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April, 2009

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4/30 Abs & All,

My deepest condolences to the families and friends of the crew of Tanker 42.

This has to stop. Frankly, I would rather give up being the recipient of another load of fixed-wing delivered retardant on any fire for which I am responsible for the duration of my fire career than to ever have to see yet another set of families ripped apart by the loss of their loved ones. It ain't worth it.

Based on our recent history, the current odds against surviving a year's work as an air tanker pilot in the US are somewhere around 20 to 1. No offense to the fine people who fly these aircraft, but that is beyond shameful. It is scandalous, and the federal land management agencies need to be held accountable. The price of retardant is just too damn high these days.

Mr. Quintanar,

Thanks for the link to the excellent report, The True Cost of Wildfire in the Western U.S. I hope other TheySaiders read this important paper. The WFLC is making many of the key points that Forest Service management seems to be missing in the recent dialogue about large fire management. The actual costs of large, long-term forest fires are much higher than just property damage, suppression costs, and rehab costs.

The logic of admitting that very large, long duration fires are a growing source of deadly threat to firefighters, and then committing our agency to a path that will guarantee many more years of very large, long duration fires, and presumably hundreds of more dead firefighters, eludes me.

I hope new Deputy Undersecretary Jay Jensen gets right to work and chops off some heads at the WO and ROs. I read in one account that he is a former firefighter from Socal. Anyone know if that is true? Might give us some leverage in future discussions to get the FS fire program back on a decent track.


Shifting gears. What is going on at the WFLLC these days? They recently added a load of new info (I'm sorry, but it smells like propaganda, and not even very polished propaganda) supporting Forest Service management's '.25% solution' campaign on their website, including talking points and flash cards (I'm not kidding!). I thought the LLC was supposed to be about sharing lessons learned, not being the trial balloon and shock troops for an untested and HIGHLY controversial new Forest Service fire management 'strategy.'

I'm sharing a link to a Lessons Learned Center (LLC) document that purports to be a guide for the new Forest Service fire management strategy.

Work Guide (1,649 K pdf)

Combined with the other supporting documents on the LLC website, this stuff has a bad feel to it. Is this an official FS document? Did firefighters write or even have a say in this? Did firefighters hatch this LLC PR program (sorry, but it looks pretty amateurish)? Have our partner land management agencies and the states weighed in on this? Are we going to have a fuels management program anymore (yes, we really do still have one but it is on life support in ICU). If you know the answers to any of these questions, please sound off.

As I understand it, starting this year we are going to let any forest fire -- that appears too dangerous to put firefighters next to -- run amok across the landscape and become large and well-established regardless of the location or time of year or fuel conditions because trends for firefighter fatalities on large, long duration fires are way up and because we need to reduce overstocked fuels on public lands because senior managers have failed to support and fund proper fuels management for decades and because we need to keep firefighters from being exposed to undue risks so now non-fire senior managers appointed by our chief will haggle with ICs over how many resources they are permitted to have on their fires because we don't want to use 'overwhelming force' or spend too much money on a non-profit producing enterprise but firefighters will practice good 'risk management' and everyone will be safe so we will all live happily ever after. And don't even think about asking to wrap structures any more. Clear enough?

What are the lessons we are supposed to learn from this stuff? If anyone can interpret what this 'work guide' is supposed to mean, please let the rest of us in on it. It looks like PC gibberish, bad assumptions, bad editing, and meaningless unconnected BS to me.

PS Please don't take this as a poke at the LLC folks. They have my utmost respect for what they have accomplished so far and for the work they continue to do for wildland firefighters. I suspect the instigators of this (ahem) information are'.. The Master Bean-counters.

Misery Whip

4/30 Ab,

Last year, Federal Employee Defense Services (FEDS) determined that personnel hired under the Pay Plan for Emergency Workers (AD Pay Plan) are considered “federal employees” for purposes of eligibility for benefits and membership in the FEDS professional liability insurance program. We have received several recent inquires from AD pay plan hires about their eligibility for liability insurance under the FEDS program so we thought this would be a good time to remind your readers that AD Plan personnel are eligible to purchase the FEDS professional liability insurance. We have attached a press release about the eligibility.

Very Truly Yours,

Anthony Vergnetti, President
Federal Employee Defense Services, Inc.
Phone: 301-229-2481

FEDS eligibility for ADs.

ADs, this is a "must have" if you're supervising others.
It may even be needed if you simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when something bad happens. Unfortunately, until we have a Just Culture in wildland fire, everyone working on fires who becomes connected with some accident has to pay thru the nose for a lawyer even if they're not guilty. As I heard one NPS LEO has said, "we have to have someone to prosecute".

Excuse my cynical comments, but FIREFIGHTERS, GET MOTIVATED: get off yer butts and get your Professional Liability Insurance. Tony's legal crew is the best. Hey, it's the best $270 you'll ever spend as an AD. (Other firefighters, if you work for the FS in a supervisory capacity they'll pick up half the tab.)

Switch from Wright and Co. Tony's FEDS people are the ones that made Wright & Co famous before they broke away and started FEDS.
JUST DO IT.  Ab.

4/30 Making the rounds. Sent in by several people. Ab.

Subject: Request for Comments on Draft Forest Service Crosscut Saw Operations Policy

Please share this information with your networks. Questions and responses can be sent directly to me. Thanks for participating in this review.

Crosscut Saw Operations Draft 4/15/09 (1281 K doc, 47 pages)

Gary Hoshide
Program Leader--Recreation, Safety, and Uniforms
USDA Forest Service, Technology and Development Center, Missoula (MTDC)
ghoshide @ nospam fs.fed.us

4/29 A couple interesting developments this week.

Two people or two different groups of people should be nominated for the bonehead decision of the week. Because of our terrible economy, I wont call for the resignations of these individuals, but it sure is tempting.

The first group are those who decided not to inform the people of New York City someone was going to fly a freaking 747, 1000 to 2000' AGL in and around the city. Talk about clueless.

The second is the individual or individuals who came up with and approved the brand new mnemonic for a Deputy Incident Commander Type I or Type II. Go figure.

Signed,

One who smiles rather than rages is always the stronger - Japanese proverb
or
If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it. ~Andy Rooney
or
2009 POSH Training is Now Available in Aglearn.....

HAW HAW. Ab.

4/29 Re Santa Maria CA reload base:

To all:

The recent Forest Service Press release regarding the changes to the Santa Maria reload base was so full of inaccuracies that were caught immediately, that the WO has sent new guidance down that all press releases, even at the field unit level, must now be shipped off to the WO prior to release so the Forest Service National Press Office can coordinate the release' clearance.

Nothing like a bit of old fashioned micro-management. Below is the text of the memo from Mary Elder, Acting Director of Communication for the WO

Fedwatcher II

~~~~
A couple of quick communications updates:

1. Effective immediately and until further notice, all press releases--including field unit level--must be cleared through the FS National Press Office prior to release. Please forward all proposed releases to Joe Walsh and Donna Drelick in the National Press Office, who will coordinate clearance on this end. We realize this adds another step to the information sharing process and will work to turn them around as quickly as possible. We appreciate your support.

2. Additional written guidance regarding communications activities is pending. We will share it as soon as we are able.

ME

Mary Elder
Acting Director of Communication
202-205-xxxx
mmelder @ nospam fs.fed.us

4/29 making the rounds:

Subject: swine flu & respirators/masks

A lot of talk going around about the wearing of dust masks or respirators to help keep from getting Swine flu. Even some RO messages coming out recommending it.

Folks considering this should first read this (and research it thoroughly by following all the different links).

masks

Next, if you choose to voluntarily wear a face mask or respirator at work, you need to read & sign the attached.

Please send me a copy of the signed form, as well as give one to your supervisor.

~~~~
The best thing you can do to avoid getting the flu is to follow this advice put out by the CDC:

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?

There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
* If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Questions, don't hesitate to call or email.

Thanks

<Ab snipped initials>

The World Health Organization just raised the Pandemic Level to 5: A pandemic is imminent. Good for the WHO. Let's hear it for N95 masks. Ab.

4/29 U.S. Fire Administration Press Releases Update:

A MESSAGE FROM THE ACTING ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR OF THE U. S. FIRE ADMINISTRATION REGARDING THE H1N1 FLU

Release Date: April 29, 2009

Washington DC- In an effort to send a common message the U. S. Fire Administration (USFA) is working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other Federal partners to issue an Emergency Medical Service (EMS), Medical First Responder, and a specific 9-1-1 guidance document (see below) to the Nation’s first responders. This is a dynamic process and we will provide additional information as soon as we receive the appropriate agency(s) approval. In addition to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) link cdc.gov/swineflu/ there is also a link for specific Pandemic Influenza information at EMS.gov.

“We are currently monitoring the H1N1 Flu information as it comes forward from the CDC and DHS medical experts. As a part of DHS/FEMA, the USFA is seeking to ensure our Nation’s firefighters and their families are provided the information they need to stay safe,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Glenn A. Gaines. “We know as firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) called to emergency medical responses and other emergencies across the Nation, there is always the concern for secondary exposure to fellow firefighters and families as firefighters return to their homes. As conditions change, we will work closely with you to ensure firefighters and EMTs have the most current information.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation's EMS Pandemic Influenza Guidelines for Statewide Adoption and Preparing for Pandemic Influenza: Recommendations for Protocol Development and 9-1-1 Personnel and Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) are available online at ems.gov (Click on Pandemic News). State and local EMS agencies should review these documents for additional useful information.

Here's the most current information regarding the outbreak of H1N1 Flu.

4/29 Ab-

I'm not hearing much FS on plans for the possible pandemic. Right now some of us don't want to travel on airplanes to get to incidents in TX or CA. My sister says lots of people are sick. Schools are closing where she lives in San Jose.

Where would we get PPE for the trip and if there's an outbreak in camp, what to do?

TX, Cali, I hate to say it, but when you have large fires, you may not get the business support people or safety officers you usually get from us up north.

Right now this virus in the US seems no worse than the seasonal flu. My guess is that could change with more coming from Mex. by air, land and sea. That Mex. version is killing people.

Ab, don't let anyone say I'm saying the sky is falling. As you said on that calfire team hotlist thread. We plan. We balance risks and benefits. Currently the RISKS look major.

Portage Pulaski

4/29 Making the rounds... Excellent job!

Re: 3rd annual poker tournament fundraiser for the WFF

Thanks to Fulton, Los Padres, Mill Creek, Dalton, Horseshoe, Stanislaus, Union, Ukonom and Diamond Mountain Hotshots for your Support for our 3rd annual fundraiser just from our support we were able to pay for the poker company. We were able to send a check for $11,805 to the foundation.

Good Job with your fundraiser Fulton!!!!!!!!

James R Tomaselli
Superintendent Del Rosa Hotshots
San Bernardino NF

4/28 Subject: OIG Report to Congress March, 2009

Looks like more to come from OIG on Esperanza and other oversight business!

Excerpt (looks like page 11):

IV. OIG Investigations

Investigations into potential criminal violations and incidents of serious misconduct are also an important element of OIG’s oversight of FS activities and operations. During the past year, we have been engaged in an array of investigative work related to FS, with extensive involvement in wildland fire and personnel misconduct investigations. In FY 2008, OIG’s Office of Investigations (Investigations) initiated 20 investigations related to FS.

Our investigative results for the fiscal year included obtaining 8 indictments, 7 convictions, and $8.6 million in monetary results. Of course, other investigations we initiated related to FS operations and programs in FY 2008 or prior years are still being actively worked by OIG special agents.

Wildland Fire Investigations

An important responsibility for Investigations is our statutory duty to conduct independent investigations of any FS firefighter deaths that “are caused by wildfire entrapment or burnover.”12 To fulfill our investigatory responsibilities, we have developed a Wildland Fire Investigation Team (WFIT) comprised of eight investigators who undergo extensive training. Each member of our WFIT has attended the Basic Fire Academy (operated in coordination with Boise State University in Idaho) and several members have attended the Serious Accident Investigations Course sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management. Our WFIT members have visited active forests fires independent of any OIG investigation to obtain additional experience. Since our last appearance before the Subcommittee, Investigations has been working to conclude two wildland fire investigations involving FS firefighter fatalities: the long-standing Thirtymile Fire investigation and the Esperanza Fire investigation.

As the Chairman will recall, the Thirtymile Fire occurred in July 2001 in the North Central area of Washington State. Four FS firefighters were killed after their fire shelter deployment site was burned over in the Chewuch River Canyon, 30 miles north of Winthrop, Washington. The statutory requirement for an independent OIG investigation had not been established at that time. Our investigation into the events surrounding the loss of life was initiated in July 2003 at 12 Public Law 107-203, July 24, 2002. 7 U.S.C. 2270(b)-2270(c).

10
the request of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. OIG’s investigation found that the Incident Commander (IC) made false statements about his lack of proper instructions to the firefighters about their positioning as the fire approached and whether a fire engine assigned to fight the fire had checked in with him, as required. (The captain of the engine properly did so.) The IC pled guilty in 2008 to two counts of making and delivering a false statement in an official writing. In August 2008, the IC was sentenced to serve 90 days in a work release facility and to refrain from participating in firefighting activities with any agency.

Our second active wildland fire investigation in 2008 was the Esperanza Fire that began on October 26, 2006, near the town of Cabazon in Southern California. The fire burned in excess of 41,000 acres and destroyed a total of 54 residences and outbuildings. Shortly after the fire began, five FS firefighters were entrapped while deploying to protect a private residence on a hilltop. Three of the FS firefighters lost their lives at the site when a burnover occurred. Two other firefighters were critically injured and later died at the hospital as a result of their injuries. This investigation presented a unique challenge for our WFIT. It was the first instance since enactment of the public law in which FS personnel were not in charge of the incident command when the fatalities occurred. The fire occurred on non-Federal land, and FS was assisting in the suppression effort as part of a cooperative agreement with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, an entity for which OIG has no oversight jurisdiction.

The cause of this fire was determined to be arson by local and Federal law enforcement officials and FS. The individual alleged to have deliberately set the fire was charged by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office with 5 counts of murder (capital offenses), 11 counts of arson, and 10 counts of using incendiary devices to start fires. The trial was held in Riverside County Superior Court in California; closing arguments occurred on February 26, 2009. We expect to issue our investigative report to Congress by the end of this month, and will, of course, provide it directly to the Subcommittee.

OIG Investigation / Testimony  (113 K pdf)

4/28 Making the rounds... Excellent job!

Re: Wildland Firefighter Fund-raiser Sporting Clays Shoot

A big thanks to Texas Canyon, Los Padres, Bear Divide, Vista Grande, Little Tujunga, Plumas, Del Rosa, Lassen, Rio Bravo, Klamath, Springville, Baker River Hotshot crews for supporting the event and contributing $100.00 per crew.

We were able to raise a total of $28,500.00 for the Foundation!

Thanks again for the help.

Ron Bollier
Fulton IHC Supt.
Sequoia N.F

4/28 Re: Local News on Santa Maria ATB video

Folks can see a video from last Friday's meeting with local cooperators, RO and LP FMO, concerning the closing of the Santa Maria ATB.

Don't believe any other fire or forest staff were invited.

Santa Maria Air Tanker Base

MB

4/28 Stump Shot, AD

Well said, was not trying to offend/argue with anyone. Just saw an opportunity to express some opinion's and start some dialog other than the, oh so overwhelming, we don't get paid enough and you get paid too much, banter that goes on far too often in this site (again just my opinion). Also, it seem's to me, again my opinion, that far too many fuels dollars are wasted on project's like brushing roads where the live dead is prob. around 30/70 with brush that is 15-20' tall in places where any team in it's right mind would never place a firefighter anyway's. however the DFPZ'S in place, at least on my district are well thought out and the mastecator does a fantastic job. Maybe fuel's guy's need to re-think their use of the winter crew before scratching the back of Rec... etc... PUT FUEL'S DOLLARS AND FIREFIGHTER'S WHERE THEY BELONG! WHERE THEY WILL BE MOST EFFECTIVE. In the winter or the summer.

LOL

TNBG

4/28 Just and interesting article.
Northight

CBS13 Investigates: Feeling The Heat  :  Termination Notice For Captain Ramirez (pdf)

RED BLUFF, Calif. (CBS13) ―

On June 12th last summer, four Sacramento City firefighters were sent to fight the Humboldt fire in Butte County. There was Santino Viramontes, Arthur Leclaire, Nathaniel Green and their supervisor, Captain Mark Ramirez. They drove from Sacramento to the fire line in Butte County.

The next day, the afternoon of June 13th, the three Sacramento firefighters and their captain were pulled off the fire line and sent to Red Bluff, to get some rest at a motel. It turns out they did more than just sleep.

They partied in Red Bluff while they were on the clock.

At 6 p.m. that night two of the firefighters, Arthur Leclaire and Santino Viramontes, bought a couple bottles of vodka and started drinking in the their motel room - while they were still on the clock.

About a half hour later, around 6:30p.m., another firefighter, Nathan Green and fire Captain Mark Ramierez, while on duty and wearing their uniforms, walked into a convenience store and bought beer.

A half hour later, 7p.m. on June 13th, the three firefighters and their captain are in a Red Bluff motel room drinking beer and vodka while on the job. But the party was not over yet.

The next morning, the four men jump in a Sacramento City fire vehicle carrying with them an open bottle of vodka and drive back to the fire line.

The four spent the entire day of June 14th at the Humboldt fire. The next day, June 15th, they were sent to Yuba City.

At 6 p.m. on June 15th, Leclaire and Viramontes were back at it in Yuba City, once again drinking vodka in their motel room while on duty. They went to dinner at 7:30. They bought more beer - wearing their uniforms. Captain Mark Ramirez was with them and let them do it. By 9:30 p.m., Leclaire and Viramontes were back in their motel room drinking alcohol while on the clock.

Details of how the firefighters drank booze and partied while on the road and on duty are spelled out in documents obtained by CBS13. The documents also tell how the party came to a crashing end. On June 16th, the firefighters were told that someone had complained to the department that they had been drinking on the job. The party was over.

"So yeah, I was disappointed," says Chief Ray Jones of the Sacramento City Fire Department.

"Poor judgment, it was absolutely poor judgment," Chief Ray Jones tells CBS13.

The four firefighters have been reprimanded. Santino Viramontes has been demoted for 33 months, Arthur Leclaire was demoted for 22 months and Nathaniel Green has been demoted for six months. And Mark Ramirez has been demoted from fire captain. But Chief Jones says he intends to reinstate Ramirez as a fire captain in the near future.

It's a lesson Jones says he and his department have learned from this situation.

Still, facing drought conditions in another fire season this year, his crew may be called to another fire like the Humboldt fire. And the chief admits that as firefighters, there is a level of trust that the public holds in his men, and after last year's incident, the department will have to work hard to keep that trust.

"I think the public needs to know that people do make mistakes, people also learn from their mistakes, as an organization we make mistakes, we've learned from ours," Chief Jones tells CBS13.

Chief Jones says he feels these firefighters have learned from their mistakes and he is comfortable letting them continue to work for his department.

CBS13 requested to interview all four of those firefighters, but all of them denied our request.

fair use disclaimer

4/28 re: quick suppression policies

People refer to the "10 a.m. policy" for quick fire suppression as if it primarily accounts for our current fuel loading. But I wonder if it is fair to take it out of its overall management context.

In some parts of the country, the policy was partnered with other strategies, such as having an extensive fire road system that gave access for firefighting as well as a break in fuel continuity. When's the last time you heard fire roads mentioned? Natural resource managers used to work with the assumption that a stand would be re-entered several times for precommercial and commercial thinnings. Timber programs used to enable underburns. All of this is mostly gone now, but the "10 a.m. policy" lives on as an isolated legacy. At one point, dendrocrinologists were suggesting that much of the west was built during wetter than normal seasons. In other words, the dry conditions leading to huge fire seasons are the norm, not the exception. Add these changes to the number of homes in the interface and you have a huge problem.

Just a few thoughts. I've known fire professionals from this earlier era and they are proud of what they were able to accomplish. Seems a shame to disparage them with oversimplifications.

Still Out There as an AD

4/27 TNGB -

I will reconsider my "oversimplified" comment at the end of my previous post. I did oversimplify - for effect. None of the points I made are simple; they are all very complex, in fact. However, I will take a stab at clarifying them.

Q: What have years of drought and bad suppression policy, ie: knock em down quick,

A: (my opinion) over abundance of fuel loading/live dead ratio=mega fires

I agree, in part. I don't believe fire managers have knowingly used "bad suppression policy" in the past. Research in the last 50 or so years has afforded us the benefit of hindsight. What is bad policy, in my opinion, is to remove large-scale fuels treatments (yes, you can read logging as part of the picture if you like) as part of our overall fuels/fire management programs in many parts of the country. For better or for worse, shifts in fire management activities (full suppression, PNFs, WFURBs, WFU fires with or without point protection, 0.25%ers, "problem fire" management, etc.) have/are occurring, while our fuels management programs have not seen commensurate shifts - certainly not from a funding standpoint. We need to look at both fuels and fire management as pieces of the same puzzle, not two different puzzles.

Oh and as for your not engaging statement! well i wont even go there except to say that i strongly disagree with you especially when the agency is "fast tracking" so many up and coming "future" leaders with minimum amounts of exp. The old dog's will soon lie down and the gen gap will become quite relevant in the years to come.

I have the same concerns on a daily basis, but that does not mean the middle-aged dogs should lie down and accept defeat. Here's my approach to the fast-tracking issue: First, ensure your subordinates get the quality training the need and deserve. Do not accept mediocrity in your sphere of influence, in either your subordinates or your supervisors. Be willing to stand up for what you know to be right. Second, if you are approached by someone with a taskbook, be honest. Just because someone performs a task does not mean they are proficient at that task. Familiarity breeds proficiency, in this case. Third, be honest in any evaluation you complete. An eval with all "Excellents" and no comments does not do any good for anyone, likewise for all "Poors". Some people/resources are great, some are mediocre, some are down-right bad. Be honest, be fair. These are a few ways to start weeding out the bad apples - we aren't all destined to be Area Commanders.

I still believe that aggressive firefighting and safe firefighting have been and can be one and the same. The shorter the fire's duration, the safer we all are. We can come back and do the fuels treatments later when time and conditions are on our side...

-StumpShot

4/27 Pandemic thread on the hotlist:

Hotlist thread

Ab.

4/27 Thirtymile Fire Teaching Tool

Ab,

We did some work in 2006 designing the maps for John Maclean's book on the Thirtymile Fire.  We have posted maps and
a Google Earth tour that tell the story of how the accident unfolded on our website. 30mile gis

NorthTree GIS

4/27 Readers, please run your posts through a spell checker, capitalize the beginning of your sentences, add punctuation to make it readable. If you want to text messages, that's OK, but sign up for the hotlist and send them there where they will be consistently associated with your moniker.

Theysaid is a professional, moderated site. I'm happy to correct some things, but working on sloppy or lazy posts from capable people gets old really fast.

(Not directed at the GIS guy above for sure.) Ab.

4/27 The United States Fire Administration (USFA) has received notice of the following firefighter fatalities:

Name: Thomas L. Risk
Rank: Captain/Pilot
Age: 66
Gender: Male
Status: Wildland Contract
Years of Service: Pending

Name: Michael Wayne Flynn
Rank: First Officer/Co-Pilot
Age: 59
Gender: Male
Status: Wildland Contract
Years of Service: Pending

Name: Brian Joseph Buss
Rank: Crew Chief
Age: 32
Gender: Male
Status: Wildland Contract
Years of Service: Pending

Date of Incident: 04/25/2009
Time of Incident: 1000hrs
Date of Death: 04/25/2009
Fire Department: Neptune Aviation Services, Inc.
Address: 1 Corporate Way, Missoula, MT 59808
Fire Chief: President Kristen Schloemer Nicolarsen

Incident Description: An air tanker (Neptune Tanker 42) under contract to the United States Forest Service was lost when it crashed in the Oquirrh Mountains, Utah. The crew of three was lost in the incident. The aircraft and crew were responding from Montana to battle a wildland fire in New Mexico at the time of the incident. The cause of the crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Incident Location: In the Oquirrh Mountains, East of Stockton, UT (12TUK9474).

Funeral Arrangements: Pending, updates will be posted @ neptuneaviation.com.

Memorial Fund Contact and Address: Cards and letters may be sent for the Risk Family, Flynn Family, and Buss Family, c/o Neptune Aviation Services, Inc., 2 Corporate Way Missoula, MT 59808. A “Brian Buss Memorial Fund” has been established for his two daughters at the First National Bank of Montana, 201 N. Higgins Ave., Missoula, MT 59802, Tele: (877) 362-6752.

4/27 stump shot and all those who agree,

Q: What have years of drought and bad suppression policy, ie: knock em down quick,

A: (my opinion) over abundance of fuel loading/live dead ratio=mega fires

While i agree with your lightning scenario, the fact of the matter is that these fires will continue to be a problem until people embrace the fact that we created it.

As for budgets on big mega-fires (i know you did not address this but it goes with the territory) how about let's start by not ordering 110 type one municipal engines for structure protection when the fire is seven miles away?! (zaca1n2)

Oh and as for your not engaging statement! well i wont even go there except to say that i strongly disagree with you especially when the agency is "fast tracking" so many up and coming "future" leaders with minimum amounts of exp. The old dog's will soon lie down and the gen gap will become quite relevant in the years to come.

trivia ? anyone know what a strike team of type one muni engines cost for a two week duration?

more to come

TNBG

4/27 Ab,

Wasn't there something floating around about flight helmets needing to follow a new 2009 standard? I searched the archives and couldn't find anything.

SG

Tongue firmly in cheek: Only one I got: people.csail. mit.edu /rahimi/ helmet/ Ab.

4/26 Hi abercrombie,

Was wondering if you have or have seen a daily/weekly engine checklist? Such as going through checking the lights, scbas, tools and such? Something like ambulance companies have.

Any help would be appreciated!
Thank you!

ABHS

Register for the hotlist and post your question there. I bet lots of the interagency folks will have lists. Ab.

4/26 Hi All,

Just finished mowing a lot of acres at Five Waters in prep for defensible space, etc.. The signs of the norcal fires last year are everywhere, but the surrounding environment seems pretty "right with the world". This country evolved with fire.

One thing that came to me as I wheeled my way through the mow job is that I did not thank the most personally important fire people in my post the end of last week.

Here's a big thanks to Kent Swartzlander and his NorCal Team 1. Kent is FMO on the Six Rivers NF and a very fine person, great firefighter, great to "volunteer for".

Better still though, he's the man you want to have fighting fire when the lightning strikes in our neck o' the norcal woods. He knows the land; he knows the roads and inversions and steep terrain, the rivers, the up and down canyon winds. Lots of years as a Plumas hotshot supt under his belt and he works well with people. Also went to congress as a youth as part of the first FWFSA cadre. But back to fire... He has a realistic perspective of risk/benefit and what can be accomplished in our rugged mountains. Good at briefing, too. Yep! I'll have Kent on my side any day! His team as well!

I think our fires last season were a challenge, but because of NorCal 1, the Zeigler was well on a trajectory to being contained when the Type 1 team came in. Hit 'em early, hit 'em hard! Works for me. Reduces firefighter and civilian risk if you can catch them. (Breathing problems were a big one for many residents that had nowhere else to go.)

Thanks Kent, Alec, Pete, Ed, Jim and all the crews and resources you brought in to protect our butts! It was great to work with you! Wish you'd had a chance to contain the Eagle as per your plan before you had to go.

So, I spent the day mowing, remembering last June and thinking about ya'll. Great, relaxing day!

Love ya!

Mellie

4/26 Joe, Regional Forester Randy Moore did not attend that Santa Maria Tanker Base meeting. Ed Hollenshead (R5 FAM chief) and Dennis Hulbert (the R5 aviation guru) were there. Not that it matters to the thrust of your message. Ab.
4/25 Article on the crash with photo of the crash site and news video report.

From WT:

Plane crash in Tooele County UT kills 3 

4/25 Sad news:

P2V Neptune, T-42 crashed this morning. Hotlist thread.

(Thanks to posters that waited until the families were notified. Hopefully families did not learn the news from a premature hotlist post.) 

My great condolences.

Ab.

4/25 Hi Ab,

I would like to remain anonymous but it looks like P2V T-42 has crashed in northern Utah. I have no details other than it vanished from AFF sometime this morning and appears to have crashed.

Sorry to bring you the bad news. Wish I had more details.

Thanks for all the good work.

T

4/25 I just received word today, that Air Tanker 42, a P2V from Neptune Aviation based in Missoula, Montana, crashed in Utah on its way to Alamogordo, New Mexico. There were no survivors. I knew the pilot, Tom Risk very well and he will be greatly missed by all in the aerial firefighting world. The co-pilot and a mechanic were also on board.

Lance Weinrich
Forest Aviation Officer
Angeles N.F.

4/25 Many thanks for the link at about 3:39PM. Sad news. Ab.

From old lpf:

Three killed in Tooele plane crash

STOCKTON, Tooele County UT — Three men were killed Saturday morning when a firefighting plane crashed near Stockton, according to the Tooele County...

... The firefighting plane was en route from Missoula, Mont. to Alamogordo, N.M.

The three men who died in the crash have been identified as:

* Tom Risk, 66, from Littleton, Colo., pilot
* Mike Flynn, 59, from Alamogordo, N.M., crew member
* Brian Buss, 32, from Alberton, Mont., crew member

Full Story: Three killed in Tooele plane crash

4/25 Regional Forester Randy Moore, attended a meeting with surrounding fire departments fire chiefs on 04/24/09 at Goleta forest service office.

The meeting was to validate a recent decision and address concerns related to wildland fire suppression and initial attack capabilities for the upcoming fire season.


The Local Union was not invited to attend this meeting nor were we giving a briefing on how they will resume reload operation within four hours of activation of the "Call When Needed" Santa Maria Reload Base.

I really can't see how they can staff within the four hours, but now it's documented.

Joe Duran
Local President
NFFE FL2023

FS News Release about Meeting (934 K rtf)

Santa Maria Fire Base Decision a Local Threat

The decision by the U. S. Forest Service to discontinue having a full-service aircraft reload base at the Santa Maria Airport places local communities at greater risk of damage and possible loss of life. And this decision was based on misrepresentations from some Forest Service employees.

In a recent briefing document prepared by unnamed Forest Service employees, an attempt is made to defend the decision to downgrade the Santa Maria facility to call-when-needed. This document is so full of misrepresentations that it should be put up for a literary prize for fiction. Let’s take a look at some of these statements: (Click the link. Lots of details.)

~~~~

Santa Maria Airport board votes to revive air-tanker ops

Members of the Santa Maria Public Airport District board of directors unanimously pledged “vigorous support” Thursday night for efforts to revive full-service, firefighting air-tanker operations in Santa Maria.

Two key tanker base positions — fixed-wing base manager and assistant fixed-wing base manager — were eliminated as part of a March 19 reorganization of Los Padres National Forest staff.

Additionally, the Santa Maria Air Attack Base was downgraded from a full-service operation to a standby “call when needed” center.

The cuts were made because of budget concerns, according to Joe Duran, San Lucia District wilderness and trail manager, who is also president of the National Federation of Federal Employees Local 2023.

Initial air attack responses to fires within Los Padres National Forest and other locations will be crippled in the early hours of a reported wildfire, he said.

Without base management on site, the Forest Service will have to get qualified managers to staff the center within 24 hours of an activation call.

John Heil, a Forest Service spokesman for the Pacific Southwest Region, said the changes were made for cost effectiveness and more efficiency. A Cal Fire tanker base in Paso Robles will be used instead for refueling and retardant loading operations.

(Click the link for the rest.)

4/25 StumpShot;

Great post, it says it all. Best post for the last 30 days.

7107

4/25 A few of my own "Key Points":
  1. Ensure I/A resources are appropriate for local conditions. Move them as necessary.
  2. Mount aggressive I/A where appropriate. The 10AM policy was not all bad...
  3. In the event of a large fire, order early and order often. You can always turn resources back.
  4. During a large scale lightning bust (like NoCal last year), pick a fire in the complex, contain it, move to the next one. Just like in a mass casualty incident, you can't slap a band-aid on everyone and expect a positive outcome.
  5. Stop using safety as an excuse not to engage. As numerous folks on this site have said: You can't take the inherent risk out of wildland fire. Let's get back to fighting fire aggressively, having provided for safety first. It can be done. Besides, short duration fires result in decreased risk to both the public and firefighters alike.

Oversimplified? I don't think so.

StumpShot

4/25 Anyone know when those reports on the Eagle fire/Iron complex felling fatality of Andy Palmer and the Panther fire burnover fatality of Dan Packer will be out?

It's time...

AL

4/25 Ab,

A reminder to those attending the Wildland Fire Safety Summit in Phoenix next week; on Tuesday night we will be offering another fire mapping workshop and use the Australian bushfires as a case study in how the technology was effectively deployed.

This workshop will be a hands-on learning experience that will teach partici­pants the geographic approach to real-time mapping of wildfires, damage as­sessment and tracking of personnel and resources using the latest mobile GIS technology to enhance situational awareness and provide for firefighter safety. Unique data collection methods such as GPS-enabled digital cameras that re­cords descriptive information about features can be recorded on both still pho­tos and video footage. When you snap a picture, that information is embedded as part of the image file and can be displayed as a point on a GIS created map. When you click on the point the image appears along with all of its attributes.

The world’s most technologically advanced digital pen that records geo-refer­enced information simply by drawing on a map attached to the incident action plan and can later be connected to a mobile data computer located in the emer­gency vehicle or a GIS workstation in the Situation Unit. All the sketches, notes and drawings on the map are downloaded into the computer and geographically displayed on a map.

Real-time tracking of firefighters is as easy as keying a GPS enabled radio

speak­er/microphone. These microphones are actually stand alone GPS receivers that connect to ANY radio and work on ANY frequency. They can be programmed to transmit automatically on a specified time interval, i.e. every 10 seconds for flight following of aircraft; every 2 minutes for ground crews. Field person­nel can see the location (distance/bearing) of every other firefighter on the same frequency on the sunlight readable microphone display. Connecting another microphone and radio via a USB cable to a vehicle mounted laptop or desktop in the incident command post enables fire officials to see the current locations of all resources assigned to an incident on a computer screen using mapping software designed specifically for wildland fire management.

This course is designed for firefighters with limited or no GIS experience. Participants will have the opportunity to use a tactical mapping application for first responders that gives fire personnel fast and easy access to critical emergency response data en route to an incident and during planning. Designed by public safety agencies and officers, it quickly delivers plans, maps, tactical database information, and asset tracking to mobile laptop computers located in fireline vehicles. All equipment including laptops with pre-installed mapping software, food and beverages (pizza & beer) will be provided.

Fire Geek

IAWF: Wildland Fire Safety Summit in Phoenix Pre-registration is cost-saving. Sign up! Ab.

4/25 Re: Forest Service Briefing Papers, White Papers, and Talking Points

Nobody can, or nobody will, provide the data behind the statement that "one-quarter of one percent of fires" (aka '.25% fires') "are the costliest". They also cannot provide the data that has been shared with Congress stating that 98% of fires are caught on initial attack on any given year.

For the last ten years, the Forest Service has been really lacking on providing any data that can be peer reviewed or scientifically reviewed for substantiation or collaboration.

If the Forest Service provides a "Briefing Paper", or a "White Paper", or "Talking Points" that functionally change things in the way they do business, wouldn't it be appropriate for them to properly cite the data and sources they are using?... or at the very least provide the data when requested without having to go through the FOIA process? It is even more fundamental, especially when the Forest Service provides "facts" to Congress that are not discoverable, cited, researched, nor re-creatable?

If this is a fundamental change in the way an agency is performing duties or services (mission), shouldn't it be published in the Federal Register and codified in the CFRs?

Shouldn't the changes initially be proposed as left side NEPA ideas... go through a complete analysis.... and then be published for public input in the scoping process?

The new Administration has promised transparency and community involvement, and a commitment to science in following best practices in federal land management and community safety.

Deputy Fire Director Rounsaville said,

"One-quarter of one percent (0.25%) of the fires each year are the costliest in terms of consuming fire management resources and a large portion of the Forest Service suppression budget."

Somebody must have the data and feel it is "common knowledge".... or it wouldn't be repeated so much in so many documents without citation or links to the data... and the need to feel the data could not be shared.

The Forest Service is a rogue federal agency that is out of control and spiraling without functional or foundational leadership. While a new Secretary of Agriculture has been confirmed, and a new Deputy Undersecretary of NRE has been named...... the Undersecretary of NRE as well as replacements for several controversial SES employee placements (WO, RO, and ASC levels) (specifically the Chief, Fire Director, and several Regional Foresters) still are yet to be finalized or determined.

Just like the National Apprenticeship Program, the Senior Executive Service (SES) Program has
"mobility requirements".

Gizmo

4/24 Flu watchout updates are being posted on the hotlist thread:

Watchout: Swine flu epidemic in Mexico, spreading to US

Ab.

4/24

Briefing paper:

In other words, 0.25% Wildfires = NIMO management

letterman

~~~~

USDA Forest Service

Fire and Aviation Management
Briefing Paper
April 24, 2009

Topic: Large Fire Management in 2009

Issue: Because of the changing fire environment, long duration fires may result in significant concerns to firefighter and public safety, and are becoming more expensive.

Background:

The Agency is exploring systematic changes in fire management to mitigate firefighter exposure, ease resource demands, and reduce costs of large "problem fires". Even though in recent years phenomenal efforts have been made to improve effectiveness and reduce costs, additional refinements to handling these "problem fires" should be made through alternative methods of fire planning and management.

The Agency has worked with predictive services to identify forests that exhibit characteristics which make them likely to have these large "problem fires" in 2009. The forests chosen will "pave the way" in developing a system for how large-complex fires should be managed, given the increasingly more complex fire environment of the 21 st century. The National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) will work with the identified forests, pre-fire season, so they have time to practice scenarios, and engage cooperators and the public regarding these innovative approaches. During fire season, these techniques will be put into practice.

Fire suppression does not always provide for resource protection and safety. The exclusion of fire from forests and grasslands, among a variety of other societal decisions, has contributed to the increase of damaging fires. The goal of developing properly functioning, fire-adapted ecosystems in the face of climate change, interface issues and shrinking budgets is one of the paramount goals of fire activities (protection of life and property/resources being paramount). It is estimated that the increase in the number of acres with hazardous fuels conditions, far exceeds the acres being treated for fuels reduction. This buildup of hazardous fuels, combined with climate change and a growing wildland urban interface, has led to a change in the fire environment and increases in extreme fire behavior. The risk of very large fires occurring, and the associated threats to life and property, are increasing at a phenomenal rate. One-quarter of one percent (0.25%) of the fires each year are the costliest in terms of consuming fire management resources and a large portion of the Forest Service suppression budget.

Key Points:

The risk of very large fires occurring, and the associated threats to life and property, are increasing at a phenomenal rate.

The Agency is exploring systematic changes in fire management to mitigate firefighter exposure, ease resource demands, and reduce costs of large "problem fires".

One-quarter of one percent (0.25%) of the fires each year are the costliest in terms of consuming fire management resources and a large portion of the Forest Service suppression budget.

The Agency has worked with predictive services to identify forests that exhibit characteristics which make them likely to have these large "problem fires" in 2009.

The forests chosen will "pave the way" in developing a system for how large-complex fires should be managed given the increasingly more complex fire environment of the 21 st century.

The National Incident Management Organization (NIMO) will work with the identified forests, pre-fire season, so they have time to practice scenarios, and engage cooperators and the public regarding these innovative approaches. During fire season, these techniques will be put into practice.

We have learned over the years that fire suppression does not always provide for resource protection and safety.

Contact: Marc Rounsaville, Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation Management: 202-906-xxxx

4/24 S.C. Governor still wants to reduce the state wildland fire budget by 1 million dollars.

JB

4/24 Ab, a SC-SCS-Highway 31 update for you.

Attached are 24 hours reports on two shelter deployments and a truck/tractor burn over that occurred on the Highway 31 fire in South Carolina. Additional fire update as of 8:30 EDT April 24, 2009:

South Carolina-Highway 31 Fire 
  • Estimated Fire Size: 19,600 acres
  • Approximately 50 percent contained
  • 69 homes destroyed
  • 100 homes damaged
  • At one point it is estimated there were 4,000 evacuations, currently 500 people remain in shelters, current total evacuation numbers are uncertain.
  • A burn ban is in place for the state Emergency Management Agency, Structural Fire and the South Carolina Forestry Commission have established a unified command 
  • Resources on the fire 30 tractor/plow units; 500 personnel including structural fire; 5 National Guard type 1 helicopters; 2 fire tracks type 6; 1 heavy air tanker located at Kinston, NC
  • Concerns today include: sea breezes pushing the fire into populated areas and heavy smoke in the area.

Elsewhere in the southern region

  • 11 new large fires were reported in Florida, Oklahoma and Texas
  • The Southern Area Blue team is being dispatched to the Deep Fire (3,000 acres) in Big Cypress National Park, Florida
  • The largest new fire reported yesterday Salcido Creek Ranch Complex in Texas at 13,500 acres
  • Rain is not expected in the region until next week

(See attached file: 24 Hour Report Horry County 4-22-09 Burnover) (333K doc)
(See attached file: 24 Hour Report Horry County 4-22-09 Shelter Deployment) (333K doc)

Mark

Thanks, Mark. Ab.

4/24 kibble free: ADs and retired feds:

No need to be sorry, and from one ranter to another, no worries there. But next time I suggest you try to become more informed about what the majority of ADs truly feel, their motivations, and their objectives. The relatively large amounts of misinformation and prejudice – based on little fact - that occasionally surface here continue to amaze me. 

Remember, this really is one big team of emergency responders in the United States of America, and we gain nothing by trying to tear each other and our efforts down, But again, no worries, because Ab’s reply to you was more than adequate, and hopefully addressed some of the confusion you have.

Hugh Carson
4/24 Re: Western Forestry Leadership Coalition and acronyms
wflccenter.org 

Thanks Chief Quintanar!! I look forward to reading the entire report. The brief intro to the report sounds promising.

I've been a federal wildland firefighter for over 28 years, and never before have I heard of this relatively small group. I guess it is true that you learn something new everyday.

The WFLC consists of the Council of Western State Foresters and the Forest Service Western Regions' Regional Foresters.

It also has a Staff and a Board of Directors .

I am a little concerned though if folks start throwing around acronyms in the future. The WFLC (Western Forestry Leadership Coalition)... or the WFLC (Wildland Fire Leadership Council)... might be confused with the WFLLC (Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center).

I might be wrongly sensitized against acronyms, but I learned it from my recently retired Forest Fire Chief who rightly had acronymophobia and the fear of too many groups working on the same issues and not sharing the relevant data.... and more importantly... not joining together as team members and advocates for positive changes. Add in CWCG, NWCG, FIRESCOPE, NLT, ELT, NFPA, CALCHIEFS, IAFC, OSHA, WGA, OMB, OPM, WO, SO, DO, etc... No wonder why everything seems like the ship is sinking and in turmoil in regards to federal wildland fire mission and program delivery.

Hello WO: Wake up. No leadership.... No "Commanders Intent". It isn't rocket science.

JMHO

The FWFSA is a team player and comprised entirely as employee association from all federal land management agencies, and is not a labor union. The FWFSA seeks to improve the pay, benefits, and working conditions for all federal wildland firefighters, while focusing on increased safety, program efficiency, and mission effectiveness that these changes would facilitate in 21st century wildland fire management program.

Lobotomy
4/24 Flu watchout

Thanks for this. Ab.

Ab,

I have no desire to be an unnecessary alarmist, but I've been closely watching things develop for some time and have held back from saying anything until now. However, I believe that it is time to raise the situational awareness of people - especially our wildland firefighters that are in camps and those people that are taking care of them. ICs, OSCS, Logistics, Safety and Medical people - PLEASE CHECK THIS OUT, PAY ATTENTION, and DO WHAT YOU CAN TO HELP PREVENT SPREADING.

This article was posted on Flutrackers.com this morning. It is one of hundreds that have been posted the last few days as it appears that there is indeed an outbreak of flu in the US, Mexico and Canada that has the potential to be THE pandemic that people have been talking about. I'm not saying it is, but as with changing weather and fuel conditions we must be on the lookout and have good situational awareness. This swine flu has been identified in Texas and California.

Again, no reason to panic but it is time to do some preparation and take some precautions. CDC had a press conference yesterday and is going to post updates on their website at 1500 Eastern time daily. Flutrackers.com is a good source to find articles that get posted almost as they come out, from all over the world.

Please help to mitigate the risks as much as possible. Do some personal preparation and don't rely on others to keep you safe and healthy! Check out what is recommended for personal preparation in case of pandemic. Again Flutrackers.com has lists, as does Pandemic.gov and many other sites. Google it and see what pops up.

rmm

~~~~

Swine flu kills 60 in Mexico, moves to US: WHO (link did not work. I'll try to find the article. Ab.)

GENEVA (AFP) — A rare outbreak of human swine flu has killed at least 60 people in Mexico and spread to the United States where authorities are on alert, the World Health Organisation said on Friday.

The WHO has identified swine influenza as a potential source of a human flu pandemic. Fadela Chaib, a spokeswoman for the UN health agency, said hundreds of cases of suspected swine flu -- which regularly hits pigs but rarely affects humans -- have been reported in Mexico.

"To date there have been some 800 suspected cases with flu-like illness, with 57 deaths in the Mexico City area," Chaib added. (etc)

~~~~

Here is another WHO press release. It wasn't until yesterday that WHO and CDC became involved with public news releases or comments.  Now that you are all aware, I won't bother you with any more updates - much easier to find on the web now that the story has broken open. (no link, and couldn't find it, so didn't post it; who.int/en/ try google)

4/24 Swine Flu Watchout, not birdflu but transmitted human to human with serious implications for the next year

Good morning, all, Just a heads up. 

There's a novel swine flu virus H1N1 (Type A) that has infected hundreds (currently 800+) in 3 parts of Mexico and has killed 60. There are 7 CDC-confirmed cases in the US, 5 from CA and 2 from TX. 

  • TX: 2 16 yr olds
  • CA: father/daughter cluster and one other cluster
  • ages: 9-54
  • only 1 person was serious enough to go to the hospital for treatment; was older person, not the kids/young people as it would have been in a typical birdflu pandemic
  • it's geographically diverse, 
  • those infected had no contact with pigs, 
  • it's transmitted human to human
  • the virus is resistant to the antivirals, amantadine and remantadine; tamiflu and relenza still work

Thus, it's probably not a dreaded pandemic flu that targets children and young adults with a cytokine storm; although the jury is out because many of those who died in Mexico were reported to be healthy young adults. 

It appears to be mild and is acting like a typical epidemic influenza outbreak that's growing and spreading north from Mexico. 

The WHO is on top of it and are considering raising the pandemic level.

The CDC is on top of it. They're briefing on their website every day at 1500 hrs East Coast time. I'm pleased to say there are flu monitoring stations along the US border and the lab work to type the virus is done in the US. They've been on top of it.

My international colleagues at Flutrackers.com have been following it (in Spanish) for several weeks as an atypical pneumonia. (For those I've briefed on this topic, it's not a Type B virus and hence typically wouldn't infect humans, but this one is moving human to human. If you recall, humans and pigs are the "mixing pot" with bird virus for pandemic flu (usually Type A) that occurs on average every 20 years. Our last (Type A) birdflu pandemic  was in 1968 and prior to that 1918. Our last US swine flu outbreaks caught from sick pigs were in 1976, 1986 and 1988, when 3 deaths were reported.)

I spoke with flutrackers' director and my friend for the most recent update and gut-check from the professionals.

While this is likely not the killer pandemic now, this is a potentially dangerous development.
This H1N1 swine flu virus has 4 parts based on origin: 

  • 1 human, 
  • 1 avian and 
  • 2 swine (1 European swine and 1 Asian swine).

This is something to watch carefully over the next year as bird migration occurs in the fall and genetic mixing of this flu (H1N1, Type A) with bird flu (H5N1, Type B) can occur yielding a strain that's deadly, especially to the young up through their 20s. Further epidemiological sleuthing and sequencing is underway. 

This is a time for doing your due diligence: 

  • review your pandemic plan; 
  • make sure you have and use your hand cleaner; 
  • check other stores, N-95 masks and any preparations
  • have a family plan.

Check flutrackers.com thread.
Check the CDC website for daily 3PM east coast briefings.

Jason Gale a flutracker at Bloomberg's has a very good review with continuing updates:
Swine Flu, Mexico Lung Illness Heighten Pandemic Risk (Update2)

Mellie

4/24 Oregon Volunteers need your help -- last day

AB, please post this message one last time, Jonathan has truly worked very hard at getting the word out.  TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO VOTE. This engine would mean so much to our small community, and for one person to work so diligently at making it happen for us we need to help him out.

Thanks, KTMAC

Ab note: Jonathan is a long time theysaider although he's lurked recently. Please consider his request. Ab.

My name is Jonathan Manski, a Federal Wildland Employee and Volunteer FF from the Hines Vol. FD in remote eastern Oregon. Our town is a place you may not have heard of before, but I hope you can share our story with your Departments membership. This is a town that has weathered two Governor declared Conflagration act fires, and whose fire dept protects USFS, BLM as well as State & local infrastructure and facilities.

We have found ourselves as one of seven finalists in the E-One Engine give-away “Tell us your story” contest. The winner of this contest will receive a new E-One fire engine valued at over $170,000.00 The new engine will be given away during the FDIC in Indianapolis on April 24 to the FD receiving the most votes from the fire community.

Seven fine communities are hoping to win a new apparatus, something financially unreachable for these small Departments. We are proud of the jobs we have been asked to do and the tradition of brotherhood that goes along with it, even for a small, rural volunteer department. Just this month, we have had 2 of our 19 members who are in the Oregon National Guard, deploy to Iraq , now serving our Country as well as their community.

I am asking that you pass my note around to your firefighter members of our need for help in voting for the Department, most deserving of receiving this new E-One pumper. Here is the link, after you vote a confirming email is sent to each person voting that you must complete to have your vote counted.

We hope you and your membership will vote for our story at the Hines VFD, but use your judgment in deciding who is most deserving.

The link to the contest stories are here:

e-one.com

Please network this around, we need your support or simply vote for your choice of well deserving FDs.

My regards and thanks,

Jonathan Manski
Hines VFD, Oregon
BIFZ

4/23 Sent in by Quintanar: (figures, still alive and tappin' that send button...)

from the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition
The True Cost of Wildfire in the Western U.S. (2864K pdf file, 17 pages)

The True Cost of Wildfire in the Western U.S.

A new report by the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition The True Cost of Wildfire in the Western U.S. examines the data from six large wildland fires across the west to explore beyond the costs of suppression to give a more accurate telling of the cost to communities and the environment form large wildland fires.

The true costs of wildfire are shown to be far greater than the costs usually reported to the public, anywhere from 2 to 30 times the more commonly reported suppression costs. A series of recommendations help focus the way these costs might be better considered. As the number of acres burned each year continues to increase, there is a justifiable sense of urgency. With a new administration and Congress with many new faces, the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition sees a fresh opportunity to address this long-standing forest management challenge.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Costs of Wildfire
Direct Costs
Rehabilitation Costs
Indirect Costs
Additional Costs
Case Studies
Canyon Ferry Complex (MT 2000)
Cerro Grande (NM 2000)
Hayman Fire (CO 2002)
Missionary Ridge Fire (CO 2002)
Rodeo-Chediski Fire (AZ 2002)
Old, Grand Prix, Padua Complex (CA 2003)
Data Alignment and Availability Challenges
Insufficient Emphasis on Active Management Before Fire
Conclusion and Recommendations

4/23 It's unclear to me to if Forest Service fire vehicles meet a "national fire standards" exceptions discussed below. 

letterman
~~~~

Date: April 23, 2009
Subject: New Vehicle Painting and Marking Policy 
To: Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Area Director, IITF Director, Deputy Chiefs and WO Directors

We all recognize the importance of being efficient in our expenditures and to maximize funding available for the resource work that is core to our mission. Adhering to that value, I asked the Fleet Management Business Process Reengineering (BPR) Team to complete a comprehensive analysis of the Agency vehicle painting and markings policy and to identify potential efficiency gains. The results of the recently completed analysis led the Executive Leadership Team to concur with the recommendation to adopt a policy of a white vehicle fleet. We have concluded that we should give up our traditional Forest Service green vehicle color in the interest of simplifying processes and saving money for higher mission priorities.

After nearly 50 years of visual public recognition through our unique vehicle color, I understand this policy change is a cultural shift for our Agency. The increasing cost of retaining this tradition, combined with an estimated 5-year savings of $9 million and the decreasing availability of Forest Service green paint, drove our decision to implement this change. Although our cultural ties to the green color are very strong, we also have deep cultural ties to considering the resources we are entrusted to manage first.

The enclosed report, Vehicle Painting and Markings Analysis, documents the BPR Team’s analysis on this issue. Thorough discussion by the Executive Leadership Team and consideration of all factors resulted in our decision that the following policy is effective immediately:

1. Paint Color:

The Forest Service will transition to an all-white fleet of non-emergency vehicles. Beginning with the FY 2010 fleet vehicle orders, all non-emergency fleet vehicles shall be ordered in the manufacturer’s standard color white. There will be no repainting of any Agency-owned, leased, or rented vehicles. Exceptions to the all-white policy are limited to requirements dictated by law enforcement and national fire standards.

I understand FY 2009 vehicle orders are currently being placed and some green vehicle orders may already be submitted. Please review all FY 2009 vehicle orders that have not been finalized to acquire only standard white vehicles to facilitate our efforts to standardize the fleet more expeditiously.

2. Official Markings: 

A 10-inch white, reflective Forest Service shield with brown outline and markings will be applied to all new vehicles. This will increase shield visibility and Agency recognition. Appendix G of the report provides specifications for the required shield. Only the shield and vehicle number shall be affixed to the vehicle door. No other markings are permitted on fleet vehicles unless required by law or other standard, such as the law enforcement directives or national fire standards. Striping is limited to vehicles using red lights and sirens. 

3. Unofficial Markings and Decals:

Non-required decals, such as bumper stickers and other magnetic or adhesive decals, are not permitted on Forest Service vehicles.

Official directives are being revised to account for changes to the vehicle color and markings policies. Appendix H of the enclosed report provides draft revisions to appropriate sections of the manual and handbook.

Due primarily to cost considerations, the current fleet will not be retrofitted to comply with this policy change. Non-conforming vehicles in the current fleet, such as Forest Service green vehicles, striped vehicles, and vehicles not equipped with larger shields will be phased out through the vehicle replacement cycle. Bumper stickers and other unapproved decals will be removed at the next annual safety inspection or within 180 days of the date of this letter.

The most current information on the Fleet Management BPR is posted to the Management Analysis Studies website. Please email the fleetstudy-inbox@fs.fed.us with any questions or comments on the BPR.

/s/ Abigail R. Kimbell
Chief

4/23 FAM Leaders I have known:

I miss Don Studebaker who died in 2005. He was a great mentor.

Among the living but retired:
I miss Ray Quintanar. (Sue H, don't be telling him we're discussing him like he's 
dead... The dead don't have a cell phone. ...I could call him...)
I miss Scott Vail.
I miss Don Feser.
I miss Mike Dietrich, Norm Walker, Dave Sinclear, John Wendt, Becky May.

The list goes on. All above are from R5. That's where I live.

Thinking of those that made a difference in my life. Thanks.

Others that enrich my life, provide support and/or provide support to firefighters I care about:

  • Honor Guard, thanks. (Betty Boop I hope you're still misbehaving yourself!)
  • WFF, Vicki, Burk, thanks for what you do for firefighters and families; 52 Club contributors, fundraising event organizers, thanks for making it possible financially for our WFF to do that.
  • FWFSA, Casey, Ken, All, thanks for providing a firefighter branch that educates our congress and acts on behalf of groundpounders.
    Campbell Prediction System, Doug, Willy, Drew, and other trainers, thanks for your persistence in training groundpounders so they can keep themselves safer in the face of changing fire behavior. The Art of Fighting Fire links, etc
  • FEDS, Tony, All, thanks for providing an affordable Professional Liability Insurance with excellent coverage, the best in the business. Thanks for your dedication to firefighters and your willingness to go beyond the call of your job itself. (Those signed up with Wright & Co should change to FEDS; it's by far the better company.)
  • NWSA, thanks for the professional standards you encourage in your private sector members. There's a lot of old wisdom among your ranks. Hard work pays off.
  • IAWF, thanks for providing various venues in which many can present papers and share ideas. The Safety Summit is one conference: the end of the month in Phoenix

And thanks to Original Ab, another of my mentors and my friend.

Mellie
PS. Thanks also to my supportive husband, fire's most secret supporter and love of my life, going on 40 years come June! (We married when we were 2!)

PSS. I just went back to look up what year Don died. Wow, it was April 24, 2005.
Tomorrow will be the 4 year anniversary. My best to his family.

4/23 Jay Jensen is USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment

04-23-09 “New Under Secretary Appointment Announced

Posted by Brian Allmer on April 23, 2009

Mr. Jenson is on his way to Washington. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the appointment of Jay Jensen as USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. In this position, Jensen will have responsibility for the U.S. Forest Service, which manages 193 million acres of National Forest System lands and provides assistance to the more than 10 million family-forest landowners in this country. Jenson will also be responsible for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. NRCS has primary responsibility for working with private landowners in conserving, maintaining and improving their natural resources.

Since May 2005, Jensen has been Executive Director of the Council of Western State Foresters/Western Forestry Leadership Coalition. The Coalition is a federal-state governmental partnership. Jensen had served earlier as the Coalition’s Government Affairs Director. He has also served as Senior Forestry Advisor for the Western Governors Association, where he was responsible for the biomass energy program.

The Secretary said, - I’ll be looking to Jay’s leadership as we address the health of our forests. This is a top priority for USDA because it relates to several critical challenges-the intensity of forest fires, climate change, biomass and renewable energy, clean water and revitalizing forest-dependent communities.

SOURCE: NAFB News Service

4/23 South Carolina fire:

Ab,

The fire is called the Highway 31 fire. It is a South Carolina State Fire. It is 15, 000 ac, with 40 homes lost in the Myrtle Beach area. 10% contained at this time. There is a FEMA request in. Compact resources are being ordered.

Hope this helps.

Mark

Thanks Mark, I'll get a mod to change the title of the hotlist thread. Ab.

4/23 ADs and retired feds:

Sorry Abs,

but I cannot hold my tongue any longer... seems to me the reason Feds "make less" than others is that it is a Federal job, guaranteed benefits, cannot be fired unless it is a huge infraction, etc. Realize that as a Federal employee you get a pension... which is rare indeed these days, and yours is guaranteed, by the Federal Govt.... not something that the auto industry, airline industry, or any other of the private sectors old golden parachute companies can guarantee.

I hate to state the obvious but it is not as if the age of 57 and mandatory retirement is a giant secret, so PLAN for it. You know it's coming, you know what the pension is, you know how much you need to live on, cut back, move to a cheaper place, invest, acquire skills you can use for employment when you retire, whatever. If you retired before 57 and thought you could just move over and make the big bucks as an AD, well no sympathy from me, shoulda planned better.

I have never had a problem with retired Feds working as an AD, as long as they are training a current employee for the job they are doing... the problem I have is these folks doing this year after year (like 4-10 yrs), move over and let someone else have the job. Then they want more money, a fair wage sure, but the 1k a day, is BS it ain't rocket science, its fire, any one of us is easily replaced (Did the agencies crumble when you retired? apparently not, so get over yourselves). Bottom line be happy with the pension you have, many in the private world would be ecstatic for ANY amount...sorry it ain't enough but you got it better than you think.

kibble free

sorry for the rant, but sometimes ya just have to do it

4/23 AD rates, fed pensions, etc

kibble free, thanks for writing in. I agree with you in part on the planning, but I disagree as well with some of your generalizations based on what I've seen and heard here and on fires through the last 9 years.

  • Some ADs are retirees, some are not.
  • Often ADs that are recent fed retirees are not given anyone to mentor because of stereotypic agency personnel attitudes toward retirees. My observation is that ADs are often treated as second class citizens until they're tapped for a UTF position. (My apologies for generalizing.)
  • Agency policy is always changing. In the past once you retired you were really out of the loop. More recently -- last 5 or 6 years -- with the internet it is possible to stay abreast of changes and to ask questions when you don't know.
  • This Ab doesn't hear most retired posters complaining about pensions. They have planned.
  • Most retirees that are not ADs do not expect 1+k a day as provided in some of the LG arrangements, but would take what the market will bear if others are getting that and FAM is not being fair with pay rates.
  • Some retirees work as ADs to stay involved in fire; it's not about the money.
  • Many AD retirees I've spoken with think that a pay scale based on position makes sense if it is really a fair pay scale.
  • Hazard pay, overtime and professional liability insurance are issues.
  • Do you stay or do you go at 50? It probably depends on your health (often poor health is fire-related), your other options, your family, your planning and if your line officer or fire supervisor stuck it to you that day. The vast majority that go never look back.
  • Most ADs I know are as service oriented as they were prior to retirement.
  • Those ADs I have spoken with do want something close to fair and they do have a groundpounding wisdom that is becoming more rare with the experience drain caused by retirements (and evidenced by the increase in entrapments and the 400% increase in deaths of fallers over the last 25 years).
  • Pay by position needs to take into account risk and costs of risk mitigation. We do need non-fed AD fallers (and perhaps some other high risk/high mortality categories of firefighters) to earn enough so they can be insured and we need for insurance to be a standard of Fed fire hire for those positions. Faller safety is firefighter safety.

No doubt I'm overlooking some issues. Readers, please call forth your reason and reply to the issues (not the personalities) in this thread. It's about "the what not the who" and about communicating as best we can so we all see the issues to be addressed more clearly.

Ab.

4/23 Re: Mandatory Retirement Age and the Roots of the Original Decision(s)

On March 7, 2006, someone posted the following regarding mandatory retirement ages in both law enforcement and firefighting within the federal government.

"I have a whole compilation of how federal employees got firefighter retirement. I also have the stuff where the Forest Service was opposing firefighter retirement. It had nothing to do with smoke, but nice try. Federal firefighter retirement programs go way back to a person named J. Edgar Hoover and a few disgruntled federal cops.... you can start researching it from there. If you make it to the part where Richard Nixon vetoed the bill for firefighter special retirement provisions, I'd be happy to tell you the rest of the story. It came out well.."

Full Text of the Presidential Veto

Excerpt:

"...there is no demonstrated need for permitting Federal firefighters to retire at an earlier than normal age. Civil Service retirement laws have limited early retirement only to those occupations such as law enforcement, in which there is a unique need to maintain a young work force. This is not the case with Federal firefighters who, because they work in a controlled environment and are exposed to a lower incidence of fires, do not face the stone degree of hazard as employees of municipal fire departments many of whom are eligible for early retirement. "

Basically (to make a very long story much shorter), the federal law enforcement community (FBI) was fed up with the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover and his appointments to key positions within the "Agency" that were derailing progress and being mismanaged. At the time, positions within federal law enforcement (almost entirely FBI or Treasury at the time) were life long tenures and all SACs and Deputy SACs were appointed by J. Edgar.

In an attempt to correct the issues, they (FBI Employees Association) lobbied for legislation to correct the problems they were experiencing and got legislation passed. Nearly fifteen years later, federal firefighters lobbied for the same (similar) provisions, but added a "safety twist" to their language. It was initially vetoed by President Nixon, but later signed into law by a subsequent President.

Somewhere in the FWFSA archive files the data exists. Also, the original info and comparison was posted to They Said in 2002 or 2003, but I can no longer find it via the search function.

The history behind the previous decisions may or may not have been important, but I'd bet there might be some significance in future decisions?

Noname

P.S. - The early retirement provision is good, but the maximum entry age (MEA) and mandatory retirement age was flawed from the start and original concept. History matters.

4/23 South Carlolina fire:

I heard this fire grew to 8,000 acres overnight and was 15,000 acres at 0900 east coast time. Hotlist Thread: SC-SCS-Fire near Myrtle Beach If anyone knows the fire's name and if the unit identifier is correct, please let us know. BE SAFE. Ab.

From No Name in SC:

Photo Gallery
South Carolina Fire Forces Evacuations
Charlottesville Observer Photo Galleries

Article from SC Now:
Florence firefighters aid in fight of Horry County SC blaze

From staff reports
Published: April 22, 2009

Firefighters from Florence County have headed to Horry County to assist with a large blaze that has scorched some 3,000 acres and forced at least 20 people out of their homes.

The South Carolina Firefighters Mobilization program has been activated because of the large fire burning an area near S.C. 90 just outside of Conway, said John Baker, South Lynches Fire Department administrator and Region Four coordinator for the program.

Firemen work to secure Grande Dunes from massive blaze

“We are just trying to find some resources in Florence to assist them with the situation they have,” Baker said Wednesday afternoon.

The program is activated when a fire department has exhausted all its local mutual aid resources and has no choice but to reach out to agencies farther away, he said.

Crews with both the Conway Fire Department and the S.C. Forestry Commission spent most of Wednesday battling the blaze but by that afternoon, it became apparent that more help was needed.

Finding the resources has been a real challenge, Baker said.

“One unit from Windy Hill (Volunteer Fire Department), one unit from the city of Florence and one unit from Darlington County (Fire District) are heading down there,” Baker said.

Firefighters from the agencies likely will be spending the night in Horry County, he said Wednesday evening.

Region Four includes Florence, Clarendon, Dillon, Marion, Georgetown and Williamsburg Counties.
(More at the link)

4/23 Civil Rights Case:

From Firescribe:

LA Times article:

Firefighters' civil rights case could reshape hiring policies
The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in the case, in which 20 white firefighters allege racial discrimination in New Haven, Conn.
By David G. Savage
April 6, 2009

Reporting from Washington -- Frank Ricci -- a firefighter in New Haven, Conn. -- spent months listening to study tapes as he drove to work and in the evenings, preparing for a promotional test. It was a once-a-decade chance to move up to a command rank in the fire department.

Ricci earned a top score but no promotion.

The city had coded the test takers by race, and of the top 15 scorers, 14 were white and one was Latino. Since there were only 15 vacancies, it looked as though no blacks would be promoted.

After a racially charged debate that stretched over four hearings, the city's civil service board rejected the test scores five years ago and promoted no one.

"To have the city throw it out because you're white or because you're not African American is insulting," Ricci said when he and 19 other firefighters sued the city for racial discrimination. (To read the rest please go to the article.)

To discuss, please join the Hotlist discussion thread: New Haven 20. Ab.

4/22 AD pay rates & Mandatory retirement:

Fedwatcher II

Interesting thought but I don’t think it would have much effect on staffing needs on fires. Despite MEL, what the federal agencies have failed to do is adequately explain to Congress, FEMA, etc. the true staffing needs when we are at PL 4-5 for 10 weeks followed by a few AH hurricanes and floods – throw in an earthquake for good measure

Without intending to belittle the GS-13+ folks, where an incredible amount of expertise and corporate knowledge resides, I think the predominant expertise to fill that kind of staffing need (which has become the norm) resides lies in the GS-9 through GS-12 retirees, and – though undocumented - I suspect less than 75% of those would be willing to stay on beyond mandatory (there are always exceptions)

The issues are equality of pay, treatment, benefits, and liability protection.

Hugh Carson

4/22 Mandatory retirement:

With the recent posts on ADs, I was curious as to what people might think the pros & cons would be if the mandatory retirement age were changed or eliminated. It doesn't seem to make much sense to make someone retire at a certain age, then allow them to continue working in the same capacity as an AD for less money.

Fedwatcher II

4/22 Misery Whip,

The "roll-out concept" of how we are supposed to be managing large fires, or the potential large fires is being instructed by Custer's NIMO Team.

At the end of April, they will be presenting the concept to Line Officers and fire management for the Los Padres, Cleveland, San Bernardino, and Angeles national forests.

It will be interesting to say the least.

Gizmo
4/22 Re: Deep Smarts and "Pay it Forward... Upwards Leadership"

Yac,

What you are explaining has often been described as the "supe <L's snip>" in the Hotshot community. <snip> It's has been a method of effective organizational learning for six decades. It is all about leaders taking someone under their wing.

It is all about picking and choosing future leaders and giving them the tools and knowledge for success in the future..... and being a mentor to them and allowing them to excel ( build their own wings and fly) while asking questions and learning. If they fly too soon and crash.... the mentor (leader) is responsible to get them back on the perch again.... ready for the next flight with lessons learned.

Deep Smarts is an excellent read, especially for senior level fire managers and line officers not familiar with the concepts of organizational learning and high reliability organizing that are widely known and taught within the wildland fire curriculum (L-180, L-280, L-380, L-381, etc.... )

The entire leadership curriculum (L-180 through L-580) should be required of Line Officers in their developmental process before "they get their wings".... or the ability to audit and prove they know, understand, and can implement the concepts needed to effectively lead, supervise, and provide oversight to the complex program of Fire Management.... This needs to happen before they are certified as capable of fire program management or the ability to review fire program management decisions or pass judgment upon others as "experts".

JMHO.

Lobotomy

L, as you pointed out, being able to give someone like a line officer (or congress person) an article is one more tool in the arsenal of tools we need in our toolboxes. They also may appreciate having such a tool. Just because you know the content has been used by hotshots for 60 years does not mean yactac, and others do not know that as well or that it shouldn't be provided to the fire community here and now when we have such a dramatic loss of retirees' experience, even retirements of those hotshot supes that know it's the best way to pass on wisdom.

I really appreciate it that yactac sent in the reference. I very much appreciate your research as well. I enjoy the opportunity to continue learning here. Sharing such info is what this site is all about. I don't know if you've actually read it, but the organization of the paper and its readability are excellent. Its business model context is perfect for the Forest Service higher ups and congress that should be addressing costs associated with retention of retirees -- as though the FS managers were running an extremely high risk business in which reducing fire entrapments and falling snags reduces costs big time as well as saving lives which is our main concern as professionals. Ab.

4/22 DRD,

Well, everyone has different opinions and yours is one I've run into often with many currently employed "agency" people. Wait until you retire and just see how hard it is to make it on federal retirement - no matter what GS level you retire at. Then, if you decide to sign up for work as an AD (or whatever) to make some additional $$ and to give back to the fire world with your years of knowledge and experience, lets see how you feel then. It's a whole different ball game after you retire - people treat you differently, even those you worked with!

Most of us sign up as ADs every year for several reasons. First of all, we enjoy working in fire and with the shortage of qualified resources, we feel we have something we can give back to the agency with our knowledge and experience. Second, for many of us, it's the chance to put some extra $$ in our bank account during the summer; and for some, it's a chance to keep up with what's going on in the fire world by getting out and working with new people, seeing old friends, traveling around the country, and of course, it's the adrenaline rush when we see the large column of smoke.

You mention lack of ADs keeping up with the "new ways" - as it should be, agency people get first choice of trainings and any remaining slots are offered to others like ADs. (Also, you are limited on how many hours of training each year you can go to as an AD.) I know many ADs who spend their own money for the trainings if they can't get their sponsoring unit to pay for it or nominate them. They also spend their own money getting familiar with the latest software advances in fire behavior, etc and sometimes pay their own way to conferences, etc to make sure they are keeping up with what's new. Some folks take classes - on their own dime - at local community colleges that offer wildland firefighting programs just to keep up with what is being taught to the new recruits!

I will admit that some folks of the "old guard" are stuck in the old ways of doing things and don't want to learn or keep up with new advances, but I truly believe that's the minority. The vast majority of ADs that I have worked with - both in my federal career and after retirement working as an AD myself - have been outstanding workers, up to date with modern advances and more than qualified to fill the positions they are in. Many I would "name request" in an instant if the sh---t hit the fan!

As for pay gripes - we've all done it. Both as federal workers and as ADs. That is a personal decision as to whether a person chooses to continue working when the agency they are sponsored through doesn't keep up with increased pay rates by another agency for the same position. Each person has to make their own decision on that - not those on this board.

I admire and applaud those who - despite the aggravation of problems facing ADs each year - continue to go out on assignments and give their "all" to keep firefighters safe, protect our natural resources, and give to others their knowledge and experience which no amount of book learning can do.

For those who will be going out again this season - I'm still on the fence about my decision - keep yourselves safe and feel darned proud of the work you are doing. Encourage ordering agencies to let you have a trainee with you whenever possible - your experience and knowledge is a treasure trove that is important to pass on!

FLK - Old and Tired
4/21 Abs & All,

I just read a really weird thing called the

Continuous Improvement in Decision-Making for Large Fire Management 2009 Communication Guide (doc)

Here’s a snip from it:

* The Forest Service will only engage in actions that are safe and likely to be effective and successful.

  • Large, complex fires - called mega-fires - are increasing; these fires are also becoming more dangerous for firefighters.
  • In the past 10 years on average 21 firefighters die fighting wildfires and there are 7 aviation accidents. The Forest Service alone spends $1.2 billion to suppress about 10,000 fires.
  • The Forest Service will take no unnecessary risk.
  • The Forest Service will continue to help people in communities near wildlands learn to live safely with fire and become safer, fire-adapted communities.
  • Although wildland fires are becoming larger, resources to manage them remain limited.

It is comforting to know the Forest Service will take no unnecessary risk. But I feel sorry for the 20 or so poor bastards who will die fighting fires on Forest Service managed lands this summer. “It’s cool to be safe” only works for WO desk jockeys who never have to face danger or make the kind of life-and-death decisions wildland firefighters make every day.

As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.” It appears the Forest Service has declared surrender. Fire won.

Misery Whip

4/21 FLK,

I personally have no issues with ADs, PS contractors, or folks that get sponsorship through FDs. The fact is that fire seasons are starting earlier, lasting longer, burning larger and effecting different regions of the country at the same time. We also have committed (although not necessarily trained) ourselves to "all-risk" missions. So ADs et al aren't going away anytime soon.

Where I think the rub with some of my fellow employees, is that there has been quite a few ADs that seem to think the world will fall apart without them. Some of them are not keeping up with new procedures, policy, refresher training, etc. For instance, in the air world, there has never been a group of more professional ATGS' than there are right now. Procedures are much different now than they were when many of the ADs were trained and/or retired. There are many good ADs out there.... there are some that do okay.... but there are some that quite frankly aren't worth a damn. Ironically, it seems that it's these few that give the rest a bad reputation by complaining about how little they get, and by quite frankly acting as if they are God's gift to whatever it is they are doing.

There are ADs and PS contractors in my circle of friends, and I have the utmost respect for them and their abilities. But they also know and seem to understand that they will work when they can... when asked. They also themselves spend their own time training agency folks to do their job. I have yet to hear any one of them bitch about working before an agency person does. In fact, I have them question why there are so many ADs working in a region, when there are agency employees sitting at home.

The fact that ADs don't get H diff.? I don't agree with it. The fact that there is a difference between DOI and USFS AD rates? I don't agree with it... But I also don't agree with the fact that my job in another agency rates out a full grade (maybe two) higher... There are also people I know that hold fairly advanced red card ratings, for their GS grade. Do these people get any stipend when they fill one of those positions on a fire? Hell no, they don't.
So ADs aren't the only ones getting the shaft here.

I guess, what scraped me reading your post, is that the increase is something that has been a battle. And now that it has been won (albeit, maybe a small portion of the battle... a skirmish, if you will) There is already complaining within your ranks.

DRD
4/21 Abs,

As space permits. Here is something from the last WFF Board of Directors meeting for the community

To The Wildland Fire Community

The Board of Directors and the Staff of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation wants to make sure that all of you understand that the basic mission of the Foundation is, all ways has been, and will continue to be, the support of the families of those we lose and to support the individuals and families of those seriously injured during wildland fire operations no matter what agency, employment status, or nationality. The funds that you so generously contribute to the Foundation through your 52 club memberships, the purchase of merchandise, fundraisers and donations will go to our meeting the stated goals of the Foundation within the United States. Your support over the past year enabled the Foundation to, among other things, assist with 137 overnight hotel stays, assist 28 families with airline travel, presented 26 bronze statues, conduct the fifth family day, and to play Santa’s helper to 33 families.

You also need to understand that we get a number of visitors to our offices and inquiries from outside the United States. Many of these people make contributions and purchase merchandise. The vast majority of these folks also express their desire to see a similar organization within their home country. We have indicated that we would be willing to assist someone from their country in developing something similar, but have also indicated to them that for something like this to be successful it has to be developed from the ground up within their home country. We know we have made many false starts and feel that it would be in the best interests of the entire wildland community to openly share what assistance we can.

When there is a situation similar to the one this winter in Australia we feel that there is a role for the Foundation to provide a conduit for those who wish to make a contribution to the wildland firefighters in that country AS LONG AS IT DOES NOT AFFECT our ability to meet our mission within the United States. Any donations made for this type of activity must be clearly marked for the situation and our normal operating funds will not be used for this type of activity.

While we are talking about donations, we want to make it very clear that we do not rent, loan, sell or otherwise share our membership list, or customer lists with ANYONE. If you get any type of electronic communication from someone purporting to be the WFF asking for personally identifiable information, please do not reply but pick up the phone and call our office at (208) 336-2996. The WFF will never send you any type of an email asking for any type of personally identifiable information. We also take steps to assure that any credit card information that you share with us is secure.

The Board and Staff of the WFF feel strongly that we are holding this Foundation in trust for all the folks out there that fight wildland fire and want you to feel that we are meeting the goals of the Foundation. Many times we are asked, "What can I do to help the Foundation?" The simplest answer is BE SAFE. Nothing would make us any happier than to see the need for the Foundation to assist folks go away.

The Staff and the Board of Directors
WFF
4/21 Ab,

Does anyone keep a list of injured firefighters, how they do after they go to the hospital, if they are disabled for life or recover, even what their injury was?

GA Peach

No, no record as far as I know. 209s list number of injuries but could be anything from bad poison oak or bee sting to burnover or dozer rollover. Ab.

4/21 Ab,

Here's an article called "Texas Senators Push for Wildfire Aid"

Perhaps some support for wildland fire concerns in the Senate from the Texas delegation... while they are obviously concerned about their constituents, perhaps there is now a greater understanding of wildland fire issues.

Be safe-

- Speaking Softly
4/21 I think I can safely say I have worked on as many fires as most ADs. I have filled a hard to fill... UTF... position on Teams and as a single resource as an AD since I retired 10 years ago. Always at the request of the agency. I have never gone looking for AD work. I have requested the agencies assign a trainee with me more times than I can count. I can count the number of assignments I have had a trainee on two fingers.

I'm not bragging just putting out some facts for those that think ADs are pigs at the trough. Believe me I have met some and it makes me want to quit trying to help.

tcj

4/21 Ab,

Been lurking...

In the past I heard of a formal or informal analysis NIFC did (in '02 or '03 or '04) that showed ADs come to work summer after summer regardless of fairness of their pay. Fed firefighter retirees are a service oriented bunch and many just lived with it. Then another way that seemed more equitable presented itself, the Local Government Supplemental Resource alternative. This was discussed in Dec 2004 and probably before but I didn't know what terms to search on to find it.

It seems it does take escalating abuse of something to stimulate a fairer revision of an old system or creation of an entirely new one. As then, I'd ask the following questions be addressed.

  • What kind of professional liability risks do ADs assume and how are they mitigated? What kind of PLI is available to them at what cost? The witch hunting by LE in the FS and now LE from the NPS has only gotten much, much worse... Current Cali NPS LE position: "We have to find someone to prosecute." If you're involved in an accident, you're presumed guilty unless you can hire the lawyer that can show them it's not so. Financially and emotionally you end up scarred for life. It goes way beyond simple accountability. This stuff has to get fixed.
  • What kind of death benefits are available to the ADs families if their breadwinners are killed? Alan Wyatt's family was initially denied PSOB after he was killed by a falling tree on the Missionary Ridge Fire in Colorado on July 2, 2002. (A week after my birthday.) He was a professional AD faller. Took 2 years for the DOJ to change that and award PSOB. Don't know if they'd deny PSOB today in similar circumstances. They denied PSOB to air tanker pilot families too. Said it was their lookout to get insurance, but insurance in high risk professions is very costly...
  • Does the AD pay schedule for each position cover insurance costs? OR... Is the NWCG group working on pay setting the AD system up for hiring substandard fly-by-night workers, fallers for ex, that have no insurance? Low bidding brought out the worst of the worst fire contractors in R6 until the professional nonprofit NWSA came along to root them out.
  • Workers comp at least applies unfairly but equally across the board, fed FF or AD retiree or Indian crew or LG supplemental retiree. Am I right on that? Felling accidents, SJ accidents, dozer rollovers: KRS, that FS helirapper last summer, many more, lots of SJs, dozer operators, were some last summer. Do ADs get workers comp if injured? If they don't, how much $ is their insurance?

    Seems OSHA should have a say in some of this. If AD hires are injured in an unsafe environment, the very least an agency should do before hand is to require proof of insurance and pay firefighters enough to cover the cost of it.

WP

PSOB=Public Safety Officer Benefits

4/21 Effectiveness of R5 Retention Bonus:

Thanks to all that have taken the time to respond to my request about the effectiveness of the R5 retention bonus. I can say that there is an overwhelming consensus among those responding so far.

Additionally some issues, or scenarios regarding some who receive the bonuses have arisen and I have emailed Regional Forester Randy Moore for advice. Of course as an Association, the RF isn't obligated to respond to anything the FWFSA asks of him but he has been accessible for the most part since his arrival to R5 so I'm hopeful he'll respond.

In the meantime we continue to coordinate congressional offices and staff in order to get our bill introduced with a good group of bipartisan support. Rep. Filner (D-CA) will again try to meet with firefighters on the Cleveland NF on May 29th according to his office. Hopefully the "3rd time is the charm."

If you've planned to respond to the retention bonus question but haven't had time, please know there is no "suspense" date but I am forwarding the general direction of the responses to Capitol Hill.

Thanks again,

Casey Judd
Business Manager
FWFSA

4/21 RE: retired ADs and "Deep Smarts"

Retired agency personnel can provide more than an "augment" or "supplement" to an agency workforce. They can provide invaluable "Deep Smarts" (attached), mentoring a current workforce.

yactack

Thanks yactac. Excellent article. Loss of retirees -- whether ADs or LG agreement folks -- is a serious loss of Deep Smarts. Unfortunately, we can't post this article without violating copyright. Readers, here's the info and link to ordering one for yourself. My bold below.
Ab.

Description:

This is an enhanced edition of HBR article R0409F, originally published in September 2004. HBR OnPoint articles include the full-text HBR article plus a summary of key ideas and company examples to help you quickly absorb and apply the concepts.

When a person sizes up a complex situation and rapidly comes to a decision that proves to be not just good but brilliant, you think, "That was smart." After you watch him do this a few times, you realize you're in the presence of something special. It's not raw brainpower, though that helps. It's not emotional intelligence either, though that, too, is often involved. It's deep smarts. Deep smarts are not philosophical, but they're as close to wisdom as business gets. You see them in the manager who understands when and how to move into a new international market, the executive who knows just what kind of talk to give when her organization is in crisis, the technician who can track a product failure back to an interaction between independently produced elements. These are people whose insight is based on know-how more than on know-what; it comprises a system view as well as expertise in individual areas. Because deep smarts are experienced based and often context specific, they can't be produced overnight or readily imported into an organization. They can be taught, however, with the right techniques. Drawing on their forthcoming book Deep Smarts, Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap say the best way to transfer such expertise to novices--and, on a larger scale, to make individual knowledge institutional--isn't through PowerPoint slides, a Web site of best practices, online training, project reports, or lectures. Rather, the sage needs to teach the neophyte individually how to draw wisdom from experience. Companies have to be willing to dedicate time and effort to such extensive training, but the investment more than pays for itself.

Subjects Covered:
Coaching, Employee training, Knowledge management, Knowledge transfer, Organizational learning.

Fair use disclaimer

4/21 Silent Auction for the WFF:

I just wanted to give a big thanks to all those who purchased and brought items to the Great Basin Incident Management Team Workshop "Silent Auction" for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. A special thanks to Western Fire Support Services (Dan Ang) for allowing us to disrupt the vendor show. Also thanks to FIREDAWG (Julie Quigley and group) for their help in collecting money and organizing. We had some great prizes from both the team members as well as from the vendors. Vicki appeared in style as always with her smile and caring heart. I believe we raised $5,800 for the Foundation.

Rowdy

Nice. Ab.

4/20 Fish01, DRD, R5 Dispatcher

I didn't mean my previous post to make it sound like I was against the increased use of "agency" personnel for filling resource requests. In fact, I would LOVE to see the USFS (my old agency) get back to the days when there were plenty of agency personnel to fill fire positions. I can remember when it was considered part of your job duties to work "in support of forest fires" - no matter what your "regular job" was. When there was a need for a crew - people volunteered immediately and we didn't have any trouble putting together an agency crew (FSR) to respond. We had people from timber crew members to office workers taking the step test and getting their redcards each summer. You were proud to do it and looked forward to getting out on a fire at least once a season.

Nothing would please me more than to see an increase in agency personnel wanting to get training and being available to respond to wildland fire and other emergency incidents!

The thing that gets me, is the people who put down ADs with words such as "you get paid too much - way more an hour than a regular employee" , or the old standby "once you are retired you should stay retired". I have heard both of these phrases - and more like them - in my years working as an AD. To me, for those who don't like to see ADs working for the wages they are getting, then they should get some training and get out there and work these jobs themselves!

Even though the extra $$ have been nice during my years as an AD, I would be very happy to see the need for ADs (or contractors) be reduced in lieu of available agency personnel filling these positions. If that is the trend, I'm glad to see it. But, if agency people aren't available, then ADs should receive pay commensurate for the job they are doing and pay should be the same for USFS and DOI ADs.

FLK - Old and Tired

4/20 DRD,

You took the words right out of "my month" OK, off "my finger tips". I agree 100%. Yes there will still be work for retirees, but we need to be training and use our own folks first.

R5 Dispatcher

4/20 Good resource here for fires in Florida, some burning near my sister and her family:

5 of the fires are more than 100 acres.
3 are between Jacksonville and Titusville (east of Orlando on the coast);
1 is west of Orlando;
1 is SW of Orlando

Florida and Texas seem to 'have it together' in organization and in using many types of resources for fighting fires.

Photos:
FL, East Orange Co 2008 brushfires
Spring FL 2007 brushfires
FL 1998 wildfires

GA Peach

Hotlist thread

4/20 FLK - Old and Tired wrote... they will be putting in more requests for "federal only" or "agency only" personnel.

No offense O&T, but that is the way it is supposed to be. ADs are to "supplement" the regular forces.

And it's not any more silly than an ordering agency "requesting" ADs because they are cheaper than agency personnel, or an ordering agency stipulating that ADs are okay, but no P2Ps.

And, my god! There were more agency folks in classes this spring, than ADs? What, pray tell, is going on here, that we fill training slots with "employees" first???

Don't worry. I think there will plenty of work out there for everyone. If they don't call you, then do what any old and tired retired guy should do..... Go on vacation, fishing... drink a cold one... spend time with your family... volunteer.. etc, etc, etc.

Peace,
DRD
4/20 AD request
FLK- Old and Tired,

I am not sure where you reside, but in my area I have not heard any complaining about the AD pay.. only LG salary excess. But if what you say begins to materialize; it is a step in the right direction.

When the ADFA was formed back in 2003, I remember a talking point was to encourage Congress to fund the fire management programs with enough $$ to hire, and train a fire workforce which would provide enough overhead resources inside the organization. A stated goal of the ADFA was to have the Congress provide the budget for hiring, training, and ensuring the agencies to make resources available for assignment when needed. There was a suggestion to have a trainee assigned to each AD resource to help accomplish the development of a fully qualified pool. We challenged Congress and the agencies to "put us out of business". (Hugh, I am sure, will clarify if I have this a little fuzzy.)

If the Feds could get back to the days when they had the talent and depth to fill all the functions from inside the organization...Wow!! They would have would have to return to the values of the 50's' 60's and 70's with an organization built from the ground up rather from the computer and political science classroom down. That would be a long shot.

If fire season continues to occur as predicted, I think there will be plenty of work for ADs if the Gov Trip and hiring process doesn't frustrate us to an early grave.

Fish01

4/20 Ab,

Some of the reason that DOI is behind in issuing the 2009 AD rates, is that the DOI has developed an All Hazard AD Rate Program that shadows the normal AD rates. The All hazard rates will encompass many positions that under the current Fire AD rates do not exist. Such as, Boat Operator, SET Team (LE) ,equipment operator and many more. It will be structured much like the current AD rates now. The intent to release BOTH at the same time, and are at the DOI Secretary level for approval. This will supplement the NPS and FWS All Hazard positions and Teams.

Mark
4/20 From Alf:

Overtime Pay For L.A. Firefighters Soars

Los Angeles (CBS) -- Overtime pay for the Los Angeles Fire Department has soared 60 percent over the last decade, The Daily News reported Monday.

Despite the soar, there has been no real effort to rein in the expense, according to the Daily News.

The analysis found that L.A. firefighters averaged six times more overtime, in comparison to Chicago firefighters, five times more than Houston and two times more than their counterparts in San Diego.

According to the Daily News, 56 firefighters earned at least $100,000 in overtime in addition to their annual salaries in 2008. The average Los Angeles firefighter earned $36,000 in overtime last year and the average salary with overtime in 2008 was $117,000.

The Los Angeles Fire Department's top earner racked up a total of $570,276 in overtime in a span of the last three years, the Daily News reported.

A department spokesperson said recruits earn overtime for after-hours remedial training "if they feel the need for more time to grasp the skills."

Over the past ten years, the Fire Department increased its staffing by 17 percent as the city's needs have grown.

fair use disclaimer

4/19 AD pay and work this season:

Interesting note about the increase in AD pay - I have heard from several "upper level" folks in the fire world that due to the new increase in AD pay, they are going to evaluate their use of ADs when ordering resources this season. Also, just last week I talked to 6 different FMOs, and a couple of people in the dispatch community, and all of them told me that with the increase in pay for ADs this season, they will be putting in more requests for "federal only" or "agency only" personnel.

There will be increased pressure to fill orders with agency personnel this season - which has actually been standard practice for many years - but hasn't really been a problem before due to the lack of agency personnel trained for the positions. However, talking with friends who have been to trainings this winter, they've all said there was a huge increase in agency personnel this year in their classes. Very few ADs amongst the trainees. Supposedly, memos have come out encouraging agency personnel to get trained for more fire positions to decrease the need for ADs.

Seems like the more we try to get ahead to be more competitive, the more people try to resist ordering ADs. Just a big frustrating circle!

FLK - Old and Tired

4/19 Jennie,

If the movie is about wildland ff's then i would suggest that donations be made to the WFF. Just my 2 cents

TNBG

4/19 AD Pay rate:

FLK - Old and Tired,

Don't throw in the towel yet.

Maybe the DOI agencies are just taking additional time to study the needs for higher rates of pay, and the implementation of allowed overtime in their AD pay plan before they publish it.

It is quite possible that USDA (Forest Service) and the USDI had a division of thoughts this year in the ways they seek to administer their AD pay programs.

I can't substantiate it yet, but rumor has it that USDI was trying to modernize its AD program completely and called in SMEs to participate, while the FS was just trying to raise the basic hourly rates and use the existing plan structure with a minimum of SME input.

In either case, both actions were a step in the right direction and should be lauded as a success in communications and the need for the overhaul of the land management agencies' pay programs...... All pay programs.

Every action or inaction, positive or negative, in the wildland fire program affects the entire end state mission delivery...

Lobotomy

The FS called in SMEs. Ab.

4/19 Changing the National Response System

I wrote: I personally think we need to wipe the board clean, start anew with a clearly defined end state: "Provide the American Public with the best-trained, most-capable disaster emergency response force possible, to include federal, state and local responders."

"And following the L-381 model of Turning Intent Into Action, one of the objectives might be "to achieve relative pay equality for all responders, regardless of agency affiliation or level of government at which they work."

"And somehow I'm going to get it into Obama's, Napolitino's, Vilsack's, and Salazar's hands, as well as 535 Members of Congress and 50 State Governors (again)."

Here's my first draft. Feel free to offer comments and/or e-mail me  with revisions, additional objectives, strategy/tactics.

Remember, part of this is pay and equality of treatment, but on a larger scale it is NOT to put more band-aids on a half-broke system but rather to take on the whole enchilada of emergency response in the United States of America.

FIRST DRAFT:

Current State:

1. Pay discrepancies among employees at the federal, state, and local level who are performing the same job
2. Certification discrepancies among employees at the federal, state, and local level who are performing the same job
3. Unwillingness of federal and other entities to pay responders at a level commensurate with knowledge, skills, and abilities, job complexity, etc.
4. Due to the above factors, inability of the national response system (FEMA, NICC) to respond effectively and efficiently and staff incidents during a period of time extending into the foreseeable future where complex mega fires and non-wildland fire All-Hazard incidents are the norm rather than the exception

Draft End State: Emergency response staffing is established at the national, state, and local levels comprised of competent, trained, and certified responders from both the public and private sectors. In order to achieve high team synergy among the national response community, potential for friction among the team due to inequitable pay, treatment, travel, etc. is reduced to an absolute minimum

Objectives:

1. Within the constraints of a responder community comprised of union, non-union and volunteer responders, pay scales are established that are both fair and equitable.
2. Reimbursement of personnel costs to non-federal entities who furnish responders should be based on fair, logical criteria.

Strategy:

Tactics:

Execution:

Hugh Carson

4/19 IRGirl:

It has taken me all day to mount a civil response to your recent post. All I have to say is that if Alice is the answer to NIMO Teams then what do we need NIMO Teams for?

Well actually I do have more to say. I know personally the NIMO Team IC you refer to and take serious exception to your statement. He is one of the best in the business. Also, if Alice Forbes was anything other than your typical "golden parachute" retired bureaucrat why did she work as a privileged contractor instead of as an AD like the rest of us retirees are required to do.

And also: I learned a whole long time ago that teams and team efforts produce much higher quality management decisions than the sum-total of any individual efforts on the team could possibly produce. This is the cornerstone of the High Reliability Organization that we are all striving for in the federal wildland fire service. If you do not believe that then you have no business being in management of any activity let alone wildland fire.

But thanks. Yours is a perfect example of the apex of the Septuple Standard of Compensation I spoke of in an earlier post.

Knuckledragon

Thanks for thinking and revising before hitting the send button. Ab.

4/19 Film premier:

Hi Ab,

For anyone in the area, there will be a local premiere of "Behind the Lines: Fighting a Wildland Fire" on Saturday, June 6, at approximately 7:30 p.m. at Samy's Camera in Santa Barbara - 614 Chapala Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. There will be a few short environmental films shown first - winners of the "2 minute Green Film" contest. There will also be food sponsored by local Santa Barbara restaurant SilverGreens. There will be local fire personnel on hand (a few from the film, at least!.)

We are going to ask for a small donation in lieu of selling tickets - the donation is suggested, not required. I will be donating that money to a charity selected by firefighters. I am talking to our local firefighters for suggestions, but am open to suggestions that you and your readers may have, too.

More information will be posted as it becomes available on the film's website.

Sincerely,
Jennie Reinish

4/18 IR Girl:

Ms. Forbes ’ competency is not the issue. The hypocrisy and irony issue of her resisting during her tenure as Asst Director-NIFC any sort of progress in the rehired annuitant arena and AD Wage Scale is.

Hugh Carson
4/18 In response to Mr. Carson's post on 4/15:

Yes, Ms Forbes was on contract. I was glad to see her there. She saved a LOT of money and provided an invaluable service by 1) singly replacing an entire out-of-area NIMO team (with extra members), 2) being local so she did not have to be reimbursed for lodging, meals, or travel, 3) bringing her expertise and calm to a crazy situation, and 4) picking up the pieces and giving consistency and sanity to a piece-meal, rotating, command. Thanks.

IRGirl

4/17 Ab

I recently got a promotion to an 8 level. It is my understanding that I will lose the 10% bonus. Now the last time I checked I'm not leaving the agency I'm promoting.

Now correct me if I'm wrong but I thought the bonus was for retention of employees. Something to keep them and motivate them to want to stay and even ( god forbid) promote. I understand the whole I have to be in a position for one full year with a successful performance eval to be eligible for the bonus. I get that part but the rest seems a little hazy to me.

A

4/17

AD pay plan

“Government is often a reaction to a reaction to a reaction instead of over-arching insight and vision that inspire global and local decision making efforts like AD pay and LG/supplemental resource pay. Ab.”

Chuckle, Ab. That PolySci 101 lesson made my day here. You got that right for sure.

However, one of the reasons I like our current leader is that he possesses “over-arching insight and vision that inspire global and local decision making efforts.” (now, hold off, big dogs, let’s not let that statement inspire some political rant from the opposite spectrum. Bear with me, or we’ll lose our focus.)

Having seen and participated in the “wrong way to get it done” in the late 60s (who woulda guessed?), and being shown by an army of young kids (now defined by yours truly who just hit the big 60 as anyone under the age of 45) how to do it right in 2008, my expectation – unrealistic as it may be – is that, properly presented, we can effect some true change.

Now what does that consist of?

I personally think we need to wipe the board clean, start anew with a clearly defined end state: “Provide the American Public with the best-trained, most-capable disaster emergency response force possible, to include federal, state and local responders.”

And following the L-381 model of Turning Intent Into Action, one of the objectives might be “to achieve relative pay equality for all responders, regardless of agency affiliation or level of government at which they work.”

The one thing that impresses me about Obama is that when he is asked a question, he tends to verbally stumble in the opening part of his response.

Way back when, I thought it was a fault, used as I was to smoothly delivered but meaningless sound bites. But then I started looking closely at what I for one thought was truly going down in those first few seconds of his responses, and as evidenced by the results.

Maybe I’m dreaming, but I think that when asked a question of even the simplest complexity, he is processing all factors of the issue at lightning speed in order to develop a coherent and hopefully honest response. And what often comes out is often the classic military doctrine of end state, objectives, and strategy – not couched in those exact terms of course, but this guy could have walked into an L-381 class cold and taught Commander’s Guidance/Leader’s Intent. Listen to some of his responses, and quite often they’re fairly neatly segmented into the above.

So, Ab, I am working on the “over-arching insight and vision.”

And somehow I’m going to get it into Obama’s, Napolitino’s, Vilsack’s, and Salazar’s hands, as well as 535 Members of Congress and 50 State Governors (again).

And Lobotomy and others, thanks for all the info on source documents, some of which we had in 2006 but some of which are new. Keep ‘em coming!

We will never have this opportunity again. Carpe diem.

Regards,

Hugh Carson

Obama is the current president and "commander". Each person's opinion is their opinion regarding his vision or lack thereof. I do not want this to turn into a political posting free-for-all. Please restrain yourselves from political comments. I'm on the road and have no time to referee. Ab.

4/17 AD pay:

As one who has worked as an AD for over 15 seasons, I have been very frustrated over the pay discrepancy between ADs and regular employees. Now I see the USFS is making an effort towards that end, but the DOI has not agreed on the new pay rates. I for one, am not going out until DOI adjusts the pay. Why in the heck would I - as a DOI sponsored AD - go out on a job where USFS ADs are performing the same job as I am but making several dollars more an hour?? No thanks.

Oh well, it's been a good run and I've had some wonderful experiences and met some great people on fires over the years. But, all good things must come to an end, and maybe this is the end for me. I'm tired of being treated like a "step child" for working as an AD and now with getting shafted pay-wise, I guess maybe it's time to hang it up.

For all of you still out there on the fireline, in the air, firecamp and in dispatch centers - stay safe and have a great summer!

.........FLK - Old and Tired

4/17 Re: FLSA Trumps FS 2009 AD Rates... Doing What is Right

Hugh,

AD employees and supporters might be interested in this also. It is a long expose and will take folks some time to read and understand. Hopefully it is good info that you can use. I have asked that the info be truncated for those not interested.

Lobotomy

~~~~

Regarding...... "not withstanding other provisions of the law" (emphasis below) provisions found in the Forest Service and DOI Administratively Determined (AD) pay program PEER REVIEW and FACTUAL ANALYSIS......

...aka the Fair Labor Standards Act was somehow omitted as "...other provisions of the law" in implementing the FS and DOI AD pay programs FOR MANY, MANY YEARS...

A piece by piece analysis (2009) of why the Forest Service and Department of Interior Administratively Determined (AD) pay programs violate basics tenants in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

A simple users guide with direct

<Ab, please cut the topic here and add as an ATTACHMENT FILE for anyone interested in following the myriad of issues and the simple fixes. All factual, researched, and verified. FLSA is "trumping legislation" as sustained by the US Courts. thanks>

4/17 Re post regarding Vilsack's interaction (yesterday) and a Challenge

To Casey and the entire FWFSA board... Thank You!

On the FWFSA web-page it says

THANKS TO ALL 130 NEW MEMBERS IN 2008!

My question to all of you is how do we develop a challenge to double this number to 260 new members in 2009? Membership Matters!

Any Ideas?

Stand Strong, Stand Together, Stand Up NOW!

Letterman

4/16 Hugh,

The higher paid AD employees within FEMA are subject to the overtime pay cap. That is why it might have appeared they were not receiving overtime at the higher levels.

In regards to the Forest Service and DOI agencies:

Public Law 106-558, signed December 21,2000, requires employees of the Department of the Interior and the United States Forest Service, whose overtime pay is calculated under rules established in title 5, United States Code, section 5542(a), to be paid at a rate equal to one and one-half times their hourly rate of basic pay when they are engaged in emergency wildland fire suppression activities. Prior to this law, the overtime pay rate was restricted to that calculated at the GS-10, step 1 level.

Lobotomy

Ref:
~~~~~
Section 1121 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Public Law 108-136) amended the overtime pay cap provisions that apply to employees covered by 5 U.S.C. 5542(a)(2). The new overtime pay cap became effective on November 24, 2003. Under the amended 5 U.S.C. 5542(a)(2), for employees with rates of basic pay greater than the basic pay for GS-10, step 1, the overtime hourly rate is the greater of-

  1. the hourly rate of basic pay for GS-10, step 1, multiplied by 1.5, or
  2. the employee's hourly rate of basic pay.
4/16 Making the rounds: Quilt Project

We’re looking for New Crew shirts to be used within our quilt which will be auctioned off to raise money for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

Nate G
BLM WFAP Coordinator/
CASO Fire Training Officer
McClellan, CA

Flyer (please distribute widely)

4/16 AD Pay:

Hi All:

I'm starting to redo the rate comparison chart for each ICS position comparing GS 2 - 14 2009 pay scales to determine the equivalency of the 2009 AD A-M level positions for 2 week pay period of 14-hour shifts. Just an update to the 2006 analysis that was on the web link. Should be done by the weekend, since all it is is a spreadsheet with wage calculation formulas embedded. Just need to slip in the new GS and AD rates for 2009.

On the plus side, the numbers I've crunched so far appear to be far much fairer than in the past, but with several glaring inconsistencies. For example, an ICT2 makes AD-K wages, which is what AOBDs and Ops Branch Directors make.

There's something wrong with that picture, and I suspect they mixed apples and oranges, the apples being the OPM rating/ranking system and the oranges the ICS hierarchical organizational structure. But the rationale of an ICT1 at the AD-M level and an ICT2 being at the K level escapes me.

Some clarification on my statement posted earlier:

...we collectively pursue whatever end state and objectives we feel are necessary.

  • A FOIA submitted to determine how the AD rates were determined. The political climate is now conducive to a better response.
  • Reconstitution of the ADFA as an adjunct to the FWFSA (Casey and I have had long talks about this, and the synergy that could develop, plus he knows the Washington ropes.)
  • A class action suit on behalf of all ADs who bore the brunt of the conscious misuse and fraudulent abuse of the 1951 Administratively-Determined (AD) Pay Authority by the US Forest Service and the DOI agencies.

Any takers? My thoughts are we need an informal Steering Group with a dynamic, sharp leader - no need to incorporate immediately as we did the last go-round - just figure out what's what in the zoo, and develop an end state, objectives, strategy and tactics".

The clarification on the above:

  1. Depending on the willingness of the new Administration and its political appointees and career civil servants to adhere to Obama's stated objective of transparency in government, we may not need to go the FOIA route. But in order to determine the methodology utilized to determine the 2009 rates, we need to be privy to the process followed and discussions that ensued. There's a hard way (FOIA) and an easy way (a cooperative effort). I vote for the easy way and am more than willing to bury my 5-year anger at the agencies' intransigence on this AD issue - bury it forever provided they reciprocate with open, honest discussion. Once again, it's their choice.
  2. Reconstitution of the ADFA as an adjunct to the FWFSA. These discussions are in the very beginning stages. Stay tuned My concern is that the AD issue not cloud the major thrust of FWFSA's efforts.
  3. Class Action Suit. If in fact it can be proven that deliberate and discriminatory practices, approaches, and treatment of ADs existed 2000-2008 and that they violated US law, then such a suit is on the table. And it would be extremely costly to the government if ADs were reimbursed on an equitable basis: 1,000s of ADs, 100,000s of hours.

But I hesitate to advocate that at all, all it does is make us feel good, and it destroys opportunities to develop a partnership between ADs and retirees and the government. I would put such a suit at the edge of the table, pending determination of what the posture and attitude the federal agencies will take regarding our discovery process to determine what went down resulting in the significant change in the 2009 AD rates. As well as their willingness to consider any valid concerns we might come up with.

Onwards,

Hugh Carson

4/16 AD Pay:

Hugh, What went down was the discovery of two huge (likely) fraudulent arrangements between individuals (supplemental resources) and Local Governments involving very large sums of $$. No doubt investigations involve the DOJ and the IRS as well as other similar entities. "Follow the $$$."

I believe the AD pay adjustment was, in large part, a FS good faith attempt at a remedy for the ballooning LG and supplemental resource (likely) fraud situation perpetrated by a very few. Now, how the AD situation got to where it did and how the LG/supplemental resource arrangement got to where it did, no doubt those are intertwined, the second partially in reaction to the first. "Whatever the market will bear." And partly it's the result of retiring fire forces still needed to "Get 'er done." Government is often a reaction to a reaction to a reaction instead of over-arching insight and vision that inspire global and local decision making efforts like AD pay and LG/supplemental resource pay. Ab.

To make these easy to find:
USFS 2009 AD Rates
AD Pay by Position

4/16 I love this forum. What I really love about this forum is that what we learn. We are able to see internal and external documents than we would of never seen 10-20 + years ago. We now can call people out on decisions.

Now that the ABRE report is posted and probably about now raising some eyebrows of concern with our LA County counterparts, we R-5 have yet again stepped into it. Smack dab in the middle of it again and it smells.

Where is the leadership? Where are the decision makers? Where are these Line Officers and certain fire management officials on the 4th who wake up every morning trying to please a Line Officer taking us to?

Scary stuff my friends.

We need to all stand strong and stand together. We collectively after we get everyone through fire refresher need begin a massive email and phone call campaign to get an update and RESULTS on Moore's promise of raises and PTP. The campaign must be massive in scale and sustained.

I heard of a letter that is out there from a Santa Barbara County Chief on this subject to Randy Moore. Has anyone seen it?

Letterman

Please note: Not all gets posted here. You'd be surprised what ends up in the round can. Ab.

4/16 AD Pay:

Hugh,

Not to nit pick your comparison but I think you didn't find the GS wage Chart with Locality pay included. In the "Rest of US" the GS-11-1 base rate is $27.03 and the 12-1 is $32.40.

I think The new AD rates are still a huge step forward, for the FS anyhow.

tcj

4/16 I might have an opportunity to detail as a GS 9 this summer, but I would take about a $50 pay cut per pay period. That's not right.


GS-8 Step 3

GS-9 Step 2

 

21.58
1726.40
172.64
1899.04
---------
-51.84

  23.09
1847.20


---------
 

 



 

JS

4/16 AD compensation rates:

Hugh,

After your recent great dissertation here I wondered if you knew that the recent increase in AD compensation rates applies only to USFS sponsored ADs who are not currently employed as many of us are now in Texas. USDI ADs are still screwed, and according to what I have heard, will remain that way for the duration of this coming fire season. There are now seven different levels of compensation possible for folks who might be doing the same job.

The "Septuple Standard" is:

Best Paid: The "Alice Forbes" type folks who provide nothing. They are the good old boys who feathered their nests before retirement to the exclusion of all of the rest of us who do the really critical mano-a-mano work directly with fires.

Next: Contractors who double dip between their contract compensation and AD compensation. Illegal of course but several are doing it.

Next: Contractors with fire departments

Next: Regular government employees who may belong on GS level but are likely short on experience... Hi GS level, OT, H Pay, bennies, etc.

Next: USFS ADs

Last: USDI ADs. That includes you, doesn't it?

Last last: Low grade GS groundpounders such as shot crew or engine folks.

Nothing has changed in the big picture of compensation lately other than to add another tier to the compensation multiple standards. The only way change will occur is if we ADs once again organize. Casey and Hugh....you guys are the ones to bring this to the attention of those who might be able to change it.

KnuckleDragon

National Standards? Ab.

4/16 Airtanker base at Santa Maria:

To Ab,

Several congressional offices and local government agencies have been contacted regarding Safety relating to the abolishment of two firefighter positions on the Los Padres NF.

The Question is " Can we really afford not to have a fully staffed reload aircraft tanker base at Santa Maria or Goleta."

Some of the attached key information documents that were required for managers to be able to make a sound informed decision about base closure were purposefully left out by other managers.

Additional decisions are forecast in light of the ABEA Air Tanker Base Efficiency Analysis (large 3796 K pdf ) report that Region 5 Fire Aviation Management performed.

Stay Tuned.

Joe Duran
Local Union President
FL NFFE 2023

santa-maria safety aware 032509 (60K doc)
santa-maria briefing (91K doc)

santa-maria senators staff (34K doc)
santa-barbara airtanker base 042007 (33K doc)

4/16

Secretary of Agriculture to Open Up Lines of Communication with the FWFSA

The FWFSA was honored to receive a phone call today from the Chief of Staff of the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in response to the FWFSA's inquiry about the Secretary's address before the IAFF and the inability of the FWFSA to secure time with the Secretary or staff during last month's DC visit along with the continued ignoring of the FWFSA by the Forest Service Chief.

The COS acknowledged the hectic pace of a new office without a staff and the fact the office was now on its fourth scheduler since the Secretary was appointed. He indicated that the call would mark the opening of dialogue with the FWFSA.

Further, it was acknowledged that with respect to the Secretary's address to the IAFF Legislative Conference attendees last month, the office "missed the boat" regarding representational issues and that the appearance had been scheduled before the staff came on board and was not looked at closely because of the personal relationship between the Secretary and the IAFF General President.

All that said, we are encouraged that this is the first positive contact from the Ag Secretary's office in the last 5 years and hope that he, as well as Secretary Salazar of DOI will commit to supporting the issues facing their firefighters. To that end I forwarded a copy of our draft legislation to the Ag Secretary COS.

A staffer with familiarity of the Forest Service will be on board at Ag in the next couple of weeks and will be contacting the FWFSA to more formally start addressing and understanding the issues facing Agency firefighters. Additionally we continue to wait to see who takes over Mark Rey's position.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
FWFSA

4/16 AD rates:

Lobotomy:

Appreciate the heads up. The FEMA DAE avenue was one that the ADFA Board was supposed to pursue after my departure but I never heard anything from the Board on the issue.

I talked to one FEMA-employed AOBD up in Fargo after we were demobed .

It was my impression that FEMA DAEs at that level do not earn OT, but this certainly deserves further exploration .

In all honesty, my hat is off to the feds and whomever (Ms. Wood, Tom Harbour, it doesn’ t matter) who got the IBPWT “ to finally get real ” about wages.

(FYI. this FEMA AOBD (ex-FS Hotshot Supt with a good background in aviation ) was invaluable in getting FEMA to (1) understand the situation and (2) exercise good command and control, mainly in not trying to dictate to my team and the Army Guard air force I was working with in Fargo (18 B-Hawks, a couple of Chinooks) how to do the job. We all detected a somewhat changed attitude at FEMA, though in their eagerness to show everyone they were a “ new FEMA ” their initial reaction I think was to be too “ helpful ” in terms of C&C .)

Regards,

Hugh

4/16 Re: AD Employees in the Forest Service and DOI

Hugh, you and the Wildland Fire AD community on They Said might be interested in this. I replied to you separately with some additional info.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers an Administratively Determined (AD) pay program known as Disaster Assistance Employees (ppt presentation).

FEMA-DISASTER_ASSISTANCE_EMPLOYEE (ppt)

The FEMA program utilizes both NTE 120 day excepted service appointments and often pre-rostered Reservists to perform mission critical functions.

As part of the FEMA program, employees are paid an hourly wage and are eligible for overtime and premium pay during an assignment. Regarding Premium Pay (OT, HP, Night, Holiday, etc.), please see 5 CFR § 550.101.

Ironically enough, the link provided above is HOSTED BY NIFC so they can't say they didn't know about the tools available to them or potential models to try to follow.

Here is a description found in a recent FEMA 2008 DAE Announcement:

"DAEs are paid hourly based on an annual salary. Overtime is paid when applicable. Compensation levels range as follows: Assistants, $28,000 - $35,000; Specialists/Professionals, $42,000 - $52,000; and Management, $62,000 - $70,000. Each position is compensated based on qualifications and complexity of duties. Due to the nature of this appointment, there are no benefits (i.e., health or life insurance, sick leave or vacation) offered."

Hope that helps.

Lobotomy

4/16 ForestRanger34 sent you a video: "Vision in the Forest(1957) / Respecting The Dangers Of Forest Fires / Educational Video"

youtube (5 min Ad Council video from 1957)

Vision in the Forest (1957). While country music singer Vaughn Monroe camps with his family in a beautiful forest, one of his daughters encounters a talking Smokey Bear in a clearing and has a near-mystical experience that teaches her to respect the danger of forest fire. Sponsor: U.S. Forest Service and The Advertising Council, Inc.
Audio/Visual: Sd, C. A family camps in a beautiful forest, and Smokey Bear teaches them to prevent forest fires.
Creative Commons license: Public Domain

4/15 Re: The saga of the LP S.O. ( aka puzzle palace ) continues...

Yep it sure does, but the 'puzzle palace(s)' are being led and instructed from the RO with guidance from the WO. Lots of National Forest are visible from Vallejo and Washington DC....(tongue in cheek). Systematic dismantling of the Forest Service..... piece by piece by disassociation.

On another National Forest in Southern California, the Forest Supervisor is trying to leverage a piece of Forest Service land for sale. This sale would benefit the R-5 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) funds and allow for a new LP Supervisors Office to be built. I know, CIP is old terminology, but I can't keep up with the yearly changes in acronyms anymore. The facts are sound though, and verifiable.

Sounds all well and good except:
  1. The Forest Service site has been listed as eligible under the National Registry of Historic Places. Items of early Forest Service history, as well as items and areas of cultural significance to the local Tribe are found within the compound.
  2. The Forest Service site was built in 1935 and through the years was used as a CCC Camp, the Forest Supervisors Office, the Dispatch Center, a Logistics Center, as well as the home of the first Hotshot Crew in the nation (1946).
  3. The Forest Service site sits adjacent to Native American Tribal Lands, and as such, would be a valued addition to their non-reservation land holdings. The local Tribal Nation has the first right to purchase former ancestral lands. In previous years, the local Tribal Council has opposed any efforts of the federal government to dispose of lands without their first right of refusal or input.
  4. The Forest Service site is still centrally located, and is still directly connected to National Forest System lands. It currently hosts a Hotshot Crew, an Engine Company, a Logistics Support Center, the WO-PSW Radio Support Staff (Area 2). The proposed locations for all of these functions is that they would be relocated into deep city locations well away from the National Forest. Kinda ironic.... when you think about the direction away from the Forest that our "leaders" are leading us towards.
  5. Local, state, and federal politicians (bi-partisan), as well as key national media and business leaders (ie - A former Fortune 500 Company and national ABC affiliate) oppose any attempt to sell the property. Additionally, the surrounding residents and community also oppose the potential sale.

If a battle is to be fought, it will be fought and won. Most wars happen when communication and diplomacy fails. We have tried to communicate and be diplomatic on addressing our concerns, but have failed working internally. Our concerns have continued to fall on deaf ears eagerly intent on marching forward listening to the failed direction and chants of Mark Rey.

Don't piss off a bunch of current and former Hotshots, and their family members and friends (1946 to Present). See item #5 (above).

Anonymous

4/15 AD on IMT

OK---I was an AD on a National Team for some years. I thought I was pure and good by not going to a local fire department. I lost a lot of Yankee Dollars my friends.

Now I have rolled over to a local to hopefully pick up the moolah to comfort me in my advancing years. I feel guiltless and free.

Yours in the Fire Service....

Left Hook.

4/15 Fallers as ADs

Shari, Thanks for the details. When I was working on that AD table and asked Ab, he said to ask my brother in law some things, I might learn something. Between him and you what I learned is there is more to safety than appears on the surface.

I hope Peru is for fun. If you're falling trees, be safe.

Casually hired.

4/15 Retention:

Hi to all:

Several congressional offices have contacted the FWFSA to ascertain the effectiveness of the R5 retention bonuses. They'd like to know of those receiving the bonus whether it had made any difference in anyone's mind as to whether they would stay in the federal system or not, again based solely on the bonus.

The question being posed and any feedback received will not effect in anyway our continued efforts legislatively. In fact the offices contacting the FWFSA plan to support our legislation regardless of the responses from firefighters about the bonus.

If you care to, you can contact me directly by email at cjudd@fwfsa.org. Responses will be compiled but any information forwarded to Congress will not contain names, Forests, grades/positions etc. It will be a very general, basic commentary on the responses received.

Thanks in advance.

Casey Judd
Business Manager
FWFSA

Welcome back. Ab.

4/14 Hotlist:

Interesting information here on fitness standards across agencies, fed, state, vollie. Hotlist thread

Aneche's asking on the members only hotlist forum if there are any mid-westerners. Hotlist thread 

Feel free to contribute to either.

Ab.

4/14 Not a Very Pistol, a Quoin Flare Launcher:

Michelle R. Maybe you could forward this to Larry Sutton.

A Quoin Flare Launcher is not a Very pistol (After Edward Wilson Very (1847–1910). 

No one would be trying to shoot fusees out of Quion Flare launchers if they were worth a crap or if the Government Wildland Agencies would not have caved into the BATF and allowed pen flare launchers and actual Very pistols to be classified as guns. To my knowledge when BATF classified as weapons tools that actually worked and could fire a flare farther than you can throw a rock, none of the management did anything to explain why we needed such tools at our disposal (safety and effectiveness). We used Very pistols and flares for many years with no such incidents as depicted in the photos because they worked effectively in many fuel types including heavy slash. 

The Quoin flare has been a P.O.S. ever since it came out and has not been improved upon or any bids for competition to Quoin released for contract. The "flares" are expensive and extinguish if they hit hard ground, rocks or wood. They work o.k. in very flashy fuels, but then what doesn't? Their range is much less than a very pistol or pen flare and therefore expose the user to increased risk because you have to leave the safety of a road or fireline to walk out into the brush to actually get fire where you need it.

Since the Quoin Flare was introduced I have seen many inventive ways that were "not a recommended practice" used by some very ingenious individuals trying to increase the range and effectiveness of the item in question. Everything from Wrist Rockets to slings and taping rocks to stubbies and others I won't mention. I am not endorsing any of these methods, just hoping that something can be done to fix the problem of range and effectiveness so we dont get anyone else hurt trying to do their job. Get the right tool for the job. 

Dan Fiorito
USFS (Ret.)

Actually, Dan several hotshots sent the pics in. Equipment 14 photo page The message originated in the Southern Region. Michelle was just one of many adding to the trailer. I'm sure Larry will get the message. Thanks for clarifying.

Acronym list including POS, if you can't guess. BATF=Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

4/14 The logic (?) behind AD pay:

I see the thread regarding AD pay and have to point out that ADs don't get paid hazard pay because they are fully qualified to do the job they are hired to do through the red card process. So, if you get hired as a FFT2, then you need to be fully qualified before you can do it. People don't get paid hazard pay for what they are skilled to do according to the government.
 
What is really backwards is that forestry techs get paid hazard pay for firefighting because firefighting is not the primary duty of a forestry tech. Lots of other positions that are hazardous by nature (law enforcement coming immediately to mind) do not get paid hazard pay because the hazards are considered inherent in the position. LEs are trained to deal with bad guys, EMTs are trained to deal with bloodborne pathogens, etc. In theory, forestry techs do firefighting as a collateral duty.

That makes a lot of sense, huh? Trust me that paying forestry techs hazard pay is cheaper for the gov than actually paying them as firefighters.

Just thought I would share the logic (if you want to call it that) behind why ADs don't get hazard pay.

Signed,

Just gotta love the government.

4/14 Air Tanker bases:

Moving on

Seems to me that the current issue with the Tanker Base at SMX is the fact that a full service CAL FIRE Air Tanker Base is just over the hill (45 nm north) at Paso Robles airport. This base has historically supported both large USFS fires on the LPF and hosted Federal Air Tankers. 
.
With the Federal Air Tanker fleet being moved according to predictive services, air tankers do not have "home" bases anymore... they do have "administrative" bases. So while they are not based at any particular base... someone still has to do the contractual payment paperwork.

So technically all tanker bases are now CWN.... The key here is having folks current in the needed positions to staff the bases.

So it boils down to key positions and proximity of other tanker bases. 

ticity tac the yakker

4/14 All about thanks for thinking:

Old Sawyer,

Thanks for sharing the Cognitive Technologies link in your 4/6 post. Good stuff.

Misery Whip

4/14 RE: Tanker bases and moving on:

Interesting that the LP would downgrade the SMX tanker base and look at closing the Vandenberg Interagency Training Center and at the same time continue to keep a multi million dollar per year lease on the Supervisors Office in Goleta. Two years ago a move of the S.O. to an FS owned piece of land in Santa Maria was considered but squashed as it would have affected too many employees who own homes in the Santa Barbara area. I wont bring up what the S.O. did to its employees who own mobile homes in the trailer park at Los Prietos. The saga of the LP S.O. ( aka puzzle palace ) continues...

sting
4/13 Insurance for fallers:

Casually Hired,

Well, sir, you just hit the walnut with a sledge hammer. Man, I like that sound.

I don’t have much time for this post, because I’m headed for Peru in short order. And it also means that if you don’t agree with me, the next three weeks gives you ample time to say so.

The AD faller price doesn’t include an allowance (by government estimate of cost) for injury/fatality insurance. This is one of those Direct Costs that the government folks who determine such things (by a mysterious methodology that confounds the mind) say they don’t have to recognize for fallers. Why? They say because state employment law allows it. And, besides, the timber industry has been doing it for decades. Fortunately, both our state and federal legislative delegations are addressing this very issue at this very moment. I just LOVE being able to say that.

When the Faller Module program was implemented (allegedly partly to replace the AD faller hiring program), part of the intent (by those on the private sector side) was to legitimize worker compensation for fallers (injury/fatality insurance for fallers as employees). But, because the government had been using the low wage AD pay scale for so many years, and had been allowing fallers to work under it without adequate/or any injury fatality insurance, professional liability, general liability insurance, etc. (all DIRECT COSTS that are legitimate to pass through TO the government IN ADDITION to the base wage) the agencies (primarily the U.S. Forest Service) weren’t real hip on the idea of having to accept these as Direct Costs as part of the total price.

Note – This is when you started hearing "They’re too expensive" from government contracting personnel. This "contract-ese" is a strategy used quite effectively to introduce an unsubstantiated idea and, if repeated enough times, it starts taking on a freakish sound of "truth"… Oh wait… this sounds a lot like the Wall Street happenings right now, eh?

So, to defend their barbaric practice, the federal government bean counters pointed back to the Oregon state employment law (spear headed to a great extent many years ago to directly benefit the timber industry) which allows fallers to (here it comes….write this down…) "Work under their own numbers." This is a farce, and is a $1,500 "ticket" to put uninsured fallers to work on the fireline with the government benefiting from the cost, leaving fallers and their families holding the bag if an injury or fatality occurs on the fireline. Actually, the government is starting to realize that it also leaves the government exposed to liability risk. No insurance. No coverage. People tend to sue.

Now, do a bit of research and read about faller Alan Wyatt’s fatality on the Missionary Ridge Fire. That is when momma cracked the sheets to chase out the bed bug... and the whole idea of federal government agencies getting away with putting uninsured fallers on the fireline became gut wrenchingly apparent. The day Wyatt’s widow and family were denied death benefits (by the government) was the day the battle field came into focus and the munitions were brought out.

Casually Hired - I realize you probably left the barn door flappin’ in the wind for this purpose... hope this is what you were looking for. If not, well, hope I haven’t confused the issue. The NWCG will be receiving the "Full Meal Deal" in the form of a White Paper soon after I get back from South America. I’ve been trying to wrap it up for a few months but, other things have proven more important. My mother died.

The point: Fallers working on the fireline SHOULD be covered with injury/fatality insurance and that cost SHOULD be considered a legitimate DIRECT COST passed through to the government. Fallers who accept the low (non-insured) price are doing themselves and other fallers a disservice. It shows the government that the practice is acceptable. Well, it's not. It's disgusting - particularly to the wife of a timber faller. (I am referring to myself). The practice by the federal government of putting uninsured fallers to work on the fireline should be made illegal. 

And that, Casually Hired, is what the intent is – to make it illegal. To take it out of the government’s hiring authority. And it’s happening at both the state and federal levels. It just takes a bit of time to change the law, particularly when Wall Street just raped the country. Fortunately, ethics are at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds right now. I know it is for me.

Stay safe. Stay covered. Take care of your family. It matters.

Shari Downhill

4/13 Pictures of the Veri Pistol Accident: 

Making the rounds in the hotshot world...

Photos originally from the Southern Region, were forwarded on by Larry and others; no report yet:

These pictures graphically illustrate what happens when you try to launch a fusee from a Very Pistol. You wouldn't think it would have to be stated, but this is "not a recommended practice". Apparently it was Voltaire who said "common sense is not so common".

Larry Sutton
Fire Operations Risk Management Officer
U.S. Forest Service - NIFC

-----
All - I'm all for innovation in the field, but hopefully we are smart about it. The firefighter was hit with shrapnel from pistol exploding and it just missed his jugular. 

Michelle R.
-----

I posted them on the Equipment 14 photo page. Click on the thumbnails for larger images. Ab.

4/13 Sad News: Passing of Quinn Raff:

Quinn Raff, most recently employed by the Heber Ranger District, Wasatch/Cache National Forest in Utah, and formerly employed for several years by the Moose Creek Ranger District on the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho, passed away quietly Sunday morning at the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City, UT. 

Quinn was 40 years old. Quinn has been fighting recurring brain tumors for at least 10 years, and was an inspiration to many for his never-give-up attitude and courage under daunting circumstances. He will be missed by all who knew him. 

He is survived by his wife Maria, and 5 children. A memorial service will be held Saturday, April 18, 2008 at 10:00 AM, at the Kamiah LDS (Mormon) church on Highway 12 between Kamiah and Kooskia, Idaho. 

Donations in memory of Quinn may be made the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, in lieu of flowers.

Nate Raff, Quinn's brother and
Musselshell Helitack Module Leader.

Oh Nate, I'm so sorry for your - and our - loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. Ab.

4/13 A little more clarity on fed fire policy.

Letterman
-----

File Code: 5100
Date: April 9, 2009 
Subject: Updated Guidance for Implementation of Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy 
To: Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Area Director, IITF Director and Deputy Chiefs 

Last year the Wildland Fire Leadership Council agreed to key changes in the way we implement federal wildland fire policy. To facilitate those changes, the Fire Executive Council (FEC) has approved the enclosed Guidance for Implementation of the Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy to ensure consistent implementation of 1995/2001 Federal Fire Policy.

To be clear, the 1995/2001 Federal Fire policy is affirmed and sound. Any management response to a wildland fire on federal land will continue to be based on objectives established in the applicable Land/ Resource Management Plan. Also, there is no change in the objective for initial attack actions on human-caused wildfire. We will continue to suppress fire to minimize negative consequences with respect to firefighter and public safety. 

The revised guidance changes some elements of implementation of wildland fire management. In the enclosed document you will encounter the following changes:

  • Terminology has changed. Wildland fire is a term describing any non-structure fire that occurs in the wildland. Wildland fires are categorized into two distinct types:
    • Wildfires: Unplanned ignitions and planned ignitions that are declared wildfires. The wildfire term is to be applied to all unplanned ignitions, including events formally termed wildland fire use.
    • Prescribed fires: Planned ignitions.
  • A wildland fire may be concurrently managed for one or more objectives and those objectives can change as the fire spreads across the landscape, encountering new fuels, weather, social conditions, and governmental jurisdictions.

The revised Implementation Guidance reaffirms the need to work collaboratively with State, local, and tribal fire managers as well as public and nongovernmental organizations in the management of wildland fire. It also emphasizes the need to prepare fire management plans which are intergovernmental in scope and at a landscape scale and help prepare for the eventuality of wildland fire.

The federal wildland fire agencies are working together to develop unified direction and guidance for agency/bureau manuals, directives, handbooks, guidebooks, plans, agreements and other pertinent documents to complete final implementation of this guidance. We are revising and developing accountability standards, performance measures, and monitoring systems to assess if resource and protection objectives are met during the management of wildland fires. We will be working with you and your staff to make this transition successful.

/s/ Abigail R. Kimbell
Chief

4/13 Pack Test / WCT:

From several anonymous contributors:

Wildland firefighting Pack Test - Unfit for duty  

Cal EMA, CalChiefs, and CPF reject the Pack Test.
-----

CPF, CalChiefs, Cal-EMA Agree: Pack Test Falls Short as Fitness Test

California's new Emergency Management Agency (Cal-EMA) has joined with labor and management to reject efforts to impose an inadequate physical ability test on both incoming and incumbent firefighters.

In a joint statement, Cal-EMA, CPF and the California Fire Chiefs Association (CalChiefs) conclude that the National Wildfire Coordinating Group's "Pack Test" can't and shouldn't be used as a "fit for duty" test.

"The Pack Test is a measure of an individual's 'work capacity,' not their ability to do his or her job successfully," reads the statement.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL STATEMENT

The NWGC developed the Pack Test as a way to demonstrate the level of work capacity needed for wildland firefighting positions. But it falls short of NFPA firefighter fitness standards (NFPA 1021, 1051, 1582 and 1583) as well as the Joint Labor-Management Wellness Fitness Initiative (WFI) in determining fitness for duty.

"Fire departments impose a false sense of security that is tied to the Pack Test as an indicator of fitness for duty," said the joint statement.

Of even greater concern to public safety is the potential impact a Pack Test implementation could have on the state mutual aid system. By creating a patchwork testing system instead of recognized national standards, implementing the Pack Test could delay mutual aid response or even preclude some departments from responding.

Rather than implementing the Pack Test, the California fire service leaders believe our state should maintain a verifiable and job-related performance standard that complies with NFPA standards. The WFI is that complete package and should be the model for any physical fitness standard in the state.

The joint statement is signed by Kim Zagaris, Cal-EMA's Fire and Rescue Chief, Sheldon Gilbert, president of CalChiefs, and CPF President Lou Paulson.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE SIGNED JOINT STATEMENT

Does this mean that Cal Fire will come up with their own fit for duty test? I may be wrong, but I've heard for years from folks writing in here that they have no annual qualifying fitness test. Please enlighten me. I see there's a hotlist thread on this topic. Ab.

4/13 Re Weather Data:

Would be a great tool, if Blackberries or PDAs were issued to overhead in the field.

blackberry overview (FS Intranet)

The Forest Service CIO Staff is offering the BlackBerry® service to Forest Service users. Each Region, Station, Institute, Area, WO Deputy Area, and WO Detached Units has been allocated a certain number of user slots. Each of the organizational units can decide who will be approved for a BlackBerry® device. Users should contact their Regional Foresters office, Station/Area/Institute Headquarters office, or Deputy Area office to see about the availability of BlackBerry® devices in their unit.

See attached list of positions in R5 who are authorized to have one.

Keeping head down, and happy to have my 10% Detention Allowance

4/13 Weather Data:

This just came to my attention and should perk the interest of any firefighter.  A new program will put weather data in the hands of first responders to save lives in the event of extreme weather.

isgtw.org

Fire Geek

4/13 Re: Lack of OT for AD employees

Per the recent ( last 20 years ) rulings of the federal district courts, AD employees should be entitled to overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of the 40 hour work week under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (as amended). Recent determinations by the Comptroller General (GAO) and various agency OGCs support this determination. It is the right thing to do.

As a supervisor or manager, you should know and understand the "Suffer or Permit" clause(s) as described by both the Courts and by the USC. Three years ago, A.D. employees were determined by the Office of General Counsel (USDA) to be actual employees of the Agency and not able to hold a concurrent EERA or individual services contract with an Agency while serving in an A.D. capacity.

Suffer or Permit - a FLSA concept applicable only to NONEXEMPT employees and not applicable to them if they work a flexible schedule under AWS; suffered or permitted work is irregular or occasional overtime creditable for hours over 40 provided that the employee's supervisor knew of or had reason to know that the work was being performed, had an opportunity to prevent it from being performed, and failed to act. Suffered or permitted is overtime for purposes of meeting the weekly overtime standard only.

All A.D. employees under the FS and DOI emergency pay plan are non-exempt employees per statute.

Take home message regarding "Suffer or Permit": employee's supervisor knew of or had reason to know that the work was being performed, had an opportunity to prevent it from being performed, and failed to act.

In this case, "the supervisor" is the WO...... and on notice of intent to rectify. No individuals are at fault, but a broken system needs to be fixed.

Noname #28
4/13 Local Govt Fire Department Hires:

GGW had this to say:

LG hires, Ad rates, etc:
NZSUPT (ret)
Fed Fire is trying to come up with an reasonably equitable system across supplemental resources (from LGs) and casual hires (ADs). Basing pay on the job of work done makes sense. It's how most jobs are paid.

Oh, really? Most folks in fire get paid the same wage no matter what position they fill on any incident. AD's are just about the only exception.

Why, if the USFS wants the local fire departments to abide by this "rule of thumb" (paying a certain wage for actual duties performed), then maybe the District Archeologist or the Regional Fleet Manager or the District Ranger that goes out as a Driver or a Dispatch Recorder or Lunch and Tool Runner should be paid for what they do on a fire (instead of their GS-11/12/13 wages)...

What's good for the goose is good for the gander...if the feds won't apply this to their own employees, why do they think that Local Govt Fire Depts should apply it to their folks, even if they are not full time employees? 

Most of these Local Departments are on Co-op Agreements with either the feds or the state. Why have a clause in those agreements that just applies to one party in the agreement? It's a two-way street.

Food for thought.

LIONA

4/13 AD pay rate:

It doesn't take an "Act of Congress"... it takes leaders to properly implement and properly administer tools that we already have.

Many federal agencies use Administratively Determined (AD) pay plans to help accomplish their missions. AD pay plans are authorized under United States Code (USC) as a tool for all federal agencies, and are not used exclusively by federal land management agencies who seem to struggle with the use of the tool (below).

The ways that the Federal Agencies implement their AD pay programs are already approved by Congress. The ways agencies implement their programs are covered by Agency rule making (ie. Code of Federal Regulations, CFR) or through Agency specific policy, programs, or directives.

From the Office of Personnel Management: link

"Congress authorizes agency heads to set salaries for those in Administratively Determined pay systems. These salaries may apply to the entire agency or to particular groups of positions without regard to the General Schedule. Some agencies under this pay system establish their own schedules of rates (the AD pay plan is an example of this); others use the generic General Schedule grade and step structure (pay plan GG is an example of this). Separate provisions are also made for stipend payments to certain student employees training in Government hospitals, clinics, or laboratories and for payments to member residents who work at Federal institutions, such as the Armed Forces Retirement Home. Nurses employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Health Administration also have a unique, locality- based pay plan (VN)."

The Administratively Determined Pay authority allows many flexibilities and tools for federal managers...... most of which aren't addressed or included in the USDA-FS plan or the USDI plans.....

Quite frankly, it doesn't take an "Act of Congress" to change most things.... It does take folks involved in Fire Management to know the flexibilities and tools they have already been afforded.... know how to use them... and know how to champion them.... and to look at models that work.

Lobotomy

P.S. - Here is a list of federal agencies using Administratively Determined (A.D.) pay flexibilities.

Agriculture
Commerce
Corporation for National Service
Defense
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
Education
Election Assistance Commission
Energy
Environmental Protection Agency
Health and Human Services
Interior
International Broadcasting Bureau
Justice
Millennium Challenge Corporation
Morris K. Udall Foundation
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Overseas Private Investment Corporation
State
Treasury
USAID
Veterans Affairs

4/13 Air Tanker Base

Moving the Air Tanker Base was decided by a nationally respected Type I Incident Commander with years of experience working on Air Tanker Base issues. His decision and subsequent Line Officer and RO FAM concurrence was made after considerable deliberation and discussion. Due to the price of land, Santa Barbara priced itself out of an Air Tanker Base. Santa Barbara Airport is growing with few expansion options. New construction at Santa Barbara was estimated in the millions. Many times during fires, Tankers needed to RON at other bases because of the Santa Barbara ramp space. Fear not, no one lied. Personally and professionally I would of liked to of seen the base stay in Santa Barbara. The decision to move was a tough for me to accept, but all things considered it was the right decision. 

What's the real issue here? This whole issue is one of lets destroy the decision to move the base to Santa Maria and take other fire people down as well. Since the move, some have said lets make noise and get the Line Officers involved about the Santa Maria Base instead of acting like fire professionals setting down and working problems through as a team. It seems those opposed to the base move to Santa Maria yacked themselves into a corner over the past 2 years with continuous anger over the move and continued yacking until Line Officers stepped in, cut jobs and cut the base exclusive use status. That's what happens when Fire Leaders don't communicate with each other and work within a fire organization. That's what happens when Fire Leaders don't come together for the good of the organization after a decision is made even if they disagree with the decision. This is the result of what happens when fire personnel go outside of the fire chain of command to destroy each other vs. working out differences of opinion as fire professionals should always do. In other words, some have "opened mouth" over the past couple years and last week they "inserted foot".

signed,

yackingtoomuch

4/12 RE: Tanker bases and moving on:

Ab,
Seems that this is getting real close to being about the who and not just the what....

Old Green and Gray / Lobotomy & yup picker,

Have any of you ever been misquoted by the press?? Seems to me that we should give Mr. Heil the benefit of the doubt. Calling an individual a fool and moron does not seem to me to further any cause other than rabble rousing for the sake of rabble rousing. Pretty cool that you can call people names and not post your real names, eh??

Lobo, you are correct.. the base should never have been moved from Santa Barbara airport to Santa Maria without much more factual information and thought. The reality of it is that inflated dollar costs, false weather information and false response times were utilized to justify the move. That coupled with the fact that the LP was in the midst of a series of folks cycling through Fire and Forest Leadership positions led to bad information being presented resulting in bad decisions. Lessons learned....

So lets move on... What is one of the basic's we learn and teach in S-270, Basic Air Operations? That the aerial assault on a wildfire is to support the ground troops. Ok... so now we know we are in a budget crunch... money is tight and we are all under the gun to cut costs and still produce safely. So as a former Chief Officer on the LP... I would rather lose aerial resources that are doubled up and keep my ground forces budget intact.

The Santa Barbara Air Tanker base was established in 1958. As tanker bases became established in California in the 60's and early 70's, each tanker base had a "zone of influence". These zones of influence were based on the flight times of the recip aircraft of the day with rapid Initial attack being the criteria and somewhat on who could exert the most political pressure. Moving the LP's tanker base to Santa Maria did not take into account the established "zones of influence". The move left the Santa Barbara front, the Ojai front and both "rears" with increased travel time for tankers out of either Wille J Fox in Lancaster or Santa Maria. Double coverage in essence was now provided to the Santa Lucia District of the Los Padres as well the Monterey District as the LPF north of Highway 166 had always been under the Paso Robles Tanker Base Zone of influence. So the north half of the forest gets double coverage and the south half gets none... great thinking!

With Paso Robles Tanker Base (CAL FIRE) 47 nautical miles north of Santa Maria Airport, I,and evidently the local fire management agrees with me, fail to see the logic in double coverage in this day and age of reduced budgets. Federal air tankers have historically been "based" at Paso Robles throughout the years. In essence, the fate of the LP's air tanker base was sealed the day the move was made out of Santa Barbara.

As far as gallons of retardant pumped... that has nothing to do with anything. Santa Barbara historically would pump a half million gallons or so 3-4 years out of ten, and as low as twenty to thirty thousand for 3 or 4 of those other years out of the ten. The gallons pumped at Santa Maria were just transferred from Santa Barbara and could just as easily been assimilated into Paso Robles or Fox in Lancaster...

So what does all this mean in today's word?? Tanker bases no longer have home based air tankers. Tankers are moved around the country based on predictive services. Is it smart business to close Santa Maria tanker base? I say yes based on today's reality. Less air tankers, more turbines and turbo props, less dollars...

Back to the original article in the Santa Maria Times, I like the way the original poster put it, YOU DECIDE. I saw many inaccuracies in the article... possible misquotes, possible slanted reporting, possible agency misleading...

YOU DECIDE..

yactak

Ab is in the wilderness. You guys/gals need to moderate yourselves. I didn't make the connection between the namecall and a name...

4/12 Response and Humor

Misery Whip,

Gotta agree with you. I wish it weren't the case, and no party/administration is completely responsible for the mess we're now in, but there's no getting around the last administration's effect on wildland firefighting. Or which administration is offering up stimulus $$ that at least acknowledges us as a worthy cause.

AZ 148,

Wow. My long-suffering supervisors would probably be MORE than happy to buy me one of these human shock collars. Ought to look into that.

Cheers,
Kibby

4/12 Sudden Oak Death one more hazard we need to be aware of:

The Northern California Coastal Mountains received from 60 to 90% of normal rainfall through mid April making this the third consecutive dry year; most of the remainder of the State is in the 70 to 90% range. We seem to be in a similar spring patter as last year with La Nina waning, we are experiencing very windy frontal events with minimal precip. Most of the models are predicting this pattern will stay the same through the spring. Unless we have significant precipitation event it looks like will have another early start and high indices in the 09 season along the coast. 

As we have seen in past consecutive dry years Sudden Oak Death (SOD) is on the rise. Of major concern are not just the increased dead fuels but the falling hazards to troops on the ground. SOD is caused by a water mold Phytophtora ramorum that generally attacks the trunks 1 to 12 feet from the ground. It turns infected wood into mush, when it moves through the entire trunk, the water to the tree is cut off and the already very stressed unstable tree crown turn brown. Prior to turning brown the tree may look very healthy if you are not familiar with SOD, so not only do they present a falling hazard on their own, but are extremely dangerous to fall. SOD affects many trees but of most concern are Tan Oak, Coastal Oak, Black Oak, Madrone and to a slightly lesser extent Bay Laurel. SOD is present from Big Sir to Humboldt County, Santa Cruse, Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino are very hard hit. Most local fire agencies in affected areas are familiar with how to recognize SOD, so if you are from out of the area this is a good issue to take advantage of local knowledge. If you want to learn more check out suddenoakdeath

Things are lining up for another long season, let's all do everything we can to keep the entire firefighting community safe.

North Bay FC

4/12 Re Santa Maria Tanker Base:

Old Green and Gray guy,

Great post.

You failed to mention that the CAL FIRE air attack base in Victorville that is used exclusively for the support of Tanker 910 (the DC-10) and not used as either a primary IA facility or reload facility from either agency (FS or CAL FIRE).

What the article also doesn't mention is the Forest Service decision to relocate from Goleta (Santa Barbara AAB) to Santa Maria, or the real reasons the decisions were made and who made them without consulting the field.

I'd ask the FS R-5 Director for clarification without interagency talking points (good luck)..... but he is too busy writing letters and correspondence for the Regional Forester (MIA), instead of focusing on his responsibilities as the Forest Service Fire Director for California (also MIA).

Lobotomy

P.S. - Why doesn't the "Fire Director" from R-5 attend BoD meetings or Incident Management Team Meetings? Why has he delegated everything to his Deputy? Who the hell is in charge of leading the Forest Fire program in Region 5? It sure isn't Randy Moore or Ed Hollenshead..... look for anything with their "official" signatures attached.

FACT: Most of the correspondence regarding fire management and fire suppression in R-5 HAS NOT been initiated or signed appropriately. Much of the RO correspondence has been initiated by Ed H. and "approved" by Randy M, with another signature on the finalized document(s). Likewise, much of the other "official correspondence" within the fire program with the Ed H. signature line was approved by WT and initiated by others. Total lack of accountability and transparency.

P.S.S. - The presentation by the National Fire Director in Reno was absolutely embarrassing to say the least and remain PC. If you don't believe me, ask anyone (fed, state, local, retired, etc) who was in attendance. The thought of six more years of TH is not promising.

4/12 Re Santa Maria Tanker Base:

Gee, I wonder how many gallons of mud were pumped out of Santa Maria over the last three years? Of course, the LP never has any activity on the Santa Barbara front country or the adjacent Santa Ynez Valley. Nor are the property values worth a darn in those areas. C'mon management, what's up with this? Why can't they just tell us and the residents in these areas the truth? Furthermore, the moron that mentioned Victorville best check out a real map and learn how to read it!

Yup,

Picker.

4/12 AD pay rate:

Looking at Casually hireds comparison rates, I noticed that the rate for an OPBD (Branch Director) is being shown in the AD-L as well as the AD-K lists. I looked at the rates in the pay plan and it only showed the OPBD as an AD-K....FYI. I understand that the Business Management community only has the authority to establish the rates and it would take congress to change the plan to allow for the payment for overtime.....

Looking forward to seeing how everything will shake out this season with the new rates. Lets just hope that this issue continues to be brought to the attention of those who have the ability and foresight to change this with a working solution.

bobofthemtn

Fixed the table. Ab.

4/11 AD pay rate:

Isn't it up to congress to say with a law if OT and H pay can be awarded to ADs? Seems to me that was the case when I was working for the FS.

Maybe the NWCG finance folks were giving the new AD pay schedule their best effort. We do need a plan that's more equitable than the old one. Heck, didn't someone post five, six years ago that this kind of supplemental arrangement was creating big pay differences. Santa Maria FD was the first one mentioned and widely used.

NorCal Tom

4/11 AD rates and faller question:

GGW,

I found the 2008 AD rates in the archives and sent them in. Looks like the rates are up
20% or so. (Added them and your other notes to the bottom of the page. Ab.)
AD Rates Comparison & '09 Rates by Position

It's hard to believe that fallers are in such low AD pay categories. My brother in law who's a pro pays somewhere round $175-200 a day for insurance. I don't know that A and B fallers could afford to work for the FS and carry insurance. FALC would make 248-304 (AD-I) a day; FALB (AD-F) would make 184-224; FALA (AD-D) would make 152-184. Not much margin there for Cs and huge pressure not to insure specially for As and Bs. Risk is very high even if you're experienced, you know the fallers cutting the small diameter trees are most at risk because tops hang up when they're not heavy enough to come down hard. They're more likely to casually fall and kill you. My brother in law likes the big trees because they're just coming down no casual about it and all he needs to do is stay out of the way... but he doesn't work for the FS because of the insurance cost issue. I wonder who the FS gets and are they insured?

Casually hired...

4/11 Re Santa Maria Tanker Base:

Last week I made a comment here about the fools managing the Forest Service. My thoughts were further reinforced this morning when I read the article on the shift of priority for the Santa Maria Tanker Base. John Heil a Regional Office "Spokesperson" was quoted as saying that CalFire maintains bases at Paso, Victorville, Lancaster . . . ! Talk about uninformed and dumb statement. Lancaster NEVER has been a CalFire/CDF base it has always been a class act Forest Service operation. CDF does use Fox/Lancaster for reload when working fires in the Kern, Los Angeles, Ventura and Southern Santa Barbara County areas. Perhaps the R.O. in Vallejo needs to spend some training money to educate their spokes persons as to what is Forest Service and what is not.

Old Green and Gray guy

4/11 Overlooked,

Typically, details or temporary promotions of less than 120 days are at the discretion of management to fill without official advertisement. Beyond 120 days, details are typically advertised through either "outreach notices" or vacancy announcements.

Also, agency implementation has varied depending regarding whether the position is covered or not covered within NFFE Bargaining Unit Agreements. (Below)

From NFFE Master Agreement:

Article 16 - Promotions and Details

9. Details:

a. A detail is the temporary assignment of an employee to a different position or to a different set of duties for a specific period, with the employee returning to his or her regular duties at the end of the detail. The employee continues to be the incumbent of the position from which detailed.

b. Employees on detail may be used to meet emergencies or situations occasioned by abnormal workload, changes in mission or organization, or training or absences of personnel. Details will be based on Management needs in the interest of economy and efficient and effective employee utilization. Details in excess of 30 days will be documented in the employee's Official Personnel Folder (OPF) and copies of the record forwarded to the employee. Details in excess of 30 days require prior approval of the employment officer. An employee for whom a detail assignment would create an undue hardship may request relief under Article 42.

c. For details to Bargaining Unit positions within the Forest Service, the following mechanism will apply:

(1) Employees detailed to a higher-graded position will be temporarily promoted in accordance with Section 6 above.
(2) When Management determines the need for a detailer for over 120 days, chooses to fill the position noncompetitively, and has determined through an open outreach process that there are two or more qualified employees within the competitive area at the same grade level as the detail position, Management will rotate assignments at least every 120 days unless legitimate job-related reasons or travel/per diem costs require otherwise.
(3) The rating supervisor of the detail will give the employee an interim rating upon completion of details exceeding 90 days. The rating should be entered into the employee's OPF.

d. The stipulations in Section 9.c. above will apply to details to other agencies, except the Forest Service will request an evaluation accompany the employee upon return. The Forest Service rating supervisor will consider it in the employee's annual performance appraisal.

4/10 LG and AD thread:

GGW,

What is unethical is for the fed to ignore its own rules regarding overtime...(FLSA)

opm.gov/flsa 

What is unethical is the feds willingness to pay local government "supplemental" employees (904 K pdf file) a GS rate (see attachment) which includes OT, HP AND a departments "admin" fee, but refuses to give its own ADs the same consideration!!

No small wonder that Fed retirees who are actively recruited by Forest Service Incident Management Teams sign up with local government or work on a contract basis.

To answer your questions, AD rates are up, they are now comparable for the most part with Fed counterparts, BUT NO OVERTIME OR Night, Hazard, Sunday or Holiday Differential. (see AD rate links in previous post).

I am surprised that Forest Service employees in California have not said anything regarding California law (305 K pdf file) that requires employers to pay double time for time worked in excess of 12 hours per day... see attached page 2

No one is trying to get rich here.. We just want fair and equitable payment for a fair day's work!

I did not go looking to fill fire positions once I retired... the Forest Service came looking for me.

yactak

4/10 AD Pay by Position within a range based on the USFS 2009 AD Rates. (340 K doc file)
Not complete, but getting there.

AD Pay Position

Thank you Ab.

Sign me casually:

Casual Hire... maybe

4/10 LG hires, Ad rates, etc:

NZSUPT (ret)

Fed Fire is trying to come up with an reasonably equitable system across supplemental resources (from LGs) and casual hires (ADs). Basing pay on the job of work done makes sense. It's how most jobs are paid.

Re AD rates:

  • Anyone know if the AD rates are up from other years? I heard up 25%.
  • Anyone know how the rates compare to people in the FS filling a comparable position of responsibility?

It also makes sense for the taxpayer not to pay a very large <handling fee> or <admin rate> 16-32% to a LG FD for "managing" someone being on a call list, especially when a LG doesn't say whose on their list prior to the season. As for the LG that called person after person across the country to sign up WITH THEM (to get the admin fee) as the ROSs request went out, isn't that fraud or conflict of interest? As for the retiree that got a thousand+ a day to be a "observer", isn't that unethical at a minimum?

What that other first poster said -GP- 4/3 -we all know whats right and ethical here. There needs to be a system. No one is against 99 % of local cooperators providing emergency work force for reasonable wage. There needs to be a more fraud-proof system. Can't we all be friends?

GGW

4/10 Interesting Article...

Wings clipped for fire tankers

You Decide

4/10 Hi Abs,

The First Strike memorial is east of Burns.. it is much closer to Vale than Burns.

Kathy

Thanks, Kathy, I changed the wording. GPS coordinates would be welcome. Ab.

4/10 Hi Ab,

I found this on CDF FF's website. A beautiful memorial / monument. If possible could you add this to the site.

~~~~

The dedication ceremony for Eva Schicke's monument, on April 19th, 2008 turned out to be more than a memorable day for all of us. We wanted to thank everyone who donated towards the monument to make it something that we will always remember. Here is a picture of the monument.

With Gratitude, H Podesta and family

~~~~

Thanks
FO

Thanks, I posted it on the memorial photo page and linked to it on the memorial/monument list. Thanks to the families that donated. Ab.

4/10 Re: Local Govt Resources and Fed Govt Rates; New "agreements" and supplemental personnel (retirees):

Leave it to Region Five to come up with a new method to penalize the small rural fire districts for supplying QUALIFIED personnel to incidents throughout the U.S. With the new rate structure arbitrarily aligned with GS rates (?????) A Helicopter Mgr, for example, will be paid at the GS-6 level if I'm not mistaken. Who gave the Region the authority to establish pay rates for local government resources?? It has no bearing on any of the other "cooperators" such as LAC, LACO, KRN, SBC, etc. They will still shell out big bucks for assistance from the other departments but limit the little guys from making a buck.....

Another interesting note.... The IMT rostered members listed as supplemental resources with the small departments will be dispatched as before thru the GACC.... The poor single resources attached to the same department will have to rely on the State of CA OES to be dispatched to incidents. With OES's track record of prompt payment (6 to 8 mos.) I think I may sit this fire season out.

Who is R-5 protecting.?...could it be their shrinking IMT member pool???

NZSUPT (ret)

4/9 Eva memorial

To: Someone that cares

I found one photo of a memorial to Eva. I posted it below and on the memorial photo page and memorial / monument list.

CA-TCU to Eva Schicke '05: Here's a photo of the Memorial Site for Eva Schicke who lost her life on the Tuolumne Fire on September 12,2004. The memorial is located at the Arnold Cal Fire Station where she worked 4 seasons before going to helitack. Photo compliments of Allen Columbro, Fire Captain CAL FIRE TCU. (0409, sent in in '05)

4/9 First Strike Environmental memorial

I see that there was no location listed for the memorial to the First Strike Environmental employees who died in 03. Just wanted to drop you a quick line and let you know that the memorial is located at a rest stop east of Burns and west of  Vale, OR on highway 20. Thanks for the effort to build that list.

R1861

Thanks R1861. I added it to the Monument/Memorial list. If anyone has GPS for these, please let us know. Ab.

4/9 Series of 7 photos of SEATs: Tanker 455 (3 photos) drops on fire in Dennison Twp, PA 3/23/09. Tanker 839 and AT802 Airtractor arrived at Hazleton Tanker Base Today 040909. It is owned by Sly's Flying Service, South Dakota. Two more photos of Airtanker 475 at Hazleton Tanker Base PA. Photos by Bill Barr. More of his photos smugmug
4/9 Wisconsin DNR Plane Crash: Air Attack Pilot Killed in the Line of Duty

WI DNR Press Release

Heath Van Handel, 36, an experienced Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, aircraft pilot died today when the aircraft he was piloting crashed during forest fire suppression efforts near the Town of Cary in Wood County. Van Handel, a DNR employee since 2006, was a former commercial pilot and flight instructor at Kansas State University in Salina.

Van Handel was piloting a Cessna 337, twin-engine aircraft, owned by the state Department of Administration and leased to the DNR. He was responding to a wildfire in the town of Cary in Wood County as an air attack pilot—a pilot that observes the fire and radios key intelligence on fuel type and fire behavior to fire fighters below. The crash occurred at 2:26 p. m. The forest fire has now been contained and controlled. This is the first fatality of a DNR air attack pilot in the line of duty.

The Federal Aeronautics Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have been notified of the incident and the crash site has been secured by the Wood County Sheriff’s Department.

from the hotlist: Hotlist thread

Condolences. Ab.

4/8 Chalk Fire Accident Prevention Analysis
Making the rounds:

Sorry for the delay in getting out the word that the Chalk Fire APA has been posted. I didn't realize it had been posted until just today.

This report represents a unique "test" of the APA process in that it was an apparently "simple" vehicle accident.

APAs are continuing to evolve, building upon lessons learned (some of them hard lessons) from each preceding APA. They are far from perfect but getting better each time and hopefully each year.

We are in the thick of revising the guide for the 2009 season with comments and feedback from internal Human Factors experts like Saveland and Pupulidy, and external reviewers including Putnam and even Dekker.

If you have thoughts on things you think need to be included in the 2009 guide, please send me a note.

Thanks.

Also, fyi, the Lessons Learned Center website has a much improved search engine (top right on the home page) that makes finding APAs and FLAs and other reports very easy.

Steve Holdsambeck
Fire Operations Safety Program Manager
U.S. Forest Service - Intermountain Region

4/8 AD OT/HP

Ab

No HP for line AD positions goes to show us all that the brain surgeons that developed this plan are clueless as to what really goes down, or, they don't give a damn about personal health and risk. As an AD, I am no longer engaged in fireline duties, I just sympathize with those that are, Overhead, Crews, etc. Pretty darn sad. Each passing year after retiring, I continue to ponder where these administrators are coming from and what they will do to save a buck. They can start with cleaning out their own backyards and examining their conscience. Again, pretty darn sad.....

Picker

4/8 Ab.
You stated that you believed OT and HP are authorized under the new AD plan.

I have attached the new plan, which specifically says that premium pay MUST NOT be paid¦ Effective date March 31, 2009

FSH 5109-34 Interagency Incident Business Management Handbook,
Section 10 Personnel,
13.6 - Exhibit 01 -ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINED (AD) PAY PLAN
FOR EMERGENCY WORKERS (CASUALS'
F. CONDITIONS OF HIRE.

10. The salary rate shown for each classification is the rate per hour to be paid for all the service required of the casual hire. Premium compensation must not be paid for service in excess of 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week or for night, Sunday, or holiday work (16 U.S.C. Sec. 554e).

I have not found HP addressed in the plan.

So, my original question Will they ever get it??????

yactak

Hi yactac, I know we saw this at the beginning of the month, and I thought I heard the there would be OT and Hazard Pay for Arduous positions. Hmmm, you're right. I can't find anything on Hazard pay and it does say no OT. Why would anyone damage their lungs and risk cancer sucking smoke all day and into the night if no hazard pay? Ab.
USFS 2009 AD Rates. (340 K doc file)

FS version also posted on the nifc web. Ab.

AD Pay Plan USFS (pdf)

4/8 Comments on the Campbell Prediction System from Will Spyrison, a USFS trainer for CPS (Original doc 444K doc file) Text below:

Will Spyrison, Division Chief, Los Angeles River Ranger District, Angeles National Forest.

I have been teaching the Campbell Prediction System since 1995, I teach the course in North & South Zone Training Centers in Region 5 of the US Forest Service. My first exposure to the Campbell Predication System was when I was a Hotshot on the Ojai Hotshots back in 1979. The Campbell Prediction System has been in my toolbox since that time.

My association with author Doug Campbell has been one of dedication to improving Firefighter Safety. Doug Campbell has been a mentor and friend over the years.

Effective communication and teamwork are essential for the operation of highly efficient, safe firefighting. Communication failures are an extremely common cause of firefighter burnovers and fatalities. The complexity of fire's environment and changing dynamics, coupled with the inherent limitations of human factors and performance, make it critically important that Firefighters have standardized communication tools, create an environment in which individuals can speak up and express concerns, and share common "critical language" to alert crew members to unsafe situations. All too frequently, effective communication is situation or personality driven.

The Campbell Prediction System is a tool which enhances the ability to overcome communication barriers and safety barriers through information, language and logic.

Thanks Will. I added it to the Documents Worth Reading page under support materials. Ab.

4/8 Looking for the AD Rates websites for someone this morning, I found this:

nwcg wf orgs mission  (pdf)

Restructuring...

Tahoe Terrie

4/8 Ab,

Colorado Firecamp has posted the text of the investigation report of the Nov. 27, 2007 death of firefighter John Curry during a fire department wildland team training exercise.

According to the report by the Florida Division of State Fire Marshal:

"This was the first training event for the victim and several other new members of the team. The Sawyer (chain saw operator) and the Swamper (the victim) assigned to cut and drop the assigned tree were both new members without any previous formal training in tree felling. Neither had completed the formal training class (S-212; Chainsaw Use, Maintenance and Safety) on chainsaws."

Firefighters using the Skills Crosswalk are being set up by NWCG for the same system failure with an ill-conceived curriculum that omits the safety/situational awareness unit and the field proficiency exercise.

vfd cap'n

4/8 RE: AD rates & NWCG Local Govt Agreements

Can someone riddle me this?

A BLM letter issued 2/19/2009 regarding “Agreements with Local Fire Departments” references a NWCG memorandum, NWCG#004-2009 Agreements with Local Fire Departments. This memorandum discusses “supplemental” employees. A pay scale is an attachment (attachment A) to the memorandum, which places GS pay rates to commonly utilized ICS positions for incidents.

The memorandum speaks to authorizing overtime at time and a half, as well as hazard pay if warranted. Reimbursable costs also include federal per diem and indirect cost allowance (admin fee).

The new AD rates do not include allowance for overtime or hazard pay.

What is wrong with this picture??? Sure the new AD rates were raised… and even if a Local Department agrees to the NWCG proposal, one is still better off signing up with a local department.

Hmmm… lets see… we will pay Local Department full time personnel portal to portal and a higher wage at that, our newly defined “Local Department Supplemental ” employees true overtime and hazard along with admin costs to the department… but we just can’t figure out that the AD pay rate should include OT and authorized HP ……

I would sign up AD if it included OT and HP… This would save the taxpayer admin costs as well as take care of the P-P issue.

So can someone riddle me this: Will the Fed ever “get it”????

yactak

Hazard pay and OT are authorized in the FS AD plan as I understand it and pay is commensurate with position. Hopefully our researcher will get some clarification on the USFS and BLM plans. Karyn Wood has worked on the FS plan and Randy Eardley is working on OT pay issues for DOI. Ab.

4/8 Australian Bushfires and WFF donations

There have been 208 downloads of the Police Life magazine on the Australian Bushfire Tragedy since I put it up yesterday. It is interesting reading when you have time. (Scroll down for the download link.)

This came from Vicki at the WFF  ♥ (Donations for this effort went into a "special fund".):

Thanks To All Who Helped With Australian Fund
Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The WFF wishes to thank all our donors who helped with the Australian Fund. Between what we gathered up here in the States and what was collected in Australia, we have approximately $15,000 in total donations. That will help those who need help.

We will be sending 1000 pins, patches and helmet stickers to help kick off their own 52 Club in Australia!

4/8 I put Doug Campbell's Art of Wildland Firefighting download link on the Documents Worth Reading Archive list. There are some other links to correspondence relating to the use of his method in Europe. Marc Castellnou and others have rewritten his book in Spanish and English and modified it for their European training. I removed Marc's email address so he doesn't get spammed, but if anyone wants it, just let me know. Ab.
4/8 Seasons of firefighting:

Thursday, I will start my 30th season of wildland fire fighting. How did I decide that it starts Thusday? Its time, to get ready, and that's the day that I will take the WCT, still carrying Arduous Quals, so pack test number 12, after 6 mile and half runs and 12 step tests, I think that is 30. The only thing that I really liked about the step test was that you could take it at 2200 after spending the evening staying hydrated (the not so good old days).

I have a challenge for you all, and I know that folks are already getting busy, but lets bring 'em all home, every shift this year. We can discuss all of the reasons why that may not be realistic, but do your part every day to make it happen, I will.

Bless you all.

intothewind

4/8 The Jobs page, Wildland Firefighter Series 0462 (Forestry Technician) & Series 0455 (Range Technician) & Series 0401 (Biologist) have been updated. Ab.
4/8 Three photos of SEAT drops in PA:

Tanker 455 drops on a fire in Dennison Twp, Pa 3/23/09, Photos by Bill Barr.

Bill Barr

wbarr.smugmug.com

Thanks, Bill, nice ones. I put them on the AirTankers 28 photo page. Ab.

4/8 Re detailing and policy:

Can anyone provide the link or policy regarding detail opportunities. I have an open case with ASC, but that may be awhile.

First question: Looking for the policy that discusses whether Management has to advertise a detailed position or can they just appoint someone?

Second question: If one wants to take a detail off district at a higher grade, can management decline letting them take the opportunity?

Thanks
Overlooked

4/8 Eva Schicke's memorial:

Hi Ab,

I was looking at your memorial photos / locations.

I do not see the memorial rock / plaque at the Rim of The World overlook off Highway 120 near Yosemite that is dedicated to Eva Schicke (First CDF female FF to die in the line of duty). The stretch of highway was also dedicated to her through the Legislature.

Is it possible to list it on your site ?

Respectfully Submitted,

Someone that cares !!

Hi there, let me look today. I have some memorial / monument photos to post and haven't gotten to them. We will certainly remember Eva. Ab. Update 2010: Now there's an Always Remember Eva Schicke page

4/7 We're happy to announce a new advertiser offering a product that should be of interest to every wildland firefighter that hits the line. The business owner, Shawn, of PLS Ltd. LLC, says the "pant leg strap" secures the pant leg at the boot to keep your legs protected while you work. Dirt, embers, insects, or debris entering between the pant leg and boots are no longer a problem. See more info on the Classifieds Page here: pantlegstrap.com
4/7 Hi Ab,

I'm not trying to be a smart ass or anything like that, but I noticed a small error on the memorial page of your website. In the Wisconsin section, you have the photo captions for Firefighters Eisberner and Waskiewicz reversed. Normally, I wouldn't say anything, but I'm a firefighter from Wisconsin myself and we are mutual aid partners with both Augusta/Bridge Creek and the Wisconsin DNR. I can't believe that it's 15 years since that Easter Sunday fire.

Also, you may find this interesting. A few months ago when I was working my former job at a nursing home in west central wisconsin, I struck up a conversation with a resident who had overheard me telling someone that I was a firefighter. We talked for a few minutes and she asked me if I had ever fought any brush fires. When I told her that I had, she replied "my brother used to do that, and he was on some big ones" I asked which fire department he worked for and she said simply "the state". Before I could say anything else her next words were "he died fighting a brush fire". I knew that there had been only one DNR firefighter to ever lose his life in the line of duty. "The Canoe Landing Fire"? I asked. "Yes, Don (Eisberner) was my younger brother". I couldn't believe it. We talked for quite a while that day and she told me all about Firefighter Eisberner and how much he loved what he did. Before I left the room, I said "you can be proud of him, we all were" Small world isn't it?

Anyway, thanks for your time, and may all of us come home safe every time this season.

Regards,
Frank <snip>
Firefighter/EMT
Eau Claire County Wisconsin

Thanks Frank, I fixed it and good story. It is a small world. Ab.

4/7 Ab, & Community

Believe it or not, we finally have our 52 CLUB membership list up for 2009. Due to human and high tech error #@$%+^?!... we lost some of the data. We lost a lot of the organizations that were listed following your names. We literally rebuilt what we could.

PLEASE if you have any input or changes we need to make let us know. Email us at info@wffoundation.org or call the office208-336-2996

Without your membership we could not help those who need help… so we, at least, want your name spelled right.

For those of you who need to become 52 CLUB members….

It costs $52.00. That is a dollar a week for 52 weeks. What you get with your membership is a pin, patch and a helmet sticker…. but what you really get is a feeling that can’t be bought. When fires are cracking…. you will know that you have helped touch the lives of those who will not be returning home to their families…. And of those who will be heading home with critical and severe injuries. If we all give a little, we can have a great effect on the health of our Wildland firefighter community.

Join now wffoundation.org 52 Club….

Thanks so much for all your support.

Vicki Minor
Wildland Firefighter Foundation ♥

4/7 R3 AD--

DOI usually issues a new AD Pay Plan every year, even if their rates do not change. It comes out at about the same time as the USFS version, and so far, every year, has been the same rates of pay as USFS (except DOI can hire for Prescribed Fire/Fuels). The 2009 version has not been released, as far as I know (if you have a DOI version with a 2009 date, can you please share it?)

If DOI issues a new AD Pay Plan with the same rates as last year, I will likely not go to the USFS as an AD, I will likely go to a Local Government Fire Department with even better pay...

As insinuated by others here, I feel the only reason the USFS rates went up is because so many ADs were making the move to Local Govt Fire Depts...if DOI does not follow their lead, DOI ADs will start "makin' a move".

If ya gotta make a step, make it a big step!

LIONA

4/7 R5 BOD, Fire Strategy and Policy Change:

What is the 4th floor on Mare Island (R5) thinking these days? They seem to be all over the place trying to implement a fire strategy in April and May that no one really knows much about, pandering to the elected types about how much they have done for firefighters and now the Fire Emperor sits around and writes letters for Moore and leads the FAM BOD on a path of complete ineffectiveness.

I remember the days when you said the words FAM BOD, heads turned and people listened.

1 year and 6 days ago was the anniversary of the Black Tuesday. April 1, 2008 - The day they lied from coast to coast (Rey lied to Congress and Moore and company lied on video conference telling us how much more we make than CAL FIRE). After that day, we made so much noise that we took control of the agenda the next 60 days and we were able to secure 25 million for retention, increase tours to full time and obtain retention pay for our GS-5-8's.

Don't ever let Moore, the Fire Emperor or your Forest Supervisor tell you they did this for us. NO, we, all of us, our forum, our union and our great FWFSA all doubled down and forced them to admit mistakes and react. To that, I say great job Fed Firefighters!

We had them on their heels, backing up. Now is not the time to allow them to catch a breath. We still have our across the board raises; implement PTP and get the National Wildfire Infrastructure/Improvement & Cost Containment Act of 2009 signed into law.

Don't ever let them forgot who is truly moving this organization forward with our voices, our enlightenment and our leadership.

We owe so much to that man in Idaho, that man in Nor Cal and that man in So Cal. But we, every single one of us owe it to ourselves to stay engaged on the issues. Never let our non-fire counterparts forget that we are engaged, and the change that we saw over the past year was lead by us.

Stand Strong - Stand Together

4/7 Amanda Connor, editor of Police Life, gave permission for us to make the Bushfire Tragedy magazine available for download. I moved Tom's post forward.

Thanks for getting that copyright clearance, Tom. Thanks Amanda for giving it. Ab.

You can download the article here from our website.
Police Life - Bushfire Tragedy
PoliceLife Australia Bushfires 0409 (2,450 K pdf)
Hopefully our download is faster.
The GIS article starts on page 20.

4/7 Bushfire Tragedy, Posted 4/6 and moved forward

Ab, here's the April 2009 issue of Police Life from Australia. The entire April issue is about the bushfires including an article on page 20 about GIS use.

Tom Patterson
ESRI Wildland Fire Specialist

Ab note: Very interesting. Good work on the GIS.

You can download the article here:
Police Life from the Australia website

The download pdf file of the magazine is 2,450 K and takes a long time even on my fast DSL computer. This is probably because their site is heavily impacted on this first day of publication. I do not know the timeframe when people from Australia (and around the world) would not be downloading so much... which would make the speed faster. If someone wants to secure copyright permission, we could make the download available here as well.

April 2009 - Special edition - Bushfire tragedy
Some of the contents
The day the sky turned black
Picking up the pieces
Kinglake knights
Amid the ashes
Police out of water (on the GIS use)

4/7 Re Old LPF photos, Ojai Hotshot bus, Little Winker:

Ab, This is gettin' funny...

The photo of the bus was taken in '78; taken by my first wife, and dated in her hand... which means, in order to have access to my photos, it was dated in '78... but that's another story.

And we actually had the same bus, later, when Ish had the crew. Had the same names & messages etched into the paint, inside...

And who says we're gettin' old?!?

P-ro

Thanks for the updates. Ab.

4/6 Here's an old R5 photo:

Region 5 Forest Fire Team Training - March 21-25, 1966 - Northern CA & Southern CA

Compliments of Doug Campbell.

Thanks Doug. I see you're in the back left -- Young guy then. I added it to the photo page with the historical LPF and other historical photos. Ab.

4/6 Re Old LPF photos, Ojai Hotshot bus, Little Winker:

Ab,
not to pick on pyro ..
but some more ojai history

the photo with ojai hs bus (little winker) is not 1979
the crew was axed in august 1978, along with about 1/3 of the r5 hs shot crews in a "budget saving" move (in the middle of fire season??), known as the "hotshot massacre"
so this photo is early 1978, maybe 1976, 1977, i recognize the t-shirts from those years
yes the whole crew fit on that bus and the sup truck. there was a bench seat in the back of the bus and 3 rode in the single cab 2wd sup truck. bob (shakey) burnett was the sup.
the crew did come back in the early 1980's, ish messer and bob becker were the sups.
ish is now with oes, i believe.

lots of good memories
hopefully others will contribute, there are some high place people from those crews still with the agency
thanks again

EP

Oops, that was my error. The photo name says '78. Fixed it. Ojai Hotshot Module78 photo

4/6 DOI AD rates:

LIONA,

You haven's seen a DOI plan for AD rates because the Department of Interior's AD rates have not changed, only the USFS rates.

Sign up with the FS is you want the fairer (by 25%) rates. It only makes sense. I do not think the quals differ between the FS vs the DOI (BLM, NPS, FWS and BIA).

What were they thinking in not doing the same AD rates? Hugh, what's with DOI?

R3 AD

4/6 Re Old LPF photos, Ojai Hotshot bus, Little Winker:

Hey, Ab;

Well, we're close!

The green-striped 205 with the bucket next to it was taken in '75, the day Jim & the rest of the Evergreen module showed up; they had just set down... with luck, there will be somebody out there who would remember who the 2nd pilot, the mechanic, and fuel truck driver were. Great guys, all; and a bunch of loons! They really fit in, with our group...

Re: the other 'copter photos I sent; I'm convinced (from reading & remembering thanks to EP) were taken in '79, so it's likely that one (or both) is NOT the RV ship... so therefore, couldn't have been the one in the wreck, in '77. Oops...

Other than that, I must congratulate you on a very cool idea (the LPF photo archive page).

Pyro

I'm still waiting for the exact words to go with the exact photos... Haw Haw Haw. Helicopters all look alike to me (more or less). Now engines... sweet. Ab.

4/6 Fallen firefighters not in the database:

Ab,

I don’t know if this reached you before, regarding the effort to upgrade the list of fallen. Mike.

~~~~
Gizmo, MAW, FSFEO, John Miller and Rene Vanderhooft:

Here are the names of the fallen on the Memorial at the Payson Ranger Station, Tonto NF and non-copyright photo (FS provided to me) of the statue. The first three of these fallen are not on the NWCG list.

“Dedicated to Firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our magnificent Mogollon Rim Country.”

*Chuck Cochane TBM Air Tanker Pilot 6/15/61 Roberts Fire
*Constantine (Corky) Kodz FS Employee 6/21/61 Hatchery Fire air crash
*Arthur G. Goodnow Pilot 6/21/61 Hatchery Fire

Ernie Cachini Zuni Fire Crew struck by lightning 7/10/89 Horton Fire
Sandra J. Bachman, Perryville Crew Guard, 6/26/90 burned over in Dude Fire
James E. Ellis, 6/26/90 Dude Fire entrapment
Joseph L. Chacon, 6/26/90 Dude Fire entrapment
Alex S. Contreras, 6/26/90 Dude Fire entrapment
James L. Denney, 6/26/90 Dude Fire entrapment
Curtis E. Springfield, 6/26/90 Dude Fire entrapment

This is a worthy project. Thanks to those researching and contributing. I added it to the Memorials page. Readers, there are a number of memorial and monument photos I have not had time to add to this photo page. Ab.

4/6 Characteristics of Outdoor Fires from US Fire Authority

From Hickman:

Ab, you may already have this: USFA Releases Outdoor Fires Topical Report

Hi Hickman, no we do not. Useful link. Thanks. Ab.

4/6 There's some historical Los Padres NF photo research going on behind the scenes between EP and Pyro, nailing down dates, crews, helicopter and engine history from the 1970/80s. My goal for each photo was to arrive at an accurate photo description to post on the respective photo pages from engine to crew to helicopter to equipment... and I've been forwarding emails and photos back and forth looking for agreement on the helicopter and crew photos! Thanks, Gents.

If others are interested in contributing to LPF history, perhaps we could give it its own photo page with descriptions all in one place. LPF historical fire photos. (Haven't moved Pyro's equipment, engines etc photos there yet. Still working on clarifying photo descriptions.) Ab.

Here's the most recent email from Pyro.

Great detective work, Ab!

EP is absolutely correct, except looking at the paper photo of the 2 ships, they sure both look like '12s to me... otherwise, ALL details are dead-on! His comment about AG covering jogged my (faint) memory. The photo of the 212's (1) WAS taken in '79, and (2) H29 was off-Forest that day; Caton had missed the bus (days off) when they left... hence all the confusion.

SO: The caption on the 205 in "75 is correct. The others, I vote to have EP write the captions; he was there, and I was just visiting that day... (wish I could read the tail-numbers on them!)

Once again, sorry about my faulty memory.

Could you pass along to EP: last time I saw Dizzy/Warpy Warren, he had left the FS, and was doing sound-systems for bands; saw him at the '96 Oxnard Strawberry Festival when he touring with a Ska band, Papa Nada. Used to see Steve McGowan in Fillmore until I moved North; he was working for the railroad museum as a locomotive engineer. He actually appears in movies, music videos, etc, periodically, driving the (my?) train... and if ya know Dirt, that's an appropriate line for him...

Saw Mr. Smith Padilla, in 04/96; he was heading up the Monsanto Helitanker program; I was running the helibase fill operations for the San Cayetano Mt. Fire, and they showed up.

Last I heard from Big Bird was in the early '90's; he called to offer a PFT deal, and I had to turn him down (single-father issues)...

Saw Ish in the early '90's also; he was FMO for NPS, doing a controlled burn project in Hope Ranch, with Doug as adviser; we had a blast! Great way to have a reunion...

Anyway, you've gotta post those crew photos; they're priceless!

And to repeat his comments, THANK YOU, AB! Once again, WLF.com is doing something that the FS should have done, years ago... And thank you, EP; you brightened my day!

Pyro

4/6 Re the Art of War

A U.S. Army infantry handbook published in 1939 states,

“The art of war has no traffic with rules, for the infinitely varying circumstances and conditions of combat never produce exactly  the same situation twice.”

TRAINING TEAMS TO TAKE INITIATIVE: CRITICAL THINKING IN NOVEL SITUATIONS, p.2.

Marvin S. Cohen and Bryan B. Thompson, Cognitive Technologies, Inc.
11 September 1999.

Authors’ website: cog-tech.com

Old Sawyer

4/6 Joint Fire Science Program:

Good day Ab,

Please alert your readers that the latest wildland fire science information
has been posted at the Joint Fire Science Program website:

www.firescience.gov

Thanks as always...

tim

Scroll down to Fire Science Digest, Fire Science Briefs and Science You Can Use for their most recent research. Ab.

4/6 10th Wildland Fire Safety Summit

Continuing forestry education credit has been approved for the
10th Wildland Fire Safety Summit
as follows:

Keynotes & Special Sessions
3.5 hours Category 2,
1.0 hour Category 1-CF

Concurrent Sessions 4/28
Organizational learning – 1.0 hour Category 2
Fire behavior 1.0 hour Category 1-CF
Firefighter cognition – 1.0 hour Category 1-CF
Safety lessons – 2.5 hours Category 1-CF
Human factors – 1.0 hour Category 2

Concurrent Sessions 4/29
Tree faller safety – 1.5 hours Category 1-CF
Risk management – 1.5 hours Category 1-CF
Toward improved learning – 1.5 hours Category 2
International safety standards – 1.0 hour Category 2

Concurrent Sessions 4/30
Recent management perspectives – 1.0 hour Category 1-CF
Incident leadership – 1.0 Category 1-CF

To view the entire summit program

To register for the summit

Lookin' good, Folks. Sign up. There's a link on the Classifieds page for IAWF as well. Ab.

4/6 Re: Large Fire Decision Strategy - Meetings with Local Officials and Partners Direction from R-5

The R-5 Regional Forester said,

"I want you to know that I appreciate and respect your discomfort."

I don't think so Randy Moore, et al. You cannot respect our discomfort until you have been in our shoes and walked a mile as wildland firefighters and wildland fire managers.

The discomfort and anxiety you ask of us so flippantly and so assured of blind following, is absolutely stupid and insane, and 180 degrees from the right course of action... and for some reason originally authored by the R-5 Fire Director in the FS Official Correspondence Database. Asking us to do so was wrong.

What you request of us is to carry on as normal and accept your "lead" and the uninformed lead from the WO placements... and for us to provide facts and actions to local officials and partners that are not factually supported by the community, nor by fire managers, nor by the wildland fire community as a whole... That we cannot do.

Asking us to do so is like telling a lie to a brother or sister firefighter... in this case, the firefighting family.

These types of lies and decisions kill firefighters and make communities more at risk.

Definition of insanity: "Doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting different results." ~ Albert Einstein

Lobotomy

4/6 Digital Safety Poster Wanted:

About 5 years ago someone developed the 10 standard fire orders poster and 18 watchout situations poster into that you could go to a website and print them off. The 10 standard fire orders where on one poster and the 18 was on another. Does anyone know where to locate the website or have them filed on their computer?

MAC

4/6 Re: CA IIMT Meetings

Question to ask of Tom Harbour or his designee regarding Incident Commander liability and the continued messes happening in Serious Accident Investigations.

"When will the Forest Service appoint a Team Lead and Chief Investigator with a full understanding of Garrity, Kalkines, and Miranda to future Serious Accident Investigations (SAI), Accident Prevention Analysis (APA), Facilitated Learning Analysis (FLA) and other safety investigation teams?"

Here is an excellent transcript of a podcast regarding the Kalkines and Garrity warning processes provided by the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Glynco GA.

Maybe for future accident investigation teams, a current or former FBI SAC or ASAC should be the Team Lead and Chief Investigator rather than a "Senior Line Officer" and subordinate support staff? If the FS is unable to get current FBI employees to fill this role, maybe they could contract with retired FBI SACs or ASACs to complete this task. In either case, it is as simple as a "Letter of Delegation" and internal policy change to make it happen.

We need to get past the messes that have happened over the last 9 years in not getting to the true Lessons Learned, while avoiding the "pound of flesh" that some seek following accidents. 2008 was another example of the continued problem.

In the cases of the Thirty Mile Fire or the Cramer Fire as examples, if either case was taken to the US District Court, or to the US Court of Appeals, or to the US Supreme Court....... It would have been easily found and presented that the entire concurrent multi-level (safety, administrative, and allied investigations .... ie.. OIG or initial LE&I) investigatory process was fundamentally flawed, and 5th and 1st Amendment of the Constitution for employees were violated. Specifically, the misuse of "discovery" and "evidence" by the various "investigation teams" is in question.

I specifically asked the question relating to Thirty Mile and the Cramer Fire as they are closed and any commentary would not be construed as to influence a pending case in either direction.

Ol' S, if you are still around, any comments?

Anthony Vergnetti (FEDS), any comments?

Others, any comments?

Anonymous #27

4/5 Ab,

Attached is a document that is “doing the rounds” here in Australia and NZ.

Australian Bushfire Management: a case study in wisdom versus folly (66 K pdf file)

It is one person’s view (Roger Underwood) and was a talk that he recently delivered to the Stretton Group (of influential business leaders etc) in Melbourne. I understand that Roger Underwood is a forester with fifty years experience in bushfire management and bushfire science. He's worked as a firefighter, a district and regional manager, a research manager and senior government administrator. He is Chairman of The Bushfire Front, an independent professional group promoting best practice in bushfire management.

Roger’s personal views of the issues leading up to Black Saturday will be of interest to the “TheySaidIt” forum given the similar and ongoing debates in the US. I note that it is already appearing on some US websites but may not have reached your forum.

Regards,

Alan Thompson
New Zealand

Thanks, Alan. Appreciate it. I added it to the Documents Worth Reading on the Archives Page.

4/5 Hotlist threads on the Australia firestorm and whether to stay or go in socal. Ab.

Australia's Tragic Firestorm Feb '09

Stay and Defend in SoCal

PREPARE … LEAVE EARLY … FOLLOW EVACUATION ORDERS-(California)

Hotlist thread

4/5 FS setting rates for compensation to Local Government, AMR & the latest round of FS upper management:

I have not contributed here in quite a while though I do read a couple times a week.

I do have to comment on the thought that the FS is having on setting rates for compensation to Local Government. GOOD LUCK on that one. . . The smart folks at LG will tell the Feds to pound sand very quickly, the only help that you all may get will come from small cash strapped departments that need to generate some revenue. They are forgetting the simple old saying that "you will get what you pay for".

As for the thoughts about AMR that were expressed. Well AMR in my perception is a bunch of phooie! The problem of wildfire in the environment has progressively gotten worse since the late 70s early 80s. Yes, suppressing all fires has contributed to SOME of the fuel loadings that are being seen today. However, the far greater contributor is the stopping of true forest management by the envoros and Congress. They have blocked logging, thinning, fuels treatment activities with whatever the latest threatened species is. Fact is when the above mentioned activities were in full swing, the forests were healthier, the critters simply moved to undisturbed areas and fire fighting was alot safer from a fuels standpoint. There are places that I have revisited where I worked in the 60s, 70s and 80s where one could walk through the forest and experience a more "park like" environment than today. These are the same places where today the dog hair thickets and underbrush is so thick it's difficult for a deer to get through, let alone a firefighter. This issue is in my opinion the direct result of the poor leadership of the natural resource management agencies and the influence of a very naive congress that listen to the enviros yet wonder just why suppression costs are out of sight.

I am very glad to be retired and no longer dealing with some of the fools that are currently leading the agency both in and out of fire.

Old Green and Gray guy

4/5 Ab, regarding some tour of duty questions that have come up lately:

The attached Q&A addresses the question if a person turns down the tour upgrade will they still receive unemployment - Answer - Not likely.

It also addresses the tours of Apprentices once they convert from the program. Answer - 26/0.

Letterman
~~~~~

Date: April 2, 2009
Subject: Questions and Answers Regarding Conversion of Permanent Seasonal Fire Employees to Permanent Full-Time
To: Forest Supervisors

After distribution of the March 4, 2009, 6130/5130-1 Conversion of Permanent Seasonal Fire Employees to Permanent Full-Time letter, questions arose regarding apprentices and 13/13s.

Enclosed is a questions-and-answers sheet, which was compiled from those questions. Also enclosed for your reference are the above-referenced letter with its enclosure, and the March 27, 2009, 6130-5100 Details and Temporary Promotions letter.

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Stephen Deep, Human Resources Director, at (707) 562-xxxx, or Ed Hollenshead , Fire and Aviation Management Director, at (707) 562-xxxx.

/s/ James M. Peña (for)
RANDY MOORE
Regional Forester

Enclosures
cc: Ed Hollenshead, Stephen Deep

Apprentices & 13/13s

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

1. Question: Do we have to convert all permanent seasonal Fire Management employees to permanent full-time?

Answer: All Fire Management employees in "covered," permanent seasonal positions outside of the Apprentice Program are to be offered conversion to permanent full-time. They may opt out, as explained in the Regional Forester's letter of March 4, 2009 , 6130/5130-1 Conversion of Permanent Seasonal Fire Employees to Permanent Full-Time; however, the position will convert to permanent full-time when vacated.

Apprentices who are still in the program and who meet the necessary skills and OPM requirements as outlined in the March 27, 2008 , 6130/5100 letter on Details and Temporary Promotions are to be promoted to the GS-05, as directed in that letter, and their tour of duty increased to 18/8. When they successfully complete the apprenticeship program and are converted to a Senior Firefighter position, their tour of duty will be increased to permanent full-time.

2. Question: Is there a deadline for firefighters to accept/decline the conversion offer? Can an employee wait until next year to turn in the form? Is there a deadline?

Answer: The offer needs to be completed no later than 90 days prior to the end of an employee's existing guaranteed tour. This will leave enough time for the Forest to complete the necessary SF-52 and for HR to complete the necessary processing prior to the start of their current non-guaranteed tour.

3. Question: If a firefighter turns down the conversion to full-time this year, will he/she have another chance next year to accept/decline?

Answer: Once an employee accepts the new tour 26/0 Permanent Full Time (PFT), there is no opportunity to change that status. Employees who decline will have an additional opportunity to accept 90 days prior to the end of their existing guaranteed tour next year.

4. Question: Will each forest recognize a savings in unemployment benefits after we convert the WAEs to PFTs?

Answer: Employment costs for WFPR, WFHF, and WFSU are obligated at the Region prior to funds being allocated to the Forests. Any reduction in unemployment cost would increase the amount of funds available to be used in the WFPR and WFHF allocation process.

5. Question: When employees decline a change in work schedule from PSE to PFT, how will we code them in the unemployment system when it comes time to lay them off? In the past, we selected "lack of work/lack of fund."

Answer: Under "Miscellaneous" select "Unavailable for work" (seasonal employee declined full-time work); use code 8600.

4/5 Medical Standards Transition Plan

Ab,

Do you know if the FS and BLM, other agencies are using the same Medical Standards Transition Plan? Also, R5 doesn't have to deal with this, right? because the plan hasn't come to us yet..

Todd

Correct on R5 comment.
FS and BLM have different plans. The Union and FAM are working together to figure out how to resolve the differences between agencies. (Dare I say, hopefully a dentist won't be leading the next contracted med standards business.) Ab.

4/5 Aircraft Accident Lessons Learned,

Aggressive flying and Pilot Over-Confidence, Helicopter (pdf)

On-the-spot correction. As an aerial supervisor, aircrew member, passenger, or controller on the ground, if you see or feel that something is unsafe, it’s your duty and responsibility to SPEAK UP! By speaking up, you just may prevent an accident from occurring.

Communication Failure, Helicopter

Communication. Communication is the exchange and flow of information and ideas from one person to another. It involves a sender transmitting an idea to a receiver. Effective communication occurs only if the receiver understands the exact information or idea that the sender intended to transmit. In this accident, the pilot never fully conveyed the nature of his problem, which led the ATGS to “assume” that the problem was with the retardant gate. During high tempo operations, there are numerous barriers to communication; noise, stress, and the environment are just a few. These barriers must be overcome to ensure effective communication.

How do you communicate effectively when under pressure? People listening need to hear what you say and question further. Take time to check if you've got the commo you think you heard right. Same on the fireground dealing with an emergency.

AL

4/5 Lg Fires Powerpoint removed from the web?

Hi there Ab,

I am really interested in finding the ppt mentioned in previous posts with voice entitled Large Fires.

Misery Whip provided a link wildfirelessons.net/  documents/lfm_ withanim.htm

The link doesn't seem to be working, can you help a guy out? I'm trying to put together for my annual refresher here in Missoula, MT.

Thanks,

tc3

Yep, looks like it's gone. Maybe we overloaded their server? It was a fairly new dynamic Adobe Captivate Presentation process, so no viewer could save it for training or discussion unless they did screen captures, and then the voice wouldn't have come through. As I recall, it was the Rocky Mountain Fire Lab that did it; NIMO was involved; and Christiansen (I think) was the voice. Maybe you could contact them. Ab.

4/5 Six Minutes for Safety on Falling Snags, a killer for firefighters and fallers; consider also the danger of widowmakers when felling trees.

Falling Snags

Falling snags (dead, standing trees without leaves or needles in the crowns) present a significant hazard to wildland firefighters. Snags typically have much lower fuel moistures than live, green trees; and they burn more readily. In the process, they often throw spot fires far in advance of the main fire and often burn through more quickly than green trees, falling with little or no warning.

The risk of injuries from falling snags increases during the night operational period when visibility is greatly reduced. While the cooler, nighttime period is generally a more effective time to gain control of wildfires, the increased risk from unseen falling snags may limit the widespread use of crews at night in areas of dead and dying timber.

Environmental conditions that increase risk from falling snags:

  • Strong winds
  • Night operations
  • Steep slopes
  • Diseased or bug-killed areas

Things to consider when assessing the potential hazards of both snags and green trees:

  • Trees have been burning for an extended period.
  • High-risk tree species (those that are known for rot and shallow root systems) are in the area.
  • Numerous downed trees
  • Dead or broken tips and limbs overhead
  • Accumulation of downed limbs
  • Absence of needles, bark or limbs
  • Leaning or hung-up trees

Mitigation measures to take:

Identify and flag all high-risk snags and green trees.

  • Keep personnel out of the high-risk areas until the hazard has been removed.
  • Establish lookouts.

Look over this list. Firefighters, if someone has a compound fracture that has cut or nicked an artery or an internal injury that has ruptured a spleen, they are in danger of bleeding out.

RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS.

COMMUNICATE THAT TO OVERHEAD SO TRANSPORT CAN BE CARRIED OUT ASAP! Structure people, even if your city all-risk training advises helicopters, packing someone out to a road is often faster and can save a life.

Sign me:
Lost a friend, he shouldn't have died

4/4 Medical Standards Transition Plan (taking the place of the CHS health screen process)

The FS had trouble getting this on its server yesterday. Here's the update. Ab.

FS-correspondence (60 K doc)
Medical Standards Transition Plan 2009 (36K doc)
Essential_functions_arduous_fftr (32K doc)
5100-31 health screen questionnaire (16K pdf)
6100-wct sf-78 arduous (164 K doc)

4/4 R5 Policy letter regarding Local Government Coop Agreements

Date: March 24, 2009
Subject: Policy Letter for Region 5 Local Cooperative Fire Agreements and Annual Operating Plans
To: Forest Supervisors

Many changes were made to the generator for Local Cooperative Fire Agreements and Annual Operating Plans (AOPs) as a result of the review and analysis that were conducted in 2008 as well as the new Washington Office direction on Supplemental Fire Department Resources. These changes are being implemented in order to achieve consistency among all of the local agreements and their corresponding AOPs and compliance with the WO agreement template and directions.

Enclosed is a summary of the changes to the generator. Remaining changes to the generator are currently being made, including those changes recommended by the USDA Office of the General Counsel. This action will be completed by Friday, March 27, 2009. A copy of the updated generator will be made available on the Agreements File Share (URL site). In addition, a copy of the instructions on how to use the generator will also be available on this site. The link to this site is: http://166.5.13.52/ 

Issuance and implementation of this policy letter will ensure the proper development, maintenance, and review of Region 5 agreements and AOPs. Effective immediately, Forests and the Regional Office are responsible for completion of the actions outlined below.

Forest Responsibilities

  • Use the Generator documents as they are produced.
    • Any variances from or changes to the generator clauses will have to be approved by the Director, Fire and Aviation Management
  • The local Grants and Agreements (G&A) Specialist will review and sign all Agreements and AOPs to ensure both types of documents comply with RO and WO directions and meet G&A requirements.
  • Post a copy of the following documents onto the Agreements File Share site:
    • A copy of all agreements and AOPs, including the signature page
    • A copy of local AOPs with CALFIRE units
  • Continually review posted documents to ensure currency
    • Assign a primary and an alternate person responsible for posting and editing documents on the agreements file share, and communicate this to RO FAM
  • AOPs will not need to be re-written and re-signed every year; however the Forest will meet with the cooperators annually to review and update the contents of the current AOP.
    • The Forest and the Department will document completion of this review by signing and dating the review page of the AOP
  • Ensure current agreements and AOPs are in place prior to utilizing assistance from the cooperators or providing assistance to them
    • Absence of such agreement and AOP will prevent the Albuquerque Service Center from processing any reimbursement claims submitted by the Department
  • By July 1, 2009:
    • Using the new generator, agreements that are expiring in 2009 are to be re-negotiated and signed
      • When circumstances prevent renewal by this due date, a modification extending the agreement period must be done (Forest may use the extension template that is attached to this letter)
      • All existing agreements with the departments that will mobilize supplemental resources must include Exhibit E, signed by both the Forest and the Department (this Exhibit is available in the revised generator for agreements)
    • Using the revised generator, all 2009 AOPs are to be reviewed, negotiated, and signed.
      • If the AOP is for an agreement with a Department that will mobilize supplemental resources, Exhibit F must be included (inclusion of this Exhibit is already programmed in the new generator)
    • A copy of all new agreements and AOPs, including any amendments, shall be posted into the Agreement File Share site.
      • Forest will also post a copy of the agreements found during the review and analysis to be missing from the site (the RO will provide a list of these agreements to the applicable Forest on a separate e-mail)
Regional Office Responsibilities
  • Establish a program and schedule to conduct random reviews of Fire Department reimbursement rates
  • Conduct an annual random review of Agreements and AOPs to ensure compliance with the required templates and to analyze the use of local fire agreements
  • Provide edit access and necessary training to persons designated by the Forest to post and edit documents on the agreements file share site
  • Provide necessary training and assistance to Forests on the proper use of the agreement and AOP generator

Supplemental Resources Direction

The Region will comply with the new direction regarding supplemental fire department resources. Cooperating Fire Departments have the option to decide if they are going to provide supplemental resources and if they are going to sign the required Agreement Exhibit, and who will be listed as Supplemental Resources in Exhibit F of the AOP.

Forests must ensure that the correct OPM Locality Pay table is used for each Fire Department when looking for the GS rates for the supplemental resources. These rates can be found hereon the Office of Personnel Management site

Any questions or clarification regarding the contents of this letter should be addressed to Jun Manalo at (707) 562-xxxx or by sending him an email at jmanalo@ nospam fs.fed.us.

/s/ Debra L. Whitman (for)
RANDY MOORE
Regional Forester

Enclosures:
Summary of Changes to the Generator
Agreement Extension Template

4/4 Ab, et al,

I first met Paul Gleason the day after the fatalities in Walkmore canyon on the Dude fire. Needless to say we were all befuddled how this happened on our 'watch'. Paul had been reading Sun Tzu and had taken several of his favorite quotes from the text and given them a fire behavior slant. Very shortly after he gave me the paper attached here, and a short while later of course he authored the LCES document that means so much to all of us.

To really become a student of fire one has to read all of Clive Countryman's work, Richard Rothermel's work, Bob Burgan's, Steve Sackett's, Hal Anderson's, Jack Cohen's, Marty Alexander's, Doug Campbell's and many others.

One has to try and understand the role of fire on our earth, it is not something that comes easy. I would encourage you to read and learn, and be safe this summer.

Most of the General Technical Reports (GTR) and scientific papers written by these gentlemen are made available by SEM at fire.org, under behaveplus/publications. Some are available here at wlf.

Take Care,

Dave

4/4 Large Fire Decision Strategy - Meetings with Local Officials and Partners:

A letter some might find interesting. This is a little odd... Letterman
~~~~

Date: April 1, 2009
Subject: Large Fire Decision Strategy - Meetings with Local Officials and Partners
To: Forest Supervisors

Many of you are struggling with the idea that we should meet with local officials, key members of the public and cooperating partners as we, ourselves, begin our deliberations and learning about the so called .25% large fire decision strategy. It is true that we don’t yet have all the answers about this strategy, we don’t have any experience with it, and we aren’t yet conversant about what it means. For these reasons, meeting now with those that are likely to be affected by our actions later is the right thing to do. The intent is to work together to build on the strategic principles that will guide our management of these large fires. Doing so will reduce the fog and friction that will surely come about when the fires are burning.

Following is a statement of intent that I would like you to share with everyone at your meetings. As you engage in these important discussions, do so with the intent in mind, and the end-state as your goal.

The purpose of province and individual Forest meetings with local government officials, cooperating agencies, and local citizens is to discuss issues about large fire management in order to reach a common understanding and approach.

The fundamental principle for these meetings and subsequent actions is the transparency of strategic decision-making that ultimately guides the management of a large-fire. These meetings will set the stage for a collaboratively determined set of actions designed to enhance firefighter and public safety, engage the fire where success is assured, ensure effective use of fire fighting resources, reduce exposure and eliminate unmitigated risk, and consider ecosystem impacts.

An intended benefit of the meetings is the development of networks and communication paths that facilitate the effective sharing of information, allowing all parties to have the same data and understanding of risk, exposure and probabilities of success.

I want you to know that I appreciate and respect your discomfort. There is risk with sharing and discussing an idea and an as-yet-disproved approach to a critical problem. But I encourage you to focus on the intent, and strive for the end-state… a collaborative and effective large-fire decision process.

/s/Beth G. Pendleton (for):
RANDY MOORE
Regional Forester

cc: Ed Hollenshead

4/4 Re AD payment plan, retention, pay of retirees working for Local Government: a pattern?

GP,

You have multiple exaggerations and untruths in your post. You weave in and out of an issue that is easy to demonize and at the same time throw anything out on the wall and see what sticks.

If the Forest Service does not want to pay rates above an AD rate or pay rates equal to the going rate of a non-federal emergency responder in CA, then simply don't order them.

This all goes back to why a fire program should not be managed by non-fire people. The employees who develop and approve the annual AD plan waited until they collectively looked up and each had a deer in the headlight look. If the Forest Service and DOI didn't think the AD pay rates were old and out of date, why did they wait until this year and throw out a 25% AD pay increase, in the middle of the worse economy since the great depression and when salaries are contracting nationally? You think maybe those AD rates were way off for many years? Got mismanagement? Its management, planning and AD program neglect at its worst if you had to give a 25% raise to an AD in this economy. It's management on the fly. If you placed this issue in the hands of a centralized fire organization years ago, we would not be to a point where the Forest Service is telling an independent LG dept how to classify its employees and what to pay them.

Example #2 - Do you think a centralized fire organization would allow for it's largest group (R5 Firefighters) to spend 8 months sending thousands of emails, making hundred of phone calls to elected officials before they realize, OH S*^*, we need to admit something is wrong and offer retention bonuses and increase tours, etc? A fire organization managed by fire employees would never have ignored the masses until it became a melt down situation. We have non-fire employees who are trained to manage riparian areas and not thousands of firefighter. This is simply wrong and it leads to unmanageable situations such as this issue and other issues we read about weekly in this forum.

Here we are GP reading about yet another example of non-fire mismanagement of the fire program. Instead of sending out a letter saying we made mistakes and this is how we will fix them, we get, this is the LG's fault for doing nothing but sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring. Hello LG Fire Dept... Fed Caller: Do you have emergency responders?... LG, yes we do.... FED Caller, OK I'd like to order....

Don't make the Call. Instead if you need that Cost UL, call the Fiscal employee in the budget shop, oh wait her job was abolished in 2006 and migrated to ABQ. If you need a Resource UL call Kim down the hall in HR she always goes to fires, oh wait, her job was abolished and her function migrated to AQB. Well then lets give this Comm UL order to Joe in the Comm Shop out back, nope, Joe's function was severely downsized in 2005 and now we send our radios out for repair and never see them again for weeks, sometimes months. Oh well, looks like we better just place the order with our LG's.

Decision making is an art and a privilege of rank. Making a decision that is focused on the crisis at hand and not thoroughly examining the effects of a decision on the greater organization is asking for failure. We in fire have many examples of poor decision making over the years by our non-fire leadership. In R-5 we have one fire leader (so called) who is in the pockets of our Line Officers who is leading us down a road to a bridge to no where.

Every day we live with the poor decisions of our non-fire managers. When will the madness stop?

I suggest to 5 year experiment that allows R-5 fire program to manage as a centralized fire program directly to the National Fire Program Manager and the Chief of the Forest Service. This experiment would include a delegation to selected fire program managers within the region to act as Agency Administrators during large fire events. We would be held accountable for our decisions to manage large fire costs and implement each unit LMP and FMP during large fire events. I am confident that a centrally managed fire program can do the job safer and with lower large fire costs. Allow us to pull our fire funding from ASC and hire our own HR specialists that are accountable to a fire program leader. Give us the ability to manage our own computer and communication shop. Give us the ability to manage our funds and be held accountable for any poor decisions. Allow us hire our admin staff that is supervised by a fire manager with high accountable and reliability. Give us our opportunity to avoid the poor decision making you have offered us.

Just give us a chance to show we can succeed in a centralized fire environment.

Signed,

Centralized Fire Today, Tomorrow and Forever!

4/4 Ab note: Jonathan is a long time theysaider although he's lurked recently. Please consider his request. Ab.

My name is Jonathan Manski, a Federal Wildland Employee and Volunteer FF from the Hines Vol. FD in remote eastern Oregon. Our town is a place you may not have heard of before, but I hope you can share our story with your Departments membership. This is a town that has weathered two Governor declared Conflagration act fires, and whose fire dept protects USFS, BLM as well as State & local infrastructure and facilities.

We have found ourselves as one of seven finalists in the E-One Engine give-away “Tell us your story” contest. The winner of this contest will receive a new E-One fire engine valued at over $170,000.00 The new engine will be given away during the FDIC in Indianapolis on April 24 to the FD receiving the most votes from the fire community.

Seven fine communities are hoping to win a new apparatus, something financially unreachable for these small Departments. We are proud of the jobs we have been asked to do and the tradition of brotherhood that goes along with it, even for a small, rural volunteer department. Just this month, we have had 2 of our 19 members who are in the Oregon National Guard, deploy to Iraq , now serving our Country as well as their community.

I am asking that you pass my note around to your firefighter members of our need for help in voting for the Department, most deserving of receiving this new E-One pumper. Here is the link, after you vote a confirming email is sent to each person voting that you must complete to have your vote counted.

We hope you and your membership will vote for our story at the Hines VFD, but use your judgment in deciding who is most deserving.

The link to the contest stories are here:

e-one.com

Please network this around, we need your support or simply vote for your choice of well deserving FDs.

My regards and thanks,

Jonathan Manski
Hines VFD, Oregon
BIFZ

4/3 RE: "We look forward to your continued support to make the Forest Service's implementation of the Treasury's U. S. Debit Card Program a success."

Yeah right.... debit cards with direct access to federal funding ...

Nice try.

Accident waiting to happen and it WILL.

Another "process innovation" from ignorant folks in Washington DC trying to streamline processes... that will fail... and be blamed upon the "end users" when history repeats.

Simply stupid!!!.

Get back to the basics.

Noname

4/3 Re LG and Fed Agreement Rates:

I’ve read the strings of messages regarding the apparent uproar with the new fed agreement rates for LG depts. that sign on fed, state and LG retirees for teams. The entire issue came to the forefront when several departments signed on 40-50 fed, state and LG retirees and submitted huge, ridicules rates for retirees that were not sworn members of a department, and did not have any duties with the department, or any contribution to the communities the departments are located in. There were not any shifts to backfill, or any backfill overtime to reimburse, because the retirees did not work any shifts. Fact of the matter is, most don’t even live in the town, county or even the same state as the department.

Additionally, admin rates that are charged range from 16-32%. It is out of control and appears to be nothing more than one big money grab. Now, if a department has paid fire personnel that are members of a fed team, that have legitimate shift work and sworn positions, then a full and fair reimbursement should be in order. That is easy enough negotiated. I know several Fire Chiefs that will not participate in a fed agreement with fed, state or lg retirees because of the issues I mentioned, but they will make paid personnel available.

So, the watch out here is don’t scream too loud because the cat’s out of the bag and the scam is up, and it should be. That’s fair to the American taxpayer. In actuality, it really doesn’t matter what a rate is, the real issue is the Fed agency administrators have been educated on this scam and it’s their approval signature that counts. Without the rate changes, signatures would be hard to come by.

Don’t get too mad at me, I simply stated what you all know.

GP

4/3 Re Retiree agreements with Local Governments & LGs with Fed:

If I am a retired Forest Service, BLM or NPS employee and a local gov fire department hires me, whose business is it outside of my employer and me regarding the type of employee I am and how much money I am paid by my department? If the Feds have the capacity to find lower cost employees within the federal government or anywhere else, so be it. Go get'em. This is simple supply and demand and the costs of doing business in the worlds 10th largest economy (CA). If the Feds don't like the price the LGs are asking, then go find another source for your emergency responders. Instead the Forest Service comes in with guns a blazing telling the LGs what the definition of an employee is and how much you can pay them. Huh?

The Forest Service should not be using an agreement to fix the problems they have with filling overhead positions on large fire incidents. The reason we are dependent on higher cost LG overhead is because staffing is so tight on our firefighting modules (retention) that Duty Officers cannot allow a person to take an overhead assignment as the module will go unstaffed due to lack of leadership (Driver, Capt). Duty Officers regularly cannot mob because of the same issue, who's going to back them up? Secondly, hundreds of our non-fire militia overhead have seen their jobs abolished, been forced into retirement or moved to the Forest Service Mecca (AKA ABQ). "Reap what you Sow" is what my grandpa always said.

Our backup for emergency assistance and to maintain strength on our fed fire teams are our local government cooperators and we thank you for your service and support. We see you as emergency responders period, NOT "supplemental" emergency responders! You make PTP? Good for you, we will get ours soon. You make more money than us? Great, now we have you as our example of where we want to be. And you can rest assured that one day, if we all continue to make sure our voices are heard, we will get there together.

Signed,

Stand Strong, Stand Together

4/3

Busy week.... Letterman

PARTNERSHIP COUNCIL
REGION 5
N.F.F.E. AND U.S. FOREST SERVICE
01/29/09

NOTES

Meeting Participants:

Union Representatives
Dan Duefrene, Regional Vice President, Shasta-Trinity NF
Emil Meacham, Plumas NF
Barry McDonald, President, Inyo NF
Joe Duran, Los Padres NF

Management Representatives
Angela Coleman, Deputy Regional Forester
Stephen Deep, Acting Director, Human Resources
Ed Hollenshead, Director, Fire and Aviation Management
Judie Tartaglia, Deputy Forest Supervisor, Tahoe National Forest
Jody Noiron, Forest Supervisor, Angeles National Forest

Support
Janet Crowley, Regional Labor Relations Advisor
Rita Yates, Civil Rights, Facilitator

Visitors
Gary Pena, AM

Interest Based Negotiation Training (Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service by Commissioner Erin Spalding)

Completed training with sample scenarios.

Fire Retention Team Update (Stephen Deep/ Ed Hollenshead)

Status of Implementation of Firefighter Retention Bonus and other Fire Retention Items. Stephen and Ed provided the R5PC with an update on these efforts. Outcome: Provide information to employees on each of these efforts through all employee letters.

Regional Housing Policy (Gary Pena)

Issue: AM Staff has been tasked with coming up with a Regional Policy addressing quarters, pads, trailers and houses. The proposed policy will include trailer pads, barracks, permanent housing and maintenance concerns. The new draft policy will include a transition plan. Status is awaiting comments from the Civil Rights review before sending to FS & RF. Next Steps: Get the plan out for review and feedback to Partnership members. Seek specific feedback from Forest Supervisors.

National Partnership Council Meeting Update (Dan Duefrene)

Dan reviewed the draft National PC notes. Final notes are filed at:

Regional Hiring Policy – Status (Stephen Deep)

Reference 1/9/09 RF letter. New department direction from 1/28/09. Emphasis will be on Leadership Accountability in Diversity. Fire Hire efforts will continue on a Regional level. Forest Supervisors have authority for selection authority up to GS-12. Qualification verification will continue to be performed in the RO.

Impacts from Implementing Travel Ceilings (Dan Duefrene)

Issue: Union raised concern about possible impacts of travel ceiling on employees, including that some units are reducing overnight trips and thus causing employees to drive long distances and work longer hours raising safety concerns. Concerns and consequences have been shared with the WO.

4/3 Lots of things: firefighter experience, preventable stumphole injury, uncontrollability of fire, large fires, risk, large fire policy, AMR, pressure from public outcry, firefighter deaths... risk...

I think I agree with simplemind- maybe every one should spend a season (or more) on a Type 1 Crew. Typically you are working under experienced, knowledgeable people, and you get experience in many different fuel, terrain, weather, fire behavior types under different agencies. You gain incredible work ethic and respect, something you cannot learn in a classroom. Don't get me wrong, I think all the other stuff is important too- I just think the experience is more important.

Take for instance a preventable injury such as tripping and falling and burnings ones hands in a small ash pit. Maybe this person had gloves on, but stopped and took them off to write something down, forgot to put them back on, and hastily sped off again, tripping and falling. Perhaps "the experience" of forgetting ones gloves on a burnout op with a Type 1 crew which resulted in this person carrying a cubie every day for 2 weeks, would have made dam* sure that this person never forgot their gloves again.

There are lots of people out there who may not have a lot of qualifications on their red card, or a formal education, but have really been around-so to speak, and have an "instinct" that comes with years of experience. I would rather have someone like this watching my back than a GS-8 who has a college degree and few seasons of fire. Maybe everyone should spend a a season as a Type 1 groundpouder- even IMTs- then they will really know what fire fighting, and fire management is all about.

A forest that is on fire is inherently dangerous. Are deaths caused by human error? Sure- we can't be all knowing all the time. Humans cannot control fire- no matter how much fun it might be to try. I mean, why doesn't the gov't have a huge hurricane suppression organization? Because we all know that it is futile to try and control mother nature. Sometimes when I see some of the fuel and terrain out there, I think its futile do anything other than let nature take its course- but then we'd all be out of jobs. I also agree with Misery Whip's latest posts- and putting FF on large fires is creating more and more risk, for less and less gain. I think fire management needs to start drawing a line between fire containment, and what we as humans can realistically do. Obviously the cost of a small fire vs. a large fire is significant, but isn't aggressive fire suppression of all fires what has left us with massive fuel loading and unhealthy forests in the first place? And what about all this talk of cost containment? It seems like when the sh*t hits the fan, cost containment goes out the window. What is the "cost of life" in cost containment? How about these statistics- one quarter of one percent (.025%) of the total fire workforce accounts for the number deaths in 2008 or 98% of aviation related deaths account for 2% of the actual acres saved. Put those in your FAM review.

I would like to point out that the Buckhorn Fire was originally intended to let burn, as it was in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. The FS and IMT's decided to start staffing it when it was already a large incident in and of itself, basically in response to public outcry. Of course, the only way into most areas was by helicopter. People in N. Cal. were complaining to Air Quality Management about the smoke, asking why the FS was allowing some fires to burn (and do so many burnouts); many people weren't even near the Buckhorn Fire, but in the Central Valley. So what did those guys die for? To appease a relatively small amount of people who were b*tching about the way the FS was handling the area's worst fire season on record, who knew nothing about fire suppression, who otherwise prefer the gov't to stay out of their business, and mostly do nothing to keep their own homes FireWise. I don't know about you- but that really chaps my hide.

sign me fireweed- longtime lurker

Thanks for writing in, fireweed - longtime lurker. Ab.

4/3 Re Retiree agreements with Local Governments:

In response to "See you next week in Reno my LG Friends":

(Taken from some business management meeting notes in Region 1) I think its already happening:

RE: Supplemental Fire Resources -- Some Fire Departments were supplying resources (mostly Fed retirees) and charging the wildland fire agencies a very high salary, Portal-to-Portal, and backfill.

New memo (with attachments) agreed to by all states/federal agencies – Memo WO 5170 Feb 13, 2009 (I haven't seen this memo myself).

• Identifies what can and cannot be put into these agreements [Very few of these issues were in the Northern Rockies]
• Notes what documentation is required and will standardize the rates and hiring practices nationally.

- R1 employee

4/3 Re Campbell paper and method:

Hi Still out there,

The program was written for the firefighters on the fireline. I have used the program with good results on large complex fires. So yes to your first question.

Wind direction and speed and changes have a large effect on the direction and intensity of a wildland fire. When wind speed drops off  then slope is more of an influence. You are right about something else becoming the dominate force moving the fire.

You do not need to have infrared thermometers; the fire intensity variation from sun to shaded fuel beds will reveal the difference it makes to the fire. I like to quantify things and the infrared tool helps. It is also a teaching tool to show folks how much variation there can be in fuel flammability. Fuel is not a stable element as is usually thought.

The question remains, How do others explain how they make fire behavior predictions while on the fireline and engaged in the suppression of the fire?

Quote:

There are three kinds of men:

  • The ones that learn by reading.
  • The few who learn by observation.
  • The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

Will Rogers

I guess that I favor observation but have peed on the electric fence back when.

Thanks for the questions

Doug

4/3 Re Campbell:

I've not had the opportunity to take one of Doug Campbell's classes so these might be fairly dull questions for those of you so trained. But I'll ask anyway:

Would it be fair to say that in a large fire situation, that data on the Pocket Cards, with its emphasis on temperature, humidity, and previous fires, is useful for the "big picture", but that Campbell's approach improves the predictability for those working in a particular division or part of a division?

It seems that wind speed might affect Campbell's system. Certainly it makes intuitive sense that if the ambient wind direction aligns with the slope, you have the opportunity for more intense fire behavior. It would seem that as the ambient wind speed drops, you have a greater chance for influence from factors such as diurnal heating and cooling to affect wind direction and speed. Or would Campbell simply say that the dominant force has changed, likely from wind to preheating?

I'm also curious about how many field observers carry infrared thermometers?

Still Out There ...

4/3 Update on the FS debit card process from Letterman:

Date: April 3, 2009
Subject: Implementing U. S. Debit Cards As An Alternative Payment Mechanism
To: Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Area Director, IITF Director and Deputy Chiefs

This is to announce the pending implementation of Treasury's U. S. Debit Card Program, which is an effort to comply with both Treasury and Department's mandate to eliminate Job Corps Centers' imprest funds, and eliminate the use of convenience checks. The Debit Card Program will utilize pre-paid or declining balance cards that will allow for miscellaneous cash and/or non-Purchase Card transactions, such as Law Enforcement and Investigation's purchase of information/evidence, fire crews' travel and lodging expenses, Job Corps' petty cash expenses, and/or collection officers' fees for money orders and certified mail.

Active with the U. S. Debit Card Program since fiscal year 2004, the International Programs staff will begin using Treasury's electronic Automated Standard Application for Payments (ASAP) system to make payments to the debit card bank, beginning June 1, 2009. Other programs will be implemented by the end of the fiscal year. Training for these new processes and systems will be provided. Debit cards are a familiar, function tool for most of our employees in their private lives; therefore, it will be an easier process to implement.

We look forward to your continued support to make the Forest Service's implementation of the Treasury's U. S. Debit Card Program a success. In doing so, this will help us move further into the modern era and away from the Department's scrutiny by no longer relying on petty cash funds or convenience checks. We will provide interim updates on our progress as we move forward with the implementation of the Treasury's U. S. Debit Card Program.

If you have any questions, please contact Rico Clarke, Assistant Director, Financial Management on (703) 605-xxxx, or email at rclarke@ nospam fs.fed.us.

/s/ Karren Y. Alexander
Director, Financial Management

4/3 Re: Update on what was the CHS health screen process from Letterman:
Transition is underway except for R5 (that dodged the bullet for now)...

FS Medical Exam 03/09

4/3 Discussion on the hotlist of CDLs with info on driving state to state.

Re: California Vehicle Code 2009 Amendments
Federal Regulation - Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations
Part 383: Commercial Driver's License Standards etc

4/2 The Art of Wildland Firefighting (3425 K doc file download), by Doug Campbell and Bruce Schubert lays out the logic and vocabulary of Doug's "Campbell Prediction System" (also known as "The Fire Signature Prediction System").

This paper describes Doug's body of work, the only fire behavior training in which you can find a distillation of and a focus on the "old firefighting wisdom" of the past. It's truly valuable training, a "force multiplier" for safety. Part science and part art, it provides terminology to communicate tactics based on what the fire is telling you, given wind, slope and solar preheating of fuels.

Many besides me have experienced "the blinding flash of the obvious". All I can liken that "ah ha" experience to (besides sex) is the fast neurological "chunking" that occurs when you're looking through stereoscopic goggles at a flat topo map and suddenly see the topography leap out at you; or in that famous black and white optical illusion that represents "figure and ground", you see the two black faces in profile (nose to nose) after only seeing a white vase. Your brain is reordered.

Once perceived, I had an entirely new perspective of fire's movement on the land, given

  • wind,
  • slope and
  • solar preheating of fuels.

These variables -- while not the whole story to the novice -- provide a substantial framework to foster further logical fire observation to understand the fire's "signature". Becoming better and better at reading the fire signature fosters fire behavior prediction, and heightens your situational awareness of your risks on the fireground and how to best accomplish LCES as the fire behavior changes.

In this historic time when federal, state and county firefighting agencies are losing experienced overhead and experienced senior firefighters, when budgets are slashed and resources are thin, when we are having more long-duration, large fires, groundpounder safety is more clearly than ever an individual groundpounder's responsibility no matter what you're told.

Get the training, especially important if you're a crewboss. Learn how to read a fire and know what it's likely to do. Keep yourself and your crew safer. Doug is retired, but others in the Forest Service, LA County and elsewhere teach the course. (Will Spyrison and Drew Smith, respectively, to name two in the US; Marc Castellnou in Spain / Europe.) Become a trainer. Doug is willing to teach trainers on a one-on-one basis at his home. His methods are taught in Europe, in South America and have saved lives from burnover in Spain.

Just do it.

Mellie

4/2 For those interested in the book "The Art of War", there is a free downloadable version to load into your MP3 player.
 
There is an ever-growing list of free audiobooks on the same site.  Perfect to get caught up on your reading during those long airplane or buggy rides...

Gordon

librivox.org

4/2 Sun Tzu: uninformed management of high-risk endeavors

Abs & All,

I was introduced to the book “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu many years ago by a good friend who worked for Paul Gleason when Paul was the Superintendent of the Zig Zag Hotshots. My friend, who also went on to become a hotshot superintendent with a different crew, turned me on to this funny little book that Paul once used to illustrate timeless lessons on firefighting and life.

I hadn’t read it in years, but I dimly recalled a quote from that book that is pertinent to our current discussion of the Forest Service fire management debacle. So I dusted off my copy and looked it up; this is what Master Sun said about uninformed management of high-risk endeavors (such as wildland firefighting):

“So there are three ways in which a civil leadership causes the military trouble. When a civil leadership unaware of the facts tells its armies to advance when it should not, or tells its armies to retreat when it should not, this is called tying up the armies. When the civil leadership is ignorant of military affairs but shares equally in the government of the armies, the soldiers get confused. When the civil leadership is ignorant of military maneuvers but shares equally in the command of the armies, the soldiers hesitate. Once the armies are confused and hesitant, trouble comes from competitors. This is called taking away victory by deranging the military.”

2,000 year old wisdom is just as meaningful in today's world. In our case, "trouble" means that because we are not understood, supported, staffed or funded appropriately by SES and above level "leaders", an intolerably large number of firefighters are being injured or killed for questionable gains in wildland firefighting operations on Forest Service managed lands.

Misery Whip

4/2 Re: Article in the CAL FIRE Communique Magazine

Here is an article from the CAL FIRE Communique Magazine (pdf) referencing the importance of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

4/2 Local Government Agreements with the FS / Supplemental Overhead Resources:

I am proud to hear that Local Government Fire Departments are standing up to the almighty Forest Service on the agreement generator updates to identify “supplemental” overhead resources. What amazes me the most is the time and effort the Forest Service put into this, and the end product has holes so big you can drive a simi-truck through it. Do some freaking staff work, people, before you go firing off some new agreement process that basically informs the cooperator that "we are the Feds and let me tell you how this agreement will be and how you will staff your fire department". Yah right, good try. Oh well, back to the drawing board. Also back to the drawing board for some of those Fed Dispatch Managers who have been coaching and prodding this effort to reduce LG pay.

Signed,

See you next week in Reno my LG Friends!

4/2 18-8's and 13-13's being offered conversion to permanent full time status/ overtime, etc:

NorCal & FS Engine Guy:

I hear what both of you are saying. I used to drive longhaul trucks during the winter, when I got laid off as seasonal. Now as a PFT during the summer time and winter time I take on side jobs on my few days off to make a little more cash. My insurance with the FS is about $437 a month for the family. That's twice as much as the southern Forests are paying for theirs, that's $2,400 for the year I could be saving if my benefits were the same as the Southern Forest. I could put that money to good use. For my family after paying the mortgage, there's only $400 left for the month. Thank goodness the wife works. Its not management, it's congress and OPM that controls the pay issue. And for your Captains and Fuel Officers they know what you're going through. They've been there, and some might be there.

just above the waterline

4/2 Is it true that CHS (Comprehensive Health Services) that does the health screen is dead for this year? We're not going to get swept up into all that medical examination stuff before we can do the Work Capacity Test??

AL

The last I heard was from 3/12/09 theysaid. CHS is gone, don't know about any replacement. Anyone know more? Ab.

CHS medical guidance/testing

This was what I heard last week (3/5) regarding the lapse of med exam contract services:
CHS will not be scheduling any firefighter medical exams at this time. CHS is honoring exams already scheduled up through March 13. CHS is contacting their clinics to cancel all appointments occurring after March 13. Should a clinic refuse to provide exam on or before March 13, please contact the Interagency Medical Standards Program (IMSP) Customer Service Reps (CSR) and provide them with name of employee and clinic. etc

4/2 18-8's and 13-13's being offered conversion to permanent full time status/ overtime, etc:

With all this talk of PFT and retention bonuses it appears the other agencies are being ignored. When it comes to staffing the USFS in R5 already has IHCs with 7 career positions, 3 PFT, 4 STF, Helitack crews with 3-5 career positions, 2-3 PFT, 2-3 STF and engine crews with 5 career positions, 2 PFT, 3 STF.

In comparison the NPS in California working side by side with the USFS under the same conditions, has mostly fuels crews (1 IHC) with 1-2 career employees, most STF, helitack crews (2) with 2-3 career employees, 1 PFT and 1 or 2 STF and engine crews with 2 or 3 career employees nearly all being STF.

I don’t know where BLM, BIA and FWS fit in with staffing. While I think it is great that R5 USFS is pushing for PFT across the board I hope the smaller agencies are not ignored. We all do the same work, and ultimately get paid from the same place (US tax payer) so why there should not be much difference in staffing and compensation? I know the USFS is the largest of the agencies but we all are facing the same issues.

Another NPS Captain

PFT = Permanent full time
STF = Subject to furlough

4/2 Arsonist's Prison Sentence Correction

KSEE24 is now reporting 15 years not life for convicted Arsonist Courtney.

khe2232

Thanks for the update. Ab.

4/2 Another Arsonist Sentenced to Prison

Here's an article from ABC. Strider

Tulare Man Pleads No Contest to Arson Fire That Killed Firefighter, Pilot
Tuesday, March 03, 2009 | 7:59 PM
By Jessica Peres

Visalia, CA, USA (KFSN) -- A South Valley man is going to prison after admitting to starting several wildland fires that lead to the deaths of a firefighter and a pilot. Pilot George "Sandy" Willett and firefighter Rob Stone were killed when their plane crashed in Sequoia National Forest in September 2006. They were helping fight fires that Patrick Courtney set.

After battling his case for two and a half years in court, Patrick Courtney entered a "guilty" plea for recklessly starting four wildfires in Sequoia National Forest. The plea brings closure for the families of pilot George "Sandy" Willett and firefighter Rob Stone.

On Tuesday, Patrick Courtney changed his plea from "not guilty" to "guilty" to setting the four fires.

Prosecutor Tim Ward said, "The defendant admitted that one of the counts is in fact a serious felony so if he's convicted of a felony in the future that could be used as a strike on his record."

fair use disclaimer

4/2 Another Arsonist Sentenced to Prison

from khe2232,
info from KSEE 24 (Fresno CA):

Ab,

The Superior Court sentenced Suspect Courtney to Life in prison for starting the Wildland Fire that killed pilot Sandy Willett and BC Stone, (AA 410). I believe this happened in 2006. Just a note to let you know.

~~~~
From theysaid 9/7/06:

AB,

Yesterday's tragic loss of Air Attack 410 has hit Santa Barbara hard. Sandy Willett was a former Santa Barbara Police Officer. Following an on duty motorcycle crash in the late 70's that almost took his life then, he lateraled over to the University of California Police Department-Santa Barbara, working in Isla Vista.

Sandy and I left the UCPD in 1989 and became business partners for several years. He had also returned to run his family crop dusting business based in Huron. Following his dad's death, Sandy returned to government work in South America prior to returning to contract flying for CDF and others. Sandy's former wife Jenifer was with CHP both in Goleta and Coalinga.

The sudden loss of Chief Stone and Sandy Willett is a brutal reminder that we work in a dangerous business. May the crew of Air Attack 410 rest in peace.

Michael S. Williams
~~~~

NTSB Report Link from a post of Student of Reason: theysaid 8/1/07

more:
Two Die in CDF Plane Crash; Robert Paul Stone & George "Sandy" Willett, obituary

CAL FIRE Communique, Winter, 2007, CAL FIRE Angels
Remembering the crew of Air Attack 410
By Becki Redwine, fire prevention specialist II, Tulare Unit

4/2 Legal Implications for NIMS All Risk Responders of ALL AGENCIES:

Ab,

Hi! I received this information and attachments today per the reference and email below. Please distribute as appropriate. This may be making its way around the agencies behind the scenes as well. Certainly very interesting reading with some potentially major implications for all in response.

- Watching
~~~~

From:
Sent: Thursday, April 02, 2009 3:17 PM
To:
Subject: NIIMS law suit

One of our Ops staff members came across an article in the March 2009 Fire Engineering magazine, that cites a recent court decision that supposedly established a civil liability for a first-response agency (in this case a county and the County Fire Coordinator's Office), for not adhering to NIMS requirements.

The citation provided in the article is "Donald L. Prince, Individually and as the parent and the natural guardian of Phillip Lawrence L., an infant, and as Administrator of the Estate of Timothy John L., deceased, v. Mike Waters, as the Fire Control Coordinator of the County of Onondaga, and County of Onondaga, Defendants - Respondents, (CA 07-01233, 2/1/2008)." Tim Lynch, a Manlius firefighter, a former student of mine at the State Fire Academy, was one of the two LODDs that day.

It's been generally stated that the only "penalty" for not complying with NIMS was that it made a municipality ineligible for some preparedness funding. This, it appears, opens a window for big-time civil liability.

Attached also is the Judges decision. As you can see they refer to NIIMS, adopted by the State in 1996. Conceptually, is would be logical to assume that the current standard (NIMS) (adopted nationally in 2003) would have also been allowed. I’m not suggesting that this is cause for great concern; I do think that it bears watching and should be considered when a level of government signs off on NIMS compliance.

Thought this might be of interest. Share as you find appropriate.

(Noname)

prince-v-waters (14 K pdf) and nims-directive-and-liability (41 K doc)

~~~~
What if there were a fire or an emergency and no one came? Ab.

4/2 In his note about conversion to PFT, FS Engine guy said:

(2) The government and other employers pay into the unemployment system regardless of whether they are laying off a particular employee or not, so I don't think your argument that the costs are nearly the same holds salt. Figures on our forest indicate that conversion to PFTs will cost the forest approximately $2.2 million in additional salaries. Our forest doesn't currently pay $2.2 million into the state unemployment coffers.

Actually, for all Fed agencies, that is NOT the case. The US Gov is "self-insured" and doesn't pay into any States unemployment fund, as private companies do. When a former fed applies for unemployment the State merely bills the Agencies, monthly, for the paid amounts....and the Gov pays that amount straight out of project funds (plus a % fee to the private company that manages the eligibility and payment process for them!). In some regions/forests those dollars may be held - and paid out - at the RO/SO level, based on historical rates, rather than at the ground level. So it may appear like the Gov. is "paying" regularly into the system - but they are not

So - it is quite likely that overall it would cost the same, or even be cheaper, for the agency to employ those folks rather than pay the benefits

Jimbo

4/2 Re: Fire and Aviation Management Efficiency Assessments
aka... bypass the "survey"

I agree with all of the other comments that changes must happen at the highest levels of the FS. This style of communication and failed leadership from above must end. No more surveys..... but focused and verified leadership actions.

"As this assessment will review every firefighter position from the National Fire Director to the newest GS-02 seasonal, it will understandably create anxiety among our employees. Employees should understand that the assessment will be used to identify critical workforce needs for the future, and therefore, active participation is encouraged."

Yeah right. One way commo expecting employee buy-in and support. It is unacceptable to increase anxiety among employees.

Instead of participating in the voluntary survey, each and every employee should send a very simple e-mail template to the following folks (below) stating their intent not to participate in the voluntary survey. Instead, they should actively state their personal specific concerns on agency direction and make it fully known that increases to employee anxiety are destroying the Forest Service.

Simple e-mail message template format:

Stop the BS and Save the Forest Service.

I choose not to participate in this voluntary survey. My reasons are < list personal reasons > . I am not happy to be requested to participate in another "employee assessment" that will add increased anxiety to wildland firefighters, their families, or their supporters. As such, the request for active participation is not received as a positive request for information exchange.

/s/ Name

Send to the folks in charge of this survey and data collection:

Gail Kimbell (Forest Service Chief): akimbell@fs.fed.us
James Hubbard (Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry): jehubbard@fs.fed.us
Tom Harbour (Chief, Fire and Aviation Management): tharbour@fs.fed.us
Rick Kuhn (WO-FAM Planning & Budget Specialist): rkuhn@fs.fed.us

4/2 Who stays and who goes...

Rumor is that the FS Chief stays and Chief H goes- to be replaced by a non-fire person from MT. Heard this a month ago. If I'm wrong on this perhaps someone will update us.

Noname

4/2 Re: Esperanza Fire OIG Report

What happened to the USDA Office of Inspector General Report that was due out by today (April 1st)?

It was supposed to be published by April 1st according to Inspector General Fong in replying to recent Congressional testimony and media inquiries.

PL 107-203 requires a full report to Congress within one year of the incident. In this case, the report was delayed at the legal request of folks involved with State of California v. Raymond Oyler. CA Penal Code PC 187 and PC 451(C) and 451(A).

Any thought on the delays and when the report will be available?

Noname

4/2 WFF Family Day:

Ab,

For the person that asked about the Wildland Firefighter Foundation Family Day dates, it will be held on May 16 and 17.

More Details: WFF Family Day

Julie
WFF

4/2 NorCal Team 2 is having a golf benefit for the Wildland firefighter Foundation.

Saturday May 30 @ 1PM
Lake Tahoe Golf Course

Here's the Flyer with all info and the app form:
Norcal 2 WFF golf benefit (doc flyer)

4/2 Misery Whip,

You said,

"We are all getting pretty sick of management through intensive propaganda and top down, one-way communications. I hope President Obama gets around to fixing agencies at our level soon, because our "leaders" still seem to be intent on executing the agenda of the last administration."

I hear you 5 by 5 also and fully agree.

I'm still trying to understand the last minute "leadership reorganization" within the Forest Service that happened in January.

Two Forest Service employees are now temporarily serving as the Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment (Forest Service and NRCS), and the Deputy NRE position.

To fill behind vacated positions, the chief architect of the ASC fiasco... is now the new Associate Chief.

The former Associate Chief is now the head of a "new agency" within USDA.

A former Chief of State and Private Forestry.... a key vocal opponent of Doctrine... has also been promoted.

Several "reassignments" from the WO were made back to the RO levels.

The Forest Service Chief has not changed.

I believe the time for change is nearing and all the facts supporting change have been collected. Last minute changes within the Forest Service were noted.

It sure would be nice to hear who the next Undersecretary of Natural Resources and Environment is...... and who the Deputy will be. These positions are key in getting an out of control bureaucracy back on track and prevent the "ship from sinking".

Kinda feels like a "Groundhog Day Process".....

Lobotomy

4/2 18-8's and 13-13's being offered conversion to permanent full time status/ overtime, etc:

Nor Cal,

Thanks for taking the time the post on this topic. We have had many discussions about this at the station the last few weeks and they get more and more heated every time we have them. While it is easy to armchair quarterback this decision, especially for folks in other regions who think the 10 percent bonus is the greatest thing to hit the Forest Service since the pulaski was invented, it doesn't address the root problem we are having in this region. If the RO took a poll of mid-grade firefighters who leave the FS for CAL FIRE or local municipal departments, I doubt the unanimous response would be give us 26/0's and we will stay!! Many of the firefighters that leave, especially for CAL FIRE, do not go directly into permanent year round positions there. The majority of the movement is to a Firefighter I position or Limited Term Engineer position (which are typically 6 to 9 month positions) and they are eligible to collect unemployment in the winter months.

It is easy for old timers to say we worked our butts off to get 26/0 positions and that you should be happy it is being offered to you just don't get it. I know of no one on my district that asked and begged for a 26/0 position. I for one would welcome a 26/0 position if it included a sustaining wage during the non-fire season. The bottom line is Base 80 checks just don't provide that wage. I know that there are plenty of locations in the Forest Service where you can survive on a Base 80 Check with a family, but in 90% of the areas in California its just not possible.

You are absolutely right in your answer to why we do this job, we do it because we love it. That's why I do it. It gets in your blood after a while, and the majority of our people do it for this reason. The other reason is I really like the people I work with in the agency. While I can certainly understand peoples' arguments concerning the unemployment issue, the bottom line is this: for many people, an unemployment check based on their summer's overtime provides a sustainable wage for them to get by in the winter. The fact that you are being forced to work or lose the benefits puts you in a situation where as you mentioned you have to go out an get a 2nd job just to make ends meet. How many of our CAL FIRE or municipal brothers have to go out and do that just to survive? Either very few or none....

Its time for the FS to look for our recruitment, retention, and morale issues and lead the charge in solving them. Offering a 10% bonus for 6-12 months, and offering conversions to 26/0's just isn't going to solve it. With the conversion to PFT there is another issue here. If you decline the conversion and remain an 18/8 or 13/13 so you can work in a job during your off time that provides a sustaining wage, you better hope you never need to transfer, or apply for a promotion, because you can't take your PSE Appointment with you... I'm not meaning to get everyone all fired up about all this, but I think people need to see this for what it is, a complete lack of understanding of the real problems.

FS Engine Guy

PS Fuels Officer, I agree lets go burn!!

4/2 To lighten the load here with a bit of humor:

We all have USB ports on our computers. They're that little plug hole for your memory stick, printer, mouse, etc.

Look at the things people have invented that you can plug into that port. I'm thinking of the coffee cup mouse for OA and the single beverage fridge. (OA's mom, he'd keep a coke in there, honest. Ab.) Misery Whip and some others that are required to do AgLearn should get the monitor smasher. Hotshots and SJs get the exercising dog? I liked the previous dog better but only at home. I understand it got banned at work along with all baby pictures.

Personally, I'm requesting the gold memory stick for my next birthday... or maybe the scan toaster for logos. (hint hint)

Top 10 Utterly Pointless USB Devices for the Fire Managers out there.

also more here:
for the line officers that are geologists Pet Rock and
for the Foresters Tree Stumps, "Thumb" Drive, Mug Warmer, etc

Mellie

4/2 Interpreted as politics:

Re: Misery Whips post 4/01/09

Misery Whip, Ab, and all,

It appears that the political rules only apply to certain folks who post here. I am sick and tired of reading Misery Whip and a few others posting whatever they want on here and not hearing one whisper from the moderators, but some of us get admonished for even mentioning anything remotely political. So, Ab - you can post this if you want, or you can trash it. If all of you here like living under a socialist dictator and continue to drink the kool-aid, then enjoy the next four years. I, for one, will continue to support our cause for better working conditions and pay, just not on this website any more. We all know that the problems with the Forest Service go much further back than the Bush years. I believe it was brought to your attention a couple of months ago, Misery Whip, that we have had a couple of court orders (remember consent decree?) and a more recent one that have paralyzed this agency. Yes, there have been problems since Bush took office, but blaming one president/administration is rediculous. It's time to pull your head out of the sand and wake up and pay attention to where our new "ruler" is taking this country. Ab, this will be my last post here and will no longer be visiting your site. Thanks for the memories.

Super P

Super P, thanks for the memories. I mean that in all sincerity. Sorry I never got around to posting your photos from 2 yr ago. There's only one of me doing photos. I lost track of some photos back then when I was having laptop message truncation problems on the road.
Last email I got from you was on 1/17. I posted it. It read:

Response to reality check 1/15/09.
Reality Check,
Dittos to your post on 1/15/09. It's about time someone paid attention to the real truth!
Super P

Ab.

4/1 FAM efficiency assessments

"this assessment will review every firefighter position from the National Fire Director to the newest GS-02 seasonal"

GS 2 position??? you are going the WRONG way. I have not heard of a GS fire GS-2 PD seriously considered since 1973... and that was never offered... even for a city slicker who had never see a shovel... Mr. Harbor get real!!!.
It is time to Think outside the Box for wildland fire in the Fed service... I really don't think the GS system will ever be close to offering a competitive wage for the fire folks. Until then ... people wait and wait and.... then retire.

Fish01

4/1 OA's mom, avert your eyes! Ab.

Re FAM Efficiency Assessments:

Letterman,

The new “FAM Efficiency Assessments“ letter appears to be more of the same lame crap that passes for Forest Service “leadership” these days.

The second sentence of the first paragraph is a bald-faced lie:

“For several years, Fire & Aviation Management (FAM) has conducted management efficiency assessments on various facets of the FAM program. These assessments have produced recommendations that have significantly improved the program and reduced costs.”

Back in the old days before I learned to control my temper, after reading a blatantly deceptive statement like that I probably would have said something like:

Bullsh*t! Show us the data or shut the f*ck up! From where I sit, the F & AM program is under-funded, understaffed, under-supported, has poor morale, and has weak senior leadership. Fire costs are far higher than they have ever been historically. To top it off, we are annually killing an average of a couple of dozen firefighters. So show us how the fire program has been improved and where costs have been reduced, or just shut the f*ck up!

But I’ve matured now, so I won’t say that (truthfully, the old me would have used a few more choice swear words. Okay, a lot more).

We are all getting pretty sick of management through intensive propaganda and top down, one-way communications. I hope President Obama gets around to fixing agencies at our level soon, because our “leaders” still seem to be intent on executing the agenda of the last administration.

I don't know if it is intentional or just due to laziness, but I noticed today that the Bush administration President's Management Agenda is still conspicuously placed on the Forest Service WO website. Does anyone else share my concerns about which administration is leading us today? The management style of our Forest Service "leaders" certainly hasn't improved.

Misery Whip

Whatever you do, my goodness me, don't hold back. Ab.

4/1 Humor:

(No disrespect to Misery Whip's post yesterday.)

April 1st wise and speaking of buzzwords and ferreting out "kool-aid drinkers"; this handy little item might be just the perfect new addition to the toolbox. Pretty easy to capture someone's voice with the myriad of digital recorders out there and upload that file to one of these... And then surprise them with a cool gift!

(Courtesy NY Times)

AZ 148

Haw Haw. Ab.

4/1 18-8's and 13-13's being offered conversion to full time status:

FS Engine Guy,

Right On .... I am also a GS 6 and agree with you a 100%. But I signed the letter for 26/0. I had to. I'm in Nor Cal and have been here for 9 years. I have a wife and kids. My wife works and I still have to have a second job in the winter and also if we are slow in the summer to make ends meet.

It gets sickening to hear about cost of living. But try to commute 80 miles round trip to work when fuel is $2.45 a gallon, mortgage is about $1100. per month, propane is $2.27 per gallon and we have no natural gas availably for heating, PGE and telephone are higher because in a rural area. Groceries are higher because of trucking cost, and medical cost for kids ($260.00 per month plus co-pay). Well, I can go on but I know you get the picture.

My question is why do we do this ? Well because we love the job, but somewhere the line has to be drawn and we need to start making a better quality of life for our families. I think sometimes management needs to take a step back and look at what really is going on and see what will benefit the employees the most before the make life changing polices.

They do need to look at pay and 10% is not cutting the deal.

Nor Cal

4/1 Whaaat??? Another USFS FAM Efficiency study???

Think the "Leadership" already knows whaaat the rank and file is thinking about this??

As former USFS and DOI type I already know what THAT is going to look like.. like any other "EFFICIENCY STUDY"

WOW How much more fire money can we waste for someone elses' PhD thesis??

Please leave my name off of this

4/1 FAM Efficiency Assessments

Interesting...

Letterman

Date: March 27, 2009
Subject: FAM Efficiency Assessments
To: Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Area Director, IITF Director and Deputy Chiefs

For several years, Fire & Aviation Management (FAM) has conducted management efficiency assessments on various facets of the FAM program. These assessments have produced recommendations that have significantly improved the program and reduced costs.

Several of the recommendations anticipated additional study work and reviews in FY 2009. This schedule included business process reengineering (BPR) studies of aviation and dispatch services as well as a workforce assessment of the interagency wildland firefighter cadre.

Scheduled to begin in March 2009, the Wildland Firefighter Workforce Assessment will analyze the findings from all prior firefighter workforce studies and human capital planning efforts. The assessment will study how the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service recruit, hire, train, retain, manage, and retire our firefighters. It will identify potential areas for increased efficiency and program effectiveness and recommend succession planning and career paths for firefighters in known areas of deficiency. The assessment is expected to be completed with recommendations for the Chief’s review by May 2010.

As this assessment will review every firefighter position from the National Fire Director to the newest GS-02 seasonal, it will understandably create anxiety among our employees. Employees should understand that the assessment will be used to identify critical workforce needs for the future, and therefore, active participation is encouraged.

Business process reengineering studies will deferred until FY 2010.

Please contact Robert Kuhn, WO-FAM Planning & Budget Specialist at (208) 559-<snip> or rkuhn@ nospam fs.fed.us, with any questions.

/s/ James E. Hubbard
JAMES E. HUBBARD
Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry

cc: Tom Harbour, Robert Kuhn

4/1 USFS 2009 AD Rates

Attached. (340 K doc file)

Anyone seen the Dept of Interior's version?

LIONA

FS version also posted on the nifc web. Ab.

AD Pay Plan USFS (pdf)

4/1 18-8's and 13-13's being offered conversion to full time status:

Ab,

I can see that prior to responding to my previous post you didn't read all the points contained..... So let me reiterate a couple of things:

(1) First, the whole issue isn't merely about unemployment benefits. During my winter layoff from my position I worked 93 days in another job and collected 4 weeks of unemployment during times there wasn't work. During the 93 days I worked I made $93.00 per day more then I would have on a Base 8 day at the Forest Service. So in my particular case I wasn't sitting on the couch.

(2) The government and other employers pay into the unemployment system regardless of whether they are laying off a particular employee or not, so I don't think your argument that the costs are nearly the same holds salt. Figures on our forest indicate that conversion to PFTs will cost the forest approximately $2.2 million in additional salaries. Our forest doesn't currently pay $2.2 million into the state unemployment coffers.

(3) The problem I had with this conversion to PFT status is this. This is coming from the $25 million recruitment and retention budgeted for Region 5. Firefighters are not leaving the Forest Service for Cal Fire because they are not 26/0's. They are doing it because of better pay, better benefits, a more favorable work schedule, and better working conditions. Shouldn't the $25 million be spent on better pay and benefits? Even the 10% retention bonus being paid isn't going far enough. A number of my co-workers are not eligible for it because they don't count the time they were laid off this winter towards the 1 year continuous service.

While were on the subject of pay, are you aware that a GS-05 Firefighter in a number of Southern California counties qualify for food stamps if they have 2 or more dependents?

(4) A number of employees especially at the GS-05 and GS-06 levels cannot survive on Base 80 paychecks during the winter. As a GS-05 working a base 80, the take home pay after deductions is about $1500.00 per month. With student loans, car payments, mortgage payments, and credit card payments, $1500 doesn't cover the expenses. When you are making Captains or Fuels Officer wages you might not think about that....

(5) Do you think the Forest Service can fund 26/0's long term? Not that long ago I worked at a station where the budget was so short the captains had to collect cans from the guard stations, fire warehouse, and the district office so we could buy car wash supplies and saw parts???

I think its time for you guys to see the big picture on this. As far as people from other regions who love to have our positions? At last check there were around 200 vacancies at the GS-05 to GS-09 levels.... Why not apply, come out, and see how hard it is live in California (which has the highest cost of living in most of the Forest Service) on a Base 80 check during the winter months.

FS Engine Guy

4/1 3/31/09 FULTON IHC - Reunion - 2010 - April 17

I know Andy Hale and Robert LaMay. Andy Might be hard to find. Let me know if you want me to contact them.

Bill
Ruidoso, NM

Please tell me to forward your messages. I'm willing... Ab.

4/1 Rick Gale Memorial

For those that are interested, a page has been set up for Rick Gale at sympathytree.com.

SWID

4/1 Re: IAFF and FWFSA Riff

Casey said,

"What else might the FWFSA do to try and work with them when we get ignored?"

Great points.

As a federal wildland firefighter and FWFSA supporter, I think it is not so important when our issues are ignored by the IAFF, but more important when our legislation and goals are actively opposed by the IAFF and CPF.

When the FWFSA (Board of Directors, Membership, Business Mgr., and Supporters) goals and legislation are actively opposed.... or covertly opposed as found in some instances from the past... or when certain folks within the IAFF and CPF "leadership" decide that the FWFSA is a "rival" organization... the FWFSA needs to fight back through active communication of the issues and build alliances on the issues. It is not my so humble opinion, but the opinion of FWFSA members.

I feel that the FWFSA has done a great job of building these alliances (especially with AB 384), and needs to defend itself against the few "appointed and anointed", who for some reason, decided that the FWFSA was a rival organization. So far, nobody at IAFF or CPF will comment "on the record" as to why the FWFSA was determined to be a "rival organization".

One thought tells me that there that maybe there needs to be a meeting between the IAFF, CPF, and FWFSA leadership to address latent issues... On the other hand, maybe the meetings should take place with NFFE, AFGE, and FWFSA.

Maybe the FWFSA should affiliate as an independent association with SEIU (fully tongue in cheek).... read again... fully tongue in cheek.

Noname FWFSA Member

SEIU=Service Employees International Union

4/1 IAFF and FWFSA

First, I want to tell you that you and everyone at FWFSA is doing a great job and I don't want my constructive comments to misconstrued or taken too broadly.

All your gestures to groups with common issues are probably what I would do given the same circumstances. My issue, however, is with the confrontational tone of your messages. Calling people out, making demands and being inflammatory in general. I can understand that from anonymous posters, but you are the voice of a powerful and growing employee association. You have the ear of congress and have great successes to be proud of. The future is bright for wildland firefighters because of FWFSA.

The people who served before you put in a lot of work and a lot of personal pain to build the foundation that is now bringing results. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't recall them airing their grievances with other groups in the same manor. Our issues are real and our ideas are sound; we don't need raise the rhetoric to get our point across to our colleagues. I believe there is credibility and power to be gained by being publicly collegial with all firefighting groups.

Peace,

h

4/1 Paul Jones,

If you are willing to come over to the US for "vacation" and experience other fire cultures, please contact me through Ab. We'll show you a good time.

While it may darn near impossible to arrange international reciprocal pay and travel agreements, we are pretty good in hosting firefighters from outside the area and the sharing of ideas as folks travel.

Most often, we can sign you up on a volunteer agreement and provide housing in barracks facilities (ref. FSM). In most cases, these terms are limited by VISA requirements.

In some cases, "volunteers", even those from abroad can be compensated through the Administratively Determined (A.D.) pay program if certain conditions are met.

If you are interested, please reply through Ab.

Lobotomy

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