May, 2008

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5/31 Quick update...

Saturday afternoon…temps hovering around 100, RHs below 5%, winds
expected to blow thru Thursday, at or near historic ERC’s, plenty of grass
on the ground, dry as a bone and a smoke column to the west around
Silver City, …buckle up and hang on!


Um hum, and which state is your Silver City located in? Idaho? New Mexico? Nevada, Montana? Ab.

5/31 Overtime:

The same thing is happening in Arizona as well. The regional office
isn't releasing any 'Severity' dollars, so, in turn, nobody is receiving
any overtime. Also, we did start our yearly sister swap with the Helena
National Forest during pay period 10 and they were receiving 8 hour days as
well. They have since gone home.

The downward spiral of this Forest Service organization is frightening.

USDA Forestry Technician

5/31 TC,

Your statement that 6/7th day and extended staffing must be paid out of WFPR is incorrect. Below is the current national direction since 2005. WFPR and WFSU are both approved for use for 6/7th and extending staffing. The decision process to use either one is based on the following (read the first sentence carefully):

51.11a - Firefighter and Equipment Charges (pertinent text below)
Do not spend in excess of the planned and budgeted WFPR account for replacement personnel and their support. Replacement of personnel and equipment assigned to emergency incidents is authorized only when local fire danger justifies the replacements.

Ordered stand-by, pre-positioning, and move-up-and-cover are charged as follows:
1. Use WFPR if the order is based on a perceived threat (high fire danger).
2. Use WFSU if the order is based on actual starts in the immediate initial attack area and the order is for time outside normal work hours or work week.

If a unit uses WFPR only for extra staffing, they could violate direction by spending in excess on planned WFPR budgets. The national direction wants/requires a fair distribution between WFPR and WFSU with these anticipated events and associated costs. Line Officers need to allow Chief Officers to make good judgments with these definitions.

I suggest we not get all excited about this now since we have been implementing these rules successfully the past two fire seasons without much ado except for a recent spike in chatter on this subject.

However, if Line Officers or someone in the Regional Office, even if it's RO FAM, who are heavily influenced by Line Officers, are responsible in this spike in chatter and are not allowing local Chief Officers to follow national direction, they need to be reported immediately for violation of not following national direction. Local Chief Officers must have the flexibility to define the above direction and implement usage of WFPR or WFSU staffing based on ground experience, historical patterns and the good old gut feelings about what's the right thing to do. They need to have the same flexibility Tom Harbour had when he ordered WFSU usage for himself and the Angeles fire organization when he was a local Chief Officer.

Centralized Fire Management = Professional Actions, Fiscal Responsibility, Decision Making Efficiency and Maximum Production from Properly Paid Firefighters.

Centralized Fire Management Today, Tomorrow and Forever!

So how do we respond to "leaving the Forest Service" post? Simple. Do exactly as I did when I heard about a Los Padres Battalion Chief leaving. Open an email and write your US Senators and local Congressional Rep and tell them "the story" of yet another Forest Service employee who is leaving. When all 4000+ of us do this in honor of everyone we know or hear about who leaves, it gets a strong point across and information to the one group the Line Officers are afraid to hear from.

Speaking of communications, another example of a complete disconnect between Line Officers/RO FAM and rank and file occurred today. TODAY marks the second reporting deadline for the retention sub-groups progress reports to the retention group leads (see April theysaid email from RO about group responsibilities). We received no information from the April 30 required update and again, nothing from todays update deadline. If you have any meetings, inspections or reviews planned with your Line Officers in the coming weeks, I recommend you ask them why no communications and remind them behind the scenes much is in the works to hold them accountable for complete mismanagement.

Stand Strong!


5/31 Leaving the forest service...............

I think you've gotten some bum information R5 has not issued direction for
no overtime. What they've done is said that if a Forest initiates extended
staffing or 6th/7th day staffing, it must be pad for out of their WFPR
funding (pre-suppression). This has been a national policy for years, but
some R5 Forest have ignored it and charged to WFSU funding (suppression).
So the decision for extended staffing is still a Forest decision, it just
needs to be paid for out of WFPR funding. Now the rub is that most
Forest's don't have adequate funding in WFPR to cover this on a regular
basis, so it makes for some difficult choices.

5/31 Intothewind, Tim, Mellie, & All,

I appreciate your questions about HROs, but please don’t consider me an expert on the subject. I have attended seminars lead by doctors Weick and Sutcliffe, but I’m just another pilgrim like you, trying to understand what culture based safety in the wildland fire arena looks like. My only real credential these days is DIVS, and I like it that way.

Like a lot of They Said readers, I was inspired (driven?) by the South Canyon Fire to re-examine everything about firefighting I once thought I understood. Dave Thomas gave me my first copy of Managing the Unexpected in 2002, and I have since given it and several other copies to friends.

Dr. Weick has suggested that we might be better served by using the term High Reliability Organizing instead of High Reliability Organizations, the distinction being that real HRO is more like an ideal state you constantly need to work toward instead of a destination at which you arrive or a label you get to wear. I like that idea. Too many good organizations have come to grief because overconfidence caused them to let their guards down.

As to whether I think HROs are scaleable, yeah, but….

I look at it this way. The Forest Service has lots of good crews and small fire management organizations that have good internal leadership, even some that use HRO principles in their daily operations. However, they work in a system where our small unit leaders spend more and more of their time on administrative and management responsibilities, and less on providing quality fire related training and mentoring with their personnel.

The erosion of forest and district administrative support has forced thousands of fire supervisors to take on time-consuming additional duties that have nothing to do with firefighting or safety. Through no fault of their own, our crew supervisors and fire program leaders are increasingly hindered from focusing their attention on their most important mission; training and leading firefighters.

Major shifts such as the centralization of Forest Service administrative and support functions, downsizing, and a greatly increased reliance on the use of contracted wildland fire resources are rapidly changing the culture of Forest Service fire management in ways that have yet to be meaningfully measured.

It occurred to me that the Forest Service fire management organization today is like a train barreling down the tracks with no brakes while “management efficiency” gnomes are busy "saving money" by removing every third tie, pulling every fourth rail spike and unscrewing the bulbs from the signal lights. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see more misfortune ahead.

Another big hurdle to developing a high-functioning culture is the sinister turn in Forest Service wildland fire accident investigations. Until PL 107-203 is revised or rescinded, and the Forest Service can prove it is capable of conducting fair, professional investigations while protecting firefighters from undue punishment, the fear of personal civil or criminal liability will continue to interfere with our ability to learn from our accidents.

In a decentralized organization like the Forest Service, our communal safety depends on firefighters feeling empowered to share lessons from near misses and accidents. If we don’t share lessons, we will inevitably repeat errors that could have been prevented had we been able to speak openly about our failures without undue fear of liability and prosecution.

And we need to be able to share hard learned lessons across boundaries of crew and district and forest and region and agency, which is why we shouldn't settle for a “circle the wagons” approach to HROs. I applaud those fire leaders who operate using HRO principles, but I don’t believe an organization comprised of pockets of isolated mini HROs will ever be as high-functioning as one that was able to share critical lessons throughout a wide spread network. What you see in your piece of the world as an isolated and unimportant incident may actually be an indicator of a dangerous organizational trend when viewed from a wider perspective.

Misery Whip
5/31 Tribute to Ron Smith:

Working for Ron Smith as a Texas Canyon Hotshot was and
always will be the greatest honor of my Forest Service career.

Larry Peabody

5/31 "U.S. Forest Service Hot Shot Crews were doing a prescribed burn in the Logan Creek area and were headed back to their vehicles after seeing thunderstorms and lightning in the area when lighting struck two trees, injuring both firefighters.

"Now, USFS officials are trying to sort out exactly what happened."

Lets hope the wildland firefighters are the peer reviewers described as the "USFS Officials" reviewing what happened.

Duh... It is pretty easy to comprehend and quantify. Forestry workers work in the field. And weather factors are real. Sometimes the field throws punches that none of expect or can quantify.

Rogue Rivers
5/31 In response to GA Peach, below:

The changes pertain to private landowners using prescribed fire.

The 'old rule' was ambiguous. One way to read it was this: if a private citizen (1) intentionally set a fire, and (2) that fire then got away, the citizen was automatically guilty of a federal crime. Legislators were concerned that these rather significant consequences were discouraging private landowners from using prescribed fire on their property.

The 'revised rule' creates a shiny new piece of law for private persons using prescribed fire. The new law says that private citizens who set prescribed fires (presumably in some kind of conjunction with the Forest Service or National Fire Plan -- but if that is required, it is not super clear) will not be prosecuted under the 'ordinary rules' of Criminal law. After June 2008, they will now be subject to the new rule, which requires they (1) set the fire intentionally, that (2) the fire gets away, because (3) they were negligent in their control of it.

Part (3) is the new part. (See the "old rule" I described above? No part 3! ). Without part (3), people were guilty no matter what they did after setting a fire that got away. Now, by making prosecutors to show that third part (negligence) in cases of prescribed fire, people are less likely to be convicted.

The bottom line is that the scope of landowners' liability for escaped fire has been reduced (again, presumably so long as they set that fire in accordance with the National Fire Plan, or with some kind of head-nod from a Federal Agency). Theoretically, that change will encourage private citizens to do more prescribed burning.

(. . . which makes just a boatload of sense, by the way. Because we all know that the kind of landowners who are prone to producing escaped fires also studiously read the Federal Register . . . )


Anyway, I hope that helps a bit. If you were concerned about going to jail because you set prescribed fires on behalf of the government, my reading (which is, of course, conjecture) is that the answer is "don't be." This law isn't aimed at you.

Take care,
5/30 Oliver,

You introduced but yet another "Health Hazard of Smoke" or another byproduct of risks that have not been properly studied in the wildland fire community.

I've butted my head against walls for years trying to educate others that the "Health Hazards of Smoke" published by MTDC were flawed by design standards that excluded known problems, and inadequate controls that fostered results that could not be repeated ... hoping that somebody (preferably a PhD, or MS Student) would take the lead on mycotoxin exposure in soils and smoke..... especially Fusarium Mycotoxin.. et al..

The same PhD that lead(s) the "Health Hazards of Smoke" program is the same person for the WCT process... A system (WCT) with direct and causal losses and injuries (burnovers) near par with the WCT program losses and career ending injuries.

Finally, somebody is listening.

5/30 www.montanasnewsstation.com/Global/story.asp?S=8398676&nav=LXow

Two hit by lightning near Whitefish

Two hospitalized after Whitefish lightning strike
Reporting from KAJ in Kalispell

Two firefighters are now out of the hospital after being hit by lightning on Thursday.

The 25 year old woman and a 29 year old man are both members of the Flathead National Forest Hot Shot fire crew.

They were working on a prescribed burn west of Whitefish when the lightning hit a couple of trees near where they were working.

The U.S. Forest Service is still investigating the incident.

A pair of U.S. Forest Service workers remained in the hospital on Friday morning after being struck by lightning some 10 miles northwest of Whitefish on Thursday.

Officials tell us that a 25 year old woman was flown by LifeFlight to Kalispell Regional Medical Center and a 29 year old man was taken by ambulance to North Valley Hospital following the hit, which happened west of Whitefish near Star Meadows Road. The two were listed in stable condition after the incident.

U.S. Forest Service Hot Shot Crews were doing a prescribed burn in the Logan Creek area and were headed back to their vehicles after seeing thunderstorms and lightning in the area when lighting struck two trees, injuring both firefighters.

Now, USFS officials are trying to sort out exactly what happened.

"While back in route to the vehicles a downstrike hit a tree or was a groundstrike," explains Brett Pargman with the Flathead National Forest. "A couple firefighters were in the vicinity of that area and they you know received some either direct or indirect contact from lightning strike."

A lightning strike doesn't need to be direct to injure and if it hits a tree or object, and the electrical discharge can run through a person.

(from May 29, 2008)

Two Forest Service workers are in the hospital after lightning struck them about 10 miles northwest of Whitefish on Thursday afternoon.

The Life Flight medical helicopter flew one of the workers, a 25 year old woman, to Kalispell Regional Medical Center while a Whitefish ambulance took the other, a 29 year old man, to North Valley Hospital.

Both the employees are now listed in stable condition.

Forest Service Hot Shot Crews were doing a prescribed burn in the Logan Creek area. They saw the thunderstorms and lightning coming in, and began to head back to their vehicles. That's when lighting struck two trees and injured two of the firefighters.

Brett Pargman with the Flathead National Forest, says they are investigating what happened when the strike came down.

"While back in route to the vehicles a downstrike hit a tree or was a groundstrike, a couple firefighters were in the vicinity of that area and they you know received some either direct or indirect contact from lightening strike."

A lightning strike doesn't need to be direct to injure -- it can hit a tree or object, and the electrical discharge can run through a person.

Fair Use Disclaimer

One Squad of the Flathead Shots on the Big Bar Complex in 1999 from Mellie

5/30 Ab,
Just a reminder to have everyone lookup, look down and look all around.

Stay safe,


Lightning strikes two firefighters
Posted: Friday, May 30, 2008 - 08:20:16 am MDT

The Daily Inter Lake
Two members of the Flathead National Forest Hot Shot Fire Crew were struck by lightning Thursday afternoon while working on a prescribed burn west of Whitefish in the Tally Lake Ranger District.

The lightning strike occurred shortly after 1 p.m. near the intersection of Star Meadow and Logan Creek roads about three miles west of Tally Lake. The firefighters reportedly were near but not inside their vehicle when they were hit.

Two trees next to the firefighters also were struck, and authorities aren’t sure whether the firefighters were hit directly or the lightning struck the trees before jumping to the firefighters, according to Denise Germann, Flathead Forest public information officer.

The ALERT helicopter transported one of the firefighters, a 25-year-old woman, to Kalispell Regional Medical Center. The Whitefish Fire Department transported the second firefighter, a 29-year-old man, to North Valley Hospital.

Both firefighters were in stable condition Thursday evening.

Fair Use Disclaimer

Flathead Hotshots Website

5/30 In Memory of Mike Kessler:

Mike passed away Wednesday from an apparent head injury at his home in Roswell, NM.

Mike was a consummate Fireman. He worked many years on the Cibola NF and became the defacto AFMO on the El Mapais National Monument where he spent several more years. He was well known in the suppression business as a great division supervisor. Anybody in New Mexico who needed help on prescribed fire projects knew Mike. He was always ready, willing, and able to come and assist and he was very good at all aspects of Rx. He finished his career as a fire manager in Atlanta...the Southeast Regional Office of the NPS.

Services are tentatively scheduled in Corona, NM on this coming Monday where Mike had deep roots.

We will all miss Mike. He was a great guy.

Tim Stubbs

Condolences. Ab.

5/30 Lost a legend today..

Ron Smith, ex-superintendent of Texas Canyon HS passed away earlier today.
I worked for "The Old Man" during the late 80's and early 90's on TC and even
as a newbee could tell how respected he was in the fire service. I'm sure there
are those on this site that knew him and worked with him that can better express
the importance and impact he had on wildland fire, just wanted to get the news out.

bd hotshot

Hotlist thread for condolences: www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=4552
If anyone wants to send photos, I'll post them. Ab.

5/30 Quote from Albert Einstein:

"INSANITY is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."


5/30 4G's

"We need to stop waiting for something to happening from on high and start doing the
things needed to build a High Performing-High Reliability Organization from the boots up."

You are 100% correct! Thanks for putting all of those thoughts into words.

5/30 Ab,

This keeps coming up so I am going to finally take the bait and answer.
I was hoping that I could rely on my dear friend Mr. Vail to answer for
me, but that is not to be.

So here goes:
I worked on the Lassen Hot Shots in 1976 and 1977.
I imagine that Glo's season started earlier in 1976, so she retains the
national title for now.

Although I may have been on a crew in R5 before Deanne Shulman, I want you
all to know that she was and will always remain the better hot shot,
female or otherwise.
She truly is an amazing person, firefighter and pioneer in so many ways. We
all owe her a great debt.

I think that there were women on crews in Region 6 before1976 and I have
sent out a note to a reliable source.
When I find out you will all be the first to know.

No need for a pseudonym
Sue Husari
Fire Management Officer
Pacific West Region
National Park Service

Thanks, Sue. I was hoping someone like you would send in the "facts". I think you had to have been there.
A few of us know how much a pioneer you were, as well. We appreciate the pioneers. Ab.

5/30 Ukonom Crew (SRF) certified as hotshot

First Hotshot Crew to be certified on the Six Rivers National Forest

Orleans, CA - Saturday, the Ukonom Crew stationed at the Orleans Ranger District was the first crew in the history of the Six Rivers National Forest fire management program to be certified as a hotshot crew.

They will now be the 16th Type I Hotshot Crew positioned across the northern part of California in Region 5 to assist other crews during this summer's fire season.

"Hotshots are the most highly trained crews we have to fight wildfires," said District Ranger Bill Rice, whose Orleans Ranger District will host and support the crew. They are utilized in the most difficult and hazardous terrain in the fire environment.

The Ukonom Hotshots, led by Crew Superintendent John Cataldo, will also be available nationally to respond to wildfires outside California.

"The crew worked hard over the last three years to meet the strict training and physical requirements to become a "Hotshot Crew"," said Rice. "This is a huge accomplishment because of the commitment it takes to retain leadership and crew cohesion to be efficient and safe."

"Leadership is essential to sustain a hotshot crew over the long haul," said Rice. "Even though they are a national resource, these crews become a high value community resource and role model for the communities they serve in," said Rice.

News Release Flyer with pictures... nice. Ab. (doc file)

hotlist thread: www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?p=20159

CONGRATS UKONOM! You've worked for it. Carry on. Ab.

5/30The Jobs page, Wildland Firefighter Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) & Series 0401 (Biologist) have been updated. Ab.
5/30 Hadn't heard of this. Thought it would be worth sharing.



Cryptococcus gattii

Cryptococcus is a tiny (microscopic) yeast-like fungus. A variety of this fungus, called Cryptococcus gattii, has been living on trees on the east coast of Vancouver Island since at least 1999. More recently it has also been found in lower mainland of B.C. and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Infrequently, people and animals exposed to this fungus will become sick with what is called Cryptococcal disease. Cryptococcal disease is a very rare fungal disease caused by the Cryptococcus fungus that can affect the lungs (pneumonia) and nervous system (meningitis) in humans. It often affects otherwise healthy people with no obvious signs of immuno-compromise. In rare cases, this disease can be fatal. Animals also can develop cryptococcal disease.

How do people get infected?

The infection is caused by breathing in the spores of the Cryptococcus fungus. Once the fungus is established on trees or in soil, disturbance such as forestry operations, landscaping, and road-building suspend the fungal particles (spores or dried cells) in the air where they can be inhaled. The disease is not transmitted from person to person or from animal to person. A person with cryptococcal disease is not contagious.

Where is this fungus found?

Varieties of the Cryptococcus fungus are found naturally in the environment in SW British Columbia and in other places with tropical and subtropical climates such as Brazil, India, Australia and New Zealand. The gattii variety of the fungus lives on trees (10 or more species, including Douglas-fir, cedar, alder, and oak) and in the soil on the east coast of Vancouver Island, B.C. and on eucalyptus trees in Australia. Recent human and animal cases in the lower mainland of B.C., Whatcom county and Orcas Island, WA, and two cases in Oregon (one near Portland, the other in Junction City), suggest that it has spread to these areas as well. The strain in Oregon is different genetically than the B.C. strains of C. gattii. The pathogen has not been found in the environment in Oregon and the two infected Oregonians had not traveled to B.C. or other areas known to have C. gattii. It is not known whether or not the fungus will become permanently established in the Pacific Northwest.

Why did the fungus appear in the Pacific Northwest?

It is not clear why Cryptococcus gattii appeared in B.C. and Oregon. It may have been imported on plant material from Australia or other areas, or it may have always existed on Vancouver Island and increased in prevalence due to climate or environmental change (warmer summers appear to be correlated with increased cryptococcal disease in B.C.). The genetic differences between the Oregon and B.C. strains suggest that Oregon did not get it from B.C.

How does the fungus spread?

The fungus can spread through the air as an aerosol, and over long distances when infested soil or plant materials are transported by humans on vehicles, plant material, footwear, or other products.

Can I tell which trees contain the fungus?
more on the hotlist thread: www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=4547

5/30 Re: San Diego Grand Jury Report
Scorching? Hardly.
Honest? Seems to be.

Bottom line- the county/city was not willing to put the money to fully implement what 2003 said should be done but that the people on the ground pulled together and majorly improved over 2003. So good job ground pounders, get it together county managers, and we need to prepare better for next time.

I read the whole report yesterday when I was waiting for something to process on my computer. I am out of the wildland arena but it's my county and I still care.

During the Witch fire of 2007 I was talking to a SDFD person (management level- not wildland focused) on day 2 or so. He said with a weary voice- we didn't think it'd happen again, we really didn't think it could be this big this bad so soon. We are going to have to start treating these fires like earthquakes- not if, but when.

5/30 I am work in Region 5. I am an Engineer here. I am now looking to go elsewhere.

The reason I'm leaving is that Region 5 Forest Service has said there will be no overtime authorized (extended staffing, working 6th day, etc.). This is where we all know that we make our money, often it's money we need to make ends meet. From now on I will not work my 6th day when offered even if I need the money. In addition, I will be looking for a new job elsewhere on my days off. I am going to apply everywhere. I know I will be able to secure a job elsewhere. I already have my application in with CALFIRE and I am on the list to be hired. I am also going to go to municipal departments. A few have seen how I work and have been asking me for years to apply.

Currently we are short drivers on the forest where I work. One just left to go to CALFIRE. I am sure there will be more to leave, having talked to the other FEOs, AFEOs, and Lead Firefighters. When we heard the other day that no overtime will be given unless we are on a fire, the other firefighters that work on the same engine I do were upset. Again this is how we make our money.

The RO and WO better wake up because before you know it, they will be waking up to having fewer drivers and very few firefighters to complete engines and crews. I will refuse to work my days off for any reason other than fire, so they will have to shut engines down due to no drivers. Wait until we are on drawdown and we won’t be able to staff the engine because I know I won’t be in on my days off. If I were working for CALFIRE, they would give me 19 hours of overtime in the same situation.

When will the region wake up and quit messing with us here? Upon completion of this I will be contacting Feinstein, Boxer, and my state representative, who by the way, has been active in working for better pay for federal firefighters. I advise all to do the same and let them know what is going on. Let them know that when that big fire hits us here in California there will be less engines to staff because of FS implementation that R5 put in place a few days ago.

I would like all to comment on this if you can. If you did not know about the no overtime, talk to your chiefs to get the scoop on it.

Leaving the Forest Service

5/30 Aloha to all:

Yes, I'm heading to Hawaii for a few days but I was born & raised there and I have to go visit my Mom and I will have my laptop...

Anyway there apparently was some concern expressed by the R5 RO and others about a press quote from me which expressed concern about the need to rapidly fill overhead positions causing perhaps "premature" promotions; concerns about the Agency pushing GS-4s to take GS-5/6 developmental positions before they themselves knew they were ready and simply the fact that in order to fill the many vacancies, there will be a number of folks in uncharted territory this season.

I did not suggest that any particular crew or person was not qualified. I did not suggest FMOs were running engines and other crews with less than fully qualified personnel. In fact those that I have spoken to all agreed that they would not run engines or crews that were not fully ready. However, I simply passed along concerns raised by many fire staff persons about the number of trainees and, as some saw it, a rush to promote to show positions filled.

Given the history of the Agency to show things that aren't quite sure, I simply passed along the reality of concerns raised by those in the know.

In the next few days I'll be sending detailed information to the Hill about staffing, coverage etc., as well as the nexus between ordered standby and portal to portal. I'll have access to email if anyone needs to contact me.

Casey Judd
Busienss Manager

Have a relaxing time communing with the ancestors. Watch out for the big surf. Ab.

5/30 On HROs -

Nut Island can be a very accurate prediction if we keep on our current path as an agency.

Another consideration different from an HRO is to look at Deming's 14 points.


#10 - "Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force"

Keep the 10/18, Keep Commander's intent, Keep Doctrine. Just ditch all of the latest and greatest catch-phrases that keep getting regurgitated out of the WO like bad Chinese food.

Ah, wait - that gives us something to chuckle about on the fireline after 5 days spiked out without a shower and working in near vertical terrain.


5/30 The reason for the ASC "hiring fiasco" was a multitude of reasons. It has direct links to the "Mark Rey Miracle"." Do more with less", and "increased management efficiencies" that have been shown to be a complete fabrication of truth throughout the last seven years.

1) By delaying temporary firefighter start dates, after the fact of them already reporting to duty, many units placed these firefighters as AD and paid them under provisions of the AD Pay Plan (WFSU funded),

2) By delaying temporary firefighter start dates, asignificant discretionary savings of WFPR was realized that could be used for other Forest Service functions,

3) ASC works well (tongue in cheek) in assigning blame, but they receive Centralized Direction from the WO,

4) The "Farm Bill", as initially vetoed and subsequently overridden, provided another $450 million in WFSU to finally fulfill the last steps of the "Mark Rey Miracle".

This is the LARGEST WFSU discretionary appropriation ever to supplement an already funded $1.4 Billion Forest Service Wildland Fire Program!! It is also the largest fund of discretionary funding ever given without proper oversight. FOLLOW THE MONEY my GAO friends,

/s/ There is a reason for the Increased Costs of Federal Wildland Fire Management.... It is simply called MISMANAGEMENT.
5/30 Here is a link to the Grand Jury Report on San Diego County's preparedness for wildfire. It is, shall we say, a scathing indictment of a county that refuses to take care of its own. Makes for interesting reading.

www.sdcounty.ca.gov/grandjury/reports/2007_2008/Firereport.pdf (this goes directly to the pdf download file)
5/29 Re: Problems With Temporary Employees

It has come to attention that a fairly wide problem exists in the hiring of temporary firefighters.

I cannot address any place but my local area, but on my district alone, nearly 20 employees were given a start date of May 11th and reported to work. Since that initial start date, many of these employees have been told that "due to problems in paperwork", their start dates officially won't start until June 8th.

On my district also, the employees with dates to report to work on May 25 are being told similar tales.

We've been working these folks to cover engine and crew modules (3 weeks and 1 week respectively), but are now told they aren't "on the books yet". Gotta love ASC.

How do we properly compensate them?

Is NFFE aware of this problem?

5/29 Evening Ab and all

The SD County Grand Jury came out with a report on fire protection in the county.
It is a scorcher for some parts of the county. Can't believe the first part of the title
"Fire Next Time". Wonder where they got that?

I have not read the whole report yet. Basing my scorcher comment on radio news.

So here it is for the community to review and comment.

5/29 In response to what bee in the bonnet states: OK I was not going to bite on this but.......

If we used all the knowledge of the retired fed fire management employees to replace the State, County & Muni folks now doing the job at $1000 + a day (because the fed's existing workforce sure can't muster up the requested orders), how much savings to the taxpayer could occur over a fire season? That is, assuming the retired fed would work under the paltry AD pay schedule. Many won't.

Greed?? I hardly think so...


5/29 Regarding HROs;

Great post, NWRG. I am in the mining industry, and I think we’ve got a long way to go before I would say the industry as a whole is even aware of the benefit of moving in an HRO direction. Ironically enough, when you last posted that HRO paper, I printed out a bunch of copies and spread it around my office. I tried to get some discussion going, but without luck. I think the closest I’ve seen to HRO values and behavior has actually been in the petroleum industry, especially pipeline and refining. I think the US Post Office, believe it or not, is a commonly cited HRO.

And your point about becoming intimately familiar with the workspace is insightful. Wildland fire and mining have in common that we basically destroy our work area as we go; if we stick in the same place for too long we aren’t accomplishing our mission! We also share a transient, physical, dominantly rural workforce. What mining has fought for at least a hundred years and that wildland fire is starting to encounter is “absentee leadership” by folks who have not come up through the profession and who are unaware of the “field-fit” realities on the ground. The mining industry is also facing huge issues with an aging workforce, loss of “brain trust”, and hostile local and national legislation. I think there are good parallels there that could make for a cautionary tale for the wildland fire world. We call it “talking safety and walking production”. Now, thanks to the slump and then rise in metals prices, we’re seeing a dangerous mix of a high proportion of rookies, a high proportion of “short-timers”, many of whom came into the industry via the 1970’s uranium boom, and nothing in between. I expect a big upswing in medical issues in the aging portion of our force (on the job MIs, diabetes, stroke, etc.), and an upswing in traumatic injuries due to inexperience in the rookie portion. Can wildland fire expect the same?

That was something of a digression, but I think you’re right that a wildland fire HRO is going to have to be different, because we rely so heavily on qualitative, rather than quantitative clues and predictors of changing conditions. Our job cannot really by automated or mechanized, which means that we are incredibly dependent on experience, leadership, and, really, intuition.

We’ve also got a lack of “metrics” by which to measure success. All our indicators are trailing indicators; lack of injuries, lack of fires escaping containment, etc. What would be quantitative measurements of leading indicators in fire? When I first learned about HROs (in a non-fire context) the focus seemed to be on reproducibility, on performing the same task many thousands of times with complacency, slackness or error. In a gross sense, we do the same thing on every fire, but we never really fight the same fire twice. Maybe HRO isn’t the right template for us. Maybe we should appropriate some aspects of the HRO concept, but maybe fire needs something new and different, more flexible, more proactive, with more emphasis on experience and leadership and communication, and less on reproducibility.

Intothewind asked about scalability. I think that HROs not only can be but have to be scalable. There needs to be personal commitment to the overall mission at every level or it all falls apart. When you get Mini-HROs within a broken larger organization, you get the Nut Island effect:


I submit that perhaps the fire service within the forest service is experiencing a grand-scale Nut Island Effect. I don’t have any ideas for making it better, aside from the obvious complete restructure as a federal wildland fire agency, which I think the PTBs will fight tooth and claw.

Nerd on the Fireline

5/29 Regarding AVUE and not meeting basic qualifications...

Hrslave is correct - if you miss a box on the Basic Qualifications
page, you'll basically kick yourself off the cert.. It is also
important to note that for the career ladder positions those
crucial check-boxes need to be clicked in two spots.

However, there is a very easy way for every applicant to check to
see if they've met Basic Qualifications after submitting their
application!!! In other words, you can check to see if you've
accidentally missed one of those important boxes. If you have
missed a box, don't be afraid update your application after you've
submitted it (as long as you do it before the deadline).

Please see the attached Tip Sheet to see how to check the status of
your application.

The Tip Sheet is a portion of a larger, step-by-step AVUE handout
that I developed for my Federal Resume and Application Development
Workshops - which are specifically designed for Forest Service fire
management programs. Please give a shout if you are interested in
having me come to your District to teach your employees how to put
together effective applications and federal resumes - and how to
successfully get through the AVUE process.

Bethany E. Loomis-Hannah

Thanks Bethany. Ab.

5/29 I just spoke to Deanne Shulman. 1977 was her first year on LP shots.

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

Thanks, Scott.
OK, so "Glow" aka Gloria Eighmey is currently the first female shot as far as we know. Anybody know more? Ab.

5/29 Here's the way early fire fighter retirement was explained to me by my personnel officer when it first was established in the Forest Service about 1974 or so:

It is not designed to be a benefit to the employee. The process is designed to benefit the organization by keeping a younger fire fighting force. The extra percentage earned is to make it comparable to a retirement earned by a non fire fighter employee working 30 years. She went further to say that because it is not a benefit to the employee, they could reassign me to a non covered position for any reason and it would not be classed as an adverse action.

The idea did not work. The current agency employees are not stepping up to fill the fire fighter positions. I have never asked to be reemployed. Every assignment I have filled since I retired was requested of me by the agency because an agency employee was not available to fill the position.

By the way. Do the math on an AD-J working 14-16 hour days for two weeks compared to a GS employee. the Ad compares to about a GS 5 or 6. Greed...I don't agree.

AB sign my name, I have no fear of a fisherman.
Tom Jones

Hi Tom, great to see you're still out there. In my opinion as long time editor here, the greed comment was a "troll" on the original poster's part. Remember the guys that would write in here in the early days of theysaid-it to "fish" and see who got the greatest number of knee-jerk responses? They kept track. The winner got taken to dinner or bar hopping by the losers or some such. Ah, those were the glory days... Ab.

5/29 Finding New Firefighters

I believe a fine solution for finding new young men and women to work as seasonals would be to advertise nationally. If I had only known how great the job of fighting wildfires is, I would have joined years ago! A simple television commercial and some press releases would certainly generate a lot of attention. And, if that message was intended for those looking for adventure, extremely hard work, a good way to put a bigger dent in college bills/class requirements and a great "summer job" (good stories to tell your friends who flipped burgers/folded clothes all summer!) I'm sure the numbers would increase... let's not forget a lot of young people like me just don't know about these jobs and may come from regions where there isn't any interaction with wildfire but could provide a great service.

For hrslave, someone please let the computer tech's at AVUE know about this problem... this can easily be fixed by accessing the database and creating a prompt "you must select all to qualify" if the applicant does not select all.

Thanks for all the information on the site,
--still thinking of a clever nickname

5/29 Readers,

There were some great photos taken at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation
Family Day
. Check 'em out. www.wffoundation.org/FamilyFire20082.php

Thanks for putting that on!

Kudos to SoCal Team 3!!!! Way to go!!!!!!!

The folks on the Southern Incident Management Team (Southern California
Team 3) decided to dedicate 1 hour of overtime pay to the Foundation
each time their team is activated. Their first activation was on the Santa
Anita Fire. The Team donated nearly $2,000!

Tahoe Terrie

5/29 Mellie;

Your list cuts a wide swath and I agree that most of them are trying to be HROs…

The industry most similar to wildland firefighting of that group is mining, yet most folks probably don’t see that as an HRO.

The rest of the groups have something in common that mining and wildland firefighting do not have: they all involve workers who become intimately familiar with their workspace. Whether it’s an aircraft carrier or nuke plant, each worker has their “turf” and tasks. They practice doing the same thing and there are only so many variables that can occur. I’m not trying to minimize what they do, but they are generally watching dials, switches, or looking for specific anomalies within a very specific set of parameters and floor plan. So, to build a system of checks, it is fairly simple.

In wildland firefighting, we are faced with different turfs and differences in our tasks on every fire. We don’t have an alarm or breaker pop off when there is trouble, we have change which could be subtle or drastic. Every inch of ground on one fire is different than our last fire; there is no task or procedure exactly the same as before.

Our challenge is to build communication, trust, and integrity into our system as we learn from ourselves and our past. I think the doctrinal approach is a good start, but we need to realize that a wildland HRO is going to look different than others, and it will take time to get there.

5/29 Hi.

I was wondering how to find out if I was the first women ever to be on a hot shot crew.
I was on the morman lake (ARIZONA ) hotshot crew in 1976. The year 3 crew
members were killed.

Thank you,

"Glow" aka Gloria Eighmey

Hi Glow. You can look here: Inquiring Minds Want to Know (IMWTK) Whether you were first or not, you were one of the first. I'll add you to the list.

Does anyone have contact with Deanne Schulman. If you do, would you ask her if she remembers her first year as a hotshot?

In poking around for more info, I found this:
1991 Gina Papke became superintendent of the Zigzag Hotshots, the first woman superintendent of a hotshot crew. www.fs.fed.us/fire/people/hotshots/zigzag/history.phpl


5/29 A lot of discussion on High Reliability Organizations these days.

Why not "Just Do It" to steal the Nike motto, take the initiative for your sphere of influence.

If you are a Single Resource Boss start turning your crew, helitack, engine or IA module into an

FMOs you can influence your District, Forest, Region, Ranger Unit, by setting the example and
being a High Reliability Person.

We need to stop waiting for something to happening from on high and start doing the things needed
to build a High Performing-High Reliability Organization from the boots up.

Match your actions to your wishes.

Question authority, take your leadership training seriously, stop accepting unsafe assignments and
be consistent in your reasons for accepting or rejecting an assignment. Be able to explain your
reasoning to your supervisors, subordinates and yourself.

5/29 Originally from Gary B in R5 and making the rounds behind the scenes...

Subject: Extension of Application Period for new IHC Announcements

We have added all the missing duty locations to all the IHC announcements.
We will wait until 6/17 to generate those referral lists, the same date to
generate the Developmental GS-5 referral list. Last day to apply is 6/16.
Please let your recruiters and Hotshot and Type 2 IA crew leaders know of
this change.

ADS08-FSJOBS-IHC(ASST)-0708G (Merit)

5/29 Dear "Pls leave my name and org out of this",

You made my day with your post!!

When you said "EDINA", I hope that I fully understood your meaning as being "I" meaning "IT" (IT = the communities and resources we all protect) need daily attention? If not, I hope you re-read my post and discuss it with peers who are familiar with both FIRESCOPE and the Forest Service in general.

Things will get better for you... my fire community brother or sister. I don't know what is eating at you, but the facts will set you free.

"The United States Congress chartered the FIRESCOPE project in 1972 and directed the Forest Service to assist the Southern California fire agencies in a program to review research, development and applications."

"The Initial funding (1972-1977) came from the Forest Service research Funds and 5 million dollars was spent on system design."

"The federal government would allocate 2.4 million dollars to assist in this initial implementation. In 1979, an additional 10 to 12 million dollars would be spent on full implementation. The partner agencies assumed costs for operation and maintenance of the system. In 1976, the operations coordination center was established in Riverside for Multi-Agency Coordination (MACS) of the FIRESCOPE region."

In terms of all risk training and experience... my CV is verifiable and rates highly on both current municipal quals (Chief Officer level) and current wildland quals (Senior Chief Officer level).... I could leave the Forest Service in a heartbeat, but I choose to stay in the trenches with the troops I am supposed to lead.... and follow their guidance from below. I won't run until I see the leaders above me run.... at which time, I'll run the fastest.....


5/29 Regarding Mellie's post on HROs:

You did not mention submarines; I think they have had the lead in HRO for a century. Particularly in the last 50+ years with nuclear submarines. I will give you that some of the others you mentioned have more instant inherent danger; such as Aircraft Carrier flight operations; submarines must be at alert 24/7 for the smallest problem. Heck there was the day that flushing the potty could flood the ship.

Today considering the Nuclear power plant (actually pretty safe all things considered) and the dangers of being totally underwater, it requires the highest state of preparedness all the time. I am a little biased having been there 12 years. One wrong turn of a valve can have disastrous consequences. Same as ignoring LCES and the 10's and 18's.

5/29 A discussion point. Just curious ..... Firefighter retirement - after 20 years in service and no older then 57 - was established because the job is physically arduous and health tasking... Those who fall under firefighter retirement collect substantial larger amount of money then the rest of the fire employees. Yet the same retirees are going back on the fires in the same position we are saying are only for younger (under 57) people. And we all know this is a fact, from agency directors to measly GS 6/7. Sort of you can have your cake and eat it too, no?

Curious on how everyone will try to justify this one. I gather there will be a lot of "old knowledge disappearing".... Did we not know 10 years ago that baby boomers will be retiring??? Did we ever heard of mentoring, bringing trainees....
My thought behind this, we are dealing with basic old fashion human greed. That should get this discussion started....

signed bee in a bonnet
5/28 Misery Whip,

I have recently had a question on how, or if, HROs would be scaleable. So can a 20 person handcrew operate as an HRO, or squad thereof, or going the other direction, a fire organization on a district or forest level. Or can an IMT or an Operations Group of an IMT, perform as an HRO? Or is HRO based at the Agency level and more culture than practice? I know what I believe which would to some degree differ from your perspective.

With that said, how do we get there? As you discussed let's look at Sensitivity to Operations with concern with what is happening in the USFS at this point in history. ASC has zero to do with Operations, and is a total detriment to anything resembling operations. The IFPM and 401 atrocities somehow may be related to operations, not in my mind not how it has gone. Go down the list of issues that we can get our heads around. How about the R-5 folks needing their GOVs at home to respond to fires with appropriate management response? I would call that situation Sensitivity to Bureaucracy.

So as leaders, what do we do? You better get your folks ready to go, tomorrow and for everyday you put them in harm's way. Don't give in, work it hard.


GOVs = Government Operated Vehicles

5/28 Tim,

I agree with most of the points you made in your recent posts. In reference to wildland firefighter teams and crews that currently practice HRO principles, you said, "In some cases they operate the way they do with agency support, in others they operate the way they do in spite of lack of agency support or while having to deal with agency interference."

If our agency was really committed to operating as a HRO, firefighters would have agency support and wouldn't have to deal with agency interference.

I'm as supportive as anyone of the fire leaders who have taken it upon themselves to learn about and use HRO principles. Our Chief and Fire Director both have publicly come out in support of HROs and Doctrine, but I just haven't seen the kind of meaningful action and support from them that could bring about major positive cultural change throughout the Forest Service. My guess is that they are at least partly impeded from doing more by the Rey factor.

We still have huge impediments to becoming a real HRO, including a lack of frank dialogue with our leaders. We certainly don't have a preoccupation with failure, we have HUGE failures that scarcely raise a peep. Commitment to resilience or sensitivity to operations? Don't make me laugh. And if we really deferred to expertise, we wouldn't have antagonistic political appointees and unqualified line officers making the most important decisions about how USFS fire programs are managed across the country.

Other major barriers to cultural improvement that have yet to be frankly addressed include a lack of trust over accident investigations, PL 107-203, civil liability, and the criminalization of firefighting.

Maybe it is impossible for the entire USFS fire organization to become a HRO under any administration. I don't know. But aircraft carriers work under a government management structure too, and they seem to be able to pull it off.

I don't think mini-HROs in a decentralized organization will ever fully benefit from their mindful actions as long as they work for and with others who don't get it.

Misery Whip
5/28 Folks

Regarding lobotomy's email...

The USFS provided $million USD over a 5 yr period .........

"the USFS was to assist in the development" as the document says.... here is a link to FIRESCOPE

http://firescope.org/firescope-history/past present future.pdf

Before you start flaming me..... The OTHER agencies picked up the ball and started it moving it along and if the USFS doesn't get mentioned for EVERYTHING it has contributed, it feels left out..

There is an acronym for this EDINA .......... Every Day I Need Attention

So yes the USFS did this and that Katrina, Shuttle etc. Does this mean USFS is ready for earthquakes??? Other all hazard incidents???? Get over yourselves and learn what is coming down the pipe. If some agency "borrows" PLAGARIZES ETC YOUR idea, too bad. The DHS just did. We are all students of fire and if somebody isn't always patting the USFS on its back for EVERYTHING it says or does, I say tough..

Read the document. it is not all a bout USFS and its activities

Pls leave my name and org out of this.....
5/28 HROs (High Reliability Organizations) in a Risk-laden environment.

Misery Whip, I wonder if the Forest Service can be a HRO under any administration even though I feel like the current one has certainly let us down big time.

Tim, I agree with you that the main impediments to the Forest Service being a HRO are "decentralized management of the programs and the lack of agency commitment correcting major deficiencies that are out there." I also agree that there are "pockets of HRO" within crews, within IMTs and within some dispatch shops. One thing that drew me to fire in R5 is/was the excellence and professionalism of the HRO type program and the focus and dedication of the leadership at all levels.

AL, you asked about other industries and organizations -- in addition to wildland firefighting -- that operate under HRO structure or are trying to; these are high risk industries which have fewer accidents and mishaps in spite of the fact that one error or an accumulation of errors can have catastrophic consequences:

health care/medicine- hospitals
mining industry
nuclear power industry & nuclear waste storage
oil companies
chemical plants
electrical energy industry
air traffic controllers
aircraft carriers
worldwide financial network/world bank

Still thinking on this...

For now let me leave it at that...


5/28 AZ community:

Cabela’s has gone crazy and is offering all firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, military
and veterans our employee discount on June 2, 3 and 4, 2008.

It’s our way of saying thanks to our Hometown Heroes.

Please pass this on to anyone who would be interested.

Employee discount is up to 25% off in-store merchandise, with a few exclusions.

Thanks – hope to see you in June!

Glendale Avenue and Loop 101
Glendale, AZ 85305
Dir: 623.872.6700

5/28 ARRG! This drives me crazy...>From the article's text next to the Gov's speech,

"During last year's firestorms, for example, GIS allowed firefighters to see
through the smoke-giving them a more accurate, real-time view of conditions
on the ground."

The GIS cannot SEE anything! It can display what infrared interpreters see
in thermal imagery in context with other available datasets. Emitted
thermal heat can be 'seen' or detected, through smoke, by the right sensor.

The National Infrared Operations Program at NIFC flies two aircraft with
such sensors and there is a Nation-wide cadre of interpreters that provide
this intelligence to the SITL. We've been doing this for over forty years.
We flew over 1,600 fires in 2007. NIROps takes advantage of other thermal
infrared aircraft/sensors as well. For more information, visit the
homepage at http://nirops.fs.fed.us.

And, to mitigate any flaming replies (pun intended), GIS also displays the
GPS data collected from airborne and ground-based technical specialists.
Thank you to all the GISSs that put in long hours to put all this data
together and get it into the hands and pockets of the firefighters.


5/28 I just wanted to let you folks know that you can have the best KSAs in the nation but you won't get that job if your application comes up as Not Basically Qualified.

I did a candidate review this morning for a particular position and found that 8 out of 35 applicants didn't basically qualify. I knew what I was going to find but looked at the apps anyway. It confirmed that people aren't reading the directions carefully.

When you apply for a job and you get to the Basic Qualifications page, please note that it states "Click the checkbox of the following statements that apply to you." This doesn't mean choose one out of the three. You must have all three marked in order to basically qualify for a position. The statements are as follows:

1. I have experience performing wildland fire suppression duties as a member of an organized fire suppression crew or comparable unit that utilized knowledge of fire suppression techniques and practices under various conditions.

2. To determine your eligibility for a primary firefighting position, indicate whether you meet the following age requirement: I am under age 37; OR, after subtracting the months of past Federal service in covered firefighter positions (includes both primary and secondary designated positions), I am less than age 37.

3. I have 90 days of on the line wildland firefighting experience gained through containment, control, suppression or use of wildland fire.

I hate to see qualified people that widen our candidate pool disqualified for simply not checking boxes, but that is the reality of AVUE. Make sure you thoroughly read ALL the directions when completing your application. Some places you must mark more than one choice and others you will choose only one.


Ab's bold.

5/28 Hey Ab,

The Governor "gets it" too. Attached is an excerpt from his speech given
at the GTC West 2008 Conference on California's Future in which he
emphasized the role geospatial technologies will play; he cited wildfire
examples from the 2007 SoCAL fires.


Fire Geek

It's a wmv file. If anyone wants to view it, email and I'll send it along. Ab.

5/28 Re: Evolution of FIRESCOPE

Irefighting REsources of Southern California Organized for Potential Emergencies (1970-1986)
FIrefighting RESources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies (post-1986)
National Incident Management System (post 09/11/2001)

The role of the Forest Service in providing expertise and federal funding (or educating others on the federal processes) is often overlooked in the role that the current NRP (National Response Plan), SEMS (Standardized Emergency Management System), and the one-eyed DHS-NIMS (National Incident Management System) played. Don't even ask about the FMAG program that went terribly awry.

Under the current Forest Service representation by Ed Hollenshead, I wonder if he knows the "story" about the folks he is charged to represent and honor? I know Q knew the knitty gritty and represented "his firefighters" and would fight to the bitter end to represent them.

NIIMS (National Interagency Incident Management System) and the role that federal wildland firefighters played (and continue to play) in 21st Century emergency and disaster management should not be overlooked as LAND MANAGERS decide "our" future over the concerns of the community and resources we protect..... Their decisions, and recent actions over the last 7 years..... are a detriment to the community and firefighter safety.... things they know little or nothing about.

Even the FIRESCOPE history downplays the role of the Forest Service..... thank goodness some of the Founders of FIRESCOPE (all agencies) are still around to tell their stories as they remember. Hopefully, their stories will be heard first hand and repeated by others, and not repeated by a poge like me trying to capture "lessons not learned".... rather than air their true stories of how it happened and why.

You can't prevent another Hurricane Katrina or the flawed federal response to the actual emergency, but you can be prepared and offer lessons learned of why it went wrong, and offer positive suggestions towards the proper path to take in the future.


> From FIRESCOPE(2008):

The FIRESCOPE Program originated in Southern California, organized under the acronym, "FIrefighting REsources of Southern California Organized for Potential Emergencies" in 1972. By legislative action, the FIRESCOPE Board of Directors and the Office of Emergency Services (OES) Fire and Rescue Service Advisory Committee were consolidated into a working partnership on September 10, 1986. This consolidation represents all facets of local, rural, and metropolitan fire departments, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and federal fire agencies.

Through this partnership, FIRESCOPE was established as a statewide program under the redefined acronym "FIrefighting RESources of California Organized for Potential Emergencies." To further support FIRESCOPE's statewide program, CALFIRMS (CALifornia Fire Information Resource Management Systems) in Northern California joined with FIRESCOPE as the Northern Operations Team. Under provisions set forth by Senate Bill 27, chaptered on October 2, 1989, under Health and Safety Code Section 13070, the Office of Emergency Services (OES), California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) and the State Fire Marshal (SFM) are to jointly establish and administer the FIRESCOPE Program.

The FIRESCOPE program is intended to complete the legislative attempt to unify these various fire agencies together into one voice and direction. The character of this group is comprised of diverse fire agencies derived from the founding legislation. The synergy created by these diverse fire agencies truly provides valuable input to the Director of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services in addressing the future of fire/rescue services in California and assures excellent representation for the continued development of FIRESCOPE products.

The organization/program of the OES Advisory Board and the organization/program of FIRESCOPE are to deal with mutual aid, cooperative agreements, and fire/rescue regional policy issues and to advise the Director of OES in matters of statewide importance.

The decision-making process for these matters rest within a majority-rule process based on the size of the Board and limited discussion time; minority viewpoints are also forwarded to the OES Director for consideration.
5/27 Mellie or anyone,

Do you know of other High Reliability Organizations beyond aviation. What have they done?


5/27 To the writer of the resignation letter,

Well my friend, as usual you have expressed well with words my thoughts. Sorry to leave you a position so wrought with problems from above. When I read your letter all of the emotions I felt when I sat in that same office and position three years ago and decided to retire came flooding back... Thirty-two plus years ... Not an easy decision, good times, many friends, many great teachable moments and many years of public service.

I could have stayed another five years, but at what cost? I had a great career... the lack of support and the line officers blatant attempts to "reel fire in" finally took the toll on me. As I said, I had a fantastic career with the Forest Service as a Wildland Firefighter and realized that the road to continued progress was being blocked and diverted backwards.

What I finally came to realize is that it is the Foresters & line officers "house". They make the rules, they bend and break them anyway they see fit to suit their needs. As you noted, Fire in the Forest Service has progressed into the 21st century, unfortunately, the folks in charge are intent in making sure Fire returns to the 1930's. It is their house to tear down as they see fit... hopefully the public and their representatives in government will catch it before the frame falls... or maybe that is what is needed for the rebuilding as the Federal Wildland Fire Agency process........

My best to you in your new path... it is a wise choice!

No name please...
5/27 ESF 4 - Firefighting: Lead role under the National Response Plan - Forest Service

Powerpoint Presentation: www.oes.ca.gov/Operational/OESHome.nsf/PDF/2008...2020.ppt

/s/ Mission Creep ?... or preventing another Hurricane Katrina?


Disaster Earthquake Scenario Unveiled for Southern California
Released: 5/22/2008 10:00:00 AM


Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192

<snip contacts>

Editors' notes: A telephone conference call is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. PDT for a brief presentation and opportunity for questions with the principal authors. Call 605-990-0100, and enter conference code 1009678#

B-roll animations and high-resolution images are available at

Scientists today unveiled a hypothetical Scenario describing how a magnitude 7.8 Southern California earthquake -similar to the recent earthquake in China- would impact the region, causing loss of lives and massive damage to infrastructure, including critical transportation, power, and water systems.

In the Scenario, the earthquake would kill 1800 people, injure 50,000, cause $200 billion in damage, and have long-lasting social and economic consequences. This is the most comprehensive analysis ever of what a major Southern California earthquake would mean, and is the scientific framework for what will be the largest earthquake preparedness drill in California history, scheduled for November 13, 2008. [more at the usgs link above]

5/27 To all the many people (14) who sent this in over the last week, I sent an email to get permission. The author replied, "Just state that you have permission to post the letter and that it was edited by the author. Hopefully, Senator Feinstein can use this as a tool to make something happen." Ab.

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I appreciate your interest and energy in helping to resolve the issues facing retention of fire personnel with the US Forest Service in the State of California. I am a 24 year federal (fire) employee of the USFS and in my career I have never seen such a blatant disregard for the welfare of the employees of this once great agency. The information you are receiving through the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association is the most accurate you can get. I am a member of that association and we basically tell it like it is. I was an employee of the -redacted-, located in -redacted-, on the- redacted- National Forest.

I have just resigned to accept a job with the State of California as a Fire Captain. My position for the last 2 years with the FS was as a Fire Battalion Chief. I thought long and hard about this decision to leave but the pay, benefits and work environment with the State are far more conducive to being successful that it was fairly easy. The hard part was leaving my friends.

The burden shift on FS supervisory employees has been tremendous over the last few years that we can hardly spend any time in the field supervising our subordinates, where we really need to be. The move of all personnel servicing to Albuquerque has created a vacuum where we literally get NO service whatsoever. Supervisors have been told that we need to accomplish the administrative tasks that were previously done for us by on site personnel specialists. We ARE NOT personnel specialists, we are Forestry Technicians and Firefighters.

The ridiculous AGLEARN training requirements require my fire crews to leave their stations and travel up to 50 miles just to access computers with high speed access. This affects their ability to respond to wildland fires and could increase incident costs but leadership puts more emphasis on AGLEARN. Our Forest Leadership MANDATES completion of these courses and threatens holding payroll, disciplinary action and stand downs during fire season. This is not commonly known but it happened in 2007.

I am fortunate enough that I have made a career change in time to maintain a positive attitude but I feel sorry for those I leave behind. They are my peers and friends and I would love to see their work environment improve. -sentence redacted to prevent retaliation on a current FS employee-

Below I will paste the text from my letter of resignation so you can see what issues I have addressed and why I left.


"Dear -name redacted-, District Ranger

I hereby submit my resignation from my position as Assistant District Fire Management Officer, Battalion Chief, effective -redacted- after nearly 24 years of federal public service. My last actual day of work will be -redacted- to help the district staff through the weekend. The remainder of the pay period I will use accumulated annual leave to take a transition break before my new job.

The main reason I am leaving is to fulfill a personal goal of mine to become a Professional Firefighter. Also, I am leaving because I no longer have confidence in the leadership of the U.S. Forest Service. The fire program has evolved into the modern era while management has chosen to stay in the past. Line officers do not have the experience and decision making capacity to operate in an emergency operations environment. Gone are the days when Line Officers held Command and General Staff positions in the Incident Command System. Line Officers should either resign themselves to a support role, or be mandated to become fully qualified fire managers just as fire personnel are mandated to become "Professionals" i.e. IFPM and 0401, or be removed.

The best immediate solution is an absolute Centralized fire management organization led by experienced fire management leaders. I do hope those in charge realize this soon or the whole organization will collapse; they owe it to the folks who ruin their backs and knees in wildland fire. Provide housing for the lower grade employees in high cost areas, pay them a living wage, treat them like family, like the Forest Service was when I started in July of 1985.

Classify them as Professional Wildland Firefighters; give them the title they deserve to work under, not just a title to die with. This organization has the ability, all it takes is commitment, real leadership and the ability to make decisions for the "greater good", namely its employees. All leaders should serve the team.

I have accepted a position with CALFIRE as a Fire Captain. The pay and benefits are far superior to anything the Forest Service is offering (regardless of what the Chief says).

The good news is that I will remain working in the local area and will provide my new agency with all of my experience and corporate knowledge of geography, fire behavior, fire history and Forest Service culture, policy and procedure. I will return all property that has been issued to me prior to my effective date of resignation. I will handle the disposition of my health benefits, TSP and retirement accounts.

I personally wish you good luck and a sincere hope for the Forest Service to correct from its current downward spiral. I have enjoyed my career with the Forest Service and will treasure my friendships, memories of hard work, good times and great people.
Sincerely, -name redacted- "

Senator, please continue to press the Washington office to resolve the issues. Hundreds of my comrades are suffering from a level of work induced stress that their safety on the fireground could be compromised. The micro management from Washington, lack of support for Incident Commanders, burden shift, mission creep plus the current low employee morale is making the Forest Service a toxic work environment.

Respectfully, -name and location redacted-, California

Readers, I wish you could know what really awesome, experienced fire managers these are who have left and are leaving the FS. Some of you do know because you, like me have gotten the letters behind the scenes. I feel honored to call a number of them my friend. Ab.

5/27 I agree with you Tim. The fire management organization on my district
operates as an HRO and I think many crews and programs do. On my district
we do it without agency and forest support. It works well for us. We have
highly trained, safe firefighters, fire suppression and fire use programs.
I don't think the greater USFS fire management program operates as an HRO.
But there are pockets of excellence within the greater USFS fire management

Magruder Fingers
5/27 Hello,

Just a quick reminder that AVUE collects all of the applications (and shuts down for
maintenance) at 2100 Pacific Standard Time.

If you are putting in for this round of R5 Fire Hire, be sure to submit your application
before 8:59 tonight.

For reference, the announcement numbers for this next round (and direct links to
USAJOBS) are listed on my website:


Hope this helps.

Bethany E. Loomis-Hannah

5/27 Does anyone know what this legalese below means?

Final rule "Clarifying Prohibitions for Failure to Maintain Control of Fires that Damage National Forest System Lands".

The link to the Federal Register (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-11731.pdf) was posted on this Hotlist thread by AZ 148: www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?p=20055

Forest Service
36 CFR Part 261
RIN 0596–AC30
Clarifying Prohibitions for Failure To
Maintain Control of Fires That Damage
National Forest System Lands
AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.
ACTION: Notice of final rule.

SUMMARY: This final rule revises regulations to establish a new prohibition for starting and negligently failing to maintain control of a prescribed fire. Proof of criminal negligence is required for this offense. The rule also clarifies that the prohibition for causing and failing to maintain control of all other fires is a strict liability offense, not requiring proof of criminal intent. In implementing the National Fire Plan, the Forest Service has encouraged adjacent landowners to develop integrated fire management plans for the use of prescribed fire for the restoration and protection of private lands adjacent to National Forest System lands. Without these changes, adjacent landowners might be discouraged from using prescribed fire.

There's more in the pdf but I don't understand what it means.

GA Peach


"I fully disagree with the above statement."

What it was is what it was. HR decided that in their mind "Reasonable Cause/Suspicion" was a criminal arrest or having someone that was willing to testify that they had witnessed the illegal use of drugs. A drug testing program is much easier to manage. What other professional emergency management organization in the U.S. does not have a drug testing program?

I would like to clarify that I do strongly believe that there is a great potential for smaller HROs to exist in the fire organizations and I don't think you have to look hard to find them. Some engine crews, IHCs, helitack programs, jump bases, dispatch centers, overhead teams, etc. follow the HRO model and would fit into that definition. Those organizations constitute the major reason that we can do a difficult and dangerous job safely. In some cases they operate the way they do with agency support, in others they operate the way they do in spite of lack of agency support or while having to deal with agency interference. What is currently lacking is the HRO potential for a fire program at the agency level. This is because of the decentralized management of the programs and the lack of agency commitment correcting major deficiencies that are out there. The USFS was willing to take those problems on in Law Enforcement and established a stove-pipe organization that reduced local meddling in LE, but there has been no movement to correct the issues associated with fire. To the folks out there that are committed to running their programs using an HRO model, I would like to express my deepest admiration for a job well done under difficult conditions. Keep up the good work!


5/27 Without the Forest Service participation in FIRESCOPE's development of ICS and nationwide emergency response since the early 1970s.... there wouldn't have been a FIRESCOPE.

The Forest Service has an integral responsibility in the National Response Plan.

The 2008 "exercise" will be the first test to see if everyone is on the same page.

BDF firefighter

I'm not including the Disaster Communication News from Wrightwood CA, but we applaud their efforts to be prepared from communications on down. Practice makes perfect. Nice job, John, and the Wrightwood Communications Group. Ab.


"The bottom line on this is that no organization such as fire in a resource management agency has the potential to be a HRO."

I fully agree with your above statement, but "lessons learned" from folks heading in the right direction.... Region 5 and other areas in the past, with sound leadership and education of the goal ... have been often blindly overlooked either by intentional or unintentional cultural and personal acts or omissions (latent errors).

"When I was was a supervisor with the USFS and had an employee with a drug problem my hands were tied. HR told me he had to be arrested or that I had to observe him using drugs prior to taking any actions."

I fully disagree with the above statement. As a supervisor, you and HR should have both been aware and trained to recognize and circumvent illegal drug use affecting mission delivery. Since the early 1990's, the USDA Forest Service has had "Reasonable Cause / Suspicion" training available to supervisors. This training allowed a supervisor, with verifiable second party "cause or suspicion" to request through the "designated agency official" a drug test of a suspected employee. The FS has several drug testing authorities available (see 5/24, Lobotomy).

During the Clinton/Gore "Reinventing Government Project", the Forest Service Region 5 "crews" already had an abnormal make up as it compared to the rest of the nation... Their make up was (and is still) at the minimum:

1 - Supervisory Forestry Technician (GS-9, Supt, 26/0); 2 - Supervisory Forestry Technicians (GS-8, Hotshot Captains, 26/0); 2 - Lead Forestry Technicians (GS-6, Squad Bosses, 18/8); 4 - Forestry Technicians (GS-5, Senior Firefighter, 13/13); and 4 - Biological Sciences Student Trainees (GS-0499-03/04, Firefighter Apprentices) assigned to each Hotshot module. These positions all had full benefits and retirement. The remainder of the crew was hired at GS-2 through GS-4 temporary (1039) appointments without benefits or retirement.

The grading and structure of the Region 5 Hotshot Crew organizational structure was challenged indirectly twice, and upheld twice by OPM and by the Agency, during two reviews of directly associated positions during the first and second "Engine Captain Reviews (Desk Audits)".

This is the same structure (although grades and titles have somewhat changed throughout the years) as has been used since I was an R-5 Hotshot in the early 80's. My past mentors and leaders set the course and direction and the love for the job I do..

I understand that other agencies, as well as other regions within the Forest Service use(d) other organizational structures for their Hotshot Crews and their engine modules in the past.


Readers, for those that dwell in the past as a land manager.... First: Recognize history, learn from it, embrace it, accept it, experience it, teach it.... and and then, Second: live in the 21st Century of communication and the rights of a Just Culture of not repeating the same latent errors again.

Keep safe and those around you safer! I know it's hard to understand....Baby steps... I've been a "supervisor" since 1990 when I first became a GS-7.... Eighteen years later.... I'm still doing the same job by choice (but now OPM decided my job rates a GS-9, albeit with another agency and another title).


Supervisory Positions: www.opm.gov/fedclass/gssg.pdf
Lead Positions: www.opm.gov/fedclass/gslead.pdf

P.S. - Mark Rey (USDA-FS) = Michael Brown (DHS-FEMA). One was incompetent... one was ignorant.... Both were political appointees who never should have been put into a position of leadership and direction of a program they didn't have experience in, or fully understand. The differences between ignorant and incompetence are blurred when the incompetent one (Rey) lives on to wreak ruin.... while the ignorant one (Brown) was simply replaced by a firefighter..... go figure.

Lobotomy, Small Clarification: Maybe I didn't read one of your sentences correctly, but the "rights of a Just Culture" does not necessarily have to do with repeating (or not) the same latent errors again but with a climate of communication in which there can be lessons learned.

Here's a definition of Just Culture from James Reason in Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents.

“A Just Culture is one in which there's an atmosphere of trust in which people are encouraged, even rewarded, for providing essential safety-related information, but in which they are also clear about where the line must be drawn between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.”

5/26 AB

I was wondering, where are these jobs listed that have a closing date of 5/27?
I looked on USA Jobs and Avue. Have any ideas?


5/26 Misery Whip,

I don't think that this administration has a corner on not having HRO potential. During the Clinton administration all of the USFS IHC Squad Leaders were changed from "Supervisory" to "Lead" as a part of Al Gore's "Reinventing Government". What this did was to allow him to claim that he had flattened organization charts through "decreasing" the number of supervisors. The bottom line on this is that no organization such as fire in a resource management agency has the potential to be a HRO. One of the fundamental characteristics of a HRO is "Deference to expertise". It would be very difficult for an agency to make a case that its fire program could become a HRO when critical decisions are consistently made by managers with no fire background, experience, or training.

Concerning drug testing, I am a believer. When I was was a supervisor with the USFS and had an employee with a drug problem my hands were tied. HR told me he had to be arrested or that I had to observe him using drugs prior to taking any actions. He was eventually dismissed because of behavioral issues, but the process was considerably less budget neutral, more emotionally draining, and more inconvenient than any drug testing program.

I think that we will eventually see a Federal wildland fire service agency. It won't be the end of politics or being a political football, but it should take firefighters out of the position of having crucial decisions made by people who can't even spell fyre. It will be a sad time, fire is a major part of the history of the USFS. The Air Force was formed when it was determined that the Army could not manage major aviation assets. We are seeing some of the same issues in the land management agencies.


Ab's bold.

5/26 Tomorrow is the last day to turn in applications for the Mark Rey miracle. I was hoping to get some information rounded up, if there is any.

On AVUE, it appears the only jobs closing on 5/27 are engines and helitack. Does anyone know if they are going to fill hotshot positions or patrols in this round?

Also, who are they going to get to be SMEs this time of year? Does anyone have any news on TOS, is the government buying any houses yet? Will official or unofficial job offers come in July? If it is unofficial will there be a long wait for the official offer from ASC, or are they going to try and speed it up?

If anyone knows the answers, please share - trying to plan, thanks.

Supervisory Forestry Tech

SMEs (Subject Matter Experts); TOS (Transfer of Station); ASC (Albuquerque Service Center) Ab.

5/26 Retention:

Ab note: this is similar to many lists we've gotten. Thanks contributors.

Inyo National Forest R5

Mnt. Whitney RD



Unable to Staff 1 T3 Engine

Missing 1 GS 7 FEO
Missing 1 GS 6 AFEO
Missing 2 GS 5 Firefighters
Missing 1 GS 8 Assistant Helicopter
Missing 2 GS 5 Senior Fire Fighters

White Mountain RD

1 T3 / Water Tender Five Days a week
Missing 2 GS 6 AFEO
Missing 3 GS 5 Senior Firefighters

1 T3 Five Days a Week
Missing 1 GS 7 FEO
Missing 2 GS 5 Senior Firefighters

T2 Crew Trying to go T1
Missing 1 GS 6 Squad Boss
Missing 3 Fully Qualified Senior Fire Fighters

Mammoth RD

1 T3 / Water Tender 7 DAYS a week
Missing 2 GS 5 Senior FF

1 T3 5 Days A week
Missing GS 8 SFEO
Missing GS 6 AFEO
Missing 1 GS 5 Senior FF

Fire USE Crew
Missing GS 7 Captain
Missing 2 GS 5 Senior Firefighters

Mono RD

1 T3 Engine 7 days a week
Missing 2 GS 5 Senior Firefighters

1 T3 Engine 0 Days A week
FEO GS 7 only position staffed (whole engine unstaffed for 3 years)

2 Fuels Battalions Unstaffed

5/26 Seatbelts: Click It or Ticket



Ending the 1st week of the Seatbelt campaign (May 19-June 1). I hope all have made
a new resolution to wear seatbelts and get your friends and crewmates to wear seatbelts.

Several points:

  • It's the LAW.
  • Vehicle accidents account for a huge percentage of firefighter deaths each year.
  • Failure to wear your seat belt may compromise your family's PSOB if you bite the
    dust before your time.
  • "Set an example; model the correct behavior; get your fellow firefighters to do the
    same," as one R5 Engine captain has said.
  • It's the smart thing to do and is a simple habit you can develop if you're formerly
    one of the *stupid* ones.

Tahoe Terrie

Details about the Click It or Ticket campaign can be found at:

read on from another source, originally from the Safety Officer Michael C. on the Shasta-T

For Your Safety, Protect Your Life, Wear Your Seat Belt:

Remember this from last year? (Ab note: hotlist thread)

When this crew buggy went off the road and rolled some 300 feet down the
slope, the crew portion separated from the chassis ... and there were NO

Amazing ? Yes !

Seat Belts ? Yes !

Seat Belts Save Lives !
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

News of the Weird?

Fake seat belt to fool police causes death of New Zealand driver
The Associated Press
Friday, February 22, 2008

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: A New Zealand driver who used a fake car seat belt to fool police was killed when it failed him in a head-on crash, local media reported Saturday.

Ivan Segedin refused to wear a seat belt while driving and had been fined 32 times in the past five years for not wearing one, a coroner's court heard Friday.

Segedin, 39, died in a crash on July 22 last year from multiple injuries when his car crossed the road and collided head-on with an oncoming vehicle on North Island, coroner Carla na Nagara said.

"Ultimately Mr. Segedin's actions in driving without a seat belt have cost him his life in an accident that he may well have survived had he worn one," the New Plymouth Daily News quoted her saying.

Though his car was fitted with seat belts, an extra belt with a long strap had been knotted above the seat belt on the driver's side, providing a belt to simply sit over the driver's shoulder, Nagara said.

This created the illusion to a passing motorist or police officer that a seat belt was being worn when it was not.

Segedin's fatal injuries were caused when he was thrown forward on to the steering wheel in a low-impact crash. No blame or responsibility for the crash rested on the other driver, Nagara noted.

Fair Use Disclaimer

5/26 Ab

Saw a report that a firefighter on the Santa Cruz area Summit Fire a
few days ago had a medical emergency from breathing poison oak
smoke. Lots of hazards that may not be apparent. Add this one to
the list.

SoCal CalFire

5/26 Here's a link for those who want to listen to Dean Talley's live interview on his book Flyboys Risky Business. Scroll on down the page to get more info. Dean's interview is tonight at 8 PM at the radio station, 91.7. You can hear the live feed tonight at 8 here:


Click Listen Live
Choose your format and listen.

I'm going to try to if I get home soon enough. Go Dean. Nice job on the book.


5/26 My hats off to our VETS. My thanks to them.

My mom was a WAVE, trained at MIT and one of the first women to teach
radar to Navy men at Bremerton during WWII. She didn't see combat but did
her part. (She did see some naked men on submarines who didn't expect a
woman below decks even though they were warned...)

My dad was captain of a ship in the Pacific during WWII. I remember as
a little kid awakening to him screaming from a "bad dream". My mom told
me he was dreaming that time about a kamikaze attack on his ship. There
were other dreams and strange moments. He came home physically whole
from that war, but it took him many years for the dreams and flashbacks to
diminish. He was lucky that he got through it and carried on. Fine man...

My love especially to those vets (and firefighters) who pay the "hidden price"
for our freedom, safety and security.

Be Safe.


5/26 I wanted to take the time to say THANK YOU to all the vets in our family here. My father was in the Army over in Korea, but never talked about it... and I never asked. It wasn't until his death last year that I found out a portion of history that nobody knew. As I helped my mother clean out his things, I came across a wooden box that hadn't seen the light of day for years. I pried the lid off and inside were 7 boxes of slides and his service medals. As I went through the images, I found out that dad was at Inchon and Heartbreak Ridge. My dad was always my hero but until then, I never knew the caliber of that title I had placed on him.

On this Memorial Day, my feelings run a bit deeper for the appreciation of the man I called "dad". It also makes me reflect on the other veterans who may have packed away that part of their life, for reasons known only to them. I raise a toast in your honor, for your service and sacrifice.

To the ones we have lost and those still with us... THANK YOU!

Tom Stein

5/26 I too grew up chasing the lights and sirens. I was a Forest Service brat. There was little doubt what I would do when I grew up. In those days the FS had a special appeal to it, it was a much sought after job, I recall much of my community working for the FS and how they always seemed to be there when things needed to get done.

But I do not agree that our mission is different, what is our mission? Isn't it the Protection of life and property? and if so is that not the same as every other fire dept. in the US. They protect the states, the cities or counties interests and we protect the federal interests. So some one tell me what is the difference?

We must remember that we are and always will be PUBLIC SERVANTS. The public is who I serve, and I will do it with pride no matter what color engine I drive.



5/26 On this Memorial Day,

I want to extend a heartfelt "Thank You" to those men and women who have
made the ultimate sacrifice for my freedoms. I would also like to thank those
who have served continue to serve today, as well as their families, who sacrifice
more than we'll ever know.

I also want to thank the families of our fallen brothers and sisters, today. We
are thinking of you today and everyday.

I looked into my baby boy's eyes this morning, and even though he can't talk
yet, I knew what he was trying to say: "Come home safe, Dad. Come home safe."

And he meant ALL of us.


Stump Shot, I would add to your thank you for the "ultimate sacrifice", a thank you to the warriors and fire warriors who have come home from an engagement scarred physically or psychologically. It's hard to continue to love and support those who have flashbacks, PTSD, erratic behavior, anger or pain management issues or who are dealing with missing limbs or other body parts. As individuals and as a society we need to do that. Good treatment. They have done us great service whether as wildland firefighter or as military warrior. Thank you. Ab.

5/25 Mellie,

Honestly, I don’t think the Forest Service Fire & Aviation program is capable of acting like a High Reliability Organization under this administration. We have been studied and outsourced and contracted and centralized and downsized and Aglearned and Avued and EmpowHR’d and demoralized and REPEATEDLY LIED TO to the point that it is ludicrous to consider ourselves a high functioning organization. I’d say we’re more like a Medium Reliability Organization, and I would only rate us that high because of the professionalism and dedication of our employees who work at the sharp end of the spear. Unfortunately, the people at the sharp end are handicapped because the butt end of the spear is cracked and bent and burnt and covered with political slime and bullsh*t.

One of the underpinnings of a high-functioning culture is that the good of the many requires people at all levels of the organization be open and honest. How does that square with Mark Rey’s repeated deceptive responses before Congress about staffing levels and retention, or the steady stream of administration propaganda that Forest Service employees have to endure? The WO seems to be not much more than a Mark Rey puppet show these days.

If safety in large risk-facing organizations is culture-based, as Dr. Reason and other experts would have us believe, where does that leave us, with our leadership failures and demoralized culture?

We have spent a lot of effort in recent years on APAs and FLAs and other ways to improve near miss and accident investigations. Problem is, if you’re looking at an accident, the horse is already out of the barn. What we really need are better mechanisms to ferret out latent precursors before accidents happen.

In the past 10 years or so, the US Navy and Marines adopted from the Air National Guard a revolutionary safety program that relies on cultural assessments of military units called Culture Workshops. Trained facilitators interview people from different levels of management and rate their co-workers and managers on three “pillars of culture”; Communications, Trust, and Integrity. All information gained through interviews is anonymous, the findings stay with the unit leader, and facilitators are sworn to secrecy.

I know this sounds weird, but in the years since this process was developed, Culture Workshops have actually been proven to drastically decrease the numbers of accidents in high-risk programs. Here’s a link to the Navy Culture Workshop website if you’re interested:


How do you think our Forest Service leaders would fare if we could rate them on Communications, Trust, and Integrity?

Misery Whip

5/25 I have not seen this any where else, so post if you want. JHM

Rattlesnake bite victims showing extreme symptoms
Amanda Lee Myers, Associated Press
Sunday, May 25, 2008


The potentially deadly symptoms used to be fairly rare, but toxicologists in Arizona, Colorado and California say they're seeing some or all of them more than ever, and that they could be contributing to an increase in fatal rattlesnake bites in Arizona. more at link, interesting...

5/25 AB,

I was wondering if you could pass on a sincere thanks to the writer of the
reply to Smoke's Post. That was extremely well written and expresses what
most all of us think and feel. Thank you.


That was from the poster "Never Forget Black Tuesday". I added that post to the Documents Worth Reading archives. Ab.

5/25 Ab,

The Never Forget Black Tuesday poster said what i said, with much better explanation.

Thank You.

I would like to tell you and everybody else a little of my story. If it's long, i apologize.

I grew up chasing the sounds of sirens when i was a kid. Every time i heard them, i was dashing out the front door with my fingers crossed hoping it was a Wildland Firetruck. I used to make my Dad drive as close to the smoke i saw without getting us in any trouble or danger. You should have seen my first year with the new scanner. I always looked for the big Green trucks with the bright lights. I knew about the Red ones, but man, the Green ones were always the attention grabbers. When i was a Junior in High School i joined the CA Army National Gaurd, i wanted some extra cash LOL. At the age of 18, right after my Senior year i applied for CDF. We had a family buddy who was a Battalion Chief, so i kind of got the hookup. No, it wasn't the Green Trucks, but it was Firefighting. I had already done a year in the Gaurd with Seven left. I loved firefighting, but honestly at the time i don't think i was at the right maturity level yet. With Seven Guard years left, i switched to Active Duty Army. I enjoyed my Ten years in the Service. While in the Service, i got alot of training completed EMT, more firefighting qualifications, Honor, Courage, and the most important thing i got out of it, Leadership Skills.

Now i have the dream job of working on a Green Truck, but i am not feeling the excitement i did when i was Ten and running out the door to see them Code 3 responding to a fire. I am hoping this will all change. I would love to put together the Leadership Skills i received in the Service with the Firefighting Knowledge i have gained and give it to the younger guys. This is why i am Green and will always be Green. CALFIRE can have their 72 hour straights and their overtime. They have a different mission than the FS.

I feel I am a part of the greatest fire organization in the Nation. I will always have Smokey's back. I believe the combined agency is a great idea, but i know it will take a long time before that happens. I am going to stick with the situation at hand, and that is to protect the lives and property of this Nation from catastrophic fire. This season is already starting off HOT and its not going to stop anytime soon.

Everybody Stay Safe



"The drug testing of Public Safety (think firefighters) should be a no-brainer. I have always thought all appointed firefighters should be cross trained to drive an R5 engine at a moments notice. Getting everyone on the CDL program may not be budget neutral but all driving employees should have a CDL to facilitate their options for advancement. This would subject all to the CDL random drug testing that presently only the engine folks are subjected too. I suspect many engine folks would love to see this condition of employment extend to all in the FF community. It only makes sense. A pre employment test is just that. A person dries out, gets hired and then is free to go about their previous behavior."

It's not just that simple in the USFS to do that. According to the NFFE union, just possessing a CDL does not automatically place you in a tested position. The union has been clear that incidental drivers of Class B vehicles sre not in the testing pool. Only positions with driving Class B vehicles as a PRIMARY duty are supposed to be tested. Yes, a lot of units look the other way at this ruling, to test all their employees, but that does not meet the requirements of the NFFE. A letter explaining this circulated around the country 2 years ago, maybe it's time to dust it off and circulate it again..


5/24 SMOKE,

I suggest you take it seriously and your ideas and involvement are needed.

Your idea is a good one and one that has been talked about many years. It’s one of many outstanding possibilities. A Fed Fire agency would have responsibility (with oversight) for our own budgeting, training, fiscal matters, agreements, HR including hiring and benefits. We would adopt a dynamic approach using the options currently available to federal employees to improve pay, facilities and mission. An agency committed to improving communication up and down the chain-of-command. Best of all, we could leave behind those confusing national directives with weekly contradictory letters of direction, regional supplements and local unit directional twists. Fire Managers would then create new direction that is clear, concise, doctrine principled, coordinated and communicated to all. The best reason to reorganize is to cut the current multi-layer bureaucracy. As the new agency develops and grows, we would need strong disciplined and principled leaders in place to minimize the development of a new bureaucracy.

What's in the way of all this? Many things and the #1 issue is the old guard within each of our agencies. Secondly, the other issue in the way is some of us. Some of us don't want change within fire management at our Parks, Districts and Forests. They have it pretty good and change brings confusion and uncertainty. I talk to people everyday that are worried about change and feel secure in the comfort zone. However, we should think about the change that has occurred with land management since these agencies were formed. Population has exploded (WUI) and public priorities have changed. As a federal fire agency we can still implement each unit's land management priorities. We can be a centralized agency that works with local units to ensure we continue to implement LMP priorities. A fed fire agency can support WFU on the SQF, YNP and KNF, while at the same time protecting communities in So Cal WUI. We have this capacity.

Because of internal resistance within some of us and those old guards who write policy papers and increase RULES and REGULATIONS every day, this will be a rough road. However it's a road that needs to be driven. As a Forest Service employee, it might be more realistic to make change within the Forest Service first and then see where that road takes us with the other agencies in the future. Conceptually speaking SMOKE, you’re dead on. Realistically speaking we might need to take some baby steps first. Although some parts of Forest Service Fire Management are working well outside of R-5, some areas outside of R-5 are seeing a similar implosion of the fire organization with similar issues. It might be best for Forest Service Fire to break away or at least centralize, blaze the trail, learn from the mistakes before we join into one fed fire department.

The Old Guard in Washington needs to remember one primary benefit of allowing for a centralized fire organization or one large fed fire organization is our Line Officers may go into agreement for protection with anyone they choose. They may pick the most cost effective and productive fire organization available. I have no doubt about whom that group is, however it’s important that any new organization not lose sight of the founding principals of physical fitness, crew cohesion with diverse skills and strong leadership while managing emergencies. Skills that include jumping or rappelling into the middle of a wilderness, implementing coyote tactics with our crews, managing feeding stations and a morgue outside of New Orleans, a structure protection assignment in the WUI with our engines or looking into the eyes of our younger employees who are usually the ones each morning doing the inspection on that trauma kit because they will be the first ones to reach for it at that head-on collision in the afternoon. The diversity of assignments for those of us managing emergencies on and off federal land has never been greater. This diversity makes us unique; it's our trademark, our brand. It's in our blood and it's those slides we depend on even during this horrific crisis. This tradition is one reason we look forward to the next shift. It's what keeps us hanging on for that day when things get better.

What Former NPS Cap'n posted is happening everyday, everywhere. We are seeing the very young (those getting started) and the very best (those with years of experience) leaving because of complete mismanagement. We usually think about the day to day retention effects of this mismanagement. However, imagine the long term potential effects of today’s losses on the future. Was that young Firefighter who just resigned the next Gleason or Quintinar, Shulman or Swartzlander, Walker, Oplinger or OA? The next Hawkins or Husari, maybe the next Dietrich, the next Misery Whip or the next “Just a Hotshot”, BLMboy, the next NorCalTom? Perry or Perkins or the next Linane, Lobotomy or Larsen? We will never know, however what we do know is; everyday a Federal Wildland Firefighter turns in his or her gear, shakes the hand of the Captain, Superintendent or Chief and simply walks away.

What progress have we seen since that cold week in December, 2007 where the theme was; “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” We have seen lies, perjury, false reports and charts developed in a backroom and presented during an unorganized video conference call. We have seen a hastily written email (an extension of the unorganized conference call) sent to selected Line Officers (not to all employees) from a Deputy Regional Forester asking for the names of those who are leaving so maybe we can cut a deal (disgusting). Additionally, we have seen the faces of more of our friends both young and experienced simply walking away. GONE...........

To borrow a few lines; “We are the change we have been waiting for.” We must continue to believe in our collective ability to bring change to this current situation. We shall not stop, we shall continue to email, we shall make those calls, we shall maintain professionalism and we shall remember the hard work of that man in Idaho, that man in No Cal and that man in So Cal who fight for our issues everyday. We shall not stop until SMOKE’s weekend day-dream becomes our reality. Or until we can develop a centralized organization that allows us to manage emergencies with fully staffed modules while fulfilling the expectations and increasing the confidence of the public in our ability to provide a truly diverse, multi-skilled, all-risk organization.

We will succeed, because we are right!


Terrific post. Ab.

5/24 Clarification from another unnamed poster:

In reality, the tern "ignorant" is a positive way to factually explain the paths our Line Officers have taken the Forest Service fire program towards..... "They know not what they lead".

Merriam-Websters definition of "ignorance":

Main Entry:
ig·no·rant Listen to the pronunciation of ignorant
\' ig-n(?-)r?nt\
14th century

1 a : destitute of knowledge or education <an ignorant society> ; also : lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified <parents ignorant of modern mathematics> b : resulting from or showing lack of knowledge or intelligence < ignorant errors> 2 : unaware, uninformed
- ig·no·rant·ly adverb
- ig·no·rant·ness noun

5/24 I just read a good post here and grabbed a qoute that I think sums up our leadership.

I want to ask this question to Randy Moore, Ed Hollenshead and all the Line Officers
that think they know what is best for a fire organization that they have no experience in:

Are you all "either woefully ignorant or blatant liars"?

5/24 FS Engine Guy;

This is addressed as though you are going to be moving into a seasonal firefighter position.
I too left the USFS, after 13 years, for CDF (in 1987- aack! 21 years ago!) and can offer some insight into the two organizations.

First and foremost, the "corporate culture", for better or worse, is very different between the red army and the green army. Since the CalFire mission is almost completely dedicated to private land protection, the notion of "fire management" is foreign to most of the work force. Fires are put out with lots of equipment, etc. Even after 20 years, this policy rankles me a bit, having seen some of the damage that industrialized fire suppression puts on the land. However, it's not our call, being private land and all.

Secondly, CalFire stresses the hierarchy of command, with an emphasis on referring to chiefs as "Chief", etc. Some are quite comfortable with a first name basis. Again, this is not a judgment on the organization; it's the way it is. And you're expected to wear a uniform most all of the time, even in fire camp. You've probably noticed that.

Firefighters are expected to do all the cleanup and maintenance at the station, and the engines don't leave the station to do projects, as we did back in the day. A good engine captain will put a lot of time into training his/her crew every day. Days off can be cancelled at any time, and you don't go home at night. On the other hand, ordinarily, you work 3 days a week and have four off, with 19 hours of guaranteed OT per week. Don't even ask how the OT is calculated.

Just as with any organization, the personalities involved are what make the crew and station life work well. Most stations are comfortable but spartan. Some are in nice locations, some aren't (not quite the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from there). Some stations have specialized training opportunities dependent on their location. Meals are as good as the firefighters make them, and the cost runs around 2.00-2.50, usually. Again, hard to explain.

And finally, yes, the pay is great, especially for the amount of time you actually put into the job. And, if you stick with it, the benefits and retirement are exceptional.

It's a bit of a longwinded post, sorry about that. I don't regret the move, but I don't engage in the agency bashing so common elsewhere. I work at a camp, and out of the ten captains there, five are FS transfers. Good stories all around. If you want more detailed info, Ab can forward my email address.

Tool Pusher

5/24 FS Engine Guy-

If you only have 6 seasons in with the USFS, take the job with CAL FIRE, get
8 months in and take the next FAE examination. Before the exam, get as many
certificates as you can, get your 4 year degree and EMT and you’ll be on your
way. Don’t look back.

You’ll be working for an outfit that sees lots of action and hopefully doesn’t go
down the path that USFS has by hamstringing their fire supervisors and IC’s with
unrealistic and over burdensome engagement rules.

You’ll start earning service credit towards retirement (3%@50) as a FF1, great
benefits right away, lifetime medical after 20 years of service when you retire
after age 50, and a strong Union working for you all the way.

"Another CDF BC"
5/24 Yo FS engine guy

RUN-don't walk to sign your Cal Fire employment
papers. The pay, opportunities, benefits and security
are priceless. Five years from now you'll wonder why
you even bothered to ask the question.

After 35 years of "been there and done that" I have no

the old ranger

5/24 Hi,

I am looking to post something in the information exchange to get some advice.
I am currently a GS-05 Permanent with the Forest Service and have been offered
a position as a Firefighter I with Cal Fire. I am hoping some people could chime
in on their experiences. I have been with the Forest Service for 6 years and this
is a difficult decision. If anyone out there has made the jump from FS to Cal Fire
and would like to share information I am all ears.

FS Engine Guy
5/24 Smoke:

I started fighting wildland fires in 1987. The one Federal Wildland Firefighting Agency idea was around then.

NOW, it is a possibility. It has strength of numbers behind it. The old school holdouts are retiring, or can't afford the liability insurance (dig at pay rates, dig at current legal environment). But in all reality, the individuals who fight to keep the Federal Wildland Firefighting Agency from existing, they are on their way out. Next 5-10 years, no old schoolers will be left in positions of power. Congress is starting to realize that the ones they normally talk to and get their information from are either woefully ignorant or blatant liars. Your one separate agency idea is a good one, and it’s a future reality. Read the last 3 years worth of posts (if you have time that is), you will find you are in the majority.

Don't take life seriously, it isn't permanent

5/24 Re: drug testing

Regardless of the philosophical or logical arguments on drug testing, the devil is certainly in the details. With all the difficulties getting people cleared by CHS (for some regions), hired, paid, housed, trained, and the reams of redundant paperwork such as yearly background checks for temporaries completed, I’m personally not enthusiastic about more administrative actions until we clean up the mess we already have.

Drug testing is logistically complex with time sensitive testing kits and potentially long travel times to medical appointments from remote stations. It is also very difficult to manage during fire season, and is certainly not “budget neutral.” If we move the fire workforce to all PSE 13:13 appointments (yeah right!), I’m all for drug testing. So long as we continue to misuse 1039 appointments, it’s just one more headache on top of all the other headaches we already have. I have many years of experience with the CDL testing, and I'm not convinced we could handle the entire workforce. Let's say for example, you hire three new temporaries for a crew. One new hire fails a drug test the week before training starts (I assume the testing will be linked to the pre-employment CHS screening). Do they have appeal rights if they are not yet hired? Could you realistically backfill that position before fire season was over? And how do you effectively complete the replacement's training in the middle of the season? And what will be taken off my plate to make room for drug testing? At a certain point, we just can't do more with less.

The Forest Service has a terrible track record of implementing policies with no clear idea or consideration of the impacts on the field (Empower, 401, ASC, Aglearn, etc.). Let’s not have another fine abstract idea from an office of permanent employees that causes a host of new problems because we don’t have the capacity to administer it properly.


5/24Mark Rey's 100% staffing takes another big hit!

Cal Fire just approved 4.0 staffing. Our district has lost 5 people in 3 days.....should be losing more in the coming days. We have lost key GS 5 and apprentice GS 4's off 3 of our engines. These positions have been lost off 3 of our engines, so staffing is now a nightmare. There is talk of having a mini fire-hire in Sacramento next week to try and fill these positions. Cal Fire still has 18 positions to fill, so we are expecting even more departures as fire season gets going around here...... guess we'll see what happens..... Hopefully Mark Rey gets called to the mat about his 100% staffing statement, and is finally held accountable for what he's been saying.

If we had some sort of retention package by now, maybe this wouldn't be happening.... because we all know that these work groups will make recommendations that will fall on deaf ears at the RO and WO level....

Former NPS Cap'n
5/24The Forest Service currently has several Drug Testing Authorities available for use:

1) DOT Commercial Licensing (DOT Administered)
2) Post Accident Testing (DOT / USDA / USFS Administered)
3) Reasonable Cause / Suspicion Testing (USFS Administered)
4) Executive Order (USDA /USFS Administered)

First, I have to say Mark Rey has always looked like someone who should be tested, and based upon his actions of driving a train towards an obvious train wreck, he was given ample notice to avoid but kept laughing and waving fingers at those offering warning.... He willingly, without due regard or circumspect... or without recognizing either safety controls or orders to correct course, drove the Forest Service back 50 years. Mark Rey should be the first one in the drug testing pool.

Since President Ronald Reagan, each and every President has issued Executive Orders relating to a Drug Free Federal Workforce and the importance towards the safety of federal employees and the importance in federal mission delivery.

The most significant Executive Order came during the Clinton administration and the changes in implementation procedures that were implemented by the executive branch agencies. At that time, all range and forestry technicians with firefighter duties (USDI) were required to undergo pre-employment drug testing and submit to random drug screenings.

At the same time, NFFE (representing the majority of affected FS employees) and AFGE (representing a significant number of FS employees in R8, R-9, and in Texas) vehemently opposed the following direction:

Sec. 7. Definitions.

(a) This Order applies to all agencies of the Executive Branch.

(b) For purposes of this Order, the term "agency" means an Executive agency, as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105; the Uniformed Services, as defined in 5 U.S.C. 2101(3) (but excluding the armed forces as defined by 5 U.S.C. 2101(2)); or any other employing unit or authority of the Federal government, except the United States Postal Service, the Postal Rate Commission, and employing units or authorities in the Judicial and Legislative Branches.

(c) For purposes of this Order, the term "illegal drugs" means a controlled substance included in Schedule I or II, as defined by section 802(6) of Title 21 of the United States Code, the possession of which is unlawful under chapter 13 of that Title. The term "illegal drugs" does not mean the use of a controlled substance pursuant to a valid prescription or other uses authorized by law.

(d) For purposes of this Order, the term "employee in a sensitive position" refers to:
(1) An employee in a position that an agency head designates Special Sensitive, Critical-Sensitive, or Noncritical-Sensitive under Chapter 731 of the Federal Personnel Manual or an employee in a position that an agency head designates as sensitive in accordance with Executive Order No. 10450, as amended;
(2) An employee who has been granted access to classified information or may be granted access to classified information pursuant to a determination of trustworthiness by an agency head under Section 4 of Executive Order No. 12356 ;
(3) Individuals serving under Presidential appointments;
(4) Law enforcement officers as defined in 5 U.S.C. 8331(20); and
(5) Other positions that the agency head determines involve law enforcement, national security, the protection of life and property, public health or safety, or other functions requiring a high degree of trust and confidence.

Please folks, don't confuse the Drug Testing Requirements found under, and administered by the US Department of Transportation. Two completely different critters.

Contrary to the actions taken in the 1980's and 1990's by some groups, hopefully, we as a community finally recognize "the protection of life and property, public health or safety, or other functions requiring a high degree of trust and confidence" meet the definition of being a wildland firefighter...... regardless of whether the USDA or the Forest Service sink or swim in these changing times.

Based upon what I read from the earlier post and recent "talking points", I'd assume the FSC and the Partnership Council had either an epiphany experience or a calling back to goals when it comes to keeping folks safer.... OR THE LINE OFFICERS were finally put on the spot and had to make a decision on the record and try to damage control again?

5/24Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am off until Sunday so i have been doing alot of thinking, especially about this R5 Retention B.S. I would appreciate all your insight of my thoughts. Am i thinking too blindly or is this a great start to a great idea?

What about all FS, BLM, and NPS joining as one fire suppression agency? The National Fire Agency? This way USDA, DOI, and NPS can still have their agencies and not have to worry about their fire programs. I think budget wise, this would make a great idea. It seems like guys are switching too much, quitting, retiring, or not having the passion for the job they once loved. With one fire suppression agency, this would allow congress to give a huge budget, allow for more jobs for new interested people wanting to join this field of work, and allow the fire suppression leaders to be leaders again. I think this will open alot more positions in both the higher and lower end of the ladder. Having one agency will probably save congress alot more money since all the agencies will be one. Plus, i think this will save alot more headaches.

This is just an idea. Please, let me know what you all think.

Have an exciting and safe season.


5/23Misery Whip, Lobotomy, Hugh Carson, Nerd, anyone else...ICs, FMOs, Safety Officers, etc.

What exactly is the STRUCTURE that the aviation folks settled on for their High Reliability Organization (HRO) after the fatalities that turned their heads, their culture, their organization around, that galvanized them to action? Did they continue with their same conceptual structure or did they reinvent themselves? What did they change or add?

Let's pretend we're going to create a firefighting HRO that has firefighter safety as paramount. What would we need conceptually?

Need to manage risk (LCES, fire behavior, human factors, have a plan or a variety of plans for this)

Need to create a safety culture, in which just culture with lessons learned are the status quo (tools for that are that happening now); need security when learning from and sharing with each other; freedom from fear of criminal prosecution for no good reason; freedom from fear of self-incrimination in sharing and exploring experiences.

Need a feedback loop to change and grow the organization and the people in it; a way to see if your HRO/safety system is working as planned, at the organizational level, like theysaid gives feedback from the ground (especially when it's not working), collects data, also safecoms, investigations when necessary; a way to change the system when it's not working or to make it more efficient for safety sake (different than efficiency for $$ sake).

Anything else you can think of? What did those fly boys come up with?

Anything for recommended reading, Misery Whip?



Great insight in your 5/22 post. You said,

"I hate to say it, but "Commander's Intent" expressed to inexperienced "troops" is a recipe for disaster."

The success of doctrine is predicated on having an experienced and knowledgeable wildland firefighter workforce that is capable of safely executing the intent of their commanders. The Forest Service is currently being mismanaged in a way that is demoralizing and driving away our best and brightest. What does that say about our leaders' commitment to doctrine and firefighter safety?

You don't need a crystal ball to predict what will happen when you decimate the experience level in an organization that relies heavily on experience to keep employees out of harm's way. We are being set up for failures of the worst kind. Our leaders in the regional offices and WO will share the responsibility for future firefighter deaths....

Misery Whip
5/23Don't worry about being called "Whiners." When working for positive and
improved change keep in mind there are always the negative people within
the agency that will stoop to name calling. These people are to be
discounted. They are losers and quitters. We don't need them on our team.
On the other hand positive people, real leaders, such as many of us in fire
management will look to improve our program and the level of fire and
emergency service we provide the public and in the protection of our homes
and communities and natural resources. These are the types of people who
have the integrity and leadership ability that built the forest service in
the first place. In general, the forest service is suffering greatly today
because of a lack of integrity and leadership within the agency.

Black Tuesday and many other recent events indicate a clear lack of support
for fire management employees and programs by agency administration elites.
I say the forest service should give up fire and I support legislative
action to create a Federal Wildland Fire Department. Change comes hard and
slow, but we have developed great momentum working with FWFSA and I know
many senators and congressmen know the score. Battle on!

Magruder Fingers
5/23Drug testing:

The drug testing of Public Safety (think firefighters) should be a no-brainer. I have always thought all appointed firefighters should be cross trained to drive an R5 engine at a moments notice. Getting everyone on the CDL program may not be budget neutral but all driving employees should have a CDL to facilitate their options for advancement. This would subject all to the CDL random drug testing that presently only the engine folks are subjected too. I suspect many engine folks would love to see this condition of employment extend to all in the FF community. It only makes sense. A pre employment test is just that. A person dries out, gets hired and then is free to go about their previous behavior.

Fish 01

CDL = Commercial Drivers License

5/23So has anybody thought of how much its going to cost,
in just fuel, to suppress fires this coming season?

Our leaders are concerned with the cost of fire
suppression, correct? Budget neutral is a word I've
heard a few times............

Just think, every fire engine, crew buggy, supt truck
dozer transport, etc is run on DIESEL. Ya think our
fire costs are going to go up a bit because of the
current high fuel costs?

I shudder to think of the fuel costs for air tankers
and helicopters.

There's really no way to offset this cost. We gotta
get to the fire, just going to cost a more to get

Noname 51
5/23A few things.

What tha---, what does your moniker reference? I have been trying to figure it out the past couple months. Must be going over my head. Easy for that to happen to me.

Back to business - Centralized Fire Management Today, Tomorrow and FOREVER is what I've been saying for years. I've worked under both and without question centralized fire management is the best. Centralized fire works great when you have strong leaders leading (see BDF today, also see LPF back in the 90's and early 2000's). If this agency wants to do something for retention and mission, centralized fire is THE way to allow for positive change. One hurdle to centralized fire is some of us. Yes, we ourselves are hurdles as some within our ranks work well with the local Line Officer. Each of us as must put aside how well we get along with our Line Officer (or not) and Forest Fire Management Officer (or not) and determine what is the best way for fire management to be managed. Change is hard, but change is needed. Line Officers are good, hardworking people, who should never be forced to collide with the management of emergencies. Does an LAC Battalion Chief have an LA County Board of Supervisor out in the dirt them doing an "inspection" (as required by Forest Service Line Officers)? Does the Mayor of Redding get out and complete a complexity analysis with the IC (as required by the Forest Service)? This is so out of bounds it's harmful and some would say distracting.

Yes Mellie the LP is losing a Battalion Chief to CAL FIRE. This Battalion Chief is a great leader and IC…….Gone. 20 + years of experience with many years still available to serve……..Gone.

I was wondering about this the other day; Whatever happened to the Pena email asking for who’s leaving so the RO can put together a retention offer?

What happened to the April 30th update the retention groups were to give to Retention Coordinators Ed and Jodi (see April theysaid), did you hear anything? Are we communicating still? May 31st is the date for another update. Will we hear anything then? June 30th is the date for the final report. Is this continued lack of communications ever going to improve under current leadership? Don’t let your Line Officer forget about the report dates. Ask them the status.

Word on the street is we are being called the W word by a few non-fire colleagues. Yes, Whiners. The name calling was predicted a month ago, so it should not surprise us. Throughout American history many who have called for change have been also called a Whiner, so we should stay above it all and continue to fight on.

Keep your email volume high and make sure our elected officials keep the Wildland Firefighter folder close by.

Randy, Ed and Tom – Your turn. 1) To Randy and Ed, please provide an update on the retention efforts in this forum. 2) To Randy, Ed and Tom can each of you outline in your view of the pros and cons of portal to portal pay? 3) To Randy, Ed and Tom, can each of you create a post with each of your names on the Hotlist Forum-General Discussion area so we can begin a dialog, a positive discussion, with all of us communicating to improve our agency? Our forum is your forum. We welcome and look forward to your reply and involvement.


5/23Re: Rogue Rivers

"Line Officers speaking up"!?!?!?!?!?

The are drinking the Kool-Aid hand in hand with the Regional Forester and Mark Rey...

at least here in R-5.

Instead of supporting the biggest most successful program in the FS, they seem to be intent on trashing it!

5/23I'm all for drug testing of firefighters, no reason
why we shouldn't have this implemented already. We
have a dangerous job and you need to have your head
screwed on straight.

But does this mean the Forest Service is going to
recognize its employees are actually "firefighters"?

Upsets me that when the agency calls us firefighters
to fit their needs..........

Noname 51

5/23Re: Forest Service ELT Decision Making in the Fire Program

Hopefully, the new drug testing standards apply to them (ELT) as well as the program they supposedly LEAD and SUPERVISE..... literally!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The decisions they've made (ELT) recently make us all think they (ELT) are smoking crack while screwing up everything that worked in the past......

First person in line for a Drug Test.... Mark Rey.

I've always opposed the actions of NFFE and AFGE as they opposed random drug testing of federal employees, and hope they will embrace the Presidential Executive Order for a drug-free workplace environment.

Based upon the actions of the last few weeks, I'd suggest someone at the helm of the ship was incapacitated for some reason. (Ref: Exxon Valdez). When the ship has problems and runs aground, look towards the supposed leadership for why they were steering the ship towards the known hazards.

Hopefully, in the future, wildland firefighters will lead the wildland fire program.


Mark Rey will tell you he didn't inhale. haw haw. Ab.

5/23Hi Abs,

I wanted to send in a quick post regarding our Family Fire this past weekend (May 17 and 18). What an amazing and wonderful weekend it was!

Our families were treated to a jump by the Boise and McCall Smokejumpers, a Kachina helicopter fly-by and landing, Rappellers from the Lucky Peak Helibase, engine crews: Grayback Forestry, CalFire, and DB Jet Enterprises, and Lucky Peak Nursery staff and manager. It was so awesome to see the demonstrations. The kids had a great time, as well as the adults.

Saturday afternoon there were breakout sessions and a barbecue where we honored and recognized John Bolin for the two guitars he made and donated for the Castle Rock benefit concert (and subsequently put on Ebay to raise money). We also had entertainment by Josh and Amy Brinkley’s girls, Brit and “Abs”, followed by Jagermeister and Crown Royal shots.

There are so many people we would like to thank, I know I’ll probably forget someone – but I’ll give it a try:

USFS Honor Guard – Dan, Eric, Bob, Linda, Todd, and the most fabulous Betty
BLM Honor Guard – Christine, Jessica, Matt, and Tommy
CalFire Honor Guard – Believe it or not, I don’t have names but what a wonderful showing we had from these firefighters – I’m trying to get a list put together soon!

Lloyd – Our Local BagPiper
Joe and Josh Brinkley
Shad Sitz

All the CalFire Firefighters that came as escorts for the Stone, Will, and Johnson families – you guys ROCK – you really fit in with us Idaho Rednecks!

And, my many “Purple People” (long story….)

Dale and Carol Ransdell
Mike, Joy, and Chris Warren
Dee Burke and Matt Holmes
Kathy and Ken Brinkley
Brent and Kris Martindale
Tim Stangl
Brett Ortland
Sandra Sorrells (thank you for being a “surrogate mom” to Montana while she was in Boise!)

And, thanks, Ken Kempter, for being right there whenever I needed any help at all.

Without the amazing support of all these people – and others – we would not have been able to support these families and provide them a relaxed, family reunion-type atmosphere. This is just the first post, of hopefully many, sending a shout out to everyone.

Thank you all from our heart to yours!
Melissa Schwagerl
Wildland Firefighter Foundation

Glad it was a success. Ab.

5/22And a "heads up" of yet a third kind that's circulating today...

Originally from Michael Cobbold, Safety Officer on the Shasta T and Mendocino.

Imagine you didn't use your truck for a while during the season when nests
are being built....

(Paper wasps nest picture)

You might want to think this might happen in buildings, or on tools,
materials that have not been used or moved since last year.

And make sure that you flag the danger until it can be addressed...

(Warning picture)

More on Bees, Stinging Insects, Allergic Reactions,... - - - > See
attached file: Bees-YellowJackets - Stings and Safety.doc (45 K doc file)

Michael Cobbold
Safety Officer
Shasta-Trinity and Mendocino National Forests


It was "rumored" today that the Chief announced a 25% reduction in the wildland fire
program today during a conference call with the Forest Supervisors.

1) Is this true?

2) If it is true, it would probably directly correlate with the 25% reduction in WFPR
over the last three budget cycles that were "hidden" somehow through "increased
management efficiencies" (smoke and mirrors) and improving FFPC (an increase that
defied both logic and common sense)....

The "Mark Rey Miracle" is upon us..... it is just a miracle that he has been allowed to
plunder the Forest Service for so long without Line Officers speaking up.

Rogue Rivers
5/22Another kind of "heads up" when fighting fire in Utah:

Utah Rattlers 1
Utah Rattlers 2
Utah Rattlers 3
Utah Rattlers 4
Utah Rattlers 5

Originally sent out by Jeff Fenton/EYEO/NV/BLM/DOI

5/22Getting tired,

I took some time and read your post. GREAT POST WITH GREAT INFORMATION!!! I fully support getting benefits to temps and pay raises. If we could have a budget that allowed that, I am sure it would be done. Hopefully it ends up happening. I, as a now non firefighter, always voice my support to my fire shop and the districts. As one of the 5/7/9 LEO's I still know where i came from. I do deal with different things (1 shooting and 1 shots fired call/man with a gun call in 2 days) but I respect the hell out of the nomex wearers. They are my go to guys and gals if I need a little helpo, advice, or just a good place to drink coffee in the morning.

Guns n Hoses

5/22Getting tired in R5 (no not Socal) and its only May.

I would love to work for you!/ with you!

Very well stated! You have stated, again very well, something that I have been thanking about for along time. Retention, housing, pay, grade and a Wildland Firefighter series are issues that go beyond just R5, they affect us all, no matter the unit and regardless of the geographical area. Hiring issues, recruitment and ASC also affect us all. When we support organizations like FWFSA and NFFE , we can, all be slow at time, make changes. (My plug for Casey and crew, helping them keep up the great job they are doing!).

We still need to continue to support the young Firefighters coming up. Tell them the truth as we see it and prepare them to take on the role of leaders and “old salt Firefighters”. We need to be able to teach them how to take on the role of mentors and leaders. Pushing them to be the future of the fire organization. Be it in the Agencies as we know it now or in a combined national fire organization that the future may bring.

What we need to work toward is a firefighter that is trained, paid, supported and be recognized as a professional Wildland Firefighter.

On personal note, I would like to talk with you one on one, Ab can pass addresses back and forth, if you are willing.

Don Svetich
5/22As one person said, "Heads Up!" Ab.

Forest Service Partnership Council Briefing Paper:
Drug Testing for Forest Service Firefighters (78 K doc file)

5/22Having known many forest service firefighters who worked for the outfit in
1955, the forest service as an agency, and its line officers, knew more
about fire and supported their firefighters a helluva lot more then, than
they do now.

Magruder Fingers
5/22We still have not been able to convince our "leadership-Forest Supervisor and her Deputy" that vehicle storage and local locations are a benefit to the agency. Even our Forest Engineers are affected. I just heard this from our Forest Engineer here on the Los Padres and thought others may find this as humorous as I did.

On Wednesday he got a report of a broken water piper flowing water across roads at Los Prietos. He was working a project in Piru Ca. He was instructed to drive the 33.5 miles from Piru to Ojai in a gov. vehicle, pick up his personal vehicle, drive to Goleta (S.O. where the Santa Barbara engineer vehicle sits) @ 50 miles, than drive this gov. vehicle to Los Prietos, @ 19 miles, to do the work. Once finished he could return to Goleta and drive his pov home. All this because our "leadership" feels that he would be benefiting himself by not using his personal vehicle (even during work hours). They are now in the process of creating another committee consisting of 2 line officers and 2 fire staff to chair the vehicle issue. How much labor and time we have spent on this issue is ridiculous. I think we should start another committee to study the cost and time spent on this one issue. Its a wonder we can ever get anything accomplished.


5/22On Monday, May 26th, Memorial Day on 91.7 - public radio in Chico - Dean
is being interviewed on the radio from 7-8 PM and it is a call in talk to the author
"talk show" so everyone, try to listen and support my hubby's time to shine with
Flyboys Risky Business...


That's Dean Talley, AirTanker pilot, and he wrote a very good book: Flyboys Risky Business Ab.

5/22Kudos to 'Getting tired in R-5'. While I can't vouch for your numbers
(although they sound about right), as a 30+ year fed fire guy, I agree
wholeheartedly with your message. You hit the big nail squarely with the
big hammer. I've never heard/seen the whole fed fire picture summarized so
eloquently. Like the outfit, I wish it were otherwise. Unlike the outfit,
I do all I can for the folks coming up behind me, as I know plenty of my
compadres out there do. I think even we old salts are coming to realize
that's no longer enough. As a believer in the outfit and it's history as a
land management agency, I have not been a proponent for pulling Fire out,
but I am coming around. As you said so well, it isn't 1955 any more.

Old Boot

Good for you…kudos for joining the fire world, and kudos for taking the initiative to research your boots and your chosen field. What to buy: in addition to good boots, get good socks. Good, wool (Smartwool, merino, something like that) socks make a huge difference. I carry a spare pair in my pack as well, because a change of socks can feel really wonderful if you can’t get out of your boots just yet. I know that everybody has their own set-up for a fire pack, and the links Ab attached are awesome, but I recommend a good knife (I carry a leatherman and a fixed-blade), about 20 feet of 550 cord, parachute cord or 3mm accessory cord, and I always wrap my water bottles with 5-6 wraps of duct tape, fiber tape, and electrical tape. Handy things. I really like having a small notepad or sketchbook, to write notes, weathers, random doodles while sitting around waiting for something to happen, that sort of thing.

I guess the best advice I ever got about what to put in my pack (Hey Jim! Remember the 36 hour sausage McMuffins?) was never to carry anything that has less than five uses.

Nerd on the Fireline

Shall we guess what the other 4 uses of the sausage McMuffins were besides eating? or did the advice follow that incident? haw haw Ab.

5/22*I just got word a great fine FS firefighter on the LP has resigned the FS. I heard through the grapevine that another on the Angeles is retiring very soon, as soon as possible. Good managers are leaving, in my opinion before their time -- It makes me sad and more than a bit apprehensive for the rest of the newer firefighters that will not have their mentoring and experienced oversight.

It's easy to rely on Doctrine when those who are on the receiving end of a "Commander's Intent" have the experience to make good tactical choices for those on the ground. I hate to say it, but "Commander's Intent" expressed to inexperienced "troops" is a recipe for disaster. Speaking as a stress psychologist, most well-functioning human beings that have some experience but lack critical experience in a certain area, tend to over-estimate their ability to handle a given situation. Unless clinically depressed, we humans think well of ourselves and our experience.

Are we setting our fire forces up for failure ... and then blame?

For the sake of firefighter safety, I think that FIRE needs to be taken out from under the FS umbrella or given a parallel status with its own budget. Firefighter management, groundpounder training, experience, focus, safety is simply not right any longer in this day of huge interface, fuel loading, drought and bug kill, potential global warming and budgets that catch the FS money managers between managing the natural resources of the country and fighting fire on the interface. It's not the line officers fault. They're doing the best they can, and not knowing fire as an experienced wildland firefighter does, they think they're doing a good job or the best they can do under the circumstances...

When someone dies or is burned or burned over, the structure of the decentralized FS/fire system is at fault, each person involved at the forest level can write it off as "NOT MY FAULT". Each person involved at the Regional level can write it off as "NOT MY FAULT". Each person involved at the Boise WO deputy FAM Chief, FAM Chief, PIO, even the "risk management" levels can write it off as "NOT MY FAULT".

I submit there is collective FAULT for the next thing that goes wrong! At the "least fault of all" will be the groundpounder who made the best choices they could given

  • their training (lacking in fire behavior, lacking human factors knowledge and lacking actual practice in refusing an assignment);
  • their supervision with mid-level managers leaving;
  • their line officer's understanding of fire and firefighting;
  • the fed bean counters who may or may not know fire but are out there pressuring the system to do what needs doing with less;
  • a SYSTEM that is not streamlined and focused at keeping them as safe and knowledgeably determining their own fate as they could be.

Sign me up for Congress or to talk with Feinstein or whatever needs to be done. I don't want to deal with reporters (except maybe JP).


5/22Got a big fire going in SoCal. Check the hotlist:

CA-SCU-Summit Fire

Thanks to the Mods, especially the new one -- Mod-Blue -- who is doing duty while SCR (Mod-Red) is recovering from surgery. Get well soon Mod-Red. Ab.


Please contribute to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation if you haven't already done so. (52 Club link "buck a week to help a buddy") Our WFFoundation is there for support of our firefighters and our families IMMEDIATELY when the unthinkable and unspeakable happens. The govt can't do it. Usually people are in shock and need support. We provide it by supporting the Foundation with our buck a week to help a buddy. Good grief, we toss $ in a boot. This is an important funnel for our support ahead of time, our own insurance policy.

Ken Kempter just sent in this link again as he periodically does. Thanks Ken. It's a great reminder.

If you can watch this clip now, you should. If not, make a note and watch it later. Some of these people in it I've never met in person, some I have. Most have posted here at some time or other. They are part of this community. They're doing their share to contribute in all ways they can. They make a difference. It's good to see their faces. Thank you all! Ab.


5/22Sorry to drag the retention issue back onto the main stage, but I happen to think it is important.

I don’t believe those in the agencies who claim to be “working on the issues” are really giving us their best effort. Why do I say this?

Well first of all, the system needs a major overhaul (I think we all know that).

We still function as though it is 1955. In reality our “seasonal” work force isn’t. The 1039 is a complete abuse these days, more and more we work these people well in excess of 6 months or we do without and bring them on whenever their 1039 hours reset (in some cases late June or even July).

Every year for the past several years, it has been a race for me to get my crew on, trained and ready to fight fire before “fire season”. Usually we are already getting fires before the crew is ready to go, often before they have even reported to work.

The 1039 was intended to be used for LESS THAN 6 MONTHS employment of a recurring nature. The fact that these people are often working a minimum of 6 months, frequently using every last hour and then some, this should have been stopped by OPM years ago. It is clearly an abuse of the system and the 1039 was in fact adopted to prevent exactly the game we have now (it replaced the old 180 day appointments).

There is absolutely no reason not to hire these people on 13/13 career appointments at a minimum. Not only would this allow us to actually finish the work we need these people for, it is also morally the right thing to do, the government should not be acting like some slumlord skirting the fringes of the law. Federal law prohibits state, and local government as well as private business from doing what the Feds do. Anyone else that employs a person 40 hours a week for 6 months must provide benefits to that employee. Perhaps there are pockets around the nation where the fire season and fire related work load is only 3-4 months and makes the 1039 appropriate, but not anywhere I’ve been in the west. Maybe being able to work these employees 8 or 9 months when conditions were not extreme we could actually get some thinning and RX burning completed. At the very least it would help us fully utilize those 5,6,7+ year seasonal employees who hit that magic age 37 and suddenly become a knowledge base we can not promote in the organization.

The militia has its place, and just like a volunteer fire department when it works it is a great thing for the organization (community). However when it doesn’t work it is very bad for the organization. Those of you who are or have been volunteer firefighters will probably know exactly what I mean. When you have a program that shows 50 people on the roles available to respond but in reality only 5-10 are active it destroys the very thing they have signed up to support. Management (city council, WO/RO what have you) will point to those 50 bodies and say what’s the problem, you have plenty of resources. However management isn’t the one out at midnight trying to drive/pump, captain and operate the nozzle alone at a fire. I seem to recall comments from the RO/and WO about how the militia does a huge amount of work, again I think they are stuck in the 50’s when district rangers responded to fires to do more than taking a peak at the fire.

These shortages in overhead are not just a short term thing either, it’s not like fixing everything next year will make the problems go away. When we start running 5 day modules, it means the overhead is tied to the module and can not go out and get training assignments so they will be ready to move up when its time. As more and more people start to top out in those GS6 and GS8 jobs it will make it that much harder for those below to move up and the bottle necks for crew boss, strike team leader and division supervisor will just get worse.

We hear that retention solutions must be budget neutral, why? The fire organization is a drop in the bucket to the rest of the government, 15 maybe 20,000 employees out of 1.7 million (not including the military). On top of that the average GS level of the fire organization is well below the average GS level of the government. According to OPM in 2005 GS 9.9 (almost 10, not 9 step 9) was the average grade held. While I do not have a similar figure for fire it is obviously well below that since our largest group of employees is at the GS 3-4 level. How much of an impact could improving pay for fire really be? Even a 50% pay increase (considerably higher than I think most are advocating) would keep this relatively small group of employees below the average base pay for government workers nationwide.

In 2004

78,000 people held GS3 and 4 positions government wide
389,000 people held positions at the GS5-8 level
575,000 were employed in the GS9-12 level (GS12 accounted for 227,000 of those)
364,000 held a GS13-15.

There were more GS14s in the government than all GS1-4 employees combined (99,000 vs 86,000).

The government employs 3-4 times as many GS15s than the fire organization of all 5 land management agencies combined (there were 61,000 GS15 employees in 2004)

Kind of ironically since it is the “average” government position GS10 (nearly 18,000) accounted for fewer positions than any other grade except for GS1 & 2 (which combined only account for 7000 positions).

Mission, now this part is a fantastic slap in the face. Talking to a recently graduated apprentice the regional “leadership” stated in a speech to the class that the USFS needs to refocus its mission. They were not hired to do the job of the guys on the big red trucks; they were hired to work in the forest. If they wanted to be firefighters they were in the wrong job. Ironically to me, if the mission were realistic the pay issue would largely go away. If our position descriptions were truthful we would be getting compensated for the job we were doing, not the job the agencies say we are doing.

It is claimed this “mission creep” is just a SoCal thing, funny their own Firestars proved that wrong (when it was working). The Shasta Trinity gave many of the southern forests a good run for “all risk” responses. I’m sure other northern forests would have as well if they had done better reporting. Funny thing with this job, we get to actually go to these “other” places that “prove” SoCal is an anomaly. I have yet to go to one and find the urban interface, affordable housing and “all risk” responses are not a concern to the crews there. I’ve talked to engine crews in Region 3 and Region 6 that only wish they had the support for the SCBA and medical equipment you find in R5. They need it, they respond to calls that require it but mentioning it is a good way to get the door slammed in their face. In some of the National Parks wildland crews cross staff rescue trucks, hazmat trucks and structure engines, but they don’t receive any additional compensation and are still “forestry techs”. Several of the National Park helitack crews have a strong “all risk” component doing as much search & rescue, medical evacuation and law enforcement work as they do fire, but they still operate with the same “National” helitack pd. A few weeks ago, there was a link to a nice story about a couple of Yosemite NP helitack guys getting a valor award. Not to take away from them, as they deserve the recognition, but activities like that happen many times each summer with NPS helitack crews in the larger parks.

If you look at the PDs for the 0081 firefighter series you will see the difference. Firefighter (just plain sitting backwards firefighter, fighting fires and no other duties) rates a GS5, when medical or hazmat duties are added it goes up. First responder medical OR Hazmat first responder operations (both of which are appropriate to wildland firefighters where ever they work and required of USFS apprentices) rate a GS6, raising the medical requirement to Emergency Medical Technician raises the position to GS7. Instead of a temporary workforce based on the GS3 and 4 we should have a seasonal career organization based on GS6 or 7s. Captains in the 0081 series are rating as GS9s and 10s in many locations and having worked in both systems I know for a fact the wildland GS7 and GS8 captains have far more responsibility in the day to day operation of the organization.

How many higher level employees, AFEOs, Engineers, Captains, AFMOs are doing work at the GS9, 10, 11 levels they are not credited for in their PD? OPM can’t provide an appropriate GS grade for the position when 30-40% of our job is “other duties as assigned”.

So that is structure fire (which often also has a large wildland component, just ask the guys at Camp Pendleton or Ft Hunter Liggett).

Law Enforcement in the land management agencies now have GS9 positions as their primary operational position (frequently flown 5/7/9). These also receive special law enforcement pay rates pushing them well above a comparable fire GS9 position.

It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact these positions are in a job series specific to them now could it? I know for a fact that the land management agencies have more wildland firefighters than the Department of Defense has structure firefighters and also more than the land management agencies employ in law enforcement. The land management agencies don’t use the 0083 Police Officer series; they have a law enforcement series specific to land management agencies. How is it that the wildland firefighter doesn’t rate a series when there are many more?

How about some simple recognition, law enforcement in each of the agencies use their own badge, patch and vehicle marking unique to law enforcement. Why is it when fire tries to do something like this we are being divisive?

Some people call us whiners, say we knew we wouldn’t become rich, but it’s a lot more than that. I’m tired of feeling the need to encourage my subordinates to look elsewhere for a career. I’ve made my choices, but I can not in good faith encourage a temporary employee to make a career as a Federal wildland firefighter, I do all I can to get them training and experience so they can go work for CDF, or a city / county fire department. I would love to be able to tell young eager kids that yes; this is the place to make a career.

Thanks Casey, I appreciate all you do for my measly $10 a Pay Period.

Getting tired in R5 (no not Socal) and its only May.


Basic requirements are 8 inch leather, lacing style boots with non skid lug soles. No steel toes. That about it. Having said that you will find as many opinions on boots among forestry.. err.. Wildland Firefighters! as their favorite beers. The really important thing is fit. Sore feet will case you more grief than just about anything else on a fire assignment. A better built boot will cost more, but because they can often be rebuilt at 1/2 the cost and be like new again the cost evens out.

My career boot track went from a department store work boot meeting the basic requirement which got me through my first two years to the more elaborate 12 inch high Whites brand. Now that I am retired and do AD non line assignments I am looking at the La sportiva style hiking boot which I was told in a recent refresher is approved by the R-5 Fire Management.
Good luck and I strongly urge you to consider Casey's invitation to join the FWFSA



Buy the best pair of boots you can afford. Your feet, ankles, knees, and hips will thank you as you progress throughout your career.

In regards to the other creature comforts of what to carry... You'll learn and decide what is best for you.... Listen to your leaders in the first week. Often, your career and future depends on the leadership you receive in the first week of employment.

On my first week on the job, I wrongly bought a pair of boots from K-Mart boots and they literally fell off my feet on day three on a fire on the Angeles National Forest.... Luckily, they were willingly replaced by a gratis pair of Whites from my former superintendent and mentor. I still own and wear those boots today.... 24 years later.

Welcome to being a wildland firefighter!!! It is the best job you'll ever have!!!

5/21To J.D.

Might I suggest you "purchase" a membership in the FWFSA...at www.fwfsa.org.
Probably the best investment you'll make in your career. Good luck.

Fedwatcher II

I agree, excellent investment. Ab.

5/21I was just recently hired with the forest service to work this fire season. My paperwork
is being processed as i type. I just want to know what equipment other than my boots
that i need purchase before i get my assignment. Also i want to double check that my
boots meet all specifications. A quick response would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You....

J. D.

What to take: www.wildlandfire.com/docs/faq.php#what6

Readers, basic boot standards?
One question that often comes up is Do they meet the 8" standard? With some lighter weight alpine boots this is harder to meet for women than men.

There are threads on boots here, although I don't think they cover standards:

5/21An interesting article regarding CDF and ROSS.

Followed by some interesting comments and observations: www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=4392

5/21From the hotlist (www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=3647)
thanks to roadrunner...


Staffing for fires worries senator
Vacancies stir Feinstein to rip Forest Service

Jason Pesick, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 05/20/2008 11:08:51 PM PDT

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is concerned the U.S. Forest Service has too many firefighter vacancies heading into the fire season.

A letter to Feinstein from Mark Rey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary who oversees the Forest Service, shows that there are 363 vacancies in Southern California out of 4,432 positions.

Feinstein, D-Calif., said she is concerned that many of the vacancies are among midlevel firefighters.

"These are key fire leadership positions. Without them, some fire engines might sit idle just when they're needed most. This is unacceptable. We simply cannot afford anything less than a fully staffed firefighting corps in California," she said in a statement.

Casey Judd, business manager for the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association, said that Rey, in his letter, backed off from an April 1 commitment to Feinstein that all positions would be staffed in time for the start of the state's fire season.

"I want to reiterate that we feel ... we have the resources to meet our firefighting mission this year," said Jason Kirchner, a spokesman for the Forest Service's California region.

"Our intention is to fill every single position that we can. But what's more important ... is understanding that we staff our positions to ensure that we can fulfill our mission," he said.

"There's always a certain amount of positions that will go unfilled."

Judd and Robert Ethridge, president of the local chapter of the National Federation of Federal Employees for the San Bernardino and Angeles national forests, questioned the accuracy of Rey's vacancy numbers.

"What it appears that he has done is lower the staffing numbers to make that vacancy number look lower," Ethridge said.

(more at the link)

fair use disclaimer

5/21To: What tha........?

Your post is one of hundreds of examples in today's agency why line officers
should not have anything to do with fire management. It is one of hundreds
of examples why the forest service should give up fire management. The
agency does not and will not support firefighters and the fire management
program and organization. There is no more forest service. The old forest
service "District Ranger" is no more. Sure, there are a few good L.O.'s,
but a very few and not enough to have a positive impact on the workings of
today's agency.

Too bad the agency won't give up the power and still wants to keep fire
management under its heavy hand. The public deserves much more than that.
I tell my firefighters that our job is public service. Our job is to
suppress fires to protect public lives, property, homes and communities and
that firefighter safety is priority number one! Over the decades forest
service firefighters have SAVED and protected thousands of public lives,
homes, and communities. Just think of all the fires you've been on over the
years. That is the importance and value of the federal wildland
firefighter. The public likes us even if the agency does not.

The public deserves a federal wildland fire department. I was at a burn
boss conference this past winter and I heard a agency Line Officer and and
an agency FMO give a talk on the management of fire use and wildland fires.
They related to us that they tell the public "You're on your own to
protect your homes and communities, we're not going to protect your home,
call your local fire protection district or FEMA for assistance." If I had
the authority to do so, I'd fire them both so fast it would make their head
spin!!!! That IS NOT public service. But that is what the agency has sunk
to. There is a lessons learned center, but the agency pays no attention to
it and learns nothing from it, the agency doesn't even make an attempt to
learn and improve. Our firefighters do, and they are the real public
servants. The public deserves better from the agency but I see no
improvements in the future. The forest service non-fire agency head elites
are in a leadership drain. There is no leadership, just quitters.

I will ALWAYS, as a forest service employee, protect and defend public life
and property to the best of my ability, and so will my suppression
resources. We will do it to the best of our ability and as safely as we
can. Our goal and priority is safe and aggressive initial attack to keep
fires small and less costly and to protect life and property and resources.
When it is time to conduct prescribed fire or fire use we will do so safely
and responsibly.

Federal wildland fire department as soon as possible. Come on forest
service administrative elites, If you're going to quit on fire, then lobby
to give us up to our own federal fire agency.

For all of us remember........."Whenever you think you're smarter than the
fire, you're in trouble."

Magruder Fingers
5/21*> 01/15/2008:

"For this reason San Bernardino National Forest Fire & Aviation Management continues to request a Peer Review to be conducted by a small group of individuals with the kind extensive, in depth background dealing with late season, Santa Ana wind driven fires in the Southern California Wildland Urban interface/intermix. The Peer Review process is a foundational, core component of Fire Suppression Doctrine and needs to be utilized for what it is intended. Gaining understanding why fire ground decisions were made, and what can be learned from this. The report as is, unfortunately misleads the reader, and will likely give firefighters reviewing it a false sense of security by thinking they are not making the same decisions, when all the while they may be following the same path. "


Yeah, the Line Officers without FIRE EXPERIENCE are more qualified (Tongue in Cheek) to comment on agency concerns and direction... First step towards firefighter safety... 1) deny a Regional Forester who is a Soil Scientist (not a wildland firefighter) from ever serving as a CO-LEAD INVESTIGATOR in a flawed investigation of wildland firefighter deaths.

So, does Foundational Doctrine mean anything? Right now, the actions of the Forest Service, once again, scream of lessons not learned,

The CDF folks on the road trip "to keep folks safer" should give it a break for awhile. From a federal employee to a state employee who has been there and done that.


5/21.......Guess fire season is getting busy all over - here is latest on a fire in Alaska!

The Homestead Fire - burning on the Kenai Peninsula north of Anchor Point and south of Ninilchik. Reported at 175 acres at 1429 on Tuesday, May 20. Fire is in logging slash and beetle-killed trees.

Fifty-five personnel are assigned to the fire. Two tankers, two helicopters, a dozer and other equipment also have been brought in, said Bruce Richards, a public information officer with the Division of Forestry.

A 20-person crew of firefighters and eight smokejumpers were on the fire Tuesday afternoon. Plans called for bringing in another 20-person crew. The second crew was to arrive later Tuesday and would be prepared to spend the night on the fire.

..reported by the Fairbanks New-Miner (newspaper)

R6 forestry tech
5/21Dear "What tha"

The best thing you can do is utilize your voice as you are doing but also share it with those in a position to change things. I would suggest you contact Steve Lavagnino in Congressman Elton Gallegly's Solvang office at 805-686-2525.

Steve has met on several occasions with firefighters impacted by the nonsensical housing policy on the "LP" and Rep. Gallegly is engaged in that issue as well as the entire retention issue. We are hoping the Congressman will be able to make some fire house visits soon on the LP to chat with folks such as yourself.

I wish I had an answer for the "3 Amigas" i.e. Hernandez, Noiron & Wade-Evans. But put things in perspective. They are line officers without a clue about fire trying to set policy for fire. A recipe for disaster as we are seeing unfold in R5 and elsewhere. Hopefully the movement in Congress to consider getting the line officers out of the fire mix will gain momentum and in the near future you as well as all of our firefighters will enjoy fire policies based on sound fire department management principles and developed and implemented by those with some semblance of fire experience & expertise.

5/21*Re: The Federal Wildland Fire Program

Recently, while at NIFC, I picked up a brochure describing the FY 2009 budget request for the USDI agencies (BLM, NPS, BIA, and FWS).

In that brochure, it described that the fire programs for the four USDI bureaus would no longer have separate Fire Preparedness and Suppression funding allocated to the bureau level. It stated that funding would be USDI inclusive of fire need, and allocated from the Secretary and Undersecretary level in the USDI.

In my perspective, I thought of it in a positive way as the first step in having a Federal Wildland Fire Service with USDI taking the lead......... I also flashed back to the GAO "request" that the Forest Service was asked to provide information for regarding combining the Forest Service into the USDI..... Also, playing devils advocate, I also saw it as an absolute negative way that another political appointee can continue the carnage in the federal wildland fire program until it is completely privatized.

Being from the bureaucracy known as the Forest Service for most of my life, I fully understand that they (FS bureaucrats) will do everything in their power to maintain status quo rather than focus on improvements to safety, and defeat efforts to improve mission delivery cost effectiveness and overall efficiency.

The National Fire Plan, while admirable and well intended, and as a proven model of success, is a dismal failure without WILDLAND FIREFIGHTER program leadership and direction.


Ref: NIFC "Leisure Reading" material in the Jack Wilson Building lobby. (If you visit, it is next to the comfortable couch just outside of the National Wildland Firefighter Memorial.... big stack of brochures)
5/20Re: recruitment / retention

I'll try to be discrete... On the Forest that I work for (initials L.P.) decisions and actions at the Forest Supervisor level are creating a work environment that is driving away Firefighters.

Example: Home to Work Vehicle Usage (AD-728) requests for Duty Officers are still under review. The Forest Supervisor is using her discretionary authority to determine if it is in her interest to have Duty Officers or Fire resources respond to after hours incidents. There will be a group assembled to determine if she even has a need for Duty Officers at all. The requests from her line officers (District Rangers) are falling on opinionated and deaf ears. Fire Staff recommendations are being scrutinized, minimized, and muted.

What this type of environment is doing is driving away the high level professionals that have a desire to serve the public to the best of their ability.
Why would a Firefighter want to work for an employer that does not fight fire?
Tenured Firefighters and Fire Managers are disgusted at the lack of support and disregard for professional input. Up and coming employees are looking at this example as a warning sign that says "Watch out!... mismanagement ahead!"

Should Forests operate independently on fire suppression and fire organizational decisions?
It seems like there should be some sort of consistency within a Region.
Wasn't that the intent of Randy Moore's policy in the first place?

What tha--- ?

5/20*To Noname, DMC, et al, Re: Esperanza Travesty

The problem with the Esperanza dog and pony show being put on by CAL FIRE
employees are legion.

But, I will speak to only one. The “Factual Report” is anything but, how this happened
is open to debate, but the Captains that were closest to the tragedy have gone on
record as to the flaws in the report.

So, when folks go to Rancho Cucamonga for a lessons learned session they do not
have any real basis from which to learn lessons. They have an inaccurate report and a
power point presentation that bolsters the falsehoods in the report. While these folks may
be well meaning (I doubt that) they are doing a great disservice to the fire community.

You cannot learn lessons from inaccurate information!

The current Regional Forester (and co-lead on the report) is aware of the analysis of the
report by the captains, yet he has opted not to act on the information. Therefore, he is
as much to blame for this travesty as the two CAL FIRE employees that continue their
irresponsible tour of untruths.

Yes, we all want lessons learned, but they need to be factual.

“Not happy with CAL FIRE or USFS”

Several that have heard/seen the presentation have said it sounds good and seems to address issues that could keep firefighters safe. The maps and the GIS are pretty sweet. It's really too bad it doesn't have all the facts right. Ab.


This was included in our 19-page 2008 Code of Conduct that we agree to and sign each year. It comes from the "TABLE OF OFFENSES AND PENALTIES" section. I am not sure why but I just got an uneasy feeling about this when I read it. I have strong feelings about the investigative process that I see developing on incidents now. It is no longer a Lessons Learned session; it is more about CYA and OIG. I don’t know where to go with it or what it would accomplish to post it.

Last year I was interviewed as the result of an ENGB making a serious complaint about a DIVS. The interview was more like an interrogation and I expressed my disapproval of the setting and tone at the time of the interview. We have been reassured that if we are making a reasonable decision for the right reasons we have nothing to worry about. But then I think…”Who exactly is going to decide ‘reasonable’ and ‘right’?”

So we are being forced to provide information when criminal charges are not anticipated. But what happens when what we provide is reviewed later and criminal charges are deemed appropriate…against us or someone else?

I don’t like the current climate and the direction of these investigations. Seems like it is going to push people towards more of a CYA mode and impact our ability to do our job when it gets a little dicey out there.



Hopefully with the different investigative tools that have recently been developed (From AAR to SAI) and Risk Management's and Fire Safety Officer and firefighter focus on Just Culture, some of the apprehensions will be laid to rest. A lot of the disquiet stems from Cramer and 30mile legal injustices re criminalization of decision making under stress and the way the DOJ jumped in. Some of the best minds of the FS are working on FLA and APA alternatives. I firmly believe we'll get through this time of no legal precedents to a more sane working environment. Ab.


There is no such thing as a personal provider giving a "waiver". Your personal physician can retest for a problem or provide an opinion stating that the CHS issue is mistaken or can be accommodated. If you have a CHS issue and feel it is in error then you can appeal the finding, but you need to provide some kind of professional evidence. There is a NIFC committee that will review the appeal and makes a final determination (no appeal once the determination is made). I found our rep (former firefighter) on the committee to be very responsive and helpful in walking us, and our SHRO, through an appeals process and eventually an accommodation process. Just don’t expect CHS personnel to be helpful or understanding if an issue develops. We fought for almost 2 weeks just to have the correct physical test results faxed to CHS vs. the incorrect paperwork.

If an existing temp seasonal can’t pass a physical and can’t get it corrected quickly, they’re done. If a perm or career seasonal can’t pass a physical then they can’t take the Pack Test and thus can’t get Red Carded. Once they lose their Red Card they are not eligible to go on fires and lose the ability to fulfill their job description. Officially they could be terminated or reassigned. In reality we work with them to get whatever is the problem either accommodated or corrected. We actually passed the hat for one person to get retested for an issue. We had one person receive a severe injury and couldn’t pass the physical. We moved him into a temp job in our fuels program and did a temp promotion to another ENGB into his slot. So 1-1/2 years later he is still unable to pass the physical, in a perm fuels position (doing a great job) and we have a new Captain (also doing a great job). Bottom line for us, it really depends on the FMO and how willing they are to work with the individual. Unfortunately, due to the nature of temps there isn’t too much understanding, they are gone. We work with our perms or career seasonals as much as we possibly can. There is no firm or clear direction from above and that is probably the best thing about the program; flexible and adaptable. I tend to focus on the person and the issue; then do everything we possibly can to get through it. So far it is working...slow, painful, frustrating... but working.

5/20AB or Casey Judd:

Regarding the CHS physicals, what happens if a PFT or PSE USFS forestry tech cannot
pass a CHS provided wildland firefighter physical (for whatever reason) and does not
have $$ to go to personal provider for a wavier?? Some of us are in that boat.

CALFIRE Esperanza Presentation: They are trying to provide lessons learned, to further
knowledge. Hats off to them. Be a student of fire, not a student of liability.

Re: Black Tuesday Wristbands, Where do I get one?


Click the Black Tuesday wristband link above right. Ab.

5/19Ramifications of bad drug testing

I don't normally chime out to anything unless it's something that I know about. On-The-Spot drug testing is, and will always be in contest, simply because of the nature and setting of the test itself. I've stood in many a line that required one to piss in a cup, and have the construction Mgr. drop a slip of paper in, to judge who you really are. Not being tested in a "clinical" setting leaves a lot of room for debate. The tester, is not a forensic chemist, therefore, that alone dismisses the test as invalid. Cross-contamination and altered "evidence" are typical for this setting. If we like you, you're clean.... if not, you're dirty. Simple as that.

During one such "on-site" test -- being an EMT-I -- I questioned the method of testing at hand. I was told that the site super was God and there were to be no questions asked. Being the person I am, I asked where he got his medical degree and exactly how he arrived at his final conclusions. I was dismissed immediately. Seems that some people have the "I Am God" syndrome and there is nothing else that needs to be said.

I trust a clinical setting 40% of the time. Most lab techs are under-paid and could care less about the truth. Case in point. I was prescribed Welbutrin for a time for depression. Because of an "on-the-job" injury, I was let go as showing positive for amphetamines. When I produced proof of the prescription, I was told that it didn't matter... I was dirty and that was the end of that. Imagine, taking meds given by your DR and not being able to work!

The years before and after, I have taken many drug screens... every one of them clean, every one of them in a CLINIC, not in a coffee cup, in the porta-potti, by the foreman's trailer. My point is, on the spot testing is at best a hint. To get to the fact of the matter takes a professional, in a lab.... NOT IN THE SUPERVISOR"S TRAILER!

There are many things that will throw off a simple drug screen. Over the counter meds for allergies will do it in a heartbeat. I know. Certain aftershaves will show you as "drunk". Your breakfast will prove you to be a heroine addict, forget about what MythBusters claimed.

In this day and age, a world of "witch-hunts", we are all targets of our own making. Be careful of what you choose and how you apply it. These "false-readings" are a hard fight in court, but can be won... armed with the right knowledge. I DO NOT... IN ANY WAY OR FORM, suggest that if one is in fact dirty, you should fight the clinical setting... you'll loose in the end anyway. However, if you were termed "dirty" and you are honest about your intentions, fight it for all that it's worth. You may not get the job but at least your good name will be clear!


5/19*Re: False (or erroneous) Statements to Investigators vs. Perjury in a Court of Law

Lessons Learned From Fatality Fires: Existing Latent Failures and Why "Lessons Learned" From the Past Matter .

Recently, an un-named poster to They Said stated, "I have attended several presentations on the Esperanza, including the one you refer to as a "Travesty". I didn't see any bias, accusations, or inferred blame on any employee Federal, Cal Fire or Local Government. What I saw was a report on many of the elements that combined to create the tragedy."

The poster also said, "If we, the wildfire community which includes all firefighters in this age are to prevent future tragedies, we must learn from the past. If we hide these tragic emotional events in the bureaucratic investigations that take years, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes possibly before the investigation of the last one is released."

I agree fully with the un-named poster in his/her quest for Lessons Learned, but offer a completely different perspective as someone who is a federal wildland firefighter.. and someone who has taken over 2500 hours of personal time to research the works of Reason, Weick, Sutcliffe, Thackaberry (and many others),. and researched the findings of numerous flawed "investigations" and "factual reports" presented for corrective action. (Note: I only offer the above in response to offer different perspective and in response to "Noname": "While no investigation is perfect (I have done many criminal investigations)" . AND "While federal law usually trumps local law if local law is less restrictive, federal jurisdiction doesn't automatically trump local jurisdiction."

The different perspectives during an investigation (18 USC § 1001) and during the trial of the accused arsonist (CA, PC187) in the Esperanza Fire DOES MATTER as folks go on speaking tours with dozens of factual errors in a "factual report". 18 USC DOES trump state law in federal investigations.

First, let me first acknowledge, I do have a bias. It is a personal bias, and a community bias. Having a bias is not bad if it is understood. I seek to find Lessons Learned while honoring those we lost, and most importantly, telling the truth to the friends, families, and co-workers of fallen firefighters, the truth of why something that we can't understand happened.

My bias started like many in the wildland fire community in 1987. We all seek Lessons Learned from past tragedy fires that affected us in some way. the Esperanza Fire, the Cramer Fire, the Thirtymile Fire. even South Canyon etc. In each case, the inclination to put blame over Lessons Learned has set us backwards in keeping folks safer.

Like all factual reports, investigations, or from "the investigators". I succumb to the same human factors that we in the firefighting community are just now starting to research and try to understand.

While the Riverside County DA case is being presented; While the USDA Office of Inspector General continues a "legislative" investigation intended to provide a report to Congress that may provide unintended (criminal) consequences to others, and while Lessons Learned are lost again... Go figure.

On 01/15/2008, there was a pretty good post on They Said explaining the flaws in the joint CAL FIRE / Forest Service "Factual Report". (One of the links was lost). The background INFO was sufficient enough to change things in the final OSHA findings that the CAL FIRE presenters do not address in their "road trips".... SUBSTANTIATED FACTUAL ERRORS.

The CAL FIRE speaking tour should take a break and wait for Lessons Learned. At the minimum, and listen to the families, friends, and co-workers lost from the past.

/s/ JMHO (Feel free to Quote if you want to communicate)
5/19*I would like to add to the last post regarding the Travesty Post. Having worked right along side three of the 5 firefighters who died, and having known them on a personal level. I don't see why CDF shouldn't be able to tell the story. I don't know about all of the So Cal Forests or districts, but i can speak for the San Jac. of the BDU. The USFS firefighters of that area work very closely with the CDF firefighters, and know most of them by their first names. They have been in the same classes together, they have partied together, and most importantly they have sweat and bled together. They felt the loss just as bitterly as the rest of us who knew and have worked with those fallen brethren. Don't stop! Tell the story, show the immensity of the situation, and the confusion that would result in the deaths of those five highly trained and highly experienced firefighters. I say, the sooner this story get out, and the more firefighters see what happened, the less likely it is to happen again. After all, the leaders of those exhibits are not laying blame, they are telling an important story, and having known Lotzy and Gus. I feel very confident that they would want the same.


Except some of the "facts" they're sharing are not correct, and because of the ongoing investigations, those points cannot be corrected at this time. Ab.

5/19*CALFIRE Esperanza Presentation:

Perhaps the two CalFire firefighters who are presenting should consult a lawyer that
really knows about Title 18 and Title 7 of USC and the perceived "state immunity".
I'm not even sure the CalFire lawyers know enough. So much of this is new territory.

Unfortunately, TALKING creates DATA which can then be scrutinized by the legal system
if someone wishes. I don't know where the two CalFire firefighters who are making
presentations fit into the Esperanza tragedy, but until all the legal ramifications are
sorted, unknowing people can get sucked in, even if it's by some lawyer not wanting an
ongoing investigation to be compromised.

This isn't about First Amendment rights of Free Speech, but about presenters with the
best of intentions needing to know enough to be sure they're protecting themselves.

Why not wait for lessons learned through a Legislatively Protected Peer Review Process?


5/19In response to questions about Mike Woods, the lost hiker during the Biscuit Fire, I found the following information. I recall the outcome but forgot the details, so I researched the newspaper accounts with help from Jeff Duewel, a reporter from the Grants Pass Daily Courier.


Here's a story of when the body was found, and another when it was officially IDd (almost 2 years later).

Nov. 5, 2002
Body found in wilderness believed to be missing hiker
By Jeff Duewel
of the Daily Courier
SELMA — A body found by hikers Saturday morning on the edge of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness evidently is Michael Woods, a 32-year-old Grants Pass man missing since early July. A positive identification has not yet been determined, however.
Detective Sgt. Ron Goodpasture of the Josephine County Sheriff's Office said the remains were found two or three miles north of Pearsoll Peak near a ridgetop at about 4,000 feet in elevation.
While the body awaits an autopsy and identification at the Oregon State Police crime lab in Central Point, items found near the body "are consistent with the things that we knew he had with him," Goodpasture said. One of those items was a blue backpack, Goodpasture said. Goodpasture didn't release details about the hikers, who contacted the Sheriff's Office.
Two sheriff's deputies flew to the site in a helicopter later on Saturday to retrieve the body, which was flown to the airport in Merlin, then taken by Chapel of the Valley Funeral Home to Central Point, according to Goodpasture. A family friend in touch with the Sheriff's Office told Woods' family that a body was found.
It is not known if the victim perished in the Biscuit Fire, or by some other means. Further forensic examination is required to determine that. The Biscuit Fire was ignited by lightning on July 13, but didn't burn in the area where the body was found until around July 25.
Goodpasture wasn't sure whether the body was found in a heavily burned area.
Woods was last seen leaving Miami Bar along the Illinois River on July 11. He had camped with a friend for three days, and said he was headed into the Kalmiopsis Wilderness for several days, possibly via the Salmon Creek drainage.
When the Biscuit Fire became a huge fire in late July, it was unsafe to send searchers in to look for Woods. Also, the details of his destination were uncertain.
Josephine County Emergency Services Coordinator Sara Nicholson and Lt. Brian Anderson conducted a helicopter search on Sept. 5, flying over the Illinois River from Store Gulch to Panther Bar. Prior to that, aerial searches were not done because of heavy helicopter traffic that was part of the firefighting effort. Nicholson and Anderson flew over drainages to the south of the river, including Salmon Creek, but did not see any sign of Woods. Nicholson said the body was found on the other side of the ridge from upper Salmon Creek.
On Oct. 23, former Galice District Ranger Phil Wickham led another search in the Salmon Creek drainage. While Wickham stayed at Miami Bar with a radio, three other men scrambled up the steep slopes for several hours, but saw no sign of Woods.
Wickham guesses that they got within a few hundred feet of where the body was found. There is a small basin at the top of Salmon Creek, Wickham said.
"He might have decided to set up camp there," Wickham said.
Goodpasture said the autopsy will be done in the next couple of days.

Aug. 18, 2004
Remains of hiker who vanished in Biscuit Fire officially ID'd
Long thought to be a casualty of the huge Biscuit Fire in 2002, Michael Woods of Grants Pass killed himself, the Josephine County Sheriff's Office reported today.
On July 8, 2002 — 11 days before his 32nd birthday — friends said they dropped Woods off near Miami Bar on the Illinois River.
He was expected to be hiking in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness for two to four weeks, and was reported missing in early August of that year. Family and friends theorized he might have been injured in a fall.
Hikers found Woods' body in early November 2002 near Salmon Creek, about three miles from Miami Bar. Sparked by lightning, the Biscuit Fire had swept through the area in late July and hampered the search for Woods.
Three men had spent a day in late October 2002 trying to find Woods in rough terrain in the Salmon Creek drainage near Miami Bar.
A memorial service was held in November 2002.
Although the body was tentatively identified days after it was discovered, the state Medical Examiner's Office couldn't confirm it until last month, mostly because of problems in getting military dental records, the Sheriff's Office said.
The Examiner's Office ruled that Woods killed himself with a gun.
5/19Here is my run in with CHS.

When i was working for USFWS. I took the physical in Jan 2003. I thought that i was cleared to fight fires for that year. Well in Aug of that year I get a letter in the mail from CHS. They said that I was not cleared to fight fire for that fire season. The reason was the Dr office that I did my physical with failed to do a eye test on me. So I had to call and then set up appointment with my eye doctor. Then have them fax it in. I was finally cleared like in oct. We always take the physicals in Jan.

This year was about as bad. I got picked to take the full physical. Like the first one we took when they came up with using CHS. My FMO told me that they do that sometimes.

You are all right we need to come up with something better.


5/19From Firescribe:


Old Fire Suspect Not Yet Identified (Update)

Authorities Say Suspect Secure

By Michael P. Neufeld
Saturday, May 17, 2008

Update — Saturday, 4:00 a.m.

San Bernardino, CA – Officials remain tight-lipped about the identity of the person of interest in the Old Fire arson investigation but assure the public the individual won't be setting any more fires.

Authorities contend the investigation is ongoing, as it has since the 2003 Old Fire, and that the person of interest is secure. When asked if the person was in custody countless law enforcement representatives declined to provide additional information. (Interesting article with interesting pictures...)

5/19To: MOC4546

Re: Ramifications of a bogus drug test.

The last time I had to deal with something like that was about 10 years ago
when a former employee of mine failed an on-the spot drug test and was
scheduled for termination. He called me for some advice, and I told him
that at least at that particular unit, he had to have a second , more
reliable drug test done to ensure that the first one was right. The first
drug test had a standard ten percent false positive rate (as well as a ten
percent false negative rate), The agency used the first test since it was
cheap and would follow up with a more accurate test.

Check and see if that's the case with your agency. It might also be a
bargaining unit issue. With the amount of incompetence demonstrated by CHS
I would hope any drug test they did would be immediately suspect.

From: Midwest AFMO

I'm glad your Paramedic/Firefighter (Firefighter/Paramedic) made it out of that clinic alive. Did your agency file a complaint against that healthcare facility? Why didn't your Paramedic/Firefighter set the Cardiac Tech straight? Maybe somebody should check into her credentials? All the Firefighter/Paramedics I know can interpret EKGs or they wouldn't be Firefighter/Paramedics, maybe your buddy just got off a long shift and didn't want to go through the hassle of explaining to the poor woman what she was supposed to be looking for?... after all it is his heart and his life at stake. What did your Paramedic/Firefighter buddy see when he looked at the monitor? Sounds like somebody needs to step up and report these Incompetent Healthcare Professionals before somebody doesn't make it out of there alive.

Flight Nurse

We have a clinic that is so unbelievably incompetent that the Doctor can’t even follow the basic instructions on the exam paperwork. So I feel your pain. But the FMO is correct that he cannot dictate where the employee can or cannot go. Where the employee is sent is based on the employee’s home address and the closest vendor. However, the FMO can call or email CHS and relay the vendor problems. I have done so myself. We have actually told CHS we will no longer send our folks to a specific clinic and they have agreed to abide by that since there is another vendor in our city. So the problem can be addressed but it is up to your FMO and their willingness to get involved and/or stand up to CHS; which can be a daunting task at times.

The deal with the clinic not willing to call an ambulance sounds like a “continuation of care” issue. OK, not to mention the clinic personnel sound like complete idiots! I would register a complaint with the clinic’s medical director and/or the state’s regulatory agency. People/clinics like that do a whole lot of damage to the community…and their patients.

5/19I have a question out there for some of you in charge of arranging the annual physical for both permanent and seasonal employees.

Recently my federal structural fire department started sending our firefighters through the wildland physical through the government health program that arranges the physicals to be done through private healthcare facilities to meet the requirements of the Red Card program.

There were three approved health care vendors who were close to our department, two at hospitals and one at a clinic that does health screening for employers, and drug and alcohol urine testing.

Those who went to the hospital facilities had no problems. But everyone who went to the clinic facility had non-stop problems, including lost reports, damaged or contaminated urine and blood tests, incompetent healthcare workers, and very long waits even with appointments.

One of our firefighters, who is a Paramedic, was given an EKG to look at his heart rhythm and was told he was having a full-on heart attack. He looked at the reading and told the clinic worker she did not know what she was looking at, that either the machine was wrong or she hooked it up wrong. He felt fine and knew very well what the signs and symptoms are of a heart attack.

He told her "If you think I'm having a heart attack, why don't you call me an ambulance?"

The worker told him "We can't do that, you'll need to take yourself to the hospital or go visit your doctor."

He left with a note from the clinic that his heart had problems, including signs of heart disease and possible heart attack, and that he needed to seek other medical care before returning for another physical.

The Paramedic/Firefighter involved returned to the station, informed the Asst. Chief on duty of the incident, said he felt fine and that the people at that clinic screwed up. The Asst. Chief placed him on Sick Leave, told him to either go home or go see his personal doctor to verify the problem, and that he would be off until he had another opinion about the problem.

The Paramedic's personal doctor was called, he said to come in immediately and he'd do a workup on him. When he got to the doctor's office, the doctor examined him personally, did an EKG, and diagnosed him as having no problems with his heart. The medic had to come back to work with proof that his heart was fine.

When we talked to the FMO managing the physical program, he said he had no control over who goes where.

This kind of problem occurred at the same clinic with all the firefighters we sent there, but when we told the FMO in charge of the program, he told us that these physicals were not of his control and his FMO crew had no problems going to that clinic.

The problem is you have incompetent workers making documentation and give opinions on health issues that can cause a federal fire service employee to be forced on sick leave or not employed due to an erroneous diagnosis.

What do you do if the clinic contractor gives a wrongful diagnosis to an employee that gets back to his employer, and the federal employer will not pay for a second physical to be done. That employee's job is on-hold until he or she foots the bill themselves to disprove an idiot's opinion, which could be very expensive to the employee, due to someone's incompetence.

When the federal office in charge of the physicals makes a choice as to who the employee will see, and are sent to a place with regular problems in diagnosis, can the employee ask to go somewhere else? Does the FMO have the obligation to make a report to his superiors to bring to light the problems that have happened?

Things regarding health issues of our federal employees or drug testing for federal employees are very tight, and if a drug test is contaminated or mixed up due to a clinic's incompetence and shows the employee testing positive for a substance, that employee is suspended or terminated on the spot. A second test won't do any good if you use the same vendor that made the error, and the government won't accept a report that the employee provides if they pay for a drug test themselves to prove themselves innocent.

My fellow firefighters have to do two physicals per year now, one for our regular job and now for the wildland physical, and an erroneous report can cost someone a career.

What can you do if the clinic contractor you are forced to use can't do their job correctly?


As a rookie firefighter for the BLM, I just wanted to share my experience with CHS.

I arrived for my health screening appointment on time to Kaiser Permanente and first spent 20 minutes waiting at the counter while the receptionist, very flabbergasted and confused, tried to assign me a "Kaiser Number".

Then, she directed me to a waiting area and told me that someone would call my name from door number 3 shortly for my physical. 20 minutes later, a nurse called me from door number 4.

Next, the nurse proceeds very quickly and hastily to check my eyesight. I wear glasses. She takes my "corrected vision" but fails to take my "uncorrected vision" without my glasses and for some reason crosses that section off the form out. More on that later... The nurse then proceeds to take my height, blood pressure, and weight without any incidence.

Then, the doctor comes into to see me. In an even more hasty manner, he "breezes" through the health questions (half of which he never even bothered to ask me), wishes me a safe summer, and sends me on my way.

Halfway out the door I look down at my screening and notice my color vision was never tested. I walk back into the exam office and ask for my color vision to be tested. I am only EMT certified, but I am pretty sure "Can you tell what color book that is on the shelf" does not qualify as a valid color vision test... I am then hastily sent on my way while the nurse faxes in the results to my home unit...

Out in the parking lot I look down at my medical screening again and notice I did not pass. WTF?? I read the reason why not. Like I said, I am EMT certified and I also come from a medical family so while I am not a doctor I do know a thing or two about health and medical practice. The doctor had misread one of the health criteria. After a careful reading, it was obvious. So...

I went back into Kaiser, told the receptionist I was back and that there was a mistake on my health screening, and that I needed to see the doctor. I waited 20 minutes again and was called in by the nurse. I told the nurse the problem. She looked down at the paper and told me "No, your wrong. The doctor read the criteria correctly." I told her: "Ma'am I'm sorry but I believe the doctor misread the form. Could I please see the doctor. This is very important for me." Visibly scowling at me, she walks back to the doctor's office and after speaking to him for a moment, motions me back. I explain the the doctor the problem and he looks at me with a confused look and tells me: "Your right. You did pass. I'm sorry". He send me back out to the nurse to whom I explain that the doctor DID misread the form and that I DID pass the questionnaire, and I asked her to resend the paperwork to my home unit. With a sigh, she responded, "I won't have time until this afternoon, but I should get to it", and she sent me on my way...

... 2 weeks later...

I get a call from CHS and they inform me the form was not filled out in its entirety. The portion of the form where my uncorrected vision was supposed to be recorded was crossed out (remember from earlier in my story?). They tell me to either fax in my glasses prescription OR take another full exam. I tell her I will fax in my prescription. I ask her if she will call me back after she receives the fax. She tells me she will. After I fax in the sheet, no call back. So I call her... "The person at the extension you are trying to reach is not available" is the recorded message I get. This is on a Friday. So, I call back Monday. I talk to the same lady. I ask her if she received my fax from last Friday. She tells me "I haven't checked the faxes yet, let me go check..." After several minutes, she returns to the phone: "Yes, we got it." "Is everything Kosher with my paperwork now?" I ask. "I'm not sure. The doctors upstairs will have to look at everything". "Will you guys call me if there's a problem?" I ask. "You should be hearing from us if something's not right" is the response I get.

I have yet to hear anything, so I assume everything's in order!?

So.... altogether....

3 hours at Kaiser for a medical exam + 3 hours on the phone altogether with CHS + several weeks of frustration and waiting = I'm hoping my medical paperwork is in order and complete!?

Another well-run sub-contracted government program!

Be safe.

- Rookie4485

5/18Re: CHS

The interagency medical standards are a great concept - ON PAPER.


- the unintended consequence of highly qualified firefighters losing their jobs or being
offered non-fire jobs
- a program manager who refuses to answer questions about the program he is
supposed to be managing - or will just hang up on you, instead
- a group of vastly unqualified and incompetent individuals (read: CHS) with regards to
medical procedure and policy - yes, that is what they were hired, and are paid vast
sums of money, for
- at least several subcontractors to CHS who don't give a rat's a$$ about anything more
than filing people through office so they can claim their checks

AND... you have a very poorly executed, great idea. I am sure you can think of at least a couple of those "great on paper..." ideas that never made it off the ground.

Maybe the program manager is better equipped to do his job now. Maybe CHS has worked out the bugs. Maybe the system runs more smoothly now.

Doesn't sound like it though...


5/18Midwest Fire Guy,

Is this your first season with CHS? If it is, trust me, you are not the first to come up with
problems and issues with their system (or the last ones). We have the same problems
every year and then we add a couple new ones as well. For us the baseline is only required
for perms and career seasonals. For Temp seasonals only an annual is required. Also, we
can hire someone if they have a current physical from another agency. About 50% of our
folks have no problems, then 25% get scheduling issues that include the wrong location
among others, and then there is the serious stuff. We had a guy with minor hearing loss; it
took 2-1/2 months to get an accommodation even though they told us 95% of all hearing
issues get accommodations. Then one of our folks was sent a letter by CHS to see his
doctor immediately due to a major organ failure. Yeah, that was not a lot of fun to deal
with; really freaked the employee out for a couple weeks while they saw their doctor and
waited for additional test results. Turns out the CHS tests were faulty. We even had a
problem with passwords; turns out that if you include certain characters in your password
it causes their system to not print any of the exam paperwork. It took them 2 years to
figure that one out and I think they still haven’t added a warning to their page when creating
a password.

I like the idea of the CHS concept but the implementation has been a bit bumpy. Overall
all of us firefighters will benefit from it.


From Normbc9. This is interesting. I thought the state was broke but evidently
they have money socked away some where. n

California-MayReviseEmergencyResponse051408.pdf (47 K pdf file)

5/16Medical @%$&&*! Standards (ie CHS)

Medical Standards is just like the pre-employment drug test and background investigation. Personnel will not move forward until they have passed their Base Line Medical Exam for new hires. If you kept your seasonals in "Intermittent" over the winter you can bring them back on but will need to have them take their "Annual Exam" before they can take the Pack Test. If you did not keep them on intermittent or they are applying for a higher grade then they will need to pass their Annual Exam before personnel will complete their hiring paperwork.

And getting a timely answer from CHS can be frustrating. The program was 5 years old when our GACC started using Medical Standards. It was very frustrating having to work out some of the wrinkles. I found it hard to believe that 5 years into the program that we were the first ones to come up with some of the problems that we had with Medical Standards and CHS. And it still galls me when I call CHS and they answer "Wildland Firefighter".

Midwest Fire Guy

Could you find out if the Mike Schweitzer, that was killed in the
vehicle accident was a former employee on the Shawnee National
Forest as well.


I sent a personal note to one of the people on Mike's forest. Ab.

Here's his reply 5/17:

That is correct, He did work on the Shawnee NF around 2002 - 2003. (I
don't know how long, just looking at my personnel folder records) I do
know he was a Shawnee employee when we promoted him to the Salmon River

Thanks for the "Posting"............................... The family has set
up a service in Ashland, OR. on Monday at 1500 hrs. let me know if you
need additional info. Its such a shock for this District to have Shawn
Woodman last year, and now Mike this year. Both Excellent individuals and
just going home after work. Thanks again for CONTACTING me direct. That's
the great thing about "Wildland Fire. Com" You folks do an excellent
service to the wildland Firefighter community.


and a followup just popped in:

Cards and Notes to Mike's Family can be sent to his wife Lea - -
Lea Schweitzer
228 Talent Avenue #16
Talent, OR 97540

Mike's funeral will be in Ashland, Oregon, on Monday at 3:00 pm, at the
First United Methodist Church
165 N Main St,
Ashland, OR
(541) 482-3647

and the Memorial Flyer: In Honor of Michael J. Schweitzer.pdf

5/16Basic Talking Points for the upcoming fire season. This is different from
previous seasons, so please read. Looks like we're going to try and change
expectations and create public acceptance for heretofore unconventional

(See file: 2008 Fire Operations Key Points 4-08.doc 484 K doc file; Text below)


2008 Fire Operations Key Points
Executive Summary for AC/IC
April 4, 2008

Background: As fire seasons lengthen and generally become more challenging, the standard messages to the public and news media are becoming less realistic. For years, messages have centered on slight variations of several basic themes: We have enough equipment and personnel; we will protect your home if it is threatened; and we will fight all fires aggressively. But the nature of fire season is changing, and given budget realities, it is time to alter public expectations and increase public education regarding what the wildland fire community can and cannot do.

Themes for 2008

• The world of fire suppression is changing. Fire seasons are longer and fire behavior often more extreme. The primary reasons for these changes are weather (climate change), wood (abundance of fuels) and WUI (structures and increased values at risk).

• Traditional means of containing fires (anchor, flank and pinch) are changing. More often, firefighters use multiple tactics on a single incident such as confine, contain and provide point protection. Under the Interagency Wildland Fire Policy, fire managers have available a full range of options from monitoring a fire to aggressive suppression tactics.

• Determining the available fire management options include these considerations:

  • Safety is always the primary concern in choosing a selected strategy and incorporates mitigated or reduced risk to firefighters and the public.
  • Suppressing a fire effectively means we wisely pick our tactics. Incident managers constantly evaluate the fire situation and initiate actions based on the likelihood that the selected suppression tactics will be successful.
  • Suppressing a fire efficiently means no wasted efforts. Firefighting resources are used where they are needed most and where they are most likely to succeed.

• We will focus resources into initial attack. Catching fires early is still the best way to prevent large, costly and dangerous wildfires.

• Three excellent sources on techniques for homeowners to help protect their property from wildfire can be found at: www.firewise.org, www.livingwithfire.info, and www.firesafecouncil.org. Homeowners must not assume firefighters will step in and save their homes, especially if they have not taken precautionary measures.

• Steps to reduce costs and maximize efficiency without compromising safety will continue to be a priority. Challenges to reducing costs include longer seasons, increased complexity of incidents, more WUI fires and a rise in contract and fixed costs.

• Local communities and citizens can contribute to firefighter and public safety and protect their belongings by taking responsibility to ensure there is a defensible space around their homes and businesses. The Firewise program provides information and techniques for homeowners. Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) are becoming increasingly important for coordinating these efforts.
• The primary responsibility for structure protection lies with the local protection authority based on local agreements. The federal wildland firefighting agencies follow federal policy of protecting life, property and natural resources, and provide structure protection assistance on incidents in support of the local protection authority.

Cost Containment:
• The agencies and states have implemented cost accounting measures through improved business practices that provide line officers and incident commanders with real-time information, and create benchmarks of accountability as costs rise.
• Decision support tools are available to help agency administrators and incident managers make more informed decisions in how and where to respond to a wildfire. The Fire Spread Probability (FSPro) program assesses the probabilities and direction of fire spread over time. The Rapid Assessment Values At Risk (RAVAR) program assists managers in determining property and natural resources values in the fire area that need protection.

National Response Framework – All-Hazard Response:
• The primary mission for the agency wildfire qualified personnel is wildland fire management. In the case of a national disaster, the agencies will respond to all-hazard priority assignments based on our capability.
• The National Response Framework (NRF) establishes a single, comprehensive plan for managing domestic incidents. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for coordinating NRF activities and provides Mission Assignments, sometimes referred to as ‘taskings’ to the federal agencies.

Smoke and Smoke Impacts:
• Fire and smoke are an inevitable and natural part of fire seasons around the country.
• Fire managers take smoke effects into consideration when planning tactics. As they develop their strategies for fighting a fire, firefighters consider fire behavior and weather forecasts, topography and proximity to communities – all factors that can affect smoke.
• Fire communicators will work with state air management agencies to keep the public informed of anticipated smoke movement and the state’s assessment of the health risks associated with smoke levels.

Wildland Fire Use:
• The goal of the WFU objective is to protect, maintain, and enhance resources and, as nearly as possible, allowed fire to function in its natural ecological role as defined within the context of the agency mission, defined boundaries and approved land use/resource management objectives.
• Benefits of actively managing fire on the landscape can include restoring and maintaining healthy forests, rangelands and wetlands, and supporting ecosystem diversity.

5/16Travesty Post

Not being a Forest Service or Cal Fire Employee, I can’t fully appreciate all of the emotion the Esperanza Fire stirs, but as a member of the fire service and wildland community for nearly 3 decades, I do know the deep emotion such a horrific incident brings to us all. With that said I am very troubled by many of the accusations and assumptions made in the “STOP THE TRAVESTY” post. I have known Jeff for many years and yes he is a devoted Cal Fire Employee, however he would never be willing to slant facts or issues of firefighter safety to help CYA his agency. Trying to prevent another tragedy should be our first and foremost consideration in the after-action of such an incident.

While no investigation is perfect (I have done many criminal investigations), no matter what the process, thoroughness or resources committed are, all parties won’t agree on all of the facts. The issue of jurisdiction is often a complex legal one with no clear lines; however who has authority is usually the jurisdiction where the incident occurred, not to whom it occurred. While federal law usually trumps local law if local law is less restrictive, federal jurisdiction doesn’t automatically trump local jurisdiction. While Cal Fires investigation process may not be perfect it is well thought out and executed. Federal investigation process seems to be multi faceted, designed to take a lengthy period, which time is one of the most critical elements of a successful investigation. After studying the South Canyon incident and subsequent Federal Investigations and other reports, and the Thirty Mile Investigation, I don’t see how the case can be made that Federal Investigations are more objective and accurate than Cal Fire?

I have attended several presentations on the Esperanza, including the one you refer to as a “Travesty”. I didn’t see any bias, accusations, or inferred blame on any employee Federal, Cal Fire or Local Government. What I saw was a report on many of the elements that combined to create the tragedy. The sadness of the loss of Four Brothers overshadowed the entire presentation, but I also walked away with just how close other engine crews, including Type One Structure protection ST’s came to being injured or worse in the same run. The presentation didn't go into any Cause and Origin information to stay clear of prosecution issues, obviously discuss with the prosecuting District Attorney.

If we, the wildfire community which includes all firefighters in this age are to prevent future tragedies, we must learn from the past. If we hide these tragic emotional events in the bureaucratic investigations that take years, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes possibly before the investigation of the last one is released. Brad and Jeff have dedicated their careers to the fire service and made more personnel sacrifices than most. Presenting this program is a huge sacrifice, it is time away from home, an emotionally draining presentation to give or attend no matter how many times you have been through it. This program is no Travesty; it is a program to prevent the need to have this very same debate in the future.


5/16CHS Medical:

Yes….and No to the CHS question; for BLM anyways. If a person is CHS,
exam is a prerequisite to taking the Pack Test; Pack test is a requirement for
getting hired. So if a person is currently Red Carded, then we can hire them.
But before they can get Pack Tested they have to have a physical. We just
went through the situation multiple times for the fire season and perm hires.
Just wait till you run into a situation where something shows up through the
physical process. OMG… that’s a treat!


5/16Comments on contractor employee pay

$12.00/hr for the first 40 hours worked and
$13.50/hr for any overtime hours worked during the week.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 31 January 2008 )"

Lots of the big contractors are doing this! o/t is time and a half minus the government fringe of 3.00 per hour or something. The biggest contractor of wildland firefighters did this for over a decade. Trust me it is still going on. Some contractors are actually paying a man time and a half. 12.00 regular means 18.00 on o/t but they are a small outfits and have to treat their people well to keep them. The big guys and the fly by nights are the ones that take a worker in the end, so to speak.

Been seeing guys on the contract side work hard for years with nothing to show for it, but year after year they're back digging line.

In my best Rodney Dangerfield impression "looks like we all get no respect!"

sign me

happily watching from the sidelines

5/16Some clarification on contractor employee pay

vfd cap'n,

What the contractor site failed to mention was that last year ('07) $3.01 out of the $12/hr for straight time came from the employees mandatory health and welfare benefits (based on annual Federal DOL wage determination). Once the initial 40 hours for the week is worked, the Health & Welfare benefit stops. $12-$3= $9x1.5=$13.50, so that seems to be fairly close to the Contract industry standard right now.

I worked for another contractor for 6 1/2 years before heading out on my own with a partner, and always hated making nearly the same hourly rate on OT as I did on straight time. I have started paying $10/hr for 1'st season entry level people (anything less isn't worth getting out of bed for), then add the Health & Welfare on top of that for the first 40hrs. At least then when the employee hits OT and the H&W drops, they are still making an extra $5/hr for their hard work. They look at the extra $3.01 H&W for the first 40hrs as a bonus.

Signed "an engine contractor in R-6"

5/16From The 4G's:


$190 Million in "SAFER" Grants For California Fire Departments
News Blaze
May 16, 2008

SACRAMENTO - Today, Office of Homeland Security Director Matthew Bettenhausen encouraged local fire
departments to apply for federal grants under the 2008 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency
Services (SAFER) Grants.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today posted the Program Guidance document, beginning the
application period.

Congress appropriated $190 million dollars for SAFER grants under the DHS Appropriations Act of
2008. The SAFER Grant program was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and
volunteer firefighter interest organizations in order to help them increase the number of
trained, “front-line” firefighters available in their communities. [read more at the link]

5/16We have been told at my local unit that we cannot EOD an employee
until they clear their CHS medical. Does anyone know if there is
written guidance on this or is this just local policy? We want to bring
this person on the books ASAP and want to know if there is a way
to do it.

One of many "Confused FMO's"
5/16Original Announcement from John Schuyler
Natural Resources Staff
Klamath National Forest

As Acting Forest Supervisor and with a heavy heart I need to share with you
that one of our employees, Mike Schweitzer, was killed in a single vehicle
accident on Highway 3 as he was commuting home yesterday. Mike worked in
fuels on the Scott/Salmon Ranger District. The accident is being
investigated by CHP and Siskiyou County Sheriff Department personnel, with
assistance by Forest Service law enforcement. More information will be
shared as it becomes available. Arrangements are being made to help our
employees to deal with the stress and grief this incident. John

note added by Mike P:

If you don't see this in the Hotshot mailing list...

Mike was a Salmon River Hotshot, promoted to the Fuels Captain position on
the Scott River District. We held a short District gathering where we
talked about his Leadership, excellent work ethics and a friend to all.
His wife and Father in law let us know how much he loved being a Hotshot.

note added by Ron B, Fulton IHC Supt:

Very sad news.


I found this on a contractor's website:

"Wildland firefighters can expect to work long hours, averaging 12-14 hours
a day (80-100hrs/week). You may be dispatched to wildfire assignments for up
to 14 days straight, excluding travel days to and from the fire. The
starting wage is approximately $12.00/hr for the first 40 hours worked and
$13.50/hr for any overtime hours worked during the week.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 31 January 2008 )"

It seems to me that a firefighter would be cheated out of $200-$300 a week
in overtime that should be paid at time-and-a-half.

vfd cap'n
5/16Good Morning,

I have put together a webpage that has direct links to both USAJOBS and AVUE vacancy
announcements for each announcement number being used in this next round of R5 hiring.
I know that many people have trouble navigating/searching USAJOBS and AVUE when it
comes to finding the announcements - this should help ease the frustration.

The announcements that I've posted are the same numbers that were posted here (including
the Demonstration GS-05/06) except for the ADFMO/Battalion Chief announcement for
which I have taken the liberty of listing the number that is in the R5 tracker instead of the one
they listed (because it is nowhere to be found)... *If someone knows something further about
the ADFMO announcement, please let me know.

The page can be found by clicking the link at the bottom of my homepage
(www.LoomisHannah.com). Any feedback on how to make it better is appreciated!

Bethany E. Loomis-Hannah

Thanks, Bethany. Again, you fill a need. Link to the jobs info is at the bottom of the page above. Ab.

5/16GS-0401 Legislative update

The NFFE-IAM Legislative Conference is next week, May 19-23. In three more
days, two dozen intrepid souls -- Forest Service employees who have stepped
up to work for the greater good through the NFFE Forest Service Council --
will be walking down the corridors of power in Washington, DC. Their
mission: to speak truth to power. Their goal: to make our agency and other
agencies better places to work and better able to serve the American
citizens who pay the bills. Fighting together to make the world a better
place. (Forgive me if this is over the top for your taste -- but if I
didn't believe this stuff I wouldn't put in the long hours.)

We've been so busy preparing for this opportunity that there's been little
time to keep folks abreast about what's going on. One of NFFE's top
priorities this legislative season is restoring standing to in-house NWCG
courses that were stripped away from those seeking to enter GS-0401 Fire
Management Specialist positions by OPM's "diploma mill" policy. Our
Congressional brief's summary states:

The Forest Service and Department of Interior (DOI) are in the midst of
a 5-year transition of their fire management positions from a technical
to a professional series. Early in this process, the Office of
Personnel Management (OPM) promulgated a policy change to keep credits
earned from “diploma mills” from counting toward meeting qualifications
for federal positions. This change had the unintended consequence of
disallowing credits for specialized wildland fire courses that were a
crucial component of the new professional GS-0401 Fire Management
Specialist standard. OPM’s policy change was not communicated to the
field until over two years after its implementation, during which time
field employees expended significant time, energy, and funds in
completing coursework that, unbeknownst to them, no longer counted. OPM
has refused to grant a waiver to its “diploma mill” policy to reinstate
the standing of these specialized wildland fire courses. As a result,
significant numbers of top field fire managers may be pushed out of
their jobs. Further, the eviscerated fire program manager standard
excludes applicants for vacant positions whose experience and training
are directly related to these critically important jobs. Unless this
problem is addressed, this bureaucratic fiasco will cause a precipitous
drop in experience and leadership and seriously undermine safety and
effectiveness on wildfire and other incidents. Action is needed to
avoid putting employees and the American public at risk.

For more information on the GS-0401 Fire Management Specialist issue,
including our final briefing paper, recent developments, and employee
comments from the field, see
www.nffe-fsc.org/Documents/IFPM/Fire_Index.phpl. There's also links
to help you get involved. Perhaps some of you live in Congressional
districts where we lack legislative reps. If this issue is important to
you, maybe you can open the door for us to carry the story into your
elected representatives' offices.

In addition, we will hold a number of meetings to with California staffers
who question the credibility of the agency's April 1 report on retention.
There are no easy legislative solutions for this issue, but we will
continue to follow up on it to keep the pressure on for a just solution.

We all learned in elementary school, by reading Dr. Suess' fable "Horton
Hears a Who," that the little guys can be heard, but only if they raise
their voices in unison. We cannot forget this important lesson, that we
are in the same boat as our working brothers and sisters all around us.
That's what the union is all about: working men and women raising their
voices together in order to be heard. If you are a member, thanks for
standing with us. If you are not and wish to be, you can find out how to
join on the Council website at www.nffe-fsc.org/.

In solidarity,

Mark Davis, Chair
NFFE Forest Service Council Legislative Committee

Thanks for your good work, Mark. Ab.

5/16I've heard that the plan to cut funding to the ROs by 25% is occurring
only in Region 5. The other regions are waiting until after the election.
I've heard that Ed and the Regional Forester are charging on ahead.
Will the cuts impact firefighter safety?

NorCal Tom

5/16Re: Black Tuesday Wristbands

Someone said,

"A certain Forest Supervisor is fighting mad and wants to ban them. I guess I'd be mad too..... especially when her District Rangers are wearing them also."

Great first steps in communication and support of issues. The support of the District Rangers is critical.

Next step, educating the Forest Supervisors so they feel comfortable wearing a "wristband" and fully supporting their fire programs and FACTUALLY communicating upwards to the Region, and downwards to the troops. If the Forest Supervisor can't be educated, work to replace them.

Next step after that, Regional Foresters wearing "wristbands" and asking hard questions and demanding answers (upward and downward leadership), and providing hard facts in relation to the safety, efficiency, and cost effectiveness of the direction being provided by POLITICAL APPOINTEES at the highest levels.

I haven't lost faith.... or jumped ship to OES... I see and appreciate the baby steps forward..... I also know, if it gets too bad, I'll jump ship before the boat sinks, or before I can't provide for my family, or before I go to work knowing that nobody cares any more about what wildland firefighters do in protecting our communities and natural resources.......

It has been said before...... DUTY ... RESPECT ... INTEGRITY. Apply those principles upwards and downwards.

5/15The official News Release of the DOI Valor Awards Yosemite National Park Accident and Rescue also this. Nice work and nice valor award. Ab.

There are things afoot on the "geoweb" that will impact fire reporting and firefighting on the interface, including information the public gets via computer, cell phone or PDA. Several of us were in discussion with folks from ESRI at a R5 Chiefs Meeting in 2003 or 2004 and, standing around over coffee, we talked about this potential development that would be coming on the internet.

For the FireGeeks, the GIS girls/guys and the Fireline Nerds and "Firewhirl" out there, who support firefighters through mapping, etc, here's something being made real now that is profoundly exciting to me.

We all know that geography is a way to organize, look at and understand the world and a way to plan resource needs, movement, and use during all risk events. Who could function without the morning briefing firemap and the community and web firemaps? the handheld GIS device during Katrina SAR in New Orleans when streets were under water, etc? (Heck the hotlist needs the naming protocol of state-unit identifier-firename as an organizer to try to keep breaking incidents straight!) Geography and location are critical and important info in any firefighting communication... and to visualizing the emergency situation.

Anyway, here's a link to a 30 minute video of the keynote speech of the Where 2.0 2008 Conference:

  • John Hanke from GOOGLE and
  • Jack Dangermond founder/president of ESRI

lay out and discuss the future of Geomapping. (Many of you know ESRI does firemapping and is the leader in GIS. They've been supporters of this site (sponsor the News page) and our firefighting community for some years. Their link is on the Classifieds page under software.)

Watch the clip. Toward the end you'll see the part that we discussed at the R5 Chiefs Meeting in theoretical terms some years ago. The interface is growing across the US. Wildfire in the wildland-urban interface is growing simply because fires are often caused by humans. Fire danger to large numbers of humans living on the interface is high and can be killer. SoCal may be the focus now with the 2003 and 2007 firestorms, but the problems and solutions needed are coming to large urban areas abutting National Forests, range and wildlands across the US.

Very interesting stuff. Carry on...


I'm glad mellie brought up the hiker who turned up missing during the Biscuit Fire.
I was on that fire and have recently wondered the same thing. Maybe some of our
friends on the Siskiyou will fill us in.

no name

5/15Maybe the magazine would have done better if it was called Forestry
Technician I know I would then subscribe to this new magazine. It could
have articles on how to tie knots in trash bags and put a rock in the
bottom so they don't blow away! or better yet an article on fencing, no no no
wait, there should be an article on the Forestry Technicians that fight fire
98% of their time and have to be gone from families, work weekends and
complete their DOI LEARN and AG LEARN before they are red carded.
just pondering


5/14Stop the Travesty,

I agree with you and understand how mucked up things are right now. We should have seen leadership from the upper levels of the Forest Service, but we got deafening silence and the endless promise of keeping firefighters safer without action. In return, we got the Investigation Team Leader as the Regional Forester.

The CAL FIRE folks who have been on speaking tours post-Esperanza (et al) need to understand that state statutes don't trump changes in federal "legislation" relating to the deaths of federal employees. As result of PL 107-203, the USDA Office of Inspector General investigates the deaths of Forest Service employees killed through entrapment regardless of who was ultimately responsible or who goes on speaking tours. (See important note below). One could argue that PL 107-203 stated an intent of Congress, but didn't change Federal Law.

18 USC Part 1 Chapter 51 § 1112 (as properly investigated by the FBI in the past, but investigated by USDA OIG post Thirtymile Fire).

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of two kinds:
Voluntary-Upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.
Involuntary-In the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or in the commission in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection, of a lawful act which might produce death.

PL 107-203 didn't change any provision of 18 USC in it's (107-203) simple wording. In fact, as codified in 18 USC and in the CFR's, and in the Federal Register, the USDA OIG should have relinquished their investigatory authority to the FBI if they believed the death of a federal employee was wrongful in any way. The FBI is charged with the responsibility (by statute and provisions that weren't changed by PL 107-203) to investigate potential wrongful deaths of federal employees.

/s/ Kenneth Kempter
Southern California Director
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
5/14Ab, some thoughts about FLAME and CPS

In a few weeks I will once again travel to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, as part of a South Canyon Fire Staff Ride cadre group. This will be my eighth year on the mountain and it is one of the most gut wrenching experiences I go through. I freely admit that I cannot walk by those crosses without sobbing like a child. It has come to the point where I have to get on the mountain the day before the staff ride, so that I can sort through emotions that range from confusion, blame, and compassion, to pure sadness over the loss. While staff rides are not about the who, I struggle immensely with some of the decisions that were made that day. By all accounts, almost every individual on the mountain that day was an experienced, physically fit, qualified, wildland firefighter, and as I once again, re-read the reports, books and articles related to the event I constantly ask myself “why and how” did this happen.

As with all events, different people will make different decisions, which in turn, alters the outcomes. When I sit on the West Flank Fireline I wonder if “tacticians of fire” such as Linane, ‘Lanky”, Cook, “Rax”, Gleason or similar individuals would have made those same decisions. If their decisions had been different, and the outcome was that everyone came safely off the mountain before the blowup, I then struggle with why that didn’t occur. Is it training, experience, mentoring, or some intuitive process that is yet to be defined? My gut, non-scientific, purely anecdotal reaction tells me these “tacticians of fire” would have made the decision to pull people off the mountain before the blowup. I believe each of these “tacticians of fire” would have arrived at that choice by fundamentally different paths. Some of these individuals or as Gleason termed, “students of fire” would have made the decision to come off the mountain based on years of self study, course work and extensive “fire behavior observation and analysis.” For other “students of fire” the decision may have been driven, by an “old crusty salt” who took the time to sit on a ridge and transfer knowledge about fire behavior to the people who worked for him (they still exist- to the Holt’s, Lookabaugh’s, Hawkins’s and many others who spend the time and take the effort to transfer knowledge and experience, I thank you). After almost 25 years of teaching adults, I am convinced that by whatever combination of training, mentoring and experience a firefighter becomes a “master” of their craft, it is completely different for each person. Everyone uses a slightly different set of course work, training, mentoring, experiences and “tools” in their decision making process.

Our argument should not be about the scientific validity of FLAME or CPS, nor should it be about which one is the “best” to use. As Gizmo stated, it should be related to when or where in the student’s career, the training will most likely have the greatest impact. If presented at the correct time in a firefighter’s career, some students will surely decide that FLAME is the “tool for them,” just as others will gravitate towards CPS as a useful tool in their decision making system. Many, hopefully most, might use both. I first took CPS with Doug in 1995 or 1996. After the class, I purchased a high-end “heat gun,” which I have consistently used to check surface and aerial fuel temperatures on fires. As with other components of the CPS system, the “hot fuel, hot-slope” theory works. I remember Doug telling us how much resistance he had when he first started using CPS and that sounds very familiar to some of the current discussion about FLAME. I have heard similar stories about Nomograms and the old “TI” calculator.

Let’s keep up the discussion related to when, where or how FLAME should be delivered, but try and keep an open mind about FLAME itself. It’s just another tool. Maybe (hopefully), in a few years we will have a case study where a lookout calls an overloaded, over committed, and under staffed IC or Division Supervisor and says “my trigger points have just been met and full alignment is one hour away,” followed by another lookout stating ”I just ran a FLAME prediction and the fire will run to the ridge in 7 minutes once it crosses the drainage.” The IC then uses their experience and knowledge of both systems and pulls everyone off the line well before the blowup. That would make a wonderful staff ride.

We lost 14 firefighters at South Canyon, if either or both of these tools can prevent another firefighter fatality; let’s find a way to use them both.

Ab, As always, thanks for the site.


FOBS73 thanks for resending. I didn't get it the first time. Ab.


What We See, You Never Want to See

It's hard to explain to "civilians" what we do. These writings might help to explain things...


I wish you could see the sadness of a business man as his livelihood goes up in flames or that family returning home, only to find their house and belongings damaged or destroyed.

I wish you could know what it is to search a burning bedroom for trapped children, flames rolling above your head, your palms and knees burning as you crawl, the floor sagging under your weight as the kitchen beneath you burns.

I wish you could comprehend a wife's horror at 3 A.M. as I check her husband of forty years for a pulse and find none. I start CPR anyway, hoping against hope to bring him back, knowing intuitively it is too late, but wanting his wife and family to know everything possible was done.

I wish you could know the unique smell of burning insulation, the taste of soot-filled mucus, the feeling of intense heat through your turnout gear, the sound of flames crackling, and the eeriness of being able to see absolutely nothing in dense smoke-- "sensations that I have became too familiar with."

I wish you could understand how it feels to go to school in the morning after having spent most of the night, hot and soaking wet at a multiple alarm fire.

I wish you could read my mind as I respond to a building fire, "Is this a false alarm or a working, breathing fire? How is the building constructed? What hazards await me? Is anyone trapped?" or to an EMS call, "What is wrong with the patient? Is it minor or life-threatening? Is the caller really in distress or is he waiting for us with a 2x4 or a gun?"

I wish you could be in the emergency room as the doctor pronounces dead the beautiful little five-year old girl that I have been trying to save during the past twenty-five minutes, who will never go on her first date or say the words "I love you Mommy!" again.

I wish you could know the frustration I feel in the cab of the engine, the driver with his foot pressing down hard on the pedal, my arm tugging again and again at the air horn chain, as you fail to yield right-of-way at an intersection or in traffic. When you need us, however, your first comment upon our arrival will be, "It took you forever to get here!"

I wish you could read my thoughts as I help extricate a girl of teenage years from the mangled remains of her automobile, "What if this were my sister, my girlfriend, or a friend? What were her parents' reactions going to be as they open the door to find a police officer, hat in hand?"

I wish you could know how it feels to walk in the back door and greet my parents and family, not having the heart to tell them that you nearly did not come home from this last call.

I wish you could feel my hurt as people orally, and sometimes physically, abuse us or belittle what I do, or as they express their attitudes of, "It will never happen to me."

I wish you could realize the physical, emotional, and mental drain of missed meals, lost sleep and forgone social activities, in addition to all the tragedy my eyes have viewed.

I wish you could know the brotherhood and self-satisfaction of helping save a life or preserving someone's property, of being there in times of crisis, or creating order from total chaos.

I wish you could understand what it feels like to have a little boy tugging on your arm and asking, "Is my mommy O.K.?" Not even being able to look in his eyes without tears falling from your own and not knowing what to say. Or to have hold back a longtime friend who watches his buddy having rescue breathing done on him as they take him away in the ambulance. You knowing all along he did not have his seat belt on -- sensations that have become too familiar.

Unless you have lived this kind of life, you will never truly understand or appreciate who I am, what we are, or what our job really means to us...

-author unknown


It’s time to STOP.

There are several presentations scheduled next week in Southern California -- Rancho Cucamonga and Op Area C (LA County). And who knows how many are scheduled or in process!

Tragedy vs. Travesty

Esperanza was a tragedy. It will live forever in the annals of wildland fire fighting. It will live forever in the hearts and minds of the families and our fellow firefighters – regardless of agency.

Esperanza presentations are a travesty. The dog and pony shows of Cal Fire employees represent the lowest of the lowest forms of professionalism and common decency. Quite frankly, it is abysmal that Cal Fire allows these presentations to continue.

Rocky and Bullwinkle

As presented, the presentations should be considered to be Fractured Fairy Tails. That is to say that frequently presented myths are soon become facts by virtue of being presented frequently.

It needs to STOP.

Why, do you say? What could possibly be wrong with this? After all there the accident investigation was done on an interagency basis! After reading the following, please ask yourselves this question again.

Still under Investigation

The Esperanza Fire is still under active investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General. This is done under the auspices of Public Law 107-203, also known as the Cantwell Bill (30 Mile Fire in Washington State). There has been no report issued to date.

Not only is Esperanza under investigation, but all aspects of Esperanza and its Serious Accident Investigation Team procedures are under investigation. This could also include OSHA and it haphazard investigation and conclusions. The record shows the OSHA investigation reversed two of it findings and modified the four other “Serious” violations.

The U.S Forest Service cannot participate in any proceedings which are under investigation – period. Hence, the presentations represent only one version of what happened – without rebuttal.

The conspiracy theory exists! Is Cal Fire presenting this to protect their own? What a perfect audience! The USFS cannot rebut the claims against its own.

Factual Report Analysis

An analysis of the Factual Report was submitted and accepted by the USFS Designated Health and Safety Official (DHSO) and included in the record. This acceptance of the report by the DSHO admits there are significant errors and conclusions in the report.

FS employees are not allowed to speak on the accuracy of the SAIT report.

Cite a specific example: The report states that Captain 54 called into FICC to request assistance at approximately 0800. It was actually Captain 52 (FICC dispatch logs). The point remains that the ‘forever record’ says it was Captain 54. This is non-consequential in terms of the events! However, it is consequential into the basic validity of the report.

So, as such, the alleged Factual Report is not Factual at all – even if it contains ONE error. The record suggests there are many “factual errors”

Accident Investigation Procedures

Esperanza is unprecedented. It is the first fatality fire investigated on an interagency basis based on Command and Control. The procedures for investigating fires for Safety purposes only are a thing of the past. The legal implications are severe and different (Ellreese Daniels 30 Mile case).

The USFS Safety investigation procedures are outdated and do not reflect the current legal world. OIG’s investigation focused on potential criminal responsibility of the commander(s). Hence, statements made as part of the SAIT could possibly turn into criminal evidence.

The SAIT was composed of well meaning people. Think about it! The USFS team leader and Chief Investigator had not a clue on the operating procedures and consequences within California.

The Cal Fire SAIT leader had been an employee of the Riverside Unit of Cal Fire and Riverside County Fire. Cal Fire investigation procedures preclude the investigation team leader from investigating incidents where they have previously worked! This done to eliminate any knowledge of the Units past practices, knowledge of prejudices.

The real question regarding investigation team members is their experience. For most members this is their first experience. That practice was good 50 years ago.

Given today’s environment, all agencies need to focus on “real” investigators for fatality fires. It is unfair to our employees who have a passion for safety to investigate cause of death for employees. The FBI is the federal agency normally charged with determinations of death of federal employees.

The OIG record when it comes out should speak to these procedures.

Did you know? FS employees needed to be compelled to speak to investigators under threat of losing their jobs? That delay resulted in all FS employees being interviewed until nearly 2100 in one day? That 2 FS employees were told to talk to investigators so that they could participate in the family visits to the fatality site? That the investigation team was “part time” until the final report was issued? That there may be parts of statements excluded from testimony because the recording device failed?

These may seem like minor concerns, however they are real.


There are proscribed timeline for accident investigation. The measure of success is to meet the timeline and not the accuracy of the report. This standard is wrong. We need to get it right!

The investigators of record all have other jobs. The investigators met.

Arson Trial

Did someone fail to mention the criminal trial of an alleged arsonist!

The fire cause is arson. FACT It is being tried in Riverside County. As such, the criminal portion of killing 5 firefighters has not been disposed.

Brad and Jeff -- Do you realize the damage you are doing by your “dog and pony show”!!!

Absolute Immunity

The legal world is real.

Under California State Law there is the notion of “absolute immunity”. This is a great law – in California. However, under federal law, federal law trumps state law. Hence, the attorneys for CA may be in a legal battle on the immunity issue if OIG should find some sort negligence.


The Presentations

If Cal Fire is allowed to do these presentations on Esperenza while still under investigation and without FS participation, it would seem appropriate for the USFS to present the Factual Report for the Cal Fire burnovers which occurred last year. This includes the Inyo Complex, Pines and Harris Fire. The common denominator is the WUI!


Esperanza could be re-investigated. However, since it is still an active case, it cannot. The case is further complicated by the fact that the USFS Esperanza Team Leader is now the Regional Forester in Region 5. Draw your own conclusions.


The mis-representation of some-what facts become facts! Such is the case here.

Firefighter safety and response is paramount! Sometimes thing just happen.

Stop the Travesty

5/14Lobotomy where are you?

Hope you haven't gone to OES. Fight the fight!

Apprentice of yours for many years, from the old days.
5/14 Since the Biscuit Fire (OR) days in 2002, I've often wondered if anyone ever found Mike Woods, the missing hiker.

Mike Woods, a 32 year old Army Vet, set out on a wilderness trip in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness at Miami Bar on July 9. He hasn't been heard from since. Woods is 6' tall, 170 lbs. with dark brown hair and blue/green eyes. He's described as slender and fit and has an extensive knowledge of the wilderness area.

His tentative plans was to hike down the Illinois River and proceed upriver seeking a waterfall, possibly Salmon Creek. From there, he planned to hike upstream toward Selma and spend time on Queens Island in the Illinois River. From Queens Island, he planned to find a lookout, which could possibly be Pearsoll Peak.


5/14Nomad and Ab-

We agree that it is sad to see the demise of "Wildland Firefighter" magazine. As Ab
said, it was an excellent publication. However, I'd like to remind you that there is
another magazine "with content that is completely dedicated to wildland firefighters"
that has been published continuously since 1992, and that is "Wildfire" magazine.
More information is at www.iawfonline.org/magazine

The IAWF also publishes, through CSIRO Publishing, the International Journal of
Wildland Fire, a professional journal containing peer-reviewed papers completely
dedicated to wildland fire.

Bill Gabbert
Executive Director
International Association of Wildland Fire
5/14It is with great sadness I inform you that Matt Webb,
Fire Management Officer for the Lakeview Interagency
Office, passed away last night. Over the course of
the last several months Matt has fought a brave battle
against cancer. Throughout the duration of his
illness Matt maintained a positive attitude and served
as an example of how to make the most out of the hand
you are dealt in life.

Just prior to Matt's passing, a tremendous honor was
bestowed upon him by the BLM and Forest Service by
presenting him with a Silver Pulaski. Matt was
presented with the Silver Pulaski award in a simple
ceremony attended by Shirley Gammon, Karen Shimamoto,
Cal Joyner, Carl Gossard, Ken Snell, David Summer, a
number of Matt's friends and fellow firefighters, and
Matt's family. During the ceremony and upon his
death, Matt was wearing his Interagency fire shirt and
was covered by a quilt made by his mother from his
collection of fire incident shirts.

Matt has asked that his body be donated to science to
provide insight into the nature of his cancer. There
will be a Celebration of Life held in Matt's memory in
Lakeview the first weekend in June. I will keep you
informed of the date, time and location as this
information becomes available.

Cards may be sent to Rebecca and Matt's family at:
7001 SW Bouchaine St, Wilsonville, OR 97070

Please keep Matt and his family in your thoughts and
prayers during this very difficult time.

5/14I find it very interesting that the Rey told Feinstein that there are only 373 vacant
positions in R5 when the list of vacant GS-5 positions for R-5 has more than 370
positions listed on it.

The list can be found at
but can only be viewed from a FS computer. It is updated as of May 13th.

-No name on this one......

Maybe he couldn't access the data on the FS web? Maybe he didn't try? Ab.

You asked how the Combined Federal Campaign works. I'm no expert on it,
but it basically works like this.

Every fall, there is a published booklet of hundreds of Charities,
Foundations, Organizations from international to local levels, etc that is
distributed to federal offices. Employees can chose one or more charities,
fill out a form, and make a donation to that organization, which is
usually, but not always, tax deductible. You can either write a check or
have it taken out of your paycheck by payroll deduction spread through the
rest of the year, so its a fairly painless way to donate money to your
favorite organizations. Many offices, districts, forests, etc also have
some activities to boost donations, such as auctions, dinners, or about any
other fundraising function you can think of. Since its for a good cause
(YOUR favorite good cause, like the newly announced Wildland Firefighter
Foundation) and spread through the year by payroll deduction, its not
uncommon to see some rather large donations made for relatively inexpensive
auction items, I've seen $300 pies and $75-$150 for a dozen cookies. One
person on our district makes custom pottery, she usually donates an item
that goes for $300-500, about 10 times what she would normally sell it for.

So, at the end of the event, a total for the district, forest, etc is
announced, employees go home with their new purchases, fun was had by all,
and thousands of $$$ goes to hundreds of charitable organizations from
federal employees. There is usually about a month in the fall, (November I
believe), where emphasis is placed on the Campaign, but I believe anyone
can sign up anytime.

I'm sure there are other folks that know a lot more about it than me, but I
hope this helps.

Overspent again another year, but WORTH IT!

5/14Hi Ab,

I received my issue of Wildland Firefighter Magazine yesterday, my very last issue, it seems. According to the editorial, Wildland Firefighter Magazine is being incorporated into Fire & Rescue Magazine, and the remaining subscriptions will be applied to that publication. Maybe not much of a big deal in the larger scheme of things, but I, for one, will miss having a magazine with content that is completely dedicated to wildland firefighters. A small consolation is that there will be a website (currently under construction) that will feature articles from all the back issues and content included in current issues of Fire&Rescue Magazine.

So long, Wildland Firefighter, you were our voice in print and you will be sorely missed.


It was an excellent publication. First one I ever read was in a bathroom in the barracks when I was taking FF1 training. Perhaps we should create a wildlandfire.com "print" section to which people could contribute. Articles could get printed off by deployed firefighters to take with them if they desired. They're going to need something to read in those public and private places in firecamp. Ab.

5/14Re: Retention Group

How about if someone created a system to receive input from the firefighters?
How about evaluating and responding to the needs of the field going personnel?

Those two ideas might be a good place to start if someone wanted to retain a workforce or improve a work environment. It seems that even with the creation of the Retention Group in Region 5 we are under "Ops Normal". Management IS determining what the field needs... through personal bias and assumption.

On my Forest, the Forest Supervisor has taken over 3 months to determine if keeping after hours I.A. fires small is in the interest of the govt. -- As if there is a difference at 18:00.
So now a Forest Implementation Strategy for Duty Officer Vehicle Use has been established. Duty Officers must financially justify and articulate exactly how providing oversight and responses to after hours incidents will save the Forest money. What was the 3 month study with the Implementation Plan for? The Implementation plan seems to justify the cause to me.

But still the Duty Officers have not heard a response from our applications, nor have we been granted the authority/permission to do the job that we need to do. It simply IS NOT A PRIORITY. This week predicts very warm, dry windy conditions a.k.a. Fire Season. I won't be responding after hours.

That is my choice, but what if a Duty Officer relied on public transportation to get to work?
I figure that the Forest Supervisors think Duty Officers are lucky to take a vehicle home at night.
I figure they are lucky if I will answer my phone after 18:00.

So retention and the work environment... Forest Supervisors that are not responsive to needs of the Firefighter workforce might have something to do with low Morale, poor Quality of Work Environment, and an overall lack of Job Satisfaction. (leading to a retention issues)

This is just one example of how mismanagement can negatively affect Fire Retention Issues that don't officially exist on our forest.

What tha---
5/14Howdy, Ab.

Nice work (and I'm sure it was a LOT of work) providing the links and info
on IMTs -- thats part of what makes this site THE go-to place for info.

One slight correction -- Southern Area Blue Team DPIC is Mike Wilkins,
not Williams.

As always -- THANX.


Thanks. I corrected that. Anyone else sees something needs fixing, please alert me. Ab.

Type I IIM Teams (National)
Type II IIM Teams (Regional)

5/14Re: Black Tuesday Wristbands

It seems that the Black Tuesday Wristbands are well received and understood within the wildland fire community. The wristbands represent support of the issues within the wildland fire program, and more importantly, a focus towards improvement.

A certain Forest Supervisor is fighting mad and wants to ban them. I guess I'd be mad too..... especially when her District Rangers are wearing them also.


/s/ Current NFFE Supporter and Future ACLU Supporter

I heard one was even worn by someone who met the President. When the time is right, someone please share that story. Ab.

5/14Its about time we got the Wildland Firefighter Foundation into the Combined
Federal Campaign! They will be getting my money this fall for sure. Makes
paying exorbitant prices for a plate of cookies at our auction well worth
it. I'll bid $150 a dozen for Mrs. Paulett's Danish Butter Cookies to
start. Going once, twice....please somebody top me!

Ab, sign me: Overspent again another year, but WORTH IT!

I've gotten a question. Would someone please explain how the Combined Federal Campaign works? Ab.

5/14Can you post the following question for me-

I have heard that this some movement to get an Attorney Generals Opinion on
limiting access to private insurance companies firefighting foam vehicles. I
understand AIG insurance crossed some boundaries and did not work within the
ICS system at the recent San Diego Fires. What is the fire service doing to
prevent this type of freelancing.

Tahoe Jeff
5/14This past weekend was the Mother Lode Round-Up here in Tuolumne County. A big part of the weekend is the parade that is held on Saturday. It is the second longest parade in California coming in just behind the Pasadena Rose Parade. We here in Sonora and the surrounding areas are very proud of our "small town" parade which brings in entrants from all over the state. This year, CalFire, the USFS and Tuolumne County Fire all got together as a combined unit for both the Fire Department Entry and the Walking Honor Guard Entry. They won top honors in both classes - Congratulations to everyone involved!!

On a side note, the Stanislaus NF and Yosemite NP law enforcement also combined together as an unit in the Sheriff's Posse entry and won that category hands down! Quite an achievement considering the Monterey County Sheriff's Posse has won it for years. Way to go guys!

In my opinion, this is what it is all about - folks coming together from the federal, state and local levels, combining their efforts and talents and achieving the best possible outcome. You folks should be proud.


5/14Red Flag Warning




330 PM PDT TUE MAY 13 2008


More IA action on the hotlist yesterday. Ab.

5/13Hey AB:

Wasn't sure if you'd received these yet or not.

r-df-fsstaffing.doc (29 K doc file) Text of Feinstein press release below:

Statement of Senator Dianne Feinstein on Forest Service
Firefighter Staffing Levels in California

“I recently asked the Forest Service to report on firefighter staffing in California, and this letter makes it clear that the agency has more work to do. It shows that out of 4,432 Forest Service firefighter positions in California this year, there are 363 vacancies – about 8 percent of the firefighting force. And I understand that the agency has had particular difficulty in filling mid-level firefighting positions, where the recent vacancy rates for certain personnel grades have ranged as high as 39 percent.

These are key fire leadership positions. Without them, some fire engines might sit idle – just when they’re needed most. This is unacceptable. We simply cannot afford anything less than a fully staffed firefighting corps in California.

The Forest Service says it plans another round of hiring in July, and will recommend ways to improve firefighter pay and retention issues by June 30. Unfortunately, time is not on our side. Fire season has already begun, and every indication is that the risk is high this year. So I expect the Forest Service to work aggressively to fill these vacancies with qualified firefighters, to come up with a concrete retention plan that keeps these positions filled.”

Rey-FF-Response-May7th.pdf (170 K pdf file) Click the link to read it.


5/13 I don't know if this has made the rounds. Specifically, the list of ICS positions the Forest Service has determined to be authorized for reimbursement.


The letter and table are located at the link below:
Date: March 14, 2008
Subject: Reimbursement for Professional Liability Insurance (PLI) Expanded to Include Temporary Fire Line Managers
To: Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Area Director, IITF Director and Deputy Chiefs

I have good news. I know potential liability has been a significant concern for many wildland firefighters. Important recent legislation extends protection for our firefighters, beginning in the upcoming fire season. I have the pleasure of relaying the details.

On December 26, 2007, President Bush signed Public Law 110-161, the Consolidated Appropriation Act, 2008. Section 429 expands coverage for reimbursement of professional liability insurance to our “temporary fire line managers.”

To qualify, these “temporary fire line managers” must meet one of the following three criteria:

ETC ETC ETC [click the link above for the tables, lists, details. Ab.]

5/13Excellent and thoughtful piece here:

The Conundrum of Followship and Policy Change: Opinion Piece


5/13Hi Abs,

We wanted They Said readers to be the first to know that the Wildland Firefighter Foundation
has been approved as a charity for the National Combined Federal Campaign!!!!

This fall, as you sign up to make donations during the Combined Federal Campaign, please
remember the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

We wouldn’t be here without the amazing support of the wildland fire community.

Melissa Schwagerl
Wildland Firefighter Foundation


5/13I added a number of photos to the following photo pages:

Airtankers 24 www.wildlandfire.com/pics/air24/air24.php

Helicopters 23 www.wildlandfire.com/pics/heli23/heli23.php

and Fire 36 www.wildlandfire.com/pics/fire36/fire36.php

and Handcrews 23 www.wildlandfire.com/pics/hand23/hand23.php

and Engines 20 www.wildlandfire.com/pics/eng20/engines20.php

Click the words under the photo to read the descriptions and contributors. Contributors. If you have more info to share on your photos, please do so and if you want me to give credit with your name rahter than initials or moniker, I'm happy to do that.

As always, thanks to the page sponsors. Click their link and give them a visit. Hmmmm, I need some new chaps for chain sawing... Ab.

5/13Re death of a MO firefighter:

I am a former volunteer firefighter of over 15 years of service (RCoFD, EFPD, VVRFPD and RCoFD again); a federal career wildland firefighter of over 24 years of service; and a trained NWS Weather Spotter (RIV 116) of nearly 8 years. I also grew up in tornado alley, and own retirement property in the Ozarks. I qualify (and have served before) as an expert witness in a Court of Law.

I was also one of the weather spotters who reported the excessive rainfall rates, the rising waters in numerous local creeks, and the severe winds that weren't showing up on radar.... On December 25, 2003 (aka The Christmas Day Flood)..... that prompted the first in a series of Flash Flood Warnings that the NWS issued that saved lives on that fateful day. I was enroute to check on possible damage of our District Office, got diverted to a mudslide with victims trapped in a car that I was closest to (right near our District Office).... and then it just became a long day of memories of things that went well, and some things that didn't that are etched in my RPD slides. I did what I was trained to do, had the experience to do, had the equipment to do, and had either an agency sponsored, or a personal duty to act on the behalf of the safety of others

Hotlist Mods, I believe you confused "Storm Chasing" and "Storm Spotting", and wrongly followed the information initially posted on another firefighter safety / information exchange website. The inference, "Please do not go out in the face of a storm and take on "Storm Spotter Duties".... was hopefully offtrack.... If not, it was disrespectful, even though well intended, to firefighters and others who go out each day just doing their jobs they are either paid or volunteering to do AND HONORING the loss of a fallen brother or sister firefighter. Like it or not, the fact that firefighting is hazardous means there will always be LODDs while protecting others. DONT CONFUSE that with doing everything to limit LODDs that we all hope to.

Storm Spotting is often done through trained volunteer weather spotters interested in protecting their communities, and by trained co-operative (CoOp) weather observers (fire, law, public works, airports, etc) who report severe weather to the NWS as a regular part of their normal duties.

9 out of 10 times or so I've made spotter reports to the NWS, those reports were during the normal performance of my field duties as a Forestry Technician. Most of my reports have been severe thunderstorm development, rising creeks where folks were recreating downstream where it is sunny and unware of the impending hazards, and yes, even a "whip tornado" associated with a thunderstorm with rotation (Ref. - NWS, 2006, San Gorgonio Area). Other reports focused on wind speeds associated with either damage, or wildfire threat.

Yes, even a few of my trained "Spotter Reports" prompted an upgrade to Red Flag Warnings from a Fire Weather Watches in the past....... Who knows, maybe that saved some firefighters or others from peril?



5/13Tyler Casey, 21 year old firefighter with Seneca
Missouri Area Fire Protection District died May 12th
as a result of injuries sustained in the performance
of his duty during the May 10th tornado. A moment of
reflection in his honor would be appropriate.

Hotshot Dad
5/12Available on the Links page under Federal.

Type I IIM Teams (National) &
Type II IIM Teams (Regional) &
Area Command Teams &
Fire Use Management Teams

Please let me know of any updates or corrections. I do have some ?? on the Type 1 and Type 2 Team pages. Thanks very much contributors. Ab.

5/12Steve Makowski, longtime member of the wildland fire community, passed away
at 0300 this date. A long bout with cancer now over. Memorial service at Cedar
Creek Campground, behind the Smokey Bear Ranger Station in Ruidoso, New
Mexico at 1400 on Saturday, May 17.


Sorry for his passing. Ab.

5/12Phew, I think I'm done with the Type 2 IIMT page, given the info available on the web and from contributors.


If anyone wants to clarify the DPICs on the T2 Teams, or send in rosters, I'll strip contact info and post 'em. After that I'll work on the FUM Team page tomorrow. Ab.

5/12All Risk Firefighters,

Please do not go out in the face of a storm and take on "Storm Spotter Duties".
A young firefighter in Missouri did that and was reportedly struck and killed by
lightning. Our thoughts and prayers to family, co-workers and friends.
This is truly sad.

Hotlist Mods

Hotlist safety thread for lightning: www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=1941
Later: Hotlist thread with more details on the incident: www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=4206

5/12I think I'm done with the Type 1 IIMT page, given the info available on the web and from contributors.


Please check to see if any of you know any more . Let me know if any links don't work. There are ??? where I don't have a link. In addition, I don't have a link for the two new NIMO teams.

Working on the Type 2 Teams next. Then I'll create a page for the FUM Teams. This always takes so much longer than expected. Let me remind everyone that the Links page under federal has a permanent link to these pages (and to the FS lookup page too). Ab.

5/12Pics of the 2007 Chester Flight Crew with Shawn Walters

Chester rappel.

Will try to get those on a helicopter photo page soon. Ab.

5/12In response to DMC from 5/10 on the Department of the Interior, Medal of Valor:

Congratulations to Dan Gleason and Shawn Walters who will receive the Department of the Interior Medal of Valor, tomorrow in Washington DC. Shawn is currently a captain on H510 out of Chester, LNF and Dan works out of R-6.

The Valor Award, established in 1957, recognizes an employee's demonstration of unusual courage involving a high degree of personal risk in the face of danger. The heroic act or rescue performed does not have to be related to the nominee's official duties nor occur at their official duty station.

Here is basic information regarding the rescue:

Just before dusk on June 2nd, 2002, Yosemite Valley rangers received a report of a significant rock fall and subsequent shouts for help coming from the Direct North Buttress route on Middle Cathedral. Using a spotting scope and a PA system, rangers were able to determine that 33-year-old John Kurth of Durango, Colorado had been caught in the rock fall and that he was suffering from neck pain and a possible shoulder dislocation and fractured elbow. Due to the loose rock in the area and the difficult position of the climbing party at the base of a long chimney, it was decided that it would be safest to wait until morning to begin the rescue effort. Kurth's climbing partner held his arm in traction throughout the night as they bivvied on a sloping ledge without overnight gear about 1700 feet above the Valley floor. The following morning, rangers John Dill, Dave Horne, Greg Lawler and Ed Visnovske and fire helitack personnel Dan Gleason and Shawn Walters rappelled from the park helicopter to a spire about 300 feet above the injured climber. Horne was then lowered to Kurth. Working in a tight area with an abundance of loose rocks, the rescue team raised Horne and Kurth to the top of the spire. From there, Horne and Kurth were short-hauled under the park helicopter to El Capitan Meadow near the base of the wall. Kurth was taken by park ambulance to the Yosemite Medical Clinic, then flown by air ambulance to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. After the victim was evacuated, the remaining rescuers and Kurth's partner were all short-hauled to the meadow. In the aftermath of the recent climbing incidents on Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood, media interest was extremely high. The park's Media Relations Office conducted over 30 press interviews, and the Sacramento ABC affiliate station's helicopter filmed the short haul. The news footage was shown on ABC stations and on Good Morning America as "The Picture of the Day." Kurth and his partner, Casey Shaw, have about 37 years of climbing experience between them. According to Shaw, Kurth's climbing helmet saved his life. [Todd Bruno, IC/PR, YOSE, 6/4/2002]

Fire Mom

Nice. Ab.

5/12Safety Info:

Subject: No change in policy regarding use of PPE at Incident Bases

A couple of questions have recently surfaced regarding use of PPE by
non-fireline qualified personnel at Incident Bases.

There has been no change in policy regarding this. Non-fireline personnel
are not required to have and wear PPE at incident bases.

If you are aware of any individuals that have been misinformed on this
topic please share this information with them.

5/12I see there will be an announcement for fire positions that ends May 27th for a
R-5 July hire?? This is nuts. By the time these folks are notified of a potential job,
move to their hiring location, get trained and become part of and integrated
functional fire suppression module, it will be FIRE SEASON 2009!

Oh Yeah, and Mark will be gone. ( and a few others I hope).

Cal Fire opens fire season today 5-12-08 in R-5 with 24 hour staffing. They can
act as cover at 3X the price.

5/12KCK said:

The largest acreage gains occurred at night... burning in alignment with the wind (downslope).... but out of alignment with slope... towards the community.

I was on this fire too.
Actually since two forces, that of sunlight and slope were out of alignment with the wind…
And during the day all forces were in alignment (full sun, steep slope, upslope wind)…
But the acreage growth was greater when the forces were NOT in alignment.
How does the CPS account for this and many fires behavior on the coastal plain in spring time or at night?
Behave + can account for this behavior by accounting for the effect of Live Fuel moisture and wind vector.


5/11Here are some shots of the new CA OES engines, these are off the same contract
as the CALFIRE Model 34. The first five go in service this month, 3 to San Diego
(San Diego City, Escondido, Oceanside) and 2 to Riverside .


Thanks, I put them on Engines 20 photo page. Ab.

5/11Does anyone have any info or insight regarding TOS and the next R5 FIREHIRE. I'm planning
on going back to R5 in the next round. Without a TOS it will be more difficult. Any info would
be awesome.

Also, any word on recruitment bonuses in the next round? A bonus might be good for getting
some new blood in there from another region. I'm sure the region is getting tired of robbing Peter
to pay Paul and dishing out a TOS along with it.


TOS= Transfer of Station

5/11I just wanted to acknowledge my wife of 17 years for her unwavering support of me while I have been a wildland firefighter.

Every year she assumes her rightful place as Incident Commander of the home and family ( 3 kids, 2 grandkids ) to allow me to focus on my personal safety and for those that I am responsible for. I would not be who and what I am today without her.

She is my confidant, advisor, friend and sounding board. Most of all she is my wife and mother of our children, and I love her for who she is and what she does to make me successful.

When I am gone I talk to her every day, looking forward to hearing her calming voice. She deals with issues at home, which are many, but never burdens me with trivial problems as she understands where my focus needs to be on assignment. I don't second guess her daily decisions.

I know she reads this board, to keep up with the issues that affect me. She is also a veteran, serving 2 of her 15 years with the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter.

I wish everyone had a Wife as great as mine on this Mothers Day.

Here's to all the great Wives and Mothers out there, Happy Mothers Day!


Salute to wives and mothers hotlist thread: www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=4174

Kern 408: Kern County Fire H-408 on a fire near Lake Isabella, 2007. Photo by Casey Christie. (TD0508)

Nice photo. I put it on Helicopters 23 photo page. Ab.
5/11Re: The Bailiff Fire and the Loss of Firefighter Frank Rios

Firefighter Frank Rios was from the Tohono O'odham Nation (formerly Papago Tribe) near Sells, Arizona.

He was part of a contingent of Southwest Native American firefighters to travel to Southern California during the fall siege of 1967 on the San Bernardino National Forest. He was one of two people killed by the Bailiff Fire.

With the exception of newspaper articles and limited factual accounts, very little is known about Frank Rios or the Bailiff Fire.

If anyone has additional info, please contact the Wildland Firefighter Foundation or the Forest service Honor Guard,

Here is what I posted on 2/9/2007 (and a link to 12/20/2006):



Re: Wildland Firefighter Frank Rios, Bailiff Fire, October 1967.

Through various means, I have been able to track Firefighter Rios' roots back to the Tohono O'odham Nation (Formerly known as the Papago Nation) in southern Arizona.

As many of you will remember, Firefighter Rios was fatally injured on the Bailiff Fire of 1967 and there is no written record or memorial dedicated for his service (See post on December 20, 2006).

In an effort to honor his sacrifice, several folks are working to gain additional information so that both he and his family can be properly honored and remembered through "stories" and remembrance.

Here are our simple goals:

1.) Firefighter Frank Rios' name added to the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial,
2.) Firefighter Frank Rios' name added to the California Fallen Firefighter Memorial,
3.) The family of Firefighter Frank Rios to obtain a statue from the Wildland Firefighter Foundation for their loss,
4.) That a written record documenting and honoring his sacrifice becomes available for lessons learned, and
5.) A local memorial is erected to honor his service and his family's loss where the story can be told.

Thank you to my CAL FIRE friends for getting me focused again.

5/11NIMO team ICs:

Portland- Tom Cable

Boise- Steve Gage

Phoenix- Jeff Whitney

Atlanta- George Custer

Area Commanders- Bob Anderson, Mike Lohrey, Tom Zimmerman, Loach

Thanks to those sending in info. Appreciate it. Ab.

5/11Could someone explain to me if we are going to DEMO straight 5's or not. I don't
need 5/6 positions filled, I need to keep my GS-5 slots filled because they promote
and/ or leave for other agencies faster than we can convert apprentices into those
slots. I don't get how the 5/6 helps the issue of having to stick to apprentices only
for senior firefighters.

5/11Re: Santa Anita Fire - Fire Behavior


I agree with you.

The two most active periods on the Santa Anita Fire were on the day of ignition (2000-0500) (story factually told by the IA/EA folks).... and the second day from 2100-0500 (story experienced by the incoming IIMT who listened, watched, and predicted).

During the upslope run on the first day, the fire ran out of momentum by hitting green grass, higher live fuel moistures, and a predominant fuels change from chamise (high dead to live ratio), buckwheat, and cheatgrass, to a more classic mixed chaparral stand with a broadleaf component (ceanothus, mountain mahogany, scrub oak, and manzanita). What is important though, is that the daytime "run" set the fire into alignment for an active night of fire behavior in the lighter fuels.

Th largest acreage gains occurred at night... burning in alignment with the wind (downslope).... but out of alignment with slope... towards the community.

5/11Re: The Mark Rey Miracle

Just for info these vacancy announcements do not exist in AVUE:

ADFMO Announcements

This may be a reason why no one is applying.

5/11Did anyone's mom encourage them to be wildland firefighters?

Mine did. She was quite a woman who thought girls could be athletes and could
compete. She loved the woods, hiking til her muscles burned. She knew girls were
smart and had some incredible staying powers working in the garden. She was a
stay at home on the farm mom, but she got me involved in many activities at home
and out there that gave me the KSAs important to firefighting and working on
disaster preparedness.

Here's to you Mom! No longer around, but still a major influence in my life! Glad
you lasted long enough to see me fighting fire in our original home state (OR).
Couldn't have done it without your support. I love you.

GA Peach

Today is Mothers Day! Ab.

5/11Today is the day (traditional start of fire season preparedness for R5) that Mark Rey said every position would be filled. Guess what,,,, Big lapse in promises over actions in the recruitment and retention of wildland firefighters that were promised to elected local, state, and federal officials..... AND THE PUBLIC.

MANY KEY ENTRY LEVEL, LEAD, and SUPERVISORY POSITIONS remain unfilled contrary to the Official Testimony of Mr. Rey. Note to Congressional Staffers: Run towards anyone who will let "the boss" know that once again, Mark Rey lied before Congress without being held accountable. This isn't a partisan politics issue, but rather an issue of incompetency of the mission.

Mark Rey lied to Congress again...... for the 6th consecutive year in Congressional testimony as to preparedness and actions of the Forest Service Fire Program!!!!! Facts are FACTS .

While it is a good step to bypass some of the requirements of the Apprenticeship Program in the recent program to support the mission , it is asinine to think folks off of the streets are going to be able to fill Senior Firefighter (GS-5) or Assistant Fire Engine Operator (GS-6) positions to save Mark Rey's a%s. EVEN THE FORESTRY TECHNICIAN SERIES has minimal qualifications for its firefighters, and with IFPM, there are ABSOLUTE standards of minimal qualification that can't be circumvented as to safety.

Most folks would go to jail for lying to Congress as Mr. Rey did in his statements and influence..... but after getting away with crap allowed by the USA (US Attorney) after the SA fiasco from the Southern Region of the Forest Service..... Things that both the Regional 8 Special Agent and Region 8 Patrol Commander both offered in sworn statements as facts to criminality were discounted.. Mr. Rey thinks he has a get out of jail free card... or a license to misuse pubic trust once again.

Yeah, I'm pissed. Every statement and observation can be confirmed factually.

5/10Our issues.

From the Campaign Trail in the great state of Oregon. In the spirit of fairness, I did try and find some information about McCain and our issues, I know he is involved since he's from Arizona, however apparently he's not in Oregon, yet.


Question to Obama:

What is your position on federal forest management and logging on federal lands?

The Register Guard 5/10:

Answer: My general philosophy is that we should not be afraid to tap our natural resources for economic growth as long as it’s done in an environmentally sustainable way: Protecting old-growth forests while looking at ways that we can potentially work with second-growth forests. That’s the kind of balance that we can strike. But the federal government has to listen to people on the ground. And what we can’t allow is our natural resources and the extraordinary beauty of Oregon to be degraded because of short-term thinking.

AP 5/8

Clinton's comments:

Clinton repeated portions of her Oregon Compact, saying she favored restoring federal payments to timber-dependent counties, and criticized Obama for voting for an energy bill that took away states' authority over siting liquefied natural gas terminals. She also called for thinning forests to provide jobs and reduce the danger of wildfire.
5/10Now this is what I would call good use of fire modeling.

NERON PROJECT: Firefighters safety in urban interface (Spain) (400K pdf file)

Does the US have a better example?


5/10Ab –

FYI, the Atlanta NIMO Team’s IC is George Custer now. If you go to their site,
they still have Joe Ferguson on their home page as IC, but if you go to their roster,
Custer is IC. Joe stepped down in December.

As always – thanks for running such a great site!

Information Diva

Hi Info Diva. I need to update the three teams pages. Type I Teams and Type II Teams and add or update Fire Use Teams. It's always a crap shoot for when I have time to do it and when I can find all the info on the web or from the community. If anyone has updated ICs, DPICs or team links, please let me know. I've blocked off Monday morning for the job. It may take all of Monday, usually does take longer than I think, we'll see.

Unless something really pressing comes up like breaking fires and working non-stop on the Hotlist, I plan to work on trying to catch up photos starting Tuesday. A request: Please try to send in only 3 photos max. Pick your best. The photos I typically don't get to are the 10 photo collections where I have to figure out which 3 to choose. Send in the first 3. If you think you have more that might be considered for the calendar or another one that you simply like a lot, please say so and we can work something out. The day of digital cameras has increased the photo contributions quite a bit.

Thanks contributors. You all make this website run as smoothly as it can, even if it is sometimes like herding cats with tales afire. Thanks for your excellent communication skills and for those that don't quite have them, thanks at least for trying! HAW HAW.

Be safe. Ab.


Firefighter Frank Rios (from this tribal Nation) died in the 1967 Bailiff Fire on the San Bernardino NF, CA.

Anyone with additional info for contact information for the family, please contact the WFF or the Forest Service Honor Guard.

Federal, state, tribal firefighters join to battle Baboquivari blaze
Arizona Daily Star

A wildfire is burning in the Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson.

The Solano Fire started Friday about seven miles south of Kitt Peak and was estimated yesterday afternoon at 200 acres, said Lorraine Buck, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management.

Cooler weather overnight and re...


5/10Mark Davis, NFFE


Did you see my post on 5/6 regarding the current Forest Service (ASC) processes violating DEU authority? Big problem. It is a great big ULP (Unfair Labor Practice) or MSPB (Merit Systems Protection Board) appeal problem in the future if the Forest Service doesn't correct it immediately.

ASC also took it a step forward on another issue when they sent out direction to the field that "they" (ASC) could ONLY approve the initial treatment of injured employees..... NOT the supervisor as codified by both statute (law) and by former agency policies for implementation of the statutes. These statutes (laws) are found under the US Department of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP).

It primarily affects your rank and file membership of NFFE who might be applying for jobs, or who might be injured in the performance of their jobs. I'm sure fire managers and supervisors, and line officers would like to be aware of the implications of an out of control ASC that is throwing grenades towards the field that even most Regional Foresters (Line Officers) are unaware of.

5/10Hi Ab,

In four days, two USFS wildland firefighters, Shawn Walters R-5 and
Daniel Gleason R-6, will be awarded the DOI gold medal of valor.
Both are former members of Yosemite Helitack, where they were
nominated for the award. They will be presented the medal in Washington
D.C. on may 13th.

It is great to see firefighters (forestry techs) getting an award like this.
Keep up the good work.


Congrats. Do you know the story behind the award?Ab.

5/10 www.cbstv2.com/Global/story.asp?S=8302056

Thought I'd share a link to the unveiling of the 'Esperanza Firefighter
Memorial Highway' sign in Banning...

Gloria Najera-Ayala
Engine 57 ~Always Remember~

Thanks Gloria. Ab.

5/10Re: Santa Anita Fire

Doug said:

"The fire stalling half way up a south-west aspect is a signature. The cause of the
fire slowing could have been a change in solar preheating of the fuel bed due to
smoke shading. Then you have 2 signatures on the same aspect. I have seen
this occur at times. What do you think may have caused the fire behavior
change? Maybe you could run FLAME or BEHAVE + to determine the cause?"

I was on this fire, and while the above may have had some influence, I believe it have more to do with the greener grass and possibly higher LFM as the elevation increased. When the fire had "momentum" it was able to climb the ridges, but at higher elevations where the grass was green, it could not sustain itself. As with any fire there were many more variables that I will not go into now.

I have thought in terms of a fire's momentum for years but am not smart enough to model it like Dr. Viejas.

I appreciate CPS for its utility on the ground, I also appreciate the other models for what they do. But, I always remember what an old FBAN told me years ago:

"All models are wrong; some are useful."


LFM=Live Fuel Moisture Ab.

5/9The Mark Rey Miracle

Lori, the dates you mention are correct. However the GS-5 you speak of is actually a GS-5/6 (see below). This 5/6 can be hired on all module types (Eng, Crews, WT and Helo).

Not much time, get your applications in.


Hoping to Pull Off the "Mark Rey Miracle".

May 2008

Applicants can apply to the following announcements until May 27, 2008, to be considered for the Region 5 July FireHire.

ENGINE Announcements

HOTSHOT Announcements

HANDCREW Announcements
ADS08-FSJOBS-Handcrew-07 G&DP

HELITACK Announcements

FUELS Announcements

DISPATCH Announcements

PREVENTION Announcements

ADFMO Announcements



Applicants can apply to the following announcements until June 16, 2008, to be considered for the Regional July FireHire.

DEVELOPMENTAL GS-05 Announcements
*This position is a target GS-06 grade level

Also note. Apprentices may be hired at the GS-5 level...................

To date thru May 27

May 08

May 27

May 28

June 16

June 17

June 23 thru July 3

July 7-18

June thru September











Focused outreach by Fire & Aviation Management, Forest Civil
Rights Officers, and HR Recruitment Specialists.
Opening date for qualified GS-05, developmental to target grade level
GS-06 announcement. This will include developmental requirements
for Assistant Fire Engine Operator, Helitak, Hotshot, and Hand Crew
Last day for employees/applicants to apply for positions GS-06 thru
Regional referral lists issued for each Fire vacancy announcement
GS-09 and below.
Closing date for qualified GS-05, developmental to target grade level
GS-06 announcement.
Regional referral lists issued for the developmental GS-06
Fire subject-matter experts meet to prepare referral list packages for
RST (up to two weeks).
Initial RST hiring session with two selecting officials for up to two
weeks, offers being made, HR process completed. Additional RST
hiring sessions will be set up based on Regional need during the
selection period.
Apprentice GS-0462-02/03/04/05 outreach and recruitment.
5/9Heads up!

Deadline for applications for the next round of Fire Hire is May 27. Also, they are
opening up GS-5 positions to everyone with a deadline of June 16th (I believe this
is what I read....it was a hit and miss morning). So, if you know someone that wants
to apply demo as a 5, let them know. I know that it will help out some folks around
here. If the date for the deadline of June 16th isn't correct, I will amend it on Monday

Have a great weekend all and if you're on a fire - BE SAFE!!!


5/9Don't quite understand what this means relative to fire, but thought I'd share it. GQP

From: WO-RO-Area Transformation
Sent: 05/10/2008 01:05 AM
To: All FS
Subject: Transformation Talk - May 5

Transformation Talk
with Hank, Joel and Tom
May 5, 2008

Since the April 8-9 National Leadership Team (NLT) meeting, Forest
Service leaders have talked with many of you regarding the NLT’s first
four topic area decisions as part of the WO/RO/Area Transformation.
More information about our strategic decisions for the
Vegetation/Ecological Services, Engineering, Minerals and Geology
Management, and Acquisition Management scenarios is available on the
Transformation internal Web site.

Decision Rationale and Next Steps

Our decisions for these scenarios address three key reasons for
organizational change:
· our need for more integrated organizational structures to accomplish
our mission and respond to the emerging issues of the 21st century,
· our need to be flexible, dynamic, and adaptable in responding to our
stakeholders, and
· our goal of increasing efficiency in light of declining budgets and
increasing fixed costs.

Yes, budget realities led us to address these concerns, however we chose
to embrace more than short-term budget goals. Our vision is to create
healthy organizational structures that promote long-term value and
benefits – to our employees, our partners and the public we serve. Now
we’re asking the tactical “what” and “how” questions. What are we going
to be doing differently? How will our work processes change so that we
can operate more efficiently within budget constraints? How will
employees be affected – in terms of how they work and their individual
positions? Bottom line, what cost reductions and other benefits will we

These questions are a critical part of the next step in the
transformation process – the “design phase” which will involve:
· a design analysis of each of the approved scenarios;
· identification and design of specific process improvements;
· identification of changes in roles and responsibilities and the way
work is accomplished; and
· analysis of implementation and transition costs
We’ll have more answers to the tactical questions posed above as we
complete the design analyses and begin making more decisions on how to
begin their implementation.

Some of you looked at our decision for the Vegetation/Ecological
Services scenario which integrates five staff areas and asked why we’re
not reducing the number of Director positions. Here’s why:

Ø Whether you're working for a federal agency or a private business,
you need your senior level leaders to maintain and grow relationships
with external contacts. These leaders proactively advocate and
strategize for expanding our support base. In a time of decreasing
budgets, we need the information flow between us, the Department,
Congress and our partners has never been so vital.

Stay Tuned…

Please stay tuned as we continue to work on other scenarios. Also,
please note that the ELT will be meeting July 22-24 to make additional
decisions regarding transformation.

If you had questions during the meetings over the last few weeks that
were not answered – or if you have questions as you review the materials
– please do not hesitate to submit them via the Web and we will respond
as soon as we are able to provide an accurate and timely answer.

The hard work and professionalism of Forest Service employees
contributes to our daily success. We appreciate your continued
interest, dedication and participation in helping us better deliver our
mission programs and services.

Hank, Joel & Tom

Hank Kashdan- Deputy Chief, Business Operations
Joel Holtrop, Deputy Chief, National Forest System
Tom Tidwell, Regional Forester, Region 1

5/9Some old wisdom

Thanks, old retired dude, from another old retired dude, Doug.

Watching a fire burn and asking the question,

  • "What is the fire telling me?" is a good start.

    One thing it is exhibiting is that it is burning with variations of intensity and rate of spread.
  • The next thing to find out is what is causing the variations?

    When you identify and isolate these causes for the variations, you then identify places on the terrain where the causes are aligned in a way to produce one of the variations.
  • Next, you need to communicate the prediction so that others see the method used to make the prediction.

    You only need to predict in thresholds. By that I mean what firefighters need to know is where it is safe and within the threshold of control and where and when the area will burn beyond the threshold of control. After a fire goes to crown firefighters do not get any benefit from computed flame length or rate of spread calculations, for the fire is beyond the threshold of control.
  • What I try to do is to identify these areas in front of the fire on a map, using trigger points of change in intensity etc, to in-alignment runs, the track the fire will take, and the first run perimeter.

All this from asking a simple question, "What is the fire telling you?"

What the fire did yesterday it might well repeat today given the causes are the same. One good example is the much talked about Butte fire. Noting crown fire runs on two days previous, is it logical to consider the potential for a third day crown fire run on the afternoon, below a constructed fire line atop a ridge with a SouthWest aspect below? "If it makes a run below your holding location, fire out from the ridge top" was the plan. Firing out would produce a backing fire under the timber and would no way inhibit a crown fire from below. How could this set of circumstantial evidence be missed by so many well trained people? I learned a lesson from this story, but did the bulk of firefighters who have heard the story of the Butte fire learn what they need to learn to avoid repeating the error?

Can students identify hazardous areas and avoid them after taking one of the courses titled Fire Behavior? It all goes back to what firefighters need to know, I suppose. Why can't we produce an IAP map with wind forecast direction arrows on it as well as in-alignment slopes identified by previous fire signatures displayed? Why can't we have maps with fire behavior potential displayed on them. Maybe because we don't think firefighters need to know these things.

Old fire dude, its good to know you're keeping in touch for you have much to give from your experience. How about a thread from the old fire farts that deals with what firefighters need to know?

To all, have a safe and prosperous fire season

My bold above. Good thread idea. After posting them here, I could start a thread on the hotlist and copy them over there so the knowledge offered is all in one place. Here it is: Old Wisdom Thread. Ab.

5/9Old retired dude

You hit the nail on the head about taking the classroom info and applying it in the real world. As your experience in the fire business accumulates, when you take future classes the info seems more relevant.

Many years ago I finally went to S- 490 presented in Ione, the Cal-Fire training center. The class was about 60/40 FS-CDF.

Many of the people in this class were long term firefighters. Ten or more years for most. Many of us were not that educated on the HP-90 computer used to predict spread and intensities.

Most of us stayed up late each night studying the material. The day we took our final exam the cadre leader listed the spread of grades among the class pool.

We were the first class that had a %100 passing rate that he had ever taught and he had been teaching S-490 for some time.

Most of us had years of watching fire behavior and I know for me, and talking to others we used that real world knowledge to figure out the "black box" even if we weren't the most computer savvy folks in the field.


5/9For several days I have been reading the ongoing discussion or however one wishes to view it on the new S-290 vs CPS in relation to fire behavior training. I have taught many classes of the old S-290 and am awaiting delivery of the new version for future offerings. I have not been fortunate enough to attend a CPS class, however I have spent time on fires where Doug was the FBA and have learned the basics of CPS in one on one discussions with him over the years. Having said that, I have incorporated some of the CPS basics into S-290 classes when the information fits and clarifies the discussion so that the students understand it.

The thing that disturbs me the most is that there appears to be a thought process not only in fire behavior training but in all fire training that a person attends the class and they "know" the subject. Seldom have I heard any discussion with students that classroom training simply provides you the basics. You learn it by applying what you learned in the classroom out in the field WATCHING fire behavior. Module leaders need to take every opportunity to be the teacher for their crews. When your sitting on the ridgetop, road or any other place, take the opportunity to have the crew watch fire behavior and not be sleeping, writing in journals and playing hackisack. Seeing the real thing and discussing it is how you LEARN the lesson taught in the classroom.

Old retired dude

5/9Never Forget BLACK TUESDAY,

You asked,

"So I ask you what's the end game here?"

The end game is an improvement in the pay, benefits, and working conditions for federal wildland firefighters. As a result, the recruitment and retention of qualified wildland firefighters, and the retention of qualified wildland fire, fuels, and aviation managers will be stabilized. This stabilization will result in a safer, more cost effective, and more efficient delivery of the federal wildland fire program.

You also asked,

"What comes out of the the pay group in your opinion?"

Time will tell, but I do have hope with the new regional leadership if he provides oversight and demands factual info from the subsaffs. During the 1991 initial SoCal Special Salary Rate Request, and the subsequent 2001 review and update (Table 0256, OPM, 2001-2008), FWFSA members and supporters were allowed to research, compile the data, fact check, and present the findings to the Agency, OPM, and OMB as to the need.... and to address the underlying cost savings..... and DEFEND the presentation. As a result, during those reviews, the exodus was slowed.

Hopefully, with the new leadership in R-5, the employee association members of the FWFSA will be viewed as partners and not excluded in the groups hoping to get Region 5 of the Forest Service, and the national wildland fire program back on track.

What I do believe is that if we had our current Regional Forester (Moore) and our previous R-5 Fire Director (Quintanar) in place, there would be a full understanding.. and a positive course towards correction.... of the problems we face in the recruitment and retention of federal wildland firefighters.

If folks ever get serious, we eventually have to look at the root problem of duties, classification, and compensation within our fire program..... The duties and responsibilities of series 0462, 0455, 0401, or the dozen or so other series afforded "firefighter retirement" that never had a proper classification series.

/s/ Kenneth Kempter
Southern California Chapter Director
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
5/9Fire Behavior/modeling in S-290


I have noticed the large volume of posts relating to fire behavior courses and modeling tools and thought I may as well throw my two bits in for what its worth.

I would like to share a "philosophy" so to speak that several highly respected leaders in the fire community, (some retired and some not) have come up with and applied over the years to the S-390/290 curriculum in Northern California. I can share with you that in my opinion there is a definite place for some type of modeling in the "old" and now "new" S-290 curriculum. Should it be CPS, FLAME, Nomo's, or Appendix B? We'll come back to that thought!

It is no secret that the last version of 290 was a watered down 390, and I would prefer to leave the can of worms that is the re-write process alone as far as this message is concerned. It is no secret that NWCG courses are designed to be strengthened and encourage instructors to enhance the package and make it their own. How many times have you sat through an S-course and had an instructor read word for word from the slide (and these days the PowerPoint)?

Both old and new 290's were broken down (basically) into the fire environment, fuels, weather, and topography. Nomograms or predictions was an optional unit that based on my observations not many cadre wanted to touch. After all who would admit to wanting to or even enjoy teaching Nomograms? Several folks who are way smarter than me decided to keep that optional unit in the lineup because they were able to see thru the haze to the value of that crazy piece of paper with boxes, lines and numbers on it. The thinking was then as it is now, we spend almost an entire week talking about the inputs to the fire spread model, (fuel model, slope, wind speed, fine dead fuel moisture/live fuel moisture, etc). Why not take it that one last step and show students the outputs they could get after plugging them into some model like the Nomo, and appendix B. For some people this is what is needed to paint the picture in their heads and make a slide. For others it served to create confusion, especially the nomogram.

I believe the same can be said for other models and processors. Some work for folks better than others it just depends on the person teaching and the person taking it in. I can tell you that the appendix B and Nomogram worked for me (I don’t use nomos anymore). I believe I get what I need to out of them to help get myself and the people I work with home for the holidays. Like many others, I am still unsure how FLAME is going to fit in to the 290 world. I have high hopes for it because despite knowing darn well that no matter how hard I look I am not going to find that one "special thing" that will keep firefighters from paying the ultimate price, maybe FLAME will serve to be part of that "special thing" for someone out there who is new and in need of the slide it will provide. If it can serve to help just one person make the right call it is worth it in my opinion. I have a hard time believing that there are many out there who could disagree with the intent, and that is to make safer firefighters and crew bosses.

As I said I am still struggling to find how this new tool can/will fit into my world. I can assure you that I will afford all the energy and time I can and not simply shrug it off or sweep it away because it represents change. It may be that I will use a combination of multiple processors or tools as I continue to teach fire behavior, and as long as I don’t forget that the most valuable and important processor sits on top of my shoulders I should be alright! Now who can argue with that?

I must say that I am happy in a way to see all this debate over fire behavior related topics. Just when I thought all eyes were permanently fixed upon retention, pay, facilities, etc. I am encouraged by all of you who are keeping at least one eye where it should be as this season of record setting dryness (here in NorCal) spools up.

Take care........


Ab, Thank you for your time and the work you do here. Like so many others I truly appreciate it. (don’t know why I haven't written till now) Don’t quite know how to go about posting on they said. If you think my words are worth pasting over there please go ahead.

DH, thanks for bringing your viewpoint. Hope you'll write in again. Ab.


Glad you and your people were able to get some face time with the RF.
Thanks for the update. So I ask you what's the end game here? What
comes out of the the pay group in your opinion? Your thoughts with
specifics as to pay would be appreciated.

5/8I.C.s (of every type):
As the season starts to ramp up, please remember to keep the safety of each and every firefighter under your purview at the forefront of your mind.

Please remember that while you have a delegation of authority with the benefiting agency, you have a responsibility to support the firefighters assigned to your incident. Valid concerns of firefighters and incident personnel getting the run-around for supplies, sleeping areas placed next to generators, food that barely meets contractual standards (if at all), and many, many more are way too common these days. I ask you to remember what it was like. If you have never fought fire, ask someone who has or does. Spend some time on the line with the crews, if at all possible. Take the opportunity to sit with firefighters at chow, see how they are doing. ASK how they are doing. And then LISTEN, and help any way you can. A suggestion box is never enough...

One more request:
Can we turn the ICS chart 180 degrees, so the firefighters are at the top of the page, supported by all of the overhead, with the IC as the foundation? Just a thought.

5/8To all:

Senator Feinstein's office has informed me they have received the Forest Service's response to the Senator's April 9th letter but have not yet completed a full review of the information. Once they do they will make it available. Upon our review of the Forest Service response, we will submit to the Senator and others the field data we have been compiling over the last several weeks.

More to follow.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
5/8Como Fire burning approximately 17 mi east of Carson City, NV and approximately 7 mi south and east of Dayton, NV. Appx 100 acres and growing.

Hotlist thread: www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=4145

5/8More on copyright and CPS or Fire Signature Prediction Method:

FC180 comment: I believe “Solid Terrain Modeling” is also a
trade name and the “idea” is copyright protected.

Doug reply: What are you saying? So someone invents a new product and
you are worried about copyright? Buy it if you like it and don't buy if you don't.

FC180 comment: And those things are VERY expensive.

Doug reply: About $500.00 per sq, ft.

FC180 comment: And not necessarily a new idea. Remember
the plastic Vac-U-Form (probably copyright protected too)
topographic maps? The ones I have are made by Hubbard

Doug reply: If that is what you like, keep buying them. Are they copyright
protected too?

FC180 comment: By the way on the recent Santa Anita Fire the
fire stalled halfway up the slope on a south-west aspect in mid
day. Is that a signature?

Doug reply: Here's Solid Terrain models : www.stm-usa.com/. I have used the
plastic relief maps also, but check out the website above for all the information.

The fire stalling half way up a south-west aspect is a signature. The cause of the
fire slowing could have been a change in solar preheating of the fuel bed due to
smoke shading. Then you have 2 signatures on the same aspect. I have seen
this occur at times. What do you think may have caused the fire behavior
change? Maybe you could run FLAME or BEHAVE + to determine the cause?

I hope this helps you.

5/8from the hotlist: www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?p=18688


Assembling this discussion (CPS/FLAME) into a single thread is very helpful. It's the kind of discussion this subject needs. I took Mr. Campbell's course about six years ago, and have incorporated its sense and wisdom into my fire work. I hope to persuade my superiors to offer it again to a new batch of firefighters with my home unit soon. I have not yet had a chance to work through in detail on the use of FLAME, though I read the materials offered by Mr. Bishop and others enough to have a sense of it. I see real value in it as well, especially in the way it addresses the geometric expansion of ROS during blowup. This seems to me to fit well in general terms with the research Dr. Viejas has reported from Portugal on eruptive fire behavior.

I understand, I think, the motives of those who inserted FLAME into S-290. They wanted to give crew bosses some tools to take more direct charge of their own understanding of current and expected fire behavior at the most critical moments. From the discussions on this subject, it isn't clear to me yet what the intended audience thinks of the plan. Is it something they asked for? If not, then that may be the reason for much of the PUSH BACK. We don't like new stuff. That's no reason not to offer it, though.

CPS is a valuable tool, but I think Mr. Campbell is absolutely correct to insist that the entire course be offered as a stand-alone event, rather than incorporated piecemeal into existing S courses. There is so much of value in it that to dilute any part of it by blending with other objectives would be detrimental.

I understand the attitudes of those who would wish it otherwise, but there is enough of the observation/ experience-based knowledge of other researchers to provide valuable knowledge to those taking S290 to fill the needs of students. Perhaps a mistake made in the design of the new 290 was to put too much information in the hands of students for one course. Perhaps it was to misunderstand what level of information the students themselves were comfortable understanding. The value to me in the making the progression from 190 through 490 over time was that I had time to assimilate one level before proceeding the next one. Any curriculum that has fire modeling at its core should be directed at those who are expecting it, hard as it is. FLAME itself has three layers of detail, and maybe it would be better to expose students to those layers separately, just as in fire behavior, S390 introduced us to the principle of nomograms with the knowledge that we wouldn't have to actually think about them much unless we were geeky enough to choose to do that.

Each of the processes that are being discussed here are visualization tools. Attempts to help firefighters see in their mind's eye what will, may or is likely to happen to their fire, and give them a fighting chance to act correctly to mitigate all risks associated with their assignments. The intent of each process is the clarity and precision with which that vision can be communicated to subordinates. On the line, CPS has the advantage of expressing itself in a language that firefighters can understand without having to think in complex terms.

I do see great value in using FLAME as a more sensible field calculation system when dealing with rapid changes in burning conditions. Probably at the Strike Team or Div Sup level, though.

Thanks again for pulling all this together.



I emailed the folks in charge of the SJ reunion and and asked them to
pass along the posts to Tom Decker. Hopefully, we'll get a story from
him that way. If not, I've tracked down a snail addy for him and will
send him a letter.


5/8Copyrights and CPS:

I believe “Solid Terrain Modeling” is also a trade name and the “idea” is
copyright protected. And those things are VERY expensive. And not
necessarily a new idea. Remember the plastic Vac-U-Form (probably
copyright protected too) topographic maps? The ones I have are made
by Hubbard Scientific.

By the way on the recent Santa Anita Fire the fire stalled halfway up the
slope on a south-west aspect in mid day. Is that a signature?



I loved your story and can definitely remember the days of "free love". I was growing up in the Bay Ar ea during that time and a trip to Haight-Ashbury was a real treat.e were some interesting sights!

However, the show I was watching was filmed in the early 60's so the fire he was talking about had to of occurred much earlier than 1970. I am hoping that someone who knows Tom will see his name being bantered around and will get in touch with him. I would love to hear the story from him first hand.

Gee, will all these X rated stories.... no wonder John loved being a wildland firefighter! ;-)


5/8To PB regarding his comments on 5/6 on PLI:

I do agree with you about professional liability insurance for wildland firefighters and supervisory personnel. I don't know one way or another if insurance companies are stalking firefighters, But your point about sovereign immunity is well spoken and well taken. I am an EMT as well as a firefighter and I HAVE to have it.

Regarding negligence, it should be mentioned that the definition of gross negligence and what proofs are needed vary from state to state.

5/8This came in:

Highway dedicated to fallen Esperanza firefighters Friday

State Highway 243 will be officially dedicated as the Esperanza Firefighters Memorial Highway in a special ceremony Friday.

State Assemblyman John J. Benoit will speak at the dedication, set for 10 a.m. at the Silent Valley RV Club in the small mountain community of Poppet Flats. That's near where five U.S. Forest Service firefighters based in Idyllwild were overrun by the Esperanza wildfire on Oct. 26, 2006. Four died at the scene; the fifth five days later.

more at the link


DID YOU KNOW: You can pay your health insurance premiums on a tax-free basis? A provision in the 2006 Pension Protection Act makes it possible for retired "public safety officers" to request that up to $3000 from their annual pension be deducted to pay medical insurance and long-term insurance. The IRS defines public safety officers as firefighters, law enforcement officers, chaplains and members of a rescue squad or ambulance crew.

The pension law applies to both CSRS & FERS. Retired federal public safety officers whose pensions include a direct payment to a health insurance company or long-term care insurance company may claim a tax exclusion on their federal tax form and lower their federal income tax.

Below is the information from IRS Publication 721:

Distributions Used To Pay Insurance Premiums for Public Safety Officers

If you are an eligible retired public safety officer (law enforcement officer, firefighter, chaplain, or member of a rescue squad or ambulance crew), you can elect to exclude from income distributions made from an eligible retirement plan that are used to pay the premiums for accident or health insurance or long-term care insurance. The premiums can be for coverage for you, your spouse, or dependents. The distribution must be made directly from the plan to the insurance provider. You can exclude from income the smaller of the amount of the insurance premiums or $3,000. You can only make this election for amounts that would otherwise be included in your income. The amount excluded from your income cannot be used to claim a medical expense deduction.

For this purpose, an eligible retirement plan is a governmental plan that is:

* A qualified trust,
* A section 403(a) plan,
* A section 403(b) annuity, or
* A section 457(b) plan.

The CSRS and FERS are considered eligible retirement plans.

How to report. If you make this election, reduce the otherwise taxable amount of your annuity by the amount excluded. The taxable annuity shown on Form CSA 1099R does not reflect this exclusion. Report your total distributions on Form 1040, line 16a; Form 1040A, line 12a; or Form 1040NR, line 17a. Report the taxable amount on Form 1040, line 16b; Form 1040A, line 12b; or Form 1040NR, line 17b. Enter “PSO” next to the appropriate line on which you report the taxable amount.

Casey Judd
Business Manager


I think the "X-Rated" fire you refer to was very near the town of Takilma back in '70 and believe it was called the "Moonlight Dome" fire. It had a large population of "Hippies" and they were definitely Free Spirits when it came to dress code. If I remember right, Al Bersagleari (sp) was the "Fire Boss". He was an ex CJ jumper working on the Illinois Valley RD. There were jumpers from CJ on the fire by the time I got there, but at the time I did not know any of them. (I rookied in '73). The IA was performed by the Takilmanites with various tools, including pots and pans. Once the FS was on scene, the locals were pulled off the line. One of the folks showed up nude and apparently got a bit close to the flames and some of his hair was on fire. (Story from Al goes that it was not the hair on his head either.) Al had the guy stand out in the open and put a bambie bucket drop on him.

The District Ranger at that time was John Hoffman. He had been brought in to help with relations between the Takilma folks and the Cave Junction folks. There were several businesses in town that had signs in the windows "We do not socialite Hippy business". Hoffman ordered up a pickup load of boxed chicken dinners and drinks (including beer) and had it taken to the fire. I was in the pickup that hauled the garbage back to the ranger station and can remember seeing beer cans flying out the back every so often. (That was also back in the days when it was deemed okay to stop at the local tavern on the way home from a fire to "Rehydrate".)

I believe it was after this fire that some training was put into the Takelmanites and a fire tool cache was established out there. This was before fire shelters, nomex and plastic hardhats. (Remember orange fire shirts?)

I started with the FS in 1970 and this was the second or third fire I went to after "Guard School". I remember thinking this firefighting could prove interesting.

For those of you that recognize the terms "Fire Boss" & "Guard School", and fought fire in Frisko's, orange fire shirts, and metal hardhats, you could be REALLY OLD!! Bet you can even remember those old canvas FS backpacks with leather straps you used to haul your gear in to project fires before the red gearbags came along! And if you were a Crew Boss or overhead, you took your paperwork with you in one of the canvas/leather strap briefcases? I still have the orange fire shirt, metal hardhat, packpack and briefcase around here somewhere.

(1970? That was along time ago!)

5/8Thanks for your reply Doug.

You asked, "What is my personal roadblock?"

My roadblock is my complete understanding that your concepts should be taught at the entry level, and expanded upon throughout ones career as experience levels (and RPD slides) change.

For years, it has been obvious that we should be concentrating on fire behavior training and experience for field going employees, rather than concentrating on S-290, S-390, S-490, and S-590 programs that are highly dependent on mathematical fire models that rarely can be recreated in a real world setting. Yeah, it's easy to teach and grade a math class, but was it relevant to fire behavior?

My personal opinion, as well as many others throughout the fire program, is that we need a revamping or refocusing on fire behavior as a basic skill for wildland firefighters..... NOT fire modeling.

We need to return to the days of Fire Behavior Specialists (experts/practitioners of fire behavior prediction) instead of Fire Behavior Analysts. Ab had an excellent point..... maybe there should be two different paths?

Doug, I caught your reference to pages 10-11. I agree.

5/8Thanks Happy Cow -- for some reason the Fam link I had in my favorites
just wasn't working right any more.

Still Out There ...

We had a Q&A with the new Regional Forester for Region 5 (Randy Moore) on our local district.

I was impressed and pleased to see how in touch and educated on the issues he was (although he did have some bunk info from his current and former subordinate sub-staff). I was really impressed, especially when he fired back towards folks who were venting out of frustration in describing their current situation..... and he offered facts and hope. That was leadership.

While I didn't agree with some of the things he said, he was sincere. For the first time in over ten years, we finally have a Regional Forester that can communicate with the field and who is willing to engage and communicate with the field on the issues affecting mission delivery.

The only advice I could offer is: 1) Embrace and engage the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association (FWFSA). The FWFSA is an employee association with members from GS-2 through GS-14; 2) Check and verify information provided by your sub-staff before you present it as facts to the field; and 3) Kick your Regional Fire Director is the a$$ to get re-engaged with the Region 5 Fire Board of Directors and with the troops in the field. Good info and facts are presented upwards to the LOT by the BOD Without an engaged Regional Fire Director, you are missing alot of factual info from the fire program.

I was pleased to hear you read They Said... It is a great communication tool in the wildland fire community. Thanks Ab(s).

/s/ Kenneth Kempter
Southern California Chapter Director
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
5/8From Firescribe:

Good story about creative problem solving, people stepping up,
and generosity of the fire family/ persistent retired law enforcement
officer. Photos of those who died.

Small (Colorado) fire company regroups after loss

A bridge collapse last month during a devastating brush fire took the lives of two firefighters and destroyed one of tiny Olney Springs' three firetrucks.

But since the tragedy, four men have joined the volunteer fire department in the southeastern Colorado town of 300, nearly doubling the size of the unit.

And Fred McKnight, a volunteer firefighter from Ouray County, coaxed a California fire department into donating a fire tanker to Olney Springs, which has a fire budget of only about $4,000 a year.

5/8Re: Home Storage of Fire and Law Enforcement Vehicles

It is time to put this discussion to bed and end the misinformation that keeps
re-circulating at the highest levels (WO and RO). The home storage of law
enforcement or fire vehicles IS NOT a taxable fringe benefit under IRS
regulations (below).

Feel free to save (cut and paste) the information for the next time the issue
comes up.

Rogue Rivers


26 C.F.R. § 1.274-5T - Internal Revenue Code.

(k) Exceptions for qualified nonpersonal use vehicles-(1) In general. The substantiation requirements of section 274(d) and this section do not apply to any qualified nonpersonal use vehicle (as defined in paragraph (k)(2) of this section).

(2) Qualified nonpersonal use vehicle-(i) In general. For purposes of section 274(d) and this section, the term qualified nonpersonal use vehicle means any vehicle which, by reason of its nature (i.e., design), is not likely to be used more than a de minimis amount for personal purposes.

(ii) List of vehicles. Vehicles which are qualified nonpersonal use vehicles include the following-

   (A) Clearly marked police and fire vehicles (as defined and to the extent provided in paragraph (k)(3) of this section),

(3) Clearly marked police or fire vehicles. A police or fire vehicle is a vehicle, owned or leased by a governmental unit, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, that is required to be used for commuting by a police officer or fire fighter who, when not on a regular shift, is on call at all times, provided that any personal use (other than commuting) of the vehicle outside the limit of the police officer's arrest powers or the fire fighter's obligation to respond to an emergency is prohibited by such governmental unit. A police or fire vehicle is clearly marked if, through painted insignia or words, it is readily apparent that the vehicle is a police or fire vehicle. A marking on a license plate is not a clear marking for purposes of this paragraph (k).
5/8Re: NFDRS Pocket Cards


Why are the following areas missing?

Angeles National Forest
California Desert District (BLM)
San Bernardino National Forest
Yosemite National Park
All FWS Areas
All BIA Areas
All CAL FIRE Areas
All Contract County Areas

After the Thirtymile Fire abatement items and checklists, and the unilateral
stressed importance of pocket cards in keeping folks safer by the review
board, it would appear that there is a big swath of So. Zone that isn't safe
to fight fire in?

5/7GS-0401 Fire Management Specialist update


In going through the documents on the GS-0401 issue, I discovered a mistake
in my earlier post. It appears that the commitment for agency funding to
purchase NWCG courses retroactively is limited to the Forest Service. The
April 25 USDA/USDOI Update states, "For the Forest Service - where
agreements are in place, agencies will pay for any past credits when they
are creditable toward GS-0401 Fire Management Specialist standards through
October 1, 2010." While we are pleased to have achieved this for the
employees we represent, we also feel all wildland firefighters should have
the same opportunity.

Also, to answer a question that's come up: In subsequent discussions with
agency leadership, we were told that this was intended to apply to
incumbents, not necessarily to folks whose next logical position would be a
GS-0401 position. We will continue to work for a legislative solution that
renders this point moot by restoring the standing of in-house courses, and
also internally with the agency to extend the same offer to non-incumbents
who have also been harmed by the mid-stream change in rules.

Mark Davis, Chair
NFFE Forest Service Council Legislative Committee

5/7Mellie -

No one figured out his secret - they barely understood what he did! The closest one person
got was when he was asked if, when he got stuck in the tree, his pants came off. I wonder if
Tom has ever seen that old clip. I must give kudos to the host of the show - he named the
agency correctly and spoke of how brave the men and women who protect our forests are!

Of course, we all know that, right?


5/7Still Out There....

There is a website for pocketcards. http://fam.nwcg.gov/fam-web/ Just click on the
left side, on pocketcards. I'm not sure where you are going, but I just checked this
site and it is working. Hope this is what you're looking for.

Happy California Cow
5/7Lori and Weren't those the days...

I went to the SJ website and looked on their '07 Boise Reunion list.
Thomas Decker is listed on the R4 Idaho City '64 SJ crew (that crew
has dates from 1948-1968). Someone should email him and ask
him to write in and tell his story here and also tell the "I've Got a
Secret Story". Did anyone figure out his secret, Lori?


5/7Ab and All

Can anyone recall the X-Rated fire outside of Takilma OR in SW Oregon
(behind Greyback Mountain). That fire was on or butted up to one of the
oldest nudist back-to-the-earth communes and occurred in that time frame.
Don't remember a SJ Tom Decker on that fire, but could of been. The Cave
Junction SJs were there fighting fire with greatly heightened Situational
Awareness of more than just fire behavior!

I could add that fire to my "Just One More Time" list.

Weren't those the days...

Just One More Time thread. Ab.

5/7I saw something last night on tv that made me laugh and I thought it might strike you folks as funny also. Last night was one of my "no sleep" nights and I decided to watch The Game Show Network and catch a couple of the old series from the late 50's, early 60's. One of these was "I've Got A Secret". A young man came out and introduced himself. He said that he was attending a seminary and was also a smokejumper during the summer. First he had to explain what a smokejumper was and believe me, those people were clueless!

His secret was that on his very first jump, he landed in the middle of a nudist colony. Now, how many of you can top that story?!?

This young man's name was Tom Decker and he was from Emmett, Idaho. I was wondering if anyone out there knows Tom or was on this smokejumping crew?


I heard that occurred in Oregon (Cave Junction SJs ? and that the people there were fighting fire naked. Ouch?) Readers, any more info? Ab.

5/7Replies to KCK from Doug Campbell:

KCK: Doug, You said, "CPS addresses important things that fire models do not factor into the calculations".

You then went into describing things that SHOULD be taught in the basic I and S courses.. but provided a caveat that they shouldn't be taught "in any existing course".

Doug's Answer:
I am not criticizing the content of any S-course.
I was talking about having the entire course squished into an existing course which
would cut a lot out of the presentation. I did not mean to suggest that some of
the subject matter should not be included in S-courses because it has already
happened. I just happen to think that cherry picking CPS training apart is not
my preference. Linking human factors and observation/prediction skills is
important in that without the right mission and vision, ethics, the training does
not result in the same approach to firefighting.

KCK: Doug, you mentioned both Will and Drew..... how about trusting the rest of of us?

Doug: I will trust all who have an interest in taking the CPS course and doing the
work that it takes to be able to present the concepts properly.

KCK: It is a real small world we travel in...... Some of us really hate roadblocks and wrong
turns when we are finally heading in the right direction.... Your call my friend and mentor.

Doug: I do not want to be a roadblock. Some folks have assumed that since I have a
copyright on the book that this is a block. If some want to make it a roadblock
I guess they can, but I did not foresee my work constrained by copyright.
I have offered to share the graphics with Germany for instance if they would
take my stories out and replace them with theirs.

I have spent thousands of my funds to publish the book and workbook, as has
Bill Teie, for instance: his book has been purchased by many departments.
While I was still employed by the FS I asked the WO to assist me in creating this
course. I was asked to provide an overview for them to look over. I spent
$1,500.00 on the printing of the paper. This resulted in no assistance from
the agency and forced me to develop the course on my own and at my own

KCK: I'm really confused on your message.

Doug: What is your personal road block? How are you confused?
I hope my reply helps you understand what my opinion is and that I do not want CPS
to contest another course of study that exists, nor do I wish that CPS replace
any NWCG course. I am not in a contest with FLAME, BEHAVE, FARSITE or any
other fire behavior course. If some agency wants the training, I can help them
achieve it by either myself or others. The Forest Service already has the course
material and does training, such as Redding Hotshots each year; as well as in
Colorado Fire Camp, Los Angeles County Fire department and more.
I think that you made some assumptions beyond my meaning.

Best regards

Doug says anyone can call him to discuss any confusions.

From my perspective, perhaps the real question is: What is the purpose of the S-190, 290 etc classes, which in my opinion point toward fire behavior modeling, unless the current FLAME inclusion in 290 serves only a simulation training kind of function?

Doug's class helps firefighters on the ground make observations and predictions of the fire from their observations of fire on the ground where they are. To large extent, historically, the other classes were devoid of training on observational skills. Like Tim, I would ask trainers (and trainees) what their more recent experience is. Perhaps there should be two paths with different purposes since fire modeling and on-the-ground fire prediction are both critically important. Just a thought. Ab.

5/7Ran across an article relating to accident
investigations and Freedom of Information Act.

"The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco (9th Cir.)
reached an unsettling conclusion last week when it
allowed the names of 23 federal employees to be
withheld after they were investigated following the
death of two U.S. Forest Service firefighters in July

rest of article
www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/newopinions.nsf/. . .openelement

And There I Was

You said, "CPS addresses important things that fire models do not factor into the calculations".

You then went into describing things that SHOULD be taught in the basic I and S courses.. but provided a caveat that they shouldn't be taught "in any existing course".
  • Trigger Points of fire behavior change and or decision points in time and place.
  • Situational awareness of the fire ground getting worse or easing, a crucial need to know in spotfire and many other tactical situations.
  • The alignment of force concept, true cause and affect factors.
  • The ground truth of fire signatures and how to make predictions of change from observed fire behavior.
  • Ethics of a firefighter, human factor information.
  • The threshold of control determination that assist the firefighter in making a decision as to where the suppression forces can succeed tactically.
  • Using Solid terrain models that are new technology and actual fire situations as well as applying the lesson to solving fire problems are utilized. How to describe a wildland fire and predict variations in behavior over time, on the terrain.
  • How to display fire behavior potential extremes on terrain maps.
Doug, you mentioned both Will and Drew..... how about trusting the rest of of us?

It is a real small world we travel in...... Some of us really hate roadblocks and wrong turns when we are finally heading in the right direction.... Your call my friend and mentor.

I'm really confused on your message.

5/7I've been updating my fire links and have not been able to get into the Pocket Cards
for fire behavior. I usually download the cards on my way out the door to an incident.
Have these gone away for some reason or is there a computer glitch somewhere?


Still Out There ...

5/7The argument of pay-- it is as old as overtime, hazard pay and cost of living allowance (COLA). The Law changed in the federal registrar in June 2002, if you are at all familiar with that, I certainly was not until this new law came to light.

Bottom line: if you worked overtime in a COLA area after June 3, 2002 such as in Alaska as an federal employee like a hotshot, smokejumper or fire specialist you were under paid during record fire years as some employees worked hard or fires for over a 1000 hours. We are talking in the range of $4,000-$8,000 per average GS employee depending on GS scale and number of overtime ours worked.

The BLM agency discovered this enlightening fact during the spring of 2006. What good news they were going to back pay with interest there employees. Great so we thought, except the agency only saw fit to go back two years claiming that this is a “FLSA” back pay issue and that two (2) years is applicable rather that going six/four years to get those that were affected all monies that were underpaid.

Interesting since when I am over paid they go back six (6) years. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot WTF. This is wrong. The agency has made little effort informing current and past employees of this grossly negligent error that has cost them the hard working employees thousands of dollars $$$.

The National Weather Service has a union that represents them. They settled by going back two years calculating pay and then multiplying it by two to cover the four years that compensation was not provided.

I encourage fire personnel to inform others that may have been impacted by this to contact senator Murkowski’s office and voice concern. Her office has been most helpful and following this closely with OPM.

Step two to cover themselves they need to file a back pay claim with OPM.

There are a number of ways to do this like hire an attorney as I have. He is a good one in Boise and has represented many firefighters in the past mainly pertaining to retirement. He is competent with a high success rate of winning.

The other option is that on could file a claim themselves and there are instructions as how to do so on the OPM web site. This should be done before the statute of limitations is out which six years is coming June 3, 2008.

The calculation for monies owed is fairly simple:

1. Base (1.25) (Overtime hours worked) = monies should have been paid
2. Base (Overtime hours worked) = monies actually paid

Subtract line 2 from line 1 as to actual monies not paid to claim in your back pay claim to OPM.

There has been some positive movement legally and getting a claim in before June 3 of this year would save your statute of limitations.

Pull out your LES and OT books and get this done ASAP. For the rest of you out there save all records of pay such as SF-50’s, LES, OT books and position descriptions.

Good luck and buck a little bit when your are shoved around.

AK GS Firefighter "Wildland" and proud change the job series
5/6Quote from a post on They Said:

With regards to the first issue, I can say that the CPS was discussed as a possible inclusion into the 290 curriculum. To the best of my recollection, that consideration was short-lived due to proprietary/copyright/financial issues.

The CPS training program is used by many of the people whom I have taught the program to. Will Spyrison of the Los Angeles NF, River District and Andrew Smith of LA County Fire Department, are two of many, with the graphics furnished to them by myself. The only place that copyright issues are in play are the CPS books and Workbooks. I would gladly offer special consideration to overcome hesitation to adopt the course and material as I have done in Europe.

However, inclusion into any of the S-courses would not be my desire. CPS is not contesting fire modeling and should not be mixed in with current course material any more than its terms and concepts already have been. It is a small course that is based on old wisdom of successful firefighters.

CPS addresses important things that fire models do not factor into the calculations, such as:

Trigger Points of fire behavior change and or decision points in time and place.

Situational awareness of the fire ground getting worse or easing, a crucial need to know in spotfire and many other tactical situations.

The alignment of force concept, true cause and affect factors.

The ground truth of fire signatures and how to make predictions of change from observed fire behavior.

Ethics of a firefighter, human factor information.

The threshold of control determination that assist the firefighter in making a decision as to where the suppression forces can succeed tactically.

Using Solid terrain models that are new technology and actual fire situations as well as applying the lesson to solving fire problems are utilized. How to describe a wildland fire and predict variations in behavior over time, on the terrain.

How to display fire behavior potential extremes on terrain maps.

All of these subject matters are not part of fire modeling.

I therefore do not recommend, for what that may be worth, inclusion of CPS training in any existing course.

Doug Campbell

P.S. See page 10 & 11 for viability of fire modeling. FS Wildland Fire External R&D Peer Review, '07

5/6Lots of talk about liability insurance lately, this is a subject I know a little about.

First if it helps you sleep at night, buy the insurance; it is about $300 per year; if you are a Fed firefighter in a supervisory or manager role half the cost will be reimbursed.

Secondly, there will never be any sort of immunity. You may believe you are doing heroic work but blanket immunity could be a license to kill.

Police officers, Doctors and to a lesser degree Structural Firefighters have endured enough incidents involving the loss of life and subsequent charges to build a set of case law that defines negligence. In the wildland fire business there is no such case law. Additionally, these other professions have boards that assist in defining appropriate actions, again wildland fire does not have such an entity.

We all live under the cloud of negligence every day, we just don't think about it. If we are negligent, as defined by case law, then we may have to pay the price.

The plea agreement in the 30 mile case, as well as the results of Cramer begin to define the limits of negligence.

BTW if you buy the insurance, you have to have it when the incident occurs and still have it when the trail is over. If you are operating within the scope of your employment, you will be fine. The government has stepped in for employees in cases when it was clear they could have stepped aside. For what it is worth, I would find something else to worry about.

5/6Re: Forest Service Violating Delegated Examining Unit (DEU) Authority

Someone briefly touched on the problem the other day when they asked about 'where have
the 0462 jobs gone'. Since the Forest Service decided to centralize at ASC and outsource its
hiring to Avue Digital Services, it has consistently violated the terms of its DEU Authority.


Public Law 107-296, Chief Human Capital Officers Act of 2002, codified in Title 5 U.S.C. 1103 (c);
Title 5 U.S.C. 1104, "Delegation of authority for personnel management";
Title 5 U.S.C. 1402, "Authority and functions of agency Chief Human Capital Officers";
Title 5 U.S.C. 2301, "Merit system principles";
Title 5 U.S.C. 305, "Systematic agency review of operations";
Title 31 U.S.C. 1115, "Performance plans";
5 CFR Part 250, "Personnel management in agencies";
7 CFR Part 2.92, "Director, Office of Human Resources Management";
OMB Circular A-11 (2006), Sections 51.8, 85.1 and 85.3; and
Interagency Delegated Examining Agreement, DOA-1, dated August 29, 2000.
5/6I too have concerns about the 30 mile incident. One interesting comment that you made rings deep inside of me. It has to do with the fire command requesting/ ordering additional resources and the orders where not filled in a timely manor. From what I have observed in R6 over the past 10 or so years is that, that response is more common than uncommon. So many times I have heard through the grapevine (reliable one) that incidents requested various materials/ equipment/ personnel and the orders where not processed in a timely manor. I know I will step on some undeserving toes here but if you're one of those dispatchers that work hard, then no offense is meant towards you. My offense is meant for those that take time in processing orders.

I have one order here on my desk from last year. It states that the IC requested "x piece of equipment" at 07:00 on a Saturday, my dispatch received the order at 13:00 on Saturday, they, dispatch, where staffed this particular Saturday until 23:40hrs, I d id not get called from dispatch until 11:07 on Sunday. so, 1 hour to hit the road and a 7 hour drive later, we arrived at 20:00 hours. in the meantime property was damaged and destroyed. Could have lil 'ole me stopped that outcome??? Who knows? Could have we possibly reduced or prevented some of the damages? Well I am not sure, but we would have fought hard to protect the properties! The IC lost over 24 hours of use of " x piece of equipment". I would love for someone to look into ROSS to see what personnel and equipment was available to support the 30 mile incident during IA or even extended IA.

Many times I have gone by our dispatch, even on "heavy" days and they work at the same pace.... I know, one has to be thorough , but come on guys! Yes I do have more than one bone to pick with dispatch, but look AB I kept this note to one topic:) And that being efficiency!

R6 fireguy

I'm fairly sure ROSS wasn't widely in use in 2001. As I understand it, the kinks are still getting worked out of that program. Last year or year before some dispatchers were still doing the work by hand and transferring info into ROSS some time after the "crisis" when things slowed down. Ab.

5/6Re: Recruitment and Retention of Wildland Firefighters

In a effort to be competitive in the restaurant business, as well as being competitive in the recruitment of entry level employees and retaining future managers, In-N-Out Burger has raised its entry level wage to $10/hr. In addition to a competitive wage, In-N-Out offers its full-time employees:

1.) Flexible schedules to accommodate school and other activities.
2.) Paid vacations.
3.) Free meals.
4.) Comprehensive training.
5.) A 401k plan.
6.) A medical, dental, vision, life and travel insurance coverage package.

Burger is spreading throughout the Western United States due to a very simple business model.... focus on the mission.... recruit and retain the best employees... and provide the product to the consumers at the most cost effective price.

5/6Did Ellreese have a Trainee Crew Boss working with him that fateful day?
If you have ever taken someone out as your trainee you know it is a
balancing act. You want to stand back and let them try their wings, make
their own mistakes and learn what it feels like to make decisions affecting
others. The chain of command becomes muddled under those conditions. Was
there a moment when one of them said, "OK, I am the boss now." Or was it
more like a couple of cooks in the kitchen creating more chaos? Remember
this possibility during the current fire season if you have the opportunity
to train someone.

I also like the suggestion to "lawyer up" if you are questioned during an
investigation. Did Ellreese have a lawyer present when he made those
statements? I bet he was pretty disoriented and not thinking clearly. We
could all be charged with that after a long siege on the line, especially
with those conditions.

"White ash"
5/6Does anyone know if the Angora Burn Over (peer) report is ever going to
be released or is it just being brushed under the carpet? We are just about
a month shy from a year of the incident.

Just Wondering???
5/6 Misery Whip said,

"A dangerous precedent has now been set that could cause wildland firefighters
to view future investigations, FLAs, and APAs as witch hunts. Even self-reported
errors in AARs could be construed as admissions of personal fallibility or
character traits that could later be used against you in a court case. If personal
liability and jail time is what firefighters can expect for providing open and honest
testimony about accidents, how long do you think it will take before the well
dries up? The CAL FIRE response after Esperanza is probably a good indicator
of things to come."

Ellreese’s situation in the aftermath of that incident is bad enough; can you imagine
what "they" would have subjected poor Lotzi to (with Ellreese as the precedent you
refer to), right this moment, had he survived his crew?

I shudder at the thought.

(The Esperanza report made me weep. 'Nuff said.)

Peace... and be safe out there, everyone. Fire season has arrived already, and it's
going to be a doozie.

--Short Stuff

5/6Local Officials,

Please forward to fire personnel.

We have already made progress based on the NWCG courses front. Based on
Congressional pressure that was a direct result of our legislative work,
the IFPM deadline for conversion to GS-0401 Fire Management Specialist
positions has been pushed back to October of 2010. Further, the Forest
Service and DOI agencies have committed to reaching an agreement with a
university partner to obtain retroactive credit for incumbents (those in
401 positions or in 462 positions scheduled for conversion) and to pay the
necessary fees. It would not have happened without the tremendous response
from the field.

This is good progress, but it's not good enough. You may have heard that a
legislative remedy is "dead." I can assure you that NFFE was not sitting
at the table when that deal was struck and we have not signed off on it.
We will continue to work for an outright waiver. It makes no sense to use
limited training funds just to get documentation on a sheepskin instead of
an NWCG certificate. It makes no sense to leave those for whom a GS-0401
is their career path out in the cold. It makes no sense to have
second-class 401s -- those placed in their positions based on the old
qualification standards -- who cannot be promoted, lateraled, or even
detailed into other 401 positions. It makes no sense to diminish our
training capabilities by spending more money for training we can do better

For more information, including our continuing efforts on your behalf, see
our Fire webpage at www.nffe-fsc.org/Documents/IFPM/Fire_Index.phpl.
Recent developments and our analysis of them are on page 3 of the
Congressional Briefing paper.

Before signing off, I have to thank the many employees who responded to our
request for information from the front lines in only three days. The
magnitude of this response is what convinced a key Congressional staffer
and his boss to put this issue on the table at the April 1 Forest Service
budget hearing. This is what solidarity is all about. If we speak the
truth, and speak it loudly, we can be heard. This is what your union is
all about. It provides the framework within which this can happen. But it
only happens if we all step up to the plate.

Take care all -- and be safe.

Mark Davis, Chair
NFFE Forest Service Council Legislative Committee
5/6To Colorado Firefighter,

Gross negligence is voluntary disregard of the need to act in the way that a reasonable firefighter would act. It is conduct that is more than mere inadvertence, but it is still shy of being intentionally malicious. If negligence is being careless, then gross negligence is being REALLY careless. Think: careless to the point that it is almost impossible to believe the person didn't know what they were doing.

With all due respect to Nomad, I can't help but shake the feeling that well-meaning firefighter types are being played by the insurance industry on this one. I don't profess to give anyone advice in this area, but . . . private liability insurance for government employees acting within the scope of their employment? Really?

Sovereign immunity cuts a pretty wide swath through tort liability. My hunch is that most incidents serious enough to exceed the scope of that immunity will also void an insurance policy.

Just my two cents. Which are worth even less.

Take care,

5/6CA-CNF-Aguanga Rx lessons learned



Bit the Bullet…

I feel your pain…even from the State side of fire.

How many Oregon Department of Forestry fire personnel out there are concerned about
firefighter liability? Do you feel comfortable with the AG's opinion on the matter?

Can someone define "Gross Negligence" as it pertains to wildland firefighting?

Gross negligence is the intentional failure to perform a manifest duty in reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another. So, gross negligence consists of conscious and voluntary act or omission which is likely to result in grave injury when in face of clear and present danger of which alleged tortfeasor is aware. Apply this definition to anything you like as it pertains to wildland firefighting.


5/6 RE: 0462 jobs,

Ab, I don't know why there have been a lot of DOI 0462 jobs open lately (most that I've seen are 4- through 7-level positions too), but as someone who has watched USAJobs very closely for about 4 years now, I am reasonably sure the the DOI jobs are more obvious now because most of the USFS jobs are being flown on the big continuously open announcements. Before this year I'd see several USFS 0462 jobs a day, ranging from real forestry tech jobs in TSI or pre-sale type stuff to the district FMO level fire positions. Maybe that's the pattern you're seeing, or not. It's the pattern I'm seeing though. As I said a while back, it's difficult to know what positions are open in the Forest Service when you have to rely on outreaches instead of individual announcements like the DOI is doing.


Young and Taking a Guess in Region 1
"E704 could have been returned and worked through the night to pump out the spots. Additional engines and crews would have eliminated the hazard of a sleeping beast"

"but I find it strange that the resources weren't punched out and continued until the emergency was abated"

"Rather than focus on disengagement and other foolish concepts"

You sure assume a lot. Were you up in WA, during this incident? Do you know the availability of resources? I work for CalFire as well and we use the "foolish tactic" of disengagement all the time. Your post reeks of ego driven bravado which I would guess the administrators of this web site frown on and I am certain will cause you serious problems on the line.

5/6I just read the 5/5 post by CalFire re: 30 Mile. He hit the nail on the head. The safest fire is the one put out during initial attack. There is no substitute for rapid , aggressive I.A.

I have read all the reports, McLean's book, and walked the site. When I asked a member of the investigation team why I.A. consisted of 3 people in a pickup, the reply was "You're from Calif., aren't you?" (This was not a criticism; merely a statement that the culture of rapid, overwhelming I.A. may not be the norm everywhere.)

If the Forest was short of engines, why wasn’t a local govt. (structure) engine dispatched to supplement I.A.? With an unlimited water source next to the road, the deck gun from such an engine could have taken much of the heat out of this fire when still small.

I suspect there may not have been a history of this type of cooperation/ mutual aid between the Forest and Local Govt. If this was the case, have steps been taken to remedy this attitude?

CalFire (Ret.); now local govt. Volunteer

5/5If no one said "come off the rocks", why did the one female firefighter who was on the rocks --and went down to the road before the fire blew through-- decide to go down, thereby saving her own life? Just wondering. Ab.

I believe that Rebecca Welch made the decision for herself. As I understand it, she felt uncomfortable with the situation on the rock slide and left the rock slide without prompting. Shortly thereafter, she saved the two civilians by inviting them into her shelter. Correct me if I am wrong, but she was one of the leading proponents of seeing the report rewritten because of inaccuracies.

I have watched this website for a while and have not seen anyone ask what I consider to be the most important question, Why wasn't the fire put out immediately? Both the Entiat and NWR 6 crew supervisors / Incident commanders ordered additional resources, but did not receive them, or the resources came in piece meal, without support (i.e. Copters that can't dip from the Chewich River, pumps and handtools that did not work). This fire has always seemed strangely similar to the Storm King Mtn tragedy, not because of the terrain and fuels, but because of the complete lack of engagement of the senior leadership and lack of support from the organization.

Resources could have been released from the Libby South Fire to choke the 30 Mile Fire, before! the sun rose and the fire intensity increased exponentially. E704 could have been returned and worked through the night to pump out the spots. Additional engines and crews would have eliminated the hazard of a sleeping beast at the foot of steep slopes in thick fuel by putting it out.

Perhaps it is because I am from California; we have a large number of resources available, and use them, but I find it strange that the resources weren't punched out and continued until the emergency was abated. I would also like folks to consider the old adage that my dad taught me when I was young, "Playing with fire is dangerous." Fighting fire is an emergency and should be treated as an emergency. Hitting it hard will keep it small, and when the burning conditions are easy, fighting the fire aggressively will be easier in the long run.

Rather than focus on disengagement and other foolish concepts, I would encourage people to stay engaged, and put the fire out. Being engaged is not inherently unsafe; it eliminates the hazard. Being engaged means taking the most advantageous approach to firefighting, and eliminating the hazard.

Before anyone asks, I do work for Cal Fire.

Be Safe and PUT IT OUT!
5/5Dear Ab,

When I read the news release concerning the "deal" Ellreese received, I'm afraid to say that I was not at all surprised. History has demonstrated time and again that there will ALWAYS be blame assigned to SOMEONE. Blame doesn't adhere to agencies or chains of command and supervision... it is always an individual who must be impaled on the tip of the spear. A clear instance of scapegoating, or, picking the low hanging fruit on the tree. Let me summarize for you briefly a couple of historical precedents:

Pearl Harbor: The passage of time and intense research has revealed that there was plenty of culpability up the chain of command, right up to FDR. But it was the commander, Admiral Husband Kimmel who got sliced and diced because: (a) lots of asses to cover back at the Navy Dept., State Department, and the White House and (b) Public opinion wanted SOME ONE not something to blame.

The sinking of the USS Indianapolis in July of 1945: This sinking was so horrible (the survivors of the torpedoing were literally left to die for nine days in the water and many were attacked and eaten by sharks-because nobody back at Pearl bothered to check why the "Indy" was overdue) that the Navy left no stone unturned in their efforts to skewer the Captain, who survived the sinking. A new low in the fine art of the blame game occurred when Navy JAG called as a key witness the JAP SUB COMMANDER WHO SUNK THE "INDY" to testify that the ship was not on a zig-zag pattern at the time of the sinking. (Though finally absolved a number of years later, the captain committed suicide).

The lesson is clear, I think. If the poop hits the fan and you are on deck at the time, get lawyered up fast. I'm afraid Liability insurance is a must.

Here's an answer to "Confused Colorado Firefighter's" question as to a definition of "gross negligence:"

For an accusation of negligence to hold up in court, four specific elements must be present:
Duty, Breach of Duty, Damages, Causation.

Thus, four questions must be answered:
(1). Did Ellreese have a duty and what, specifically was it?
(2). Was there a demonstrable series of actions on the part of Ellreese that constituted a breach
of his legal duty to those under his command?
(3). What damages were incurred as a result of Ellreese's alleged breach of duty?
(4). This is the tough one: It must be proven that the actions, or lack thereof, by Ellreese actually
caused the damages being alleged.

Gross Negligence is basically negligence on steroids, to put it simply.

I hope this helps.


5/5I'm not sure which Ab keeps posting the rage about DOI agencies and 0462 jobs...Stop...remove foot from mouth.

DOI and for that matter any federal agency can use 0462 for primary firefighter positions. In fact, many, many DOI firefighters are under this series and have been for decades. The distinction is the fuel type in the area. Meaning mostly forest = 0462; mostly range = 0455. BLM hires many jobs as 0455 or 0462; NPS and USFWS hire mostly 0462. By no means is 0462 a "USFS Fire Series."


It's the one and only Ab, me. I'm commenting on a pattern that I have never seen in the jobs posted on the 0462 series, ie almost the entire first page of 0462 all being non FS jobs. Thanks for the clarification. I'd still like to know why the pattern exists. Ab.

5/5Misery Whip.

To answer your question

do the more outraged families realize that Ellreese going to jail may have a
negative impact on fire fighter safety?

No they don't. They see it as forcing a bunch of cowboys (not my term, I have
seen one of the families or Cantwell use that term) to behave more responsibly
expecting it might save some other parent from suffering the way they are. Remember,
their fire experience is limited to Thirty Mile and various sources of training materials.

If you look at fire fighting training material and the 10 and 18 with no fire experience,
fire suppression looks fairly black and white. The investigation report was pretty
black and white also. So in their minds, they can see no reason why Ellreese made
the decisions that he made

Unfortunately, I believe that Ellreese is also going to have to pay for mistakes that
the Agency made in the investigation and with how it was presented to the families.

Remember that PL 107 is an outgrowth from comments made about their loved
ones who died. PL 107 would not be around if the investigation would have at least
made an attempt cover the two potential scenarios: about if Ellreese did or didn't say
"come off the rocks". (Rather than conducting the investigation in complete secrecy,
if they had checked their conclusions or at least the controversial ones with the crew
members before going public with the report, imagine where we would be now.)

Hopefully the Agency will learn from its mistakes.

Big Smooth

If no one said "come off the rocks", why did the one female firefighter who was on the rocks --and went down to the road before the fire blew through-- decide to go down, thereby saving her own life? Just wondering. Ab.

5/5Bit the Bullet…

I feel your pain…even from the State side of fire.

How many Oregon Department of Forestry fire personnel out there are concerned about
firefighter liability? Do you feel comfortable with the AG's opinion on the matter?

Can someone define "Gross Negligence" as it pertains to wildland firefighting?

Confused State fire fighter
5/5The Jobs page Wildland Firefighter Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) & Series 0401 (Biologist) have been updated.

Again, let me ask why so many of the Series 0462 (forestry techs) are BLM jobs, which have largely been 0455 (range techs)? Same with 0401 (biologists); now that makes a bit more sense since DOI agencies had lead on that whole fiasco following Storm King and most of those that were FS offerings were frozen.

Take a look at the jobs pages. "Forestry techs" are being hired by BIA, BLM, NPS, FWS? This used to be a Forest Service firefighting job series at least in higher numbers than now. What's up? Or did DOI just figure out how to get positioned on the search engines? Or has the FS shot itself in the foot regarding the firefighting job market... Locally, in the past few months I've had 2 excellent young people ask why it's so hard to find FS firefighting jobs...


5/5 Confused

I think you answered your own question when you say your FMO and friends back HOME.
Good luck and stay safe.


5/5 To the R-3 BLM Engineer,

It is pretty much a "No-Brainer". Take the R-3 offer!! You are obviously not getting the support of your local management and in my opinion, (Amid the current atmosphere in the wildland fire service today), you have attempted to do right by your seasonals with little to no support from those above you. Not sure about the BLM organization chart, but where is your AFMO and FMO in all this? You should not base your decision on the national review at the end of the month. If you think a good review will change managements mind, I believe you will be sadly mistaken. It is interesting that with a national review coming up there is not more support from your management folks. I always felt a bad review was more a reflection on management (Lack of training and direction) than on the troops on the ground!

You mention "Perks". Those are usually short lived and can easily be taken away at managements whim. Sounds like you have an FMO back there you respect, and you mentioned friends. As you get older, you realize the true importance of friends. (Just ask Ellreese)


5/5 Confused and don’t know what to do:

I can hear the frustration in your post. Is it that management is setting you up for failure or are they actually setting you up for success? A lot depends on management styles. There are many different management styles.

Could management actually be allowing you to make decisions and be trying to mold you into that leadership role or hanging you out to dry? There are many supervisors that “micro manage” and many that are just too “lackadaisical”. Unfortunately it is difficult to find the perfect mix. I have found that the best leaders just don’t require much supervision. This is not to be confused with management and that is where the support needs to come from. Moving from the firefighter ranks to the Engine Captain ranks is a big step. I think there are too many reasons to determine why task books may or may not be certified at a certain time (fire type, quality of assignment, assignment length and location, policy etc). The role of a GS-7 Engineer and GS-8 Captain on a Type III engine is huge. Back when Region 5 upgraded these positions it was classified that these are very complex positions and required highly qualified and highly experienced people and would require minimal supervision. It might be that you are acting in the position as it was intended.

In this time of all the retention and recruitment problems I have to ask, is training and the allowance of additional training assignments being provided? There are many supervisors that just won’t allow people take assignments and this is hurting our organizations.

If it is information that you need don’t hesitate to use this forum.

Give it time…. Task books are very subjective and every manager wants to be assured that when they sign that final evaluator’s block, that you are ready to take everything that is dealt.

Happy Trails

5/4 Confused and don't know what to do.

I transferred to the BLM out here (Cali) last year and started at the same time with my captain, who has since left and gone off to bigger and better things, (which I don't blame him for). His leaving has made me acting supervisor of my crew. Since mid-March, we have been without a captain which has placed our engine out of service. My seasonals are now on, and I'm in the process of getting them their fire refresher, and 130/190, and doing other stuff in the process. I have received little or no help from management. There's been a lack of information sent to me in a timely manner. Right now I'm doing my best, with thanks to my crew from R-3 who taught me well. But right now, I have to make a decision.

I have been offered to lateral back home to R-3 BLM. I would like to stay in Cali, I've gotten used to the area, we have a new engine, I like being on a T-3, along with the other perks that I can't do back in R-3. But when your engine is out of service because you have no captain, and you have your engine boss/ crew boss task book completed and it just needs the final signature, you turn it in, only for it to be given back to you and told that you have not been in Cali long enough, and to wait until fall for a signature, that just brings down morale and makes one think. So for now, I will sign the R3 offer and fax it back. I still have a lot to do to get my folks prepared and get our ducks in a row, with our national review coming up at the end of the month. Then will see what comes after the review, if management well finally see that I'm not some dummy from R-3. If nothing changes after the review, then I will have no choice but to return to R-3.

So do I leave, and leave this crew without both an engineer and captain, or do I stay and let down my FMO and friends back home?

I am not sure at this point, only time well tell at the end of the month.

5/4 I have a sick feeling in my gut, because as a ICT4(T), it was recommended
to me that I purchase personal liability insurance. This recommendation came
from levels above, and it boiled down to trusting the agency to back our play.
I feel that I am very safe and observant in the duties that I perform, but the fact
of the matter is we can't control mother nature, or all people around us at all
times. I sometimes feel that I could take the fall for the incorrect actions of others,
and I know that if lawsuits followed, I would be left high and dry. It is going to
be a long season, and I pray that all stays safe, and that at the end we all come
home safe.

bit the bullet
5/4 I guess I'm kind of curious on what these new committees mean by short term
fixes to our facilities.

Why do we need ANOTHER committee to tell the region and the agency what
we've been telling them for years, OUR FACILITIES ARE DETERIORATING
AND THERE IS NO SHORT TERM FIX. I'm so tired of new committees
looking at the same old issues and nothing ever happening. If we are to maintain
a "budget neutral" fix then are we really going to see any changes or is this just
another resume builder for some of our out of touch higher ups. You know we
could flood the inboxes of the groups and let them know what we think but are
they going to listen is the real question.


5/4 Gizmo-

The information you provided about fire behavior modeling was excellent… thanks.

I just want to clear up the information about the European gentleman currently involved
in further development of a model. His name is Dr. Domingos Xavier Viegas, a Professor
at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. Here is a link to a presentation he made about
“Eruptive Fire Behaviour in Past Fatal Accidents” at the Safety Summit in Missoula in


Bill Gabbert
5/4 Firefighters and Firefighter Managers:

Have you seen the letter below? Have you been asked for comments on the facilities you work at
or manage? Have you been allowed to be a part of the discussion and provide input on this?

This is your Retention Facilities Work Group..... at work.

Demand to be heard! I would suggest you flood some inboxes about right now on your issues If you
think these Work Groups will be working for us for the next 10 years, your wrong. We would be
lucky if they're still in place 10 weeks from now.


While you're at it, take some photos/videos of the "facilities" and send them in if you like. Condition of facilities is one issue. There's no way to demonstrate the lack of facilities, but this lack is one of the big issues with retention and recruitment. Ab.

Date: April 29, 2008
Subject: Fire Facilities
To: Forest Supervisors and Directors

The Region has recently stood up four work groups to address key areas impacting the ability to perform our fire mission. These four groups include Pay and Retention, Mission, Workplace, and Facilities. With regard to the Facilities Work Group, headed by Ed Cole, they are currently developing options leading to an overall strategy to address Region 5 Fire Facility (including quarters) deficiencies, which impact the fire mission, and result in a negative impact on retention.

To most effectively and expeditiously identify needs and implement remedies in line with our projected needs, their efforts have been split into two parallel approaches; short-term, and long-term issues. The “short-term” issues are those which have a current, direct impact on the safety of personnel and/or are having a distinct negative impact on the ability to perform the current Fire Support mission. The long-term issues shall address those issues that are of strategic nature in terms of identifying the type, number, and location of fire support assets necessary, to successfully execute both the current, and projected regional fire support mission.

Addressing the short-term issues, they will commence by gathering data which accurately identifies short-term issues across the region, and develop a means to prioritize and rectify as soon as possible. To gather the short-term data, I am tasking each Forest Supervisor to ensure input in the following categories is provided in enclosure (1), as gathered from the appropriate members of your staff. These short term issues, as described above, should be limited in scope, with the ability to be rectified quickly with the appropriate resources, resulting in an immediate visible or quantifiable difference. Provide your input within two weeks directly to Ed Cole, or no later than May 12, 2008.

1. Health & Safety, i.e. FAD asbestos, water contamination, vermin/vector control,
electrical hazards, heating system failures, lack of weatherproof integrity, food
preparation & storage, etc.
2. Mission, i.e. communication system failures/inadequacies (phones, computers),
vehicle protection, exercise facilities, power generation, etc.

The input should consist of 3 prioritized items per category, include cost estimates utilizing “Means”, and draw upon data from recent safety inspections and INFRA, as well as staff input.

This information will then be categorized into common groupings. The group will also be looking at all available resources in order to rectify the short-term issues as quickly as possible. Future correspondence will outline the details regarding the approach and proposed remedies regarding the “long term” issues.

/s/ James M. Peña
Deputy Regional Forester

Enclosure: (1) Short-Term Prioritized Fire Facility Issues
cc: Edward Cole

Short-Term Prioritized Fire Facility Issues

Health & Safety


Q1: Do you have assigned facility site managers at each of the fire facilities to address day-to-day facility and housekeeping needs?
Yes____ No____

Q2: Do you have a published Forest policy addressing housekeeping at these facilities, and to hold personnel accountable in the event of facility damage beyond routine wear and tear?
Yes____ No____

5/4 Casey-

Thank you for your steadfast and resolute support for the firefighters around the country.
Like the climb up a steep ridge, you do it one foot at a time.

Your words about families and feelings really hit home. It is difficult to find meaning in
these tragic losses other then hurt and pain. Healing does not come in courtroom. Like
you, I wish peace for each member of the families who lost a loved one. Making the
journey to Idaho might be the first step in that process.


5/4 From the thread Converting Chains per Hour to Acres per Hour and modelling:

One of the biggest problems with mathematical modeling of fire behavior is the use of "constants" in an ever evolving equation.

Recently, two researchers (one from Europe and one from the US) began studying the variables that were left out of the Rothermel 1972 equation because they were too hard to quantify at the time.

From those two initial researchers, nearly two dozen scientists and practitioners of fire behavior world-wide have started to study (and try to explain) "momentum" or "exponential growth" to describe blow-up (eruptive growth) fire behavior.

While it may seem trivial, chains per hour vs. acres per hour cannot be properly calculated or discussed without fully announcing that there are known errors in every model, table, or job aid that folks are often relying upon for safety and decision making.

Case in point: Often, the Rothermel adapted equations used in Behave (et al) often over predict rates of spread in NFFL fuel model 4. Conversely, in several well documented tragedy fires (Europe, US, and Australia), the Rothermel model under predicted rates of spread more than ten fold.

Dr. D.X. Villegas (Europe) and Dr. Jo Ann Fites (US)... as well as countless other scientists and fire behavior practitioners are working on the problem. One of the first HSU capstone projects was able to recreate the observed rate of spread and acreage gain on a past fire (Louisiana, CA-BDF, 2002) and apply the research of Dr. Villegas and Dr. Fites in a real world, predictive services setting for wildland firefighter safety. It is just a baby step forward....... but if Forestry Technicians can grasp the concept and do the math.... go figure. It isn't rocket science..... it's Fire Science.

We can do better in keeping our folks safer.


5/4 Dear Ab,

Reading most of the comments about FLAME and CPS started me thinking of how to describe the differences between the two concepts. Most of the fire behavior models do not address the human factors that are responsible for distractions and loss of situational awareness. CPS begins with the ethics of a successful firefighter. This information comes from Hotshot crew leaders who have excellent safety records. What is their attitude and what are the ethics that guide them?

Knowing fire modeling or other methods of predicting fire behavior are not going to prevent fire behavior related accidents. Attitude and an ethical approach to suppression action are needed. Some have it and some don't and have paid a price for the lack of proper ethics. It shouldn't be separated from fire behavior training.
Realizing that a good mission and vision statement was necessary for successful long-term firefighting I included it into the CPS class.

Another difference is in the reliability of fire behavior models to make predictions that are relevant to the tactical actions on wildland fires. During my years as an Operations Section Chief and I.C. on initial attacks and large fires, calculating rate of spread and flame length were not useful to tacticians. What is needed are certain perimeter lines where the fire behavior, fuel density and steepness of slope are within the threshold of control for the resources available. Areas where there are reasonable expectations of successful suppression are identified and directly affect the tactical plan. The best guides that I have found over the years are the actual fire behavior signatures that are the ground truth. Understanding the cause of variations in fire behavior is the key to predicting where these causes will host replications of the variations in fire behavior (signatures).

CPS is designed for working firefighters based on experience in the field. It is a logical system focusing on what is useful and necessary to be a safer fire fighter.

The course outline is included here to help understand what CPS is all about.

Wildland Fire Signature Prediction Methods
8 to16 hour course

To present the elements of wildland fire experience
A segment of human factors, ethics and mission and vision of a firefighter.
How to use Logic, Information and Language on the fireground.
How to gain successful outcomes on wildland fires.

Students will pass the pre-test with less than 6 incorrect answers.
Students will participate in classroom discussions.

      Pre-class study guide.
·      Mission, Vision and the ethics of a successful firefighter, the human factors segment.
·      How fuels are really dried, how fast and how much.
·      How to describe a wildland fire and know if it is getting worse or easier.
·      Fire modeling and logic model uses
·      What to do when meeting a wildland fire
·      Scientific concepts, tools and applications
·      The alignment of forces concept.
·      Fire situation exercises using solid terrain models.
·      Course summary
·      Final test
·      Course evaluation

Submitted by
Doug Campbell

Thanks, Doug. I knew your program was considering firefighter ethics years ago. Visionary. Ab.

5/3 Misery Whip:

Well said. There is still a great deal of work to do on the firefighter liability issue. The Agencies will tout the expansion of PLI reimbursement as a major accomplishment but as we start the season, the responsibility of who actually will be covered has been handed over to Albuquerque, the hub of dysfunction. I am personally concerned that with frequent promotions due to losses of FEOs, captains, B/Cs, division chiefs and others, there will be some who are thrust into a command decision-making situation this season without knowing whether they are eligible for such reimbursement.

Additionally the reimbursement is apparently going to come from WFPR funds so how many preparedness resources will that mean are not in the field as they should be?

The reality is that we must continue to see that legislation that ultimately led to PL 107-203 is either clarified or amended to ensure a nexus does not exist between investigation and prosecution. Part of our legislative proposal is to amend PL 107-203 to require the USDA OIG to report to Congress precisely what policies/procedures are in place to train its investigators to be proficient and how they secure the expertise needed to conduct fatality fires as compared to cattle rustling. It is clear from the actions of OIG Investigator Parker in Thirty Mile and his "sniffing around" Esperanza that there simply aren't any standards for creating such an investigatory body as authorized by the law.

I do believe that, had the case gone to trial, there would have been overwhelming evidence & testimony to demonstrate that no firefighter goes to work on any given day, or responds to any given incident with the expectation or desire to harm themselves or their crew and that while firefighting is inherently dangerous and often times requires split-second decision making, the wildland fire landscape and the dynamics of such fires that are not confined to structures amplifies these dangers even more.

I truly don't want to inflame feelings about this issue but I think a realistic question for those family members that still want "blood" for the loss of their loved ones is: if your son or daughter was a firefighter for NYC on 9-11-01 and was one of the 343 who perished on that day inside the towers, would you seek prosecution and support manslaughter charges against the NYC fire department chief officers who sent crews into those towers even after they had been struck by large frame aircraft? Or, if your son or daughter were in Iraq and their squad leader made a decision to turn down a road which contained a buried bomb and killed your loved one, would you support prosecution and manslaughter charges against the squad boss for the decision he or she made?

I am of the firm belief that if any investigatory body had five years to look at the firefighting careers of all of us in the business, they could find something on some incident that made us look negligent. I am convinced everyone in this business, whether they be wildland firefighters or structural firefighters, go to work to do the best they can in stunningly difficult conditions and circumstances. While we all want to learn from each incident to try and reach the ultimate, yet perhaps unrealistic goal of no more firefighter fatalities, the firefighting community must band together when those, whose motives are political or questionable at best, seek to criminalize the best efforts of our brothers & sisters while engaged in some of the most dangerous work and under some of the most horrific circumstances anyone can face.

I can only hope that those families who may remain bitter about the deal cut for Ellreese reach out to Vicki Minor and the Foundation as well as the many families who come together each year at the Foundation for Family Day, this year happening the weekend of May 16th. There, the families of those lost in wildfires can share their stories and feelings and begin the healing process by realizing that so many other moms, dads, siblings and children have chosen to focus their feelings in positive ways.

For children of those lost, the event is especially important and Vicki & her staff do an incredible job of harnessing the feelings of all into positive messages and actions.



Although I was pleased to hear that prosecutors have dropped all felony charges against Ellreese in return for guilty pleas on two federal misdemeanor counts, I don’t think that celebrations or congratulations are appropriate. As I understand it, Ellreese could still face time in jail under this agreement.

A dangerous precedent has now been set that could cause wildland firefighters to view future investigations, FLAs, and APAs as witch hunts. Even self-reported errors in AARs could be construed as admissions of personal fallibility or character traits that could later be used against you in a court case. If personal liability and jail time is what firefighters can expect for providing open and honest testimony about accidents, how long do you think it will take before the well dries up? The CAL FIRE response after Esperanza is probably a good indicator of things to come.

James Reason says that in order to have a true safety culture in a large organization like the USFS, you must first foster a “reporting culture” in which people feel empowered to openly share information, which may include admissions of personal error, for the greater good of the organization. But before you can have a reporting culture, you must first establish a “just culture” in which people can feel confident that recorded statements about what they saw and did on the fireline will not be unfairly used against them.

All wildland firefighters are the losers in this case. We lose the ability to have open discourse about accidents and near misses, which diminishes our ability to learn and share lessons from these incidents, which makes all of us less safe.

In the years since Thirtymile, I have participated in dozens of wildland fire safety discussions in which someone has referenced some aspect of the Thirtymile Fire to illustrate a particular point. I would venture to say that it is likely that there are firefighters alive today because lessons they learned from the Thirtymile Fire helped keep them out of harm’s way.

It makes me sad to see that some of the Thirtymile families are still calling for Ellreese’s punishment. I wonder if they understand that if Ellreese goes to jail, more firefighters will quit sharing important lessons, the kind of lessons that could save future firefighters from experiencing what their children faced at Thirtymile.

I wonder too if the families realize how much the wildland fire community reveres the memories of their children, our fallen comrades. We also feel cheated because these fine young people didn’t get a chance to accomplish all of the great things we know they were capable of doing. Jessica, Devin, Tom, and Karen will remain alive in our memories for as long as firefighters fight fire. That lonely rockslide on the Chewuch River has become hallowed ground for us.

Misery Whip

5/3 Warhog Pin (Sting, Lobotomy, Warthog's Posts)

That's a picture of a Warthog Pin, alright. There's been 3 'Keepers of the Pins' over the years. The 'Keepers' give out the pins at fires when they work with folks who perform according to 'Warthog principles': SH$T Principle (as described in the earlier post), etc.......... Every once and awhile there will be a reunion for all Warthogs to come together and party (I didnt say 'celebrate'); most of these lately have been retirement gigs.

The flipside of the pin has your "official Warthog Number": The lower the number the longer you've been a "HOG"....... This is all stuff I've heard as I've never really met one of the Warthogs!

The Rambob

5/3 Ab,

The coin (photo) that Sting sent in looks just like a "challenge coin" that was used
by military units for years.... and in the Hotshot Community following the Vietnam
War. It has become a pretty common challenge item in the Hotshot world.

Recently, the "challenge coin" has had a resurgence in unit pride and significance,
past and present.

Those of you that have a coin.... You know when to drop it.

5/2 Catching up on some photos:

On the Engines 20 photo page and Handcrews 23 photo page:

Southern Fire 1 & 2: Photos from the Southern Fire, March 22-24, 2008. This was west of Phoenix near the City of Avondale, burning in the Gila River bottom. I believe the Phoenix Fire automatic aid system worked this as a second alarm brush on the 22nd, then turned it over to BLM and Arizona State Forestry. Units from the Central Arizona Wildland Response Team, other Arizona FDs, BLM, and Arizona Dept. of Corrections hand crews worked it on the 23 and 24th, contained at 200 acres. Photos compliments of Todd F. (0408)

AZ E-362: Photo of a crewmember from Arizona State Engine 362 on the Middle Fork Complex, Boise NF. August 2007. Photo compliments of AZfirefighter (TF0408)

5/2 GISgirl,

Thanks for the link to the map instructor guide! I am making the purchase!

The Mandarin and Navel analogy is fantastic! I am gonna steal that one from you! (you will get credit!)

While your end deals with the technical, geek "stuff" ... I find that the rest of us out there in the field deal on a day to day basis with more of the operational aspect of maps, gps units and lat longs, etc... In other word we don't always know how stuff works, just if we push the right buttons, stuff happens.

With that in mind, I have attached a great briefing / teaching paper written by the USFS R5 Regional Aviation Safety Officer a few years back regarding Latitude/Longitude formats and reporting... (112 K pdf file) We use it when we instruct folks in which format and why in their handheld gps units. Hopefully one day all will have this stuff down to avoid confusion.....


5/2 Krassel Crash article from JR:


Report renews questions about helicopter crash
Accident claimed the life of former valley resident, pilot Quin R. Stone

Express Staff Writer

A report released in March calls into question a prior conclusion citing pilot error as the cause of a August 2006 helicopter crash that claimed the life of a former Hulen Meadows man.

Quin R. Stone, 42, most recently of Emmett, was the pilot of the Eurocopter A Star 350 B-3 helicopter that went down Aug. 13, 2006, in the Payette National Forest during a fire-fighting mission. Stone, who grew up in the Hulen Meadows subdivision north of Ketchum, was killed along with firefighters Lillian Patten, 34, of Olympia, Wash.; Michael Gene Lewis, 37, of Cascade; and Monica Lee Zajanc, 27, of Boise.

An earlier report, questioned by Stone's friends and family, was released in June 2007 by the National Transportation Safety Board and claimed that intentional low-altitude flight was the cause of the helicopter crash that killed the crew.

The accident occurred about 18 miles west of the remote hamlet of Yellow Pine. Stone was flying the firefighters to the Krassel Guard Station in support of fire-fighting activities.

But in the new report released by David Rupert of R.J. Waldron & Co., a company based in British Columbia that investigates aircraft accidents, investigators claim the accident was actually caused by the loss of 5-gallon water containers and refuse from the right side of the helicopter's cargo basket. [more of this interesting article at the link]

5/2 Readers, yesterday we got an email from Aaron Long of Extreme Makeover -- Home Edition. Here's what he said:

My name is Aaron Long and I am writing from ABC's Extreme
Makeover: Home Edition. We are hoping to build a home for a
heroic firefighter in our upcoming season. I have attached a flyer
that includes the appropriate email address to send nominations.
Feel free to contact me with any questions. All family nominations
should be sent to:


Aaron Long
EMHE: Family Casting

I sent out a number of private email messages and made some phone calls, but evidently Aaron wants the message spread widely and posting it here is fine. If anyone has questions or clarifications, email and I will contact him with questions if appropriate.

Here's a link to the nomination FLYER.

If we can get a wildland firefighter family nominated, Extreme Makeover will highlight the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, which as Melissa and Burk say "would be AWESOME!" National TV exposure would help gain recognition for the work our WFF does every year in protecting our families in times of crisis. This alone would be a tremendous gift to our whole wildland firefighting community. Please share any and all ideas you have for nominees. We'll keep it behind the scenes. Ab.

5/2 GPS:

Technically (because I am a geek)

There are two things that influence your location on the earth as defined by a coordinate- the coordinate system used and the datum.

Let's take an orange as an example- so the whole orange is the earth.

Coordinate system- when you peel the peel off the orange and smoosh it on the table- the shape of how you smoosh it is the coordinate system. Examples are leaving it unsmooshed- geographic coordinate system (lat/long), smooshing it into a square- UTM (military based- universal transverse mercator), or in the state's version- Teale Albers.

Datum- the actual shape of the earth as defined by a mathematical model- so a mandarin orange is a different shape than a navel orange. So even if we smooshed them the same (coordinate system) after the smooshing they will be different b/c they started out a different shape.

California State organizations in 2006 were typically using the North American Datum (NAD) from 1927- the federal agencies tend to use the North American Datum from 1983 (something about better math :-P).

In California the difference between the two data points is typically approximately 100 meters. The closer you get to the center of the US the less the difference. If you go to Hawaii, it's about 400 meters I believe. This does not take into account if you are using two different projections -- locations from different projections need to be converted before comparison.

And there is more than you EVER wished to know about why the state is telling the feds something and because one is using NAD83 and the other is NAD27... well it just isn't the same place.

A dork who instructs on this stuff regularly,


p.s. and just for the record WGS84 (what all helicopter people tend to use) and NAD83 are so close mathematically that the difference is negligible.

p.p.s. for all those with kids, get the book "there's a map on my lap" it is the best- I use it to teach all my managers

5/2 For California First responders, EMT's and Paramedics:

The CA DMV is working with EMSA to create and implement a special license plate
to showcase the talents of hard working EMS professionals. You can get info on this
program at: www.ICEMA.net Looks to be a really cool program where the money
collected for the plates goes right back into training and EMS awareness. The plated
should be available soon, so check the site often.

5/2 GPS note that may relate to communication during a fire:

Forest Service standard is NAD83; use degrees, decimals, minutes.
Wildcad should be in NAD83.
CALFIRE uses Albers; this may be different from Nad83 by as much as 30 mi.

Got GPS?

5/2 In Response to Tim Chavez’s letter:

I think it’s great to see former federal firefighters that are now CAL-FIRE or Local Govt reaching out to politicians to let them know about the USFS retention issue. When I saw the first article in the local paper about the retention issue and the response from the USFS Chief I could not believe what I was reading. They (USFS Management) are so out of touch with what’s really going on. Tim, you have inspired me to compose my own message to Senator Feinstein. In it I will include stories of the screwed up things that go on in their pay structure and how a friend of mine was hit by a car while on duty working for the San Bernardino National Forest while working a wildland fire on the 15 freeway in the Cajon Pass and how the USFS did not consider this an occupational injury and required him to sue them to pay for his medical bills. He left a full time engineer job to go work as a seasonal with CDF because he knew he would be working for an organization that actually looked out for its employees a little. It’s not just the pay that’s screwed up over there.

Some of the best wildland experience I ever had was while working for the USFS as a hotshot. I loved the mission but fell out of love with an agency that I gave a 100% to but clearly could give a rat’s a$$ about me.

Andreas “AJ” Johansson
Corona Fire
private citizen
5/2 Photos from Michelle Reugebrink's WFF Fundraiser at the Roseville Baskin Robbins. The owners said they hadn't seen so many customers there ever. It was a party with Smokey and kids and Michelle, who was honored as the only wildland firefighter of 31 firefighter honorees chosen nationwide. Good to see FS supporters and their families and Michelle's family in the photos. Thanks, Michelle for supporting the WFF. Ab.
5/2 from the hotlist www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=4003 It's good to see professional discussion going on there.


I retired last June but I still A.D. and I still care.


5/2 hotshot75;

Sounds like you're still banging your head on the same wall (education, training, quals, ed for temps/seasonals, resource management valued above personnel and incident management, land management agencies unwilling to admit that they even employ FF's, etc) that ultimately caused me to take my 10 years of FS experience and go to the blue- shirts back in the mid 80's.

Some things have changed.

But the root problems remain.

Having jumped ship so long ago, I normally keep my mouth shut regarding Fed internal problems, policies, etc; but it's nice to see that it wasn't just me.

Best of luck. (I still believe you guys have the best WLF programs out there; the problem is it still seems to be driven from the bottom... ).

5/2 Hotlist thread with responses to Harbour's message. www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=4003

I would like to see this letter evaluated by the firefighters who visit this site to learn and offer their own insights on the issues that affect us all.

I'll start with the 4th paragraph:

All firefighters, especially leaders of firefighters, must be lifelong students of fire behavior and human behavior. In our dynamic, complex and hazardous environment, understanding both is critical to meeting our operational objectives safely. The Forest Service relies on the judgment of firefighters on-scene and we always will. Therefore, our focus must be on the training and development of our fireline leadership and continuous monitoring and critique of our actions. We recognize the weakness of ‘group think’ and encourage each other to use our individual reasoning along with our collective courage in every decision every day. We understand that true safety lies in embracing the lessons learned from our tragedies, near misses and success stories.

This is what we have been saying for years, Tom, welcome aboard.

To truly be students of fire and human behavior, we need to have the training that is relevant to these disciplines. The fire behavior part has been fairly competent but up to only a few years ago have we been give actual leadership courses and these don't even count toward any position qualifications, ie, GS-401 series positions, though they do count towards Red Card quals. Weird how that one works isn't it?

The way to fix this is to establish a Wildland Firefighter series and get rid of the antiquated Forestry Aid and Tech position classifications.

Establish which college courses are out there that fit a Firefighter classification. Leadership, Management, Emergency Personnel Management, Fire Officer, EMT and Paramedic courses and the like. They are already established but FS personnel get no credit for these because they don't equate to natural resource courses. I have had employees with 4 year degrees in Fire Services Administration that could only qualify for a GS-5 Senior Firefighter position because they had firefighter experience and worked on the family ranch. This is absurd.

If we wanted to be Foresters we would have gone to Forestry school. We want to be Fire Leaders and Managers so, we need to go to Fire Leader and Manager school. It's pretty simple. OPM will do whatever the Agencies ask them to do; they have no ownership in the GS Forestry Tech. series; they only care about the qualifications the FS and other agencies are requiring for whatever position is needed.

I am sure with the support of agency "leadership" colleges would be very happy to modify Emergency Management courses to better fit the need of those professional emergency responders who specialize in the area of Wildland and Urban Interface response, ie, Forestry Range Techs.

As far as the "lifelong students" part goes, we cannot send our TEMPS to training in the off season under the current personnel regs; we can't even sign them up as volunteers and pay for their room and board and courses.

Might want to fix that while you are at it.

It's time to "fish or cut bait".

Thread with Harbour's letter: www.wildlandfire.com/hotlist/showthread.php?t=4007 Ab.

5/1 To All & ms:

First to those that have ordered Black Tuesday wristbands...thanks. The work the FWFSA does is expensive and the only revenue we have is through our wonderful dues paying members. We have not yet looked at fund raisers to increase our working capitol and I am well overdue in seeking corporate sponsors.

As an example, an advertisement in the Rollcall newspaper that EVERYONE reads on Capitol Hill can be $5000 for a full page ad. That's a chuck of change. We are hoping to do some kind of ad in Rollcall when our legislation gets introduced so please buy up the initial order of wristbands for yourselves, family & friends so more can be ordered.

Regarding P&P, I don't get a lot of information out of the WO of the Forest Service. I know it seems odd but I don't think many there care too much about me or the FWFSA. However, the issue of P&P has been hammered on the WO, particularly its legislative affairs department by me personally as well as many in congress. There are a number of proposals in the works and its anyone's guess what the FS will roll out next. I guess anything is an improvement over nothing.

So I don't have any detailed information about specific efforts on P&P at this time. However those that are in a position to make change, both in the agencies and in Congress are well aware of the concept and its positive impact on many issues facing our firefighters. Obviously if something more definitive comes out we'll let folks know.

5/1 Response to Tom Harbour:

Understanding human factors is key.

Understanding fire behavior is key.

Both of these relate to firefighter training and experience and to the retention of our best trained and most experienced firefighters and dismissal or sidelining of those who don't make grade.

Most important, however, are cultural and organizational factors (predictable patterns inherent in the Forest Service or 4 DOI agencies) that may be causal of this accident or others. In my opinion, latent factors that must be addressed include

  • LINE  OFFICERS'  SUPERVISION of firefighters, even if only by exercising their "Commanders Intent" and managing the firefighting budget so as to put safety first regardless of political pressures.

If the Firefighting Agencies' cultural and organizational factors are not identified and mitigated, they're likely to enable another accident. Hopefully the new just culture / lessons learned approaches to accident analysis will foster our understanding of ALL THREE categories of factors leading to tragedy and all will be mitigated.

If it's predictable, it's preventable. Some things are more predictable than others.


5/1 Message from Tom Harbour, FS WO Fire Director about 30 Mile plea agreement.


U.S. Forest Service
Fire and Aviation Management

Message from the Director
May 1, 2008


Text below:

On April 29, 2008 the case USA v. Ellreese N. Daniels was legally settled with a plea agreement. Now we must personally resolve our own questions and issues related to the last seven years and the developments surrounding the Thirtymile Fire.

On July 10, 2001, four Forest Service wildland firefighters; Tom Craven, Karen FitzPatrick, Jessica Johnson and Devin Weaver died in the line of duty. To remember them always, we offer the highest form of respect that the Forest Service can pay to our fallen firefighters by embracing the painful lessons we learned from this tragedy and incorporating this learning into our every decision. By using the knowledge we gained, we better manage the risks and protect each other in the inherently dangerous world of wildland firefighting.

In 2006, the Chief of the Forest Service affirmed the foundational principles that are to guide all fire suppression efforts. The first principle describes our operational environment: “The Forest Service believes that no resource or facility is worth the loss of human life. We acknowledge that the wildland firefighting environment is dangerous because its complexity may make events and circumstances difficult or impossible to foresee. We will aggressively and continuously manage risks toward a goal of zero serious injuries or fatalities.”

All firefighters, especially leaders of firefighters, must be lifelong students of fire behavior and human behavior. In our dynamic, complex and hazardous environment, understanding both is critical to meeting our operational objectives safely. The Forest Service relies on the judgment of firefighters on-scene and we always will. Therefore, our focus must be on the training and development of our fireline leadership and continuous monitoring and critique of our actions. We recognize the weakness of ‘group think’ and encourage each other to use our individual reasoning along with our collective courage in every decision every day. We understand that true safety lies in embracing the lessons learned from our tragedies, near misses and success stories.

I want us, as unique individuals that comprise the whole firefighting community, to be personally resolved to offer the highest tribute we can pay to our fallen colleagues and friends by reading, learning, participating in, and teaching the lessons we have learned from our past.

Stay vigilant, watch over each other and be safe.

Tom Harbour, Director
Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management

5/1 April 30, 2008

Dear Ab (abercrombie@wildlandfire.com)

Here are a few things the wildland firefighting community may find of interest regarding the conclusion of the Government’s case against Ellreese Daniels, settled through a plea bargain agreement on April 29, 2008. In this agreement, the government dropped all felony charges against Ellreese. In return, Ellreese pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of making a false statement in official writing.

1) Please read online the Wenatchee World April 30, 2008 article “Plea Deal Reached In Thirtymile Fire Case – Manslaughter Charges Dropped”

2) Your readers may be interested in the status of the “Thirtymile Legal Defense and Employee Assistance Fund”. Our board of private citizens recently reactivated the fund at Cashmere Valley Bank in Leavenworth; to reimburse individuals’ expenses occurring as a result of any pretrial and court appearances (i.e. gas mileage to attend depositions, outside lawyer expenses, etc.). We encourage people associated with the court case, who do not have financial resources available; to send a request for reimbursement (include copies of receipts). Send requests to: Fund Administrator, Thirtymile Legal Defense and Employee Assistance Fund; 622 Cedar St., Leavenworth, WA 98826.

We will keep the fund active until Ellreese’s final sentencing in July 2008. After that time, as per our charter, we will send the unspent amounts to Wildland Firefighter Foundation in Boise, ID and/or to the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation in Emitsburg, MD. After that time, the 30-Mile Legal Defense Fund account will be closed.

We thank the wildland firefighting community, and the general public, for their generous support to this account over the past year. It has been very much appreciated by those who have needed the assistance.

FYI – here is the info from our February 2007 charter: "A legal defense and employee assistance fund has been established to provide financial support to Forest Service employees (current and former) who need assistance to respond to administrative and criminal charges resulting from Thirtymile fire."

Finally, we will never forget our four National Forest firefighters lost at Thirtymile: Tom Craven, Karen Fitzpatrick, Jessica Johnson, and Devin Weaver. Our hearts and prayers continue to go out to their family and their friends.


Heather A. Murphy
(Retired U.S.F.S.)
Private Citizen

Thanks for your good work, Heather. Thanks the other participants from all of us. Ab.

5/1 Photos of the Trigo Fire as it began a 5000 acre run. This on April 30 @ 1630 taken from I-25 just south of ABQ. There was so much dust in the air from the high winds that the photo is a bit washed out. That is the Rio Grande Bosque in the foreground.


Thanks Tim. I put them on the Fire 36 photo page and on the Trigo Fire hotlist thread. Ab

5/1 Reply to Sting...

Yes, Sting. The herd is thinning rapidly, but Warthogs can be found in
some surprising places, even the R-5 Regional Office. Wathogs make
S.H.I.T. happen - (S)afety; our number one focus. (H)appiness; keep the
troops happy, keep the bosses happy, have fun. (I)ntegrity; we do what we
say, and we do it well, every time. (T)actics; we learn, we train, we use
the best and smartest tactics to suppress the fire; and always keep our
people and ourselves out of harms way. That's why the "running Hog" on the
pin has LCES branded on its ham.

Share as you wish, but this hog prefers to stay

anonymous in my wallow, aka warthog

5/1 Ab,

I'm a free lance writer in Bellingham WA trying to put together a piece
on the aftermath of the Ellreese Daniels fiasco. From reading the headlines
at wildlandfire.com, I gather there's been a significant problem in recruiting
and more importantly, experienced firefighters leaving the Service.

What can you tell me about it? I like getting the views of the line people
or recent knowledgeable retirees rather than the company pitch from DC.

I'm also interested in following up on the budget cuts problem, referred to
on your home page. I've been talking with state DNR people who're worried
that their own wildland firefighting will be squeezed with the federal

You got a take on that? Any other contacts you could suggest?


Bob Simmons
Bellingham WA
(360) 752-0803

Any firefighter retirees or firefighter managers, groundpounders, etc who'd like to help Bob out? Ab.

5/1 Portal to Portal


What are you hearing about p to p? Any update? Rumors are that another
strong push is coming soon for it and support is going daily. Any thoughts?


5/1 Get your Black Tuesday wristbands. Support those seeking solutions to firefighter retention. Click the image link above. Ab.
5/1 Reply to me from Senator Feinstein.

Tim C

Dear Mr. Chavez:

Thank you for writing to me to share your concerns about U.S. Forest Service retention issues. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this important issue, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

Like you, I am troubled by the high attrition rate of Forest Service firefighters, particularly in California. The retention issues currently facing the Forest Service could reduce the number of available responders, damage morale and jeopardize the agency's firefighting mission. The lives and property of many Californians are also at stake. The retention issue must be promptly addressed to ensure that the Forest Service has an adequate and professional firefighting force.

On April 1, 2008, the Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mark Rey, and the Forest Service Chief, Gail Kimbell, appeared before me and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies to discuss the fiscal year 2009 Forest Service budget request and report on retention issues. I remain concerned that the Administration's budget is inadequate and would compromise firefighter readiness.

I also believe that the recent Forest Service report failed to acknowledge the serious challenges the agency faces in fully staffing its Southern California firefighting corps. As you may know, on April 10, 2008, I sent a letter to Undersecretary Rey and Chief Kimbell urging the development of a concrete retention plan that provides short-term and long-term solutions for filling critical firefighting vacancies and improves morale. Please know that I share your concern and will keep your thoughts in mind as I continue working to address the retention issues facing the U.S. Forest Service.

Again, thank you for writing. For your review, I have included the text of my letter to Undersecretary Rey and Chief Kimbell. If you have any additional questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841.

Best regards.

Diane Feinstein

I posted this letter earlier; if you want to read it, search the archives. Ab

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