 Class C Sagebrush Faller,

Go with Option # 1:

Scenario 1: I leave behind the heat-stressed individual with the other
EMT, size up the slop over, and deploy my crewmembers safely to contain
the slop. The crewmember's condition deteriorates, and before I can
return, he slips into non-recoverable heat stroke and dies. I am liable,
as an EMT abandoning my patient and also for making a poor leadership
decision. The agency and the OIG conspire to crucify me.

As long as the other EMT is of the same level/certification as you, you're
not abandoning your patient. The same goes for an ICT4 turning over a fire
to another ICT4. As long as you're both current, and can explain your
actions to the Common Man/Red Face test, you're good to go.

emt_mb

1/26 I can only imagine what Ellreese Daniels must be going through after the
Grand Jury indictment that came out on Wednesday 1/25/07. I know the
news felt like someone kicked me in the gut. For those that might want to
send him cards or letters of support, they may do so at:

Ellreese Daniels C/O
Wenatchee River Ranger District
600 Sherbourne
Leavenworth, Wa 98826

Rod Altig
Gorge FMO
1/26 Dear Ab,

I am pulling my name off the availability for fire and getting out of the
Forest Service. It appears that our lack of leadership cannot speak, even
if they would own up and just say "we cannot comment". Anything is better
than silence. Actually, the only comment I have heard is that if we feel
that Professional Liability Insurance will make us sleep better then we
have that support. What a disappointing thing to say to your troops,
especially here and now!! The lack of commitment from the various levels
within the agency speaks louder than words. I am six years away from being
eligible to retire, but I am moving on here and now.

I am amazed that some feel there is no dysfunction within the agency... I
don't know what cloud they are riding on, but usually the calm before the
storm catches people off guard. They call that SA. The cold front is
approaching and what a fire storm it is going to be. I just won't be
around to witness it.

No Name Please
1/26 SOF, I don't blame you.

The word out in R5 is that there will be no Critical Incident Stress
Debriefing for 72 hours after a critical incident. Investigators will be
required to perform interviews prior to any debriefing. FS Employees
are compelled to answer questions under threat of loosing their jobs.

We need some structure and logical, humane guidelines put on this
crazy investigation/litigation/potentially criminal-making process.
Until some fair guidelines are offered, I will not make myself available
for fire assignments.

Its just not worth it.

1/26 Dear Ab

This (2007) would have been my 40th fire season. I am a SOF-1, and have
been since 1984. I have been fortunate to have served as SOF-1 or SOF-2 on
over 100 incidents in 12 states. I have two years left to retirement. I
was planning on keeping my quals up even after retirement, but the recent
USFS decisions combined with yesterday's indictment leave me only one
option. I will not be available this summer, and will remain "not available"
until major changes are made.

Please do not use my name.

1/26 Kobyashi Maru:

This nearly happened to me this season, and I could have been found liable:

We were the only crew assigned to a 20,000 acre fire in the Desert Wildlife Refuge outside of Las Vegas, NV. It took us about 3 hours to hike out to the fire's edge, and due to the Gas Complex, we had no aerial support. The possibility of a medivack is hampered due to the high temperature anyway, as there is not enough density altitude to allow for passengers in a ship. The temperature was 115 degrees +, though measurement was skewed due to the lack of shade necessary for an accurate reading. I was the highest ranking line personnel in the area of what was about to befall, and one of two EMTs.

We were midway through the shift when we had a section of line blow out behind us. Two squads raced with all possible speed to pick up the slop over. When we arrived at the site and I began to size up the new escape, one of the crewmembers started stumbling and fell over. Severe heat stress. These were the facts, now let's speculate a bit.

Scenario 1: I leave behind the heat-stressed individual with the other EMT, size up the slop over, and deploy my crewmembers safely to contain the slop. The crewmember's condition deteriorates, and before I can return, he slips into non-recoverable heat stroke and dies. I am liable, as an EMT abandoning my patient and also for making a poor leadership decision. The agency and the OIG conspire to crucify me.

Scenario 2: I stay with the heat-stressed individual with the other EMT. I send a less-qualified FFT1 to size up and combat the slop over. While conducting suppression operations, a wind shift occurs and burns over 2 of the crewmembers. I am liable as the highest ranking line personnel in the area for the safety of my crew. The agency and the OIG conspire to crucify me.

Scenario 3: I call everyone back to deal with the potential medical emergency and let the fire go. The individual with heat stress is cared for, and no one on the crew dies. Unfortunately, the fire burns another 5000 acres into a subdivision. Two civilians die. I am liable, as I could have attacked the fire and suppressed it before it got to the subdivision. The agency and the OIG conspire to crucify me.

The point is, often we are tasked with multiple roles on the fire line. That is the purpose of having a chain of command; people qualified to do certain tasks can step in when the bosses are busy with something else.

It would appear that now, however, that we as fireline leaders can not afford to allow our subordinates any decision making privileges whatsoever without being found liable. Furthermore, we can not feel comfortable giving responses to an agency investigation, as anything said becomes a matter of the public record, and as such can be used (apparently) by the OIG.

Does anyone know what the ramifications would be, if involved in an agency investigation, of pleading their 5th amendment rights?

Class C Sagebrush Faller

1/26 It's not any better in Canada. DF

Hey...The Canadian media is reporting that the City of Montreal is being held partly responsible in the death of a Fire Captain. The full inquiry is not over, but Quebec's workplace health and safety board says the city of Montreal is partly to blame for the death of a firefighter a year ago and will be fined.

The Commission said the city, by not requiring and enforcing firefighters to wear SCBA, directly and seriously compromised the firefighters safety. Capt. Marcel Marleau, 47, died last January while operating in an apartment building. According to investigators, the thermostat controlling the heat on an electric radiator in the apartment had been bypassed. The device overheated and set fire to synthetic material in the cushions of a couch leaning against it. The result was a flashover that left the unprotected Captain less than two seconds to move in order to avoid being engulfed... he was not wearing his SCBA / mask.

As a result of its internal inquiry, the fire department ordered in June that firefighters working near flames or even a small amount of smoke wear a mask at all times... before, wearing a mask was optional, he said. The MFD has officially pleaded not guilty.

Take Care-Be Careful-Another reason to wear all the PPE... anytime it "might" be needed.... and another reason for Officers to no longer accept lame excuses.

BillyG (The Secret List 1-26-07)

1/26 From Firescribe:

CDF fails to respond to wildfire (Esperanza Fire) records request (by San Bernardino Sun newspaper)
www.sbsun.com/news/ci_5090734

As I understand it, CDF will not provide any transcripts. Ab.

1/26 Garrity Ruling and Thirtymile

It's been a couple days since I've posted last, but
the indictment is just too much. Here's a tidbit that
the LE side is fully informed of, and we on the fire
side are left in the dark on, it's a short jump from
this holding to what is going on with fire
"investigations".

Get yourself a good lawyer (and there is at least one
out there), the time has come.

Biker Joe

www.fbi.gov/publications/leb/2002/june2002/june02leb.php#page_27

text easily accessible in our docs: Garrity Ruling

1/26 Wow! The news about the indictments handed down on the 30 mile fire is very
disturbing! I think a major problem with today's forest service is the
amount of experts we have about fire management that have never held a red
card, been in a fire management organization, or even been on a fire. Some
of the self proclaimed and even agency proclaimed "fire management experts"
have dabbled in fire just enough to make them very dangerous. They don't
know what they don't know. They sure aren't supporting the firefighter
anymore.

>From what I've seen, forest and regional "Leadership teams" shouldn't have
anything at all to do with making decisions for fire management programs.
They do not have the knowledge or experience. But they have the power and
fire programs suffer and so does safety. The forest service has shown that,
as an agency, it has lost the ability to foster positive and professional
fire management programs. Fire management is BEST left to the skilled and
experienced fire professionals who know how to develop and lead
disciplined, progressive, and professional fire management programs. Why
should inexperienced people run or make decisions that effect fire
management program outcomes! Doesn't make sense to me.

The current "Gotcha" culture is alive and well in the agency. The agency's
modus operandi is to lay blame, persecute, and crucify the unfortunate soul
involved in a serious accident or tragedy. Certainly not a healthy culture.
But a great way to cast the liability off the agency and blame the guy on
the ground doing his or her best to do a job in a rapidly changing, often
chaotic, and escalating emergency environment. From what I can see, it is
lack of agency support for fire management programs that is a causitive
factor in the first place. Again, self or agency proclaimed fire management
experts. I don't know why the forest service doesn't have higher
qualifications or standards of experience and demonstrated leadership for
"leaders" or "directors" of fire management programs. I think that is the
major problem we face and I think it has weakened our fire programs and
lead to an absence of trust and a lack of commitment and support.

I see a lot of good firefighters and fire programs out there and they are
that way because of the dedication, responsibility, honesty, discipline,
and loyalty of the firefighters, but those are virtues that are certainly
lacking in the overall culture of the agency.

Signed,
Joe the Rookie
1/26 Here is the note sent out by the R-6 Deputy Regional Forester. It is truly
a very dark day for the whole wildland community. Now more than ever
Ellreese needs our support. In the days ahead please keep him in your
thoughts.

Rod Altig
Gorge FMO

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

Subject: 30 Mile Legal Action

We learned this afternoon that our Region 6 employee has been indicted for
his actions during the Thirty-Mile Fire tragedy in July 2001. The grand
jury heard the evidence presented by the US Attorney's Office and has
handed down an indictment. An indictment is not a finding of guilt. The
employee is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday, January 30, 2007. At
the arraignment, he will appear before a magistrate judge, who will present
him with the charges, and at that time, his attorney will enter a plea. We
expect a trial date will be set at that time or soon after.

Again, we know this is difficult news to accept and understand. I want to
re-emphasize that no one has been found guilty. A jury will have to
determine if the individual is innocent or guilty as charged. I know that
this situation continues to impact us, particularly those of us in the
firefighting community. I encourage you to share your thoughts, feelings,
and questions with your local line officers.

Again, we expect that there will be news media coverage of this event,
where people will air their opinions and feelings. Let's not judge those
who may speak harshly of our employee or our agency. I ask you to be
professional, as always, and respectful of others' opinions.

***************************
Liz Agpaoa
Deputy Regional Forester
Pacific Northwest Region

1/26 Just to clarify some things...

The CDF (Cal-Fire) "Open" Fire Captain List has 243 total candidates. The
promotional list sits at 158 candidates as of right now.

Since a large number of the candidates on the promotional list also received a
ranking on the open list, I doubt that the numbers of outside applicants that
made the list is even over 100.

All of those 158 candidates on the promotional list must be given an opportunity
to take a job before the "open" list can be used.

Most positions offered to "Open Listers" will likely be jobs in hard to fill camp
positions. But, it is conceivable that positions might come up in State stations or
Schedule "A".

I wish nothing but the best for any one coming over, but I for one would hate
to come over to CDF at the rank of captain without having worked for the
department before. I would think it could be a tough transition.

Good Luck,

Cal-Fire Capt.
1/26 RE: Indictment: Can't Stand the Heat or the Cost...

So, the Feds have decided to throw out any potential for open discussion to learn from mistakes in favor of pandering to the political winds and whims. Wonderful! At least they have made it easier for me to make a decision that the financial and personal liabilities should have led me to make before. Since retiring from Fed service, I've kept my qualifications current for ATGS - but the combined effects of a pathetic AD rate for that job (less than I make per hour at my post-Fed job!), the recommendation that I get insurance (all at my own expense) and now the risk of criminal prosecution all combine to make me consign flying fires to nothing more than memories. A great set of memories, and some pretty good photographs, but I just can't justify the expense or the risk to myself and my family any more. Got to admit, I'll miss going west and working with some of the greatest and most dedicated people I've ever known - but won't miss the portalets, gut bags and "adequate lodging" paper sleeping bags. From now on, I'll just take a camping trip when I feel like it and with my family.

I hope somebody somewhere is keeping track of how many "no-shows" there are for 2007 - maybe if they do there can be some good come from all this in the long run by convincing people inside the Beltway there MAY be a problem.

Just sign me -

"Adios, muchachos"

1/26 SRJS,

I just spent 30 minutes getting a quote from GEICO for less coverage and costs $400 a year more than I pay now!

30+ years with State Farm, multi line discounts, living in a rural area, special student driver program and most years I get a refund since its a "mutual insurance company".

I wonder what kind of deal I could get from them on liability insurance?

Anyone ever have any success getting disability insurance? The times I have tried the agent starts with the following questions:
  1. Do you sky dive?
    Answer: No
  2. Do you fight fire?
    Answer: Yes
  3. It was nice talking to you, stop by again some time.

Midwest Fire Guy

1/26 SRJS,

<rolling on the floor, laughing> about the Geiko line.
You're a hoot!

Mellie

1/26

Battin, Benoit Merge Efforts to Help Firefighter Families

SACRAMENTO - Assemblyman John J. Benoit (R-Bermuda Dunes) today announced that he is merging his efforts with those of Senator Jim Battin to ensure that a bill to aid the families of fallen firefighters gets to the Governor's desk as soon as possible.

Assemblyman Benoit said, "By moving parallel bills simultaneously through both the Assembly and the Senate we accomplished the critical purpose of focusing the Legislature's full attention on this vital issue. Now that we know for sure that both chambers are ready and willing to act, Senator Battin and I have agreed that the best way to move forward from here is to combine our efforts behind one bill. I am glad to join with the senior legislative member in Riverside County to get this done soon so the generous outpouring of over $1 million in charitable donations will get to the families of those brave fallen firefighters without further delay."

Assemblyman Benoit indicated that he will use his influence and position as a member of the Assembly Rules Committee to help smooth the way for Battin's Senate Bill 41 to move speedily through the Assembly and onto the Governor's desk. Benoit will also sign on as a principal co-author and present the measure on the Senator's behalf as soon it reaches the Assembly Floor.

On January 18, the Assembly approved Benoit's measure, Assembly Bill 108 (Benoit), the California Fallen Firefighters Assistance Tax Clarification Act of 2006, by a vote of 76-0 on the same day that Senator Battin's SB 41 cleared the Senate. Both bills, which are nearly identical, would allow for the disbursement of over $1 million to the families of five firefighters who died while battling the Esperanza fire in October, will now be immediately transmitted to the Senate.

"These firefighters were true heroes, selflessly giving their lives to protect others, and we owe their families our gratitude, our prayers and our full support," Benoit said. Their battalion is based in my district, and I am proud to be able to carry this important legislation. Today we can celebrate that the families of these fallen heroes will receive the assistance to rebuild their homes and lives."

After the October fire, over $1 million was donated to the families of the five U.S. Forest Service firefighters. The money was to be distributed by charitable organizations including the Central County United Way and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, but distribution was postponed when the outpouring of support exceeded specific documented needs. Nearly 5,000 contributors pitched in, in a surge of support for the firefighters' families, raising money in elementary schools, radio talk shows, and Beanie Baby sales.

Congress acted quickly and approved the Fallen Firefighter Assistance Tax Clarification Act of 2006 (HR 6429, by Rep. Mary Bono), providing an exemption to the IRS rule that stalled the distribution. The federal law ensures that the non-profits will not lose their tax-exempt status when they distribute the money. A similar exemption allowed the collection and distribution of funds to families who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

AB 108 was sponsored by the CDF Firefighters and California Professional Firefighters, and has received support from the California Fire Chiefs Association, the Lake Arrowhead Paramedic Commission, the Fire Districts Association of California, the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council, the Mountain Rim Fire Safe Council, Inc., and the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

###

Assemblyman John J. Benoit, a former volunteer firefighter and board chairman of the United Way of the Desert, is a 31-year law enforcement veteran who represents the 64th Assembly District, which includes Anza, Bermuda Dunes, Canyon Lake, Idyllwild, Indian Wells, March Air Force Base, Mountain Center, Palm Desert, Quail Valley, Rancho Mirage, Riverside, Woodcrest, and portions of Hemet, Indio, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Perris, Sun City, Temecula, Wildomar, and Winchester.

1/25 Beej,

I appreciate your insight. I'm glad sites like this exist to provide open commo
at all levels of our complex (and sometimes frustrating) organization.

THANKS ABS!!!!!

-Hog

The Abs say, "You're welcome, Community."

1/25 Ab

I am sure by now you have a hundred of these but if not:
From KHQ-TV—Spokane, WA

Federal grand jury indicts fire boss in charge at deadly Thirtymile Fire

www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16816670/

ht

1/25 Beej,

"On another note, does anyone have any good news for Fed employees?

...I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance (by switching to Geico).
http://www.geico.com/federal/discounts.php

SRJS

1/25 Speaking of Mentoring

Today is "Honor Your Mentor Day".

I hope everyone takes time to make a call or send an email thanking your mentor(s).
Another way to honor them is to become one.

If anyone has a good mentor story and a bit of time to tell it, I'd sure like to hear it.

Mellie

Does anyone know the status of the NPS Fire Mgt Mentoring program? I've been back from the Sandbox for a year and haven't heard a thing about it.I applied a couple years ago, but there were not enough mentors to go around.

emt_mb

1/25 To Hog and Jaime,

While I agree that crewmembers will benefit most from
a focus on the factors within their control (fitness,
attitude, learning, etc.), there are systemic errors
at higher levels that will directly impact their
safety. The command climate of a crewboss that does
not mentor or develop the crew through training, clear
SOPs and consistent discipline will make it more
difficult for the crew to focus on safety and
learning. At a level above the crewboss, what does
the FMO do to support the crew? How is the equipment,
vehicles, or training budget for the crew? Then as an
Agency, what are the priorities, distractions, hiring
practices, policies and directives for the FMO and the
crewboss? To take Hog’s example of not listening to
an ipod while mopping up, this is the crewmember’s
responsibility if it is willful violation of a crew
SOP. But if no one ever taught the correct way to mop
up, or enforced the standard consistently, there is a
problem at a higher level on the crew. Not to mention
the risk/reward of conducting mop-up in that location,
snagging, or suppression strategy that led to that
person mopping up in that place at that time. So
while I agree a first-year crewmember may not be able
to change Federal wages to reduce attrition, knowing
it is working against keeping some employees is still
important. The swiss cheese model helps explain the
larger context of accidents so that the blame doesn’t
rest solely on the ipod-listening crewmember.

On another note, does anyone have any good news for
Fed employees?

Beej
1/25 Jaime and Hog et al,

Buckle-up, Buddy-up. This could have a huge impact at the
individual and crew levels.

JG

1/25 To: Me on the list,

I think you are overestimating the number of non-CDF people on the list.
This list is also the list which has CDF employees looking to promote. The
open list concept was used because CDF had a shortage of FAE (engineers) who
were eligible to take the test. I agree that there is a large contingent of
USFS folks who want to come over to CDF who are on the list, but I think the
number on the list is somewhere around 150-200.

The other thing to think of
is the FAE list. It is also an open list, and there are plenty of USFS FEO
and AFEOs on this list. CDF is having a huge number of retirements this
year and many positions in both the FAE and FC position are going to be
filled. Hopefully the USFS can see the writing on the wall and improve
things, but I am not sure it will happen before fire season.

NorCal CDF FC

1/25 Everyone, how do we create a "Just Culture" for wildland firefighters?

Here are two reports that point the way. They're called Peer Review
and are about Lessons Learned. They're really an honest After Action
Review
, about "the what, not the who", not seeking to assign blame, but
to understand what went wrong and why and how we can prevent that
from occurring again in the future, if we can.

People are human. We make mistakes. But often there is something about
the structure of the organization that contributes and, were it different, could
have prevented the injury/loss of life. We need to know all sources of
dysfunction to minimize or prevent their reoccurrence.

This is about defining a Just Culture for wildland firefighters so all can do
their jobs safely and effectively.

Read these reports. Use them in training. Share them with your
congressmen and women.
A culture like this shines! It is about

  • Trust,
  • Commitment,
  • Accountability at all levels,
  • Attention to Results
  • Without Fear of unfair prosecution.

Let's envision and create! Let's figure out how to end-run whatever
blocks are put in our way.

Thanks to the creators of those documents for making real a vision
we all aspire to. I feel it's up to all of us, wildland fire professionals,
to make a Just Culture for Wildland Firefighters real.

Balls Canyon Near Miss Peer Review (pdf file) or html file

Little Venus Fire Shelter Deployment Peer Review (pdf file)

Mellie

1/25 AL;

I can't speak for anyone else, but after writing a statement last year, for an accident my crew was only peripherally involved in, I learned to (1) take notes, check accuracy, THEN write your statement from your notes. (I made all kinds of stupid errors, such as wrong fuel types, length of hoselay (it was my preconnect!), etc. - all were corrected by phone with the Investigation Team, but what if they weren't?); and (2) an attorney wouldn't have been a bad idea, as I had NO CLUE what the ramifications to OTHER PEOPLE my statement would have.

NorCalTom;

The other thing I picked up from the same incident, was exactly what you reference. I've been at this so long, I got to researching my training records... am now retaking (my idea, and at my expense) ALL of the '5109 courses up to, and including my current position, from FF-2 on, if the course was taken more than 5 years ago! Probably a little extreme, but the possible repercussions of not having records IN MY CONTROL are enormous. If I'd just kept my own records...

Just a thought...
Pyro
1/25 Food for thought or discussion:

In late 2005-early 2006 CDF announced the creation of an open Captain's
examination. After the screening process, a list was generated which
contained 515 individuals. Let's go conservative on this and assume that
50% of those are current Forest Service employees. Most, if not all of them
currently occupy supervisory positions in the organization. I have heard
from several CDF sources that they intend to clear that list and open a
second opportunity to apply. Looking forward, I can only imagine the impact
to the region should it lose 250+ of it's current supervisors in the fire
organization. The reason folks would bail are obvious. Better pay for a
shorter work week, better benefits, opportunity to advance in a timely
manner. Given the facts that on most forests it takes a year to fill a
vacant position, that there is a serious gap between these supervisors and
the next level of employees in regards to experience and qualifications,
the impact of this mass exodus will compromise our abilities to respond to
incidents or even accomplish day to day activities on the districts. On a
positive note, the budget shortfall expected in WFPR will go away and fleet
maintenance will not be an issue as most rolling equipment will be parked
due to lack of qualified leadership. Anyone else concerned about this?

sign me: on the list
1/25 Ab,

Today is "Honor Your Mentor Day".

I hope everyone takes time to make a call or send an email thanking your mentor(s).
Another way to honor them is to become one.

If anyone has a good mentor story and a bit of time to tell it, I'd sure like to hear it.

Mellie

1/25 >From a recent news report.....

When the County Fire Department officially closed the fire season on Jan. 15, Mother Nature did not get the memo. Fortunately, fire season or not, the fire department is always on the ready. "Whenever there is a Red Flag alert, the game is on," Fire Department Spokesman Capt. Barry Parker said.

www.theacorn.com/news/2007/0125/Community/022.phpl

county fire gal

1/25 Mellie,

Good find on a book worth reading.... and the possible 5 dysfunctions of a team....

Gizmo
1/25 Hey all,

I was watching the Today Show this morning before work, when Al Roker
mentioned that there was a wildfire near the "Los Padres National Fire". I
about fell out of my chair laughing! You all get so much fire in California that
you are changing the names of your forest? Or was this just a Freudian slip
on Al's part?

Domaque
1/25 Bob A.,

Thank you for your perspective and information. I feel you were right on target for many things.

The NWCG is not a performance based qualification/certification system though. It is a national coordinating group that has a minimum standard called NWCG PMS 310-1, among numerous other issues the NWCG addresses such as typing of wildland fire resources.

California has a similar group called CWCG.

310-1 is a performance based qualification/certification system.... as is FSH 5109.17..... and is CDF 4039....and CICCS... All require classes and performance in the form of "certificates & task books" (or ICS Position Development Guides for CDF).

FSH 5109.17, CDF 4039, and CICCS all build upon the basic requirements of NWCG PMS 310-1.

The question of the day is.... While all of the qualification/certification systems are based on the foundations of 310-1, what classes actually meet equivalency and actually meet the intent of the original NWCG standard that everyone agreed to?

A secondary question could be.... Why the heck aren't we all using the same standards such as originally envisioned by FIRESCOPE, NWCG, and NASF when it comes to wildland fire?..... How did things get so far out of whack?..... or are we really out of whack? Weren't the NWCG standards just the "minimum" standards?.....

A big problem exists as someone else has eluded... There is a critical backlog of folks waiting 3-5 years (or more) to go to classes such as S-420 and S-520. I personally waited for 4 years to be able to get into S-420 after being fully qualified as a DIVS for over 10 years..... Too many people for too few slots for the mission assigned.

Read Strategic Assessment: S-520 and S-620 Training Programs and see what many of the experts are saying.... but read it all... and all of the posts from "our experts" at They Said and it will become clearer.

Lobotomy
1/25 Cowboy,

I am fairly sure training records are always a part of an OSHA investigation.
I also remember the days not too long ago when we did not keep very good
records on the FS side. My guess is that CDF didn't either.

NorCal Tom

1/25 Thanks AK Old Timer.

Good article on why not to lie during an investigation. But you ever been in a
burnover? I honestly couldn't remember exactly what led up to deployment.
Guess I would have been in trouble on the I don't remember part. Can't even
remember what I told people afterwards.

I think I need a lawyer to tell me if it's worse to say what I thought might of
happened that might be a lie or to say I don't remember.

And if I don't talk at all I get fired.

AL

1/24 Everyone,

I just heard about a book by Pat Lencioni; I really need to order and read it. It's written in the context of self analysis of an organization and seems to apply to the USFS these days. All I can say is that I do not see dysfunction occurring here, even if one post or another pushes a button now and then.

Thanks to all in this community for sharing. Please keep having the courage to "show up" with ideas and energy, and to speak the truth as you see it so we can each evaluate issues for ourself.

To all those special fire folks meeting in Washington this week, please hang in there. You are good at managing chaos. Out of chaos comes creativity. We need you to help chart the future.

Regardless of the pressures, we must continue to strive to be a Learning Organization. Firefighter safety depends on it.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (By "team" he means organization.)

  • Absence of Trust
  • Fear of Conflict
  • Lack of Commitment
  • Avoidance of Accountability
  • Inattention to Results

"Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the
ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare..."

Take care of each other. We're all in this together.

Mellie

1/24 Not to add fuel to the fire, I had heard that a US Marshal handed
subpoenas to personnel from the USFS and CDF for training records
of those that were involved on the Esperanza Fire.

Any truth to this?

Cowboy

1/24 Jaime,

I have been a fed for six seasons with the FS as a temp. I've worked for a type 2 handcrew, hotshot crew, and rappel crew with two years on each. The systemic failures I see every season are not of the incident management teams, not of the crew bosses, but of crew members. What I mean is that we (grunts and squaddies) are provided with information over the years and it is our responsibility to acquire it, apply it correctly. I'm not saying you shouldn't follow instructions from your crew boss, but to know when and how to use your fire shelter, to stay fit, to take weather correctly, to fall trees correctly, to not drive irresponsibly, to not listen to music on your ipod when mopping up, to be open and humble to new info from anyone at any level, and to be professional even when times are slow. The days of pulling drunks out of the bar and putting a pulaski in their hands are over; we are professionals at every level, and the responsibility to make safe decisions is our own. Don't waste your time worrying about incident management teams and politics, focus on the safety of your crew and yourself.

-hog

1/24 Gizmo -

Just to add a little more confusion to the discussion about training and qualifications:
I got an advertisement in the mail the other day from the Fire Chiefs organization.
They're offering S-215 Fire Ops in the Interface and S-330 SLT/TFL as
pre-conference training classes with the Conference at Reno in March.

Both classes are shown as being 16 hours long, but our version of NWCG Publications
Book says that S-215 is 28-32 hours, and S-330 is 24 hours. If we attend either of
those classes, are the recognized by the Feds as meeting their course criteria?

Aberdeen

1/24 Abs,

I would like to offer an observation on the NWCG type 1 certification issue. It's not about egos or bragging rights or even who gets to be in charge. It is important to note that NWCG is a performance based qualification/certification system. The theory then is that you not only went to the class but that you also have demonstrated successful performance in the field. It uses standardized training courses in conjunction with position taskbooks to document incident experience and finally provides a formal evaluation process by fully qualified peers. When all of the above criteria are met then the agency may certify the individual. CIMC is an excellent course and provides its participants with a very good complex all risk incident training and simulation. The NASF has formally recognized it. What it is not, by itself, is a certification process. A few states are using the completion of this course as the sole prerequisite for "state" type 1 certification of type 2 personnel. It is that it is not currently an NWCG adopted training course nor is it by itself a certification process. Some have assumed that by successful completion of the training they are eligible for type 1 national certification. The issue with that position is there is no required field training, experience and evaluation process to ensure the individual is actually capable and competent in the position. We all know there are some highly talented and very capable local and state IMT personnel and teams. CDF happens to have a number of these talented folks on several of their IMT's. They may not be recognized as NWCG certified type 1 unless their agency adopts and utilizes the NWCG process which includes the field training , evaluation in addition to the training. It may sound a bit bureaucratic but it is important to know that the individual or IMT you're assigning has actually demonstrated the ability to perform at the level required in the field. There are significant efforts underway at the NIMS NIC to address ICS position requirements and more work to do related to the crosswalk of training to meet them. CDF and the FIRESCOPE agencies have been a big part of the development of ICS and the concept of performance based training. I'm sure that the formal recognition of CIMC will be part of the NIMS NIC effort.

So why does all this matter?

We need to all use a system which provides for standardized terminology, standardized training courses, taught by qualified instructors, using mentoring/field training and an evaluation process to certify individuals for national mobilization. Despite its flaws the NWCG process does just that.

NWCG type 1 certification is not limited to the USFS or the federal agencies for that matter. The courses and the IMT training opportunities are available to state and local agencies as well. There is a need for more interagency federal, state and local involvement to meet the needs to fill type 1 positions and IMTs. Virtually all of the National type 1 IMTs have a mix of fed, state and local government people in positions on the IMTs. Many states, however, have been very reluctant to allow their personnel to participate in these teams because the time commitments out of state. Yet more and more the state IMTs are being called, along with their National type 1 and 2 counterparts, to assist in out of region incidents. I believe the future lies in more interagency efforts and to do so, we will have to tackle some of the crosswalk and training issues you all have been discussing. Let's remember the prize is to provide competent, qualified incident leadership, management and support to the firefighters in the field.

Take Care of Yourselves and Take Care of Each Other,

Bob Anderson, ICT1
Fire Chief , Spokane County FD 9

Bob, thanks for writing in. Ab.

1/24 Brush Boy,

Please share the e-mail that you received....

Without it, many of us have no idea what the heck you are talking about....

For me... I have no idea what the heck you are talking about but it seems
to be good and relevant info relating to wildland firefighter safety...

Noname
1/24

Ab - Here's some very good advice regarding Investigations and Interview :

FEDmanager® (1/23/2007)
The FREE Weekly E mail Newsletter For Federal Executives, Managers and Supervisors

6. TIP OF THE WEEK – SOME THOUGHTS TO PONDER BEFORE PARTICIPATING IN AN
INVESTIGATIVE INTERVIEW

This is a good week to remind you of the potential liability federal employees face when answering questions in administrative and/or criminal investigations and the significant consequences that can result. That’s because the perjury and obstruction trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former Chief of Staff, began this week. Libby is charged with five felony counts of lying to the FBI and to a grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame leak investigation. You might think that this can’t happen to you because Libby’s prosecution involved high-level government officials accused of leaking classified information for political reasons - i.e., to discredit her husband former Ambassador Joseph Wilson who came out against going to war with Iraq. You’d be wrong. In today’s climate, charges against federal civil service officials of making false statements and obstruction of justice are becoming more common in the federal workplace. Unfortunately, many of these charges arise in situations where the individual may have done little or nothing wrong. As they say, the “cover up” is often worse than the alleged underlying offense. For many reasons, it is better to seek the advice of counsel before participating in such an interview.

So, here’s a bit of a refresher course on the Libby case to make this point. Per the prosecutor’s opening statement, in mid-2003, the Vice President allegedly told Libby that Wilson’s wife was a covert official in the CIA, and that Libby allegedly shared that classified information with the press as an effort to rattle Wilson and get him to end his criticism of the war. Once the press reported that Wilson’s wife was a covert CIA official, they opened an investigation to determine who disclosed this classified information – which is a federal crime. According to the prosecutor, Libby allegedly lied to the FBI and the grand jury by telling them he learned of the identity of Wilson’s wife from another member of the press, not from the Vice President, in an effort to cover up his alleged misdeed. The President had earlier stated in public that he would fire anyone in his administration who disclosed classified information. Libby reportedly is now defending against these lying charges by claiming he didn’t intentionally lie to investigators and the grand jury, but rather that he couldn’t remember details of what he told reporters about Wilson’s wife because he had many other major issues on his mind at the time involving other national security concerns.

Notice that Libby is not charged with the crime of making an unauthorized disclosure of classified information. You could conclude that this is because the prosecutor didn’t believe that the government had sufficient evidence to prove that crime. But in most cases today involving investigations into federal officials (political or civil servants) and federal matters (the Martha Stewart insider trading case), often the federal investigation concludes with charges of the lying to investigators - the charges levied against Libby. Martha Stewart was convicted on the charge of lying to federal investigators in a voluntary interview with them. And in the case of Libby, defending the lying charge by arguing that the statements to investigators might have been inaccurate because of a faulty memory at the time you spoke with the investigators is a precarious defense. You’ll have to convince a jury that when you spoke with the investigators and the grand jury you just weren’t focused and prepared enough to have your thoughts collected. That defense is a “tough sell.”

Take away this from the Libby case, the most recent in a long line of individuals prosecuted for lying to federal investigators. First, whether it is the Inspector General or some other internal group of investigators, you need not be in court or under oath to be guilty of the felony of making a false statement. If you make an intentionally false statement to a federal investigator, in a criminal or administrative investigation, you could be found to have engaged in the felony of a false statement or to have engaged in the obstruction of justice.

Second, in today’s world, the government is as interested in prosecuting the underlying offenses as they are in prosecuting any lie to them in the course of the investigation. Oftentimes, a few questions will not “clear up the situation,” but many people, eager to “get this over with,” will answer the questions, without an appreciation of the long term ramifications of their statements. The job of an investigator is to encourage you to speak with them. In doing so, they do not have your best interests in mind. In fact, many times law enforcement will seek to interview people for the sole reason that, being nervous about speaking with them, the interviewee is likely to want to cover up their wrongdoing by making a false statement, thus subjecting them to criminal liability.

And finally, telling an investigator that you “don’t recall” or “don’t remember” something when you clearly do, can get you into the same trouble. It’s a lie.

If you feel that you have done something that might be considered wrongdoing - no matter how minor - an attorney can best gauge the criminal and employment ramifications of that conduct and advise you whether it is in your best interests to cooperate with the investigation or to exercise your constitutional right not to speak with the investigator. And if you do cooperate by answering questions, you should always provide the
complete truth. You never want to have face charges for lying.

AK Old Timer

Important to share that info, AK Old Timer. Ab.

1/23 Gizmo and others,

Here is a document from 2005 that addresses the problem and has references to CIMC.

It is called Strategic Assessment: S-520 and S-620 Training Programs. (pdf file)

Here is some additional on CIMC from the National Association of State Foresters (2002) that can be found here (pdf file).

Gizmo, I have to wonder where these ideas went?... Did they stall with the NWCG, the Forest Service, or other land management agencies for some reason?..... Or did they stall with the misunderstanding that many of the complexity problems in wildland fire are often first experienced in California before they spread nationwide?..... ie- The WUI and the implications for safety that the WUI presents. (ref. FIRESCOPE.... ICS... NIIMS... etc....)

Sorry to the Large Fire Organization (LFO) or Fireground Command (FGC) folks who resist change.... times are changing, whether you like it or not.

Higbee

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

NASF Resolution No. 2002-3

ORIGIN OF RESOLUTION:
NASF Forest Fire Protection Committee

ISSUE OF CONCERN:
Complex Incident Management Course:

State-to-State Type I Qualifications.

BACKGROUND:
The NASF Complex Incident Management Course (CIMC) was developed under the guidance of the National Association of State Foresters with support from the US Forest Service and its National Advanced Resource Technology Center (NARTC). The training program was developed in order to provide state and local incident management response personnel with the most advanced training and simulation program possible and is delivered at the NASF regional level. The course is one week long with a minimum of 36 hours of instruction and simulations, and grading is based on pass/fail of both simulations and final test.

The program was designed after the NWCG S-420 and S-520 courses, with specific emphasis on wildland/urban interface issues, all risk issues and political issues that state and local responders must deal with while responding to a wildfire or all-risk incident.

The CIMC Program has been given 3 times (beta test in Arizona, Southeast and Western regions) with a total of 12 teams and over 100 participants receiving fully qualified certificates.

The NASF Forest Fire Protection Committee proposes the recognition of CIMC trained state teams and individuals as the standard for State Type I teams that are mobilized for state-to-state dispatches through State Wildfire Compacts.  NASF would utilize successful completion of the CIMC Course as an alternative to the NWCG PMS 310-1 standard for identifying State Type I qualifications.

RESOLUTION:
The National Association of State Foresters supports the implementation of Complex Incident Management Course training throughout the NASF regions.  To that end, it directs the NASF Forest Fire Protection Committee to utilize successful completion of the CIMC program as an alternative standard for identifying State Type I Qualifications for state-to-state dispatches through the State Wildfire Compacts and encourages all states to include these qualifications in their Incident Qualifications System.  Further, the NASF urges the USDA Forest Service and NARTC to continue the cooperative effort established in delivering the CIMC Program nationwide.

1/23 Firedog,

Thanks for bringing up a good point. Hopefully someone here can either confirm or deny that the Complex Incident Management Course (CIMC) meets the requirements of S-520 for command and general staff of type 1 incident management teams at the federal level.

It has been recognized for many years (on the fed side) that there were two classes keeping people from progressing to Type 2 and Type 1 Teams, and those classes were S-420 (Command and General Staff) and S-520 (Advanced Incident Management) respectively. The backlog was a "process"... a class.... and it was for sure not a lack of qualifying experience, or folks with a whole range of RPD slides that they could grasp.

If there is another class out there that NWCG has complicitly "certified" as equivalent through either acts or omissions, then CIMC should be an available class for federal command and general staff to take and bypass the S-420 and S-520 backlog?

Dog, I agree with you that NWCG has approved this course even though I cannot find anywhere a written approval.... Every time I see an Incident Management Situation Report that has a CDF Team assigned, they are always called a Type 1 team, while every other state either is called a "Type 2" team or simply an "XXX State Incident Management Team".....

Jaime,

You asked for an example of systemic failures of the Forest Service?..... see above. This is just one example..... the backlog of qualifying people in the federal system at the Type 1 and Type 2 levels..... As you stay around for awhile, you will see systemic failures on an almost daily basis.... and hopefully you will have some great ideas on how to correct them, and feel comfortable enough to communicate them here with us on They Said.....

Other backlogs are present in the Strike Team Leader and Division Supervisor levels.....

In my personal opinion, some of the best comments, solutions, and ideas come from the youngest members (or old rookies) of our wildland fire community. Often times, their ideas are beat down without having their voices heard and at the same time, they simply leave or lurk without ever having a chance to explain, modify, or develop the idea they were thinking about..... They have not had the chances to learn organizational or agency biases that tend to skew their RPD slides one way or another...... and in the long term affect wildland firefighter safety.

Gizmo
1/23 Firedog,

I could not find the quote you were referencing in the CFAA or in the California Code
of Regulations, but I am following your concerns and I agree for the most part.

The CFAA references the personal protective equipment standards and they can be
found here.

Lobotomy
1/23 Read an interesting E-Mail today that was shared with me from the new R-5 Chief of
Fire and Aviation directed towards Forest Sups and Line Officers. Talk to us Ed, the
folks on the ground, and we might be more responsive to your ideas.

Brush Boy
1/23 FBO is full of contracts every year for equipment. SOCAL started popping up more and more about 5 years ago.

This particular list is for EERA CWN equipment. - Emergency Equipment Rental Agreement Call When Needed. Basically it is just a pre-agreement to contract your equipment and personnel when and if needed. OIG watches these agreements very closely - for many reasons. Much of it to do with the drama that started in R6 around the time Carol Ford retired in 2000 from R6 contracting.

talk to you all later - be safe.

eric
1/23 Can anyone give a good example of a systemic
FS problem or policy that impacts firefighter safety?

Last year was my first year. I was on an engine crew.

Jaime

Welcome Jaime. Ab.

1/23 Lobotomy:

You said that Fed teams have been going to National disasters for many years. My apologies, you are right, what I meant to say was that with the re-org of Homeland Security and how the Federal Govt responds to and manages a disaster is being scrutinized heavily right now. In the past for the most part, the IMTs were deployed in a manner to coordinate Logistical support centers and R&D centers. Since 9/11, the need has been recognized (and pushed hard for that matter) as you know, to expand the way teams are utilized and recognized in the response of Federal aid.

On the subject of training, I cannot speak of the Federal acceptance of other training requirements, but one of the other Federal posters here stated in the "Fed" manual I believe that other agency quals are accepted. One other interesting safety comment that FC180 brought up about standard levels of protection, the CFAA (Ca Fire Assistance Agreement) states that local Govt entities responding to ANY State or Fed fire will have the following, " Approved goggles, shroud, and approved wildland gloves." This is a partial list of the entire section. The Feds are requiring a higher standard than they themselves enforce.

On the subject I made regarding team training and typing. CDF does send teams to Morana, as well as yearly CIMC(Complex incident management course) training I believe sponsored by the National association of State Foresters. This is a 520 exercise. And it does meet the Fed requirement.

Contract Co guy:

You had some excellent points on incident complexity and team usage. I agree with your analysis. Yes utilizing local knowledge is a huge priority for CDF. But CDF Teams carry 28 full time members plus 5 Local Govt trainees and 5 CDF trainees.

Firedog

Here's the California Fire Assistance Agreement. More info. What kinds of agreements do other states have? Ab.

1/23 Given the number of vehicle accidents going to and from fires, this is a very
important safety message about wearing seatbelts.

www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/council/newsletters/jan07/jan07.phpl

(WMV file)

Todd

1/23 Looks like the California USFS will be contracting some engines and water
tenders in 2007??

www.fbo.gov/spg/USDA/FS/9J61/AG-9J61-S-07-9001/SynopsisP.phpl

Aberdeen
1/23 Safety Message:

You need to check this out. Wow. JS

http://eu.goodyear.com/home_en/goodyear/videos/runonflat/

British humor combined with lack of situational awareness??? Ab.

1/23 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.
1/23 On the subject of Liability Insurance. I've had it for over 20yrs now and
actually used it several times.. In my opinion it's more than paid for
itself.

First time I used it I was an Fire Prevention Tech. on a Forest and also
assigned responsibility for administering mining claims. On advice from
OGC, I impounded a bunch of mining equipment from a mining claim. The
miner made such a stink over it, i received a direct order from the then
Regional Forester to return the equipment, under threat of being fired.
The OGC attorney I was working with, advised me that by returning the
equipment, I would be violating the Law, regardless of what the RF said, so
I respectfully refused. In addition to having my job in jeopardy, the
miner sued me for 20 million dollars. Now when you get sued personally as
a FS employee, you need to request representation from the US Attorney's
Office. In that request, you are required to state that you understand
that the Government is not liable for any monetary settlement imposed by
the court, and that you may be held personally liable. The attorney
provided by my insurance resolved the threat of me getting fired, and
represented my personal interests in the lawsuit (the US Attorney
represented the Govt's.). The suit took about 5 yrs. to resolve before it
was thrown out of court, and the insurance covered my personal attorney
expenses. Without it, I feel I would have been left out in the cold.

Second time I used it, a subordinate employee filed an unsubstantiated
harassment claim against me. Anyone who's been though this knows you're
assumed guilty until you prove yourself innocent in these types of cases.
After just a couple phone calls from the attorney provided by my insurance
completely resolved the situation and the case was dropped.

Even if you never have to use it, Liability Insurance pays for itself, just
in peace of mind.

TC
1/23 Yactac,

I did not claim to be very smart... I should not have included the comment about not carrying liability insurance. I would not want to influence someone else based on my limited knowledge. You make an excellent case for why one should have coverage. It is great piece of mind for the money.

I have carried it in the past but elected not to continue the coverage, right or wrong. I did a fair amount of research following Cramer. This included off the record discussion with an attorney involved in Cramer. The assurance I gained at the time was that an individual would be OK if you could answer yes to this question. Would equally qualified peers have done a similar action in a similar situation? I also remember some discussion that there are times when representation from a big name attorney from DC can actually get you in more trouble than just honestly answering questions yourself.

I think your advice is better, at least until we see how things shake out with 30 mile. Thanks.

Airtac
1/23 Strider and All,

Line officers should ask for a report from their Safety Officers re the
meeting in Monterey last week. It will be interesting to see which Safeties
share info with their bosses. Some already have. My guess is that others
won't.

Waiting for a voluntary report

1/23 Yactac,

Lots of R5 Forest Service people are getting liability insurance,
from those who supervise road crews to those somewhere in the
chain of command on the forest who are non-fire.

It's a new Forest Service normal.

With reference to Bosworth's retirement, the only thing I worry
about is whether the "FS chief function" now includes chop up and
mop up to appease the public. I cannot support anyone who unfairly
uses a position of power to take employees out. If there's a new
push for laws and lawyers, we are unlikely to ever maintain and
enhance a learning culture. Also, we're unlikely to address systemic
safety problems in the FS.

Tahoe Terrie

1/22 Airtac,

Regarding your post of 1/20… You stated, “I have worked for CDF, DOI, and FS over a 33 year fire career, so far (I don't have liability insurance either).”

Not sure whether that statement was saying that you do not believe in Professional Liability Insurance or whether you had just not found the time to purchase it.

I also have been in the Fire Service for well over 30 years. Unlike you though, my career has been entirely with the Forest Service. I am not saying that is good, bad, better, or worse, just that it is what it is. I would like to offer my perspective regarding the issue of Professional Liability Insurance.

I purchased my first PLI policy with a well-established company that specializes in PLI for Federal Employees. I made the decision soon after the ICT3 on the Cramer Incident was indicted. At the time, I was serving as a Battalion Chief with the Forest Service on a forest in Southern California that has a history of high, complex fire occurrence. The initial attack fires on our division historically were either picked up on IA or one shift of extended attack or slammed through type 3 complexities to type 1 or 2 complexities so fast your head would spin. The four “highest” ratings on my Incident Qualification Card are, OSC2, DIVS, ICT3 and ATGS (ASM qualified).

I am one of the lucky folks who purchased a home here on the South Coast when it was “affordable”. Financial responsibility to my family (and required by the mortgage holder) dictates that I carry Homeowners Insurance, Fire and Earthquake) to protect not only the mortgage company, but also my family’s financial well being. I, as do most responsible folks with the financial means, carry insurance on my vehicles. Again, insurance required by a lien holder (if applicable) and more recently by the state. My reason besides the requirements is once again financial responsibility to my family. Health Insurance, life insurance, what can I say? The benefits are well documented. All that can afford it have it. The debate rages nationally not on “should we, but “how will we?”. We are lucky to work in a system that provides access to it at a reasonable cost.

That being said, why does Professional Liability Insurance, IMHO, fall in line with the above insurances as a necessity today?
  • Protection of my family financially
  • The ability to continue to perform my job responsibilities without the added distraction of worrying about how I am going to pay for the lawyer if I have a brain fade while in command and tell Johnny to Zig when I meant for him to Zag or I thought the Zig was the appropriate course of action based on my SA at the time but hindsight says Zag was the appropriate course….
  • We live and work in a highly litigious society

Until the Thirty Mile and Cramer Incidents, I believed, as I would say most federal firefighters did, that we were would have agency legal backing unless what we did was so far outside the scope of our training and responsibilities that a kindergartner could tell the difference. I assumed that being a conscientious, hard working federal employee would count for something and that the Forest Service would live up to what we had always been told by management, “You are covered by the Federal Tort Claims Act as long as you are acting within the scope of your employment and training.” Of course this was pre computer and “Google” days… so real information was hard to come by and harder to verify, and there was really no reason to doubt that management had your best interests at heart. Unfortunately, while there are many management types who do indeed care about the best interests of the lowly FIREFIGHTER, the agency itself is a huge machine that will grind up it’s own in a heartbeat. And THAT is what folks need to understand.

Since the enactment of the Public law 107-203 in July 2002 and the first indictment under that law in 2003, many of us questioned what we had been told for years, did the research and purchased the PLI.

The following is an excerpt from an article in the Yakima herald Republic recently:

The Forest Service's director of fire and aviation, Tom Harbour, said the emphasis is on telling firefighters that if they do their jobs right, the agency will stand with them.

If the government does its job in training firefighters, and firefighters do their jobs, "the issue largely is moot," he added.

For firefighters still uneasy, Harbour said they might look into personal liability insurance, which he said he's held for years.

I am curious as to why Tom Harbour feels the need for PLI, yet makes it seem as if the rest of us probably don’t need it unless we feel “uneasy”?

How do Tom Harbour’s comments fit with the R6 Director Ken Snell’s letter to the Pacific Northwest Firefighters in regards to the current ThirtyMile situation that states?

“Why didn’t the government supply an attorney? When the US Government brings a criminal complaint, against an individual, via a US Attorney, it would be a conflict of interest for the government to also defend the same individual. In the Thirtymile case, a public defender was assigned.”

OK, enough … Many interpretations of laws, opinions as to what the government will and will not do, whether or not I should have PLI if I am dong my job to the best of my ability, etc, etc…

The PLI cost was $289.00 a year through the company I used. Total cost. I was eligible for 50% reimbursement from the Forest Service. So even if I was not eligible for the 50% reimbursement, the cost was less than one dollar a day. My risk vs. gain side tells me that is a deal.

Does PLI guarantee that I will not be sued, charged or whatever the OIG and public do to public employees in their quest for financial or political gain after either, heaven forbid, a fatality, major injury or perceived bad call on an incident on which I am in charge or involved? NO… Does it guarantee that I will not be found guilty? NO..

PLI does guarantee that I will have professional legal representation at my disposal should I need it. I can continue to perform my job responsibilities without the added distraction of worrying about how I am going to pay. I will not have to refinance my home, spend my children’s college fund or beg financial help from family to defend myself.

Who in my opinion in Forest Service Fire should have PLI? Anyone with either FFT1 or higher on their Incident Qualification Card or who are currently at the Squad Boss / Engineer level. Why? The Forest Service system asks these folks to be in charge and make decisions.. Stuff happens ... be prepared.

yactak

1/22 Has anyone heard rumors about Forest Rangers (Line Officers) going to jail for
30 or 90 days if they fail to meet every safety rule on the books on their forest?
Seems it's part of some new "accountability plan" in R5 that Tidwell is talking
about. I wonder when they plan to spring that on the line officers? Probably
just before they get sent to jail if history is any example.

Strider

1/22 I'd like to echo Ab's sentiments to those that sent the Oregonian article to They Said. It is a remarkable document considering the commentary attributed to Mark Rey of the USDA. However if we examine the article closely, does Mr. Rey really know what he's talking about? The article, of course, deals with the issues surrounding the Thirty Mile prosecution. The affidavit by the OIG investigator clearly references PL 107-203 as the authority for said investigation. Of course PL 107-203 is a direct result of Thirty Mile, not 9/11. Yet the article says "Rey says a law passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks meant to make it easier to prosecute those who harm federal officials has exposed fire bosses to prosecution." The law Rey is referencing is not PL 107-203 and has nothing to do with the Thirty Mile prosecution, or the Cramer mess.

He's making a reference to an orange in a discussion dealing with apples. Perhaps maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he's just confused given the enormity of his job...or...stay true to myself and recognize that he is likely more clueless than confused. But, for the moment, I'll try to imagine he knows what he is talking about.

Time and again, Agency officials have failed to offer an opinion on a law or piece of legislation affecting its employees, citing the fact that the Agency is expected to remain neutral until its position is solicited by Congress, or that it would be inappropriate etc.

We all know that PL 107-203 was signed into law by President Bush, Rey's boss! Interesting how Agency officials have refused to offer their positions on legislation that benefit firefighters such as portal to portal, classification, the elimination of the OT pay cap in 2000... until required to do so by Congress; yet now, when the troops appear to be on the verge of mutiny with the liability issue, we get word that even the White House now plans to support efforts in Congress to provide more protection to fire bosses!

Why now and not when PL 107-203 was passed, or when it was clear nutty things were going to result after Cramer? And perhaps most frustrating, why not, at the very least, two years ago when the FWFSA made it abundantly clear to the Forest Service leadership the very dynamics that Mr. Rey now seems to offer to the press?

Why??? Because of all of you representing the wildland firefighting community who have stood up and said "enough is enough." I want to make it very clear that neither the Agency leadership, nor the White House, (if in fact the statements in the article are true), would have offered such commentary to the press without your voices and the work of so many behind the scenes with Congress and other entities in a position to make changes. I am in contact with congressional staff on a daily basis and they are very quick to point out the voice of FWFSA members and so many others on this issue.

While we can all be cautiously optimistic that action will be taken to address the liability issue, it is not time to sit back and relax. Keep doing what you are doing. Commit yourselves to recognizing that if your collective voices can lead to changes on this issue, it can lead to positive changes on others.

The fact that congressional offices are contacting the FWFSA on this issue and asking "what can we do for you and your firefighters" should demonstrate the power of the wildland firefighting Community and those that support it.

Keep it up.

With Great Appreciation,

Casey Judd
Business Manager
FWFSA
1/22 The Occasional Commenter,

You said to FC180, "As I recall, there are agreements stating we will accept
each others qualifications and standards."

Can you point me towards the agreement(s) where that wording is found?

Also, in regards to the wildland qualifications of county, municipal, and volunteer
departments in California, they are now required to be qualified under the
California Incident Command Certification System (CICCS) before they are
qualified to function on both CDF and Federal wildfires. CICCS is based upon
the standards of 310-1.

CICCS was approved by the California State Board of Fire Services in 2000.....
and did not come from "Big Brother".... it came from a collective of fire experts
interested in wildland fire safety.

Lobotomy
1/22 A little more on teams:

No slant on anybody’s Type 2 teams….just posting the differences. Here are some more thoughts and explanations as requested.

A CDF team has 16 members vs. the larger numbers that Type 1 and 2 teams will carry.

CDF relies on both trainees and “fill-in” from local resources to fully staff fires. This has advantages, in that local talent is retained that is familiar with the territory. (There are many RPD slides needed, and not all of them are centric to any one team!).

In the “contract county” setting where I work (6 Counties are contracted by CDF to protect watershed in their area as agents for the State of California) we have a contract obligation to manage state fires. We tend to take that pretty seriously, and politically we have to retain a high profile in managing our local incidents. When a CDF team comes into my county, it’s viewed by both team and jurisdiction as an augmentation, not a replacement.

When a Federal team comes in, there is every expectation that they will “relieve the type 3 organization and allow resources to go back available for initial attack”. The delegation of authority concept is much stronger. I have worked with and for both kinds of teams. CDF teams are largely an integration, a federal team is largely a replacement.

Local talent can be integrated into a federal team during the delegation, your right! However when it occurs at the command and general staff level it is unusual. At best, its an uncomfortable fit into an organization that is designed to work autonomously. This fits a federal need by design. For example: If you're the Backwaters National Forest in a remote part of the country, your fire staff probably isn't deep enough to handle everyday responsibilities and a major fire without that kind of help.

In contrast, with a CDF team you can have it any number of ways, a more malleable fit in a multi-agency jurisdictional fire. They can “do it all”, do it “in part” with a lot of integration, or just provide support to the locals lead. CDF people will accept work as the primary or as a deputy. They have proven in past response to be comfortable in varied operational and political settings, which is a strength in California.

By the way, we have had some great experiences with SoCal Type 2 (as well as CDF teams) in our county. These teams are local people who understand the needs and work hard to satisfy the customer. The shortcomings I gave for teams like: lack of rapid mobility, etc. are common to both State and Federal Teams currently.

While were speaking however, a sometimes tough pill to swallow with a federal team is you also get federal policy with it. This is great in most cases, but what if the fed. policy doesn't quite jive with local needs and the fire involves both federal and non-fed lands. Some IC’s can handle and manage the differences, and others clearly cannot. The key is the familiarity with local scene. A great example of both great failure and success by federal teams in working with local concerns (including a huge WUI component) was the Day Fire in Ventura County last year. A “local-guy” Type-1 IC that eventually assumed a zone of the fire had the right tools from experience to deal with the complex fire management /cooperator environment that is Southern California. This trait was highly valued and needed at the incident, but is ignored in the current national rotation policy for Type 1 teams.

Hope these posts get people to think about the future shape, form, and performance of teams as they adapt to meet the changes in our fire environment . Thanks for reading.

Contract County Guy
1/22 Guido,

I know you are really a softy at heart. I am assuming you just wanted folks to contact the Wildland Firefighter Foundation to explain their personal situation and eventually make good on their pledges.... ???

While I understand that some folks may have over-extended themselves during the holiday season, others may have had things come up unexpectedly, or simply over estimated their financial resources for this time of year..... call the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and tell them when you plan on paying or if you are not able to pay....

Some folks may have to wait until fire season starts again.... that's OK.... Others are just forgetful and need someone to remind them of their pledge in some way.... that's OK.... and some simply had some circumstance come up where they no longer have the ability or resources to meet their pledge... that is OK also.

If you pledged to the Eldorado HS Walk, please contact the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and tell them why you haven't been able to pay.... Communication is what is needed.....

Sign me, Explain'n It
1/22 Airtac,

I disagree with your assessment of the content of the Dick Artley letter. It may have been personalized given Mr. Artley's past association with Ms. Kimball, but it was hardly a personal attack. Gail Kimball is a public figure and as such fair game to an intense scrutiny leveled at her entire career, including her education, which ostensibly set the course for her career in forestry. Even anecdotal, personal recollections are relevant in the grand scheme of examining the managers of our public trust.

As for agendas, everyone's got one. The unidimensional view of our forests as resource mines is myopic and perpetuated by "stay the course" policy wonks like Gail Norton and Gail Kimball who have made no secret of their pandering to the timber and mining industry.

Jack Ward Thomas wrote:

"We don't just manage land--we're supposed to be leaders. Conservation leaders. Leaders in protecting and improving the land...with a broad view of natural resource leadership, and that includes people, because people are part of ecosystems.... Ecosystem management is not just a timber sale; it's putting the timber sale into a bigger picture, including the watersheds, wildlife, roads, and people's needs and values."

Joe Hill

1/22 Ab,

Here are a couple Colorado Legislature bills of interest to the wildland community. The first would allow VFD cooperators to pay firefighters on federal assignments, without jeopardizing volunteer pension benefits. The second concerns presumptive coverage of cancer as a firefighting occupational disease.

vfd cap'n
----

SB07-007 Concerning the Qualification as a Volunteer Firefighter for Purposes of a Volunteer Firefighter Pension Plan. (Taylor, Witwer)

Assignment: Senate Business, Labor and Technology
Bill Summary: In the case of a municipality or district volunteer firefighter pension plan, modifies the existing definition of a "volunteer firefighter". Identifies additional types of benefits and payments that are excluded from the definition of "compensation".

This bill can be accessed at: www.leg.state.co.us (pdf file)
---

HB07-1008 Concerning Workers' Compensation Coverage for Firefighters who Contract Certain Types of Cancer. (Cerbo)

Assignment: House Business Affairs and Labor
Bill Summary: Requires that, under the "Workers' Compensation Act of Colorado", if a firefighter contracts cancer of the brain, skin, digestive system, hematological system, or genitourinary system, the condition or impairment shall be deemed to have occurred within the course and scope of employment unless a physical examination of such firefighter shows evidence of such condition or impairment that preexisted employment. Requires any denial of a claim arising under this act to be supported by clear and convincing medical evidence that the cause of the condition or impairment is unrelated to the firefighter's employment.

This bill can be accessed at: www.leg.state.co.us (pdf file)
1/22 Here is a Editorial that is in today's Oregonian about the criminal complaints against
Ellreese. There are quotes from Mark Rey, Linda Goodman, and the US Attorney.

Article Link: Oregonian

Thanks to all who sent in this link. Ab.

1/22 All

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation is experiencing some problems with both our web page and E-Mail. We have our IT folks and webmaster working on this and just as soon as we can get things fixed we will let you know. But for now if you E-Mail the foundation it may go out to never-never land. It appears that we have been hacked into and SOMEONE has tapped into our domain (the system that sends our E-Mails out) and is spamming people. Please exercise extreme caution in opening anything that appears to come from the foundation. Do not reply to ANYTHING that asks for any personal information. If you get something that appears to be from the foundation and asks for you to follow a link or give out information DO NOT FOLLOW THE LINK. PLEASE pick up the phone and call to see if it is really from us and then give us the information over the phone.

Mike Warren
WFF Board Member
1/21 Casey,

Thanks for your response to Rollin.. and All. A respectful approach to the new FS Chief (or any other position in any agency) will go much further towards a productive relationship. I would also be careful about issuing timelines and expectations. Lets face it, as important as firefighter issues are to us, they are only a small aspect of land management today, particularly at the WO level.

I do not know Gail Kimball. I do know that she approved the "R1 Fire Mgt Doctrine" which was written by dirt firefighters and goes further than anything else I have seen to date to address and support firefighter liability issues. I do personally know some of the fire and aviation group in the WO. They have a much firmer grasp of firefighter issues than many have given credit. Those I know are firefighters and are working in an environment that is probably much more challenging than ours. I think I would want to walk a mile in their shoes before before being too critical of our perception of what they have or have not accomplished.

Thanks for what you do through FWFSA for the fire community.

Airtac
1/21 Planner's comments about Chief:

I have to agree with Casey, the Ab's have done a dam* fine job of filtering over the years. With the exception of foul language and a few other minor censorings (such as names), everybody has had their say on "Theysaid". The main point is simple; it's their site. They get to post whatever they want. A number of years ago I suggested to the original Ab that he set up a voluntary donation system to offset the cost of running the site. He sent a polite email back stating that probably would not happen, and I am assuming a lot of that has to do with control. It's their idea, no Board of Directors, Advisory Committee, etc. and they want to keep it that way. I do not like the comments Mr. Artley made, but my gut tells me they have been posted for a good reason.

FOBS73
1/21 Casey,

Allow me to qualify my last post:

I think most would agree that there is nothing wrong with anybody who has and pursues a cause that he or she believes in. As responsible American citizens it is incumbent upon us to do so as long as our causes are noble in nature, attempt to change something for the better, and are pursued in an honorable, professional manner. Mr. Artley’s vindictive approach is neither honorable nor professional and the intent of his letter is merely to malign the Chief; his tactics clearly are not manifesting of someone whose intention is to effect positive change. Call me naive, but I believe FWFSA has a more admirable purpose and that it adheres to much higher standards. There is a direct correlation between the level of credibility an organization (or a website) has and the manner in which it conveys information and discusses issues.

Rollin’ and Blowin’
1/21 Dear Rollin' & Blowin" and all:

We all have an agenda when we post on They Said. The FWFSA's agenda is to improve pay, benefits & working conditions for our Nation's federal wildland firefighters. There has been more than one occasion where I have offered up my views on the need to remove Mark Rey from the position of "puppeteer" of the Forest Service fire program, comments of which have been quite "candid."

Granted, with the politics the FWFSA has to deal with every day, I have to be a bit more "reserved" in my commentary on any given issue. Suffice it to say that often times my aggravation & frustration with the direction... or lack thereof from the Agency simply cannot be politely articulated.

Let's also remember that the ABs play a role in what gets posted and what doesn't. Putting up a post doesn't necessarily suggest they agree with the poster. There is no doubt in my mind that AB gets far more egregious and caustic postings than Mr. Artley's. That being said, we all have the ability to take from any given post what we want to take.

Often with my postings, I try to offer information or clarification on any given subject or to let readers know what the organization is doing. The bottom line is the experience & expertise of those reading this forum give them the ability to decipher any post and place their own value, if any, on it.

I am not agreeing or disagreeing with Mr. Artley's comments simply because I don't know the new chief. Mr. Artley offered up an opinion based on facts as he recounted them. The same could be said for the recent postings about qualifications between agencies. I truly believe that very little that is actually posted by AB doesn't serve a purpose for all of us in one way or another.

In the meantime, organizations such as the FWFSA will likely give the new chief the benefit of the doubt, send her congratulatory letters, yet be ever vigilant of the fact that things need to change NOW. Even those letters have an agenda...to let her know who we are, what we do, who we do it for. And, perhaps just as important, offer our desire to work with the Agency to affect positive change for our firefighters making it clear that our expectations are to be successful with or without the Agency's cooperation.

Respectfully,

Casey Judd
Business Manager
FWFSA
1/21 Re R6 White Paper:

I know there are alot of people out in the fire community that feel the Ken Snell's White Paper on 30 Mile missed the point or didn't go far enough. I feel it was the first step in breaking the silence we have all felt from the Regional and National level, on this important issue. We all have alot of work ahead of us, in repairing the trust that people feel has been shattered. Rogue Rivers was right, in that "true leaders will need to step up in the months ahead", and those leaders will need to be at all levels of the organization. I too am hoping to see something come out of the WO, but until then we are all responsible for getting together and coming up with recommendations.

On the Regional FMO conference call the day after the letter went out, Ken asked all the fire staffs, to forward any recommendations to his office. He also stated that everyone realizes that we have alot of work in front of us on the issue of criminal complaints against ICs. I am trying to stay optimistic that we will see a change from the Agency on this issue and that we will come out of this a stronger fire community. I know that this won't happen overnight, as we have so much to do. So we all need to jump in, roll our sleeves up, and get to work at all levels of the Agency. To fail is not a option... we all have too much to lose.

Hey Rogue Rivers...why are did you say sorry? I was just a small pawn in the white paper room.. I wasn't the one that signed the letter.

Hopefully we will now see other Fire Directors communicating their thoughts and soliciting recommendations and starting to have a open dialog on what I see as the most important issue that has faced us in quite some time.

Rod Altig
Gorge FMO

1/21 This came in yesterday but went in the spam filter. That spam report just came in to me. I white-listed you. It helps to have "theysaid" in the subject line. Ab.

Dear Ab

I am a "lurker" but occasionally I feel a need to respond to certain discussions:

AirTac:

Thank you for your comments concerning the new Chief of the Forest Service. The caustic and cruel remarks by Dick Artley were completely unprofessional (I don't care if you are retired) and irresponsible. They serve absolutely no purpose. The new Chief has a very demanding and difficult job ahead of her and the reality is, no matter what decisions she makes, some will support those decisions and some will not support those decisions. The same applies to having been a Regional Forester, Forest Supervisor and District Forester.

FC-180:

Thank you for your recent postings concerning qualifications. Isn't it amazing that states, counties, and volunteers have been successfully fighting and suppressing fires for decades without meeting 310-1, 5109.17 and other federal standards? This "big brother" attitude of certain federal employees gets extremely aggravating and tiring. We all have a job to do (fight fire) and we all do it well within our agency standards and policies. Some states have been effectively managing "all-risk" incidents, for decades, without the benefit of federal standards. Maybe we should all learn to appreciate the various skills, training, and experience (diversity) we bring to the fire/All-risk ground and get away from this "you need to meet our standards" idea. As I recall, there are agreements stating we will accept each others qualifications and standards.

NO-NAME:

I agree, there needs to be legal action taken against those who started the campfire.

Ab, Thank you for maintaining this website. It is a wonderful resource for a variety of information.

The Occasional Commenter

1/21 This one also was spam filtered in spite of "they said" in the subject line, probably because of your moniker. (haw haw) Thanks for your perspective. I let the facts of the report he cites speak for themselves. I agree the personal perspective is harsh and not what we would have communicated ourselves. That said, theysaid will be viewed as it will be viewed. Ab.

In full accord with Airtac’s post, I too believe that Dick Artley’s personal attacks on the new Chief are extremely inappropriate. Personal attacks such as this are distasteful, unprofessional, ineffective, and, when prevalent enough, will eventually discredit the forum that is hosting them. If we are not careful, Theysaid will be viewed as nothing more than a blog site that people with personal agendas or vendettas use to advance their cause.

Advancing a personal vendetta is exactly what Mr. Artley is doing with his post. He clearly is a disgruntled (former) Forest Service employee who has a vendetta against his former agency coupled with an environmental agenda. He is a self-admitted “environmental activist” who has dedicated his retired years to “exposing the wrongdoings of the organization [e.g. USFS].” Here is some of his work from around the web:

http://www.campusactivism.org/displayperson-472.php
http://www.forestcouncil.org/pdf/winter06.pdf
http://www.wildrockies.org/foc/Defender%20Fall%2005%20final.pdf
http://www.pacificgreens.org/files/ForestServicetermsforlogging.pdf (You may have to copy and paste this last link.)

Let’s all work to uphold Wildlandfire.com’s reputation of hosting a professional dialogue for firefighters and firefighting issues and not let it be infiltrated by activists who want to use it as a vehicle to pursue their broader, vindictive agendas.

Rollin’ and Blowin’
1/20 Re: "Throw out the baby with the bath water" statement about Type 2 Teams

Contract County Guy,

Can you expand upon your thoughts on how Fed TYPE 2 teams are any different than A CDF TYPE 1 team in this aspect? You seem to be pointing your finger at Type 2 teams, without recognizing or pointing your finger at the real problem.

The local agency administrator makes the decision on how much input and participation the local forces have on the management of the incident during, and after, transition with an incident management/incident command team.

In the case of CDF fires, it is usually the Unit Chief or his designee. In the cases of Federal fires, it is someone with Line Officer Authority.... aka District Ranger, Forest Supervisor, District Manager, Area Manager... etc....

In both cases (CDF or Fed), a skilled agency administrator will ensure local talent is still managed and utilized to meet agency goals on the incident and provide local knowledge...... while utilizing the unique talents and skills that a team provides to the management of complex incidents.

What sometimes needs to be noted on the flip side is that occasionally, even with a lack of local knowledge in some cases.... A team may have gained the RPD slides... and the situational awareness.... that possibly the "local experts" never have gained or experienced..... or possibly simply know how to use their local knowledge and build upon it, and frankly.... sometimes piss off the "local" incident management "experts" while providing for the greater good of safety.

sign me, 8 years on a "Type 2" Team......
1/20 I personally think that NONE of us (at least on the Fed side) can think back before there were TEAMS managing wildland fire or other complex incidents.... Management of wildfires by TEAMS is not a new concept or recently acquired idea... The concept dates back to the 1957 Report to the Chief...... a report and eventual action(s) that Contract County Guy may or may not be familiar with.

In the 1960's, there were Large Fire Organization (LFO) teams predesignated to manage large wildland fires. Those LFO Teams progressed into ICS Incident Management Teams.... and into the process that the Fed's use today.

Higbee
1/20 Old Fire Guy,

You bring up a very special perspective on political appointees. I too also dont want to jump to judgment on the new Chief's qualifications.....

I'll give her 30 days to speak out and change the morale and safety problem in the Forest Service......

Jack Ward Thomas was the LAST Forest Service Chief who was appointed through the Merit Promotion System within the federal civil service system.

Since Jack's service, every Chief since him was "appointed" to the position by the Undersecretary of Agriculture or the Secretary of Agriculture without SENATE CONFIRMATION........ or through MERIT PROMOTION....

I understand why some folks are concerned.....

The 30 day period starts now with the new Chief..... (even as the current Chief sits at the helm until late February).....

Watching and Waiting
1/20 Re: El Dorado HS Walk

It is cool to be a member of the wildland fire community....

It isn't cool to pledge for firefighter safety and fail to act....

If you are on the NON-PAID list.... make a call and explain your situation.... and make your situation good.

Otherwise..... you are a deadbeat.....

If you pledged to the Eldorado Hotshot Walk... and you haven't paid yet..... You need to explain why you are stiffing your friends and their families.....

If you know someone who is on the list..... contact them... If they can't pay, it will not be held against them or you... But someone needs to explain it.....

$17852.64
$17,852.64 .... that sucks.....

Guido

HAW HAW on the moniker. Ab.

1/20 Abs,

Good discussion on the differences in qualification standards between agencies. I'll offer yet another perspective. NWCG recognized the need for different qualification standards and that is why 310-1 was established as the minimum standard. It is ok for the interagency fire and aviation community to have different standards for different reasons, as long as they meet minimum standards. Maybe the question should really be, are the current 310-1 standards too low? The differences in resource management policy and other fire and aviation management policy is greater yet, and probably for good reason. The missions are not the same. I think CDF's standards would be the least of concern when you consider many other state, county and other organizations. CDF is a quality organization as many others are also.

I have worked for CDF, DOI, and FS over a 33 year fire career, so far (I don't have liability insurance either). One of the most interesting aspects of the adventure has been working with individuals and groups from the interagency community, many of which did not meet the same standard as the agency I worked for. I learned that the world did not evolve around my agency. Once I realized that, I learned something positive from many of those other agencies and individuals. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts... It is ok if all the parts don't meet 5109.17.

Airtac
1/20 The Aussies are predicting as much as 50mm (2") of precip on their fires in Victoria!

www.theage.com.au

Dick Mangan
1/20 Command Teams:

Many of the readers here may be too young to remember the Pre-Team days. This post doesn't wish for those days to return, but remember, they were not that long ago. What is still a relatively new way of doing business in our nations' history of fire fighting however could use some change. Here's some points of view about teams that I'm sure will rankle many. My beliefs are that teams are successful in concentrating talent and building strong group capability. But the emerging national fire trends, and the fact that not all teams (STATE or FEDERAL) are created equal, suggest that changes will be needed. I believe current team configurations, use, and styles of deployment as we know them today will be a TRANSITIONAL PHENOMENON, and while teams of some sort will surely exist in the future, they will be different. Some of the issues that will drive this change include;
  1. The majority of structural loss in California WUI fires occurs in under 12 hours from the time of origin (most in under 6) according to several studies, yet teams can rarely deploy within that period. The "dance" required to transition an incident can take just as long to accomplish. This is not just a California problem though; the national trend is that a much larger percentage of fires have a big WUI component. Point being, teams must be locally available, competent, and rapidly deployed to increase effectiveness and address these demands.
  2. How many times have you been on an initial/extended attack fire managed by the most competent
    local chiefs available, ones with national qualifications, only to have a far less knowledgeable team
    from the far corner of the earth replace this staff, and then proceed to engage in a learning process
    about local fire behavior and screw up local interagency relationships? The concept of relieving the
    initial attack command and taking them out of the game is contrary to many notions we all learned
    as rookies, like "respecting to local guy who knows the fire behavior."
  3. Let's not even talk about how fire costs have skyrocketed under team management.
  4. Rules exist that are counter-intuitive like "if you branch a fire it has met Type 1 criteria and should be transitioned, etc.," causes teams to organize a fire less than they would to prevent team transitions- even if branching made sense. Transitioning command rapidly from Type 3, to Type 2, to Type 1 is a exhaustive process that sucks the life out of incident momentum and needs to be changed. Transition must become more seamless and less a total replacement.
  5. Team transitions are sometimes forced during the worst possible moment, such as during WUI involvement when the situation is changing very rapidly.

Conflicts in policy regarding who protects structures and who protects wildland have not resolved incident real-time problems faced by ICs, and won't -- especially if we retreat to pre-1970's philosophy and try to stick our heads in the sand. Fire teams must engage and be involved in solving the entire incident driven problem. This has always required cooperation. Problems that we create through institutional policy are inexcusable and should be shot on site.

Now the only issue I want to address about CDF vs Fed is that, because CDF teams are smaller, regional, shorter staffed, and pickup more "local talent" once on-scene, they tend to move and deploy faster. This is a plus on rapidly emerging catastrophic fires, but also benefits cooperating agency relationships who expect to have involvement and integration, but still allows for CDF to lead. The same is generally true of Federal Type 2 team mobility, although they are larger and have a tendency to throw out the "baby with the bathwater", meaning near total replacement of command and general staff, DIVS, etc.

Teams are the only game in town right now, but I believe it's time for a long look at how teams are managed and deployed. It's not that long ago that there were no such thing as teams. They should not be institutionalized forever "as is" and never expect to change. Our command of incidents has changed from "situation/need driven" to "policy driven" in many respects. The scales need to be tipped back a little the other direction. Sending both a State and a Federal Team to co-manage, "mirror/shadow" or whatever you call it, is not the answer. Neither is taking shots as to who does the job better. It will take a renewal of the cooperative approach as we decide on how to lead future fires ... nobody can succeed alone.

Target firmly posted between my shoulders: any comments are welcome.

Contract County Guy

1/20 Airtac,

Actually you are partly correct - and partially incorrect, and here's a summary to more thoroughly explain it to you (although I'm assuming you already know most of this - especially if you are an FS employee). The Forest Service is the only land management agency (and one of only a couple) that is headed by a career civil servant rather than a political appointee that has to be confirmed by Congress. When a Chief gets ready to retire they identify several candidates they believe are qualified to replace them and then work with the Secretary of Agriculture to put them in place. Because they are drawn from the ranks of the Senior Executive Service, it is the Secretary that has authority to reassign them into the position of Chief. Generally though it is the current Chief that picks their replacement. The two notable exceptions that I know about were when the Clinton Administration decided it was time to replace Dale Robertson, leaned on him to retire and brought Jack Ward Thomas in as Chief -- even though Jack was not a member of the Senior Executive Service and when the Bush Administration decided it was time to replace Mike Dombeck, leaned on him to retire early and brought Dale Bosworh in from his SES position as Regional Forester. This time around was classic Chief transition with Dale telling the Secretary when he wanted to retire and orchestrating his replacement, well away from the politics of a Presidential transition. So as I said you were partially right.

In regards to the letter from Dick Artley. I looked at it, after I verified it, as I'm sure you did as well, as some information which allows me to be better informed - even if only about a different and personal viewpoint. I am able to make my own decision as to whether or not to make it my own personal attack against the new chief. Some of the information is undoubtedly opinionated, but as I say, I can form my own opinions based upon the information provided on They Said, which is the beauty of this site. A lot of information is dispersed here and much of what is posted is gleaned by the experts and those with much first-hand experience. Many times there is information posted here which, by the time it is finished going through the "They Said hot coals" is pretty darn accurate and educational, something I greatly appreciate. Personally, I already had enough first and second-hand experience with her to come to the same conclusion. And I know, first-hand, of two lives who were absolutely ruined by actions. At the same time I know people who have worked for her for many years of her past and someone who worked with her directly recently and some of these people disagree with some of what this letter said, but none dispute it all.

But I find many of what might be termed as "personal attacks" on here as issues to look at further, and about which to become better informed. (Also, as we all know, if you want something to go away on here, don't bring it up or draw attention to it!) However, in this particular situation and with it coinciding with another situation we are all watching right now, it might add to our situational awareness and help us prepare for the future. Just a thought. It never hurts to be prepared and sometimes we only learn about situations after they occur and often times only the bad situations are made news! I have often found it valuable to know as much about my employer, those that lead it, those that make it up, how it is funded and supported and how it is not supported. With all of that information constantly being assimilated I can be better prepared for decisions my agency makes.

I figure that any way I can get accurate information, with references, is a good way of educating myself and those around me. If there is a bit of personal attack or editorializing involved, it won't kill me or hurt my feelings. It'll just expose me to a different point of view, make me better informed - which isn't bad. And make me stronger.

But I understand your point.

Stanley
1/20 Squirtgun,

There are at least six errors in the Region 6 Fire Directors "white paper" that was directed from the WO (Facts on file) (Sorry Rod)..... I personally believe some of those errors are intentional and some unintentional because they never talked to the troops in the field, or they had their marching orders in advance for a "final product"..... they all add into the basic misunderstanding of the Swiss Cheese Model at the highest levels of the USDA FOREST SERVICE......

The WO "leaders" need to speak facts, and speak NOW on the record or the Forest Service as many of us have known it will never be around in the future....NOT PUSH OFF THEIR DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE REGIONAL LEVELS to save face....... that may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on their experience with the Forestry Technicians.......

If folks want to use OIG as the cure all to end all, the next OIG investigation should investigate on how the hell we came to this aweful predicament... and if OIG doesn't work..... OSC.... and the PUBLIC will expose everyone complicit in how the Forest Service is being dismantled piece by piece by the current administration....

Within the next few months, true leaders will step up.... or step down..... Dale Bosworth was the first to make the decision.... More will follow...

Who will follow?

Rogue Rivers
1/20 Ab,

I too am disappointed to see the attack on the new Chief posted on this website. It falls far below the standards you set at the start. I would be proud to see it removed.

The first Chief to serve at the pleasure of the President was Gifford Pinchot. The latest is Chief Kimbell. I've never met the lady, but know she is a career FS employee. I wish her well.

RE: 310 standards vs 5109.17, there is no inconsistency. 310 standards remain the "minimum" that signatory agencies agree to meet for nationally mobilized resources. It specifically mentions that agencies may supplement training/experience requirements for their own employees (5109.17 for the FS).

As to what comes first, the incident complexity or the team? The complexity of the fire is determined by a variety of factors, not including the type of team currently assigned. A key point is to recognize the change of complexity or to anticipate the change of complexity and order the correct team to manage it.

A type 3 incident may evolve into a type 1 incident in very short order with a major wind event. If a type 3 IC is in place, they must continue to manage the incident within the confines of their qualifications......that can present a great challenge. Resources may be available that the IC is not qualified to manage. That may mean focusing on public safety and staging some resources until a qualified team is in place. Such may be highly unpopular. In my area, we have a letter of delegation that charges the ICT 3 to "handle such pressure without surrendering to it". This type of situation affirms what many of us believe....the Type 3 IC is the toughest job there is.

Old Fire Guy
1/20 FC180 brings up a verrrrrry interesting point: the Forest Service 5109.17 requirements vs the rest of the fed agencies and NWCG signatories 310-1 requirements. As a Forest Service FIREFIGHTER I have oft asked why the difference?. I have listened to and voiced the opinion that the Forest Service should drop the 5109-17 and adhere to the 310-1 for alignment with the USDI FIREFIGHTERS and the rest of the wildland fire world. I have listened to the WO folks say "no way" to that idea.

So, tell me WO folks, if the Forest Service FIREFIGHTERS have to meet "higher" standards than other fed or county or state or contract FIREFIGHTERS to perform certain positions on Forest Service Incidents, why does the Forest Service let folks who do not meet its own requirements act in those same positions of authority on said incidents????

Seems to me that if it is "safer" to require "higher" standards (5109.17), then one would not want individuals from other agencies with "lower" standards (310-1) acting in positions that could affect the almighty safety card.. Hmmm, "Failure to follow ones own policy and procedures". We even let these other "lesser" qualified individuals have Forest Service Trainees and sign task books. Hmm. As a matter of fact other agencies "lesser" qualified personnel fill Training Officer Positions on Forest Service Incidents and are in charge of the final training paper work that follow Forest Service Trainees to their home unit. Heck, our own Forest Service Trainees can even take training assignments on other agency incidents with other agency trainers.

Our own IMTs are filled with other agency qualified folks who do not meet the requirements of the 5109.17. Why is that? Oh, yes, as stated in the Forest Service "rules" The Forest Service accepts other agency standards for training and qualifications. Convenient how we write rules to get around our own rules!

So my point. Either get off the dime WO and support your beliefs and say no one on Forest Service fires that does not meet the qualifications, prerequisites and training requirements of the 5109-17 OR drop the darn roadblock and adhere to the 310-1.

Remember the KISS method.

yactak
1/20 FC180

I agree with you on the PPE issues et al.... and I am a fed.

After actually seeing some of the folks from the Mudd and New York Peak fires of this last year, I believe a second layer is pretty important. I base my opinions on seeing their injuries and hearing their personal story.

In the early 1990's, we tried out a second layer system on the engine that I was assigned to.... For us, it didn't work..... too hot and too cumbersome.... BUT.... we were never exposed to a burnover like the folks on the Mudd and New York fires were.

I mentioned it last month or the month before..... I can't remember when... As I get older, my memory and focus sometimes fades......

Gizmo

1/20 30mile, Just a thought:

No support from management, Laws that hinder sharing knowledge and lessons learned, No leadership at the top... liability....... Hmmm easy way out: Contract out the fire business and make the contractors provide liability insurance and the government can wipe itself clean...

Original Hugh

1/20 NORCAL Capt, Thanks for your perspective. It adds much to the discussion.

As Ab said, this is not a juvenile discussion and it is not going to end up as being a CDF vs. FS discussion, or an us vs. them discussion regardless of agencies.... It is a discussion for safety and the juveniles should stay far away... On this topic, folks need to be focused and stick to the facts and offer well educated opinions based upon their experience, training, and obtained situational awareness regardless of any particular individual bias they have "absorbed".

This is not an attack on you, but an addition upon your perspective on the issue.

You said, "Oh and by the way both the incidents you mentioned met the classification through NWCG standards as type 1."

NORCAL Capt, you are partially correct. The entrapments on the Sawtooth Fire happened in just the first few hours after the "initial" smaller lightning fires had been contained and were being managed under what the Feds would call a type 4 organization.... then one of the fires didn't behave and follow "NWCG standards and guidelines" and got up and rocked and rolled.... and it caused "at least" three entrapment incidents. Thank goodness they didn't result in something worse than they did.

On the Esperanza Fire, the fire was being managed by what the Fed's would call a type 3 organization that was entering a more complex situation rapidly near sunrise.... and was being augmented by Type 1 and Type 2 qualified overhead. The fire, until the entrapments occurred, would have been managed by a Type 3 Organization comprised of folks experienced at various management levels of Type 1 and Type 2, but primarily Type 2.

As both fires continued to escalate, and progress in complexity and political sensitivity, they eventually would have been managed by a Type 1 Incident Management Team regardless of agency.... that is not the issue.

The issue is how do we all "play well in the same sand box and are doing the same job on wildfires, when some of those in the sand box had different parents"..... We all are friends, but some of our "parents" refuse to talk with each other.... and we have different qualifications systems while doing the same jobs?

In order not to be charged with plagiarism of my friends comments and observations, I'll let this post simmer some and explain that my post is not just my personal opinions.... I am posting a compilation of the comments of a current Unit Chief of CDF, current and retired members of CDF at various levels, current and former members of USFS teams at various levels, and folks from the outside who are looking that can observe without agency bias....

All are folks working together for safety.... The way it should be.

Lobotomy
1/20 Don’t worry fed, state, local, county, regional, interagency and volunteer
firefighters, the day is fast approaching when we will all wear the same
uniform and work for the Department of Homeland Security as contract reps.
All firefighters and firefighting apparatus will be contracted out at twice
the cost to the taxpayers. These will be the good ol’ days we sit around
our hotels and talk about after our 8 hour shift is over and we are enjoying
our 16 hour safety break.

Signed,

Can't we all just along and do our jobs?
1/20 FC180

Thanks for the info on chain saw training. I have to say that the 67 hour class I took included S-130 and S-190 and those parts were taught by a FS Batt chief. The material and how it was tested afterwards was different than the previous style of training that had gone before. It was designed to be more "academic" in content and also the style of testing. A number of people did not pass, but were allowed to continue in the class, simply lacking those certs.

I was surprised later that people who "failed those tests" could still be hired by CDF. They could not be hired outright by the FS. Of course they could go through the general hiring process for FS fire, get hired and redo that essential segment of training with the other seasonals the FS was hiring.

Perhaps more disturbing, I heard from a fed fire friend the next year (in 2000) that he was told to "pass" a group of Spanish-speaking hires regardless of their performance. That caused him real heart burn. I know he gave notice that he would never do that again. I hope others will not compromise training in that way either.

I know how hard it is to expect -- no demand -- a certain level of knowledge before people are allowed to move up. Sometimes it is not black and white. In my early days of university teaching in natural resources, I flunked a young man who was deaf. He clearly was not an auditory learner but had to rely on visual and kinesthetic modes. He had a translator who "signed" my stats lectures to him and I think also provided him notes. I was known as a "hard but fair teacher". I agonized over the decision to not pass him. What cinched it for me was the knowledge that he planned to go on in natural resources, most likely trying for an advanced degree. He needed the foundation in stats to accomplish his goals. It was not a matter of life and death -- the way fire behavior training can be -- but he had to have the foundation to achieve his academic goals. I gave him a second chance to study up and take a similar alternative exam so I could rule out that his first failure might be due to "clutching" on the exam format and not a lack of knowledge. It didn't change the outcome... My friends, we must expect and demand excellence, in wildland fire even more than in other professions...

I want to thank everyone who is willing to discuss these issues. I have not asked some of these questions since my earliest days here (first post in late Nov '99, whooo hooo, 7th anniversary last nov) because of concern over how quickly people used to start turning the discussion into an agency "us vs them".

Mellie

1/19 Ab

This minor discussion of qualifications and standards between and among
agencies brings to mind the fact that the wildland agencies in California
cannot even agree on how many layers of safety gear are required, what
gloves are to be used, are neck/face protectors required... If something as
fundamental as PPE exists with two standards, how can we possibly accept a
"Standard" on anything. If the bottom line is legal considerations and
taking orders from someone who is "qualified", and what does "qualified"
mean, then some lawyer would have our bacon on the fact that even the
federal wildland agencies have two standards, 310-1 and 5109.17. I know for
a fact that in 310-1 many training courses are recommended, and in 5109.17
they are required training. So within the house of "Federal", there are two
standards, how can an organization that totally evolved independently of
the federal system be expected to conform to the "Standard"? Which one are
we talking about exactly. Why is it that the Forest Service requires
training when BLM, FWS and NPS all accept it as "OTHER TRAINING WHICH
SUPPORTS DEVELOPMENT OF KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS"

RE incident typing. Does Lobotomy feel as if the incident type changes when
the team takes the fire or does the team taking the fire have to match the
incident type? Because I would say that both Sawtooth and Esperanza were
Type 1 complexity long before the team arrived. Both fires were Type 3 for
only a short while. Chicken or Egg?

And to Mellie, who started this whole thread: 1) S-212 is required for all
suppression personnel who touch a saw, after the Darby Fire and a fire up
north where we dropped a tree on a firetruck, and 2) Our 67 hour class does
not include S-130 and S-190 per se, but the objectives and material are
covered in the class. I use the powerpoints for those classes to cover this
same material as part of 4300-4314 in the CDF training manual. The hours
are comparable.

FC180

1/19 Abs,

I have appreciated this site for sometime for the professional dialog and information sharing that it provides. I have only lurked to date until my button got pushed today. I do not believe that personal attacks such as the Dick Artley vs Gail Kimball letter have a place here. I can put up with the occasional whining that some do without providing solutions... but the personal attacks have no value.

As a side note, I believe Bill Clinton was the only President ever to politically appoint an FS Chief, rather than a land management professional from within the ranks.

Airtac
1/19 Tahoe Terrie,

I'd rather, and more accurately, refer to you as "ever the realist." Or maybe
even "ever the prepared one!"

No, that sort of documentation and track record is not good. In fact I'll go
out on a limb and say that it's worse than bad.

Probably a hidden agenda, but why hide it? Who's going to do anything about
it? (except for us! Memories of Senator Burns ;-) )

I believe it is the President who makes that decision, or at least he has a strong
say in it. But I could be wrong. Anyone know?

I'm sending this little piece to people in the agency far and wide. This is
another case where education and knowledge are power.

Stanley

Please if you do, do it via your private email and theirs. Ab.

1/19 re new Chief:

Documented retaliation against Forest Service employees by a Forest Supervisor
is not a very good recommendation for Chief.

Do you think there's a hidden agenda in this appointment??? and I'm not thinking
regarding the environment...

Who decides who gets appointed Chief and what's the appointment process following
an unexpected retirement?

Ever the Cynic...

Tahoe Terrie

1/19 JE re: OES positions:

OES main page www.oesca.gov scroll down to jobs, open that link and go to
current open exams, look for coordinator or senior coordinator (fire and
rescue services). The minimum requirements and application procedures are
listed. You have to send in two applications one for the job and one to
take the exam.

Scott Vail
Deputy Chief-Admin Fire and Rescue Branch
Governors Office of Emergency Services

1/19 January 14, 2007

Dear Abigail Kimbell, Regional Forester, Northern Region, U.S. Forest Service,

Why am I not surprised that you have been selected to succeed Dale Bosworth as the next Chief of the U.S. Forest Service?

It's clear to most thinking Americans that Bush has no regard for the environment. Bush's staff and their corporate allies spend an incredible amount of time and money to seek-out people who will carry on Bush's anti-environment legacy long after Bush is gone from the White House in January of 2009.

I knew you Abigail on a day-to-day basis at Oregon State University from 1978 to 1980. We were both pursuing our master's degree in logging engineering. I could not understand at the time why you were never able to envision a tree as anything other than several logs. To you, a tree was a "piece" that weighed so many "kips" to be hauled to a "landing."

It never occurred to you that these trees you wanted so desperately to log were part of a forest ... or a favorite picnic site for a family ... or a critical piece of wildlife habitat ... or that these trees might shade a blue ribbon trout stream.

I never said anything to you at the time. I felt you might grow out of it. I thought once you left academia and actually started walking alone in the forest you would see the majesty of the natural world without human tinkering. I was wrong.

Based on your history (shown below) it's obvious that your skewed sense of values stayed with you and became even more bizarre after you left college.

Your Bighorn National Forest mistakes

You were selected as the forest supervisor for the Bighorn National Forest in 1997. Prior to your arrival on the forest, you knew that in 1994 some Bighorn N.F. employees wrote a letter to their regional forester, disclosing that the Bighorn forest supervisor had created a hostile work environment for his employees and was mismanaging the forest in several ways (see below). Rather than thanking these employees for their work, you reacted differently.

Within a year after arriving, you decided to abolish 14 positions with a forest reorganization. Of the total 14 positions that you proposed to be abolished, 5 were the positions of the 6 people who signed the 1994 letter that were still working on the Bighorn National Forest. You told the press that the reorganization was vital to stay within your budget.

Over the next two years, you used the WRAPS process to reassign four of the 1994 letter signers to other duty stations. One of these 4 people was reassigned to a position in Arkansas that he had never performed before and had no prior experience in. One letter signer had his job abolished and was able to be re-employed on the Bighorn only after various members of congress spoke on his behalf.

By the year 2000, only 2 people remained on the Bighorn who had signed the 1994 letter to the Regional Forester pointing out massive mismanagement of public land.

The Government Accountability Project (a non-profit law firm) defended the employees that were threatened by you Ms. Kimbell. The GAP attorneys alleged that the reorganization was an attempt by you to discipline whistle-blowers.

The GAP was right. It was no coincidence that your reorganization had eliminated the jobs of most of the employees on the Bighorn that signed the 1994 letter.

Abigail, you carried out all this punishment and caused so much heartache for these splendid employees because they told the Regional Forester in their letter that the previous forest supervisor, Larry Keown had:
  • approved timber sales that damaged caribou habitat,
  • abandoned his legal reforestation commitments,
  • cost the taxpayers money by favoring politically-connected timber companies,
  • abandonment his wilderness preservation commitments,
  • violated the employees' civil rights with sexual harassment and "contempt" for handicap access regulations,
  • approved the construction of roads through Native American sacred sites, and
  • a "pattern and practice" of whistleblower retaliation.

On April 22, 2003, U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced the favorable settlement of eight whistleblower retaliation complaints filed by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) on behalf of 8 former and current employees of the U.S. Forest Service's Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. Under the settlement, the Forest Service was ordered to pay a lump sum amount of $200,000 to be divided between these 8 people. The agency was also ordered to provide corrective personnel actions for 2 of the 8 complainants, mitigating a 14-day suspension to a reprimand, and providing an interim bridge appointment to a former employee who experienced a break in federal service after he was removed for refusing to accept a geographic reassignment.

Special Counsel Kaplan stated, "This was an unusually complex retaliation situation given that it occurred over a lengthy period of time and through a dubious reorganization that took advantage of WRAPS procedures."

Unfortunately, one employee who signed the 1994 letter lost her job after her ecology position on the Bighorn N.F. was abolished before the settlement proceedings had begun.

Most forest supervisors would have been grateful to these caring employees and rewarded them for pointing out such mismanagement of public land. Not you Ms. Kimbell.

With this one act, you had just placed yourself at the top of the Bush's search-list (which would start in 2 years) of potential anti-environmental candidates for either BLM Director or Forest Service Chief.

If any readers would care to check the accuracy of the Bighorn information presented here, please access the Office of Special Counsel April 4, 2003 press release at:

www.osc.gov/documents/press/2003/pr03_10.php

Your Promotion to Associate Deputy Chief of the Forest Service

You were named to become the Associate Deputy Chief of the Forest Service in 2002 to lead the nation's timber program on national forest land … a Bush administration decision. They were now grooming you to be Chief. After your Bighorn performance, they knew you were exactly what they wanted.

Your Promotion to Regional Forester

You were named to become the Regional forester for the Forest Service's Northern Region in December 2003 … again, a Bush administration decision. This was your reward from the Bush administration.

Few American citizens know that much of your time at your last job as Associate Deputy Chief in Washington D.C., was spent authoring the tragic Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003. Bush signed that Act into law the same month you became Regional Forester in December 2003. The vast majority of the statements of fact that you wrote in the Act were contradicted by the general scientific consensus. You knew this, yet you wrote them anyway.

You now knew that you were on the fast-track to the Chief's job … the first woman to hold that position. It was time to lay low and make no mistakes … appear to care for the public land.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to connect the dots of your past.

Your Job as Chief of the U.S. Forest Service

You and your your new boss (USDA Asst. Secretary Mark Rey) will get along great. You have so much in common. You know this, since you have worked with him before. You can continue to trade stories and laughs about Mark's previous employment as a timber industry lobbyist.

Abigail Kimbell, you shouldn't be Chief, you should be ashamed.

I can only pray that your stay in the Chief's office will end with Bush's departure in January 2009.

Every person in America that cares about their public land will be watching your every move like a hawk … including members of the new congress.

Sincerely,
Dick Artley (retired Forest Service planner)

1/19 Ab,

There have been a few things going on in the Fed Fire world that no one has brought up yet.

  1. IS-700 NIMS class- This is mandatory for ALL RESPONDERS from ALL agencies this year, or IQCS will not let you print out a Redcard. It is a 2 hour online course about the changing role of Fed agencies in Emergency Management. IF you go to Federal fires, even if you work for a State Agency, contractor, etc. This is mandatory before June 1.
  2. IS-800 NRP class- Anyone at Strike Team Leader or above as a qual needs to also take this 5 hour online class before the same date, or no Redcard. This is the course that discusses the fact that the USFS is now considered the lead Agency in any National Fire Disaster, even caused by terrorists. This fact is amazing, because officially, the USFS has no firefighters, just Forestry Techs.
  3. Also, In Region 5, after Feb. 14th, It will be the first time in almost 20 years that the USFS will be under NO court order to do any directed hiring, the Hispanic Settlement expires that day, and the Judge will not extend it.

Just some food for thought,

MJ

1/19 Lobotomy, Firedog, and whomever else wants to read this

Team typing and standards of training for federal teams are through NWCG and associated approved courses ... CORRECT?

CDF teams are based on what meets the needs of CDF.... CORRECT?

So can either of you explain why you're saying my teams are better than yours? Feds follow 310 and 5109, OK fine, but CDF is not a FED department so they follow what their overhead determines is meeting the needs.

If you are a FED, STATE, or LOCAL GOV firefighter does it matter to you the team you are working for? Some folks yes and others no, I bet, but in the bottom line a CDF team will work in CA and a FED team will work in the Nation.

Complexities and situations arising on incidents can greatly affect the typing and abilities of the team in charge, however if the team knows when they are overwhelmed they should back down and move to the next higher ICS typing. CDF has all type 1 teams and hand crews; does that meet the NWCG standards NOPE!!!!! But it does meet the CDF standards. How about comparing all the incident management teams nationwide state, local, and fed and see what you come up with. Who is following the NWCG and who is not!!!

So in the meantime please pick a subject that is not as juvenile as our teams are better than yours!!!!!

Oh and by the way both the incidents you mentioned met the classification through NWCG standards as type 1.

NORCAL Capt

Norcal Capt, this is not a juvenile discussion or a p*ssing match. No one is saying one is better than the other. What I hear people saying is that with the litigation situation that currently exists, firefighters across agencies better know how people they take orders from are qualified and what those quals are. If all do not have the same standards, how do firefighters from different agencies know how to evaluate their situation, for example, on IA Type 4 complexity, that might become Type 1 complexity within an hour? Granted, there are agency liaison people involved on large and/or growing incidents. They help crosswalk that info, but what about before the liaison gets assigned? Ab.

1/19 Misery Whip,

Once again you cut to the heart of the issue and impart a wisdom that is both valuable and well stated.

There is a bit of this deal that you may or may not have access to, or be aware of, our new R-5 director is quoted in his email that introduced this document as saying:

"it is an absolute fact that the entire Forest Service, the fire community at large, and many others are working together to wrestle with this difficult issue in active support of the firefighter on the ground. To aver otherwise is irresponsible."

It is the last sentence that bothers me, "To aver otherwise is irresponsible."

I submit to all readers here that to aver otherwise is our right and our responsibility and what is irresponsible is that it took him and and other leaders WEEKS to even address this issue publicly.

I will give them the benefit of the doubt that it IS a sensitive issue that requires a deft and considered response. However, to call us irresponsible for expressing concern about a lack of public leadership response is, at best naive, and at worst more of the same CYA BS from a morally bereft bureaucracy.

Sign me...

...Whatever

1/19 Firedog,

You said,

"We are and have been the State command teams for all risk (Northridge earthquake, floods, Exotic New castle, etc) and have trained to that level for years (something the Feds have only recently embraced although they have been to hurricanes in support roles)."

I am glad you mentioned the Northridge Earthquake.... The CDF Team on the Northridge Earthquake was not utilized as what CDF calls an "Incident Command Team"... it was more factually used as an incident support team, primarily providing logistical support to the local government agencies and limited ICS support in other areas..... retired Chief Marv Eaves can attest to that as can others of us who were there.

Good points on some of your other items also..... Federal teams (Type 1 and Type 2) have been doing the same things for many years..... and in some cases... further back in the past. Fed teams have served with floods and mudslides, Exotic Newcastle Disease, hurricanes, Shuttle Disasters, and terrorist attacks....

What struck me was your statement of "the Feds have only recently embraced".... and somehow, how it completely misses the discussion of wildland fire qualifications under NWCG standards..... and how the NWCG standards were developed and why...... Common communications and common standards as a direct result of FIRESCOPE.

I am glad to see that somehow, CDF leadership has changed its direction towards what has always been stated in their manuals.... the "fact" that they "follow" the NWCG PMS 310-1 Standards, and are now trying to met that goal of the adopted CICCS standards based upon the on NWCG guidelines.

The first activation of a Federal Incident Management Team for an all risk incident was nearly 20 years ago..... I guess "recently" must just be a relative term....

The first Type 1 Incident Management Team ever activated for an all risk incident was for a hurricane..... and it was a Fed team.... and it happened nearly 20 years ago.... on the east coast, far away from California.

Take care..... and thanks for adding to the discussion and coming out of "lurk mode"...

Lobotomy

P.S. - I Disagree with some of your S-520 comments regarding CDF teams and "equivalency"...... If CDF intends to meet NWCG standards, NWCG establishes the terms of what is, and is not equivalent,.... not the agency seeking to meet equivalency of the standard....I have not yet seen anything from NWCG to quantify anything that CDF claims is equivalent training or experience in wildland fire.... on the record.... As a firefighter, "you" either meet the standard or you don't meet the standard....

But FC180 has an interesting point.... there is no "Cookie Cutter".

1/19 OK folks,

Let's resolve the unpaid list for the 52 walk. It was fantastic to see everyone get behind the El Dorado Hotshots and support them in their endeavor, but let's not make them think that what they did was in vain. Over $18,000 in unpaid pledges is totally unacceptable. If you are on the list, pony up! If you know someone on the list, remind them of what they promised tell them that it's time to keep up their end of the bargain.

It was an honor to be with these folks as they pushed their bodies to the limit so that families in the future might have a spark of hope when everything seems so dark. Let's not let them down.

Lori

1/19 Misery Whip,

Excellent post. I agree with you, and after reading the "white paper", there is general fear at the highest levels of our organization that permeates all the way to the troops in the field. While I understand that the WO folks have fears that they may "interfere" with an ongoing investigation, they are simply wrong. They either need to step up, step aside, or step down and let the folks on the ground take the lead in correcting this screwed up mess.

Simply said, they need to step up and speak openly with the wildland fire community, the public, the elected officials, and very importantly... the OIG and US Attorneys office..... their silence is deafening to many of us and it just makes things worse for everyone..... IF they speak facts, it is not interfering with an investigation......

When fear is involved, even some of the most competent "leaders" can revert to some of the personal survival basics of Maslow, and forget the very basic tenants of how they got to the positions they are in. If those that have become our "leaders" continually revert back to the lower levels of the Maslow triangle, they will continually bring the wildland fire organization lower with them..... Someday... the wildland fire organization will meet "self actualization"..... but we need some great leaders who can step up......

While I applaud a "white paper" coming out of Region 6, an honest and factual discussion needs to come out of the Washington Office.

Maybe if Region 6 is sold on the work of Gordon Graham, J.D., and safety systems and human factors expert , they will tell the Washington Office that we need to use his ideas on a national level. Gordon Graham has been teaching safety for the Forest Service for many years and has been a regular presenter at the Region 5 Chief Officers Conferences.

Student of Reason
1/19 Regarding the document sent out by Ken Snell:

As an ex R-6 firefighter, I have to question the statement from this document that he has instructed the Fire Staffs of the region to let him know if a non-covered firefighter is interested in the PLI reimbursement. I left not too long ago and there was never ANY word about this passed down to my low GS 5 ears. I am wondering if this is just lip service from him or if his staffs under him were just not following his instructions. Are there any non-covered firefighters in R-6 who have been asked this question or was I just not listening?

Squirtgun
1/19 Firedog,

Thank you for your reply. I don't think people will start turning on each other discussing the things that are different between our agencies.... but a discussion must continue so that we all each understand the differences of our agencies, and our missions.

In regard to your statement on the Sawtooth and Esperanza Fires, during both entrapments, the incident was NOT being managed by a Type 1 Incident Management Team... no matter how various agencies define it. During both entrapments, the fire was being managed by initial and extended attack forces and incident managers.

Lobotomy
1/18 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1/18/07

CONTACTS:
Barry Nestande, District Office, 951-369-6644
David Duran, Capitol Office, 916-319-2064

California Assembly Approves Benoit Measure for Firefighter Families
<> SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman John J. Benoit (R-Bermuda Dunes) is proud to announce the passage of AB 108, the California Fallen Firefighters Assistance Tax Clarification Act of 2006, by a vote of 76-0. The legislation, which would allow for the disbursement of over $1 million to the families of five firefighters who died while battling the Esperanza fire in October, will now be immediately transmitted to the Senate.

“These firefighters were true heroes, selflessly giving their lives to protect others, and we owe their families our gratitude, our prayers and our full support,” Benoit said. Their battalion is based in my district, and I am proud to be able to carry this important legislation. Today we can celebrate that the families of these fallen heroes will receive the assistance to rebuild their homes and lives.”

After the October fire, over $1 million was donated to the families of the five U.S. Forest Service firefighters. The money was to be distributed by charitable organizations including the Central County United Way and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, but distribution was postponed when the outpouring of support exceeded specific documented needs. Nearly 5,000 contributors pitched in, in a surge of support for the firefighters’ families, raising money in elementary schools, radio talk shows, and Beanie Baby sales.

Assemblyman Benoit remarked, “The outpouring of generosity and charity from people all across the nation was a blessing that reminded us of our exceptional benevolence and goodwill in terrible times. It is now in the Legislature’s court to ensure the transfer does not diminish due to taxes, or penalize the relief agencies.”

Congress acted quickly and approved the Fallen Firefighter Assistance Tax Clarification Act of 2006 (HR 6429, by Rep. Mary Bono), providing an exemption to the IRS rule that stalled the distribution. The federal law ensures that the non-profits will not lose their tax-exempt status when they distribute the money. A similar exemption allowed the collection and distribution of funds to families who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

AB 108 received bipartisan support, with co-authors including Assembly members Alarcón, Adams, Carter, Cook, Berryhill, DeVore, Garcia, Fuller, Huff, Jeffries, Maze, Richardson, Runner, Silva, Spitzer, Strickland, Tran, and Senators Cox, Ducheny, Harman, Dutton, Hollingsworth and Wyland.

The measure was sponsored by the CDF Firefighters and California Professional Firefighters, and has received support from the California Fire Chiefs Association, the Lake Arrowhead Paramedic Commission, the Fire Districts Association of California, the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council, the Mountain Rim Fire Safe Council, Inc., and the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

Legislation was introduced into both houses of the Legislature due to the urgent nature of the proposal. The parallel Senate measure, SB 41, is being carried by State Senator Jim Battin.

######

Information regarding Assemblyman Benoit is available on his web site at: www.assembly.ca.gov/Benoit.

1/19 Ab, I too have been lurking and feel an overwhelming urge to add my penny.
As FireDog stated: Ladies and gentlemen we are here for one reason, let's not let the animals start turning on each other.

I do not profess to be a wildland firefighter, nor any type of firefighter, but I have heard and seen both sides for more years than I care to admit. IMHO it is impossible to compare Fed & CDF/local gov't FF experience, training or pay & benefits; And because few walk in the same boots or employ the same tools on the same terrain.

Is it over-simplistic to state CDFer's are tied to a pump and Feds go where no engine can go? Each is needed to protect lives, natural resources, and property & personal possessions.

The unsuspecting public (thanks to the media 20 second sound bites) remains unaware of the grave danger that lurks due to firefighter brain drain attrition.

Please, everyone, make an effort to educate the "bosses du jour", elected officials, and the public.

River

I understand the fear surrounding getting into this discussion, but there are no animals allowed here, just people seeking to understand the systems so they can educate. Ab.

1/19 3 things:

Scott Vail:

Went to the site for the OES positions but could not find a link to apply. Can you provide a little more info on how to apply and/or the process?

For the Forestry Tech page:

You know you're a Forestry Tech if your boots cost more than your wife's wedding ring.

My last comment on the drinking issue <from way back>:

If you want the respect of a Professional, you perform like one and act like one. P.S. Remember, Respect is within yourself, not what others think.

JE

1/18 Does anyone else feel like we just got the "Stay the
Course" speech?

Signed

THE JUICE DRINKER
1/18 Abs & All,

I just saw the letter from R6 Fire Director Ken Snell. I assume this is the same Ken Snell who misinformed Agent Parker that firefighters train to deploy shelters in a row? And (apparently) helped Agent Parker reach the erroneous conclusion that all firefighters train to do this? Don’t know where he picked that mistaken assumption up but I trained hundreds of firefighters over the years in R6 and had NEVER heard of this supposedly widely practiced "technique" of deploying fire shelters until I read it in Agent Parker's complaint.

For some reason, I’m not much comforted by his letter. I will give him Brownie points for at least putting SOMETHING out there, which is more than can be said for our national (ahem) fire leadership.

The Tom Harbour quote at the end is dispiriting. “Don't confuse a lack of formal messages with a lack of effort to solve the issues.” That’s supposed to get us through another fire season, eh?

I have a strictly unofficial response to our fire director; “Don’t confuse a lack of Forest Service firefighters showing up to fight fire next summer with a lack of loyalty to the Forest Service.” Management is responsible for finding answers to the series of organizational blunders that boxed us in this corner and created this climate of fear, not us.

And quit using ”this is a legal matter” as an excuse for not communicating with us about these life-impacting issues, or for not advising Congress when they are about to make a terrible blunder, like PL 107-203. If you can’t foster and publicly support an environment in which Forest Service firefighters can expect fair treatment in the future, you will never develop a just culture, and your Doctrine effort is doomed to failure.

Misery Whip
1/18 Gizmo,

I too was a CDF seasonal back when the Forest Service paid more. I switched over and after three seasons with CDF did four with the USFS. I then left both agencies to a different career but I pay attention to wildland firefighting issues and I know what some of the differences between the agencies were many years ago and the current dialogue is enlightening to me. Having worked for both agencies I find it interesting that CDF has different requirements for ICS qualifications than the Forest Service. Is it still true that written tests are used (along with an oral interview?) for all CDF promotions (firefighter to engineer to captain to battalion chief) while the Forest Service uses oral interview/experience only? Just wondering, not sure it makes any difference, fire qualifications are probably more important.

Brother Cub
1/18 Another message that came along with the "White Paper" below:

Here is the "White Paper" sent out by Ken Snell, R-6 USFS Fire Director on
the actions related to the Thirtymile Incident. It is a beginning on a long
road on this important issue. As we all know this issue has been in the
forefront for all wildland firefighting Agency's. We are now starting to
see open dialogue at all levels within the USFS, and also with our concerned
Cooperators.

Rod Altig

1/18 From the PNW (Region 6) Director of Fire & Aviation Management. Thanks to all who sent it in.

File Code: 5100
Date: January 18, 2007
Subject: Actions Related to Thirtymile Incident
To: Forest Service Firefighters in the Pacific Northwest

Recent issues surrounding the Thirtymile IC has caused a lot of unrest within the fire community, and has caused many to believe the agency, or its leadership, is not supporting their employee. As the Fire Management Director, I will address, at least in part, these issues.

In late December, the Chief had two conference calls, one with the Regional Foresters and one with Regional Fire Directors to share his concerns about recent developments surrounding the Thirtymile IC, and to listen to concerns. The take home message about this call is that the Forest Service leadership is keenly aware of the unrest within the fire community and is in a mode of finding solutions. Some of these solutions could be politically sensitive, and if handled inappropriately could jeopardize their success. We will forward new information as soon as we can, but now is not that time. This is a very difficult issue for the whole wildland fire community, and we are aware it has implications outside of our agency.

We have discussed liability and accountability related to tragedies associated with fire suppression in the recent past. These discussions have been focused around improving and expanding our leadership training courses, better understanding human factors, risks associated with normalizing deviancy and three remedies the government and victims, or their families, have related to tragedies. I am going to focus this letter on the three remedies. I will speak to legal terms from a layman’s perspective, for specifics and exceptions you should seek advice from legal counsel.

When suppression efforts do not go as planned and tragedies occur, there are three remedies, or actions, the government and victims, or their families, have. They are: 1) administrative, 2) civil, and 3) criminal actions. To date, criminal actions have not been part of our vocabulary when discussing tragedies related to fire suppression, which has allowed us to culture a learning environment, that is, to learn from our mistakes. Threats of criminal prosecution are making employees less willing to participate in Safety Investigations and After Action Reviews for fear of incrimination and prosecution. This is threatening our ability to maintain a learning environment. We are well aware of this and are working on solutions.

I will outline the rest of this letter using the three remedies.

Administrative Actions: It is a remedy the agency has to help address performance issues. This action is not new and is exercised at the discretion of agency leadership. To protect themselves employees should consider having legal or union representation during this course of action. Professional Liability Insurance (PLI) can provide legal representation and is considered by many good to have. Administrative actions might very well be the primary reason to carry PLI. Since the agency is taking action against an employee, it will not supply legal counsel, hence the need for PLI or union representation.

The agency does provide 50 percent reimbursement for PLI for most fire line supervisors. The national office is looking for a Congressional sponsor to change the law to make 50 percent reimbursement for PLI available to all firefighters that want it. In Region 6, we have asked the Fire Staff to let us know of any firefighter that wants the PLI but does not qualify. To date I have not received any requests. Employees can use legal representation provided by PLI or the government to help them through civil lawsuits which is explained below.

Civil Actions: This is where a third party brings a lawsuit against an employee or the agency. In most circumstances, employees are covered under the Federal Employees Liability Reform and Tort Compensation Act. Here employees are provided “absolute immunity” for common negligence, that is, a failure to exercise due care under the circumstances. As it related to the current issue, if an employee was within their scope of work and did not commit gross negligence the government would substitute itself for the employee during legal deliberations. Most employees are aware of this, and have some trust in it based on past cases.

There were several civil lawsuits filed related to Thirtymile. The lawsuit filed by the Hagameyer’s against the agency was settled as reported by the Yakima-Harold for $400,000. Based on this report, the agency did not concede liability. There were two constitutional tort lawsuits brought against two Forest Service employees. In both cases, employees asked for and were granted legal representation. There was also a lawsuit filed against the manufactures of the fire shelters. The Forest Service was not involved in this lawsuit except to provide testimony.

Criminal Action. This action is obviously not new, but it is certainly new as it applies to actions or lack of actions, our employees take related to fire suppression. The following paragraphs provide some answers to questions being circulated within the fire community about what, or why, things are happening to the Thirtymile IC. These answers may: 1) help people better understand why things are happening the way they are, 2) provide clues as to what the agency might consider to better protect employees from criminal actions in the future, and
3) help people understand why the agency has been more quiet than vocal related to this matter.

Is there a difference between being charged by federal prosecutors and being indicted? Yes. Prosecutors file charges, or counts (eleven in this case), against an individual that are formally read to them by a judge. The accused has an opportunity to enter a plea. Assuming a not guilty plea is filed, a date is set for a Grand Jury hearing where the prosecutor (in this case the US Attorney) presents their evidence. This is a one-sided hearing. The accused does not have an opportunity at the Grand Jury to provide evidence of innocence. The Grand Jury considers evidence presented and then decides whether there is enough for an indictment, which is a formal accusation of a crime. If the accused is indicted, the case is scheduled for a trial in the future to allow the accused time to prepare a defense. Remember, the accused is assumed innocent unless found guilty at this trial.

The IC involved in the Cramer incident settled using a pretrial diversion which is a discretionary form of resolution in which criminal charges are either never filed, or are dismissed before the case ever gets to the Grand Jury. The Thirtymile IC, to date, has not settled and his attorney has publicly stated she believes the case has no merit and plans to move forward.

Why did it take 5 years before charges were brought? This is strictly up to the US Attorney. The law allows them 5 years and they chose to use it all. In the case of the Thirtymile IC, his attorney asked for, and was granted and additional 6 months to allow her time to study the case.

Why didn’t the government supply an attorney? When the US Government brings a criminal complaint, against an individual, via a US Attorney, it would be a conflict of interest for the government to also defend the same individual. In the Thirtymile case, a public defender was assigned.

Why is the agency being silent? Most will agree it is inappropriate to comment on ongoing criminal proceedings. To do otherwise, could be seen as interfering in the legal process. This should not be viewed, however, as either agreeing, or disagreeing, with the criminal proceedings. Even so, I know there are some that believe the agency should say something, hence one of the reasons for this letter.

Will liability insurance cover attorney fees in criminal cases? Yes. If an individual has taken out Professional Liability Insurance (PLI), then yes this insurance can be used to supply legal representation for criminal actions brought against them. PLI can be used to provide legal representation for Administrative, Civil, and Criminal actions taken against an employee. The US Attorney will consider providing legal representation only for civil actions brought against an employee. For Administrative or Criminal actions, the US Attorney will not provide representation, because in both cases, it is the government bringing charges against an employee and would be a conflict of interest for the government. For example, it is the agency (in this case the Forest Service) that determined the need for Administrative actions and carried them out; it is the US Attorney, not the Forest Service, that determines whether the government will provide representation in Civil cases; or whether criminal charges would be filed on behave of the government, if, for example, they determine gross negligence was committed by an employee.

Whatever happened to the "gross negligence" statement and how it ties in with criminal prosecution, indictments or complaints and, most importantly, what will the agency do/not do in support of the employee? As it relates to the current issue, there are two questions the US Attorney uses to determine whether they will substitute the government and provide immunity for an employee for civil cases. They are: Did the employee act within their scope of work? And, did they commit gross negligence?

If the US Attorney believes an employee committed any of the two actions listed in the previous paragraph they will most likely not support the employee in civil cases and have the discretion to file Criminal charges against them on behalf of the US Government. Further, it would be a conflict of interest for the US Government to provide legal representation for the employee.

The US Attorney will determine whether criminal charges will be brought against an employee based on information they gather. After the Thirtymile incident, Senator Maria Cantwell helped enact P.L. 107-203 requiring that whenever a Forest Service fatality is caused by wildfire entrapment or burn over, the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) shall conduct an investigation of the fatality completely independent of any investigation of the fatality that is conducted by the Forest Service. The US Attorney has access to the OIG investigative report and can use it to help them determine a course of action.

The Thirtymile incident happened before P.L. 107-203, but the US Attorney has always had the authority to bring charges against a party using what ever information they deemed appropriate.

PL 107-203 applies to the Esperanza incident and the USDA OIG is doing an investigation as are five other agencies.

Can we send an employee to the trial just to keep our office up to date on what is happening there? Yes. But that decision lies with the local agency administrator as does any travel authorization.

What is the FS doing to respond to the morale problem created by the criminal action?
The agency is well aware of the morale problems this case has caused, and in the PNW we have done a lot to address the issue. Examples: We continue to recognize people for the good work they do. We hired Gordon Graham, from Graham Research Consultants, to teach employees, supervisors, and managers why things generally go wrong and how to prevent these unfortunate situations from happening. Gordon reached nearly 2000 interagency firefighters over a two year period. Another year we provided three sessions to nearly 800 firefighters to help them better decide if being an incident commander (or fire line leader) was the right career for them. We had Mike Lohrey, a Type 1 IC, share his thoughts and provocative questions to help firefighters better plan their career in fire management. Carl Gossard, BLM Chief, Branch of Fire and Aviation, OR/WA, provided a “fire support triangle” to help them with situational awareness. We have increased the number and type of leadership training courses for employees. And, there are other actions as well.

There are employees still upset and don’t believe the Forest Service is doing all it can to support its employees during these trying times. I ask those employees to visit with their local supervisors to discuss what is happening to gain a broader appreciation of current actions and to discuss solutions that can be used locally, regionally or nationally.

In closing, I ask three things: 1) do not use this letter as a legal document, rather use it to help formalize your own questions when you have access to an attorney, 2) that you keep current on the pending issue, but don’t lose sight of the fact we need to prepare for the 2007 fire season, and 3) remember the quote from Tom Harbour, the National Director for Fire Management: “Don't confuse a lack of formal messages with a lack of effort to solve the issues.”

/s/ J. A. Kendall Snell
J. A. KENDALL SNELL
Director, Fire & Aviation Management

1/18 Fred Burris,

Not sure but try the folks at the Bear Divide IHC Base, they usually have a hand in the event. ...Noname

Contact info:
Bear DivideIHC
Angeles NF
Mike Alarid, Superintendent
ealarid @ fs.fed.us
Bear Divide Station
21501 N. Sand Canyon Road
Santa Clarita, CA 91387
(626) 335-8600
1/18 Lobotomy:

I have been lurking and reading this subject for a couple days, but it is time for my 3 cents. You challenged FC180 on several items that need clarification.

First- Esperanza and Sawtooth were absolutely type 1 fires if for no other reason than complexity. Multiple jurisdictions, multiple agency involvement, multiple structure/life loss (incidents within incidents), on and on.

You question the typing of CDF teams. While there may be some validity to your statements, let me clarify some issues. Most CDF teams/personnel have met S-520 equivalency in one form or another. We have sent teams to S-520 in Arizona and have held several 520 exercises in Ca for our teams. Although not all of our folks (or Fed) for that matter have been to 520 this year or last, the intent is there. We are and have been the State command teams for all risk (Northridge earthquake, floods, Exotic New castle, etc) and have trained to that level for years (something the Feds have only recently embraced although they have been to hurricanes in support roles).

It was stated (maybe not by you) in the past postings that we (CDF) do not adhere to 310-1/CICCS/or any other system. True, we did not fully adopt the direction that 310-1 went, we maintained our internal qual system Now fast forward to Jan 2007. We are now fully implementing CDF policy 4039 (training), and are participating in CICCS for all positions. We will also be issuing some form of card in the future.

We do not send people to incidents that are not qualified in the ERD. Initial attack is another issue altogether. Our philosophy is that we will not tie our hands so tight that we can not effectively function in an initial attack mode because of fear. We are charged with the protection of private tax paying lands in Ca and must meet the intent of the Public Resources Code and the needs Ca lives and property.

Ladies and gentlemen we are here for one reason, let's not let the animals start turning on each other.

Firedog

1/18 Does anyone have a good contact number for the Loop Fire Staff Ride
scheduled for DBTC in February? I haven't had any luck with the number
listed on the California Training site.

Fred Burris
1/18 Friday's morning report from Victoria:
the end may be in sight for a short while??

www.theage.com.au

Mollysboy
1/18 Ab, I apologize in advance.... Hit the wall.....

FC180,

I apologize for the rant in advance.... you hit me in a sore spot.... Not your bad in any way..... I was also saddened by you being summoned to the Esperanza Fire to do "mapping" rather than fire behavior....... and it is on one the various "tapes".

You asked me, "Was the Esperanza or the Sawtooth a type 2 incident?"

What do you think FC180? I want a from the gut and from the heart answer from a wildland firefighter and not a CDF Firefighter!!!!

Me personally, I think it was similar to a federal type 2 incident under both escalating and expanding scenarios of complexity and risks under the NWCG standards that type 2 teams (we) see each year on a federal basis (We= federal type 2 teams who meet NWCG standards, and CDF Type 1 Teams who do not meet NWCG Classification as a Type 1 Team defacto and CDF specific standards for qualification)..... way beyond a type 3 IC or a type 3 organization under our current configuration..... but what about a Type 2 "Team".... or a Type 3 "Team"?.....

.... or how do we get to the middle ground and find out what is going wrong?

Both fires were an initial attack fire that rapidly progressed to have firefighters entrapped and over-run way beyond belief or control....

I agree with ya.... Both fires don't meet the "cookie cutter" as do countess others have... But similarities between both fires were things that experts were looking at when they reviewed the Lessons Learned of the Inaja, Loop, Rattlesnake, and countless other tragedy fires of the past before they gave their report to the Chief...... And, like it or not, or recognize it or not, CDF has had their fair share of tragedy fires in the same period and contributed to "systemic failures" as addressed in past literature.......

Many of those "inputs" eventually (through revisions and redactions, and eventual learning) became the NWCG as we know it today.... Unfortunately, CDF (an original NWCG member) wanted to break away somewhere in the past..... and lose the lessons learned from a greater collective knowledge....

For me, CDF needs to get on board and start meeting NWCG 310-1 standards, or even better, meeting the standards of FSH 5109.17....

But that is just my biased world with all of the scientists and the ologists..... each of us live in our own worlds and expect different outcomes....

Then comes different realities we are not used to.... some call it science or repetitive reality... I call it progress on keeping folks safer... ie - the Viegas Model....

Lobotomy
1/18

MORE INFORMATION ON S.153

The Healthy Firefighters Act

Recently I responded to a post regarding this legislation being introduced by Senator Boxer of California and its application to federal wildland firefighters.

Because a number of our members are temporary firefighters, I have spoken with Senator Boxer's staff regarding this and more specifically, the treatment of temporary federal wildland firefighters who are not afforded any health care through the Gov't...for example, who's gonna pay for their treatment?

The staff informed me that it is the intent of the Senator that any firefighter would be eligible for monitoring & treatment but could not answer for certain who would pay for such "treatment" for temporary federal wildland firefighters.

As a result I referred to a number of bills recently introduced & re-introduced in Congress relating to health issues for federal firefighters. Some call for cancer presumptive laws, some have dealt with Valley Fever etc. They all seem to be working on the periphery of the medical & health needs of our Nation's federal firefighters.

That being said I suggested that the offices pushing for such legislation get together and introduce, or amend one of the bills already introduced, to create a comprehensive package inclusive of providing basic health coverage for temporary firefighters and allowing them eligibility for FEGLI insurance.

The staff was more than willing to take a look at such a comprehensive package so I will be contacting the other offices with similar legislation and hopefully put together a draft bill for congressional review. If there are other medical/health issues I haven't addressed, I'd encourage you to contact me and give me some ideas about other issues. I can be reached at 208-775-4577 or cjudd@ fwfsa.org. Still further, Sen. Boxer is also committed to seeing some action on PL 107-203 so we will continue to coordinate that effort as well.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
FWFSA

1/18 Since the topic has been brought up about CDF and following NWCG,

Would someone please tell me how can CDF consider their inmate crews Type 1 if they do not even come close to the NWCG Standards: 62.2 MINIMUM CREW STANDARDS FOR MOBILIZATION (Per: NWCG Fireline Handbook March, 2005, NFES 0065, Page A-37).

http://gacc.nifc.gov/eacc/logistics/crews/crew_files/Minimum Crew Standards.php

SRJS

CDF defines Type I crews according to their own standards. I think most firefighters in CA when they hear "CDF Crew" know it's CDF Type I Inmate Crew rather than a crew meeting Fed Type I NWCG standards. Fed dispatchers in CA and teams know the differences in the crew resources they're ordering and getting. This is a different issue than knowing the certs, quals and experience of an IC, especially in this age of litigation. Ab.

1/18 Ab,

We have just updated our Swiss cheese model collection with the addition of
2 documents in webpage format.

The first is "A Roadmap to a Just Culture: Enhancing the Safety Environment"

James Reason writes in the forward:

"In my view, a safety culture depends critically upon first negotiating
where the line should be drawn between unacceptable behavior and blameless
unsafe acts. There will always be a grey area between these two extremes
where the issue has to be decided on a case by case basis."

The second document is the 1984 Rainbow Springs Fire incident commander
narration
, digitized from the PMS-490, "Lessons Learned: Fatality Fire Case
Studies" course.

Here's what the IC had to say in his introduction:

"If I am able to provide a clear picture of our actions you will notice that
to some degree we violated all of the 10 Standard Fire Fighting Orders. If
there had been a Standard Order Number 11, there is every reason to believe
it would have been violated too."

vfd cap'n

1/18 CIIMTs
I'm hearing this year there will likely be some fewer than 5 if the RO doesn't support
RO fire folks and "militia" being on teams. Similarly, if risk-averse forest rangers
require their fire overhead to stay home -- because they're nervous about
meeting that possible ranger performance standard of catching 98% of fires on
IA -- those folks will be taken out of the IMT mix as well.

Larry,
I think there was a group couple of yr ago looking into liability insurance
issues for Rx fire supervisors. Never heard the outcome. Anybody know?

Concerned in socal

1/18 Lobotomy,

Here is one of the links you wanted...almost.....

Here are the ICS Employee Development Guides (Pre-January 2006) for CDF.

I don't know where to find the "post January 2006" guides..... but somewhere it says, "ICS Position Development Guide, current (coming soon)" without an active link for reference.

Because of your discussion with FC180 (I admire his posts for his cut right to the facts ability and his sincerity for safety), I wanted to find out what the qualifications for Branch Director, IC, and even Divisions Supervisors were within the CDF "system"* currently..... wow... what a difference between the two "systems"*, but the responsibilities are the "same" in California under the ICS 420-1 regardless of who was doing the "job". I had always believed that CDF followed the NWCG standards, but now I believe they just modified them to meet their local needs (good, bad, or indifferent).

Can anyone tell me how many federal type 1 teams there are in the State of California? Can anyone tell me how many CDF type 1 teams there are in the State of California? Can anyone tell me how many CDF folks are on the FED type 2 teams, with the exception of the ORCA team that is supported by the rogue CDF Ranger Units of Humboldt and Siskiyou?.....

There is a reason that NWCG (and CDF is a charter member of NWCG and a signer to qualification standards that were jointly developed by NWCG charter members) has type 1 and type 2 standards!!!..... and a need for folks to gain that relevant experience at all levels before becoming "Type 1" or bypassing the "Type 2" standards of various positions by default or through other means..... Those Rogue Ranger Units above recognized the need to return back to the basics..... others will in the future.... I believe another CDF Ranger Unit recognized the need several years ago.... but the Deputy Unit Chief went on to greener pastures further down south.... but still works for CDF in some form or capacity.

sign me... Former CDF when the Forest Service was paid more (Seasonal Firefighter).. aka Gizmo

* System. Refer to James Reason, Ph.D., and the Swiss Cheese Model of Accident Causation for further readings and information on the subject of systemic failures and how they can be prevented by "building a better cockpit".

Last season there were 5 Fed Type 1 teams from California; CDF had 10. Ab.

1/18 Rogue Rivers,

Thank You and everyone else that has donated to help Joel and Sammy....
I am sure they both appreciate it.

I am sorry to say that I never got the chance to know Gretchen, but from
what I have heard, she was one heck of a Lady and friend to many. She
will be missed.

Thank You Kindly,

Heidi
1/18 Higbee,

CDF does have currency requirements.

A former "CDFBigWig" passed on these links to me.... hope it helps.... I haven't been able to find out where the CDF ICS Employee Development Guide, or the ICS Position Development Guide(s) are located...... but here is a good start..... I am sure some of our good friends from CDF will point us to where we can find these two other Guides......

One statement at the bottom of my post is confusing.... In reference to the Position Development Guides (PDG).... "CDF specific training and experience requirements in this guide meet or exceed those set forth in NWCG 310-1" ....

Did NWCG actually agree to this or endorse it? If so, why don't these standards apply to federal agencies?

Lobotomy

7700 - Emergency Incident Management Handbook:
http://webmain02.fire.ca.gov/Pubs/Issuance/7700/Index7700.php

> From 7754:

"Duty statements for each ICS position are included in ICS 420-1, CDF ICS Employee Development Guide, and 4000 Training Handbook Section 4039. Although CDF recognizes the use of NWCG PMS 310-1 standards, CDF will utilize a modified approach (see 4000 Handbook Section 4039) to meet or exceed its ICS responsibilities."

4000 - Training Handbook:
http://webmain02.fire.ca.gov/Pubs/Issuance/4000/Index4000.php

> From 4039 - Incident Command System - Position Qualification System

The components of the ICS Position Qualifications System are as follows:

1) National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) - Wildland Fire Qualification System Guide, PMS 310-1. This guide is the model for determining minimum training and experience requirements for CDF ICS positions.

2) Incident Command System - Position Development Guide (PDG): This department guide lists the training, experience, currency, and qualification requirements for each ICS position. CDF specific training and experience requirements in this guide meet or exceed those set forth in NWCG 310-1.
1/18 Retired Engine Foreman Larry Smith passed away earlier today after a lengthy battle (01/17)... A battle that many of us have discussed before.

Larry was a long time fire supervisor on the San Bernardino National Forest... He will always be remembered for the things he has added for wildland firefighter safety and the friends that he made throughout the years.

He will be sorely missed by those that knew him and knew the awesome journeys he has traveled.... and the so many folks he has touched in his actions and presence in the past and in the future....

Larry was on the Mack 2 Fire.... as a "young" pup..... One of only many experiences and journeys he was more than willing to share.....

That is all I can say about our loss....

We will all miss him alot....

I know I will...

KCK

1/18 Well folks,

I am happy to announce to you all that the Forest Service leadership has finally stepped up and tackled one of the most important issues that all of us face in these very difficult times. I include an excerpt from an email that I received today. It is truly heartening that the WO is on top of what matters to all of us.

"The directive to change how we refer to ourselves in reports, correspondence, and other documents should be signed today or tomorrow. In brief, the Chief has asked us not to refer to ourselves as "USDA Forest Service" over and over again throughout documents; say it once, and thereafter, just say "Forest Service". This is for internal and external documents. If you look at a lot of our reports and correspondence, we repeat "USDA Forest Service" over and over again, and therefore, our documents don't read well. The directive does not change the name of the agency. Covers of reports, etc., will still show USDA and FS logos, so that will not change. Our documents read much better when we just use Forest Service. In situations where we need to distinguish ourselves from non-federal forests, we should use U.S. Forest Service.

A cover letter and the policy should be out no later than tomorrow, so begin using Forest Service, as appropriate.

Thanks."

Whew... now I can breath easier, I now know that our leadership is behind us and understand the pain and issues that we face!

BB

1/18 Heidi,

Thank you for sharing the story of the accident... so sorry for your terrible loss.

We will do everything we can do to make it better as a wildland fire community.

I am sending off what I can for the surviving family, and especially Sammy... Sammy will need our help the most as someone who will struggle against the terrific loss in the future.

It is so sad to see what these horrible things do to the children... and to think about what their future holds for them.... I prefer to look at the things that can changed from the current circumstances... and see some prospects for helping everyone heal and prosper... Hopefully our actions will help both Joel and Sammy....

In my thoughts and prayers this evening....

Rogue Rivers
1/17 Ab,

Does anyone know if the CDF ERD is just a database or does it check currency
and pre-requisites also?

Also, does CDF have currency requirement for fireline positions, and if so, what
are they?

Is there a place to find out what qualification and certification system that CDF
uses?

Are there differences between how each CDF Unit (Formerly Ranger Unit)
interprets and implements qualification standards?

Thanks in advance.

Higbee
1/17 Ab

Today's dose of "The Australian"; look at the other "states" also. Several fire articles.
www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21078165-5006784,00.phpl

Meanwhile in the western part of that continent more water than they need: (I think this is a couple days old though)
www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16452400/

The link in the post by Mollysboy was great reading.

ht
1/17 Large NorCal Fires 2006: FYI. Good Info...

Large Fire Cost Report - Northern Province (CA) (word doc)
Fire History (3059 K pdf map)
Large Fire Timeline (excel spreadsheet)

1/17 CDF-ICS

Sorry Lobotomy, you are wrong. We have many Battalion Chiefs and Division
Chiefs in our unit that are NOT qualified Strike Team or Branch Director.
Like I said in my earlier post, we have had the task-book and training
process for years especially for operations and air ops positions. Your
example of the Branch Director being OSC2 qualified is in the eye of the
beholder. Is an initial attack fire burning thousands of acres and in the
urban interface with hazmats a type 3 incident? I don't think so either.
That is the level of competency we expect from operations folks on the
initial attack level. That is a type 2 incident in southern California.
Same for our teams. Was the Esperanza or the Sawtooth a type 2 incident? I
don't think so either. Things are different in California. Cookie cutter
stuff doesn't work here.

FC180

1/17 Question for discussion:

Points:
- Division A and Division B both perform the same duties and occupy the same position with the same employer, Branch I
- Both Division Sups meet requirements for retirement in their respective positions.
- Division A files papers for permanent demob.
- Division B continues to work (due to funding child's education)
- Branch I offers Division A, a 25% pay increase to continue assignment due to a critical shortage in that particular position.
- Both Division Sups are now performing the same tasks with different salaries. (Do not take this as whining, but just discussion, we all deserve 25% more.)

Question:
- Does Division B deserve a 25% pay increase?
- Do all Division Sups deserve a pay increase?

JE

1/17 Free Ellreese:

For what it's worth, I sent emails to both Utah Senators and all 3 congressmen yesterday, urging them to repeal PL 107-203. I think a concerted effort by the wildland fire community will not only heighten political awareness for this instance, but can provide a wake up call to our representatives that we are force to be reckoned with in the future.

Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains...

Joe Hill

1/17 Reminder:
Ask Congress to modify or repeal PL 107-203. Tell your friends.
Copy and paste Dick's message. Get the word out.

If we each do a little bit every day, it will snowball.

Help Ellreese.

Ab.

1/17 A good article that gives the "big picture perspective" on the bushfire situation
that the Aussies are facing in Victoria.

www.theage.com.au

Mollysboy

1/17 I have heard from a reliable source that investigators of the 30 Mile
incident believe they know who abandoned the campfire that started the
tragic fire, but someone up the food chain in the FS decided not to pursue
the case because "enough lives had been destroyed." Certainly their
actions lacked intent, but were negligent nonetheless. To pursue the poor
SOB assigned to suppress the fire and not the ones that started it is
incongruent and egregious. I no longer work for the FS, but am still
employed by the Fed so please don't attribute this post.

noname

1/17 Mellie

One of the fundamentals of ICS is every agency has to accept the quals of
every other agency if they want assistance on large incidents. If you don't
accept the other agency quals then don't ask for help. CDF and USFS have
always done this in every incident complexity level since I can remember
(30+ years). Sometimes grudgingly, but in the end if I show up at a Type I
incident as a DIVS, I don't have to produce a red card because I never have
had one. Ever. The fact that my agency command center sends me, then I am
qualified. On initial attack the situation is the same. If I am on an
engine and I am given a division or group to manage, as federal resources
show up, they accept the supervision. That's just the way it is in
California. The only glaring difference since 30 Mile between State and
Federal firefighters is that in a morning briefing, if there is no DIVS
assigned on the IAP because of unfilled orders, etc, a CDF Strike Team
Leader on that division will usually accept a battle-field promotion to the
Division supervisor position for the day. Fed resources will never do this
anymore.

By the way, in the last 10 years, for most Operations section jobs, Section
Chief and air positions, CDF has used training-cert and task-book
requirements to field overhead. This is not new.

FC180
1/17 Mellie,

The CDF "kid" knew what he was talking about.... I was a CDF "kid" before I got caught in the net known as the "USFS".

I have tried to re-write this several times to make sure that it doesn't assign blame to anyone, but direct changes needed towards processes that are lacking within the CDF (aka CalFire) and THE ENTIRE WILDLAND FIRE PROFESSION... I think this is the most politically correct and factual version yet that I can come up with right now.... It is not meant to point a finger at anyone or at any agency.... Hopefully, I will just speak to the facts and not offend anyone, but I fully understand that there will be those that are offended when they don't read the entire post, or are offended by facts.

Many years ago, a qualification system was developed in the federal wildland fire system and it worked. That system eventually split into two different systems.... one the 5109.17 system (for the Forest Service) and the other the PMS 310-1 system (other federal land management agencies)...... Both of those systems closely mirrored each other with some basic differences...

A few years ago, California Local Government agencies began using CICCS... a system of qualification that is based upon the basics of PMS 310-1. CDF never signed on or agreed....

Throughout the state, CDF/CalFire is the only department/agency not using either 5109.17, PMS 310-1, or CICCS to qualify their employees for fireline duty. CDF has been a signatory to the NWCG since it's inception but has rarely followed the qualification standards recommended by NWCG.

I wish to give one example of a potential problem.... the use of the Branch Director qualification in ICS. Under 5109.17, PMS 310-1, and CICCS, in order to be qualified as a Branch Director, you must be qualified at the OSC2 level... a level that CDF doesn't recognize. By defacto default, each and every CDF Battalion Chief is qualified to be a strike team leader, a division supervisor, and a branch director due to the number of "bugles" they have...

I will present another problem that has been identified for years on "They Said"..... the difference between the requirements of a CDF Type 1 Team vs. A federal Type 1 or 2 Team.... or even a federal Type 3 organization....

CDF friends.... don't jump out and attack me... I am actually friends with many of you.... Some of you at the Unit Chief or higher levels... forget rank... forget yourself.... and concentrate on the goals of keeping folks safer.... Let's keep folks safer and forget the "bugle wars" of the past....... Let us all concentrate on keeping those around us safer.

If I have offended any of my friends in CDF/CalFire... I deeply apologize.... Tell me where I am wrong and missing the point and where we need to go for future safety?

Lobotomy
1/17 Rogue Rivers,

You are welcome for the link.

Joel, Gretchen and their 6 year old Sammy were headed to Portland 2 days after Christmas. They got behind a slow moving semi and Joel attempted to pass at the same time a front end loader that was in front of the semi turned left into Joel's path. The forks on the loader were impacted by the Burris vehicle and took the top off. Gretchen and Joel both sustained severe head trauma. Gretchen passed away from her injuries on Friday the 29th of December. Sammy is okay and he is with Gretchen's parents.

You ask, how we as a wildland fire community can help:

A bank account has been set up here in Lakeview to help Joel and Sammy. Donations can be sent to:

Gretchen and Joel Burris
South Valley Bank
125 North E Street
Lakeview, OR 97630

I know alot of us have made donations this year to help our injured Firefighters, our Fallen Firefighters and their Families. I would like to ask you all to please consider making another donation... to assist Joel and his son Sammy.

Cards can be sent to Gretchen's family at:

Gretchen Burris Family
2603 NE 15th Av
Portland, OR 97212

Cards can be sent to Joel at:

St Charles Medical Center
2500 Neff Rd
Bend, OR 97701

Update on the location for the Celebration of Life for Gretchen Burris

There has been a change in location for the Celebration of Life for Gretchen. It will still be held at 11 AM, Sat., Jan. 20th, in Lakeview, but the location will be at St Patrick's Parish Hall at 183 South G Street.

Please continue to keep Joel, Sammy and their families in your thoughts and Prayers.

Thank You Kindly,

Heidi
1/17 Bear,

Thank you for writing that...I appreciate it. I have always respected Santa Fe
Hotshots, so I am happy to hear that you will be up and running. I wish people
would get their facts straight before starting rumors. I am glad to have some
things cleared up.

Firelover
1/16 Firelover,

Maybe I can clear some things up for you. I work on the Santa Fe IHC crew. We did go though a little rough spell and we are still dealing with some of it. If by chance you did read the report that came out about an entrapment/Near miss, I can see that we look very bad in it and rumors can get started very easily from something like that.

First, I would like to say that after going though this whole thing I can say that I will always have second thoughts about what I read in any report that the FS puts out and says that "This is the truth and way it happened". As for the report itself, I have problems with the way it was put together and the quality of the writing that went into a fact finding report that everyone can read. The ones that put this report together should be embarrassed about the quality and how much garbage that is in it. I could go on for a long time about this, so too make things short, here is a 95% likely hood of what is going on with the Santa Fe Hotshots.

1. We will have a Crew this year.
2. We are not moving.
3. We might be going though some rebuilding
4. And we will be up and running for a full season.

So, for all out there, put in your Apps. with no fear of "This is just a waste of my time".

Thanks and have a safe fire season.
Bear

P.S. Keep in mind that things are always changing and to remain flexible.

Thanks for writing in. Ab.

1/16 Heidi,

Thank you for sharing the link to the hospital website for updated information.

Can you give any additional info as to the circumstances of Joel's hospitalization
and how we as a wildland fire community can help?

Lots of experts around here with different skills and abilities willing to help their
fellow firefighters in any way we can...

Please keep us informed on any ways we can all help.... We have an awesome
network built here at "They Said"......

I don't know Joel, but he is in my prayers this evening... as are you... take care....

Rogue Rivers
1/16 A young CDF friend mentioned that since the new year -Jan '07- CDF firefighters are having to show their class participation, OJT and certs for all Incident Command System positions. He was concerned about liability and CDF having to deal with it it cropping up when they were least expecting it. No doubt he's nervous because of all the lawsuit stuff.

Back when I did Firefighter-I, it was a 5 month class was led by a woman CDFer (ran a convict crew and it showed in how she ran us). Along with her helpers, it was co-taught by two local small city fire departments, with the FS stepping in for the S130, S190, and I100 portions. Great training. I survived. But it was clear that there wasn't an exact cross-walk between fed and state requirements. As I recall, you didn't have to have S190 for CDF and I was surprised there was no chain saw training required with CDF. Anyone could whip out a chain saw and go for it, even me.

The fed and state systems are different. How's that playing out these days? Do you count on liaisons of the different agencies to interpret each others quals when you help out on each other's fires? What about IA if there is no liaison available?

Mellie
(You CDF guys participating here know I don't mean this as a criticism of CDF... I don't know the state system as well as the fed 310-1 and the FSH 5109.17 and the redcard system... and I know the links to point young firefighters to for those quals. How about CDF quals. The kid didn't know.)

1/16 Thanks Old Sawyer. I'll check. Does the same insurance work for people doing Rx?

Larry

1/16 Ab

Not to detract from the other discussions, but today's dose of "The Australian" does not look
good. Looks to me like we got fire season going both North and South of the Equator.

www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21073327-1702,00.phpl

ht
1/16 Larry:

I believe the AD Firefighters Ass'n. worked out the details with this company to
provide professional liability insurance the same as Federal firefighters, shortly after
the Safety Summit in Missoula a year ago where the issue came up.

www.wrightandco.com/

Old Sawyer

1/16 Dear Aberdeen:

I Guess it would be foolish of us to ask the Agency why such training wasn't developed
and provided when PL 107-203 was signed into law and now we get the typical Agency
"knee-jerk" reaction...

I'd say its a bit late in coming for a few folks that come to mind...

Better late than never doesn't quite cut it on this.

CJ
1/16 To Michelle from Livingston, MT:

Morgan Lake Lodge Mobile Food Service does fire catering, located just south of
Flagstaff, Arizona on the Coconino National Forest. The contact is Sean Gold, or his
dad, Scott Gold, who is the General Manager of the Lodge, 928-774-0462 and
website:

www.mormonlakelodge.com/

I don't know much about their operation or income potential but it is a nice setting for
a summer job.

Old Sawyer

1/16 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.
1/16 Interesting that the USDA-OGC attorneys aren't teaching Liability classes:

I need to inform you that the OGC Washington Office has directed all
field attorneys not to present any training regarding Fire Liability.
The WO is currently in the process of developing a standardized
presentation, however, it is unclear at this time whether it will be
completed in time for me to present it at the January 24, 2007 RX300
training. Although I would like to present this valuable information at
this time it does not look like I will be able to. I wanted to make you
aware of this situation in order to provide you with as much time as
possible to find someone else to fill my time. I apologize for any
inconvenience this has caused. I will keep you informed as things
progress. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Heather R. Hinton-Taylor
Attorney
USDA OGC
507 25th Street
Room 205
Ogden, UT 84401
(801) 625-5442
(801) 625-5465 (fax)

Aberdeen

1/16 Community,

Please check the 52 Mile Walk UNPAID Pledge List. We believe we have all hotmail glitches corrected. There are still lots of unpaid pledges according to our and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation records.

Total Amount Unpaid Pledges: $19,321

If you see any of these folks on a daily basis, ask them to check in with the WFF (208-336-2996) regarding their payment. It would save the WFF many hours of emailing and snail mailing them. It's easy to pledge. It's more difficult to follow through in the midst of our busy lives.

**Thanks to the many contributors** who did follow through 52 Mile Walk Donation List to make this a 52 Mile Walk a resounding success so far totaling about $36,801.

Whoo hoooo!

The Abs.

1/16 A few days before Christmas, just after the criminal charges against Ellreese Daniels were announced by the US Attorney in Spokane, I sent an Email out to several friends. The basic thrust of my message was: I didn't like what happened; was afraid of the implications that it and PL 107-203 could have for firefighters across the US and possibly overseas; and I asked my friends if we should fight this battle; should we get organizations involved; and what course of action should we take.

Although I asked folks to think about the whole issue over Christmas and then get back to me, the responses came back quickly, and from many more folks than I had originally contacted (gee, what a surprise: Emails have "legs" and get around to places you'd never expect!).

In the 3 weeks since I posted that first Email, our informal group has seen the following things happen:
  • FWFSA and IAWF issued a joint news release stating our belief that the actions of the US Attorney did not serve the public need;
  • USFS retiree groups have become involved, trying to get PL 107-203 changed in Congress;
  • Casey Judd and I have had numerous media interviews about the ramifications of these charges for future firefighter safety; www.firehouse.com just ran an article, and Fire Chief magazine has one scheduled to come out soon.
  • Individuals in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Montana (and elsewhere?) have written their Senators and Congressmen about this issue;
  • Several of us have talked and emailed Ellreese's US Public Defender Tina Hunt and offered help;
  • at least 40 folks are now linked together to share info about the upcoming charges, and attempts to modify or repeal PL 107-203.
So, what next?

It's my belief that we need to keep our energy level on the increase over the next 30-60 days, and so propose that those of us already involved, and anyone else who wants to o join in, consider taking the following actions:

  • First, write your local congressional Rep and US Senator; they listen to local constituents more than outsiders; FAX the letter, because hard copy mail takes weeks since it has to get ultra-violet scanned in DC;
  • if you've got good fire skills and are NOT affiliated with an Agency, contact the Public Defender with a copy of your resume. Tina_Hunt at FD.org (not putting the @ sign keeps spammers from picking this out);
  • if you're a member of NFPA, SAF, IAFF or similar groups, let them know your concerns and solicit their involvement; FWFSA and IAWF are already involved and active.
  • If you're an Agency person or an AD, and plan to remove your name from the "available" list at Dispatch for 2007, let your Agency folks know about it. The media Spokesperson for the USFS at NIFC keeps telling the media that losing qualified firefighters isn't a problem.
  • if you're a State, County, Rural firefighter, let your department officials know of your concern about the criminal charges, and the potential for these types of things to trickle down away from the USFS and into your world;
  • write letters to your local newspapers, telling them of your concerns;
  • share information about what's happening with Ellreese and PL 1-7-203 with your fellow firefighters;
  • if your US Rep or Senator is on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, request them to hold a formal hearing about the impacts of PL 107-203 on wildland fire activities;
  • in all of your conversations and writings, please remain professional and courteous to all involved.

Here are some suggested "Talking Points" that may help you focus your comments when talking to others (courtesy of Bill Gabbert):

TALKING POINTS:

  • We are not asking for anyone to interfere with the legal proceedings that are currently going forward against Mr. Ellreese Daniels. We want to prevent it from happening to anyone else.
  • Repeal the Cantwell/Hastings Bill, PL 107-203. Senator Maria Cantwell and Rep. Doc Hastings, who sponsored this bill, only wanted to ensure that the deaths of firefighters would be investigated so that lessons could be learned in order to reduce future such accidents. They both now say that manslaughter charges were never anticipated and is an unexpected consequence.
  • Reasons to repeal PL 107-203:
    • The land management agencies are already obsessed with safety and conduct their own fatality investigations, along with OSHA, and now the Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General
    • Wildland fire suppression is as much an art as a science. It takes over a decade to become moderately skilled. Honest mistakes or the inability to predict with 100% accuracy exactly what a fast-moving fire will do should not result in a person being threatened with jail.
    • Some firefighters, now having to deal with the threat of going to jail for making a mistake during a split-second life and death situation, have recently decided that their chosen profession now exposes them and their families to unacceptable risks and they will no longer serve in overhead positions on fires. Others may decide to change to a profession that has less risk for them and their families.
    • Now that firefighters know that talking to investigators after a serious incident on the fireline can result in going to jail, destroying their careers, and ruining their families lives, many will refuse to say anything. Lessons will not be learned. Fires could get larger. More homes and private property could be lost.
    • This law, PL 107-203, requires that the Dept. of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General (OIG) conduct an independent investigation when an employee of the US Forest Service dies on a fire. The OIG generally investigates white collar crime, and has no experience or qualifications to investigate wildland fires. A good wildland fire investigator needs at least 10 years of specialized wildland fire experience, plus specific cause and origin training, as well as investigator training. The law enforcement personnel in the OIG do not have all of these qualifications.
    • If wildland firefighters can now go to jail for their honest mistakes made on a raging wildfire, can structure firefighters be far behind? If a firefighter is killed on a structure fire, will the Captain or Chief go to jail?

If you're interested in staying "in the loop" about Ellreese's case and activities regarding PL 107-203, drop me an email at: kona at bigsky.net and I'll get you on the list. NOTE: if you're an Agency person, the Email Gestapo may be watching! I'd recommend getting and sending messages to/from your personal mail account at home, on off-duty hours.

In the years that I've been involved in wildland fire (way over 30), I've never seen a single issue that has so much potential to have a negative influence on our business and firefighter safety. That said, I also never seen such a ground-swell of support from our wildfire community to right this wrong.

Please, get involved, stay involved, change/repeal PL 107-203 and help Ellreese beat these charges.

Dick Mangan

1/16 Forest Service downsizing hurting response capability.

Was talking with a buddy and he mentioned that his
Supervisor told him he would not be able to go out
with the Team this year. This is due to positions not
being filled after people are retiring. Additional
work load and the need to meet targets were the
reasons stated.

The need to meet targets on the Forests might have
part of the reason the FS did not issue the "Let your
People Go" (aka Moses Letter) when the National
Preparedness Level was 5.

So there is one less Type 1 Team Member with a almost
20 years of experience not able to participate.

And There I Was
1/16 Does anyone know where I can get reasonably priced professional liability insurance
for fire now that I've retired from the FS. I'm DIVS and BRANCH qualified and had
planned to go on fighting fire. Many of us without liability insurance work on Type 3
local forest teams. I have worked AD and now am dispatched out of a socal city.

Larry

1/16 AB,

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this:
the Hispanic Settlement agreement in R-5 is over soon.

-MJ

1/16 Don't forget to plan ahead:

NWSA Conference Feb. 19-21st Peppermill, Reno, NV.
Cost if pre-registered $70 for conference plus $35 for dinner.
For more info email info @ nwsa.us (take out spaces)
Registration Link: Register Form
Agenda: Meeting Agenda

1/16 Ab,

Could you please post this information... for the friends and co-workers of Joel Burris.

The Family of Joel Burris has setup a website, so those that wish to see how Joel is doing can.
Please feel free to leave a message for Joel and his Family.

http://thestatus.com/index.cfm?fa=patient_login&sid=0 to access Joel's page, please enter the following:

Last name of Patient: Burris
Password: sammy1 (all lower case for password)

Thank You Kindly,
Heidi
1/16 Intothewind;

I think you misunderstood my post. I'm all in favor of both UAV and GIS technology, IF those technologies can convey useful, timely, decision making information to the folks on the line. Right now I fear that these technologies are only really conveying information to the Incident command center, where information can get stalled until it's too late to act on.

Info to the IC is great, and can be very useful for formulating strategic plans. But for these technologies to be useful on a tactical level, and for them to really become life-saving, (in other words, to go from toys to tools), that data need to get into the hands of the crews, quickly and unedited. I think these technologies can be a liability if they give folks behind the lines unrealistic ideas about front line conditions, such that they start second guessing decisions made by the front lines.

I remember being on one fire, halfway up a hillside so steep that I had my McLeod hooked around a tree to keep from sliding about fifteen hundred feet, and hearing the IC from his circling airplane say "That hillside doesn't look that steep!". From the air, maybe it didn't, but from the ground it sure did. The difference between the IC's vantage and the crew's vantage lead him to challenge the judgment of the folks on the ground. In this case, it was just a matter of us not making to the 1/4 acre smoldering fire quite as fast as he would have liked, but if he had been directing us to, say, an alternate safety zone in a blowup, it could have been disastrous.

Now, I'm not ripping on the air folks, or on that IC (who was in most matters a consummate professional), just implying information without perspective is much less useful than information with perspective.

I firmly believe that the best PPE a firefighter can have is information. I think that every firefighter on every incident should have a topo map of the fire area in the top of their pack. Dream tool? I would love to have a ruggedized PDA with a streaming GIS, with topos, air photos, satellite IR veg data, locations and ETAs of air resources, other crews, structures, roads, water sources, safety zones, escape routes. I would love it if we updated our GISs, on the line, just like we spin weathers. Right now all that information comes in from the field, goes to the Incident command center, and then may or may not come back down again. It may come down in the form of morning briefings, which may or may not get conveyed well to the grunts. Wouldn't it be great if that information got transferred to the other resources on the same fire just as fast it got to the IC?

Your comment that they "pay some of us to think". I should hope to GOD that they pay all of us to think, and give us all the data we need to think well. Unless we can reform this idea of firefighting as unskilled or marginally skilled, and worse, expendable, labor, the Forestry Technician fight will never be won. Funding for firefighter professional development and academic research will never be forthcoming. Some of our most best and brightest will continue to be lost to "grown-up jobs" with higher pay, higher education requirements, and less political bull.

My solution: the more information line firefighters have access to, the higher the quality of decision making that is expected of us, the more weight our opinions, and yes, our lives, have in the political arena. Infuriating, isn't it? But the more we invest in our people, the higher quality people we will attract and the more our people will invest in us.

The technology to distribute this information is out there, it just has to be judged "worth it" as an investment. That makes me sick. There's this implicit culture of "acceptable losses" which places a dollar limit on the lives of our young firefighters: if a ten million dollar investment in this technology could prevent the next Esperanza, or Cramer, or name your fire where more dynamic, timely, and geographically precise escape route and fire behavior data would have prevented even one fatality, we would say it's worth it, but the investment still doesn't get made. What does that say about our values? Oh yeah, fire is "intrinsically hazardous and unavoidably dangerous". I forgot. As has become usual these days, I am angry and sad about what I see as the willingness to sacrifice lives for property. More investment into our firefighters, an their frontline tools, would be a good first step toward changing this attitude.

Nerd on the Fireline

1/16 Information Request:

I am told that BLM contracts water trucks during fire season to be on site.
Where can I find out information on this for the Southwest Utah area? I am
interested in supplying trucks if it is possible.

Thank you,
Lance

1/16 viejo,

I disagree with you. Viegas' model is a predictive model.

Study the model a bit and concentrate on the input values. If you look at the input values, you will see why "eruptive" or "blow up " fires do not always occur. As with other models, a set of variables, in certain percentages and quantities, needs to align for eruptive growth to occur.

This model does show promise.... The abstract from the 2006 paper starts with, "An application of a mathematical model to predict dynamic fire behaviour..."

Lobotomy
1/15 So sad to hear about Cecilia Bennett. I met her at an R5 HR meeting last year.
Nice lady who seemed to really love her work. She will be missed.

Lori
1/15 Hotspotting:

There are some good ideas being thrown around as usual with some recent posts.

An "old timer" told me once that the "best way to change the rules, is to follow the rules". He was the same guy that told me "everybody knows you need to be on a ridge when you are fighting fire in the Salmon River breaks, but the key is being on the right ridge". Well he was correct about the later, so maybe the former has some validity.

Some people got qualified as ICT3's when it was pretty easy, and only sounded like a good idea. So some of the folks that gave up quals prior to being recerted on the simulations probably made a good call, if you do not want and/or can not do the job, then thank you for having the courage to admit it.

I do not understand the knock on the UAV and related hit on GIS information. These folks and their data and information are there to serve the firefighters, it is not decision making tools that they are developing; it is to help those that make decisions make better more informed decisions. They pay some of us to think and that is really what we need to be doing, because mainly I can't dig line or run a saw like I once did.

I am not too sure why we got charged for saving peoples lives at 30 mile, that is beyond me.

I am going to call BS on 6.21 mile spotting distances, maybe half that, but I was wrong once before (yeah). In any case if you are going to help our brothers and sisters down under, be careful and do a lot of listening and ask good questions, you are going to have to learn quickly to be helpful and safely provide leadership.

Take Care,

Intothewind.

1/15 Abs,

Sad news. I am stunned.

Cecilia Bennett who was both the R5 Deputy Regional Forester for Ops and the R5 go-to Health & Safety person (DASHO) has passed away from a heart attack. She was a capable and intelligent woman, great work ethic. Many of us in California will miss her. Prior to that position, which she assumed Feb '05, she was the Director for Financial Management in the RO. I think before that she worked for another fed agency. She was way too young to be gone now.

My best to her family, close friends and colleagues.

Hug each other often.

Mellie

1/15 Canceling Qualifications and Early Retirements.

Just a thought from an outsider. With the current litigation threat, I can fully understand why people would want to pull their fire qualifications, and I would stand with any of you who do. There is another possible option. It might keep you around for a while so that you can train, educate and mentor the next generation, and hopefully not end up in jail. Different terms exist, but "work the rule strike" or "work rule operations" is a condition in which employees do exactly what the organization wants. Basically, you follow every rule, SOP, check sheet, directive, and organization policy to the letter of the law. "If that's what the organization wants, that's what we will do" approach. It has been used mainly in manufacturing, mining or similar occupations to effect change within the organization. The best part is, you are not breaking and rules, you're following them.

In this case, if the standard is "we don't bend or break" rules, so be it. Engagement on wildland fire would not take place until the 10 and 18 have been mitigated, all of the conditions established after Thirty Mile have been addressed, and every "mandatory" checklist is completed, etc.

One of two things happens. Either it turns out the organization is correct, and all of this can be completed before anyone steps off the rig to fight fire (which I do not believe), or fires don't go out. They get big, costs go up, resources get tight, political pressure is applied at the top, and change actually does happen, etc. Now, the big problem is where do you try this. Do you only try it in the Great Basin or somewhere that lives and structures are not at risk, or do you "just do it." If an organization is going to hang its employees out on a "thin limb," while making them legally accountable for those check sheets, rules, policies, and directives, from where I sit your options seem to be disappearing daily. I just hate to see all of this talent leave, right when you are at the peak "mentoring" years.

Just "stirring the pot."

FOBS73

If you do this, please let the media in SoCal know this is what you're going to do prior to doing it. Ab.

1/15 Lobotomy and any FBANS.

My problem with the Viegas model is that does not seem to be a predictive model. It can be used to explain something that happened, but not in advance of the occurrence. Eruptive fire growth does not happen on every fire or every time a fire burns in a long continuous canyon or short narrow canyons.

The Rothermel Model is pretty good at predicting fire behavior in moderate fire behavior situations in surface fuels, but as we know it is limited to surface fires in continuous fuel beds. It is a good predictive tool and can be used for planning. Maybe I'm missing something, but if Viegas does not consistently predict an event, I don't see the value as a planning tool. Perhaps the value is that it is merely a step in the learning process.

This points out to me the genius of Rothermel to be able to fabricate a predictive model for something as complex as a wildland fire and the dedication of Pat Andrews to make a user friendly application like BEHAVE.

viejo
1/15 Giz,

Yep spotting due to leaves & bark carried alight, and some very strong winds. But our fires can run pretty fast - in Xmas 2001 one fire traveled 100km in a day (only to be stopped at the coast - NZ too far away for spotting...), and the big fire in my area in 2002 has a linescan pic showing it went 16km odd in 2hrs. But what really raised my eyebrow in the updates was the fire that spread 6000ha overnight!! Basically it's very dry down there, well, everywhere really is dry here, and there is little incentive needed for the fires to get going. Weather for the rest of the week very ordinary - we'll be getting the 37C/100F by the end of the week.

For some more reading on some of the fire research being undertaken here have a look at the Bushfire CRC - www.bushfirecrc.com, and the CSIRO work before the CRC at www.ffp.csiro.au/nfm/fbm/index.phpl.

cheers

OB
1/15 Gizmo,

Many trees native to Australia spot very well, not only because of the lofting of highly volatile leaves, but most importantly because of the lofting of firebrands produced by the thick, scaly bark of many Australian tree species. These firebrands survive airborne for a long time and for long distances downwind. We see this phenomenon regularly in the U.S. with the Australian exotic trees Meleleuca spp. in Florida and with Eucalyptus spp. in SoCal.

As a side note we see also the same bark-related spotting mechanism with the U.S. natives madrone and some of the oaks, both in the Pacific Northwest and in Texas.

KnuckleDragon
1/15 "Someone" dropped the bombshell about the things that are going to be policy in R-5 next year....... It isn't hearsay... but someone(s) on the inside fed up and pissed off on the direction about where things are going........ Casey alluded to it... but it is something that simply takes us back to the early days in the 1940's and 1950's...... Their thoughts completely bypass the findings and actions of the Original Safety First Committee in Region 5.

For me, I think I am stepping back over 30 years in the wildland firefighter profession and the goal of firefighter safety and resource protection...... I'll be dam*ed if Agency CYA ever trumps safety and effectiveness of the mission again....

If those in the R-5 Regional Office plan on "publishing" or implementing the changes they are "thinking" about.... or are being directed to implement by the WO and Mr. Mark Rey..... They better dam* well be prepared to defend their decisions by the scientific community, their peers, the public, and the communities that federal wildland firefighters protect.


Battle On.... Thank You D for sharing what is really going on in the background.... You are awesome.... I believe, as others have said... It is going to get ugly...... and the folks that are ugly are at the top and complicit as Chief Bosworth (ret) ..... Time to kick their %*$#(..........) for firefighter and community safety......

Higbee
1/15 Aussie Long Range Spotting

In reference to the long range spotting in Victoria, I was there on a crew in 2003 and saw first hand what that is all about. Some of the euc trees have what's called "Stringy Bark" that basically acts like a candle wick when lit. When this stuff gets in the convection column, it can stay lit for quite a while, burning just like a candle wick. They aren't exaggerating about those spotting distances. One of our first assignments in 2003 was to punch some line around one of these spots on the rim of the Snowy River. The main fire was supposed to eventually overrun it, but it was not anywhere close at the time. Pretty steep and nasty country, looked alot like south zone.

Fishguy

1/15 I'd like to respond to the intended use of UAVs /UASs for recon roles, I'd like to agree with Nerd on the Fireline and contract county guy, that information place in the wrong hands is always dangerous, and that orders given strictly because of a single source of data says so are often misplace. The danger of micro-managing reaches astonishing levels on the ground if left unchecked putting people lives at risk, in the army it is the s-2's job to preface the commander that he is watching a live feed, that the intelligence hasn't been processed and that he hasn't been trained in the interpretation of the data.--- my job is gathering and interpreting it, its my job to make sure the commander doesn't make those same mistakes, and so just like I have been trained on what i am seeing (and what my limits are) so would an IC need to be briefed on his video by qualified UAV operators. Knowing what you are seeing on these feeds takes a great deal of training, not because some things aren't perfectly clear, but because of the limits of the system. To implement these systems operators would need to become experts in fire behavior-not combat behavior, so they can clearly communicate what the system can read.

In the end intelligence of any sort can only save the lives of those who use it correctly, it is the sergeants and squad leaders on the ground with the first view of the situation, platforms like UAVs aren't here to replace that- they are to cover those men's rear, and watch from afar- the lookout role- and being a lookout is not the IC's job. I have heard of countless occasions commanders asked to step away from the big screen so as not to lose focus on there job. As UAV's come home and find new work, IC's will have to learn the same lesson.

a UAV Operator
1/15 From the Viegas article below:

"All that's necessary for a fire eruption to develop is an ignition and a slope with sufficient extension. Based on this study, the eruptive phenomenon is one of the more predictive situations of extreme fire behavior. However, it continues to surprise and overtake even experienced and knowledgeable people. Perhaps this description of eruptive behavior and the physical and mathematical model may encourage firefighters to avoid unnecessary risks so that such accidents don't happen again."

The Viegas Model may simply be a re-statement of the Lessons Learned from the "Campbell Prediction System" (CPS) or a new understanding of what "Dr." Doug has been trying to teach for so many years...

The inputs of the Viegas Model are highly weighted to the time when forces are in alignment... and at their worse case "possible" outcomes......

While both the CPS and Viegas Model differ slightly, they are profoundly complimentary in outcomes (outputs) under the worse case scenario(s). They are both excellent tools to explain the effect (output).... "However, it continues to surprise and overtake even experienced and knowledgeable people."

Lobotomy
1/15 The Aussie Sit Report (word doc) and Map (pdf file) for Monday, January 15th.

Dick Mangan

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

RE: What's Happening DownUnda

Gidday Dick,

Sorry for not keeping the situation reports up to date. We've been busy alternating positions from regional coordination to incident management roles.

Today I'm Deputy IC at Erica. We've got the management of the western containment line of the Great Divide (South) fire. The fire jump this line last week but now we think (hope) we've got it contained and will hold it from now on.

Unfortunately the North East of the State and East Gippsland is not looking all that good with a number of areas not tracked with free running edge.

We have a number of international firefighters here in Victoria assisting us, both on the line and in incident management roles. We've got Canadian's at Orbost, New Zealander's at Swift Creek and Bairnsdale and I hear that 100 Americans will be arriving on the 22rd January.

I'll stay in touch.

Mark

1/15 Hello!

I was wondering if anybody knew if Santa Fe IHC is going to be up and running this
season. I have heard so many different rumors about them, so I am hoping I can get
some true insight here. Trying to get all my apps together, and I dont want to be
wasting my time with SF if they aren't even going to be running this season.
Thanks!

PS- I love this website! I check it out almost everyday....so thank you for having it.

-Firelover

You're welcome. It's the fire community's "watering hole". Ab.

1/14 Ab

FOBS73 posted some remarks in response to "vfd capt'n" which included the use of the term "goat rope" to describe the situation.

It brings back memories of the time I first heard it. It was used by a GS19 SES guy. Had nothing to do with fire, was during a test I was running with too many people who had a higher position than me, but also thought they knew more about what they did not fully understand; trying to "make something that would not work, look like it was working". I was running a test program under a Government Contract with my company and things were not going well, as the Government's specified machinery was not doing what it was supposed to do. The GS19 understood that.

To make a long story short, since that occasion, I have considered a "Goat Rope" to be "a situation with too many bosses - giving conflicting orders - regarding situations they did not have the big picture of."

ht

aka cluster* Ab.

1/14 OB,

Thanks for sharing your information. The Victoria situation looks pretty bleak.

I saw that one of the fires was reporting spotting distances of 6-10km. When
I calculated that out in miles, it came out to 3.73 to 6.21 miles.....

OB, is that spotting distance due to eucalyptus leaves being sent airborne by
the convection column, or is it from other sources of brands?

Disregard on my previous question about "ember attack", I think I have figured
it out. I cannot even fathom having to protect a community from a fire that is
4-6 miles away....

You folks keep safe....

Gizmo
1/14 viejo,

Here is some additional information on Dr. Domingos Xavier Viegas' "Eruptive Fire Behavior Model".

I remember as a young firefighter being told that a "fire spreads 14 times faster uphill" and always took it to heart and believed it.... for about 5 years until I saw different. In Dr. Viegas' model, he mathematically verifies and quantifies "blow up" or "eruptive" fires, often showing fires spreading 100 times, or several hundred times faster uphill than in on flat ground.

His model builds upon many of the principles of Rothermel (1972), but focuses on some of factors that don't fit well in the Rothermel equation. The recent Esperanza Fire is just another example of rapid fire spread way beyond the capabilty of the Rothermel Model to calculate or predict, nonetheless, firefighters on the ground. From what I understand, the Viegas Model is being used to look at the rapid spread of the Esperanza Fire in the "Noname Canyon", where reports of 40 mph. uphill spread were observed in the canyon and slopes, and 20 mph. spread reported on the flat ground.

While being used mostly post-fire right now to explain past tragedies in Portugal, France, and the United States, the Viegas model has some very significant changes in it that could lead to increased wildland firefighter safety in the future.....

Right now, the model is not very user friendly like BehavePlus, etc..., but it is able to be run by folks who know how to run complex MS-Excel calculations.... More to come as the project continues....

http://wildfiremag.com/mag/anatomy_blowup/index.phpl

Lobotomy

P.S. - Maybe someone in the United States would like to apply for a Joint Fire Science Program grant to complete a user friendly model?..... oops... forgot, almost all of the funding for the JTSP has been gutted.
1/14 vfd capt'n

I am very familiar with both the "old" and the "new-original" versions of the Fire Orders. Once again, briefing checklists are excellent tools for any IC or fireground commander, and I am fully in favor of their use. For some IC's they may assist with the overall concept of "command," for other IC's they may be utilized as one of their key tools. But they are just that, TOOLS. Correct me if I am wrong, your post on 1-3-07 to;

jd,

It doesn't have to get much more complicated than

1. "This is what I think the fire is going to do,
2. this is my plan for what we are going to do, and
3. these are our contingencies in case I've got it all wrong."

Implies that this simple checklist format would have solved the problems at the Thirty Mile Fire. What my post (and others) are saying is that command of any type, is radically more complex than a checklist and briefings.

Absolutely (bar none) one of the best Division briefings I have ever listened to was given by a Div/Sup who could not have "commanded" himself out of a cardboard box with a chainsaw, but the briefing was cool. The day ended up being a full-blown "goat rope" rodeo, cumulating with shelters being deployed. On the other hand, I have listened to some briefings that were minimal at best, but once the briefing ended there was no doubt as to who was in charge. They had great command presence, excellent situational awareness, understood safety and fire behavior, communicated well on the "air" or face-to-face, and everything was executed the way you would want it. They just weren't very good at initial briefings. There is a reason that within both the military and on IC Teams the IC is not the person typically giving the briefings. Which takes me back to the comment in my post, "What we have and continue to ask from firefighters is far and above those demands placed on Air Traffic Controllers, EOD Technicians and almost any other "blue-collar" profession." And, I will add that this "task complexity" and "task overload" frequently peaks for those individuals filling the IC-3 and DivSup positions. The problems we see at Cramer or Thirty Mile might have been directly attributable to the IC's themselves, but it's more likely they are reflections of problems within the organization, and they will not be solved by simple solutions.

There is one common characteristic between the Cramer and Thirty Mile fires. That is the lack of information. Until such time that everyone from these incidents has the ability to speak freely, be interviewed, and ALL of the data related to the investigations is released, I for one will tread lightly with my analysis of problems and solutions. But, charging someone with a crime five years after the fact is flat out nuts.

Thanks,

FOBS73

1/14 Re: Australia Fires

Could someone from Australia explain the term "ember attack"? I see it often
referred to in press reports and in public advisories. I think I understand what it
means, but I would like to make sure. It may relate to some things I am trying to
follow and understand better.

Thanks.

Gizmo
1/14 A few responses to: Lobotomy, Mollysboy, Lori, ZZtop, SouthzoneFF & Irony

Lobotomy

As you may know, the FWFSA has been collecting such "evidence" & "data" since 2005 with regards to firefighters dropping quals, not taking assignments etc. Our data, obviously absent names, has been provided to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee since 2005 to further our efforts to secure hearings on PL 107-203.

Still further, I specifically addressed such data with Tom Harbour in 2005 however it is predictable that the spokesperson for the WO would suggest that there is no data and no crustal ball etc. I will of course contact Ms. Davis and provide her with some of our data that has been shared with Mr. Harbour and Congress so that it can be referredto as fact rather than a belief.

Mollysboy

I think your idea of a donation to the WFF by the "campers" who want to "help" is a great idea. Course I'd like to put in a request for some of the dough to go to the FWFSA too! Its quite costly to educate those folks in DC.

I do wonder how the couple's collection of $400,000 will, as they have said, "improve safety for firefighters." Perhaps some additional letters to the Yakima Herald with such a suggestion to the couple would be a great idea. Let's hope however that we alert them to the idea of "helping" before they buy their new cars, take their round-the-world cruises etc. (in order to clear themselves of all that emotional distress caused by the Forest Service ofcourse).

Lori

Sadly, my brain only uses a 4 watt nightlight...but I'll do what I can :)

ZZtop

There has been some speculation that Mr. Tidwell might backfill the position in R1 being vacated by Gail Kimbell. Time will tell. However suffice it to say, with respect to your question, we have made it very clear to congress, the AG Secretary and the President that Mr. Rey is not the right person to management the Forest Service fire program. Perhaps if he does find a new window to look out of sooner rather than later, those that have aligned themselves with his policies and lack of respect for, and lack of effort on behalf of our Nation's federal wildland firefighters, will follow suit.

SouthzoneFF

There are a number of ideas apparently coming out of the regional office in R5, some disconcerting which appear to be rather regressive and with the potential for setting the Forest Service fire program in California back a number of decades. Fortunately with our diverse membership in the FWFSA from entry level firefighters to FMOs, we will have a handle on such ideas/policies as they come to light and will be able to address them as necessary.

Irony

It is unfortunately that often in Congress, legilsation is introduced with the best of intentions but often lacks the dialogue, as with the case of S. 153 and of course PL 107-203 between the authors and those that represent employees impacted by such legislation.

I'm not sure if I agree with you that S.153 does not affect feds but it is vague. If federal wildland firefighters, especially those on Esperanza are included in the bill's provisions, how would (a)(2) apply as it relates to treatment if some of those firefighters were Forest Service or other land-management agency temporary firefighters who are not afforded basic health coverage nor are eligible for FEGLI?

This is where dialogue with organizations that represent all firefighters should be engaged in discussion before such legislation is introduced. As with PL 107-203, we will now have to discuss the intent and expectations of such a bill with Sen. Boxer "after the fact" of its introduction.

In my opinion, a comprehensive bill inclusive of presumptive illnesses & diseases, monitoring etc., should be introduced rather than piece-meal bills.

Casey
1/14 Australian update:

Abs,

You asked for an update & this is the one for my Region. As you'll note, the Victorian situation isn't getting any better any time soon & it threatens to cross over into southern NSW. We've had 50 or so Canukians arrive, and I believe there may still be a later call on US resources. I think there is a CFA & DSE link on your International links page which will probably give a better update

OB

New South Wales Sit Report: nsw-summary011407.doc

Victoria Sit Report vic-summary011407.doc

Thanks OB. Be safe.
Readers, here's what he refers to from our links page:

County Fire Authority, Victoria: www.cfa.vic.gov.au/ Click current fires and incidents.

Department of Sustainability and Environment: www.dse.vic.gov.au Click fires today.

1/14 AW...

You have a GREAT point and I'm glad that somebody has brought it forward. Many fire managers do not realize the diversity of the Air Program and think that the entire fleet is aged beyond safety limits... NOT SO.

Both fixed and rotary wing aircraft go thru extremely rigid inspection/performance procedures prior to being certified on a yearly basis by both Federal AND State agencies. Nothing is rubber stamped as some believe.

Does anybody really think we climb into these ships to go to work without being absolutely certain that it is safe to do so...?

COPTER 100
1/14 PFC Dillon,

You said

"the firehawk program has shown great performance- without the risk of of the older skycranes that have a shorter lifespan based on their production dates."

You may not be aware of this but Erickson Air-Crane has been type certified since 1992, they can and do build new aircraft. Many of the skycranes flying on fires are new or completely rebuilt aircraft, they are not simply refitted surplus military aircraft.

Columbia Helicopters was recently type certified to build new Vertol 107 (CH-46) and 234 (CH-47) aircraft.

The S-70 is a good aircraft but don't discount the other heavy lifters just because the designs have been around a long time, they are not tired aircraft.

AW

1/14 It is ironic that SB 153 meant to provide for the health of firefighters does
not apply to forest service and other federal people who were assigned to
the Esperanza Fire. Why? Because they are Forestry Technicians!

Senator Boxer prepared similar legislation after the Old Fire in 2003. Not
sure what ever became of that bill.

Irony
1/14 "Juan Estrada Donations"

What a GREAT FAMILY -- the Estrada Family. Nicole is raising three small children and could really use your support.

Your donations can be sent to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation through the WFFF website (pay-pal) or via mail to WFF "In Care of Juan Estrada's family".

Wildland Firefighter Foundation
2049 Airport Way
Boise, Idaho 83705

Thanks "AGAIN" to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation for being there in the most difficult times. And to the entire Wildland Firefighter community.

Click on to the web page below for more information.

www.wffoundation.org/

Retired BC

Ab note: Juan was on the crew of the Vista Grande IHC and died of cancer on 12/20/06. Please help out his small children and his wife by donating to his fund via the Foundation. Ab.

1/13

Senate Bill 153 introduced:

110th CONGRESS 1st Session S. 153

To provide for the monitoring of the long-term medical health of firefighters who responded to emergencies in certain disaster areas and for the treatment of such firefighters.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

January 4, 2007

Mrs. BOXER introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

--------------------------------------------

A BILL

To provide for the monitoring of the long-term medical health of firefighters who responded to emergencies in certain disaster areas and for the treatment of such firefighters.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be referred to as the `Healthy Firefighters Act'.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    Congress makes the following findings:
      (1) Firefighters from the San Jacinto Ranger District responded to the Esperanza Incident wildfire in southern California in October of 2006.
      (2) Five firefighters from the San Jacinto Ranger District lost their lives as a consequence of fighting that fire.

SEC. 3. MONITORING AND TREATMENT OF FIREFIGHTERS IN DISASTER AREAS.

    (a) In General- The United States Fire Administration, after consultation with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, shall--
      (1) contract with an appropriate, locally based medical research university to conduct long-term medical health monitoring of those firefighters who responded to emergencies in any areas referred to in subsection (b); and
      (2) in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, provide for the treatment of firefighters described in paragraph (1) who suffer health-related conditions as a result of responding to such emergencies.
    (b) Affected Firefighters- An area referred to in this subsection is any area which is declared a disaster area by the Federal Government.
    (c) Health Monitoring- The long-term health monitoring referred to in subsection (a) shall include--
      (1) pulmonary illness, neurological damage, and cardiovascular damage; and
      (2) exposure documentation.
    (d) Authorization of Appropriations- There are authorized to be appropriated to the United States Fire Administration to carry out this section, such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2007 through 2011.
1/13 Lobotomy,

I was one of the Simulation Directors during the ICT3 re certification simulations here in R5. I was also the Fire Qualifications and Review Committee representative from my district.

As the FQRC representative, I personally wrote one ICT3 de certification letter as required by the Forest Service Fire Training and Qualification Handbook 5109.17. This individual opted NOT to go to take the re certification simulation, so they would not even show up in the Simulation Directors records. I am sure there were others who 'opted out" prior to the simulations on the forest also, but those records would only be available to each district FQRC representative.

Even more 'telling" than the one de certification on my district was the number of folks who were re-thinking and opting not to complete their ICT3 and 4 task books after the Cramer ICT3 indictment and subsequent outcome.. There are no "records" to verify this, but I personally talked to ten folks on my district who indicated that the IC position was "no way, no how" for them in light of the situation. They indicated that I could take them off the priority training list for IC required training..

The actual ICT3 Simulations.... I had at least four folks tell me prior to the simulation that they did not want ICT3 on their Incident Qualifications Card, had never "done" the job, had never completed a task book for the position, and were only going through the simulation because their forest management had told them they had to. This was a highly disturbing revelation for me. These individuals all told me that they would never accept an assignment as an IC.

ONE of my reasons for retirement 5 years prior to the mandatory retirement date was the lack of Agency backing. I saw the agency hang the "lower echelon" folks out to dry as scapegoats while protecting the upper crust of Forest Management.

yactak

1`/13 From OZ

Abs,

I realize most North Americans visiting will be in Vic, but if any make Sydney,
please pass my contact details on to them.

OB
(thinking of a trip south..)

Will do. Ab.

1/13 Pyro,

Thanks for the suggestions. It hadn't occurred to me to talk to Casey, but while reading your post, the little lightbulb came on over my head (even if it is only a 15 watt one). Now that I am a new member of the FWFSA (even without the benefits - you guys need the support), I will take full advantage of picking Casey's brain. I'm sure Casey is sitting there reading this saying "Oh no, not Lori!", but I promise you Casey, I will go easy on you.

I'm not really trying to back door anything, just trying to learn some guidelines written up in contracts and how I can get those changed. I want to make sure that no other family loses a loved one because the pilot was vastly inexperienced and didn't come close to meeting the 1500 hr flight requirement.

Lori

1/13 Here's a quote from the Yakima paper about the 2 campers trapped on the Thirtymile blowup, who recently negotiated a $400,000 settlement with the US Department of Justice:

"The couple had said they weren't driven by financial motivations, but wanted to help improve safety for firefighters and improve accountability for the Forest Service."

If money wasn't the motive for their suit, then maybe they'd consider donating the cash to Wildland Firefighter Foundation?

Mollysboy

1/13 Ab,

From The Australian
Tired fire crews call for back-up:
www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21055500-1702,00.phpl

in addition:

This came in from Chief Goldfeder at Thesecretlist.com; this evening

Officials are investigating the death of a 19-year-old forestry
firefighter killed when a tree fell on his vehicle as he helped fight
fires in Tasmania's north-east. He was driving a Forestry vehicle
while a co-worker hosed down ember fires from a pump on the back of
the vehicle, when a large tree crashed onto the cabin about 9pm AEDT
yesterday. Trees continued to fall as emergency workers recovered the
man's body. None of the fires are threatening property.
Take Care-BE CAREFUL,
BillyG

ht

1/13 Anybody on the BDF have any insight of talk of staffing 24 hr this coming
fire season? I think it is the same schedule as CDF 3 days on 4 off?

Like to see where 2 to 1 fits in. Any info would be great.

SouthzoneFF

1/13 Re: the discussion about UAV's and UAS's on the
fireline

Contract County Guy made an awesome point, and I'd
like to expand it a bit. Are we seeing the same
problem with GIS data? Are incident commanders getting
overconfident in their ability to evaluate field
conditions based on their access to GIS data? Might we
be better served working on getting that data more
directly to the crews (Hi, FireGeek)? Can GIS data sap
crew initiative by allowing the rear echelon to
micromanage, just as UAV info does?

Nerd on the Fireline

1/13 Lori,

I too have been doing research on owner operations for wildland fire aircraft, whether at this point i decide to stick to my current field of UAV's or invest in to rotary wing or fixed wing aircraft I have yet to decide. I have had some helpful discussions with a few larger contractors. Please contact me- i'm sure ab can give you my email. The key in my opinion is purchasing an airframe that can pay for itself over say a 30 year period (the amount of time a loan for the plane would take) in the Los Angeles region, the firehawk program has shown great performance- without the risk of of the older skycranes that have a shorter lifespan based on their production dates.

--
Respectfully Submitted,

PFC Dillon
US Army

1/13 Tom,

Thanks for the laugh! I know that what you are saying is true. The first time I went
heli-skiing, it was with a company that was owned by a very wealthy man who was
using it for a tax write off. Talk about flushing money down a toilet......swoosh!

Lori
1/13 Ummmm.... so about that UAV stuff?

I attended a meeting at a unnamed NASA site about 2 years ago with the USFS's RSAC, NASA, and more. I have to say it was frightening- not due to politics but due to the lack of understanding of ICS, NWCG, or even what NIFC is. Granted there were a couple of people in the room that had IMT quals but the overall understanding of how an incident operates and the organizational culture was disturbing to me. I hope that has improved in the last 2 years.

Why do I say that? The blatant assumption in the room that EVERY ICP has satellite communications up with the ability to download huge files. Every fire is not a Type 1 with major communications resources. People still should figure the fire has land line communication for the essential information. I also heard assertions that the snapshot imagery of the fire's temperature the most important information to Plans/Ops (now to the FBAN and other researchers I agree it is important). They asserted to me that the fire perimeter was the LAST thing that should be sent out. My feeling was that the small packet of info that contains the fire perimeter should be the FIRST thing and imagery follows. Remember- Life, Property, Resources. I think their mind was at least opened to considering perimeter first imagery second by the end of the meeting but I don't know the opinion now.

Now the #1 problem regarding getting UAVs up was the FAA hoops- so I have to agree that part of the politics was beyond the realm of the agencies that were meeting.

I was also on McNalley in 2002 when the USFS southwest research center did a really cool fire imaging thing- that was operationally useless to us but the writeups in the paper were wonderful about how much it helped us. Took forever to get the imagery, it was getting sent to the web prior to notifying Plans, etc. I will say the group after that tried to get one of their folks qualed as a GISS- don't know if she ever went out though. So the intent was there to work with the fire but the integration with the ICP was not happening. I loved the articles my family sent me about the fire I was on- so not true it was funny.

Now- I am all for the technology but IMHO I did not see the right people involved in the project to integrate it within the fire culture in a way that did not negatively impact the business of the incident.

Personal favorite moment of the meeting I attended was when a NASA geek thought he was going to come into NICC and plug his MAC into the network and start working- when I mentioned NICC was in NIFC and a BLM facility so they might want to contact IRM to make sure there would be no glitches due to the Cobell litigation he told me- no NIFC is only USFS. This guy had been working with the group for at least a year on this project.

So I hope they're doing better now- but I was not impressed with the understanding of the organization culture. The technology was cool though and I felt that was the least of the issues.

Just couldn't stay quiet,
GISgirl
1/13 PLEASE EMAIL YOUR CALIFORNIA
  • State Senators asking them to PASS SB 41 and your
  • State Assembly members asking them to PASS AB 108.

We need to get the donated funds released asap to the Esperanza families without the State of California taking a tax slice. Read more in posts below. ht has good directions for a simple individual option. For organizations, there's a Model letter, etc. It's not hard or time consuming.

Thanks everyone for the feedback on the various topics. Jackson, I appreciate the info on Firescope. I hadn't realized that was the origin of that organization; before my time...

Email your CA reps! Let's get 'er done!

Mellie

1/13 This came in the beginning of the month:

Abs,

a pic for the photos page (if you can also provide credit - John Eacott I believe is
well known & experienced helo pilot working fires for a long time...)

OB

Thanks OB. Any updates on fire Down Under?

oz-mt-beauty-fire.jpg

1/13 If Rey goes, do you think R5 Tidwell will?

ZZtop

1/13 noname,

Thank you for sharing the New York Peak and Mudd Fire reports.... whatever the titles... It was good to read them again and see how badly "we" continue to treat our wildland firefighters..... not actually "we" in the field, but rather the "we" that allow this BS to continue through fear of action, or simple inaction for other reasons.

I was very fortunate to "meet" two of the surviving members of "these reports" earlier in late 2006.... Both of them supposedly had "minor burns" as described in the initial official reports (24 and 72 hr. reports from the Forest Service), and in the final reports as described above.... but somehow, experts in burn injuries such as Dr. Richard Grossman and Dr. David Grossman somehow got involved and took over their care... Minor injuries my a$$.... Minor burns... my a$$...

What still sticks in my mind was that these two firefighters, even though severely burned just months earlier, were at the side of Wildland Firefighter Pablo Cerda.... and at his family's side during the Esperanza Fire.... I "officially" met them at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center months later, a long way from where their original journey took them and where I had "heard their story"...... It all started with the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

They know it.... and we know it....

We ALL owe it to each and every wildland firefighter and their families who are injured, or falls in the line of duty to make things safer and focus on the things that need to be changed for safety.... It is simple as pay it forward....

Jesse Shirley (Eldorado HS) and Chris Fry (Bakersfield BLM)... I hate to put you on the spot... but... you guys rock and are true examples of the compassion of the wildland firefighting community and how it should work.... and how the power of individuals can initiate change and pay it forward as you did....... You guys rock...

Kenneth Kempter
Wildland Firefighter
1/13 From
http://cms.firehouse.com/content/article/article.jsp?sectionId=4&id=52901

U.S. Forest Service and National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) spokeswoman Rose Davis disagrees with the organizations' sentiments that firefighters will pass on assignments, saying there's little data to support the belief.

"I don't have any evidence either way," she said. "There is no data that says this is happening and no crystal ball that says it will."

Davis also said the Forest Service hasn't had any problems filling classes, but wouldn't speculate on the effect of the charges on interest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Those folks who are feeding Rose her "talking points" need to contact the Type 3 Incident Commander Simulation Cadre's about how many IC's were qualified at the Type 3 level when the simulation was required, and how many of those IC's refused to do the simulation and let their Type 3 IC lapse for fear of prosecution..... and loss of family and personal livlihood.

I know that some of the cadre leaders and Regional Training Officers HAVE this data.... the very data that the Washington Office doesn't want exposed.

Congratulations on your retirement Chief Bosworth.... I hope Mark Rey "retires" soon also....

Lobotomy

P.S. - Rose is a good person and a dedicated professional.... Don't aim any "blame" towards her!!!... Aim it where blame is due.... at the system of the Forest Service bureaucracy.... the first hole in the Swiss Cheese Model.... The root of most of our tragedy fires of the past.

Yeah, don't blame Rose...

To add my perspective, I know of 3 people in my neck of the woods who had planned to continue working in fire well past their 50th birthday. They now have told me they are retiring. I know of 3 retired people who have fought fire as DIVS and BRANCH who are already making non-fire plans with their spouses/significant others for the upcoming season. They say they are "really retiring". I am optimistic we can change the law and am hoping people will hang in there, but some who feel too much pressure are already making choices.

Readers, I request we give the new congress a chance. Change in leadership helps too, I hope. We'll see. Someone yesterday said "one down, two to go". Ab.

1/13 Misery Whip;

You must be brilliant; after all, the true measure a person's of intelligence, is how much they agree with ME... (OK, you can laugh now...)

Seriously, your last post was well stroked. You said, "If he wasn't competent, you should be looking for justice from the ORGANIZATION that hired and certified and qualified him...".

Exactly. After all, it seems as if incompetence is similar to insanity, in that if one is truly insane, he can't be aware of his own condition. If one is incompetent, after being trained, tested, and certified as USDA "Choice", who is he to disagree? Therefore, a need for a System fix, not a Person fix.

My support of Ellreese has very little to do with the individual, and everything to do with the principle, the health and future of the USFS, and the Fire Community in general. I don't know Ellreese, nor was I there that day; I'm in no way qualified to judge his actions or abilities.

And Sir, as far as I know, we've never met. But judging from your posts over the 3 years I've been ghosting around this forum, I'd be proud and confident to find my crew assigned to your division.

Lori;

Being a Test the Waters type, my suggestion at this point is, if you aren't burning up the phone lines to Casey, maybe check with some reputable, mid- size copter contractors, and learn the contracting biz thru the back door? Sorry I don't have info; its been a long time since I was a Rotorhead...

Michelle in MT;

Not ignoring you; I just don't know. ( Any of you Logistics- types out there?) Maybe cruise down to Missoula, and check the contractor lists, pick some brains.

Pyro
1/13 viejo,

Viegas' model was presented in an International Journal of Wildland Fire article. It can be purchased through CSIRO at: http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/WF05050.php

A smaller version of his findings can be found on the International Association of Wildland Fire's website here. He presented his findings at the 8th Wildland Fire Safety Summit held in 2005 in Missoula, Montana.

If you are so inclined, you can run his mathematical model... it is pretty amazing..... it is even more amazing that you can run it using an excel program to crunch out all of the outputs.

I believe JoAnn Fites-Kaufman, Ph.D, is experimenting with/utilizing the model locally in the United States.

Lobotomy
1/12 Ab,

When folks write their California State Senators, remind them to reference SB 41. When writing to State Assembly Members, they need to reference AB 108.

The Bills were introduced to the California State Senate on December 21, 2006 and the California State Assembly on January 7, 2007.

Both Bills were marked as "non-urgent"......

As part of your writings to your elected officials, please ask them to upgrade the status of the bill to "urgent".... It will speed its processing through committee(s) and speed it to the floor for a vote.

Both Senator Battin and Assemblyman Benoit (as well as the co-sponsors) should also receive some well deserved thank you's for their rapid work to get this legislation introduced.... and passed as soon as possible.

StateWatcher

1/12 Ab,

Contacting the CA State Legislature Members electronically.

This link will take you to the CA State Assembly bill information site

www.assembly.ca.gov/acs/acsframeset2text.php

Enter "108" where it says BILL NUMBER and click on "search" this will take you to the AB108 page and click on COMMENT at the top. Follow the instructions on that page to send your message to Assembly Member Benoit on line.

From here: www.assembly.ca.gov/clerk/MEMBERINFORMATION/memberdir_1.asp

you can email your local Assembly Member.

To reach members of the CA State Senate follow this link:

www.senate.ca.gov/~newsen/senators/senators.htp

Click on your Senator and follow the contact instructions.

I sent the AB 108 letter to Benoit using the 1st link and my local Assemblyman and Senator using the 2 nd and third ones. A little easier than faxing, unless you have an organizational letterhead to use.

ht

Thanks ht. Ab.

1/12 The on-going debate that surrounds the Ellreese Daniels issue gives me great hope for the future of the wildland fire community. It is being openly discussed at all levels inside and outside of all of our respective Agencies. I spent Thursday 1/11/07 with the R-6 Fire Management group and lawyers from OGC assisting them in their attempt at drafting a " White Paper " on this issue. Although I am under a "Gag Order" in discussing the content of the meeting, I have hope that at least it shows that at different levels of the organization, there is true concern about the effect this issue has had on everyone.

Now that I see that the Chief is resigning, it makes a little more sense when I was told that the Chief's office would not be sending anything out. Hopefully our new Chief will see this as a crucial topic that requires her immediate focus.

It is truly heartening to see the postings here on TheySaid.... Abs thanks so much for all you have done... Casey Judd, right-on for encouraging us to stay in the game and stay tuned, there are things that are happening... Dick Mangan...I have always been inspired by your knowledge and convictions, it was good to re-read your article... now I remember where the slippery slope term came from.. sorry for plagiarizing.... there are so many others that are posting things that keep the dialogue going... Jumpin Jill Flash.. Miserywhip.. FireBill...Old Green and Gray... Thomas Taylor... and all the others that bring their diverse opinions and feelings into the important issues that are in front of us.

Ellreese, hang in there and know that you have alot of people that are there supporting you and are raising the issues of criminal complaints against those that are doing the Gov'ts work. I, for one, am planning on continuing to stay actively engaged in fire suppression work... whether its being a ICT3, DIVS, OSC2, or as a SOF2. It is truly a very noble and honorable profession that we have. I have hope that we will see changes within the Agency, that they will be there beside us if ever the need arises. Let's all continue to stay engaged on the issues before us and continue the dialogue, and respect each other's perspectives.

Rod Altig
FMO Columbia River Gorge

You're welcome. It takes all of us. The Abs.

1/12 Lori,

The way to make a small fortune in the aviation industry is to start with a large one.
I couldn't resist.

Tom Jones, going broke flying

1/12 Re: the UAV use on the Esperanza Fire

I was on the overhead team on the Esperanza and I can tell you that the
Predator mission on this fire was far from a success. The mission was cut
short because someone forgot to turn the heater for the onboard electronics
on, and this caused the cameras, etc to freeze up, literally. We received
some google earth kml files but they were received not in a timely manner
and not that useful. I think the only person who saw them was me. This
technology is far from operational. Maybe next year.

Use the PSW Firemapper www.fireimaging.com/homepage.phpl instead. I
used this platform on two fires and it was fantastic. The images are
provided within a few hours and are immediately usable in GIS format and in
Google Earth.

FC180

1/12 orders for Australia are coming in...... aviation positions right now (just filled an
ASGS, leaving Tuesday), but more coming.

Pack your bags!

R4 dispatcher
1/12 Abs & All,

Bosworth is history, Abigail Kimbell from R1 is our new Chief of the US Forest Service. Welcome and best wishes to our new Chief! I heard her speak last summer at the 3rd Managing the Unexpected conference in Missoula, I must say I was impressed with her grasp of HROs and general acumen.

Unfortunately, Bosworth left her a mess to clean up. I hope she can help us out of this latest jam.

Hugh,

Thanks for eloquently expressing what many of us are thinking. When it comes down to it, many of the people who have expressed support for Ellreese are fighting for a principle, and for our agency’s ability to safely manage fires in the future. It is disappointing to hear about his recent legal entanglement, but we shouldn’t abandon our support for that reason, because the Thirtymile case is about all of our futures.

What has so many firefighters spooked right now is that we all see what happened to Ellreese as something that could happen to us. Some on this site have expressed that we shouldn’t be without accountability. Accountability for whom? Those at the sharp end of the spear? Or for those who create ridiculous fire management policies and budgets that do not reflect reality, and consequently force rank-and-file fire managers and firefighters to attempt to do too much with too little?

That is the real lesson I see to be gained from Thirtymile. Our “can do” work ethic has allowed us to endure the death of a thousand cuts for years, but we have done so much with so little for so long that our (ahem) leaders failed to notice the wheels (and wings) falling off.

Some have suggested that Ellreese deserves whatever he gets because he was incompetent. Whether Ellreese was competent or not is irrelevant to this case! Ellreese’s competence, or alleged lack of competence, is an organizational issue!

Ellreese was working under the auspices of an organization that asked him to perform a VERY complex set of tasks under extremely trying conditions, and to predict an event that still puzzles fire behavior experts today. Everything I have read and know about Thirtymile indicates he attempted to execute his assigned mission to the best of his ability. I see nothing criminal in that.

As with the Cramer Fire, the key point many people seem to be missing here is INTENT. If I thought for one moment that Ellreese intentionally hurt our comrades at Thirtymile, I’d be at the head of the line of those calling for punishment. But I can not back further punishment for an employee who was charged with a responsibility that he attempted to fulfill and failed. Would you trade lives with him right now?

Whether Ellreese was competent or not is a red herring. If he wasn’t competent, you should be looking for justice from the ORGANIZATION that hired and promoted and certified him as being qualified to lead wildland firefighters under extremely dangerous conditions.

Last September I was on a low-priority fire where for two weeks we were unable to fill many of our resource orders for critical resources like Type 1 and Type 2 crews. We were in a PL5 nationwide and told “fight fire with what you have and don’t expect any more resources.”

Consequently, myself and the other two DIVS swapped and gave up much needed air and ground resources on our own divisions so that whatever DIVS was getting his ass kicked could hang on to his portion of the fire for another day. We did that for two weeks, and every day we barely hung on by our fingernails, only to do it again the next day. There was no anchor and flank; we were essentially frontally assaulting whatever part of the fire was running, and leaving entire large divisions on the flank and heel unstaffed because of a lack of fire personnel. Our fire, which should have been easily contained in a week if we had access to adequate overhead and resources, was still uncontained and uncontrolled when we turned it back over to the District Type 3 organization.

Needless to say, this is not a particularly comforting way to fight a large timber fire with the potential to burn through two communities! We practiced LCES religiously while we exercised a “perimeter point control” strategy, but what else can you do when the Team expects you to deliberately compromise some of the 18 day after day?

Further, our IC was told explicitly to quit stating in the 209 that “a lack of resources contributes to our inability to achieve control objectives.’’ Not approved language in DC, apparently. Really makes you feel supported from on high, I can tell you.

Is this what we can expect as wildland firefighters in the future? That despite increasing (unrealistic) expectations and shrinking expertise within the workforce, we are going to be continue to be judged by some ever higher standard the accusers can’t even really define?

Chief Kimbell, it is my most earnest hope that you will find the means and energy to turn the US Forest Service wildland fire management organization around, help us become a High Reliability Organization. And tell Congress to dump PL 107-203.

If you need my help, Ab can tell you where to find me.

Free Ellreese.

Misery Whip
1/12 Is Harbour next?

Sign me Monkeyboy

Maybe Rey first??? Ab.

USDA ANNOUNCES ABIGAIL KIMBELL AS THE 16TH CHIEF OF THE FOREST SERVICE

Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth Announces his Retirement

WASHINGTON, January 12, 2007 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the selection of Abigail Kimbell as the 16th chief of the Forest Service. Kimbell succeeds Chief Dale Bosworth, who is retiring on Feb. 2 after 41 years with the Forest Service.

"Abigail Kimbell is a veteran of the Forest Service who began as a seasonal worker and has since filled an impressive series of field assignments," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. "Gail brings a wealth of knowledge to her new position. She is well respected both within the agency and by our stakeholders. I'm confident she will do a terrific job as chief." "I am grateful to Dale Bosworth for his 41 years of public service and especially for the tremendous leadership he provided during his six years as chief," Johanns continued. "I am struck by all that the Forest Service accomplished under his watch, from advancing the Healthy Forest Initiative to a four-fold increase in fuels treatment work. He also bolstered the agency's financial system, making it a source of pride government wide. I wish Dale all the best in retirement." Kimbell currently serves as Regional Forester for the Northern Region in Missoula, Montana, which includes northern Idaho, and North Dakota. As Forest Service Chief, Kimbell will oversee an organization of over 30,000 employees and a budget of just over $4 billion. Before becoming regional forester, Kimbell served in the Washington Office as Associate Deputy Chief for the National Forest System, with responsibility for assisting in the development of the Healthy Forest Restoration.

1/12 AB ANNOUNCEMENT:: Need help writing the CA legislature. Here's exactly how you can help: Release Money, then email your own legislators.

The time has come for the California State Legislature to work on Laws to allow the disbursement of the funds raised for the Esperanza firefighter’s families. Senator Batten (SB41) and Assemblymen Cook and Benoit (AB108) have introduced legislation to pull California tax law into conformance with the Esperanza Clarification Act passed by Congress last year. Please take a few moments and write a couple of support letters and get them to the legislators mentioned above. Your involvement would move mountains at State level.

Thank you and please
Work Safe

Bob Duistermars, President
Central County United Way

1/12 why we won't quit

I have been reading all the posts about how everyone is outraged at the
treatment of Mr. Daniels, and how everyone is going to give up their quals
and stop taking fire assignments in protest. Sounds a lot like when the
Cramer verdict came out and everyone, including me, were threatening to
give up their ICT3 quals.

I am going to make a prediction that very few of us are going to actually
follow through on any protest measures against the Government and
specifically the Forest Service because of the following reasons:

  1. We are firefighters and we do this job because we feel called to this
    profession.
  2. We are public servants and as such we put service to the public ahead of
    our personal grievances and in spite of the hardships that we and our
    families endure. And in spite of what all the lawyers and the nonproducers
    who "lead" the agency can do the make our job more difficult.
  3. We need the overtime so we can provide our families with a life that is
    slightly above the poverty level.
  4. Most importantly, we have a sickness that compels us to risk everything
    because we have experienced the awesome power of wildfire up close, have
    confronted it and conquered much of our fear of it.

Backburnfs

1/12 Pyro,

What's wrong with you? Can't you read my mind? ;-) Silly me, there is more to life than just my world....

OK, here's the answers: I am interested in learning about federal, rotor, pilot, aircraft and owner/operator-owner. No, I haven't been flooded with info - you are the first to even respond. I did get some help a few days back, but it was fringe stuff. It made me realize that I want to delve into this deeper. I did find the standard contract and am just starting to pour over that - anybody have aspirin?

Hopefully narrowing it down may bring me some more responses. And yes, I am totally with you about the obsession with flying. My dad had his pilot's license and it was quite the topic of conversation at our house.

Thanks again for the help!

Lori

1/12 Hi there -

Thought I would fill you in on what's happening with UAV's in the world of firefighting. UAV''s are now known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS's) and they are an international multi-billion dollar industry. The Forest Service initiated a "UAV" study in 1996 on the Lolo NF (a bit ahead of the times!). Since then, Unmanned Aircraft have been flown on a Vegetation Management survey in Hawaii and over Mt. St. Helens during 2003. The Coast Guard provided their Mariner Unmanned Aircraft during the Alaska Fires in 2004.

UAS's is one of the fastest growing industries in aviation. The Forest Service has an agreement with NASA-Ames, NASA Dryden and General Atomics to test various Unmanned Aircraft aircraft and products. There have been alot of press releases, news stories and e-mails distributed about the past two small UA demonstrations. I was at Ft. Hunter Liggett this past June where a variety of aircraft were flown on a Prescribed Burn. They were quite successful in demonstrating various aerial imagery products and in establishing a communication platform with the folks at the burn (both day and night).

The process to acquire a "Certificate of Authorization" from the FAA is quite arduous. We had hoped to have a COA from the FAA for the 2006 fire season to test and demo NASA's Alt Air - however the COA process took most of fire season. However, the Alt Air was authorized by the FAA to fly for the Esperanza fire. It flew a 16 hour mission at FL430 (that's 43,000') and provided more than 20 different maps directly to the Incident Management Team. NASA and USFS personnel associated with the project were at the ICP with the team. Most of the links to that news story are gone but here is one link about the flight:

www.earthsky.org/radioshows/50816/unmanned-aerial-vehicles-used-in-esperanza-fire

It's great that we have our research groups within the fire and aviation community studying and researching unmanned aircraft. Integration issues are key. There are numerous civilian applications proposed for unmanned aircraft ranging from law enforcement, weather monitoring, powerline surveys, photography, various scientific missions - all the way to pizza delivery! A key player in the use of this aviation tool will be the FAA's redefinition of airspace.

"Contract County Guy"'s post is well written. There are many aspects of unmanned aircraft that have yet to be worked out. The NASA Ames and NASA Dryden are working closely with the Forest Service (and their Interagency Partners) to assist in the definition of needs and capabilities.

We have seen many changes in our careers - it wasn't that long ago that we didn't have computers or cell phones..... It's amazing to think what could be ahead.

PS - I seem to get a phone call every day from a UA Contractor or a DOD person involved with UAS's. I always recommend that they contact Everett Hinkley who is the special project program leader at the Forest Service’s Remote Sensing Applications Center in Salt Lake City.

Julie Stewart
USFS National Airspace Program Manager

1/12 The Yakima paper says that the USFS paid the campers trapped on Thirtymile $400,000.

www.yakima-herald.com/page/dis/287947607533322?print=1

Mollysboy
1/12 Lori:

I could use a private pilot with her own plane to fly me around back &
forth to DC and around the country to visit with our firefighters.

OK OK, you could make a few "drops" during the season.

Casey

Lori if you work for/with Casey, yer gonna have to practice up on those Blind Canyon Turns, both actual and figurative... Ab.

1/12 AB and PFC Dillon, Kevin W. -

The USFS has an long time partnership with NASA, RSAC and others to
develop and implement operational UAV monitoring for fire and other land
management activities. My understanding is that the technology is ripe but
bureau-political concerns slow the implementation. (Does the FAA trust an
unmanned platform to safely insert itself into commercial airspace? I
think not without some proof of concept). I do know that in the later
stages of the Esperanza fire there was a successful test of a UAV which
did some IR mapping of fire location. Here are a couple of links of
interest --
http://geo.arc.nasa.gov/sge/WRAP/activities.phpl
www.uav-applications.org/projects/fire_1.phpl

Pyrodactyl
1/12 Ab, could you please post the following message on they said. Thank you

Wyoming Hotshots will be celebrating their 40 year anniversary on May 12th
&13th. We would like to invite all the past and present Big Horines to
visit the crew website (www.wyominghotshots.com) and sign the information page
so we can send you a invitation. Thanks and see you in the Bull!

MMP

1/12 Interesting news (Ab is looking for the link)

Government says poorly supervised Boy Scouts set Utah wildfire that cost millions to control

SALT LAKE CITY - The federal government argued that
Boy Scouts playing with fire caused a 14,200-acre
wildfire and wants a judge to hold them responsible,
allowing officials to seek damages.

In court documents, the government said it would
decide whether to seek damages after a ruling is made.
It says the June 2002 wildfire in northeastern Utah
cost more than $12 million to control.

A Forest Service investigator pinpointed the fire's
origin to an area where Scouts had stayed overnight,
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Overby said in federal
court Thursday.

At the time of the blaze, a fire ban was in effect
because of dry conditions. In court documents, the
Scouts maintain they were not aware of a formal fire
ban and thought small pit fires were allowed.

In depositions, Scouts testified they were playing
with fire, even offering a teenage counselor candy in
return for setting one, Overby said.
To read the rest, click the link.

1/12 Re SBA loans:

I already have to correct myself, the SBA has declared Riverside County
eligible for disaster loans due to the Esperanza Fire 1/12/2007. It would
be interesting to know who was pulling the strings to get the SBA to act.

SV

1/12 Can anyone give me a link to information on the Villegas Fire Model.

thanks

viejo

1/12 Mellie-

You're right about the Incident Command system and the
fires of 1970.

In September of that year there was a thirteen-day
siege that began in Oakland and Orinda. Then there
were fires in Malibu, Chatsworth, and on September 26
on Laguna Mountain near San Diego. The 175,000 acre
Laguna Fire had a footprint similar to the 2003 Cedar
fire, which paralleled it just to the north. The
Laguna fire burned from Mt. Laguna to El Cajon.
Ultimately, the Cedar fire did about the same thing,
just more to the north.

The Incident Command System was initially developed by
a group of seven fire agencies who came together in
the aftermath of the disastrous 1970 wildfire season
in California. This coalition took the name
Firefighting Resources of Southern California
Organized for Potential Emergencies, or FIRESCOPE.
Chartered by the U.S Congress in 1972, the FIRESCOPE
coalition was charged with a national mandate to
develop a system for multi-agency coordination of
complex emergencies that exceeded the capabilities of
any single jurisdiction.

Jackson
1/12 Very good points jimhart.
We actually agree on all of our points.
The issues surrounding Ellreese are as much related to the system as it is
to personal competence and accountability.

How did we get to this point?
I believe that we can study the swiss cheese and ultimately know the
reasons.
This does not mean that we can necessarily engineer a solution.
I believe this is because of the political nature of our profession.
Just as you pointed out the political context of the Custer Experience,
we too find ourselves buried within the political context of public service
in the 21st century..

We are no longer merely firefighters doing our jobs according to the
training that we have been given.
Now we are representatives of a politicized entity called the Federal
Government.
In case you haven't noticed- folks don't care much for institutions these
days.
The Federal Government doesn't rate very high on the popular hit parade.

There are armies of well organized and coordinated individuals whose main
purpose in life is to discredit the Federal Government and those who work for it.
Because of the (rightful) limitations placed upon us by law- we civil
servants grit our teeth and go about the people's business, scapegoats
for spineless politicians.

Part of the reason that we find ourselves in this place is the fact that
our profession was gutted during the 1980's.
No one seems to remember back that far. It was a time when fire positions
were the first to be cut and the last to be filled. Those who weren't willing
to sacrifice the best years of their lives for a career that looked to be a
hopeless quest left the profession- and took their experience with them.
Then came the great climatic shift, South Canyon, the budget surplus,
all risk incident management and the National Fire Plan.
Wildland fire professionals became valuable once again to society. (Imagine
that). Instead of the workforce of the 1970's/80 who were very competent
and motivated individuals, standing in line, for their chance at a career
appointment we transitioned to a mad scramble to hire any warm body who we
could convince to sign up.
As the fatalities mounted, we began to notice that the demographics of our
profession had finally collided with the political expediency of the
1980's.
No career opportunity = no experienced firefighters. No experienced
firefighters = no one to prevent the swiss cheese holes from lining up.

Should the Ellreese's of the profession bear the burden? The Line Officers
who never filled the vacant positions? The politicians who want to
privatize wildland fire management? Or should we just ignore the complex
root causes and continue to respond to the symptoms? Maybe sponsor
another seminar and develop another catchy doctrine or checklist? With
the money to be found in litigation, it certainly looks like we will be
attending a lot more funerals in the
future.

Still crazy after all these years.
1/12 A UAV was deployed over the Esperanza Fire for a 16 hour mission by NASA. Here
is a link to the NASA website with an accompanying story
http://ic.arc.nasa.gov/news/story.php?id=388

Also if you Google "UAV Esperanza Fire" you will find several affiliated stories about
the mission and overall research program.

Matt

1/12 With regard to UAV's on the fireline.

Some pilot work has been done on the potential use of such aircraft to support our mission, but here are a few caveat's we have discovered here in Southern California during a command exchange with DoD officials last year.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!

DoD has had some issues come up in the usage of the technology. The issues revolve around who uses the technology and receives its feedback. In the military, they have had problems develop when command staff, who may be located 2000 miles from the battlefield in an air conditioned room, have received the UAV feed and felt that they were in an exceptional position to provide combat direction to those on the ground. You can imagine how disconnects might develop if you are in the fire and smoke and somebody is that far removed and telling you what to do. DoD commanders complained of loss of initiative from field officers who felt they didn't have proper input into tactical or strategic decisions when they received orders from somebody far away they felt didn't share their possible outcomes or have their butt on the line like they did. There DoD found better utilization with the technology when it was provided to those on the ground! (Imagine if only we had the technology to support such things?!?)

But can you imagine someone in Sacramento OES making the big decisions for deployments of engines on fires in the WUI? They did something like that even without UAV assistance in 2003 with regrettable outcomes!

I have come to the conclusion that new technology like this must be integrated carefully, and that the command culture has to develop with the tool to enable its proper use. In the Army or the Marine Corps, line officers receive the same essential training throughout the Military, regardless of what discipline you might serve. (A Major is a Major, etc, etc). Even though we have come a long way in standardizing our training, we still have great variability among various wildfire cooperators, federal, state, and local. People at the top of all our organizations are sometimes politicians, sometimes administrative types with little fire background. Point being, these tools must be placed with the right users as we adopt them into our business if they are to be successful.

Contract County Guy
1/12 I would like to echo AB's call for not rushing to overreact on dropping quals etc.

In the past week I have had a series of excellent conversations with staff from both House & Senate offices not only on the impact of PL 107-203 but the many concerns we have regarding the overall management of the Forest Service fire program and I am confident folks from both sides of the aisle are not only listening but understanding the need to look at these issues.

We have made it very clear that it is imperative to address these concerns before the next season starts with the reminder to them that the "season" started in Texas last February so time is of the essence. Last February we addressed many of the same concerns and pleaded with Congress to seriously look at them before their constituents or our firefighters died. While we made some progress in further establishing our credibility on the issues and, as importantly, accurately predicted that long ago how the fire season would progress with the diversion of preparedness funds; the failure to fund preparedness resources; the inflated costs for suppression as a result of relying on non-federal resources; the exhaustion of available suppression resources as a direct result of policy made by non-fire folks; the expectation that the FS would ask for more suppression $$ by September etc., congress didn't do enough.

They are now faced with what they should and could have done a year ago and recognizing that the stakes are much greater now.

So, for those looking to remove quals etc., please hang tight. I am hopeful we can get some clarity to this mess sooner rather than later.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
FWFSA
1/12 Ab,

Since today is video clip day, here's one a of a VFD close call at a working structure fire. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gqrmUIdiYs

Makes you think it takes leadership, teamwork, experience and training to protect an escape route.

vfd cap'n
1/12 PFC Dillon;

Wildland Firefighter Magazine ran an article in the June 2006 issue ("Up in No Man's Land"); short version, there are several companies working toward UAV use on fires.

If you can't find an issue close, you might try contacting the author of the article, Paul Ross, at: centralwff@elsevier.com

Best of luck;

Pyro
1/12 Lori;

Aviation contracting; that's a big question! What branch, and what level aviation are you
interested in? Owner, owner/operator, or employee? Rotary, or fixed wing? Pilot, or ground
crew? Aircraft, or ground support?

You've probably already been flooded with more info than you ever wanted; all Propeller
Heads seem to be very single- minded about thinking that we should all be as interested in
aircraft as they are! (My younger son is working on his hours, toward his SEAT pilot certs;
all at home have learned way too much about theories of flight, etc).

Just let us know what direction your interests lie...

You're one of the Family Treasures, Lori;

Pyro
1/12 Pokyfire,

Never trust a "model" until you have dated "her".... or verified "her" intentions or "her" limitations.... In other words, until you have verified the model through RPD slides and with experience.... Never trust a fire model.

Some "models" are good and some are bad. Often times, people misinterpret the "model". Other times, the scientists who have made the model may have made a "type 1" or "type 2" error in their research and cognitize processes.... or they were just creating a baseline model that they expected others to build upon...

Sorry Ab... my bad.... I hate speaking science...

Noname

P.S. - Two models of interest... Rothermel's and Villegas' models.... especially the latter with its understanding and ability to calculate and understand "eruptive fire growth" after building upon the baseline models....
1/12 hi i am a past firefighter and basically pose the same question lori does about fire aviation.

also on a semi related note, I am wondering if anyone has seen ideas for the usage of UAV's (unmanned aerial vehicles) in forestry or fire support operations. I'm currently a pilot of a UAV and any information on whether the FS is looking into their use would be great.

--
Respectfully Submitted,
PFC Dillon, Kevin W.

Readers, I'm curious about this too. Seems I heard something a while back, was it all just rumors around the campfire that got picked up by some journalist? Ab.

1/12 Just to lift your wintertime spirits…Courtesy of the Southern Wyoming BLM
Handcrew. Quite a creative bunch…those Wyoming folks…

www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBnXkUEMrlA

Enjoy.

S

Creative... Photos from here, excellent footage and great music, was that Big & Rich? I know the second one was Willie Nelson singin' the Dukes of Hazard theme. Ab.

1/11 Pokyfire

The wind speed reduction tables come from:

Albini, F.A.; Baugbman, R.G. 1979. Estimating windspeeds for predicting
wildland fire behavior. Res. Pap. INT-221. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment
Station. 12 pp.

I am not able to find an online copy, you may find one in a university
library.

The research summary says: "The formulae are based on the logarithmic
windspeed variation law characteristic of constant shear turbulent flow, and
are restricted to flat terrain with uniform continuous vegetation cover"

You may want to visit the FBAN/LTAN/IMET discussion page at My Fire
Community.net. There is an ongoing discussion on wind gusts.

www.myfirecommunity.net/NeighborhoodPosts.aspx?ID=39&Topic=755

Eye level measurement is always superior to estimation with the tables.

FC180
1/11 SV,

See my post below regarding the SBA Loans that are subsidized for
people to rebuild in fire prone areas at the taxpayers expense.

Re: Esperanza fire victims....

"Disaster loans of up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair
or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are
eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed
personal property."

Rogue Rivers

1/11 Safety Zone News, January news letter, buckle up buddy up

www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/council/newsletters/jan07/jan07.phpl

(WMV file)
Nice looking ex-smokejumper and a bunch of hunks.
Excellent message.

Tahoe Terrie

1/11 Where has the "Leadership" Gone

Hey Folks,

As I sit and read the daily postings to 'They Said' and hearing Type 1 IC's bailing out, as a member of a Type 1 team trying to gain support that if we all bail now, what are we left with? Not only "where have all the IC's gone" but where has all the leadership gone. I have been in fire for 20 years and most of my career spent as a hotshots and smokejumping and I have witnessed my share of leadership of true leaders that did not give up the fight when the going got tough. The time I spent with this highly organized group of firefighters is what provided me the confidence in knowing I had a bro or a sis watching my backside and vice versa. My leaders early on led the fight and we were ready to follow that person into battle. I doubt that any General or leading military official would bail out on the troops in Iraq right now knowing now is NOT the time. Casey, thank you for backing that concept too and thank you Abs for maintaining this website.

My last comment of trying to convince Misery Whip of the very things I was trying to convince myself of lets not back down now is fading and fading fast. I have too many moving parts during the summertime to be waffling right now and for the sake of my firefighters, I better decide if I am going to stick it out. But to see all so many of our "true leaders" retiring, makes me miserable to think of what can I look forward to. Even though I feel now is our opportunity to take advantage of making our OWN demands and rid ourselves of the layers upon layers of checklists that were established to insulate some upper echelon that lacks leadership, this is the one time safety in numbers can keep our troops confident that we at the middle layer won't let them down. Because we are what insulates them from the very sh** that is happening right now. They keep me going and my team keeps me going because that is where I find cohesion and order amongst this chaotic environment.

Rod Altig, I admire your letter and I have been on a few fires with you and thank you for getting the attention of those in DC.

I don't know what I will do this summer, but I gave myself a time frame that if change does not occur, I will look to some other avenue, that means I will walk away from the Forest Service and NEVER look back.

'Jumpin Jill Flash'

Jumpin Jill Flash, let's see how this goes. No rash decisions. Congress is getting educated... Never know what may happen. Sometimes the littlest "squirt" can let the puppy loose. Haw Haw. This Ab is quite hopeful for change and more change after that.

1/11 Thomas,
I would love to talk to you, not about the 30 mile fire or anything to do with fighting fire, but about being a survivor. You and I have very different stories, yet somewhere in our stories runs a common vein. If you are interested, please let the Abs know.

To the community,
I am hoping that I can get some help from y'all. I am trying to learn as much as I can about contracting, specifically aviation. If you would be interested in passing on any knowledge that you might have to me, I would appreciate it. It's time for a change and I need to learn all I can before rushing into it head-on. Thanks....

Lori

1/11 Can anyone tell me who would I get in contact with about working in a firecamp? I can cook.

Thank you,

Michele from Livingston, Montana

1/11 RE: Professional Liability Insurance (PLI),

Perhaps this is old news to some, it may be good information for others.
I am speaking for the DOI agencies, and more specific the Fish and Wildlife. I cannot speak for the BLM or other agencies in the DOI.

I have had Personal Liability Insurance for 2 years now. My qualifications are up to Task Force Leader and Burn Boss type 2. However I cannot get the 50% reimbursement for my insurance since my PD is non-suprvisory, despite the PD and IFPM saying that in my job I have to maintain at least Strike Team Leader and RXB2. I have brought this up to our region and I will try to quickly sum up their response as it relates to policy.

"To be eligible for the 50% reimbursement you must qualify as a supervisor under Directors order #113"
This order states.

'"Supervisor is defined in title 5 USC section 7103(a)(10) as an individual employed by an agency having authority in the interest of the agency to hire, direct, assign, promote, reward, transfer, furlough, layoff, recall, suspend, discipline or remove employees, to adjust their grievances, or to effectively recommend such action if the exercise of the authority is not merely routine or clerical in nature but requires the consistent exercise of independent judgment, except with respect to any unit which includes firefighters or nurses the term "Supervisor" includes only those individuals who devote a Preponderance of their employment time to exercising such authority.

I believe this is the same for BLM and reading some previous posts, it sounds like the USFS has taken a similar position.
Don't get caught up in the part above where it mentions firefighter.
The bottom line is you have to be a (supervisor) to get the reimbursement.
I have brought the fact that I am required to be a supervisor on the wildfires to my region but the policy does not take that into account.

In my opinion, we should all have this insurance whether or not it is reimbursable. I have this as much for my Burn Boss Type 2 as I do for my IC commitments.

I am scheduled for DIVS class in February and am unsure if I should go this route after the incident in Washington. I have let my ICT3 taskbook lapse after the Cramer incident.

Anyone with some new info on BLM and (PLI) I'd love to hear it.
As goes the BLM, many other DOI agencies will follow.

Lucky Lindy

1/11 Thomas,

My guess is that you are a good person. Thanks for sharing with all of us. Must not be easy.

Mellie

1/11 Does anyone have info on how the wind adjustment tables were developed?

I saw a note several years ago from someone who had compared 10-meter and 2-meter wind speed data from Oklahoma weather stations. He came up with an average wind adjustment factor of 0.71 percent for a mixed-grass prairie site. That is quite different than the book answer of 0.4 for FM 1 and 3. The 0.4 wind adjustment factor for grasslands has always seemed low to me but I don’t have data to back it up. Anyone else out there who has different data for 20 foot vs mid-flame wind speed?

Pokyfire

1/11 Dear Wildland firefighting community:

Thank you for all the positive responses to my rant and for allowing me to stir up the ant pile a bit.

The only thing I could think about while reading the responses was change. WEBSTER'S defines Change as: making or becoming different, alteration or modification. Well as you know, such a tragic event changes people. 30-mile changed me. My life is different, it also has been changed and modified. It took the deaths of four firefighters (two of whom were on my squad) for me to be not only the firefighter, but also the person I am today. Not to say I'm a good firefighter (something about disengaging without telling adjoining forces, my allegiance to the agency, and when leaders fail others step up) or a good person. But self actualization is a B@#TCH. I know myself and am always seeking improvements.

As a community we all can bring Change! If any of you in this community wish to contact me about 30-mile or exercises I facilitate or just have questions about the Incident, Ab has my information and will pass it along. For all we can do is turn something so negative into something positive.

Thank you
Thomas Taylor

Thanks, Thomas Taylor. Ab.

1/11 Oliver,

Brilliant conclusion.

And no, I didn’t think the wrong people won at Little Big Horn. For what its worth, my thesis in college was on the Chumash, a beautiful California Native American people who were decimated by the Spaniards and finished off by American settlers. The horror of what happened to them will forever haunt me. It is perhaps that perspective that has led me to help others understand the value of what’s left of native wildlands, before they too are only a memory.

jimhart
1/11 Here's a running list of theysaid posts with tidbits and some organized information that could help Ellreese's lawyer. The rest were omitted:

Free Ellreese

Thanks Pyro for separating the wheat from the chaff. We'll try to keep it up to date.

Ab.

1/11 Thom,

No report or other words on paper can really describe what was happening that day. I have read the reports and listened to some of the firefighters involved and still have many questions.

In the investigation report I have read that with the support of air attack, Ellreese chose a safety zone “where they could safely watch the fire pass them by”. One of the photos taken at the entrapment site shows the crew outside the vehicle, some with packs on, another with hands in pockets smoking a cigarette watching the fire across the valley, and another taking a picture of herself with the second column in the background. A lack of leadership? or a crew acting like they are in a safe place to relax? You referred to the site in your recent post as “the deployment site”. Is this choice of words based on the final outcome or what you believed it was at the time of entrapment? You also left the road with a squad boss in-training and went above the road to look for possible deployment sites. That trainee made a determination that there was too much vegetation among the rocks for a suitable deployment site and went back to the road, while you stayed.

You say that the squads were taken in front of a running crown fire; was that your observation at the time, or were the squads taken along a flank?

I’m not challenging you, I’m just trying to find out what the perceptions were at that moment in time rather than the perfect view of hindsight.

One of our orders is to "base all actions on current and expected fire behavior". I’ve heard from some very experienced FBANs and firefighters that the killing blast that came across the valley could not have been predicted or expected. Certainly you or the others did not predict or expect it.

When leaders fail, others need to step up.

RG
1/11 jimhart asked about 100k grants to homeowners after the Esperanza Fire.
Neither the State nor the Feds have a grant program to help persons replace
their homes or businesses after a disaster. There are low interest loans
available through the SBA if there has been a Presidential Declaration.
There are also low interest loans for personal property. There is a grant
up to 25k to cover expenses fro housing and personal property if they don't
qualify for an SBA loan (those of you who were at Katrina probably met a
lot of people in this situation). The homeowner in any case will be required
to use their insurance first and then can apply to SBA to help make up the
difference if there is Declaration. Since as was pointed out there was no
presidential declaration, there is no access to these loans so it will be
between the homeowner and the insurance carrier-who might not reissue a
policy after the fire-to replace the house.

SV

1/11 jimhart,

While your historical perspective on Custer is accurate from an European viewpoint I would offer an opinion that Custer didn't fail, rather he was out maneuvered by superior forces with a better battle plan (IAP?). He did exactly what he was experienced at (his experience was to bully his way through life and exercise poor judgment). Custer couldn't accept even a fraction of a notion that Indians could defeat him in battle. He cloaked himself in a hero's mentality and failed to listen to council or advice from his command staff. Worse yet Custer constantly operated outside of agency intent and scope of duties.

I understand the comparison you offer, but I would be cautious with any analogy between fire fighting and the battle above the Little Bighorn. I think you offer good lessons to be learned but IMHO using the battle on the Little Bighorn and identifying Custer's failures could lead some readers to believe you might feel that the wrong people were defeated. I personally didn't read this into your message and believe your intent was to present the similarities of Custer's campaign to fire campaigns on it's own merit without bias.

Several years ago I visited the battle site and made the comment that Custer had built his fire line on the wrong side of the ridge. However even this analogy didn't sit well with me because fire isn't a living being with mental awareness. The native chiefs and sub-chiefs had the mental awareness and were victorious because they understood Custer and knew how to use this knowledge to achieve their goals and objectives. The only way Custer could have won is if he had the gift of 20/20 hindsight or was given a mulligan and a do over. Perhaps a few thousand more Calvary soldiers might have turned the battle in his favor. However, we will never know if he would have utilized the additional resources any better than he used the 280 plus soldiers at his command on those fateful two days of June.

This is what I believe... Custer never sought to understand his "enemy" and knew even less about himself. Maybe no one would have died on this particular battlefield in June of 1876 if leadership in the war department would have been doing their job. Instead they let Custer fail and he paid the ultimate price.

I think the message from the battlefield that would most benefit Fire Fighters are the words spoken by Lakota Elder Enos Poor Bear Sr. with regards to the Indian Memorial at the Little Bighorn National Monument.

Indian Memorial At
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

"If this memorial is to serve its total purpose,
it must not only be a tribute to the dead;
it must contain a message for the living...power through unity..."

Enos Poor Bear, Sr., Oglala Lakota Elder

Power through unity...think about it.. The Unity of the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho with common goals and objectives became a powerful army and achieved what couldn't be achieved as individual tribes. Substitute the tribe names with Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, State and Municipal firefighters and this unity would give the firefighter power to bring meaningful change to a leadership that seems to be mired in its own mudslinging and inability to lead..."If firefighter memorials are to serve their total purpose, they must not only be a tribute to the dead; they must contain a message for the living... power through unity..."

Oliver

1/11 Like my friend, the now-retired IC1 who forecasted the bad things to come from the Thirtymile fatalities and the aftermath, I too put down my thoughts for an editorial in "Wildfire" magazine in January 2005, and am truly discouraged and disappointed that my forecast has come true.

For those who missed it:

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

From the President’s Desk
Dick Mangan
IAWF President, 2004-2005

Wildfire Magazine
January-February, 2005

Wildland Firefighting on a Slippery Slope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/11 Regarding Malibu and Mike Davis’s article about “Let Malibu Burn.”

This event and the opinions expressed in Davis’s article really do an excellent job of exposing the fallacy of the “blame the firefighters for big fires” paradigm. It also illustrates why a change in how society views fire in fire-prone environments like Southern California is long overdue. We need to look at the entire enabling system.

In sum, the conventional paradigm is that big and/or destructive wildfires are the result of past fire suppression practices and that we can stop them from occurring if we thin the forests and clear the brush. OK then, let’s ask the following question, “And when a fire occurs in the Santa Monica Mountains, firefighters are supposed to do what?” Let it burn in order to eliminate all that fuel firefighters have allowed to build up in the first place, right? Right.

I am really tired of hearing this constant diatribe about how stupid all of us in the fire community have been over the years. Fires have been put out in the Santa Monica Mountains because they kill people and burn down homes. Firefighters have been charged to defend lives and property and we do this by suppressing the fires that start. Pretty simple. I’d be more than happy to hear an alternative response.

Wait, how about going the pre-fire route that some suggest by creating mixed aged mosaics of chaparral through fire use or prescribed burning. Yeah, right. In the Santa Monica Mountains? I can see the headlines now, “Firefighters let fire burn to reduce fuel loads, but winds pick up and flames destroy 400 homes while engines stand by.”

Well then, how about going the pre-fire mastication/fuel break route? Well, we’ve been doing that for years. Poor track record. Funny thing about wind-driven embers, they don’t care. So the real solution is to just eliminate shrublands all together, right? Maybe by building challenging golf courses over the mountain tops, using Agent Orange, and expanding public parking lots we could reduce enough fuel out there to make a difference. Right. I think it would be fair to say that a lot of people in LA enjoy the wildlands of the Santa Monica Mountains and wouldn’t take kindly to such a plan.

Yet Mike Davis dribbles on in his article with the following…

“Another revelation was the relationship between the age of vegetation and the intensity of a fire. Botanists and fire geographers have calculated that half-century-old chaparral, heavily laden with dead mass, burns with 50 times more intensity than 20-year-old chaparral. Put another way, an acre of old chaparral is the fuel equivalent of 75 barrels of crude oil. A great Malibu firestorm, therefore, may generate the heat of three million barrels of burning oil at a temperature of 2,000 degrees.

And such extreme fires can destroy the structure of the soil itself. A water-repellant layer is created that dramatically accelerates subsequent flooding and erosion. All of which means that "total fire suppression" - the official policy in the Southern California mountains since 1919 - is a futile, indeed disastrous, strategy that makes doomsdaylike firestorms and subsequent floods virtually inevitable by preventing the recycling of dead chaparral by more frequent small fires.”

Lets look at all this. First, there is nothing unnatural or particularly evil about an intense chaparral wildfire that generates “the heat of three million barrels of burning oil at a temperature of 2,000 degrees.” Chaparral is a crown fire ecosystem. That is what is does. Firefighters didn’t create this dynamic by trying to save homes. And about that water-repellant layer thing? Hogwash. First of all, whatever a 2,000 degree fire does to soil with a chaparral cover is natural and has NOTHING to do with what we have done. In fact, if the fire isn’t intense enough, many of the seeds in the soil will not germinate, allowing the system to recover properly. And don’t get me started that there were more fires prior to our arrival here (count Native Americans in this as well since they are people too). There’s only been two recorded lightning caused fire in the Santa Monica Mountains over the past 25 years. Second, this whole water-repellant soil thing and its supposed relationship to past fire suppression practices or being the primary variable in post-fire flooding has NEVER been substantiated in any study of shrubland fires. In fact, based on my own experience and that of a number of colleagues, chaparral soils can be more water repellant BEFORE a fire than afterwards.

But the fuel centered paradigm continues to drive the debate with comments like this one in Davis’s article, “As fire ecologist Richard Minnich has said, "You can send an arsonist to Death Valley and he'll never be arrested.” Well, first of all Minnich is not a fire ecologist. He is a geographer. Big difference in how ecological research is done when compared to map/land form work. Secondly, about arresting arsonists in DV, that may soon change as cheatgrass is invading vast stretches of lower elevation deserts (which Minnich discounts despite overwhelming evidence). Cheatgrass and other weeds were the primary carriers of the Esperanza fire during its initial run. But what the heck, let’s go the Death Valley route anyway and clear the Santa Monica Mountains. Would it work? Let’s look at the Malibu fire.

I have attached a graphic I put together noting the homes burned (red stars), homes damaged (black stars), and the approximate fire perimeter (I haven’t visited the site post-fire, but this is based on news photos, and interviews). The fire started at the top of the canyon near the parking lot in the upper right hand corner. It moved down the canyon and swept out across the weedy fields on either side (for the record, these were not the horrible dense fuels everyone keeps screaming about). If we had removed the sage scrub community in the canyon on a regular basis, it would have eventually been replaced by weeds. Yearly applications of herbicide would have kept the area as a nice, brown dirt spot. The fire would not have occurred. Problem solved.

Now then, let’s come back to reality. Is the total cost of creating and maintaining the area as dirt worth it? How much are viewsheds, habitats, recreational uses (walking your dog amongst the sage), erosion-reducing vegetation, and having a natural environment nearby worth? That’s really the fundamental question, isn’t it? Based on what I know, society values these things. Well, I do anyway. Even if we say let’s just convert the place to weeds, then you have the fine fuel component that could have easily caused similar damage based on the other variables involved (wind speed, low humidity, topography).

Would it have helped to have cleared 300 feet of the sage scrub across PCH as the mayor of Malibu claims? Maybe, but again we need to balance all the costs, the role of embers being driven by strong winds, and…flammable structures with flammable ornamentals kissing roofs, external walls, and the undersides of decks.

Going back to Davis’s article,

‘The next firestorm, in late September 1970, coupled perfect fire weather (drought conditions, 100-degree heat, 3 percent humidity and an 85-mile-per-hour Santa Ana wind) with a bumper crop of combustible wood-frame houses. Firefighters said the cedar-shake roofs "popped like popcorn" as a 20-mile wall of flames roared across the ridge line of the Santa Monicas toward the sea.”

Anyone want to speculate why these homes had cedar-shake roofs. Couldn’t be because government leaders didn’t have the guts to take on the building industry could it? Davis totally missed that one.

Wait, I have an idea! How about passing an ordinance that says the following:

Homeowners within designated fire-prone environments must maintain their structure and property by accepted standards that have been developed to prevent the ignition of structures on said property from igniting in a wildfire (fire-resistant construction, minimal 30-foot flammable vegetation clearance, appropriate vegetative cover to prevent the spread of fine fuels, external sprinklers, etc.). If said homeowner fails to perform such action and such failure is determined to have been a significant factor in the ignition of said structure, he/she shall be held financially liable for damage to adjacent structures caused by said home’s ignition, criminally liable for any firefighter injuries or fatalities caused as a result of said structural fire, and relocated after the completion of any prison time for said offences to Antarctica where ignorance of fire safety is least damaging to surrounding residents, plants, or animals if any.

jimhart

P.S. If anyone finds any bs here, please feel free to tear it up. Honest discussion is the only way we can really facilitate change.

1/11 Don't start too late getting your applications ready.
Here is a link for Seven Secrets for Writing
Successful KSAs. (Skills, Knowledge and Abilities)

How you respond to them determines if you are
qualified for a job. If you don't meet the KSAs, your
application won't make it to the next step. I'm not
happy about the way some are written. Good luck in
your job search.

www.fedsmith.com/articles/articles.showarticle.db.php?intArticleID=1128

And There I Was
1/11 Thoughts from an Old Green and Gray guy

I have been lurking here for a while reading all the hoopla of the Daniels issue and other things. When 30 Mile happened I had some serious questions about what really happened there and was deeply disappointed in the BS investigation. There were absolutely NO real answers about what happened or worse yet, how to prevent it from happening in the future -- just excuses and multiple finger pointing at everyone. Sorry no additional checklists, safety acronyms or prosecutions of employees are going to make things better or safer for the firefighter on the ground.

Conversely, I firmly believe that these actions are making life as a firefighter infinitely more dangerous because they are wrapped up in CYA instead of doing the job at hand safely. I am further disappointed in the performance of the Forest Service Leadership (lack of) specifically the Chief and Director of F&AM, more check lists, Doctrine, more smoke screen, where are their heads at? One poster here suggested throwing out the 10/18 perhaps they are right throw out all this acronym garbage and go back to the ORIGINAL 10 and 13 (yes 10 & 13) that said it all and these are not really grouped for management but for firefighter safety think about it! Commander’s intent is a good concept and it doesn’t need a big document to explain it simply put it is defined in Objectives, Strategy and Tactics tempered with serious application of the 10 and 13.

On leadership, well it is non-existent with most of the Forest Service, yet there is all kinds of “Management” they are woefully unschooled and unskilled in leadership. This trend has been evolving since the mid 80s. There are a very few islands of true leadership that remain and they are under assault by mediocrity which is becoming the accepted standard.

Several posters have commented on giving up or not obtaining Quals. Humm, if I was still on the job I would seriously consider the same thing; it isn’t worth what is happening to people that do make mistakes. I made more than my share and was extremely fortunate to not seriously hurt anyone.

Several years ago there was a post here on “Where have the ICs gone?” ab could you find it and repost it, as its very appropriate at this time. “Blackwell on Where have the ICs gone?(link on the Archives page, Docs Worth Reading section.)

I was an IC, and would not do it today. Yes there will be a huge IC void, and as previously pointed out, it will be filled, with more mediocrity. There are people out there that are “Qualified” but certainly not skilled, a product of the new version training and quals system that is a check the box and you are one. I heard it said the previous quals system was the “good ole boy” system and to a certain extent that’s correct. However, when a person was “qualified” under that system they had demonstrated through action on more than one or two occasions that they truly were, and not everyone made it through that process. Just think, not all high school or college football players that want to, make it to the NFL no matter how good they are locally.

This issue is greater than “Quality training” it is also "quality performance". I have personally witnessed employees that have been denied qualification when they were signed off for qualifications on a simple incident. They filed grievances and won, only to move on to the next level and become even more incompetent. The same applies to those that are known to promote by grievance... yet more mediocrity. When was the last time you know when someone’s quals were rescinded because they were incompetent and it stuck? So those considering giving up quals think about who will fill that void.

When I started, it was tin hard hats brown work shirts, levis and shelters were a new thing we didn’t trust. When I retired a few years ago off one of the busiest fire forests I had been a type I IC.

Maybe after 40 years of this your thoughts may sound the same. I wondered why all the old guys were cynical when I was wet behind the ears new.

Sorry for the length of this and I am sure that there are those who will disagree.

Old Green and Gray guy

Welcome Old Green and Grey. Ab.

1/11 The following factual investigation reports are now available at the
following web links:

New York Peak Burnover - July 25th 2006, Nevada

www.fire.blm.gov/textdocuments/NewYorkPkreport.pdf


Mudd Fire Entrapment/Shelter Deployment - August 23rd, Nevada

www.fire.blm.gov/textdocuments/MuddFactual.pdf

noname

Thanks noname, having the info available in several places is good. Links to those two were posted on our archives page under Documents Worth Reading and I think they're also linked on the Lessons Learned Website. Ab.

1/11 Ab,

I wrote this letter over 4 years ago. As you can tell, I was frustrated and concerned about my inability to control my exposure when I had little control over the workforce assigned to me, especially on fire assignments. Even though most people know who wrote it, I asked to have my name removed from it as I have moved on to other things and prefer not to have it following me around. My understanding is that it may be more applicable today than then. Each person must make his/her own decisions, but keep this in mind…..Wildland Firefighting is a noble and important career. The country needs you! My time has past, but yours may not have. Fight the good fight and try to make things better for you and your people.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Retirement letter ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am sending this letter to announce my retirement on September 30, 2002.

I made this decision with a great deal of reluctance. I feel like I am deserting. When I agreed to become a Type 1 IC I actually intended to work 2-3 years longer. Otherwise, I would not have taken the position. Since then, things have changed.

The event that changed my mind so abruptly is the 30-mile Hazard Abatement Plan. As you know, fire teams have been struggling to keep abreast of the issues and follow the large volume of direction all summer. The people on my team did an outstanding job.

The fact remains that the Forest Service, through layers of directives, action items, letters and other documents, has shifted the majority of the responsibility to FMO’s and IC’s. I believe this puts us in a vulnerable liability position if an accident does occur. It is impossible to guarantee 100% compliance with all the rules and still do the job, either at home or on a large fire.

The 30-mile investigation resulted in several adverse actions, including proposed removals. The Forest Service will not allow us to review the related findings, so it is impossible for us to understand what actions or omissions led to the disciplinary actions and make our own judgments. It is now unclear what support the agency is willing to provide in such instances. We are left guessing at the future. More importantly, I see a trend towards more aggressive involvement by family members of victims. When we live in such a litigious society, this is also concern.

My family, my lawyer and I all came to the same conclusion. I have the ability to remove myself from this risk, I should do so now. I am already eligible to retire so it no longer makes sense to allow myself to continue in what I consider to be a position of unacceptable, yet inescapable risk.

I hope my service this year has helped in one small way of allowing others another year of experience at DPIC so they are even more prepared to step up. I am proud to have been part of the R-XX Fire Organization, I think we are the best in the Nation. I am honored to have been one of your IC’s and wish the best to the entire Wildland Fire Service.

The team membership of my IMT was well established when I was given the assignment last Spring. I can say I inherited the best group of highly skilled and friendly people I have ever seen on one team. They have done an outstanding job in a difficult year. Please continue to give them your full support.

Sincerely,

<snip>

Thanks for letting us share this. Ab.

1/11 jimhart,

Now here's a piece about the Malibu Fire and history of fire and
politics in the area, link sent by a friend: Let Malibu Burn

Didn't the ICS start as a result of fires in Malibu and lack of a
common language/system among jurisdictions??

Mellie

1/11 Thomas R. Taylor,

Please contact the Wildland Firefighter Foundation for contacts within the Survivor Friends and Co-workers network who know and understand some things about your "incident" and your pain, and who are living day by day under similar circumstances of pain and grief as you are..... I'd bet you are living just one day at a time.... and it somehow gets us all through these trials and tribulations.....

Thom, you are amongst true friends.... Lots of "us" friends are on They Said and many of the family survivors contribute regularly.... Probably a reason many of us "flicker towards the light".......

Hopefully the light isn't a bug zapper.... (sorry.... needed some humor, but understand fully if someone is offended and not my intent at all)... but humor is an important part of healing....

Take care....

/s/ Kenneth Kempter
Wildland Firefighter
1/11 Re: Rebuilding houses lost in the Esperanza Fire

jimhart,

I dont think FEMA was involved. The only thing I can find is US taxpayer subsidized low interest loans from the United States Small Business Administration (SBA).... how is that for a bureaucracy stepping outside of their mission?

Here is the link: www.thedesertsun.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061218/UPDATE/61218016

Rogue Rivers
1/11 Still Crazy, your last name isn’t Horse, is it? Just kidding…

Anyway, the battle at Little Big Horn is actually an excellent example of why the systemic approach to solving problems is the best course of action instead of focusing on an individual IF you actually want to things to change. Yes, Custer was an arrogant leader, but what happened was the result of human error being caught up in a high risk environment that had been built long before Little Big Horn.

OK, about George.

He violated a number of standard Indian War orders:
  • Know what the Indians are doing at all times
  • Identify escape routes (the terrain made this almost impossible)
  • Maintain prompt communications, etc. (having split his cavalry into three divisions, this proved impossible)
And watch outs:
  • Indians not scouted out and sized up
  • Escape routes not identified
  • No communication link with divisions
  • Attempting a frontal assault
  • Indians between you and safety zones
  • Terrain makes escape difficult
  • Assuming Indians will retreat
  • Soldiers tired from long distance travel

What was this guy thinking? He was experienced and knew full well the consequences of such foolish action. Why did he do it? No one around to give testimony, but I think it fair to say he failed and could be justly blamed for what happened.

Now let’s look at it from the other perspective. George obviously didn’t go out there to die or have his men wiped out, but to wipe out a bunch of Indians like he had done so many times before (like his attack on a peaceful Cheyenne village in 1868, which both the Sioux and Cheyenne remembered quite clearly when they heard Custer was headed there way to “control” them). No need to go over the history of how we treated the Indians, but the government did sign a treaty in 1868 with Red Cloud promising to leave the Sioux alone, but with the Bozeman trail opening up, the Rocky Mountain gold rush, etc., well, promises, promises. Custer was sent in (under General Terry’s command) to deal with the renegade bands under Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull within a climate of intolerance and an official lack of respect for Indian life. The parallels here with modern atrocities during warfare and how they were likely encouraged by government leaders discounting things like the Geneva Convention are obvious.

Anyway, what happened at Little Big Horn was the direct result of an environment that had been created by a society interested in expanding the wildland-urban interface without regard to the long-term consequences of their actions. People were going to be killed, entire populations of Native Americans would be eliminated, and the country’s natural resources would be plundered.

Well, we finally woke up regarding the natural resource thing (no more hydraulic mining, controls on logging, and the formation of the USFS). Too late for the Native Americans though.

With the obvious deletions and modifications, you can put a crew boss’s name in the story above.

Crazy, we both agree that willful acts leading to harm need to be punished. What is different in our approaches I think is the emphasis I am placing on the system approach, the Swiss cheese model of analysis. I feel if we really want to improve firefighter safety, that’s where we have to look.

Oliver. About the WEZ. You make good points. We didn’t come up with this new term to muddle things up, but just to highlight something that a lot of folks outside of the fire community just don’t get; they are creating dangerous situations that can kill firefighters as well as themselves. New terms can help focus attention.

Regarding Malibu and the homes that burned there. From photos I have seen, the burned homes were surrounded with ornamental vegetation (pines and palms) as well as vegetation under overhanging decks. Trees, vines, and bushes were touching the structures without exception. The homes also appeared to be mainly wooden. The mayor of Malibu criticized the Coastal Commission for not allowing 300 feet of clearance. What’s wrong with this picture?

jimhart

1/11 Rod,

I've been to your neck of the woods on Severity a couple of times, and appreciate your knowledge, experience, and insight. Best of luck at the RO. Ab, can we add Rod's paper to the documents worth reading for those of us not in the USFS loop?

Mr. Taylor,

I won't for one minute pretend to know the personal Hell you have lived in since that afternoon in the Chewuch. It's also evident your feelings on the issue are strong, as they should be. One caution, though; Having been a witness in a criminal case, and I'll assume you'll be in the witness chair on this deal, it may be wise to limit your public comments until the judge excuses you. I know how badly you want to speak out, and I thank you for doing so. I also want to thank you for staying in the game, so that others can learn from your experience. It would have been easy to head to the nearest Jiffy Lube or Safeway and never wear the green again.

-FireBill
1/10 Letters of Support:

I have been totally overwhelmed with the responses I have received to my
letter "30 mile a Agency Slippery Slope". Based on the emails and phone
calls I have gotten, it appears that there are a lot of people that feel
very strongly about what has happened to Ellreese Daniels. I would like to
thank all of you that have responded, and if I haven't sent you a reply,
its due to the magnitude of emails I have received, and not that I am
ignoring you.

The letter that I sent to Dale Bosworth, Chief of the USFS,
Tom Harbour National Director of Fire for the USFS, Linda Goodman R-6
Regional Forester, Ken Snell R-6 Director of Fire Mgmt., all R-6 Forest
Supervisors, and all the Fire Staff's in R-6 has been fairly well received.
I have gotten responses from Dale Bosworth, Tom Harbour, Linda Goodman,
and Ken Snell, along with numerous others. They have all assured me that
they are working on several things to correct this injustice, but due to a
open criminal proceeding, they have not felt that it was appropriate to
comment publicly.

I have been asked (summoned) to the Regional Office to
assist the Regional Fire Director and Regional Forester in drafting a
"White Paper" on this issue on Thursday 1/11/07. We shall see what it has
to say, as we are all waiting for some Regional and National leadership on
this issue. I have also been told that all of the Regional Foresters and
the National Fire group are meeting soon to discuss this issue.

I have seen numerous changes in the fire community since I first started
as a GS-2 grunt, on a district fire crew in 1974, some positive, some not
so positive. Being a member of the wildland fire fighting organization has
been a wonderful career, the places I have seen, the close friendships I
have made on every fire, and those relationships keep getting stronger and
stronger.

There have been numerous people that have sent replies to my letter
asking what they can do to help resolve this issue that's before us. I
think one of the most important things we can do, is to engage in serious
discussions within our local Forest, Regional and National arenas, talking
with our Line Officers/ Agency Administrators, Cooperators , and others to
come up with a solution. There are also avenues to try and repeal the
Cantwell legislation. The fire community has always had a " Can Do "
attitude, and I feel very strongly that we can weather this storm and
effect some change within our organizations. We need to be there to support
Ellreese Daniels through this difficult time that's in front of him.

Another thing we need to continue to do is mentor and provide quality
training experiences for those that are coming up behind us, so that they
have the knowledge and confidence to face all the challenges that lay
before us in the future. So let's look forward to the day that our Agencies
will stand along side of us through thick or thin, 'cause if they fail to do
so, I fear that there won't be anyone to answer the call.

Rod Altig

1/10 Just curious if anyone knows of any alternatives for Mark III pump kits?
Besides tool boxes, or the standard GSA Green Packs.

Trying to come up with some better ideas than what we use here, and I'm not
finding much on the Web.

Thanks!

DP

1/10 Mr. Taylor,

My initial thought on your post was that I wouldn't be allowed to respond
due to the tone that my message would take. Another thought was that, after
watching you get picked apart at the Wildland Fire Safety Summit in
Missoula after 30 Mile by a couple of shot crew overhead, maybe I should
bite my tongue and take a walk. However, after a short search through
agency address lists, I see that you are still employed by the "great green
welfare machine", as am I. If our agency is so bad, you have other options
for employment where you could still participate in fire suppression and
not have to deal with all of the crappy supervisors, lazy employees, and
minimally qualified leaders that can't make solid decisions.

Your statement about the crew boss being responsible for the safety of all
of his employees is very true and I won't argue with you about that.
But, where does their responsibility lie with crewmembers that
intentionally disrupt and ignore issued directives? If I remember from
Missoula, you were up in that rockslide for the initial push and roll, then
moved down to the road afterwards (please correct me if I have my facts
wrong. I am just going on what you stated you did at the time at the scene)
Maybe you could enlighten the rest of us welfare employees working for the
big green machine on who made the decision to ride things out there and
why, when the aftermath photos clearly show that the road or even the
sandbar near where the vehicles were parked would have been a hands down
choice to deploy and survive, as most of the rest of the crew did. I think
at one time I even saw pictures of the crew rigs and they survived with
minimal damage.

I have never seen a true unredacted statement that covers the decision
process used by the rockslide squad and would be interested in reading one.

I can't think of any I.C. that I know that is perfect and makes the right
decisions one hundred percent of the time, and that includes myself. My
personal thought on this indictment is that it is going to open the door
for additional suits against more of us if and when we make an error or
someone working for us makes an error.

FMO Joe

1/10 Took a month and half off and I'm trying to catch up with posts ...

jimhart,

Is wildland entrapment zone (WEZ) something you came up with? I try to to keep up with the acronyms and the alphabet soup but haven't heard or read about the WEZ except on They said. What is WEZ trying to convey with regards to the WUI? Aren't there wildland entrapment zones outside of the WUI? If WEZ survives as an acronym shouldn't it be potential wildfire entrapment zone instead of wildland entrapment zone and be applied to any feature that could greatly change the fire complexity and suppression strategy? even as I read my own post I have misgivings... don't all wildland fires have entrapment concerns? Do we really need another label?

Mellie, After WWII and the Korean conflict concern was expressed about the number of homes being built in Oregon's forests and the changes to fire suppression and fire starts that would result from this intrusion onto Forest Land. ( gleaned from Fire Protective Association minutes from the early 50's)

In the 70's the forested area with homes at risk from Forest Fires (wildfires) was referred to as the Rural Forest Interface in Oregon. Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) is a relative new term (15 years old? ) Maybe someone on They Said will know the first recorded use of the WUI terminology.

Ab, thanks for the balance you added to the clearly partisan post/rant last month (lol). You could have added numerous other mis-quotes by a Senator from Massachusetts and a certain bridge but I think your point was well made.

Oliver

Hmmm, I leave for a 2 hr meeting and come back to a stuffed inbox. Ab.

1/10 Despite Hugh's (and others) kind words to the contrary, I am almost excited to report that I got my first "you're clueless" phone call today from an anonymous caller.

A gentleman called to speak to me about my "Letter to the Editor" of the Yakima Herald and inquired about my fire background. I indicated I had 24 years in the fire service, retiring as an A/C of Ops with a number of incursions into wildland firefighting. He responded by saying " I have 26 years of wildland firefighting experience and you're clueless" then hung up.

Gotta love the anonymous folks, which is why I applaud so many, including Thomas Taylor, Hugh, Dick, Mellie, Ken K. and others who have recently posted here with no reservations about using their true identities. It is an often difficult thing to do and opens oneself up to attack...but that's the nature of the business and I believe we all collectively do it because of our passion and affection for our Nation's wildland firefighters.

First & Foremost, I firmly believe that as an organization, the FWFSA wants to encourage all those with command qualifications to resist the temptation to remove them, not take assignments etc. I say that with the utmost confidence in our ability to get the liability issue addressed in Congress so as to provide more clarity as to Congress' intent and ensure they are aware of a number of concerns being raised about the prosecution of anybody under such circumstances.

While I'm sure there are a number of folks who are supporting Ellreese as "Ellreese the individual" still others support him, as they would anyone else in the situation as the symbol of the continuing implosion of the Forest Service Fire Program managed primarily by "non-fire" folks and a symbol of the double-standard applied by the OIG's office and that of the US Attorney as it relates to prosecutions under federal law. Shoshanna brought up an excellent point about the Border Patrol case.

While I'm sure all of us have either appeared to be incompetent at some time in our fire careers or actually have been so, the loss of life notwithstanding, incompetence is a far cry from criminal negligence. Let's face it, complex fires can make even the most seasoned, experienced officers look incompetent once hind-sight is applied...especially 5 1/2 years of hind-sight.

While discipline is a normal course of action, criminalizing poor judgment, even incompetence in an effort to provide "answers" to some, or to position oneself for a higher position, or to allow such prosecution of one person so as to deflect the dysfunction of the Agency leadership is simply wrong and will do more harm than good.

As a community, we can only hope that those representing Mr. Daniels will seek the expertise available from so many of you and that should a trial commence, jurors will be able to apply common sense and not get caught up in the emotion of it all, which, after all, initiated the legislation that has resulted in the prosecution.

Criminal prosecution is simply the wrong answer in my opinion which, again, from what I was told today, may be clueless...

To close, I offer a little tidbit to consider:

"To accomplish great things,
we must not only act, but also dream;
not only plan, but also believe"
Anatole France

Casey Judd

1/10 To jimhart-

Of course we must endeavor to improve the system which asks its employees
to bring order to chaos.

We must always look at the context in addition to human error. But we
cannot turn our backs- nor ignore- the fact that some actions
by incompetent people throughout history border on the criminal. Their
actions went well beyond simply failing to understand the feedback of the
situation. When all the variables were taken into account, many
individuals throughout history have proven that they were motivated by
elements of their own personal situation that had nothing to do with the safety
and well being of their subordinates. To General Custer it was arrogance and
his personal need to position himself for the Presidency which led to the slaughter
of his command at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Yes- we can talk about his
tactical blunders and the nuts and bolts of what happened on that day back
in 1876, but the essence of this tragedy was personal arrogance. The
Department of the Army gave Custer a great deal of "tactical discretion",
but without mastery of self, this discretion failed to serve Custer well.
You noted that "we need to focus on examining the system, the bureaucracy,
enabling policies, and the physical environment in order to find the root
causes of the problem. FIND the problem and solve it, not prosecute
individuals or add to Watch Out lists".

I can tell you what the problem is in these fatality fires. The problem is
that firefighters are caught in the wrong place at the wrong time by a head
fire that kills them.

The factors which define wrong place usually involve being above and or in
front of a rapidly advancing flame front. The factors which define wrong
time usually involve being in an area without a sound escape route/safety
zone at a time when the humidity and fuel moisture's are at their lowest
and the temperature and wind are at their highest.

I'm not trying to be a smart a$$ here (I was born one) but it seems to me
that if we use our heads, we might be able to place ourselves in the right
place at the right time and reinforce our chances of a safe outcome if we
add sound escape routes and safety zones to this equation. If you don't
want to die in a fire shelter -maintain a sound anchor, flank, establish
LCES and know your limitations. I agree- firefighters shouldn't be
worrying about liability- so quit worrying and do your job according to the
scope of your abilities and qualifications.

Still Crazy After All These Years

1/10 Ab,

I am fully aware of the issues, possibly more than you are, consequences and facts behinds this case, both legal and for what it will mean to wildland firefighters and government operations. I have been asked by local wildland firefighters to offer my firm's services, pro bono, to help Mr. Daniels and I am now consulting my associates on a decision to do so. After reading all I could about this case I believe this case is winable to the benefit of Mr. Daniels and ALL Wildland Firefighters. As for the investigator who interviewed Mr. Daniels, I probably have more on my Red Card than he does and have probably been involved in a lot more wildland incidents than he has (seriously, but as you say here "Tongue in Cheek).

My ending comment to my last post was just an off the cuff response to Mr. Daniels latest predicament. Having represented defendants under similar circumstances before, I know that this last incident won't help Mr. Daniels in the eyes of a jury. I do agree with Mr. Carson's (Hi Hugh) comments, well most of them anyway. I wish the best for Mr. Daniels and ALL Wildland Firefighters.

Shoshanna

1/10 Thom -

I'm going out on a limb here and being politically incorrect, I'm
sure.. I guess I have a few questions. Why did the crew go down the road
with Ellreese? Did anyone look at a map and see that it was a dead end
road? You state that Ellreese was incompetent and should have been fired
long before...so why would someone follow an individual that they feel
this way about? Also, I'm curious, Ellreese tried to pass off the IC
position to a couple people that are notably better experienced/qualified
individuals and they turned him down, how much support at that time do you
think he felt?

My biggest question is this...and I will agree with you in that there are
alot of incompetent firefighters out there that are promoted, even those
who can't read or write. But seeing as how this is the culture that the
Forest Service has created, shouldn't the Forest Service be on trial? How
about the supervisors that have given Ellreese passing performance
evaluations, how about those who signed off his task book for Crewboss, IC3
and Div? Ellreese makes it through the system, he's known to have some
faults yet he's continually given positive reinforcement in the way of a
permanent position and qualifications. So when he fails, it's his fault? I
don't follow.

Once again, as it's been said before, this whole mess shouldn't be about
trying to hang an individual that is a product of a faulty system, it
should be the search for the latent failures that led to this terrible
tragedy. If we turn our backs on this situation then a precedent will be
set, a "slippery slope" as Rod Altig put it. This is dangerous, Thom, as
dangerous as pulling your crew off the fireline and not telling the
adjacent forces that you are disengaging.

-Dozershot

1/10 A question about grants to Esperanza homeowners, and a thought about 30-mile…

Can anyone pass along information regarding grants to homeowners to rebuild homes burned down in the “bowl” during the Esperanza fire? I have heard that some are eligible for grants in excess of $100,000? I called FEMA and they said that since the Esperanza was not classified as a major disaster by the President, FEMA grants are not the source. I need to sort this out.

Part of any effort to solve the WUI/WEZ issue will need to address government subsidies of building homes in high fire risk areas. Clarification on such a thing occurring with the Esperanza fire from anyone here would be greatly appreciated.

~~~~~~~~~~

The unfortunate events that have transpired over the past month regarding Ellreese Daniels really highlight the fundamental problem with the belief many of us have in America about the individual and the role of society; individuals need to be held accountable for mistakes (not I didn’t say “their” mistakes).

The knee jerk reaction one frequently hears when something wrong happens is to find those responsible and hang them, either figuratively or literally. It’s all about the individual, not the environment in which the deed occurred. Obviously individual responsibility is important, but in our collective haste to find the guy who pulled the trigger, we miss the opportunity to fix the problem that led to the event in the first place. Consequently, enlisted personal and junior officers in Iraq will continue to face court marital for misdeeds, yet the misdeeds will continue. People like Ellreese (and perhaps the crew of Engine 57?) will continue to be blamed for making wrong decisions, yet wildfirefighter fatalities in the Wildland Entrapment Zone will continue (and I fear will increase as we go forward). And wildlands will continue to be held responsible for homes burning down in Malibu, yet homes continue to be built in a manner inconsistent with the fire-prone environment in which they exist.

As Lobotomy and others have expressed here so well before, it is time to drop this focus on pointing fingers and accept that human error (or battle stress, or homeowner irresponsibility) is just part of the game and is virtually impossible to eliminate. Instead, we need to focus on examining the system, the bureaucracy, enabling policies, and the physical environment in order to find the root causes of the problem. FIND the problem and solve it, not prosecute individuals or add to Watch Out lists.

The solider or wildland firefighter are at the END of the line of responsibility, not the source of the problem that originally initiated upstream. They are not sole agents acting in isolation of the environment in which they operate.

Should people who willfully commit acts that lead to harm be held accountable? Absolutely. But this business of firefighters worrying about liability in the performance of their duties and our tendency to blame the victim only guarantees future tragedies because the root cause is never addressed. Everyone is too scared to speak the truth.

jimhart

1/10 Ab-

It is interesting to watch the reaction of the wildland fire community to the plight of Ellreese Daniels.
There are howls of protest as to why we aren't having hunger strikes and protests to force Daniels' freedom.
I'm not sure whether we are freeing him from the revenge of the families of the 30 Mile Tragedy, or from his drug and alcohol charges.

Folks are definitely getting a little goosy about the consequences of making mistakes in the line of duty.

Perhaps we SHOULD be a little more concerned about the consequences of our actions. If we can justify our actions, and mitigate the risks to the best of our ability, then we shouldn't have any concerns. If we tolerate suppression actions that cannot be justified, then we deserve to be scrutinized as a profession. Should Ellreese specifically be the poster child for accountability within the wildland fire profession? I don't think so. All of us should be held accountable for our decisions and actions. No one should be above scrutiny- especially individuals who are looked upon to be the "experts". We will never justify killing people, because "our job is inherently dangerous"- so we shouldn't even attempt to go down that road. Public funerals for firefighters are inspirational experiences, but there are less costly ways to seek inspiration toward public service.

While we all make mistakes, we should never approach any suppression action with an laze fare attitude, or knowingly accept an assignment that is beyond our abilities and experience. Nor should any supervisor knowingly assign a subordinate to a task that is beyond that person's abilities. To never set someone up to fail should be the primary objective of any supervisor.

There are those who fear that no one will ever step up to the plate to be an IC again -if we are forced to be held accountable. I say- there will always be those individuals who care enough about the mission to risk a great deal for the sake of the public good. To these individuals, the profession of wildland fire management and public service will always mean more than the money, ego, a fancy t-shirt or a false sense of bravado. To these unique individuals, the profession of wildland fire management will always represent an opportunity to contribute to society in some small way. To those individuals who look upon the wildland fire profession as merely a "profitable diversion", I say "be afraid- be very very afraid". To those individuals I say perhaps the time has come for you to sell liability insurance instead.

Still Crazy After All These Years
1/10 Dear wildland fire community.

I have sat patiently by the computer many times reading the rants about the "Thirty Mile Fire" and how Ellreese Daniels is a victim, and the Forest Service is turning into a spineless agency that does not support its employees through hard and difficult times. I will admit that the Forest Service has turned into the " Budget Service," and is dangerously shying away from "Protecting the land and Serving the People." But we need to look at the facts. The I.C. is responsible for the safety of the firefighters. With that said, if the I.C. is back at the rig or in camp, and a sawyer makes a fatal error, is the I.C. responsible? Or if a engine responding to the fire is driving erratically to the fire and causes an accident, is the I.C. responsible ? No way!

Now on the other hand, if the I.C. takes two squads up a dead end road out in front of a running crown fire to "pick up some spots," then become entrapped and provides no leadership at the deployment site, are they responsible? Hell yes! They are responsible. I agree whole heartedly that the charges against Ellreese are ridiculous and have come too late. But the Forest Service needs to hold its Employees responsible for their actions when mistakes are made. The Agency is starting to turn into a Welfare program for people that are poor at their jobs, have sub-standard leadership qualities, and make poor decisions. In the real world, people like Ellreese would have been fired long before something like the Thirty-mile Fire ever happened. His incompetence is now on trial and its too late. So lets stick to the basics and remember that " S*%t grows back and Homes can be rebuilt"!

Thank-you
Thomas R. Taylor.
(Thirty mile Survivor)

1/10 I am concerned as a middle manager in the organization in my daily duties
and as an ICT2 (t) and OSC2 on fires about those of us stuck in the middle
of this situation. Here we are talking about this poor guy being
prosecuted and possibly going to jail, we are obviously talking about
people dying, and we as the middle managers are trying to encourage our
folks to stay positive and focused on preparing for our next round of fire
season here!!

On top of this, we ourselves are getting prepared to charge into the next
fire season. How are we supposed to instill confidence in our folks when
we (myself) are feeling vulnerable and naked in the face of potential
liabilities down the road. I am trying to tell people, I am personally
behind you and professionally supportive of you in your redcard capacities
and I will work with you and watch your back - yet i may not share that
confidence above my level. I am also concerned about personal choices and
my own liability of being sued or prosecuted as i am the sole support of 2
kids.

It makes it hard to keep working towards the fully qualified ICT2 position
when you have these thoughts in the back of your mind - but I also ask
myself - who is going to do the job if we all are scared away?

LC

1/10 Many of you are already aware that Ellreese Daniels was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over by a trooper. An open container was present as were pot and a couple of pipes in the glove compartment. My first reaction when hearing about it was "How can he make such a stupid mistake?" Well, I still have that question, especially if the drug stuff is his but none of us knows that at this time.

Although this will probably make the case related to Thirty Mile more awkward, it is not related and we must maintain our focus on those charges and not be diverted. The issue is whether Ellreese as a crew boss did anything criminal. That is the issue for all of us in the fire suppression community.

Let's all stay on track with the issue of greatest concern to all of us.

George Pozzuto
1/10 Dick Mangan and others:

I have been lurking in the background for over a week since you first put out your courageous appeal to help Ellreese – totally uncharacteristic of me but part of the “new Hugh”, the ex-firefighter gadfly and “renegade” who used to avidly seek out each and every cause that appeared to be unjust and who would rapid-fire out immediate responses to each and all at the drop of a hat – responses that were always passionate but more than occasionally ill-thought-out and ill-advised. I am slowly edging toward true retirement on our 40 acres and a little log cabin adjacent to the West Elk Wilderness on the west slope of Colorado.

That said, I just read the Yakima Herald article about Ellreese and his driver being busted for marijuana while returning from his arraignment. Hmmmmmm . . . . or as Mellie so aptly put it, “Eeeeewwwww, not good.” I imagine the phone lines are buzzing tonight among all the “Free Ellreese” contingent (which I hope numbers in the thousands).

My thoughts:

Very very very dumb of him. End of that observation. What happened, happened. What is, is.

However, the complexity that this latest twist has added is going to separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls, regarding each of our individual reactions, and our collective response as a community, to the basic inequity of his prosecution for 30-Mile. As the immortal Hunter S Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” (Referencing the Nixon era, I believe).

I would suggest that, before any one of us rushes to judgment and away from supporting him, we all remember one of the basic “mantras” of the AAR process: “It’s not about the who, it’s about the what.”

And the basic “what” of this is that the agency, the US Attorney, and assorted politicians perpetrated a grave inequity and injustice not only upon Ellreese but also upon us as a community. As well as upon the American Public.

However, this is now going to be a really really (really!!) tough one.

I can just hear the cackling now: “Oh boy, those firefighters on “They Said” got what they deserved for sticking their necks out for Ellreese, him being a deranged druggie and all. Probably was stoned that day up on the Okanogan.”

Or maybe a reaction that some of us may have had, to wit, “Uh oh, wrong move on my part, shouldn’t have stuck my neck out on this one. I better bail.”

This is exactly the response “they” are hoping for and it will play right into “their” hands, a hand which distressingly looks like a full house. However, we’re going to shove all the chips in and go for the inside straight flush. We have no choice.

Our individual and collective response to this is, without a doubt, going to determine what we are made of. No ifs, ands or buts. The line in the sand has been drawn, and this one’s going to show what we’re truly made of. I’ll use another oft-used, somewhat hackneyed but now most appropriate mantra: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Remember, stay on message: “It’s about the what, not the who.”

Dick and the rest of you out there, count me in for the long haul in the effort to correct the injustice that is being perpetrated upon the fire community and our citizenry. We’ve got a great spokesperson in Casey Judd (his letter to the editor of the Yakima newspaper was about the most eloquent and right-on thing I’ve read in a very long time). We’re all in this together.

Pax.

Hugh Carson
970-778-7078

"If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten."
1/10 Ab,

I've been married to a Firefighter for 12 years, Federal Wildland and now Career. My husband has been reading this site for several years and a few weeks ago he brought the 30 Mile charges to my attention so I have since been looking over past posts regarding the issues and the consequences. I have been an practicing attorney for 10 years during which time I was legal council for the DOE so I do have some experience dealing with government agencies. I am curious as to why the U.S. Attorney waited 5 years to bring charges, but then I'm dumbfounded as to why an U.S. Attorney would grant immunity to a known drug dealer and file charges against the two U.S. Border Patrol Agents who busted the lowlife.

I would hope that before people drop their Q's and run off to flip burgers at Burger King, spend days writing their Congresscritters or hold mass protests at the courthouse, they would let the judicial process work and see what the outcome is. Our legal system isn't perfect but it is the best in the world. Just remember that the U.S. Attorney has the burden of proving, without a doubt, before twelve of his peers, that Mr. Daniels was negligent that day. Until the verdict comes in I think Mr. Daniels needs to stay clear of Washington State Troopers beside the roadway, Marijuana, Drug Paraphernalia, and 24oz'ers...its doesn't say much for sound judgment.

Shoshanna
Attorney
Montan

Ok, this Ab is going to weigh in on this:

Shoshanna, Please read Hugh's post above. Hugh hits on the real issues. There are multiple levels of injustice here with critical implications:

  • at the individual level, the injustice to Ellreese on the fire and lying charges
  • at the higher system level, the injustice that involves our wildland firefighting community and the incident command system. How these charges impact this level has critical implications for public safety across the nation and for national security, since we come under DHS directives.

If we do not look at the whole picture, and act from the fire professional knowledge place - as an alternative to simply letting the process "take its course" - we will be in danger of the equivalent of riding into Baghdad and thinking that we've won the war. Fire professionals must speak up to educate and impact the outcome. I know that most non-fire people do not understand the true issues or the implications for our country.

I think because of your law perspective, you may not understand that simply the "bringing of charges" (charges) poses a critical threat to the wildland fire community's Lesson's Learned process and poses a threat to every Incident Commander who cannot follow every rule and checklist we're currently obligated to follow and check off.

Similarly because you see the legal process as a just process or one that is usually valid, you may not recognize that people who are innocent and are unjustly accused pay a price financially and psychologically. They can risk loosing everything dear to them simply in trying to raise the money necessary to fight for their innocence or else they're forced into plea bargain. In Ellreese's case, for one thing, his constitutional rights were violated in where/how the information regarding the fire was gathered in order to bring those charges. Who is accountable for that? Do they or their agency go on trial?

Take a deep look at the 30mile Report. Take a deep look at the "rules" that the legal system expects accountability on. Take a look at the charges. And you say trust the system? How can we when anyone in a supervisory position next season could find themself in Ellreese's position following a tragedy?

Shoshanna, My apologies for landing in your "square". I have too many people telling me behind the scenes that they're planning to retire early or not statusing themselves in ROSS this year, or will decline serving on an Incident Management Team. We won't know until we see how many IMTs form up this year what the outfall is of this action against Ellreese and the failure of Fire leadership and ...

Here's another excellent article that was posted recently that lays out the issues and implications of charges being brought. www.missoulian.com

Ellreese, shame on you for whatever reason you were in the car doing whatever you were doing several days ago after your court appearance on the 30mile charges.

Ab.

1/10 jb,

I was also told that an ICT3-trainee is not covered and is not eligible for the 50% reimbursement. I don't know how factual this information is, but it came from an S.O. person responsible for finding out the facts in R2 (PSICC) - and that hasn't always resulted in accurate information.

And this brings up another factor in how this entire situation will discourage people from moving up in the system. Makes you think twice and strongly consider turning the other direction.

I would love to wake up tomorrow and find that the last Yakima Herald article was a huge mistake and misprint.

S
1/9 Just because someone is a Type 1-3 Incident Commander (IC) does not qualify
them for 50% reimbursement of Professional Liability Insurance premiums. Even
some supervisors and managers do not qualify. (See below).

Gizmo

>FSM 6184 - INSURANCE.

6184.1 - Professional Liability Insurance. For direction on the
partial reimbursement to eligible employees (certain supervisors,
managers, and law enforcement employees) for the cost of
professional liability insurance, see
FSH 6109.12, chapter 70.


>FSH 6109.12, CHAPTER 70 - INSURANCE

HERE for the rest
1/9 jd,

The decision is jointly made.... kinda...

The official decision is made by the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of General Counsel (OGC).

The OGC usually makes a finding of whether the "person" was acting within the scope of their duties..... with some big exceptions..... 1) During the commission of a crime, and 2) During an action that could be considered to be "grossly negligent".

Input to the OGC decision is given by "experts" in the Forest Service.... thus the "jointly made" statement.... We know where the "experts" and "leaders" in the Forest Service have concentrated their efforts in the past..... and it hasn't been protecting the actions of employees........ Since 1994, the efforts have concentrated on CYA rather than learning, moving on, and healing... and in very rare cases.... holding people accountable for their failures.

Lobotomy
1/9

I didn't get a chance to do this yesterday, I would like to wish Jason McKay's sister a Happy Birthday......

Happy Birthday Crystal J.!!!!

BatGrl 12

1/9 Dozershot:
Some info on negligence: criminal or civil from wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.
Click on some of the links to explore more deeply... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_negligence

jb:
Thanks, I remember that now, SUPERVISORY.

jd:
I don't know who decides, besides the FS legal beagles; maybe someone else will. I researched all around this back in the Cramer liability days. Here's what I found. I barely remember researching and writing that piece. It's no secret, I really don't like people having to solve problems through litigation. (I do like people working together on MOUs to streamline agreements prior to crisis, however.)

Now, Casey loves all the legal stuff. Thank goodness! Maybe he knows more details.

Mellie

1/9 liability insurance:

In response to the question of what does it take to get the FS to pay half of liability insurance.

To the best of my knowledge you must have the word "supervisory" in your official title or you are a Type1, 2, 3 Incident Commander. I do not believe they cover T4 or T5 IC's. Too bad, but so like the FS to not cover the folks that might need it most.

Wright and Company have upped the coverage this year. It is now $100,000 for criminal cases and $200,000 (new) for civil cases for legal representation. They also added $10,000 in identity theft reimbursement.

Liability insurance can no longer be done through payroll deduction.

www.wrightandco.com

Hope this helps.

jb

1/9 mellie or anyone else

who in the agency makes the decision whether or not to
provide legal representation for an employee?

jd
1/9 Mellie -

So how is "gross negligence" defined? I think we need another pocket
card....just so we know.

-Dozershot

1/9 Eeeeewwwww, not good, not very smart, even if he was "just along for the ride"..

Mellie

1/9 Another article from the YakimaHerald in today's paper

www.yakimaherald.com/page/dis/287927709736403

SJ

1/9 Lots of action on the Hot List last night with the Malibu Fire. As many know, fire season never ends in SoCal.

Thanks, All, for your professional reporting using the appropriate subject line: state, unit and fire name ID. It's great to have good "reporters" on board sharing bare-bones, critical info that can help interagency fire managers first and foremost. Ab.

1/9 jd,

What I remember the two different presenters (one a rep and one a lawyer) from Wright and Co saying is roughly this:
When the going gets tough for the feds, their lawyers take the path of least resistance, to cover the Agency's rear end first. Agency lawyers are not acting on your behalf first.

Basically the lawyers for the Agency are in a conflict of interest position, the conflict being

  • do they support the employee or
  • do they protect themselves first?

Lawyers always protect their employer first. That's a no-brainer.

This priority is more true now than in the past when the world as we know it wasn't decided by lawyers, court cases, and out-of-court settlements, including the equivalent of plea bargains that make you a felon. We currently live in a "litigation happy" reality. We also assume that everything is prettymuch black and white, and that we human beings make totally logical decisions and accountability for following the black and white rules (and profits) is key. Companies and agencies used to foster the "we are a family" ideal. No more. Now it's about profit, market share and protecting the company/agency's own self-interest. [Has anyone heard the rumor out of R4 that Forest Rangers (line officers) are going to be required to catch 98% of new starts on IA. Accountability, costs... Hopefully just a rumor... What do most of them know about IA? If true, is this going to be another black-and-white thing?]

In my opinion, in this meaner profit/cost-driven reality, we no longer have a balance of power in this country among the Legislative, Judicial, and Administrative branches of government. "The Judicial Branch Rules" and the outcomes are not "fair" or "just". All branches have been given a black eye in part because the judicial runs rampant, forcing settlements out of court, that often result in the little guy without financial resources and/or social capital getting the short end of the stick, never mind justice being served. (phew deep breath after that run on sentence)

I watched the criminalization of the medical profession some years ago. Litigation follows the money. Results:

  • Medical costs have skyrocketed.
  • The first and foremost thought is CYA.
  • Fewer doctors are trained and enter the profession. (Many go into the legal "profession" instead.)
  • We have a critical nursing shortage world-wide.
  • Doctors, nurses -- the whole medical profession has lost a large measure of credibility with the people they serve.

The situation in fire is simply a repeat, currently being laid upon our firefighters. Unless checked, I expect the same pattern to prevail with even more skyrocketing fire costs, shortages of fire managers, loss of our Incident Management Teams and negative public attitudes toward the agencies.

jd, To get back to your question about what liability insurance covers, exactly, for wildland firefighters...

No, professional liability insurers do not cover "gross negligence" or "criminal wrongdoing", but what firefighter/manager who has had a crew burned over has been grossly negligent, let alone criminal? I believe that to begin with they assume that firefighters are not grossly negligent. If they assume it, the agency lawyers are more likely to assume the same, probably because they'll be made aware by someone speaking their same language.

Liability insurance company lawyers make the greatest difference, in my opinion, right at the beginning following an accident/fatality/act of God. Having them available means you have a "secret weapon", a supporter to call on, someone who will tell you "don't talk" until I can advise you of the "parameters of the legal field". You are paying this person/company who is expert in this kind of law to "watch your six" and give you pointers, because you will be unlikely to care for yourself simply on the emotional level in the midst of this crisis. You are paying for their knowledge of the legal pitfalls that you need to be aware of and to navigate to try to simply survive inside your own head in the future. Your life will never be the same, but without a legal supporter, it likely will be a whole lot worse. Normally, we think of ourselves as good people, competent, doing our job, and for those of us in fire we think of ourselves as "public servants". To date most of us are not used to thinking of ourselves walking among others who do not share our values. Finding yourself stabbed in the back by your agency and "the system" comes as the rudest of shocks...

Point: Legal pitfalls are often determined by outcomes of congressional bills and prior legal skirmishes in a court of law or out. Law and interpretation of it is based on past legal history - legal precedent, not necessarily on fairness.

Normally when a firefighter needs this kind of legal support, they're in the same vulnerable psychological shape as the families of the fallen. I wish it wasn't so, but they need a legal WFF, an organizer, a personal advocate who is thinking more clearly, especially one with the right kind of legal expertise. They have lost a fire family member and are stunned, bereft, possibly injured physically themselves and their normal extended fire family support group is often equally dysfunctional. They can't think straight. Typically they can't remember large chunks of what happened. Often they can't make the simplest of arrangements for food, lodging, transportation, normal daily activities. Some feel the need to withdraw; some, the need to tell the story over and over (bad move). At some point early on, all humans think "thank god it's not me". Then they feel guilty, second guess themselves and can play it repeatedly over again in their minds. (Lt Col Dave Grossman, PhD, ex-Ranger, describes this eloquently in On Combat; he's a fantastic speaker as well. Taught psych at West Point. Good guy, down to earth for all his expert knowledge of human factors under stress.)

Oh my, I can tell if I don't end this I will go on for hours, maybe days... I am sorry for what our Agency has come to regarding support of firefighters and other employees. But to put their actins in context, let me ask: Were they pushed there by lawyers representing people in grief? grievance-filing employees? environmentalists? by laws created by our Congress in a highly charged bipartisan climate in DC? hopped on by DoJ legal beagles who want an appointment as judge? Where does it begin? Where end? No answers; it's a process.

oopsie, the timer on my keyboard just announced a 1 min limit to wrap it up

In spite of all this, I am optimistic. We can affect the future. Thanks to everyone writing here, writing your reps, and to those working and researching behind the scenes.

Mellie, over and out...

You getting paid by those professional liability companies? (tongue in cheek) Ab.

1/9 Does anyone know why the USFS did not provide an
attorney for Ellreese? What is the reason, no
speculation, just the facts please. Does the Federal
Employees Union have any responsibility to help out?
What exactly would professional liability insurance
cover if the gov't says you were outside the scope of
your job? My understanding liability insurance would
not cover you for gross negligence, am I correct or
just paranoid?

Maybe someone could take on this nonsense as a TFM
project.

jd
1/9 Hi All,

The Jobs Page is getting pretty active already this year. If you'd like to see some different faces when you get to work, have a change of scenery, maybe take home a little more money, or just see what's out there, have a look. Several private vendors accept applications year-around and there are currently job openings advertised for Wyoming, Alaska, Utah, and Arizona. Handcrews, Engines, Helicopters, Paramedics, and more.

On the other hand, there are a couple of unique equipment items for sale on the Classified Ads page, along with several wildland engines. Think of what you could do with your own aviation communication/command centers! Check 'em out.

OA

1/9 I was wondering if anyone can tell me where I can find more information on
professional liability insurance. Such as who offers it and what position do you
need to be in for the F.S. to pay half ?

AV

Posted last month: from an '05 memo that circulated on how to obtain Professional Liability Insurance.
Anyone know what the exact requirements are for getting the feds to pay half? Ab.

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

These are simple instructions for obtaining Professional Liability Insurance and reimbursement from the Government for ½ the amount.

1. Make contact with an insurance company that offers Professional Liability Insurance for Federal employees and apply. Go for the 1 million dollar policy and this will give you $100,000 for legal fees. Wright and Co. is one source. One provider may offer a different policy than another. Go to the attached web site for additional info.

www.wrightandco.com/Plans/liability.php

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

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

PROFESSIONAL FEDERAL LIABILITY
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.
and...
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)

1/9 Re: For those of us who have been afraid to speak "on the record" as professionals for so many years.....

Friends.... it is time to hammer down for firefighter and community safety.....

There are three things you should do if you are a current Federal Employee or FORMER federal employee and want to protest and speak about the severe safety failures of the Thirtymile Prosecution and the entire collapse of upper leadership within the wildland fire program:

1) Contact your local elected officials with your concerns,
2) Write down everything... your thoughts, your goals etc... share them on a "blog" if you have access to one or a safety "forum" such as this one, and anonymously with your contacts "as friends"
3) Contact the United States Office of Special Counsel Website with the facts....

OSC's Disclosure Unit (DU) serves as a safe conduit for the receipt and evaluation of whistleblower disclosures from federal employees, former employees and applicants for federal employment. 5 U.S.C. § 1213. In this capacity, DU receives and evaluates whistleblowing disclosures-which are separate and distinct from complaints of reprisal or retaliation for whistleblowing which are reviewed by OSC's Complaints Examining Unit as a prohibited personnel practice.

The OSC disclosure process differs from other government whistleblower channels in at least three ways: (1) federal law guarantees confidentiality to the whistleblower; (2) the Special Counsel may order an agency head to investigate and report on the disclosure; and (3) after any such investigation, the Special Counsel must send the agency's report, with the whistleblower's comments, to the President and Congressional oversight committees.

As stated above, a whistleblower's identity will not be revealed without their consent. However, in the unusual case where the Special Counsel determines there is an imminent danger to public health and safety or violation of criminal, the Special Counsel has the authority to reveal the whistleblower's identity.
5 U.S.C. § 1213(h).

Welcome to the United States Office of Special Counsel Website

Who We Are

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency. Our basic authorities come from three federal statutes, the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, and the Hatch Act.

For those with things to SAY ON THE RECORD, but would like to say them ANONYMOUSLY without fear for their jobs or their family security..... .... HERE is the location.

Sometimes it is hard to speak on the record.... but when it comes to safety, folks need to act upon the "Greatest Good" for all..... Speak up!!!

Gizmo..... a Whistleblower

1/9 Dick Mangan, Point taken, I was brought up to be respectful and then
go from there! Thanks for all that you do.

Rod, Your post reminded me of a quote. "To sin by silence when they
should protest makes cowards out of men" Abraham Lincoln

Let me add: 20/20 hindsight is a matter of laziness for some. It is all they
can see without having to pull their head out.

Stay safe! "Kicks"

1/9 Trench Warfare,

What you asked about is (I think) about the "Commanders Intent" never being heard or understood from the field....

The biggest problem: No Commanders have stepped up at the RO/WO levels to admit failures nor accept their mistakes.I doubt any of them will unless they are true leaders... true leaders embrace what has worked and put down the failures that have plagued them in the past.

It takes alot of dedicated people to say BS where BS is due. There will be leaders who step up...... And some..... some who just do ?

Gizmo
1/9 Rod Altig,

You hit it on the the head better than most of us could ever before....

Your post was from the heart and without any fear of your statements being used against you.... kinda like a gut reaction.... but from a well known local expert.

Thank You Rod..... You Rock.... Hopefully all of us will be protected while trying to make things safer in the future for our firefighters and their families....

Things need to be said.... and it is for the "Greatest Good"....... Hopefully some of the ICT1's and ICT2's will speak up on the record..... As a protest and on the facts about the violation of federal law that the USDA OIG was allowed to accomplish.....

Special Agent Parker broke the law...... and exceeded his investigative authority for some reason.... in direct violation of PL 107-203...... and his actions will lead to increased risks for wildland firefighter safety in the future......

<To Ken Weaver Only and the FitzPatrick Family> If you want to see wildland firefighters safer.... Contact me or others.... I will introduce you to friends who have similar interests.... and similar goals....Things will get better... I promise.... but you have to let go of the anger.......... and you have to focus.... without anger.... on how you would like to feel in the future as you begin healing.... really healing.... and understanding....

/s/ Kenneth Kempter
Wildland Firefighter, District AFMO
ICT2(t), OSC2, DIVS, ICT3... etc....
1/9 The family of Daniel Kurtis Najera - Firefighter of Engine 57 wishes to thank all of you who expressed your condolences and good wishes to us for our loss. We are very grateful for the outpouring of cards, flowers, prayers and support that we received during this difficult time. Danny's contribution to our community will live in all the memories that each of you hold.

Many thanks to our 'Family of Firefighters' who have continued the outpouring of love and support, Chaplain Bruce Schmidt, Chaplain Wade, Stacy McLain, Chaplain Jim Cook and the many others who we have been blessed to have as part of our family...

I ask that you please continue to pray for the families of Mark, Jess, Jason and Pablo, for strength and peace, the men of Engine 57 are forever in my heart and prayers, for as long as I live... God Bless you all and ‘Love’s last gift - Remembrance’ ...

Respectfully from 'Danny's Mom',
Gloria Najera-Ayala

So sorry for your and our loss, Gloria. We keep all in our thoughts and prayers. Ab.

1/8 Here's some info from Lobotomy on help needed to Unblock the Money for Esperanza Families.
He's been corresponding with someone (I snipped the name) who needs this community to write letters to help get this CA bill passed. Ab.

Re: California Assembly Bill 108 (AB 108), an effort to change CA Franchise Tax Board Laws for the Esperanza / E-57 Families:

Benoit Legislation Will Remove Hurdle Blocking Money for Firefighters' Families

"Lobotomy",

I've been in contact with Battin's office. We are both in the same position of waiting for committees to be constituted and our bills to become eligible. My boss has spoken to Assemblyman Calderon, who is chair of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee Chair, about working together to get the necessary rule waivers to expedite the process. Will let you know as soon as we are able to get those rules waivers and get a hearing date.

In the meantime, letters of support for AB 108 should be directed to Assemblyman Benoit (FAX: 916-319-2164) and copied to the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee (FAX: 916-319-2198). I've attached a fact sheet and a sample support letter. Your help in generating as many letters as possible from supportive organizations would be much appreciated.

Thanks!
<snip>

Here's a fact sheet on AB 108 (word document file)

Here's a sample letter that could come from an organization or from individuals. Think of all the organizations you belong to and get each of them to send a letter. Send a letter yourself and get family and friends to participate. Modify the example below as you will. This can be very simple. Ab.

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

<January date, 2007>

The Honorable John J. Benoit
State Capitol, Room 4144
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: SUPPORT FOR ASSEMBLY BILL 108

Dear Assemblyman Benoit:

I am writing to express the support of <Name of organization: not fed or state, please> for your bill, AB 108. Thank you for introducing this important legislation.

AB 108 would facilitate the distribution of over $1 million in charitable donations to the families of the five firefighters who were struck down in the line of duty while fighting the October 2006 Esperanza fire.

<Name of organization: not fed or state> is pleased to offer its support for AB 108.

Sincerely,

<Name>
<Title within the organization.>

1/8 I have sat and thought of how to put into words the feelings that Rod has
beaten me to; I will say that I agree with him whole heartedly and would
willing attach my signature to his statement!

I believe a former employee asked some of these same basic questions, made
the same basic comments during an IC meeting here on the South End of the
Forest a few years ago, and we were told then that the Agency would stand
behind our decisions, guess that "slipped down that slippery slope"!
When was the last time a structure firefighter was charged over the
decisions they made when in the performance of their duties??

Doug Baxter
AFMO
Heppner RD
Umatilla NF

Welcome, Doug. Ab.

1/8 I have enclosed my personal and professional thoughts about the recent
criminal charges filed against the 30 mile fire IC, Ellreese Daniels. The
silence from the fire community has been deafening. I wonder where is the
outrage, when an Agency employee, doing the Agency's work, is allowed to be
brought up on criminal charges and the Agency is nowhere to be seen. I
think it time we have a dialogue about supporting our IC's and Operations
personnel, before we have gone so far down this slope that there isn't
anyone left that's willing to perform these crucial positions. I am sure
there will be those that disagree with my statements, and that fine, that's
part of the process. Feel free to share this with others, or delete, or do
what ever...but please, lets not sit here in silence.

Rod Altig
Fire Management Officer
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Welcome Rod, your letter has landed in the right place for public viewing (more than 100,000 per week). Thanks for getting the word out through your channels. Most of us are having the same thoughts and are sharing them loud and clear. Well written piece. Ab.

1/8 Abs and all:

There are a lot of things going through my mind right now, and where to start?

Knuckle Dragon: After 6 years with the FS in R1, I almost decided not to come back this year. Being one of those apprentices under a service agreement I feel obligated to serve out my term, but because of a work injury and the process involved in fit to work exams, I was left feeling less than capable in doing my job. Fighting OWCP for 2 years and paying medical bills that my insurance no longer will pick up is disheartening. I was also looking at working over 500 miles from home just to finish my contract. Add in the debacle that E. Daniels is facing, and being an ICT5, and not being able to afford liability insurance on a GS-5 salary my confidence in the agency is being shattered.

What keeps me in the agency, punishing my body on a daily basis and away from home at 3 week to 1 month intervals is people like you that take advantage of "teachable moments" and give me a passion for passing on YOUR legacy.

People like Vikki Minor and her employees at the WFF motivate me as A HUMAN BEING, to be compassionate and understanding when I deal with people who are not. I step up financially as much as I can to support them.

I put fatality fire anniversaries on the Fire Cache calendar, and Reports on the workbench at work to stimulate conversation on REALITY, and let our temps ask thought provoking questions that may provide a frame of reference and someday save their lives.

Although it may get me in trouble, I put brochures from the FWFSA in every location I can and answer as many questions as possible over a beer or beverage of choice.

I hurt in earnest for families like those in Dave Boyds of Dixon Montana who is losing his battle for life to a monster that I have personal experience with (cancer).

If it wasn't for the people in fire that have influenced me positively even when I was being a turd, I would be another retention statistic. This forum keeps me educated, and allows me a voice.

I can't protest like many will by standing down although I would like to, but my obligations are to my fellow f.technicians. Instead of being mad, I wake up every day to try and make a change in someone's life, and the process we are all slaves to.

I still have hope, although very little faith in my agency. Fear keeps many from speaking out. Please remember, although we are getting little support professionally, we are still a Family of humans here to support each other.

Be safe, always remember and never forget!

MT Firefly
1/8 Update on 52 Mile Walk Donations:

Hi All,

Would everyone please check the confirmed paid donations and the unresolved pledge lists?

Between Lillian at the WFF and I, I think (I hope) the paypal problems have all been figured out and I've marked them paid on the pledge list.

Thanks for your patience and help everyone. Many thanks for your support of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

As you can see, some pledges are still unresolved. We've been trying to sort unresolved from the unpaid and we're closer. This is not as easy as it would seem. With the holiday mails, some checks took more than two weeks to reach the WFF! In some cases donations have come from someone who has paid the pledge of someone else. In other cases a company has paid what someone pledged or vice versa. Some people used maiden names to pledge and paid in their married name or paid for a spouse of another name. (My knowledge of this community and the companies has allowed me to make the connection on a number of these.) People used the data fields creatively in pledging and I may not have been able to find the pledge even though I searched on a last name or on the first name or on the company name. Bottom line, there are still unresolved that may have been paid.

A number of people have written in to clarify their payments as a result of seeing the two lists. Thank you! Helping the Foundation through this at holiday time and saying THANKS to donors was the purpose of the lists. (Sorry to the two or three who felt unnecessarily embarrassed. We certainly didn't mean for you to be!) As a result of our help, the folks at the WFF who will be emailing the remainder of the unresolved/unpaid pledge list have much less work to do.

Big thanks to Feser's CIIMT1 for the team pledge and for sorting out the donations afterwards!

At this point I think I have done about all I can to streamline this process. After everyone has one more look, I'm emailing the database to the WFF, say on Wednesday morning. Feel free to email me before then with any further clarifications.

Great job Eldorado shots! Thank you logistics people and supply companies who provided support at "walk camp"! Couldn't have done it without you! Thanks to walkers and their families, to the WFF folks who showed up and to the families of our fallen who attended. It was a fun and inspirational time, a great way to celebrate community.

Ab.

1/8 Ab:

It sure is interesting to compare the Chief's message (I just pasted the first page text without the rest below) with statements in the Foundational Doctrine that there will be serious accidents and fatalities in wildland firefighting. Is it any wonder confusion seems rampant in the FS agency? Where does this leave the groundpounders?

Sign me:

Trench Warfare

January 5, 2007

2007 New Year's Resolution:

~ No Accidents in 2007! ~

FROM THE WEEKLY REPORT

Trench Warfare, I believe we must always hold the intent to have no accidents/fatalities, knowing there might be some because firefighting is a dangerous job. The intent of no accidents translates into following our training, making sure we're rested and fit and HAVE OUR SEATBELTS FASTENED. Be Safe. Ab.

1/8 FOBS73,

Take another look. The NWCG now has the fire orders grouped along the idea of 3 primary things that command needs to focus on: fire behavior, fireline safety, and organizational control. www.nifc.gov/safety_study/10-18-lces.phpl

The wording and order that I use is based upon the "command concepts" theory developed by a Rand Corporation study of historical military battles. www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR775/index.phpl

I've heard folks say we need to drop the fire orders and the 44+ other proscriptive rules of engagement in favor of the FS Doctrine approach that relies upon commander's intent. Unless the commander has some command concept, then what intent will they express? What intent will you take to the assignment if command can't find a way to express 1) this is what the fire's gonna do, 2) this is what we're gonna do, and 3) these are the contingencies if I have it all wrong???

What will you say to someone who says, "Just trust me, I can't explain it to you because it's all too complicated for you to understand, but go out there on the fireline without knowing the fire, the people or any backup plan and...."

vfd cap'n
1/8 General Hertzog, well said!

You have pounded the nail right through the wall and out the other side! With 30+ years in this business, it appears I've been incredibly lucky. 30 years ago, not only were we relatively clueless to 'fire as a science', our SOP was - if our level of intel (SA?) was insufficient, the crew boss would surely tell us, otherwise, a$$h0les and elbows was pretty much all we needed to know. With the benefit of hindsight, I'm pretty sure some of my early CRWBs didn't 'know' a whole lot more than I did - but their instincts were probably pretty decent. Thank the Lord we have all these handy-dandy checklists now! I've watched crews in the last few years 'let' flash-fuel fires go from 2/10's to 5 acres while the checklists (30-Mile et al) were duly reviewed. Most of them didn't realize how much risk exposure had increased (for themselves today & for others in future shifts) while they turned pages, but you could see the frustration on the faces of the old salts.

I'm about 3 years from mandatory retirement, and I care more about the welfare of my troops than anything else, but some days (when the BS factor is turned to 'high') that 3 years seems like an awful long time. I'm no rocket scientist, but I recognized about 15 years ago that, given the path we were on, (i.e., no appreciation whatsoever for those who did the job because they loved it, but were coming up against age 35 with no 'appointment' in sight; and no programs to deal with the coming dearth of experience in the works), eventually we were going to 'green up' - i.e., we were going to lose the 'sector boss' types and replace them with 'type 5 ICs (ye gods!). Well, here we are.

God bless you, CA Seasonal, but as the Gizmos, KnuckleDragons and Misery Whips bail (at an even faster rate, due to the 30-Mile debacle, which is really just a surrogate for the larger issue of the future of the fire service as a whole), you and your compadres (with not a hell of a lot more seasoning than what you have) represent the future. It will be folks like you who will have to make the decisions on the line, in the smoke and chaos, about what's right and what's wrong [and what level of risk you and your family can afford to take]. I hope at least you'll have jumped the 'forestry tech' hurdle which has stumped us all for years, by that time. But when the congressionals and lawyers are out for blood (which seems to be the unfortunate reality these days), your title will be the least of your problems.

I always kind of thought I'd soldier on after retirement as an AD, but with the cost of liability insurance and the low esteem in which our firefighters are held, the greeter gig at Wally World is sure starting to look like an attractive alternative, and I'll probably sleep better at night as well.

Good Luck and God bless, CA Seasonal. Wish I could be more optimistic.

Old Boot

1/8 Craziness in the FS...

OMG

I have long read Misery Whips posts with a great appreciation for his insight and experience.

I feel that I must weight in with my support for his latest one. I cannot remember when I have
seen anything, here on TS or anywhere else that hit the nail on the head the way he has!

Why is he/she not a prominent leader in the Forest Service instead of some of the spineless
morons that have been silent in this matter?

I would love to meet and know Misery Whip before I go to jail or the poor house.

BB

1/8 Hello all,

Though I don't believe a stand-down will solve the current problem facing Ellreese, I do believe an actual SHOW of support is the best way we can all help out. Personally, I will be on the district courthouse in my greens, yellows, and boots with a FREE ELLREESE sign in my hands on Jan. 30 in Spokane. I understand it's easier for some than others to make it, but if any other laid off temps from around the area want to get involved, it would be a great opportunity to show our support for Ellreese. This kind of thing is what makes America great, our right to voice our opinion. Ellreese was my parent's crew boss in the late 70's/early 80's and was an instructor for my rookie class in 2001; he is a great guy and deserves our support.

-Hog

1/8 Hello Abs,

A very good web page support of “Whistle blowing”

www.whistleblower.org

RR

I hear through the grapevine that some folks have already signed up. Ab.

1/8 Hey Mr. Harbour I have some gear that I can loan you to remind you of us little
people and what we are dealing with. Remember where you came from. The
ANGELES !!!

SouthZoneFF
1/8 To everyone on TheySaid that contributed to the Santa's Helper fund at the WFF, thank you.
I was able to show my kids, in a very personal way, the compassion and caring of people. I let
them know that this was made possible by folks who had never met us, yet they cared enough
to make their Christmas a little brighter. This is truly an invaluable lesson that my kids will be
able to take with them throughout their lives and use in return.

A very happy and prosperous New Year to all.

Lori Greeno
1/8 "KICKS" - the offer for a cold Moose Drool and a burger at the "Mo Club" is always open, but if you insist on calling me "Mister Mangan", then you've got to buy!

Hell, the only person that even dared called me "Richard" was my beloved mother, and only when she was really mad at me!

All that said, the more folks like you that are looking at and thinking about the possible remedies to this outrageous problem we and Ellreese have from PL 107-203, the better off we'll all be! Keep reading/asking questions/challenging the obvious & Authority!

Dick Mangan

1/7 Abs & All,

I have no intention of quitting my job or this fight. I just won’t status myself as available in ROSS until PL 107-203 goes away. I’m militia, my boss doesn’t give a hoot whether I go on fire assignments or not. I have remained active in fire because I enjoy the people, the travel, the challenge, and because I think it is the right thing to do. I didn’t change, the job did.

I believe this is one of those important life issues that every firefighter needs to decide individually. Personally, if I was just starting out, I’d think strongly about moving to a different agency or changing my career if our agency can’t resolve this problem very soon.

When I look back at the way things used to be, I think we crossed a dangerous line with South Canyon when OSHA became involved with Forest Service entrapment investigations. The fire orders, which had previously been used as a teaching tool and to relate lessons learned following entrapments and burnovers, were held out to OSHA by our leaders as our rules of engagement.

That major blunder has since been compounded by codification of the “We don’t bend them, we don’t break them” message from senior management. But there are a number of reasons why the fire orders don’t work as rules of engagement, and why “we don’t bend them etc” is misguided wishful thinking on management’s part. I don’t believe our Forest Service senior management ever did understand, or understands today, the importance of these fundamental changes.

For one, the fire orders tell you what to do but not how to do it. Therefore, each fire order MUST be interpreted subjectively based on an individual’s own training and experience. Thus, two firefighters with different training and experience standing side-by-side will frequently come to entirely different conclusions about what they are seeing and experiencing, which influences what they consider important and unimportant, which in turn influences strategy, safety zone selection, etc. As in quantum mechanics, there is no single correct answer to any question regarding firefighter safety. It depends on the perspective of the viewer at a specific moment in time.

There have been a number of excellent papers written in recent years that clearly prove why the fire orders should not be considered as rules of engagement that can be “broken.” In 1995, Jim Cook wrote a great paper entitled “Fire Environment Size-Up: Human Limitations vs Superhuman Expectations.” He demonstrated that our most seasoned fire leaders compare their present experience with previous experiences to make prudent fireline decisions, and that the fire orders are only referenced and used in an incidental way.

Behavioral scientists use the term “Recognition Primed Decisionmaking” (RPD) to describe how human beings actually make decisions in high-tempo environments. Gary Klein and many others have written extensively on this subject. Jim Cook’s paper supports the RPD model.

Additional papers by Ted Putnam, Jennifer Ziegler, and others demonstrate the fallibility of the fire orders as rules of engagement. Used as a tool of retrospection, the orders can be utilized to provide a snap shot of a previous moment in time. But we need to croak this myth that firefighters constantly refresh the fire orders in some kind of “linear loop” fashion to maintain situational awareness. If you were able to accomplish this, it would be the only thing you would be capable of doing. You wouldn’t be able to speak, listen, change locations, work, and do all of the other things it takes to engage and fight fires.

On top of that, each updated assessment would only be relevant to you and your immediate surroundings! Doing an initial size up of a small fire using the fire orders is one thing, maintaining perfect situational awareness of the fire and fire orders as time passes or your location changes on a large fire is something else entirely.

I think the burden of proof in Ellreese's case is on the prosecution to prove that the fire orders are actually used by wildland firefighters in the manner held forth by senior Forest Service managers. I don’t think they can. Where is the training program that shows you how to use and apply the fire orders throughout the duration of a fire assignment? Where are the papers extolling the virtues of the fire orders as rules of engagement? They don’t exist, and for good reason.

For you primary fire types who still have to answer the bell, I have an idea. What would happen if many of our ICs really did what management SAYS it wants and started utilizing a zero-risk strategy on wildfires?

Let’s challenge this erroneous presumption that any experienced wildland fire IC can look at a fire and calculate the fuels, terrain, weather, available firefighting resources, projected fire growth & other variables and somehow predict everything that will happen over the next 12-24 hours.

Part of your calculation includes the spacing and size of safety zones needed to insure that all firefighters have ready access to a safety zone on all portions of the fire at all times. Since all fires produce hazardous convective gases and most are capable of producing firewhirls, safety zone size and location calculations for a zero-risk operation must include assuring that firefighters can be protected from such phenomena.

Don’t forget, by definition, a safety zone is an area where firefighters can remain safe from the harmful influence of fire effects without needing to deploy fire shelters.

Since there is no published direction for determining safety zone size and location beyond the IRPG guidelines for radiant heat protection, you can make your safety zones as numerous and big as you wish. Who can say you’re wrong?

The logical conclusion to this line of thinking is simple. The ONLY safe course on a wildfire is to not engage and place firefighters in proximity of the fire. Period. After that, all choices contain an element of risk.

Here’s how a mature organization deals with risk. From the US Army Risk Management Chain Teaching for Leaders:

It is imperative to develop twenty-first century leaders who trust their subordinates’ abilities and judgment. Such leaders must be willing to underwrite their subordinates’ honest errors and coach them on to excellence, without tolerating incompetence or laxity. We must recognize that Army leaders are not perfect, and that activity at the ragged edge of audacity sometimes leaves debris in its wake.

GEN William W. Hartzog
Commanding General

US Army Training and Doctrine Command

MORAL AND ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS
FOR LEADERS

To be successful, risk management must be underwritten by the chain of command. Leaders should not expect that all missions will be accomplished with zero defects—free from errors, flaws, or less-than perfect performance. Demanding such rigid standards leads to oversupervision and paralysis; it produces timid leaders, afraid to make tough decisions in crisis and unwilling to take risks necessary for success in military operations. A zero defects mindset creates conditions that will lead inevitably, in the larger sense, to failure in battle and higher casualties.

Leaders are morally bound to support a subordinate’s decision to accept risks that are within his commander’s intent and guidance, as he understands it. Leaders accept that things may go wrong, even with the certain knowledge that a subordinate has done all within his power to prevent an incident. In such an event, the leader steps forward and accepts the responsibility along with his subordinate.

Everyday as we respond to the nation’s needs, we expose our soldiers to hazards in uncertain and complex environments. We do this with the full knowledge that there are inherent risks associated with any military operation. The nature of our profession will not allow for either complacency or a cavalier acceptance of risk.

General Dennis J. Reimer
Chief of Staff, Army

As long as our Forest Service “leaders” still cling to nonsensical Rumsfeldian statements like “We don’t bend them, we don’t break them” as representative of our fire management philosophy, the US Forest Service and our cooperators will continue to struggle with this terribly important issue. How long do you think it will take before our cooperators start seeing Forest Service fires and Forest Service firefighters as potential liabilities to be avoided? Is that really where we want to go?

Free Ellreese.

Misery Whip

1/7 vfd fire Capt

Slight delay in responding, but I just got back in town. For a number of reasons, I am going to stay out of the overall Thirty-Mile discussion, but I would like to respond to your comment from 1-3-07;

It doesn't have to get much more complicated than

1. "This is what I think the fire is going to do,
2. this is my plan for what we are going to do, and
3. these are our contingencies in case I've got it all wrong."

This is dangerous ground. I hope you are not actually really using that or teaching it to students. Here's why,
It doesn't have to get much more complicated than

1. "This is what I think the fire is going to do, (THE FIRE IS PROBABLY GOING TO DO SOMETHING ELSE).
2. this is my plan for what we are going to do, and (RARELY DOES A PLAN REALLY WORK AS DESIGNED).
3. these are our contingencies in case I've got it all wrong." (IN A CRISIS ASSIGNED CONTINGENCIES FREQUENTLY FALL APART).

I could spend days writing about why both original and contingency plans fall apart, but I do not have the time (that does not mean we should dump the planning process, it has great value).

I will give you the short version of what I tell every "new" group of students that starts our firefighter academy. The short version is a little long, so hang in there.

I have worked in a number of very complex career fields. I worked as an Air Traffic Controller at one of the only military bases in the world that had fighter aircraft (multiple types), turbo-prop transports and heavy jet transports permanently assigned to the same facility (the highly varied flight speeds of these aircraft, makes for an extremely dynamic and complex air traffic control environment). I cannot remember how many of my original classmates graduated from the training program, but it was not a large number. I spent 15 years as both a military and civilian Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (EOD), and while I was qualified on everything from Nuclear weapons to hand grenades, my specialty was booby-trapped land mines. My EOD class (a mix of Marines, Air Force, Army, and Navy enlisted personnel / officers) started with 25 people and graduated 4 of the original members. From both the cognitive knowledge demands and manipulative skill requirements, Air Traffic Control and Bomb Disposal are about as demanding a profession as you could choose. I can personally testify that there is one profession that is significantly more complex in the demands that it places on individuals, and that's the fire service. I could spend the rest of my life studying just one small aspect of this business, fire behavior, building construction, tactics, command, anything, and I would only scratch the surface of that one area. I could concentrate on just one of these items, such as "wildland fire behavior," and in a lifetime I would not come close to having it all dialed in. I could "zero" my wildland fire behavior studies onto just one fuel model, and still not have that covered in a lifetime. For years I have told every fire academy that if you approach this career field correctly, firefighting is the most complex thing you will ever do. What we have and continue to ask from firefighters is far and above those demands placed on Air Traffic Controllers, EOD Technicians and almost any other "blue collar" profession.

If you think that a simple three-step checklist will solve your command/safety problems in the wildland fire environment, you need to get out more. It is far more complicated than that. If it was that simple, why haven't all of the brilliant minds that are in this business, already solved this problem. Trust me, they have tried. There are some incredibly bright people who post to "Theysaid". If you combined them with all of the exceptional people who have retired over the last decade, many of whom spent years writing and teaching about command, human factors, crew cohesion, and fire behavior problems; our problems should have been solved long ago. If a simple checklist or similar formula would work, it would have been discovered, because dam* near every option has been tried. Lists are great, they have their place, and they should be rigorously utilized, but they are just a "tool" within the complex arena of decision-making. Accidents, fatalities, and command failures cannot be solved or explained by simple three step solutions.

Thanks,

FOBS73

1/7 Mr. Mangan, I took the time to research "Discretionary Function Exemption" here in cyberspace. I found some "inspirational" reading in regards to court decisions, relying on the exemption, stemming from incidents in both daily and fire incident related matters. Obviously, the decisions come in both varieties, affirmed or denied, but it's ALL great learning material. For any of you that want to breath a bit easier (even in your "non-incident" jobs, Google it and learn. The Supreme Court in Berkovitz v. United States, 486 U.S. 531 (1988), set out a two-step test to determine when the discretionary function exception applies. Lengthy material, but worth the understanding.

OSCN Found Document:BERKOVITZ v. UNITED STATES, 486 U.S. 531 (1988)

Now, the downside for Ellreese, the "exemption" appears to be a "Tort" defense, ie "civil". Obviously, it will be helpful down the road in any pending civil litigation, but I don't see any relief here re: the "criminal" matter. I could be wrong.

CA Seasonal, Thank you for your pound of flesh! I'm continuously reading the replies to your post(s) and I'm impressed with the amount of gray matter that you've stimulated. Don't disappear on us, there's too much being invested in your behalf.

FMO Joe, MBR? Too funny! I used to tell the "problem" prisoners that they were going to share a cell with "Tripod". Funny though, Tripod didn't even have a camera.

When I signed up for the Hot List Forum, I learned the "secret handshake" to be able to recognize other forum members while out in the real world. Wink wink, nudge nudge, you know what I mean? I'll take the Moose Drool and a burger, Fat Tire as a second option. They need the Drool at the Kopper Kettle in Boise.

Stay Safe! "Kicks"

And you think you have a good time with the secret handshake... Ab.

1/7 From Firescribe:

Settlement reached in 30mile Fire Lawsuit
www.yakima-herald.com/page/dis/287902258633418

OIG Audit Report: Forest Service Large Fire Suppression Costs
www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/08601-44-SF.pdf

article
Audit: Build in fire zones, share the bill
www.sbsun.com/news/ci_4961589
Guy McCarthy,Staff Writer
Article Launched: 01/06/2007 12:00:00 AM PST

Local and state governments that authorize home construction in fire country should pay more for firefighting in the danger zones they help create, according to a federal audit.

The report on escalating costs borne by the U.S. Forest Service was issued in late November, a month after five Forest Service firefighters were fatally injured as they tried to protect a Twin Pines home from the Esperanza Fire.

"The Forest Service is looking at it from a financial standpoint, and it's getting more expensive," said Mike Jarvis, deputy director of communications for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "We're taking a look at it, too.

"But we don't have zoning or planning authority. We don't make any land-use decisions. We get notified, and we do give input at times. But we don't get consulted and we're not involved in the approval process.

"A lot of these questions do belong with local governments and planning officials."

Three times since 2001, fighting large blazes in fire-prone areas that include San Bernardino and Riverside counties has cost the Forest Service more than $1billion a year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture audit stated.

Rising costs are mainly due to efforts to protect private property bordering Forest Service lands in the so-called wildland urban interface, or WUI, federal auditors said.

"Assigning more financial responsibility to state and local government for WUI wildfire protection is critical because federal agencies do not have the power to regulate WUI development," the audit states. "Zoning and planning authority rests entirely with state and local governments."

Auditors visited national forests in Montana, Washington, Oregon and California. They also studied several historic fires, including the 2003 Old Fire that destroyed about 1,000 homes in and near the San Bernardino National Forest.

From Wrightwood to Idyllwild, the nation's most urbanized mountain forest is still home to roughly 100,000 people, property assessed at more than $7billion, and millions of dead trees.

Local planners try to work closely with the Forest Service on projects bordering forest lands, said Julie Rynerson, planning division chief for the San Bernardino County Land Use Services Department. (to read the rest, click the link above)

fair use disclaimer

1/7 Domaque:

Thanks for reminding us of the wisdom of Teddy Roosevelt. He is often maligned
as a mere 'man of action', but many of his utterances - as well as much of his writing,
assure us that he was a man of courage, passion, deep thought and considerable
intelligence. We Americans owe him a great deal, as will our great-great-grandchildren.

Old Boot

1/7 Gizmo:

Re: Protest

Many, if not most, of us who respond to national mobilizations are not USFS or even federal employees. Many more of us are "militia" or are not-very-well-compensated retirees. This makes our participation in wildland fire totally voluntary.

This is not a strike! Many of us choose not to continue to be involved in operational or command level federal firefighting because of the now unacceptable levels of liability. This is a simple response to the recent "profound lack of leadership" demonstrated by the USFS that forces so many of us to seriously question the increased liabilities to ourselves and to our families. If the USFS and OIG will violate the law to prosecute one of their own what do you think they will do to the rest of us?

I am a VFD member here in my rural area and will continue to perform professionally all of my operational VFD duties without the same fear of retribution I have with the federal government. I will also maintain my federal quals in non-operational and non-command duties for which I see few liability issues.

Maybe I should mention that I am a retired federal FMO with 38 years of wildland firefighting experience. I definitely have perspective.....

We remain friends in firefighting, all of us. You just may be surprised to see some of us not performing this coming season in the maximum liability exposure positions. The Time Unit is looking better all the time!

KnuckleDragon

1/7 To all on TS:

These are tough times, and I am in the middle of some of them.

We need to voice our concerns to Congress and the media.

We need to voice our concerns to FS leadership... {yeah, like that will do any good. When they have to have a conference call to 'craft' a response pretty much tells you that they have no... um... reproductive organs}

But, I want to draw attention to Juan Estrada, the Vista Grande HotShot that lost his battle with cancer. There is a place that we can make a difference. The Wildland Firefighers Foundation has already stepped up, as we have come to expect. Now it is time for all of you to do the same. This man’s wife and 3 young children have very little (thanks to our government BS) so it is up to us to pony up!

We all can come to Ellreese’s defense in a way, we all HAVE supported the survivors of the Esperanza fire and that shows what we are made of. Now we have to support another fallen firefighter!

Respectfully,
Been Bummed
1/6 Ab.

With all that is going on with the 30mile it makes me think of a fire I was on this past season and how it could of easily turned into a fatality fire. Everyone made it out but we did have over 40 red bags and all gear burned over. Not to many people know about this situation because the East Roaring Fire was and still is being kept hush hushed by the Forest it happened on (im not going to name names of the Forest or the personnel to be fair).

I have been in fire for 8 years (eng. boss, IC type 4, dozer boss, station manager etc.) and never have I seen such a cluster f%*k and even worse is how it has been swept under the rug!

On the East Roaring Fire over 10 of the watchout situations were broken (how do u build a fire line with NO anchor point) and 6 of the standards were broken (1, 2, 4, 8, 9, 10) , LCES was almost never in place. No wonder when the fire blew up everything went to h*ll.

The main problem I saw was lack of communication between supervisors and crew, not sure who was the real IC and the gung ho attitude of the district fire personnel. The lack of experience of some of the supervisors caused a real problem too. I spoke up several times on the fire but with no luck because the ego of the supervisor.

Im not trying to compare the East Roaring Fire to the 30 Mile, all im wanting is to get the word out on what happened because god knows nobody else is.

If anyone has any input I would like to hear from you...

ms

If you haven't already filed a Safenet, you should do so now. http://safenet.nifc.gov/ You can file it anonymously. I inquired of a friend with access to records, and the burnover of the redbags and gear was noted in the 209, so that fact is on record.

Major problems and concerns (control problems, social/political/economic concerns or impacts, etc.) Relate critical resources needs identified above to the Incident Action Plan.
Lack of ground resources (crews) on the fire. The continuation of hot, dry weather with poor recoveries at night is a major factor with the dry fuels. Control issues: Very active fire behavior and long range spotting. The handcrews gear (travel bags) were destroyed at the original landing zone when numerous spotting occurred.

Ab.

1/6 Re: Protest

First, federal employees cannot "strike" as part of their Oath of Office.

Second,

I have a few questions about what would be the best way to provide a protest about the Cramer and Thirtymile OIG actions. In both of these actions, the OIG violated the law and didn't follow the legal mandates of PL 107-203, and Forest Service "leadership" allowed it to happen.

Question #1: Would there be enough ICT1's and ICT2's out there to stand down prior to fire season to focus interest on corrective action?, and

Question #2: Would they be willing to sign a statement of "No Confidence" if it offered "Whistleblower Protection" under the Whistle Blower Protection Act?, and

Question #3: Will OIG be held accountable for violating the civil rights of Alan Hackett and Ellreese Daniels?... Will there have to be a Civil Action following after this is heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually heads to the Supreme Court?

...... or could people just do what is right.... right now... and get us all into the 21st Century of the Wildland Fire Profession.

Gizmo
1/6 Dear Friends,

Dave Boyd has been at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in IL. His wife, Connie, placed this on his Caring Bridge website Thursday (www.caringbridge.org):

"After long consideration and discussion with the doctors David and I decided it is time to go home. This has been one of the hardest decisions we have ever had to make. His health continues to decline and we want to be at home with family. The risk involved in David receiving more radiation is not worth taking a chance since his cancer cannot be stopped. David wants to have quality life rather than quantity.

We will be leaving the CTCA in IL on Saturday January 6th. and be home 11:30 PM. It is important to have our support system around us. Since we have been in IL David has lost 14 lbs, not good. We are now going to look at more homeopathic methods of treatment, no more toxins in his body. Hospice will be called once we arrive at home. We don't know how much time he has left, but do know we want to be at home when the time comes. God bless each of you for all your support. I will continue to update this site as this "beast" progresses."

Home for Dave and Connie is in Dixon, MT. Messages can be posted to the CTCA website.

Those of us who pray need to be doing so right now for Dave. He has deep roots all over the US as a journeyman firefighter and as a dispatcher. He is a great friend to so many of us.

Dave, we need you to survive this and get back into our midst!

Tim Stubbs

1/6 Gisgirl,

You hit the nail squarely upon the head throughout your post.

What interested me alot was your statement that said,

"Since 30 mile the focus during a fatality incident by the upper echelon seems to be more focused on the "blame game" and making some sort of "statement" by creating a new checklist or something than to learn at the operational level."

Those folks at the "upper levels" are the same ones around since Thirtymile... most are political appointees or people taking direct instructions from the political appointee chain of command.

There is a "white paper" being formulated at the WO/RO levels to address the current state of things..... how far do you think they will stray from the wishes of their "bosses", the political appointees? Hopefully the leadership and guidance of the Chief of Fire and Aviation Operations isn't the same as he gave folks on the Copper Fire on the Angeles National Forest 2002....

Gisgirl.... awesome....

Thanks,

Lobotomy

1/6 Most excellent news! Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the Forest
Service -- Dick King -- has retired. May he enjoy retirement to the fullest. His
name will not be forgotten, how could it be?

R1 Admirer

1/6 Interesting reading the report of the Day Fire lawsuit, especially since a similar lawsuit was recently decided here in Montana from the Bitterroot fires in 2000. Judge Molloy's decision is 25 pages.

Essentially it says that conducting a burnout (and all fire suppression operations) are covered by the "Discretionary Function Exemption" that keeps Feds from getting sued. It also has lots of interesting thoughts about the 10 & 18, as well as deciding the size of an adequate Safety Zone - may have some interesting implications to help out in Ellreese Daniels' defense.

If Judge Molloy's ruling becomes legal precedent, many folks in the wildland fire business may be able to breathe a little easier in the upcoming fire season, while we work to try and repeal PL 107-203.

Dick Mangan

1/6 re Day Fire claims

To All;

Its never "about the money", is it? Guess we're supposed to go back to the old
"lock arms and use your bodies as fireline" tactic?!? (tongue FIRMLY in cheek)

(I grew up in that country; here to tell ya, Boy Scout Road ain't that scenic!!! And
I live in Northern NV now!)

Pyro

1/6 Day Fire Lawsuit

Hey Ab,

Just wanted to let folks know about more legal doings. The USFS is being sued by a resident in Lockwood Valley, CA for over $6 million. This is a claim that a faulty firing show caused his losses. There are others considering suing as well per the article. There was some discussion about this event in They Said when it took place. Hope everyone has their insurance paid up.

Please sign me "A Ranger in California"

Litigation is the name of the game... Ab.
I think this link works for now: www.venturacountystar.com

1/6 CA Seasonal;

Just read back through your post and realized I had forgotten to address some of your more direct questions. Sorry; I got diverted a little (see how easy it is?)

1st, you asked "...fatalism seems to permeate the message board...". Have you followed the recent Border Patrol case at all? Two heroes are going to prison for 11 & 12 years respectively for apprehending a gang transporting 700 pounds of dope. They committed minor procedural omissions, and are going down gloriously in flames; didn't have a chance in court. Leads to a little fatalism...

2nd, "...fire is always dangerous and people will always die...". Absolutely correct. The best we can hope for, at this point, is to strive to dramatically reduce the losses each year. Possibly a good place for you to help with that effort is to think of fire as "dynamic, therefore dangerous"; remove the mystery component from fire. It is the environment we live and work in, every day. Sung Tsu's first rule of warfare, "Know your enemy!". Fire is just a chemical reaction, not a living entity. It can't do anything unpredictABLE. Just unpredictED. Doug uses the term "UNEXPECTED".

3rd; "... someone getting hurt in a freak accident ( a vehicle rollover or totally unexpected firewhirl, etc.) is quite different than a totally avoidable accident." Study subjective vs: objective hazards. Study fire, as a predictable chemical reaction (again, contact Doug!). There are conditions that lead to both rollovers, and firewhirls. Learn to either mitigate those hazards, or step away from the hazard enough to be safe, regroup, and make a new plan.

4th; "... do you look at all these (Thirtymile & Esperanza Fires) as freak accidents that are part of the dangerous nature of fire?" This was your most complicated, multi- layered question. Short answer: Yes, and No. Let me preface my answer with reminder: I truly believe that regardless of the level of experience, training, education, and qualifications, given the right set of circumstances, ALL HUMANS ERR. That being said, once again, Fire is not Unpredictable (ever); it IS however, often Unpredicted. Same with accidents like rollovers. How about, if you're cutting line with your crew, steep hillside, maintaining 15- foot spacing just to be safe, and your neighbor takes a big- a** baseball- swing at a staub and misses. His pulaski goes flying through the air, hits you in the dome. Unpredicted, or unpredictable? (Hint: That's why your CRB is always pounding on you to keep your spacing, AND keep your head up...).

You're our Next Generation. It's no longer enough to study fires, and tool use or hydraulics. Copy and study papers from the Archives about Human Error, Human Reaction, THEN study those fires again. Study guys like Doug. Let him tell you Why he's committed his life to keeping your young a** safer. Start your own Home Library.

Hope all this helps.

Fire Geek; Thanks! And again, if I miss something, or anyone disagrees, jump in! This Child seems to be committed to fire, and was tough enough to take the flack from his first post, and come back for more... and a burger and brew sounds great about now!

FMO Joe; You said "...I agree with you folks that plan on dropping quals... However...". Thank you, too, sir. No longer being with the Green Machine, it's not my place to tell anyone what they should do. But I WAS getting worried about season 2007...

Be Safe;

Pyro
1/6 CA Seasonal-

I'm going to try and jump in here and answer your question. I think it has been clearly stated by MANY of our esteemed contributors but it isn't as clear to you.

This community has invested HEAVILY into safety. We have lost our brothers and sisters in multiple incidents through the years such as Storm King, Cramer, 30 Mile, Cedar and more. The overwhelming reason that we were able, over the years, to become safer and safer is this community's commitment to each other and our families at home. We have committed to the idea that every time something bad happened we would look at it objectively, we would learn and we would HONOR our fallen by improving our safety. This improvement was only feasible through honest discussion, through being able to understand what happened, and through learning from what occurred. Lessons learned are a huge part of this community.

Since 30 mile the focus during a fatality incident by the upper echelon seems to be more focused on the "blame game" and making some sort of "statement" by creating a new checklist or something than to learn at the operational level. People are starting to feel that it is no longer possible to be honest, state what happened, and learn. They feel even that acting within the scope of their duties, they will be hung out to dry. They feel that instead of the leadership backing them- they look for scapegoats. This is going to hamper our efforts at improving safety. People are concerned for those at Esperanza because it is a new era -- it's no longer investigate to learn only.

While many love the job and love this community- can you honestly say you would look into your 5 year old daughter's eyes and walk into a situation where you felt by doing your job honestly you risk your ability to house her, feed her, take care of her? People feel that by acting within their duties, in their job, in an environment where you truly cannot control every factor- they may be held personally responsible for things beyond their control.

I think another factor is that on a fire with 50-hundreds of people, with decisions being made about tactics, resources, at the local, forest, geographic, and national level- and honestly- decisions being made by individuals as to where to shelter (based on their own personal experiences and best available information at the time) how can you hold ONE man responsible? The general feeling I hear is how can we nail one man for hundreds of holes in the swiss cheese which led to this tragedy using rules which changed AFTER the incident.

There are a number of people abandoning their monikers to post real names backing this man and decrying the process being used. These are people with lots of experience and knowledge of the fire service. We have read the reports, seen the photos, and seen the investigation presentation.

I have to say- this is a community that when they feel someone is a true danger- they don't pull punches and they let it be known. If are in a situation going sideways you have to know your colleagues will back you and get you home at the end of the day. If that trust is not there, we have problems. This witch hunt is not helping create a community of trust that is committed beyond all else to SAFETY and honoring our fallen by learning from the situation which caused their demise.

My 4 cents,
GISgirl
1/5 Sorry bout that "white" assumption on Yakama. You never know what
your assumptions are until you get told differently.

Todd

1/5 Just read the Y Herald article about Daniels making his first court appearance regarding new charges in relation to 30 Mile. Did the phrase" break new ground" make anyone else stick to their chairs due to increased sphincter suction? I still maintain that someone in Spokane doesn't have enough to do. This is a bunch of crap and will set precedent for all who come along behind us. Just think, you can follow all of the guidelines, do great briefings, perfect weather presentations, and have bulletproof tactics and still get raked over the coals, lose all you have worked for (not to mention everything you and your family have or will ever earn, maybe get to share a cell with a guy known as the Midnight Bung Raider) just because Skippy was too busy picking his a$s or e-texting someone in Sweden and didn't hear the briefing or, in the case of 30 Mile, didn't agree with the CRWB-T selection and took it upon themselves to destroy any possibility of having crew cohesion in a mixed crew.

I agree with you folks that plan on dropping quals to protest this. However, your decisions will ultimately hurt our capabilities to perform as the agencies can always find folks that are marginal to fill in behind you, putting more FF's at increased risk. Next thing I would caution you about if you choose to stand down. Best be looking at your Position Descriptions before you commit and check how they are written so that the course you choose to follow doesn't lead you into disciplinary actions or subsequent removal.

I say we stand behind Mr. Daniels and ride this out as a consolidated force.

By the way, for the guy who thought that Yakima was "pretty White", my advice for you would be to do bit of study about where all of those Washington apples, pears, and other tree fruit come from. When I stayed there I went to my motel room at dark and didn't move til morning. Huge migrant worker and Hispanic population in Central Wa, as well as having numerous Native American tribes that have ancestral lands there.

FMO Joe

1/5 Dear Jumpin Jill & others:

This is not the time to leave. Its simply the time to do what we can to change the organization and system for your benefit as well as those of your colleagues.

In May 2005, Mark Rey told me that he didn't have a care about the "brain drain" or the loss of firefighters from the federal service to other agencies because at some point, "we'd see them again anyway on another fire." Of course this meant they'd be with another agency making 5 times what his feds make, but the point is he could care less about his firefighters.

Instead of leaving, let's work through the channels many of us have created over the years and make this organization, along with the other land management agency fire programs, "the place" to make a career.

I guarantee you that despite the apparent doom & gloom regarding Thirty Mile, there are folks listening to us that are in a position to effect positive change. It's not going to be overnight but it will happen. Those that have promulgated the dysfunction of the Forest Service's fire program know we're not going away and know we've got their number.

We've tried and tried to offer to work with them for the sake of agency firefighters but they have demonstrated time and again that their arrogance won't allow them to do so. Sooo, we'll do it for them. Where it leaves them, I could care less as long as it isn't in a position to negatively impact our firefighters any longer.

All of you deserve so much more than what the Agency has done for you. That's why, whether its AB, the FWFSA, or so many others who work in front of or behind the scenes on your behalf, won't give up until this thing is fixed and you can not only be proud of who you are, what you are and what you do, but also be proud of the organization to which you belong.

Casey
1/5 FireBill,

You're wrong!! There are enough dedicated and hardworking wildland firefighters living in the Yakima area, and from the Yakima area, not to allow the Herald editorials to be one sided. There is also enough landowners that understand the impact this could have on fireline decision making. And how that could affect the land they own. I only hope you are bombarding the Yakima Herald with the same love, that so many of us are...

that's my take,
dragmccloud

1/5 Pyro,

Your reply to CA Seasonal was a terrific piece of advice! I’d love to meet you someday and treat you to a Bartels burger and an “instant Micro-brew” or two. The only thing I could add is to discover the REAL reason criminal charges were brought against Ellreese so long after the incident and the investigation ended. I learned a few things about lawsuits against the Government working for BLM. A common tactic by a plaintiff’s attorney is to wait until just before the statute of limitations expires to bring your case to court, hoping that memories would lapse and witnesses would be hard to find. During the early stages of the Esperanza Fire I thought it was a bit strange that Mellie would suggest to everyone involved to “lawyer-up”. Now I know why.

Fire Geek
1/5 CA Seasonal;

I'm in a pretty calm mood today, so I'll give this a shot. Short answer; we're doing this for you, and everyone like you - relatively new to the fire biz. You've got years to go before you're safe on your own (guessing this is your 1st or 2nd season?); if all goes well, someday, you'll be a 'Boss yourself, or higher.

There are 2 major issues for you to be concerned with, longterm.

First point:
Safety
. Your older friend is right. The Good Old Days weren't. We are doing better. Not "better enough", but better. As Lobotomy & I were discussing the other day, it isn't necessarily reflected in the stats, but like your bud, when I think back to common tactics used in my rookie years... and that with Frisco jeans, treated cotton shirts, chrome lids, semi- optional fire shelters... but, despite improvements, the past couple of decades have proven incontrovertibly that adding a new checklist, reorganizing the 10 Std to be a mnemonic and "easier to memorize" (instead of functioning like the flow-chart it was intended to be), requiring "LCES is in place" (how often have we all heard THAT Tx over the radio at the beginning of an Op, with no discussion, no briefing, let alone any visible sign such as flagged E- routes, a dozer cutting a safety zone, etc - LCES works... if it's USED!)

All of these stopgaps (useful or not) are Person- based answers. Trying to force, legislate if you will, safety. But humans will err. In my opinion, many of the "checklist" answers have a lot of value... I encourage you to study until you TRULY UNDERSTAND the 10, the Watchout, the Downhills, LCES (it's a lot deeper than a 4 word answer), etc., until you OWN THEM. But meantime, PRACTICE SITUATIONAL AWARENESS every day you breathe until it's 2nd nature, 'til you use SA subconsciously. Study terrain features, everywhere you go, every single day. Pay attention to how the fuels around your home are curing next Spring. What aspects cure in what order, at what elevation. Figure out why. And take a Doug Campbell course ASAP!! Schedule and pay for it yourself, if you have to.

Anyway, back on track... If Person- based answers are still failing us after almost 60 years (ref. fire fatalities study from 1919, go to Archives, Doc's Worth Reading), there's always System- approach. Recreate the fire services however necessary, in order to make it more organized, safer not only tactically, but strategically.

For example, we have Air Tankers go down every year. Big problem. Our AT fleet, nationwide, still has not recovered from the mass groundings of the 90's. And having supported both types with a shovel or saw, no matter what anybody tells you, a SEAT does not do the SAME job as a C- 119J (and yes, I'm admitting I remember them!), or S- 2, or P-3. Or a Super- 7. So, system answer: budget the $$$ in DC to Purpose- Build a fleet of medium AT's, and one of heavy AT's. From scratch. A lot of money, you say? How many aircrew have we lost just in the last 20 years? And aircraft? Then factor in permanent groundings of a given model... see where we're going? (Not the best example; anyone else want to jump in here??? Lobotomy? MiseryWhip? Gizmo?)

So, now's the time to ask yourself, How does heaping even MORE blame on Ellreese help the System? Do you think for a second that he doesn't blame himself?!? I've never met the man, but I GUARANTEE YOU, he will never forgive himself. Hell, he voluntarily agreed to an extension of the statute of limitations!!! So now putting him at risk for 12- 20 years of his life, for each of 4 counts, is supposed to FIX THE SYSTEM??? (Deep breath...)

Let's move on to the second point:
Precedence of litigation, both criminal and civil. The one thing we've always been able to rely on is this: as long as we acted reasonably within the guidelines of our agency(s), we were protected, by common use of the law, from litigation.

Now, because of an overzealous application of a hastily created, poorly phrased law, we are ALL open to prosecution, if Ellreese goes down, Even YOU.

NOW. If you fail to do everything in your power to protect a rookie's life next season, as a more- experienced crewmember, you COULD, by one more stretch of this law, be PROSECUTED! Again, see where this could go?

And how does it help prosecuting a man for being human (ie, not being able to juggle the 54 Rules of Engagement (ROEs) that some genius in DC redefined to the media, most likely in an attempt to avoid any responsibility traveling any higher up the ladder - "if the ROE's are inviolable, then Daniels is solely responsible because he didn't (couldn't) follow them all."). Doesn't really encourage you to follow the career path, does it?

OK, enough preaching for now. But this "Save Ellreese" movement really isn't about the fire services closing ranks around our Brother Firefighter (although he is). What this is about, is trying to keep a well- intentioned but terribly misguided minority from doing irreparable harm to the fire services.

As Ab suggested, reread ALL the Thirtymile posts, including ALL the links on Theysaid. Pay less attention to the merely emotional (and we've all sent in those), and more to the issues.

And thank you for your questions. Keep them up, and if this case doesn't blow us all out of the water, you may have a career as Supe, or FMO ahead of you, someday.

Guys; if anyone would like to step in here, there are an awful lot of you out there who are a whole lot better FF's than I...

Be Safe!

Pyro

1/5 I'm the last person to defend the Yakima Herald, but I don't think race plays any part in their blatant editorial bias. (Is blatant strong enough?) I suppose you could call Yakima, or parts of it 'white', but you'd be missing out on a huge percentage of agricultural workers (permanent residents) who are hispanic.

I went to school just up the road and have a little experience with Yakima and its residents. Despite being spread out across the valley, it's a very small and tightly knit community. The West Valley area, where at least one of the Naches RD squad was from, is fairly affluent and influential in the Yakima Valley. Despite having multiple television stations, it's still a small town. The Yakima Herald has the advantage of being the only daily paper in the area and is a part of that community. There's no other editorial voice. It's bound to reflect the pain over the loss of four of their own. I seriously doubt their ability to alter their editorial course on this issue. I just don't think the community will allow it. It will be their biggest news story for months, other than freezes that could affect apple and other fruit crops.

I don't claim to be a Yakima Valley expert, but that's my take...

-FireBill
1/5 Hey all

As far as yakama being a white town that is far from the truth.. look around...
more folks from south of the border there than any place in the state... it is
time to put 30mile to rest. i just dont get it. what good will have a man in jail
for doing his job? NONE.

RIP Tom

Steve

1/5 Misery Whip,

I have to write to say I understand where you are coming from. I
personally know you and I have thought long and hard about the same
decisions you are considering. I participate on a Type 1 team as a DIVS
and keep thinking...is staying in fire worth it anymore? But I also tell
myself...I will miss fires, I will miss the camaraderie, I will miss my
firefighting family, I will miss those who stand behind me and beside me, I
will miss those whom I supervise and keep me honest and make me laugh
beyond hysterics. I know I stated a few weeks back that I was going to get
liability insurance for the mere fact that I felt leadership lacked at the
levels outside of my control, but controlled my destiny. I will not give
up that easily. I believe that we are led down a path of the least
resistance because we have been given that opportunity to rise to the
challenge - which I consider danger versus opportunity. What I am trying
to say is, please don't go!! Somehow, someway, you and I and everyone else
can make a difference. But most of all, you have leverage in reaching the
upper echelon in ways others cannot. We need your leadership and
willingness to say it like it is and I respect that from the bottom of my
heart!!!

I will be calling you this weekend!!

'Jumpin Jill Flash'
1/5 From Firescribe:

Defense attorney blasts charges against fire crew boss
www.yakimaherald.com/page/dis/287894252010530

1/5 Yesterday, Hi Line Helicopters (Darrington ,WA) lost a Hughes 500 while flying shake blocks. Anthony Reece, owner and pilot was able to walk away from the crash after falling a hundred feet or more from a hover. A hospital evaluation determined that he has 2 fractured vertebrae. Anthony and Hi Line Helicopters are very well known and appreciated by many wildland firefighters in the northwest US for the precision work they have done on fires. We wish him a speedy recovery!

NWRG
1/5 Ab,

I am blown away by the charges on Daniels. The O'Reilly Factor has been notified.

Concerned
1/5 As someone apparently out of the loop, why is everyone uniformly against the prosecution of Mr. Daniels? For instance, I read the Yakima newspaper posting that made a contributor to this board "sick" and comment that it was a "dark day." There was nothing particularly in the paper itself, except saying that Mr. Daniels has been released without bail. I'm not strongly on either side really, I guess I just feel like there is an unspoken part of this argument you all know, maybe it is information you know of that is not available to the public, or you were there, on the Thirtymile Fire? Or maybe it is the principle that as a community you stand strongly for Mr. Daniels to ensure he is given a fair shake from here on in, that he is protected?

My only concern, I guess, is the fatalism that seems to permeate the message board sometimes... I guess when I talk to people that really have been doing this for a long time (I have a friend who fought fires for the USFS in the 1950's) and they talk about the sorts of marginal-at-best actions they used to take -- and when you look at the safety record now, as compared to 40 or 50 years ago, and consider that fires are generally more dangerous now -- and then make statements that fire is always dangerous and people will always die... I suppose it is true it is dangerous, and people will probably always get hurt or die, but gosh, we've gotten so much better. And someone getting hurt in a freak accident (vehicle rollover, unexpected firewhirls, etc.) is quite different than a totally avoidable accident. People will always die, yes. But we are so much more careful now, and maybe we need to be more careful. Am I wrong? The things we've been talking a lot recently -- the Thirtymile Fire and the Esperanza Fire -- do you all look at these as freak accidents that are part of the dangerous nature of fire?

I'm not trying to be smart or annoying or anything else, I'm honestly interested in how all you feel about these things, your amount of experience and knowledge is clearly very high.

CA Seasonal

Read back through theysaid. Feel free to start in the archives just after the 30mile fatalities occurred. Put your own self into the loop if you want to. Ab.

1/5 Ab, just watched the video. Yakama's a pretty "white" part of the US.

What part does race play in this debacle with the Yakama Herald's reporting, etc?

Todd

1/5 Ab,
Here's the link to a video news story re: Ellreese's court appearance.

www.spokanetogo.com/index.php?id=3746

atbm07
1/5 Yesterday I had a discussion with our law enforcement officer about 30 mile, civil liability, criminal liability and documents put forward to the grand jury.

We talked about the Garrity ruling and the protection it provides to those that work in law enforcement. Every thing in the Garrity ruling makes sense (self evident) from a "personal liberty" perspective (see US Constitution). It still took the Garrity ruling plus one other court case to get these self incrimination protections into law. And these are relatively recent rulings (Late 1960's).

Given the grand jury process and what is alleged in the grand jury documents that is most likely a slam dunk for the DA. However proving the allegations in a criminal trial will be another matter. I think it was a matter of time before a case like this was brought to trial regarding wildland fire suppression. I think the reason it took this long is due to the relatively infrequent occurrence of fatalities vs. what occurs in law enforcement.

While this is a dark time I do believe it will be the catalyst for making the changes that we want to see. Keep in mind that it took two separate court rulings with appeals to get these kinds of protection for the law enforcement community. My sincere hope is Mr. Daniels is getting the support in his local community that he needs to see him through this time.

Some say this is mostly a Forest Service issue. A DOI solicitor told us that as DOI employees we do not have an obligation to talk to USDA OIG. That's all fine and good. However when someone dies and it may be due to the actions or inactions of a person/entity then the District attorney, State attorney or even a County prosecutor has and obligation to investigate. And that effects each and everyone of us whether we are Fed, State, Fire Dept. or VFD.

Our law enforcement officer said that you have to really screw up for the agency to say you were outside your scope of employment. My response to him was I use to think that also. But 30 Mile has redefined for me what "really screw up" means. It is now a very low bar. And it is not Mr. Daniels who lowered that bar.

Small Agency FMO
1/5 Ab,

Please add another name to the list.

I will serve in no operational or command capacity unless
PL 107-203 is rescinded and Ellreese Daniels is totally exonerated. The system
will be out yet another OSC2-T, SOF2, & ICT3 with 31 years of fire experience.

Pitch Pocket
1/5 Misery Whip and KnuckleDragon,

I unfortunately can't assert the same ideas that you are putting forward at this time.... Drop all fire quals... even though I really would love to....... Our fire season hasn't ended yet...

Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a huge wind event during a prolonged period of drought and horrific events of the past.... Red Flag Warnings all over the place with friends and families at extreme risk....

I have a job to do, and that job is to keep wildland firefighters safer and to manage wildland fires.... and in my area... the "A" game is needed during times of extreme fire weather and the potential for extreme fire behavior... I can't quit the tournament in the middle of a match....

I have a duty, both personally and ethically, to make sure my "troops" and folks are safer under this nasty wind event... I couldn't live with my decisions if someone got hurt by my actions of not going to work.... I also worry about my actions if something goes bad beyond my control.....

Even though I would rather walk away right now and call in sick tomorrow, I know I can make a difference for safety.... but God help me if I make a mistake.... or folks beneath me make a mistake.... We are Human.... sometimes we all make mistakes, but most often times, we make the proper decisions and go to work to keep folks safer....

Right now, I am going to work to keep wildland firefighters safer.... Depending upon what happens with Ellreese and all of the Thirtymile folks, I will make my decisions if I continue my duties during the 2007 Fire Season or change careers.... plus.. there are always other jobs out there that pay better without risks...

/s/ Kenneth Kempter
Wildland Firefighter
ICT2(T), ICT3, OSC2, DIVS
1/5 Thirtymile Travesty!

This has got to stop! - leadership has got to stand up for the groundpounders who make them look good. - A leader supports and backs the actions of his crew! Im not seeing it here- when are they gonna realize that if it wasnt for the firefighters, this agency would never have survived - this makes me not want to be a FS FMO! I would rather be a Walmart greeter, where i wouldnt have to have Liability Insurance and wonder if I'm gonna lose the house my kids call home -I keep thinking that we all have very important jobs to do and with Casey's efforts and support, we will Git- R- Done, and Ellreese and others like him will be not held accountable for an inherently dangerous profession that tasks us to make instant decisions that affect life and property-

If I were a structure firefighter (oh, im a Volly on the side), I too would be worried about this- when does it stop? Are you now as a Chief/Deputy/Officer liable criminally if a firefighter dies in a structure fire or at the scene of a MVA? Im reaching out there, but realistically, how far am I reaching when it is possible?

IL-SHF-FMO

1/5 Hey all.

Got a idea ... Lets all stand down .. Stand behind Daniels. I just hope they will throw out the case.
FAT CHANCE. I know a few family members of one of the People. They don't want it; neither do I.
Losing a ICT4 CRWBOSS and ENGB and STL.

GOtta find new job.

Sign me
R6 Fire fighter
1/5 Ab,

"I think that the media (at this point, specifically the Yakima Herald) is doing a bang up job of reporting the facts of the charges brought up on Ellreese."

In the event that you believe this statement, then I have some oceanfront property to sell you in Montana. [Sorry if this is not found funny by some but dam* it, this is really irritating me and I deal with irritation with (sometimes inappropriate) humor]

One thing that I find interesting about the recently posted article, is that they conducted their own investigation of the incident, and THEN the investigation team came to "the same conclusion." I would like to know what even remotely would qualify ANY ONE OF THEIR WRITERS OR EDITORS to do this. I was unaware that newspaper staffs have the knowledge, experience, or skills to do that.

It really is sad when I read that Misery Whip and Knuckle Dragon (I don't know personally) are not willing to take up any leadership roles due to this happening (but I can not say I blame them). H*ll, I had just gotten my ICT5 signed off prior to converting to another job series, but if I were still in fire, I probably would be thinking along the same lines.

Misery Whip and Knuckle Dragon (as well as others who are feeling like doing are actually doing the same thing): Are you planning on tell the requesting folks or for that matter your supervisors the reason for your unavailability? If you did, maybe it would get passed up and the issue could be resolved.

Squirtgun

1/5 A few more fire terms

where there are lizards, there are snakes (leave the wildlife alone)

if you can't fix it, don't break it (chain saws and pumps, come to mind)

you don't know if you don't try (usually related to burning out)

para-camping (smokejumpers, enough said)

heli-camping, (spiked with helicopter access only)

fireworks (my new favorite word for blamo)

thanks for the MREs (sung like Frank Sinatra's little ditty)

Intothewind

1/5 Ab, and all;

Found out the hard way , trying to navigate Yakima-Herald website (and
of course, after the fact; what was that about hindsight???); letters to the
editor can be posted at:

opinion@yakima-herald..com

Include the phrase "letter to the editor" in the subject line; Yak-Hld will not
accept attachments (although their E-mail compose page does. Hence my
frustration. Try, try again.).

Ab, if nobody has objections, I'm gonna drop the "5755" from my moniker; I
know there's others out there, but haven't run into any here. (It was for R-5,
Forest 7 (LPF), District 55 (Ojai)).

Pyro

To be published, the letters have a limit of 200 or 250 words, can't remember which. All other letters are referred on to the editor for his/her consideration. Don't let anyone tell you they should excerpt pieces of your letter to publish. Who knows how they would chop it up. Ab.

1/4 Misery Whip:

The USFS is suffering from a "profound lack of leadership" with it's current
silence and tacit approval of the indictment of one of our own.

I am with you, Bro. I will serve in no operational or command capacity unless
PL 107-203 is rescinded and Ellreese Daniels is totally exonerated. The system
will be out yet another ATGS, OSC2, & ICT3.

KnuckleDragon
1/4 All,

Ellreese made his first court appearance today. He was released on
his own recognizance. Here's a link to the article:

www.yakima-herald.com/page/dis/287891465792909

I feel sick. This is a dark day in our history.

Under the present circumstances, with our (alleged) Forest Service
leaders AWOL, until PL 107-203 is rescinded, I will no longer make
myself available for fire assignments. Scratch another DIVS from the
list.

Y'all be careful out there....

Misery Whip

I'm sorry this country is loosing your fireline supervisory services, Misery Whip. I wonder what it will take for the message to get through that prosecution of firefighters in this kind of situation is wrong. Today was the new Congress' first day. Perhaps they will get it together to change the law. Ab.

1/4 Ab,

I was doing some reading on Garrity ruling and law enforcement and found this.

"It's dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." (Voltaire)

If its not already in your quotes pages you might want to add it.

Midwest Fire Guy

Added it. Ab.

1/4 CDF changes its name to CAL-FIRE
www.paradisepost.com

Does this mean I can't tell anymore CDF jokes????

Hickman

I'd like to see candidate designs for the new CalFire logo. Ab.

1/4 Ab

While working (way too long) in the south east a few years ago I discovered the Southern buffet. It contained the 3 essential food groups, Starch, Fat and Cholesterol. It must always be accompanied and complemented by a stimulating beverage. That being coffee, the hotter and blacker the better before work; and a cold amber delight after work is complete.

Unfortunately too many readers would have to give up the cold amber (unless it was apple juice) when on a fire.

Certainly would stick to the ribs, the thighs, the belly etc, but great food.

So taking an item from Todd's list I say "Never miss a good chance to ...EAT"

:)
ht
1/4 To former SoCal Captain RE Burnovers happen to those with less than 8 and
more than 15 years experience.

I believe that statistic came from a
USFS/NWCG "Preliminary Report of the Task force on the study of Fatal/Near
Fatal Wildland Fire Accidents" dated April 1980. In the executive summary
one of the bullet points is " The two groups most susceptible to serious
injury or death are inexperienced people and those with 10-15 Years
experience."

Another paper that infers the relationship but doesn't explicitly describe
it is "Psychological Aspects of the Safety of Fire-fighters" by Terrence M.
Allen of Michigan State University.

FC180

1/4 Ab,

Thank you for the reminder about the wonderful quote page you all have put together. I did not see some quotes from Theodore Roosevelt on there that I thought were very applicable to the situation that the IC from the Thirty Mile Fire.

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

"Citizenship in a Republic,"
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, by Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910

Below are additional quotations related to the more famous and later quote.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic - the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." (1891)

"Criticism is necessary and useful; it is often indispensable; but it can never take the place of action, or be even a poor substitute for it. The function of the mere critic is of very subordinate usefulness. It is the doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle for life, and not the man who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought, without himself sharing the stress and the danger." (1894)

Happy and Safe New Year!

Domaque.

Added the last 2 shorter ones to Quotes to Live By. Ab.

1/4 Funny fire terms for the list...

M&M Breakfast – Motrin & Move Free, A daily ritual for some of us on the line.

Tuber – A firefighter that spends more time filming the fire with their digital camcorder to upload onto YouTube than they do swinging a tool.

Minnesota Fire Shelter – Life jacket

Fireline truth that an old CRWB shared with me a long time ago...

"If you are bored on a fire and you come up with an 'Idea' that might be fun, think twice about doing it. Usually the 'Idea' is a bad one."

PSM

I put them on the List of Wildland Fire Terms, Nicknames, Jargon and Slang and added the "fireline truth" to the Quotes to Live By. Ab.

1/4 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.
1/4 For Col,

The wildcat Goggles are “manufactured” by American Allsafe. The reason for the quotes is a large majority of consumable safety products such as safety glasses, ear plugs etc. are manufactured by third parties while the designs, names and other proprietary information is owned by the main distributor. American Allsafe is a huge safety supplier with several layers of distribution. Buying straight from the “manufacturer” may not be possible. Even on the packaging for the goggles there is no phone number or address for them, but they can be found on the web although I did not see these goggles on their website.

We have them available at a fair price. I have seen them as high as $17 U.S. We sell them for $10.50 U.S. and we can offer quantity discounts, although shipping may kill that discount. (Ab feel free to remove any perceived, or obvious, advertising at your discretion!)

Last reminder, I think, to get your 2007 Wildfire Calendar to benefit the Wildland Firefighters Foundation. New catalogs are mailing this week and the calendars will go fast when that hits the hands of firefighters.

Happy New Year to everyone in the Wildfire Community!

Jim Felix
The Supply Cache, Inc. (links for the WFF and the Supply Cache are at the top of the page)

Nice calendar. Ab.

1/4 Mr. Tom Jones:

Thank you for the fire behavior table information.

Fuels Guy
1/4 Ab, post this if it's appropriate or save it for tonight

We didn't plumb the depths of the SCRATCH lines options.

There are lots of good starts for one-liners. Todd

~~~~~~~~~~~

Some startup suggestions for creating yer own oneliners.

Every fireline has some ...
The best <xx>s are lived, not <xx>.
You've never been lost until ...
The quickest way to ...
When fighting fire in <part of the country or state> watch out for the ...
You know yer about <to get yer a$s kicked, get called a hero, yada yada> when ...
It don't take a genius to ...
When the weather <xx>, you'd better <xx>.
Firecamp is all about ...
Don't sell your <xx> to buy a <xx>.
Life is simpler when ...
Never trade <xx> for <xx>.
Please, please, just don't make me ...
It's better to be a <xx> than a <xx>.
Timing has a lot to do with ...
Fighting fire is not about how fast you <xx>, or your <xx>, but how well you <xx>.
When you work with <xx mnemonic, team or crew>, expect to <xx>.
Keep <xx>s and <xx>s at a distance.
Better watch out for (plan for, avoid) <xx> when yer spiked out.
Be sure you duck when ...
Nothing is better than ...
On the fireline, <reverse of a virtue> and <reverse of a virtue> sure are ugly brothers.
One line fire example of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
If you find yourself <xx>, the first thing to do is <xx>.
Never miss a good chance to ...
You know that you're <xx> when <xx>.

1/4 Tahoe Terrie;

Another excellent point, Bud.

Doug Campbell (AKA: Daddy Doug) taught us, as baby firefighters, to observe fire behavior around our own crews specifically, and the rest of the fire generally; to take those observations to quarters, AAR them, then go home and critique, privately, our own actions including what we missed, and what we would or could have done differently (better).

A couple of decades later, this has become a habit; I still brutally analyze my own actions, decisions, what I observed (and missed).

And I still find, even on successful, everything-worked-right assignments, there is often a point that I ask myself "What the *%#$ was I THINKING?".

It's always clear in retrospect...

Pyro5755
1/4 By the way, Paul Gleason was both a vegetarian and a Parkie when he
retired...

SI

Welcome SI. None of the comments made were really a slam on Parkies or on vegetarians. Parkies are great folks and a good number are part of this fire community. (Sue H. is a friend.) As for veggies and vegans, a fairly large proportion of groundpounders are vegetarians or do not eat red meat, and more eat veggie during the season rather than deal with "mystery meat".

We were just joshin'. If you're a firefighter, you know that people working on fire and fire issues can get caught up in the intensity and tension. The joshin' last night is like bomber pilots making fun prior to taking off from their carrier or surgeons facing a particularly difficult surgery. I let the jibes get more like "chat" than I usually do simply to relieve the tension. Things other things people have done in the past around this time of year include the following. Feel free to add...
Funny Fire Terms & Nicknames,
IMWTK,
Quotes to Live By,
Just One More Time...,
Tactical Truths to Live By,
SCRATCH lines.
Links to these and other amusements/wisdoms are located on our Links page under Miscellaneous. Ab.

1/4 vfd cap'n,

Before I evaluate the future paper of JTZ, I think I will just wait until it is published before commenting since I haven't received a "peer review" copy in advance such as you obviously have. It could be a good paper or a not... but papers don't keep our folks safer... actions do!!!

The "peer review" process is probably going to get really ugly when it comes to wildland firefighting in the future, and what experts are truly "experts" and "peer reviewers" of past, present, and future research....

Folks will need some credentials... and they won't be PhD's or MS's following their names..... Those credentials will be ICT1, ICT2, ICT3, ICT4, or many of the other leadership or supervisory positions held within the wildland firefighting community... or folks who have dropped their non-wildland titles to make things better and concentrated on the true research going on to make wildland firefighters safer....

Time will tell..... I have a warm and fuzzy feeling right now.... and it isn't from microbrews.... It is the first time since October 26, 2006 that I thought the community as a whole was trying to change things rather than judge things.....

Lobotomy
1/4 went too far,

i apologize, just trying to lighten things up.

jd

haw, haw. You and the the #1carnivore certainly did for me. And here I thought patchoulli oil might be some new kind of scent in boot grease. HAW HAW, until I googled it. Ab.

1/3 Ab,

I was reading back through some of the info on theysaid after 30 mile and this critique by Mr Kampfen jumped out at me. Well said, Mr Kampfen, Sir! Thank you for bearing witness to the truth!

(vfd cap'n please read this, notice the complexity, and how one thing leads to the next and the speed of change.)

What decision should be made, in hindsight may seem very rational -black and white. In the moment it's not so clear. Those of us who fought the 2003 fires can identify with the complexity and velocity with which things change.

Tahoe Terrie

1/3 Ab,

During the early days of They Said, I wrote about some of the info I had found on firefighter fatalities....

That would have been in the early days before some of the archiving...

If my memory serves me right, the stats said that the majority of firefighter burnover fatalities happened with folks with less than 8 years experience or more than 15 years experience....

Is there a way to back track what I said back then? I want to try and find the research I did back then and find the source I was quoting and see if it was creditable....

thanks...

former SoCalCapt

Hi SoCalCapt. You came to theysaid in early 2001 after we started archiving on site. You can access the months back to July/Aug '99. OA has the really old archives but they're not available online. I vaguely remember that there was an age breakdown on fatalities. Anyone have a reference for that? Ab.
1/3 Mellie,

Awesome.

The only thing I have questions about.... how do we get the "knowledge of how large a safety zone is required"?

That supposedly simple thing, a "Safety Zone", has often been quoted as a cure all to end all, but there has yet been anyone to quantify and verify (through research or empirical studies) what a true safety zone is?..... That cure all has also been used to "blame" countless firefighters and supervisors for their actions in the past... In fact, it has become the root and basis for the use of the 10 Standard Orders for investigations when firefighters are killed or injured through burnovers.

There have been PhD's, MS's, fire experts, mathematicians, and statisticians, etc... studying this for years..... None of them (us and others) have been able to quantify and share their "expert knowledge" of what a true Safety Zone is. There are far too many variables to calculate, even with a super computer on your side.... none the less, a human brain to try and do those calculations at a moments notice under stress.

I believe Doug Campbell has come the closest..... with Dr. Domingos Xavier Viegas a close second.... I hate to paraphrase Doug's lifelong work, but simply said.... stay the hell out of those questionable areas when things are in alignment and time tag your efforts...... It is all about risk vs. gain.

Dr. Viegas' work is adding to years and years of work of the international wildland firefighting community... and upon Dick Rothermel's initial work so many years ago..... Keeping wildland firefighters safer.

None of us can predict what will happen, but we all know what the true outcome could be if the worst case things happen when we are in really bad places on the fireline.

Gizmo
1/3 jd-

I have lurked for years and years now but have a hard time sitting idle while you speak of speak of something you obviously have no clue about. As a Park Service employee who has had direct affiliation with both the NPS Interagency Hotshot Crews, I can assure you that there is very little if any patchoulli oil being worn by any of us, you must be dazed and confused. Put the pipe down and back away slowly!!! As for the TP issue, duh, burn it, don't you remember the Narrows Incident, I thought you were an old hand? If you're going to talk smack about any particular agency you should gather the facts instead of judging all by the acts of some, DORK.

Signed, Hotshot1.....AKA Carniverous1

HAW, HAW...now lets keep this about issues, the what not the who (chuckling) Ab.

1/3 Re Vegans:

As a wildland firefighter who proudly breeds and raises Registered Black Angus cattle, I believe that nature's 2 most perfect foods are Angus beef and quality micro-brews (Moose Drool Brown Ale is my personal favorite!), but I'll still try to converse civilly with my Parkie friends that are vegans - - there is always hope that they can be won over from the "dark side" and learn to appreciate real food and drink!

Dick Mangan (aka "Blackbull Wildfire Services")

"Dark side" is relative, no? black angus and drool of moose. Ab. (tongue firmly in cheek)

1/3 Pyro,

Point well taken.

My "crisis" years were 1987, 1988, 1990x2, 1991, 1994, 1996, 2001, 2003, and 2006x5.

It needs to be said, and like you, I hope it doesn't scare the kids but educate them upon the risks.

Lobotomy
1/3 If anyone has a way for me to forward info to Ellreese's lawyer or someone else working on his behalf, would you please contact me. Ab.
1/3 Ab, & all;

A little tip, if you want to E-mail CNN; use NozzleHog's link below, get to
"Contact Us at CNN.com" page, use the "news links" link at the top of the
page. Seems to be the only place you can actually write them something
other than your opinion of tonight's show.

NozzleHog's link to CNN: www.cnn.com/feedback/dotcom/

It even worked for a bonehead like me...

Pyro5755
1/3 For Fuels Guy's question on fuel moisture and probability of ignition tables:

Steve Sackett, Bob Burgan and Jack Cohen all contributed to development of the fuel moisture tables. Mark J. Schroeder developed the probability of ignition method and Pat Andrews adapted it for use by Fire Behavior Officers. These are the people Dick Rothermel gives credit to for these tables and procedures in his publication "How to Predict the Spread and Intensity of Forest and Range Fires" Richard C. Rothermel PMS 436-1, June 1983, NFES 1573.

Buy the way, this publication is as close to Rocket Science as we can get in predicting fire behavior. Dick Rothermel also was employed by General Electric to work on developing a nuclear powered airplane before he went to the Northern Forest Fire Lab. It is the one publication I use the most when working as an FBAN.

Tom Jones
1/3 jd;

Definitely burn TP; I can think of at least 2 "Escaped- TP" fires...
and let the OT Roll! (tongue firmly in cheek)

Pyro5755
1/3 NorCal Tom,

The draft copy I had was from early September. But, since we have all
fallen down this rabbit hole, perhaps we should give a little more credit to
a person who thinks "only logical."

vfd cap'n

ps, Ab, can you add my favorite quotes from "Alice in Wonderland" to the
quotes page?

'Curiouser and curiouser!'
---
`But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
`Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: `We're all mad here. I'm mad.
You're mad.'
`How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
`You must be,' said the Cat, `or you wouldn't have come here.'
---
`Now, I give you fair warning,' shouted the Queen, stamping on the ground as
she spoke; `either you or your head must be off, and that in about half no
time! Take your choice!'
---
'Sentence first--verdict afterwards.'

1/3 A little known fact attributed to the Grand Vegetarian
Experiment (GVE for short), of 2000, was that the
amount of patchoulli oil worn by NPS personnel was in
direct relation to the amount of tofu supplied by the
federal taxpayer...... Burn or bury TP? I always
forget.

jd
1/3 Casey and all,

I 100% agree with your views of the agency leaving a working member of the agency hanging out to dry. The agencies highest officials seem to be covering their rears and not doing what is right: supporting an employee who was doing his job, working within the scope of his duties. Doesn't the agency claim to represent an employee who is doing this? It seems not.

The higher ups (Casey, I at this point know for a fact that you know who I am talking about) ARE just letting this go to the wayside so as to not draw attention to themselves.

The legal folks prosecuting don't seem to want to look at the facts presented to them about ALL cases, as Casey said.

I hope that this changes sometime in my career.

Squirtgun
1/3 Vegie, versus Meat

Here is my personal experience.
I was a Parkie for two years in So Cal, and I will never forget the times that I would open up a can of Vienna Sausage or better yet, a can of Sardines while sitting on the side of a mountain in front of my co-workers and see/hearing the gasps for the sin I was about to commit against my body.

However, I also spent two years as a Parkie in the mid-west and we were most-assuredly carnivores. My bosses bellies could attest to that.
Perhaps the statement about Most Parkies are Vegetarians only applies to California?

As far as Micro Brews go my favorite is either Hamm's or Olympia, like the old commercial says
"Its the water". The secret here is to boil the water out of those brews until they reach a deep, rich, dark colour and then enjoy.
(Kinda like making Maple Syrup) 35 to 50:1

Lucky Lindy

No impulse drinking eh? I tried a few microbrews, but now I'm older'Bud'wise'r when I tip one. Ab.

1/3 Dear vfd cap'n:

We've had some differences of opinion before and will likely again in the future. That's what makes this forum great. However I have to address your question of :

"Is it any wonder that the families actually expect that the Agency will do what it says? Or, that they will continue to push for changes or else criminal charges?"

You hit the nail on the head when you said Agency. Where has the leadership of the Agency been in all of this? Why has the Agency allowed a crew boss to take the rap for what many consider to be organizational dysfunction?

Not dysfunction by the firefighters but dysfunction by those (non-fire line officers and agency heads) who establish and implement policies and then fail to take responsibility for organizational failures.

Let's face it, its easier & safer for protecting politically appointed rear-ends for a politically-inspired US Attorney and the USDA OIG to go after a small fish even though both offices have received overwhelming evidence of serious regulation & federal law violations by FS Agency officials involved in interference of a FS LE investigation pertaining to a VIPs escaped prescribed burn in 2004.

It is time for the Agency, and those that establish & implement the policies, doctrines, whatever, to stop worrying about their political appointed rear-ends and do what is right. Complying with the law would be a good first step. A good second step would be showing some semblance of respect for their firefighters and some effort in improving pay, benefits & working conditions and perhaps the third step would be for them to actually get some FIRE training and be qualified in the performance of the duties that they impact each and every day by what they do in the WO & Mr. Rey's office.

When you have agency leadership violating laws & regulations and other agencies failing to administer the law equitably in those cases, it becomes incumbent upon us to do what we can to fix the problem. Replacing some folks in DC with fire experienced and qualified individuals who have a higher degree of integrity than those currently in place and who is not beholden to any Administration or member of Congress but to his/her firefighters, might be a good start.

sorry AB, I hinted but didn't let the entire cat out of the bag...

Casey Judd
1/3 vfd

that all sounds great on paper, but then there is that
pesky reality that we actually fight fire in. If you
think for a second that it's not more complicated than
your 3 points we might as well start a legal defense
fund for you. sorry but i just don't think you get
beyond paper and reports.

how do your briefings make absolutely positive that
the firefighters are going to do what you said....what
if the weather forecast was wrong.....what if a freak
fire whirl crosses the line.....what if your fire
changes direction and smoke blows in your face and
obscures all visibility, what if a tree falls, what if
a rock rolls, what if a fire truck rolls over, what if
a dozer gets stuck, what if your folks said they
understood but didn't, what if you have multiple
agencies with folks you've never seen before, what if
you as IC can't see everyone on your fire, what if you
have to rely on other people's perceptions of fire
behavior, what if you do everything right but someone
else doesn't.....

Do this long enough and you'll learn every single
"what if" cannot be covered, you cover the predictable
ones, put trust in firefighters and supervisors you've
never worked with before, and hope for the best.
That's reality on a great deal of Type 3 fires.

jd
1/3 Thanks to all of you for your support of Ellreese Daniels.

Are you feed-up? Let’s “pour the coals” on the story and send a message that will “rock their world”. Lou Dobbs, host of CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” is exposing the wrongful prosecution of US Boarder Patrol Agents who were just doing their job in halting Mexican drug runners …

Idea: let’s send a message to Lou Dobbs exposing the Daniels' case for what it is: the malicious persecution of hardworking American Firefighters.

If you care -- please write to: www.cnn.com/feedback/dotcom/ and tell CNN we need their voice to help expose this travesty to the American people.

“Nozzle Hog” – proud to be American Wildland Firefighter

1/3 vfd cap'n,

Not to minimize her excellent contributions, but unless Ziegler wrote the
paper more than 5 years ago, her prediction is only logical. This discussion
has been going on for longer than that on theysaid. It has also been a topic
of conversation by Fed fire managers (in R5 and R6) and ICs for at least
that long.

I look forward to reading her paper.

NorCal Tom

1/3 jd,

It doesn't have to get much more complicated than
  1. "This is what I think the fire is going to do,
  2. this is my plan for what we are going to do, and
  3. these are our contingencies in case I've got it all wrong."

What I want to hear from my firefighters is whether my command concept matches what they're seeing and what their experience/gut is telling them.

I can catch the first 9 of the 10 fire orders in my briefing by (1) CPS, (2) DRAW-D, and (3) LCES. "Fight fire aggressively having provided for safety first" is the most difficult because of the natural tendency to cut corners to get the job done. We try to balance our production with protection, just like James Reason wrote about a couple pages before introducing the swiss cheese model. The hardest part is keeping safety first, as in carrying a fire shelter but not giving in to the temptation to stay in a sketchy situation longer because of what's in the pouch.

Mellie,

Jennifer Ziegler has a paper awaiting publication in a communications journal about the organizational response to South Canyon and Thirtymile. It's scary how well she identified/predicted this quest for "managerial rationality" leading to a "crisis of organizational legitimacy" with criminal prosecution of incident commanders. She has given us a tentative commitment for a presentation at our second annual Wildfire Safety Drill in April.

That's all good stuff in the rest of your post. I called in a couple favors to get Kelly here last year. I'm still trying to figure out the best approach to ask Doug if he will come out.

vfd cap'n

1/3 It's a well known fact in Ireland that a pint of Guinness has all the vitamins and minerals you need for a complete, nutritious meal. At least, that's what I was told by an old stool bum in the Scotsman Pub in Donegal, not all that long ago. He also made the outrageous claim that the singer Kenny Rogers was actually a woman.

I agree with Fire Geek that there's nothing that settles the dust like a Bartel's Giant Burger after a night drinking barley pop in the land of "big trees and divorcees."

Joe Hill

I was told that only Instant Guiness had that all-in-one characteristic. Ab.

1/3 FireBill,

Every pair of shoes, boots and crampon straps I own is brown.
Special thanks to JD for that insightful piece of trivia. I'm glad I
transferred to BLM when I did; I certainly wouldn't want to be
politically incorrect when it comes to a juicy cheeseburger. BTW,
the best burgers in the country are made at Bartels Giant Burger
in Redding!

Fire Geek
1/3 vfd cap'n

You hit the nail on the head of the issue. Those guys in Jack Ward Thomas' day got that part of it wrong about not bending or breaking the 10 Fire Orders, while mitigating all of the 18 Watchouts. Others' perception of wildland firefighting is stuck here.

The "rules" are really guidelines for the process of engagement and disengagement of fire. Original Intent Fire Orders were described again by Karl Brauneis in 2001 and there's a good schematic here. As many have pointed out through the years (Doug Campbell, for one), they're very loosely written and can always be found to have been violated in fatality fires. In actuality, how well someone can follow the "rules" that are really guidelines is a matter of

  • Knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that equate to
    • training,
    • experience with and awareness of fire behavior, how and where it changes, it's signature on the particular piece of ground and how to assess the changing fire risk on the fireground itself
    • knowledge/experience with how to mitigate the risk using LCES (Lookouts, Communication, Escape routes and Safety zones, which are really a distillation of the 10 fire orders see Gleason); knowledge of how large a safety zone is required
    • experience with and awareness of people-dynamics under stress,
    • leadership, and
    • all kinds of other human factors that affect situational awareness at individual and group levels
      • Individual differences:
        • concurrent responsibilities (wearing too many hats)
        • sleep deficit
        • duration of assignment without real "rest"--> tiredness/fatigue
        • adrenalin (epinephrine)
        • hydration/dehydration
        • smoke (carbon monoxide among other components)
        • physical fitness
        • guts or courage to step up and question leadership if you feel the situation may become unsafe
        • ego issues; lack of emotional intelligence
      • Group dynamics include the above and, among other things, also include:
        • crew cohesion
        • experience in working together on a particular fire, if a pick-up crew
        • soft-spoken leader/charismatic squad boss
        • trust in the leader if you're up against the wall
        • experience levels of those in the crew, ratio of new to experienced members that model excellent "followership" behavior, gut level knowledge of following chain-of-command.
          Who do you follow on a pick-up crew?
  • Timeframe in which to make life-saving decisions:
    Is the speed in assessing and following the guidelines of engagement/ disengagement (formerly known as "10 Fire Orders") moving at a human "molasses pace" relative to the "hypervelocity" of the fire's movement? (Regarding timeframe, see Kelly Close's excellent article.)

So that brings us to Doctrinal Change and Professionalism. In spite of the recent regression in these charges being brought against Ellreese, and the current administration's attempts to dismantle fire (outsource it), I feel that we've been working toward Doctrinal Change.

  • Yeah, firefighters are still called Forestry and Range Techs (even the Firefighter Safety Awareness Study, Part III, "Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety" suggested wildland firefighters be classified as firefighters by OPM).
  • And yeah there's still a retention issue, especially in where forests abut cities on the WUI (wildland-urban interface).
  • ETC

But the thing that gives me hope for change is that there is this theysaid community of individuals -- professional firefighters. You're willing share your wisdom and network to take critical issues that affect this nation: to the public, to the congress, and to the judicial branch. You're good thinkers and planners and you have an impact. Read over that section in the link above on "Implementing Cultural Changes for Safety" and you'll see we're in the process of creating change from the fireground, in spite of the bureaucracy. This is a mark of the Wildland Firefighting Professionalism you HAVE.

Here's to you, my friends, you participants! Nice work. I sure enjoy all our individual differences and our group dynamics, our wisdom and our quirky kneejerks. Thanks Ab, for the inspiration of this website. You were/are ahead of your time in this vision!

Mellie

1/3 vfd captain,

Walk us through the decision making process of what
you feel would be a typical Type 3 Incident from
beginning to end, include your thoughts on how you
weighed each decision, document all of your decisions,
and explain to us how you made your incident safe for
every single firefighter.

jd

p.s. don't forget anything or we'll put you in jail
1/3 Ab,

The transmittal letters of several FS directives following Thirtymile included the the following code of conduct. http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/investigations/30mile/enclosure2_williams_wo_cover_memo.pdf http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/safety/investigations/30mile/enclosure_3_incident_mgt_cover_memo.pdf

Is it any wonder that the families actually expect that the Agency will do what it says? Or, that they will continue to push for changes or else criminal charges?

vfd cap'n
---

Code of Conduct for Fire Suppression:

* Firefighter safety comes first on every fire every time.
* The 10 Standard Firefighting Orders are firm…we don’t break them; we don’t bend them.
* Every firefighter has the right to know that his or her assignments are safe.
* Every fireline supervisor, every fire manager, and every administrator has the responsibility to confirm that safe practices are known and observed.
1/3 Hi
I am a volunteer wildland firefighter from Australia, presently working in
the US in project management.

Our brigade is keen to buy a bulk quantity of Wildcat Wildland Goggles.
Do you know who manufactures these? I cannot seem to track down the
manufacturer, as distinct from some resellers.

Keep up the great work, love your site.

Cheers
Col

1/3 Food groups for micro brews: if you're a stout and porter fan like me, it's bread.
If you like lager, it's breakfast juice. (Hey it's January and boring.)

Still Out There ....
1/3 For those of you who may have known Bill Holda, but may not have heard the sad news, I thought you may want to know. I served with Bill on the fire department, on interagency fire assignments, and recently worked with his IMT following Hurricane Katrina. He was a great guy, a vital member of the fire department, a skilled IMT section chief, and a man with a tremendous sense of humor. Information below came from InsideNPS.

Mike DeGrosky

Passing Of Bill Holda

On Tuesday, December 26th, a most beloved former Grand Teton employee, park ranger and U.S. Army veteran, Bill Holda, 59, died at his home in Manns Harbor, North Carolina, with his wife Cyndy and son, Mitch, nearby. It appears that Bill suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly, though this is not yet confirmed.

Bill moved to Grand Teton National Park with his family in 1987 and began his Grand Teton career as the Buffalo Valley subdistrict ranger at Moran. In 1990, Bill was selected as the John D. Rockefeller Jr., Memorial Parkway (JDR) subdistrict ranger, based at Flagg Ranch. In 1999, Bill became the Colter Bay subdistrict ranger, and a year later was selected as the park's law enforcement officer, serving as the park's primary liaison to the U. S Attorney. In 2002, Bill began a long term assignment as acting chief ranger. He held that position until his retirement in July 2004.

Bill served in leadership positions on numerous national incident and fire teams in operations, including in Florida during and after Hurricane Andrew, in Washington, D.C. for post 911 homeland security special ops, and, notably, in Grand Teton during the two Clinton family vacations and as ops chief on the Alder Fire, which directly threatened Jenny Lake Lodge in October 1999.

Bill seemed a permanent fixture at the Moran Fire House. He was an active member of the volunteer fire brigade and helped every September with the annual Moran Fire Department fundraiser barbeque. When not at the Moran Fire House, Bill could be found in the Broncs cheering section of every basketball game and every other sporting event Mitch played in. Together Bill and Cyndy logged thousands of miles traveling to all of Mitch's away games.

To park friends, Bill was considered "the Jay Leno" of the Tetons, and he regaled every employee gathering and safety meeting with his special brand of witty self-depreciating humor.

Bill brought safety awareness and employee interest in workplace safety to an all-time high during his tenure as Grand Teton's safety committee chair.

Bill holds a special place in the hearts of hundreds of Moran and Moose and Colter Bay kids who first met him in his bright red Santa suit. Bill was the ultimate Santa Claus and carried the merry spirit of the season with him throughout the year

Prior to moving to Grand Teton, Bill served in park ranger positions at Crater Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway and Indiana Dunes. He was a graduate of Southern Illinois University and before college served in the U.S. Army.

Following his retirement, Bill and Cyndy moved to the Outer Banks, where she was born and raised. Bill continued to be active as a special resource contractor for major disasters, such as hurricane responses, as an emergency operations trainer, and in other specialized functions.

"He did an absolutely wonderful job this past summer serving as community liaison between the superintendent's office and the Cape Hatteras National Seashore villages and stakeholders during the first year of implementation of a controversial new interim plan to manage off-road vehicles in sensitive wildlife nesting areas until a long-term ORV management plan can be developed", said Cape Hatteras superintendent Mike Murray. "Bill's quiet confidence and calmness under pressure really made a big difference in maintaining good community relations as we implemented and modified scores of resources protection closures over 64 miles of beaches during the course of the summer."

Bill was a devoted husband, father and son and a great friend to legions of Grand Teton, Buffalo Valley and Jackson Hole area folks. He is survived by his wife, Cyndy, a National Park Service employee at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and formerly a Grand Teton National Park employee; his son Mitch, a graduate of Gonzaga University and formerly a graduate of Jackson Hole High School; and his mother, Addie Holda of Chicago, Illinois, and sister, Barbara Robinson, of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin

A memorial service was held on Friday, December 29th, at the Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church in Manns Harbor, North Carolina.

Cards of condolence may be sent to Cyndy and Mitch Holda at: P.O. Box 72, Manns Harbor, North Carolina 27953 In lieu of flowers the family requests donations to the Moran Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. 331, Moran, WY 83013

Condolences. Ab.

1/3 getting into the business...

I have friends in the business that are talking to me about getting started my self. They are suggesting that I start by being and Type I incident management specialist. My understanding is that the specialist is the first guy to be called that will call all the rest of the necessary contractors.
Also Type I managers are not only responding to fire but to incidents such as Katrina. Am I on the right track.

My background is 18 years Border Patrol. I was a COTR for five of those years. I was the Construction /Facilities manager (nobody else wanted or could do the job).

Jim

And exactly what business would this be, Jim? Ab.

1/3 An interesting article from the New York Times about paying
for the costs of wildfire suppression, especially in the WUI.

www.nytimes.com

Mollysboy
1/3 I'm interested in being a tanker pilot but don't know the best avenue to reach that goal.
How much flight time is competitive, are there drop schools, which type of aircraft would
be the best type to train in for potential employers and could use any advice on the best
route to get there? Thank you.

AMT3 Sean Casebolt/ Coast Guard

I suggest you go to the AirTanker Pilots' Board. There is a closed discussion forum there, available to members only. But if you ask Larry, the webmaster/owner, maybe he will pose your question and send you the replies. You could also visit firepirates.com, but they do not have a discussion forum yet and I haven't asked the owner whether they will or not. Some good photos to browse... Ab.

1/3 Re: Does anyone know about the Federal Grand Jury Process?

Aberdeen – I'm not a lawyer, but I hope this helps.

Speaking from experience, the Federal District Court Grand Jury is nothing like you’ve ever seen on television. The case I was involved in was a timber theft case. (I’m a Forester first and fire militia second.)

First of all, the grand jury I testified before was composed of 28 citizens from the Federal District Court jurisdiction. The Grand Jurors serve for a year. They day I testified there were 23 grand jurors present plus the Assistant Federal District Attorney who was prosecuting the case in the room. These are the only people besides the witnesses who were allowed in the room. There’s no Federal District Court Judge involved in a Grand Jury hearing. This event is totally for the prosecution to evaluate their case..

At this stage of the game the Defense is not involved at all. The purpose of the grand jury session is for a group of citizens (the Grand Jury) to evaluate the evidence the Prosecutor has to determine if they believe a crime has been committed and if they believe there is enough evidence to convict the accused.

Before testifying I was sworn in as a witness and all statements I made were recorded and transcribed. The individual grand jurors were allowed to ask me any questions they might have about my testimony. Overall I found it to be a very friendly and casual atmosphere. Of course I was the star witness for the prosecutor!

In my case the accused was not brought before the grand jury. I was told that if the accused was subpoenaed to testify, they could have their attorney present. I imagine that situation could lead to a lot of “Taking the 5ths”.

After the prosecutor presents all the evidence, the jury meets by themselves in private to decide whither or not to indict (accuse) the person of the crimes. The indictment presented by the jury will contain the vote total of the grand jurors such as 20 to 3 for indictment. This gives the prosecutor an idea of how strong a case they have. A vote of 16 to 14 indicates that the case is not very strong.

If this is the case, the prosecutor DOES NOT have to go out and immediately have the accused arrested and begin the prosecution process. The Fed Attorney can sit on the indictment and go out and try to gather additional evidence. They can then present more evidence to the jury at a later date in an attempt to get a stronger indictment.

Also, the Prosecutor can decide to NOT prosecute based on the evidence that was presented to the grand jury. And, of course, the jury can vote not to indict.

After testifying, I strongly feel serving on a Federal Grand Jury would be an interesting and informative experience.

AK Old Timer

P.S. In the case I was involved with, the Grand Jury indicted the accused 23 to 0!! But, at trial, the defendant was found Not Guilty!! (Win some – loose some….another long story!)

1/3 More Media Contacts:

This paper isn't large, but it's the only daily paper in Olympia, WA (State Capitol)
and purportedly read daily by Governor Gregoire (who annually participates in the
light or "walk" test with the Commissioner of Public Lands).

www.theolympian.com

John Dodge, Outdoor writer jdodge@ theolympian.com
Brad Shannon, Government writer bshannon@ theolympian.com

Call the BillyGoats's Gruff

1/3 Ab says: "haw, haw What food group is micro-brew in? Ab."

The answer depends on how dark it is... especially if you subscribe to the
"If you can see light through it, it's not beer" school of thought.

(Is it true all Parkies wear brown boots?)

Best wishes for a safe and happy New Year...

-FireBill
1/3 Ab;

It looks as if the Troops are compiling a lot of what we discussed. God Bless our Fire Community.

Maybe this helps with your question; a DVM friend of mine taught me the major food groups, as follows: Fat, Sugar, Salt, Alcohol, and Chocolate.

To illustrate Lobotomy's point re: improved safety; I have not lost a personal friend to fire since South Canyon. 25 before that.

Maybe shouldn't post this; don't want to scare the Children.

Pyro
1/3 Information on fire behavior tables

I’d appreciate being directed to either the research literature or persons involved in the assembly of the Fuel Moisture Correction Tables or the Probability of Ignition Table.

This probably is of little interest to this reader group so I hope Ab will forward any information to me.

Thanks a bunch
Fuels Guy

1/3 Casey,

Good point.

The folks (Hastings and Cantwell) who authored PL 107-203 were acting on impulse (a normal human reaction) for their constituents who were suffering a terrible loss and pain.... while many others (elected officials) were also acting on impulse... just not wanting to "piss off the Pope" and reap the wrath of the press and their constituents during an election period.... Their actual intent was noble and just....... keep wildland firefighters safer.... their actions actually lead to increased wildland firefighter risks and they need to know it and OWN it, before they speak out and make the changes they are wanting.... They need to be educated as to the risks of their actions......

Many of the families who actively pursued PL 107-203 also acted on impulse wanting to alleviate their pain and suffering, and an intent to gain a "pound of flesh" from the Forest Service in any way possible (a normal human reaction). That is normal, and I understand it now more than ever before.... but those folks need to seek friends within the wildland fire community who actually can look beyondthe pain and desire for a "pound of flesh".... I recommend they contact the Wildland Firefighter Foundation for a better understanding and a chance for healing and focusing on their true intent....

I understand some of their pain and grief.... the Forest Service needs a "pound of flesh" removed, but not from the hides of the folks at the bottom of the failure process..... The people that are "FAT" and need some additional pounds removed are the political appointees who are not wildland firefighters and have never been a firefghter, but feel they are qualified to judge, manage, and supervise the wildland fire program....... BUT CONTINUE TO PUT BARRIERS in front of wildland firefighter safety by their actions to cover their asses and direct the accountability downwards, rather than correct the deficits known for over 40 years..... They are the folks who need a "pound of flesh" removed from....

The entire wildland fire program needs to be completely revisited and revamped.... for future wildland firefighter safety...

Ken Weaver.... you yelled and screamed at me at the gas station shortly after the Thirtymile Fire....I heard and experienced your pain..... Ken, Please, stop screaming at me and others, and start listening to the wildland fire community as a whole who has suffered these losses... Things will get better if you don't concentrate on blame and embrace the folks who really understand and recognize your loss and want to prevent future losses....

JMHO... It is going to get ugly unless folks speak factually on the risks of wildland fire....

I'll be damned if I ever serve as an Incident Comander ever again, until the entire federal wildland fire program is revisited and revamped to account for the professionalism, the risks, and the possible outcomes..... for future wildland firefighter safety. Top to Bottom.

Families hurt and so do the wildland firefighters left behind who have lost friends.... we have a common goal.

I have done a risk vs. gain analysis.... I would rather work as an Assistant Manager at an In-N-Out Burger rather than sit on my hands any longer...

Always Remember....

/s/ Kenneth Kempter
Wildland Firefghter
1/3 Ab,

After reading the 1957 Report to the Chief (and items in the appendix) for the umteenth time, it finally struck me right in the knoggin....

The 1948 Fire (Barrett) on the Cleveland National Forest... finally a link to the Del Rosa Hotshot that died, that only is mentioned in a press article currently available by only one source...

According to the press article, he was a "newbie" and was "very young".... but HE WAS A HOTSHOT.... one of the original Hotshots with a long history for searching for better safety and productivity.... the very roots of how our wildland fire community has evolved from the past.

Thanks for the prompting Lobotomy.... I also wonder about the Bailiff Fire.... so little info and so much to learn.....

The Del Rosa Hotshots are in the process of building a Memorial for their two losses since 1946... They plan on putting the Memorial up on the compound that has been the site of wildland firefighters since 1935 (CCC Days), but someone(s) want to sell the compound so people can build condos and houses....... and expand the wildland/urban interface further into the Forest.

I am also proud of the Hotshot Crews that signed up as 52 Club Gold Members for 2006.

sign me, Once a Hotshot, Always a Hotshot
DRHS 1984-1988, TCHS 1999, AHS 2000
1/2 Questions
  • Does anyone know about the Federal Grand Jury Process?
  • Is the US Attorney in there alone presenting his charges?
  • Does Ellreese get his Public Defender in the room to refute the
    US Attorney's charges?
  • Will any of the allegations ever see the light of public scrutiny?
  • Is there any accountability/consequences for the US Attorney
    if his charges are rejected by the Grand Jury?
  • Will Mike Nifong from the Duke University Lacrosse case
    be assisting the Spokane US Attorney on the Thirtymile
    charges? Seems like they've got similar goals and thought
    patterns.

Aberdeen

1/2 JD,

I have worked for the park service for ten years, two foods come to mind:
tri-tip and micro brew.

dragmccloud

haw, haw What food group is micro-brew in? Ab.

1/2 Mollysboy,

First, I want to preface that this is not an attack on you, just an expansion upon some of your thoughts... I hope.... or atleast a good future discussion for safety.

You said, "Now we have to have OIG and Justice Department reviews, redacting names/places/etc, worrying about "Garrity", and the lessons learned from Esperanza will be lost for the 2007 refresher training sessions? 12 years later, and we're taking giant steps backward in getting timely info regarding safe firefighting practices out to the field users."

Don't worry about the lessons learned from the Esperanza Fire. I am pretty confident that the lessons of the Esperanza Fire were already "learned" from our wildland fire profession nearly 50 years ago and subsequent reports that come out nearly every year.... The 1957 Task Force Report to the Chief. Unfortunately, the action items from 1957 still have never been realized or fully implemented, much like the vision for a Foundational Doctrine.

What has been built upon since the South Canyon Fire is the need to look heavily at Human Factors. Some have focused their Human Factors research on blame and accountability for the individual to "prevent" them from making mistakes, while others have researched ways to make the fire organization more sound and able to design out many of the known and re-occurring hazards. The basis of Human Factors research is that humans will always make mistakes, so "build a better cockpit" to keep them safer. A term that has always been on my mind is "controlled flight into terrain". Those of you who really study Human Factors know what I am talking about.

I believe we all are making our wildland fire community safer. I will try to clarify. Someone wrote many years ago that our accident rate was significantly down. At the time, I didn't believe it. After really considering the many variables (fire numbers, urban/suburban/rural development, number of firefighters, etc.) it is very sound statistics that our number of burnovers has been dramatically lowered, but.. we still have failures.

As the urban interface continues to grow, and the fire environment continues to worsen, and our cultural and organizational knowledge lessens with recruitment and retention problems, early retirements, and negative synergy. These problems will only start to re-materialize, year after year... and over and over again... as they have in the past, and will again in the future.

Another report that sticks highly in my mind was the Mack II Investigation report. On October 1, 2006, I wrote about the similarities of many accidents since 1957. "Lessons Not Learned" quotes specifics from the 1971 Investigation and how they could have been written today.

Lobotomy

PS Ab, "controlled flight into terrain" is where our friends simply make human mistakes... often known as "pilot error" ... folks can either blame or understand.

It hurts alot to know our friends and family can make mistakes and errors in judgment... or "fly into terrain"... but those errors actually happen...

Simply sucks, but is factual...

1/2 Ab

Glad to see you are keeping a thread of humor going through all this serious
discussion about the fate of Mr. Daniels; but "Instant water".

Is everyone aware that Mr. President Ford (God rest his soul) was the only
US president to be a "parkie"? I have heard nothing about him being a
vegetarian.

The uncertainty has got to be taking an emotional toll on so many people, is
so disheartening. Glad the fire community is, for the most part, sticking
together on this issue.

ht
1/2 Here is the contact info for the press in Seattle, Tacoma, and Wenatchee,
Washington as well as the Portland Oregonian.

I also included contact info for the Governor of Washington State.

Hope it will help.

Missoula Squid

Thanks Missoula Squid. I put them HERE for the time being. Ab.

1/2 AB,

Does anyone have information on which college credit classes meet the
GS-401 series requirements imposed under the IFPM that need to be
completed by 10-2009?

Thanks in advance.

JTO

1/2 Fire Geek,

During a little known unscientific study from
1999-2001 conducted by an unnamed rappel crew found
73.75% of all Parkies encountered in said fire seasons
ordered vegetarian lunches. Meat consumption by Park
Service Employees is going the way of the dodo bird
and the polar bear.....this may be even more greatly
impacted by the effects of global warming and urban
sprawl.....have you heard the rumors of hydrogen fuel
cell crew buggies?

just kidding

JD

The study found that the Parkies were real big on instant water, too. Very healthful. Ab.

1/2 Ab,

Here's the Spokesman Review Contact Numbers.

Missoula Squid

Excellent. Thanks Missoula Squid. I put them HERE for the time being. Ab.

1/2 WRITING YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS

For those of you who plan on writing your congressional representatives; the press; the US Attorney in Spokane, or whomever else, it is imperative that you remind these folks that nowhere in the process of introducing & passing the legislation that became PL 107-203, did Congress make an "informed or implied" intent or expectation that such a law be applied retroactively.

If so, where would we start and how far back would we go? The USDA OIG & US Attorney have subjectively interpreted the law to apply it to Thirtymile. Perhaps they assumed they had such authority because the incident was in Washington and the authors of the legislation were also from Washington.

Regardless of their thought-process, your legislators, especially in Congress, need to be reminded that as far as we know,
  • no one in congress -- inclusive of the authors of the legislation -- intended, anticipated or expects criminal prosecutions to result from the passage of the legislation and
  • no guidance, implied or stated, gave either agency the authority to apply the law retroactively.

Thanks in advance for your letters. You all have a powerful voice.

Casey

Ab's bolding.

1/2 Missoula Squid,

Ab said maybe you could find a phone or fax number for the Spokane
Spokesman-Review? It's a key media resource on the US Attorney's
home ground.

Anyone else got that info?

Someone emailed me and suggested we might want to contact newspapers
and legislators in Washington State (and our own home states) about the
Yakima editorial. As he said, The US Senate and House get sworn in
Thursday, so they'll all be in DC.

Here are some contact numbers:

Washington US Senator Patty Murray: Fax 202-224-0238
Washington US Senator Maria Cantwell: Fax 202-224-8273
Washington US Rep. "Doc" Hastings: Fax 202-225-3251

Tri-City Herald: Fax 509-582-1510
The Olympian: Fax 360-357-0202
Yakima Herald: Email opinion@yakima-herald.com
Wenatchee World: phone 509-663-5161
Seattle Times: Fax 206-382-6760
Seattle P-I: phone 206-448-8000

Montana US Senator Jon Tester: Fax 406-449-0184
Montana US Senator Max Baucus: Fax 202-224-0515

Folks, you can get to your elected officials e-mail addresses and fax numbers:

http://thomas.loc.gov (General Info and Individual Websites)
http://www.house.gov (House of Representatives)
http://www.senate.gov (Senate)

Mellie

1/2 To add a bit to all of the 30 Mile postings. Mistakes were certainly made, this is well documented and written about. One fact always sticks in my mind, those that stayed on the road with their crewboss lived.

On a more subjective note, after things went quite wrong and the crew was cut off from a down canyon/upwind escape, probably the best survivable place on the road was selected. That is what my "where would I have gone?" hindsight said. I did spend several weeks in that same canyon fighting fire (2003), visited the site, and drove the length of the road. If I remember correctly from the report, the vans weren't even significantly damaged although the civilian vehicle didn't fare well. Other than keeping the crew together and focused, spending time "improving" the chosen spot may not have had any positive effect on the safety of those on the road.

......and....No, I don't know Ellreese or have any particular affinity for the region or its ways of doing business. I do know that sometimes bad stuff happens and we can't get a do-over on the crux moments after the fact. That however doesn't mean we should forget mistakes....

Odin
1/2 Take a look at a Column By Phyllis Schlafly "we Need Compassion" at
www.bendweekly.com/opinion/1600.phpl I hope The Ellreese case
doesnt get this far.

A few years ago I would have said "This could not happen!" But here we are.
Keep up the good work with "they said". And cover your butt, whatever you do.

Retired and Glad I am.

1/2 Thanks yactac.

I hadn't seen the errata sheet for the 30-mile Report; I had only heard
about the changes. It would be interesting to know the motivation behind
those changes from the top down.

Veeeery int-er-est-ing.

Regarding Elreese's lawyer:

I have heard that Ellreese has a very sharp and competent Public Defender,
versed in this kind of federal law. I do hope that someone is copying and pasting
pertinent info from theysaid to pass on to his lawyer. There is such a wealth of
professional firefighter information being shared here.

My thought about the US Atty in Spokane who brought the charges:

Part of me says "poor guy". If that federal attorney did make this opportunity
to increase his visibility to advance his career, it really might backfire. As
we're seeing in the Duke University "rape" case debacle, legal professionals
can come down hard on their peers for ethics violations. Heaven knows
that the DA in that case has certainly ruined the lives of some young men
and cost their families big bucks without having real evidence.

Time and more information will tell.

Veeeery int-er-est-ing.

Happy New Year everyone! Rock and roll to a professional beat!

Mellie

We've posted a link to the errata Sheet for the 30 mile Report on the Archived Documents Worth Reading.

1/2 Lobotomy,

So, as a layperson, it would appear the Special Agent Parker's heavy reliance upon the Forest Service investigative record, the Forest Service Administrative Review Team, and the Forest Service Oral Reply Team was a violation of Ellreese Daniels' Fifth Amendment Right against self incrimination?

Kastigar Hearing:

In such a hearing, the government must bear " `the heavy burden' of proving an independent source for all its evidence." United States v. Mapelli, 971 F.2d 284, 288 (9th Cir.1992)(quoting Kastigar, 406 U.S. at 461). Such hearings have already had the approval of this court in re Grand Jury Proceedings (Kinamon), 45 F.3d at 348, and the Tenth Circuit in Grand Jury Subpoena, 40 F.3d at 1104. Such a hearing compels the government to establish that there is no Fifth Amendment violation in the use of the compelled statement.

NorCal Tom

1/2 An excellent Editorial in Tuesday's Missoulian!!

Charges against fire boss heap travesty atop tragedy

SUMMARY: Scapegoating firefighting crew boss is wrong and can only add to firefighting danger.

www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/01/02/opinion/opinion3.txt (same article as below)

Dick Mangan

1/2 At least some of the media seem to understand what is going on.

www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/01/02/opinion/opinion3.txt

SDSUPT

Here's a bit of it. Excellent piece. Ab.

The mistakes contributing to the Thirtymile disaster have been well documented. The Forest Service and Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated and thoroughly catalogued the contributing factors leading up to the deaths. They range from inadequate safety consideration to flawed firefighting tactics to fatigue to lapses in leadership. Forest Service investigators faulted the crew boss for some of the mistakes, but assigned others more broadly. Charging a middle-management firefighter with manslaughter for the death of crewmen in a fire is akin to filing manslaughter charges against an Army captain for the deaths of soldiers caught in an enemy ambush.

1/2 Re: OIG Actions Regarding the 30 Mile Prosecution(s):

Here is the reason why the OIG investigation is supposed to be independent and not rely upon information from the Forest Service administrative/investigative review:

Ninth Circuit Decision


This was a decision at the Ninth Circuit Court. It was never taken to the United States Supreme Court.

There is a still an undecided issue of the Constitutionality of compelled/non-compelled vs. administrative/criminal in regards to the protection Fifth Amendment Rights..... but there are some very important procedures clearly not followed by USDA Office of the Inspector General, the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Washington, and Special Agent Parker.

Lobotomy
1/2 Just a note, and update on our Benefit Auction Planned for Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

NWSA will be holding its annual conference in Reno Feb. 19-21 at the Peppermill. We have some great speakers lined up for the conference and also some workshops on "Crew Cohesiveness" and "Supervisory Drug/Alcohol Training". We also will be holding our 4th Annual Benefit Auction. This year we are honoring the families of Doug Coyle/Arnie Masoner for their dedication to the fire services during their lifetime. Some members of their family will be attending and presented with a token of our appreciation. In addition we will be donating 100% of all proceeds from the auction to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation in their names. The theme for our Auction this year is "Fire Camp". We have lots of great items being contributed including some items from Arnie Masoner's Smokey the Bear Collection, fishing trips, limited edition art, and much more! If you have anything you would like to contribute to the auction, please contact Debbie Miley, Executive Director, NWSA at info@ nwsa.us or 1-877-676-6972.

Deborah K. Miley
Executive Director
National Wildfire Suppression Association

Thanks to NWSA and professional private sector firefighters for your support of the Foundation from the beginning. It wouldn't be where it is without the contributions you've made. Ab.

1/2 Ab,

You said, "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."

Ab, it is going to get VERY UGLY, unless people speak up on their personal levels, and admit their mistakes in the federal wildland fire program, past and present....... for failures and success. It is also going to be important that folks admit their successes and how they have kept firefighters safer. I agree, it will probably get "very ugly", but hopefully better.

I personally think it is too late for many of us to "save face", but we have time to save ourselves from prosecution through culpability of our actions throughout the years.... as firefighters died and their families grieved, and we all wondered about what "we" all had done wrong.... We weren't professionals... we did what we were told to do for the last 30 years.

We all didn't concentrate on what really matters... a goal that each firefighter comes home each day.... WE are wildland firefighters and the wildland firefighting community and family, that is OUR ultimate goal.... Keep all of us safe... A FAMILY....

All of those folks who don't understand can also speak out and not only save face, but explain why they had their hands tied when it comes to wildland firefighter safety..... and why what we are talking about is simply factual.

All of those (us) folks can also say BS.... And point the fingers at the real problems for safety....... Those fingers point upwards......

Q, I wish you didn't have to sign the BS agreement... and hope that once it is over, you are able to speak your mind freely and educate us......

Q, you are the expert witness, the person who can make a difference for wildland firefighter safety in the future..... You have been there, and done that, and someone (process) silenced you.... Never sign agreements from the feds...... The feds have an agenda and a goal......

Time for the truth to be told and laid upon the table........ And accountability directed where accountability is due....... To the TOP......

/s/ Kenneth Kempter
Wildland Firefighter
1/2 Hey All,

I've had the pleasure of hanging around on our "porch" of wildlandfire.com since 2000. The very best that has come out of this community is our individual ability to speak up, of points both good and bad, in an extremely public manner. The discussions that come out of "They Said" have done so much for the safety aspect of the worldwide wildland fire community.

Someone posted a quote not long ago "when everyone agrees, someone isn't thinking". I hope that we don't all ever agree completely. That having been said, in my humble opinion, the insinuation that "we as a community" would cover for a brother (or sister) in a proceeding such as the Thirty Mile investigation just goes completely against the grain. That would be like setting a criminal free to strike again within your own neighborhood.

Also, for anyone interested in helping Ellreese, the Hastings / Cantwell Legislation(s), being 7 USC Sec.2270b & 2270c, lists a date of July 24th, 2002. In researching those Sections, I did NOT see anything that would allow for it "to be applied retroactively". In further checking into that avenue, in most other cited cases, the Supreme Court decisions seem to hold that it would be more harmful to attempt to do so. If that's not enough to quash the matter, it sure would make great grounds for an appeal. Down the road, there will be a US Attorney looking for a Judgeship. Having a Supreme Court decision against one of your prosecutions won't help much.

Make it a meaningful new year and, as always, "Stay Safe"!

"Kicks"

Thanks Kicks. Excellent points. Ab.

1/2 Nerd on the Fireline,

You said, "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."

Were you referencing the actions of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, the Deputy U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, OIG Special Agent Parker, USDA Secretary Johanns, Undersecretary Mark Rey, Chief Bosworth, and Tom Harbour?

They all seem to fit that description right now!!!

Rogue Rivers
1/2 Wildland Firefighter Foundation........

<Big Hug>

Keeping it personal and on track....

KCK
1/2 Gizmo - what a difference a few years can make to bureaucrats!

In July 1994, after the 14 died on South Canyon, the BLM and USFS had to agree if the Investigation should be issued after 30 or 45 days (BLM and USFS had differing deadlines). 45 days was the agreed upon time: press conferences scheduled, photos enlarged, thousands of copies of the final report printed and ready for distribution to the field units, all without REDACTIONS of names, etc. On Day 45, the world got the report! Maybe it could have been done better, and maybe more time would have produced a better product? Bombproof: hell no! But it did start the conversations among fire personnel that resulted in safety improvements that were implemented even in that 1994 fire season!

Now we have to have OIG and Justice Department reviews, redacting names/places/etc, worrying about "Garrity", and the lessons learned from Esperanza will be lost for the 2007 refresher training sessions? 12 years later, and we're taking giant steps backward in getting timely info regarding safe firefighting practices out to the field users.

Just reiterates the old saying that 99% of lawyers give all the rest a bad name! Maybe that applies to Senators and Congress-persons too? And USFS bureaucrats?

Mollysboy
1/2 JD,

I worked for the Park Service for 28 years and I, along with all my friends, ate cheeseburgers!

Fire Geek
1/1 Esperanza Fire Report:

Simple answer. No timeline.

It all depends upon how much editing, redacting, and changes that both the CDF and USFS Review Boards want. It could also be delayed by the actions happening in Washington State in regards to the Garrity Ruling and the misuse of compelled statements by the OIG.

The report could be out as early as mid-January or be released 1-1/2 to 2 years down the road, or longer.

Gizmo

1/1 Esperanza Fire:

Is there a timeline of when some reports are due out? hopefully in time for
the 2007 season which looks to be starting Jan. 1st in some places (So. Cal.)

firehog

1/1 Bravo Casey!

Your letter to the newspaper hit it right on the head. I am one of those families who disagrees with how this whole situation is being handled. We are all angry when our loved dies and the natural reaction is to want to blame someone. What I came to realize is that nothing is going to bring our fallen firefighter back to us. What the fire community needs to do is learn from the mistakes made (if that truly is the case) and implement changes in the future to try and prevent it from happening again, not have their members afraid to lead a crew into a fire for fear of being of prosecuted.

When John died, I thought, I could wallow in self-pity and become a bitter and angry person or I could use my experience to try and help others who are also grieving. I chose the latter, knowing that John would have been proud of my actions and the person that I am today. I can only hope that the families that have chosen the first path will reach out to other families who know what they are going through. Maybe we all could help each other - isn't that what the fire community is all about?

I know some people may read this and judge me for the things I have said, but I hope it is taken in the spirit with which it was written. It is not meant to be mean-spirited or judgmental of those families, but an invitation to reach out to others.

Lori

Lori, you are an amazing person! Our heartfelt thanks to you, also to Ken and Kathy, Jody & Steve, Dee, Sylvia, Jake, TC and others who have taken their heartbreak and are making a difference in our fire community and with our fire families. You can't imagine how much we cherish each of you, like precious sparkling gems. I wish our extended fire community could gather in all who have lost a loved one. You all are living memorials to those we've lost. May we meet around the campfire sometime in this new year. Happy New Year. Give the kids a hug from us. Ab.

1/1 Why do the writings of the OIG investigator sound so infantile compared to the cogent and
sagacious writings of the judge in the Molloy Backfire decision this summer. I am not a lawyer
but these are the conclusions of a thoughtful person, So unlike Mr. Parker:

the vague principles of the Ten Fire Orders
and other directives show that hard and fast rules are not
appropriate to all fires under all circumstances. Because fires
are unpredictable, and because lighting a backfire can be a
lifesaving emergency measure, the Government's orders and
directives do not specifically direct, for example, at what wind
speed a backfire is prohibited. One firefighter, Safety Officer
Beardsley, cancelled a backfire on August 5 because the "wind is
blowing . . . too much for a burnout." Because one firefighter
decided a burnout was too risky on one day at one location does
not mean that the next firefighter, assessing different, or even
identical circumstances, would possess any less discretion in
making his or her own judgment. The point is not the sagacity of
the firefighter, but rather "the nature of the conduct." E&&
airlines, 467 U.S. at 813.

And

But each mandatory directive provides discretion to
the firefighter. For example, Standing Fire Order Number Seven
holds that a firefighter must "determine safety zones and escape
routes." But the firefighter must use discretion to decide what
constitutes an adequate safety zone based on the surrounding
fuels, topography, weather, fire behavior, availability of other
firefighting resources, time available to prepare the site and
other factors involved in fire fighting discretion. An adequate
safety zone may vary greatly in size depending on these and other
factors. The Orders tend toward vagueness. Standing Fire Order
Number Ten instructs firefighters to "Stay alert, keep calm,
think clearly, act decisively." This is the language of
discretion, not of specific mandatory actions or protocols.
The non-specific language of the Government's policies and
directives, such as the Standing Orders and Watchout Situations,
supports the Government's position. These are flexible
principles to be used in fighting fire, an activity that depends
on firefighters' judgment, common sense, and experience. The
Miller Court's holding is applicable here: "The existence of
some mandatory language does not eliminate discretion when the
broader goals sought to be achieved necessarily involved an
element of discretion." Miller, 163 F.3d at 595.
Case 9:03-cv-00198-DWM Document 85 Filed 09/05/2006
Page 16 of 25

FC180

Nice find, FC180. Ab.

1/1 For those of you that know Joel and Gretchen Burris,

It is with great sadness that I tell you that on Wednesday December 27th
Gretchen and Joel Burris and their son Sam were in a serious auto accident.
They were traveling to Portland to see Gretchen's parents when they
collided with a front end loader on HWY 31 near Paisley. Both Gretchen and
Joel sustained serious head wounds in the accident. Gretchen died on
Thursday December 28th as a result of her injuries. Joel remains
unconscious and on a ventilator in the ICU in Bend, Oregon. Their son Sam
was not injured in the accident and is now with Gretchen's parents in
Portland.

There will be a memorial service in Portland, Oregon for Gretchen on
Saturday January 6th at 4 PM. The services will be held at the Zeller
Chapel of Roses on 2107 North NE Broadway, Portland, Oregon. The family
has asked that donations be sent in lieu of flowers. A fund has been set
up in Lakeview at South Valley Bank. The family plans to have a memorial
service in Lakeview at a later date.

Donations can be made to:

Gretchen and Joel Burris
South Valley Bank
125 North E Street
Lakeview, OR 97630

Cards can be sent to Gretchen's family at:

Gretchen Burris Family
2603 NE 15th Av
Portland, OR 97212

Cards can be sent to Joel at:

St Charles Medical Center
2500 Neff Rd
Bend, OR 97701

Thank You,
Heidi Wills

Second message from Heidi:

Joel's last position was with the BLM fuels in Lakeview, OR and Gretchen was a
Recreation Planner with BLM, Lakeview's District Office. They both worked for the
BLM in Ely, NV. Joel was a dispatcher in Ely and I believe he also ran a fuels crew
and was a firefighter there. They both worked for the Park Service at the Canyon
before that.

I forgot to mention that there will be a service for Gretchen here in Lakeview, her family
is working on a date and I will post it as soon as I know.

It is sad.

Thank You Ab.

Heidi, our heartfelt condolences to all friends and family. Ab.

1/1 Thirtymile choices

The scree that the fallen were sitting on as the fire blew up is similar to places we have waited out a firefront before. In hindsight it was not good and I will not take refuge in that kind of place again without serious thought or only as last resort. One good lesson that came out of 30mile.

I'm pretty sure there was a clip in the NOVA special showing the blowup on the Bitterroot (2000, Carvello was IC) that has a bunch of hotshots sitting on just such a scree slope. Not an uncommon practice.

As firefighters we each are responsible for our own choices. Some of us make decisions with more information and experience and some with less. Some years when we're fighting fire, time working does not equate to time getting real fire experience, unless you're a hotshot. How many of us have any experience with really extreme fire behavior? Do we know how we'll think or act? Hopefully we have good training, good fire experience, good sleep, good intel when confronted with life threatening choice.

I hate to be the one to say it, but once entrapped, the dead had as much of a hand in that choicemaking as almost anyone else on that crew. Ab, if you look at the photo where it happened, how could anyone guess ahead-of-time what place was better and what place was worse? I wonder if <the person saying the wording in the thirtymile report had to change> feared having to tell the families their sons/daughters/husband made choices that were not good. The push in 2000 was very much to not blame the victim. Did that become policy?

There's a huge difference between blaming and lessons learned, the second is gathering info to educate us and make us a more professional org. I wonder if our leaders know it or if it's just CYA and politics.

An old hotshot supt told me years ago something like "To the families of the fallen we owe our sympathy; to the dead we owe the truth." If I die on a fire, I hope the truth will prevail even if my family is unhappy with it. I have had this conversation with them. New years day is always a good time to say it again. I want my peers to learn as much from my death as possible about why I and others made the choices we did that caused my death.

I have good hopes for the new year. Educating people, 365 new days to do it...

Tahoe Terrie

1/1 Ab:

The intense discussions about the Thirtymile prosecution has reminded me of a story-line on the old M*A*S*H TV series. In this particular episode, Hawkeye (Alan Alda) was unable to save a high school friend from his battlefield injuries. Hawkeye was very despondent outside the OR tent and Col. Blake (McLane Stevenson) approaches and says something like this:

Col. Blake: “Hawkeye – I don’t know much about being a Doctor in the Army but I remember two rules they taught us in Army Medical School.

Rule Number 1 is that in a war young men die.

And Rule Number 2 is that Doctors can’t change Rule Number 1!”

This statement can be adapted to all of us involved in fire suppression:

Rule Number 1: In Wildland Fire Suppression young men and women can and will die.

Rule Number 2: All the 10 Standard Orders, 18 Watch-Out Situations, LCES, check sheets, investigations, and prosecutions will not change Rule Number 1!

I’ve been a militia wildland firefighter for 45 years and I don’t think a year has gone by in this Country where a Federal, State, City, County, or VFD brother or sister firefighter has not lost their lives to wildland fire, travel to or from a fire, or even the seemingly simple work capacity test.

Each and every firefighter we loose is one too many and a tragic loss to our small family.

I know everyone of us is fully aware of the dangers we face every-time we put on our Nomex and answer the call. As several commentators have already said, there’s not one of us who plans to go out and die or cause the deaths of our friends and co-workers.

Hopefully, we have learned our lessons from those who have passed before us. But…I’m afraid a new lesson will come along and we’ll be placing black tape on our badges again.

AK Old Timer

P.S. Has anyone made contact with Daniels Defense Attorney? A lot of information posted on “They Said” would be very helpful in preparing his defense. One or two of our “Experts” could even assist the Attorney in understanding the situation wildland firefighters are facing.

1/1 Hello.

I am looking for training opportunities for the position of FLEB (Fireline
Explosives Blaster). Have tried numerous sources with no luck.

I am in my 12th year of wildland firefighting (9 of those as year round)
and have worked for the Forest Service, NPS, FWS (currently with).

Any information you can offer would be appreciated.
Thank you.

Frederick Adams
Blackwater Fire Management
Blackwater NWR
Cambridge, MD

1/1 ca seasonal,

there are many ways to hold someone accountable for
their actions, criminal prosecution takes it to a
whole new level.

jd
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