"THEY SAID IT" ARCHIVES
February, 2011

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2/28 FS budget:

If you haven't already seen, take a look at the 2/20 post about budgets. Even though we are looking at a declining discretionary federal budgets, that doesn't translate automatically to a decrease in the fire management budget within the Forest Service. The Presidents FY 2012 "increases" funding to maintain firefighting preparedness funding while at the same time reducing 178 million of Forest Service funding. What does this tell you?

Don't be overwhelmed by more than a few out there who far too often take the easy road out by simply saying "the budget is bad". These people must be held accountable.

Staying positive in these unsettled financial times will take you a long way.

Signed,

Currently Supporting Wisconsin Firefighters and other Public Employees

2/28 rehire rights:

Was just reading some of the posts regarding the Modoc IHC. On the subject of re-hire rights, to my knowledge there have never been any rehire rights. Most seasonal employees have rehire eligibility, which basically means that when the seasonal positions are being hired, seasonal employees from prior years are usually given first chance for the positions. I say usually because occasionally there are seasonals who are not rehired for one reason or another. They are not guaranteed a position from year to year.

BH

2/28 There doesn't seem to be too much info on the fed fire web about fires in NM and there are the same kind of large fast-moving fires.

Here's the best I can find:

nmfireinfo. wordpress.com

roadrunner

2/28 From Midland:

Lots of big fast moving grass fires in the Texas plains.

Map: TX burning map 02-28-11 jpg

HOTLIST

TX Sit Report (151 K pdf)

2/27 Modoc IHC:

Ab,

I was closely involved with Modoc IHC for several years. I am saddened (but not surprised) to learn of the current situation. In my experience, the forest never provided enough support for the crew. I am proud of what we were able to achieve as a crew, and count my time there as some of the best that I spent fighting fire, despite that lack of support.

To all the crew members who are caught in the middle...be patient, and be smart.

Please sign me..."Been there"

2/27 Re Fireshelter use in the grasslands:

2/22 paintitblack,

I was somewhat horrified at your post regarding Fire Shelters. I do not want to come off arrogant or demeaning, but you need to watch the New Generation Fire Shelter DVD a few more times. I watch it every year (at least one time) and It is clear and specific on what the shelter can and can not do. We use the video and use of practice shelters as part of our RT 130 Critical Refresher Training every year. The Tech Tips published on the Fire Shelter are also very valuable for further information. I believe San Dimas Technology Center or Missoula has done most, if not all of the testing you may be considering while working on the design for the New Generation Fire Shelter. They also accept new ideas for testing each year through proposals from the field. Currently they are working on Dozer Burnovers and survivability within the cab.

Simply put, Fire Shelters, old or new, were not designed to take direct flame impingement (grass or any other fuel source). The effective quality of the foil provides radiant heat protection only. It is also very well illustrated in the manual and video that 100 percent of the heat from direct contact will be absorbed by the shelter. Where as 95 % of radiant heat will be reflected. It is also important to clear out a spot free from any vegetation and get a good seal to the ground. What killed the firefighters on the Thirty Mile Fire was that they tried to deploy in large boulders that had ignitable grass, shrubs, and debris in them. Not only were they taking direct flame, they could not keep the super heated gasses out of the shelter.

In order to work in any last chance situation, finding the right deployment site will be critical to survival. Look for areas with less vegetation, areas that may have been matted down from game or livestock, Prairie dog mounds, etc. I have been taught to always look for these types of areas as part of my basic situational update and awareness. I do this regardless of how secure I am with my current Escape Route and Safety Zone.

As for the effectiveness in grasslands or any other fire environment, shelters are only the last chance for survival. Due to the very nature of flashy fuel fires, one might argue that a shelter is worthless in this environment. However, it is also worthless next to a slash pile and not going to save you in 15 foot brush either. So there are many situations where a Fire Shelter will not be a viable option for survival. To rule them out entirely in a certain fuel type and potentially not train with the use of them because that is the only fuel type you are normally in should not be an option.

As for saving equipment on the line, or within a burn, more defensible space could have helped. The use of a weed whip and a good scraping goes along way.

Conejo,

BCS

2/27 Hey all,

Take a look at the Jobs page.

It's pretty active with a variety of jobs and locations. Ab.

2/27 Re Gleason:

Ab,

Here's another memory from 1964, when Paul Gleason and I were both 18 - 'Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash', the smash hit album that played constantly at the Dalton Hotshots' station located on the east side of Glendora Mountain Road, a few feet south of Big Dalton Canyon Road, and below the watchful eyes of Mt. Poopout. "Ring of Fire", "I Still Miss Someone", "Tennessee Flat Top Box" - I can't hear any of those without flashing on the barracks, the Cherry Locker, Mike Cole, Paul Gleason, and the others. Here's to you!

Cheers

Dave Guidinger

2/26 Re Firefighter Retention:

I saw Jeanne's message about the retention. Does anyone know if the GS-9's were approved as well?

DirtMiner

2/26 I just want to thank you, Mr. Withrow, for your post. It's posts like yours that keep me coming back. Your stories about Chuck Hartley ring so true. I remember having a conversation with Chuck when he was on a fire assignment as a Safety Officer on the Los Padres during the Marre Fire. He was doing what he loved to do within the compound of the Michael Jackson ranch. You can see his smile from 100 yds away.

Chuck is simply the most caring, optimistic, encouraging and kindest human being I've ever met in this business.

ms
2/25 Ab,
Here is some new information. I you would please post this for all to see. From my understanding there is lots of parking at this location and it can hold lots of people. Thanks again for all the help getting the word out.

Thank You,
BG

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
GABE POMONA MEMORIAL SERVICE

Gabe Pomona’s memorial service has been scheduled for March the 4th 2011 at the PAC center. The address for the PAC center is 39707 Big Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315. This is inside the City Hall.

The memorial will start at 11:00 am and last about one hour. People are welcome to arrive early if they wish to. After the memorial there will be a gathering to share memories with each other. Flowers for the memorial may be sent to the Big Bear Ranger Station at 42300 North Shore Dr. Fawnskin CA 92333. The flowers may be taken up the drive way to the fire station for drop off.

Summer Pomona, Gabe’s wife has requested assistance from the San Bernardino Family Support Group to solicit donations to cover the reception food expenses. If you wish to donate please make checks payable to the Gabe Pomona Memorial Fund and send your donations to:

First Mountain Bank in Big Bear
40865 Big Bear Blvd.
P.O. Box 6868
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Phone 909 866-5861

First Mountain Bank in Running Springs
2625 Whispering Pines Dr.
P.O. Box 90
Running Springs, CA 92382

First Mountain Bank in Lucerne Valley
32946 D Highway 18
P.O. Box 2100
Lucerne Valley, CA 92356

If you would like to donate Stater Bros. Markets gift cards please contact Family Support Group representative Julie DeAnda at Julie_deanda@yahoo.com or 909-557-8470.

2/25 Making the rounds...

Firefighter Retention

We just heard that the firefighter retention allowance has been re-certified by the Department until 2/25/2012. Each employee affected will receive a letter from Human Resources in the near future.

Jeanne Wade Evans
Deputy Regional Forester, Forest Service, Region 5

2/25 Hi there,

I'm researching for a Forest Fire Survival show we're shooting NEXT WEEK and I need some survival stories - preferably stories of people out hiking, camping, etc who get caught up and have to escape a fire, but stories of firefighters work, too.

Hoping you can help me out today with this. Any ideas?

Thanks so much for your time!

Alison

Entrapped and approaching burnover? Readers, anyone have a fire shelter? Ab.

2/25 WFF fundraiser at the Lava Beds to honor Shawn Price and Tom Marovich

Please pass this along to those who may may be interested in participating or volunteering for this great event.

Shawn and Tom Memorial Run flyer (650 K pdf)
Registration Form (206 K pdf)
Sponsor Form (223 K pdf)

SZ

Thanks, SZ. Great time of year for a run to remember those two fine men. Ab.

2/25 furloughed

Good Evening,

Little information on the Questions personnel might be asking,
Lessons Learned 1995.

For some of us, We remember.

govexec.com (If you wait a moment, the registration form goes away.)

Interesting Reading

2/25 Ab,

Today's post of Secretary Vilsack's letter includes a header outlining the irresponsible effects of a federal government shutdown and effectively lists Boehner, the Republican Party and the Tea Party as guilty parties if that shutdown occurs. The writer gives credit to Senate Leader Reid's 40 billion dollar compromise as the solution.

I would like to point out that 40 billion dollars is a meaningless number when compared against the proposed deficit of 1.6 trillion dollars in the 2010-2011 federal budget. The 4 billion dollar savings pointed out by Secretary Vilsack "over the last two years" is even more distressing.

The Federal debt is over 14 trillion dollars and climbing. The current impasse is the result of the Congress not passing the budget last year. Remember last year? The Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House.

HUUFC

I'm happy to copy and past messages back and forth behind the scenes to people with differing views. Ab.

2/24 Lets hope the House will understand the negative effects of a shut down and how irresponsible it would be to allow a shut down to occur. Lets also hope that Boehner, the Republican Party and Tea Party accept Senate leader Reid's 40 billion dollar cut compromise.

We Will Soon Find Out...........

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

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20250

Dear Fellow Employees,

As you may have heard, there is a serious discussion taking place in our government about the need to address the federal deficit and rein in spending. These are tough times – but we can’t leave the burden of an enormous deficit on our kids and grandkids. American families have been forced to tighten their belts during the recent recession, and government needs to do the same.

The discussion has led many to speculate about budget cuts that would affect USDA and the people we serve. And while I agree that we need to make cuts – and President Obama have proposed substantial cuts in our proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2012 – we must do so responsibly.

We owe it to the taxpayers to be as careful spending their money as we are our own. And already, over the last two years, many of you have been involved in eliminating unneeded or wasteful spending at USDA – more than $4 billion. President Obama and I thank you for that. But we need to do more.

At times like this, terms like lay-off, furlough, and program termination are tossed around without enough consideration for their true consequences. I want to assure you that I am closely monitoring the national discussion and am working closely with USDA’s agencies to make the right and responsible choices for the Department and for the American people. It is my goal to respond to the President and Congress’ request to make cuts, but in a manner that allows us to continue serving the American people adequately, and creating as little disruption in USDA’s employees lives as possible.

I have and will always believe that our greatest asset at USDA, and the most valuable resource to the taxpayer, is our employees. I will keep you posted as things move forward.

Secretary Tom Vilsack

2/24 Fire Manager History: What Hot Shot Crew Did They Start On?

I would like to offer an addition to the Dalton Hot Shots.

I was a member of the Dalton Hot Shots in 1966 and 1968 with Paul Gleason and Chuck Hartley and worked with them on the 1966 Loop Fire. I worked on ANF tankers for two seasons, a fire patrol rig at the Grand Canyon NP for a season, and was a Helitack Foreman on the Mt. Hood NF for a season. I earned a B.S. in Forestry from Northern Arizona University in 1971.

  • I subsequently worked for the Boise Interagency Fire Center (now NIFC) where I developed the position of Communication Coordinator (nationwide Plans Chief) and designed what is now the NIFC Incident Management Situation Report. The report is the same format now as when I developed in 1974.
  • I was the first Chief of Fire Management (Assistant Territorial Forester) in the Territory of Guam.

I served 19 years or seasons in wildfire and structure firefighting, 9 of which were as a Chief Officer. I changed gears and went into social services with Washington State and just retired after 27 ˝ years with them. Along the way I earned a Master of Divinity and was a member of the Capuchin Franciscans. I now serve as the Presiding of the Apostolic Catholic Church in America.

Perhaps my years with the Dalton Hot Shots were the most memorable. It was there where I really grew to manhood. Before then, I was just one of those anonymous high school losers. With Dalton, I was mentored by the best, Chuck Hartley. He exuded an aura of calm confidence all of the time. I admired his courage, not only on the fireline, but his courage to stand up to his boss and refuse an assignment if he thought it was too dangerous. He did that on the Loop Fire. Had he not done so, we would have been the chimney canyon instead of El Cariso.

Thanks for letting me remember,

Bob Withrow

Thanks for writing in, Bob. Interesting life, great accomplishments. Those early mentoring experiences count for so much. My personal thanks to firefighters that take on the mentoring role and to the people coming up who seek out and actively learn from the best around them. Ab.

2/23 Alan in New Zealand,

Several years ago my family was lucky enough to spend some time in the city of Christchurch while touring the South Island. I cherish the pictures and memories of that beautiful place. The loss of life and the photos of the wreckage are truly heartbreaking, and I know there's a lot of Americans, firefighter or otherwise, who wish it was possible to cross the ocean and personally lend a hand. It's good that this country can at least provide some assistance to a great Cantabrian community.

I sincerely hope that everyone affected by this awful tragedy can find the strength to get through this, to heal, and to rebuild.

Kibby
2/23 Ab et al,

I am sure that our friends in the Wildfire community in the USA will be aware of the serious earthquake that struck one of our major cities in NZ a couple of days ago. The force was in the 5.7 region but very shallow and close to the city centre. To compound the problem, the same city suffered a 6+ back in Sept 2010 and was still struggling back to its feet in a major recovery effort. The latest quake was probably even more serious in that buildings already weakened by the Sept event crashed to the ground that much easily. To compound the problem this latest event occurred in the middle of the working day when the central city was packed with people.

The death toll sits at 75 (after 2 days of rescue effort) with a couple of hundred persons still not accounted for. To the best of my knowledge, no wildfire fighters have been casualties in ChCh. A major international effort is under way to assist NZ and of course our great and loyal friends in the USA were amongst the first to put up their hands. A USA contingent of 75 specialist urban rescuers arriving this morning!

I know that all the friends we Kiwi Firefighters made in deployments to the US over the last decade will be wishing us all the best and that the wider US Wildfire community will share these thoughts. For these best wishes and the efforts of your personnel already here, we say - "thank you".

Alan
Kiwi Wildfire Firefighter
(Northern Calif 2008)

Alan, A number of us are watching and some are ready to go. I have several non-fire friends there who are OK at the moment but tell stories of the fatalities and serious infrastructure problems. Hang in there. Be as safe as you can be. Readers, here's a website with good info. The Flutrackers Vice President lives in NZ near Christchurch, so a lot of the info is also assessed based on first hand knowledge. Ab.

2/23 Re Modoc Hotshots Status:

We have all been there, sitting back with our mouths agape wondering what management is thinking. Really, how can they stand the Modoc IHC down for¦..well for what really? Now let me shed some light on this matter.

The DFMO pulled previous Supt. from his position and slid his buddy (the DFMO's) with no prior crew experience into the position. Mind you, the new Supt. worked for a state agency in the mid-west and then somehow got his qualifications from the DOD while working at an AFB.

The DFMO said this individual would act as a mentor for the crew and rumor was that he would decide the fate of the crew. So, his first fire season came along last year and this Supt. was caught sleeping on the fireline while his crew was working, mind you they had not been out much all summer. He was later caught fishing in a stream while his crew was putting in line, and on and on. North Ops refused to take the crew, it was only through persuasion on the veteran Captain's part that they did get out on assignments. Note that a Captain on the crew for 8 years just took a position elsewhere.

Fire season ended and things went from bad to worse, this Supt. continued to make outlandish accusations about his crew and seemingly tried to divert the DFMO's attention away from him while he was throwing everyone on his crew under the bus.

In the mean time, the Modoc NF got a new District Ranger and Forest Supervisor. The DFMO worked his magic and got them in his corner and the rest is history.

I think the Forest should be investigated. There are several wonderful qualified individuals that have left the Forest because they cannot stomach what is going on any longer. Some have family in the area and found it to be heart wrenching to leave, but the immoral and unethical behavior was too much to be witness to.

The issues with the Forest do not lie solely on the fore mentioned individuals, the Forest FMO, Training Officer, Union Rep., etc.¦ are all part and parcel to the issues on the Forest. There needs to be a major house cleaning.

We are told that the No Fear Act is in place but we all know that if it doesn't benefit the Forest then that act goes out the window.

Additionally, if the Modoc NF's "leadership" were to look in their own back yards, they would see that they are just as guilty of the accusations that they are investigating the Modoc IHC for.

Not disgruntled, just disgusted!

2/23 Firecamp dress

Greetings all,

In reading the few posts regarding dress in firecamps and what is worn, I have a few thoughts on the whole thing and this pertains to the entire Forest Service. I feel that when you are representing the agency, you should do so in a professional appearance, demeanor, and attitude. That being said, I feel that anyone who is making contact with the public or is out in the public eye should be in a uniform at all times, unless unsafe or completely impractical. I believe that district rangers, frontliners, timber sale admins, FMOs, AFMOs, Engine Module Supervisors, Drivers, Staff, Fire Fighters, etc, should all have issued and wear the uniform. Fire pants or more rugged when necessary. Uniform when not. It presents a more professional look and generally commands more respect. People can immediately identify you as someone who works for the agency. LEOs wear uniforms ALL the time for those reasons and we all should as well.

I know some regions are moving to this, and others encounter resistance when it is even discussed. If I had the authority, I would head this direction for sure. I just feel it is appropriate.

As for off duty in fire camp, just make sure they are safe, and if flipflops are safe enough and they are off duty, leave em alone. When you are working, they should be in their work clothes.

My .02

Guns-n-hoses

2/22 re: Modoc IHC

OK I'm a little lost here... What is going on with Modoc IHC? Are they getting disbanded? I think they are a highly respected crew in R5. Every crew has it's problems and it's problem children. I would believe that they are not the only crew in the nation with the same problems. A few bad seeds doesn't mean to disband the crew. How about an investigation? Or maybe weed out the bad and start fresh? There are plenty of people that would/could be willing to go to that crew? I don't believe that is very fair to the hotshot community nor is it fair to the members of Modoc IHC to disband the crew. But hey who am I to say I'm just a GS-6 on a handcrew. Good luck Modoc IHC Hope to see you out there this year. If you need a willing and able body I would be more than happy to come over.

Second.... Budget cuts what is really going on? too many rumors not enough facts. I would like to know if there will be a reduction in forces in the near future. Is my job safe on a fairly new type II IA crew? I'm just not sure what the future has in store for us. Hopefully good things but only time will tell.

Just a grunt

2/22 re: dress in fire camp

This came to me. Thanks...

Mellie

I think your question is more what FS employees wear in fire camps as a uniform, or designated attire, than what is casually seen in camps.

To answer that, most FS employees wear their uniform for travel, unless they are members of a team and have specific team shirts or other identifiers. At a camp, I have seen FS employees wear uniforms, as in the case of LEOs and some others do not, and opt for fire pants and some Tshirt, usually from their Forest or RD. Team members wear team clothing throughout the incident.

For others, different locations of fire camps generally dictate the camp attire. Some ICPs located in schools, or other public buildings or urban areas may see relaxed casual clothing. Fire camps located in remote, mountainous areas may dictate more stringent clothing requirements.

Fire Camp clothing has evolved over the years. In the old days, crews, overhead and others were to be fire-ready 24/7. That meant available to go into action at a moment's notice, which precluded wandering around camp with shorts, tank top and sandals as we sometimes see today.

The argument for casual clothing has been that while on your own time, i.e. off duty, you should be able to dress as you like. And to that end, some will argue that sandals are appropriate footwear for off duty time due to the generally level and brush free areas in camp.

The opposite is argued that for safety reasons, and those reasons alone, all should have sturdy footwear, long pants and Tshirts, with fire shirts readily available. This has come to be very important when camps have been threatened with burn-overs.

I, personally, believe that professionalism should be put forth while on an assignment from dispatch to return to duty station. And, to me that means being dressed appropriately in long pants, sturdy footwear and at the minimum a T-shirt at all times or team shirt if applicable. Safety is Numero Uno and I believe this standard is important to the safety of camp personnel.

In short, however, the Incident Command of any incident most generally dictates the protocol for clothing in camp settings. I have seen it all, including skirts worn in camp.

Hope this helps.

2/22 Interesting question on the Hotlist about fire shelter use in tall grass prairie. Ab.

Hello all,

I am new to the site so forgive me if this is not the place to ask. I have been conducting proscribed burns in Kansas and Nebraska for 20+ years now (basically all tallgrass prairie). There are a lot differences between what we prescribed crews do and what many of you do. But there are a lot of similarities.

One is the risk of burn over. And this gets to my question. During a prescribed burn years ago we needed to protect some equipment that was to be burnt over. So I picked up a fire shelter (old type) thinking this would easily do the trick, after all “it’s just a grass fire” (I have since learned better). After failure of the shelter and a loss of $1,000 worth of equipment, I spent some time asking forest firefighters about my results. They all basically said “It will not work if direct flames are allowed to contact the material for any length of time.” I took this to mean that fire shelters are basically useless in grasslands and the tallgrass prairie in particular. Over the years it seems to me that there have been be conflicting positions on the practicality of using shelters in grasslands (posts here clearly demonstrate that wide-ranging view point). I've yet to see any studies demonstrating that deployment in a tallgrass prairie would be successful (I would define successful as no need to visit a hospital.).

So my question is 1.) Do any of you know of studies testing either the old or new shelter in a grassland system? It certainly seems like the new shelter is capable of withstanding substantially more direct fire contact. The problem with both shelters is that deployment in a grassland necessarily will involve substantial amounts of fuel in the shelter with the firefighter. So while the new shelter itself can probably withstand the direct flame contact, the space inside is not safe as it will surely be engulfed in flames.

And this gets to my second question. I have the opportunity to test deployments this burn season. In order to do this however I need a bunch of the old shelters (I would love the new shelters but my budget is basically 100 bucks and some bubblegum). Does anyone know where I might obtain 50 or so old shelters? Is there a surplus site I can hit up? Ideally these tests would give firefighters an idea of the range of fuel loads these shelters work in and possibly where they don’t.

I apologize for the long winded post and if this question should be directed elsewhere please point me in that direction.

Thanks!

Paintitblack

2/22 re: dress in fire camp

I'd like to see the information mentioned by Mellie re: dress in fire camp. Didn't see it in TheySaid. Thanks

Still out there ...

2/21 Ab,
Just received this information on our friend Gabe. Would you please post this for all his friends.

Thank You,
BG

MEMORIAL INFO FOR GABE POMONA

Viewing tomorrow Tuesday the 22nd at Sierra chapel in Oakhurst, CA 12 noon to 4pm

Memorial and Cry Dance services for Gabriel Pomona will be on Wednesday February 23rd at 6 pm at Gabe’s grandpa’s house 30700 Hwy 41 Coarsegold, CA 93614

Donations for the Gabe Pomona Memorial Fund can be sent to or taken to:

First Mountain Bank in Big Bear
40865 Big Bear Blvd.
P.O. Box 6868
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Phone 909-866-5861

or

Family Support Group
Contact: Julie DeAnda
Phone: 951-845-0210
Email: Julie_deanda @ nospam yahoo.com

2/21 Thanks for the info on dress in firecamp here and the emails.

Mellie

2/20 Re. Accountability and unintended consequence

Reply for saddened contractor

Let me be clear that I am not saying accountability should be completely ignored. We all must be personally accountable for our actions- that's life. I am saddened too, that not every one is adheres to the same level ethical and moral standards. Unfortunately, there are people who operate like that, that it's ok to break the rules as long as you don't get caught.

In a Just Culture, built upon a solid doctrine which prioritizes safety over everything else, accountability will naturally fall into place. Of course, this also depends on each individual adhering to some sort of moral codes and standards. I mentioned "Duty, Respect, Integrity" before, so lets think about that. We have a duty to our fellow firefighters, a duty to the public that we serve. We share a mutual respect for our peers, and for the codes we live by, that have been written with blood, so to speak. We maintain integrity in everything that we do. When we strive for these things, and our moral compass guides us, we need little "enforcement" of "accountability." When we are morally guided as a group by standards which promote safety, the ones who are not will stand out. The key is to create a system with fair checks and balances that weed out the “bad seeds.”

Now, the issue with the fuel truck driver and the CO. Obviously, nice guy or not, this contractor probably knew what he was doing was wrong. Maybe according to his own personal knowledge or ethics, this was not a safety issue; maybe he thought, oh-those are just "guidelines." Or maybe he just didn't know any better. Either way, he should be held personally accountable for his actions. Frankly, if anyone was “liable,” it was the driver, who was trusted to have been following the rules regarding GVWs and hazmat transport. In this particular case, the standard is governed strictly by self-inspection, if this is a problem, then change how we ensure the standards are followed.

As for the CO, if he was not doing his job, then yes he should be held personally accountable for that. Should he be held liable for the driver who has poor business ethics? Liable, if the agency has not given him the resources to his job? Liable, for the system that allowed the driver to self-inspect? Liable, if he's just too lazy to his job? Or if he purposely ignored the issue? Yes, there are circumstances when people are unethical or negligent, and should be held accountable for that- but more often than not, there is more than one person at fault, and it's more of a compound issue resulting from faults in the system.

I will be the first to admit that this is a frequent occurrence within the FS, employees not being held accountable for not doing their jobs. In my experience there are 3 reasons why employees are not doing their job.

  1. They are merely going by what they have been told by their supervisor, who is doing what they were instructed to do by their Forest Supe, who is carrying out the wishes of the Region, who got their direction from somewhere in Washington.
  2. The agency has not given them the resources (manpower, money, policy) to effectively do their job.
  3. They don't care enough to go the extra mile to compensate for the first two.

Often times, there really is no way inside, or outside, the system to ensure the that every one is following the rules.

You said the communication went on for 19 days, and the guy was only finally demobed because it was demob time. I would have called an LEO out. That's what LEOs are for, enforcing the rules. That's why they have been stove piped, so they can work independently of other agendas to investigate, document and enforce applicable rules. If it was well-documented that the CO had been contacted, and he was not able to prove there was a reasonable explanation as to why he had not been out there sooner- then we could say that there has been a “discharge of trust” on his part, had an accident occurred.

"What would have happened if this Tender would have gotten in an accident? Would the CO be liable?"

This is exactly what is wrong. Someone always has to be liable. We live in a world where someone always has to be liable when something bad happens. We all carry liability insurance so we can drive....doctors carry malpractice insurance in the event patients sue them....it always has to be somebody's fault when something bad happens. The fact that car accident was caused by a tire blowing out after running over a rock in the road (all really no one's fault); or that the patient died because his heart was bad, not because the Doctor did anything wrong- becomes irrelevant, we need to blame someone. We need to cut this mentality out of high reliability organizations.

Would the CO be liable?....You are asking the wrong question. You should be asking, what went wrong and how can we fix it so it doesn't happen again?

Stringtown

2/20 After reviewing the budget submitted by our President, below are a few numbers requested for FY 2012 for Forest Service Fire Management. Although the numbers are not as bad as they could have been, we must remember that we have a Congress to continue to educate before we get to a final FY 2012 budget agreement.

Thanks to our FWFSA, NFFE, wlf.com and YOU, we have some great resources to help us make our point.

Today is not the time to be greedy, today is the day to be responsible. Today and into the future, we must make our point regarding why we should maintain our firefighting capability. This is the same capability we spent the first part of the previous decade building, thanks to the leadership of President Clinton and with continued funding under President Bush. Fewer resources will increase fire size and offer less promotional opportunities for those leaders we need in the future.

Don't get spooked when Fire Chiefs talk about how bad the budget looks, or when your Forest Supervisor makes threats of reductions. Simply report these words to those organizations supporting us. Things are not that bad. However they can get worse, which is a good reason why we all need to be actively learning about our system of government and how we are funded. We must remain supportive of the each other and supportive of our firefighting cooperators at all levels.

Remember to stay calm, professional, and most important stay smart on budget subjects when our leaders talk about dire times ahead. Forgive them for they know not what they do (or at least some of them).

No time for complaining, no time for getting down, however use that time to learn and educate everyone about the important work you do on behalf of the American people.

Stay Positive, Stay Together, Stay Strong.

Letterman

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
FY 2012 (proposed)

· Forest Service all programs - $5.1 Billion (-$178 M from FY '11)
· Firefighting Preparedness – $1 B (+331 M). Increase is due to remixing suppression funds to preparedness and maintaining current firefighting strength.
· Hazardous Fuels – $254 M (-$86 M). Funding only priority WUI . Non-WUI hazardous fuels shifting to Resource Restoration line item.
· Fire and Fuels R&D - $22 M (-$950).
· NFP Volunteer Fire Assistance - $6 M (-$2 M)
· Forest Health - $56 M (-$1 M)
· NFP State Fire Assistance - $45 M (-$25 M)
· Fire Suppression - $539M (-$458 M)
· Significant funding from Suppression and FLAME will carried over into FY '11 and might happen again in FY '12.
2/20 FWFSA looking for members who rappel for National Standards review;

Hi to all:

This note will go on our web site too but I've been asked to solicit interest from firefighters who are bargaining unit members (up through GS-7 I think) and FWFSA members who actually rappel to either work on or review the National rappel Standards for NFFE.

If you are interested please contact me directly at cjudd@fwfsa.org or by phone at 208-775-4577.

Additionally, our draft legislation for wildland firefighters has been completed and will be available in the member's area of the FWFSA in a couple of days. Please remember this is a draft. Some language has changed. Some has been deleted and new language inserted.

Given the fiscal hysteria and hyperbole in DC, it will take a concerted effort for all of us to break through the "anti-federal employee" ignorance on the Hill. Starting this week I will be meeting with Republicans in district and will have a few "bring it to Jesus" meetings with them about the ignorance being demonstrated about the federal workforce.

Casey
2/19 Good day...just wanted to make a thread post to drum up some support for a very important cause.

Essentially...the National Weather Service could be facing some very serious budget cuts very shortly. These cuts would affect all facets of the NWS including the Fire Weather program.

As an Incident Meteorologist and Fire Weather Forecaster...I do not exactly what impacts the budget cuts would have on the Fire Weather program. However...I would not want to find out. So...if you can...please write you local Congressional representative and let them know you support the NWS and do not want to see any significant budget cuts for the NWS.

Here is a link with more details about the potential impacts:
house fiscal 2011 budget proposal could devastate the national weather services life saving warnings and forecasts
2/19 That old age 37 question:

Region5guy, here is some information I collected.

To begin with, the maximum entry age is 37 years old. However in Isabella vs US State Department, Robert Isabella won his case in at MSPB. He claimed that having an MEA for veterans violated the Veteran Employment Opportunities Act of 1998. He was right. OPM issued the following information (below) and later the Forest Service issued direction on this (also below). It must be noted that to the best of my knowledge, allowing someone to enter once they turn 37 is limited to 5 or 10 point preference veterans. Still no change on the age they must exit a federal fire and law enforcement position which is 57.

I am sure many variables exist relating to this issue, so nothing is an absolute. I don't know if the Forest Service will allow non-vets the same opportunity. I do know that a Forest Service Deputy Chief friend of mine said they had a few Apprentices at last year’s Apprentice hire that were older than 37 but hired anyway.

Mellie

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
File Code: 6130
Date: November 25, 2009
Subject: MSPB - Isabella Decision

To: Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Area Director, IITF Director and Deputy Chiefs

The Merit System Promotion Board (MSPB) found in favor of a preference eligible who contested his inability to apply for a position based on the maximum entry age in the case of Robert P. Isabella, vs. the Department of State and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) ruling dated July 2, 2008. The MSPB found that the purpose for setting a maximum entry age for a position is to enhance the retirement scheme by allowing individuals entering the position to enjoy a full career prior to reaching the mandatory retirement age. They held that for this purpose it is insufficient to establish that the maximum entry age is essential to the performance of the duties of the position. The MSPB ordered the agency to waive the age limit and to process the appellant’s application to completion. The provisions of this case apply only to preference eligibles based in part of the language contained in 5 U.S.C. 3312.

Based on the MSPB decision, OPM issued a memorandum informing agencies that qualified preference eligibles may now apply and be considered for vacancies regardless of whether they meet the maximum age requirement identified at 5 U.S.C. 3307. Before the agency can pass over the preference eligible, they must first analyze the affected position to determine whether age is essential to the performance of the position. If the agency decides age is not essential to the position, then it must waive the maximum entry-age requirement for veterans’ preference eligible applicants. In instances where the maximum entry-age is waived, the corresponding mandatory retirement age will be waived. We have enclosed a copy of both the Isabella determination and the OPM memorandum.

As per the terms of the memorandum, Fire and Law Enforcement and Investigation (LEI) leadership must carefully examine all their positions to determine if maximum entry age is essential to the performance of the duties, keeping in mind the outcome of the Isabella case. These rare cases will be examined on a case by case basis to determine if the age essential argument is sufficient to pass over the preference eligible. Procedures for preparing arguments for identification of age essential positions and for requesting waivers to the mandatory entry age for preference eligibles will be addressed in forthcoming guidance.

Additionally, the changes brought about by this case require us to work with Avue to modify all of our Fire and LEI vacancy announcements. To date, the language in most of the LEI announcements has been changed. However, all of our open continuous primary Firefighter announcements must be closed to make the required modifications. Beginning Nov 2, 2009, we closed all open continuous recruitments (OCR) for primary firefighter positions and reopened the announcements on Nov 16, 2009. Avue needed this time to make the modifications to the announcements and to change the announcement numbers. Enclosed you will find a listing of all the new OCR numbers.

Avue is sending emails to applicants notifying them of the closure and informing applicants of the need to reapply. Applicants will be provided the new vacancy announcement numbers in these notifications.

We have timed these closures so there will be minimal impact to the current fire outreach and selection processes for Region 5 and Region 3. Supervisors can pull a referral certificate on the new OCR’s 28 days after the closing date of the announcement. If supervisors need to pull a referral certificate during the transition period, they can still pull a referral certificate from one of the closed OCR numbers.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact either Geri Esquibel at 505-563-9440 or geraldineesquibel@etc or Colleen Aragon at 505-563-9462 or colleenaragon@etc.

/s/ Charles L. Myers
CHARLES L. MYERS
Deputy Chief for Business Operations

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
OPM Announcement

MEMORANDUM FOR HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

From: John Berry, Director
Subject: Change in maximum entry-age requirements for Veterans’ Preference Eligibles

On July 2, 2008, the Merit Systems Protection Board (Board) issued a final decision in Robert P. Isabella v. Department of State and Office of Personnel Management, 2008 M.S.P.B. 146, that affects preference eligibles who apply for federal positions having a maximum entry-age restriction. The Board decided that the agency’s failure to waive the maximum entry-age requirements for Mr. Isabella, a preference eligible veteran, violated his rights under the Veteran Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 (VEOA) because there was no demonstration that a maximum entry-age was essential to the performance of the position.

Based on the Board’s decision in Isabella, qualified preference eligibles may now apply and be considered for vacancies regardless of whether they meet the maximum age requirements identified at 5 U.S.C. 3307. In order to determine whether it must waive a maximum entry-age requirement, an agency must first analyze the affected position to determine whether age is essential to the performance of the position. If the agency decides age is not essential to the position, then it must waive the maximum entry-age requirement for veterans’ preference eligible applicants. In instances where the maximum entry-age is waived, the corresponding mandatory retirement age for these individuals will also be higher because it will be reached after 20 years of Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) service for the entitlement to an immediate enhanced annuity.

The same principles set forth above would apply to appointments to other types of positions for which the setting of maximum entry ages are authorized under 5 U.S.C. § 3307. These types of positions are: (1) firefighters, (2) air traffic controllers, (3) United States Park police, (4) nuclear materials couriers, and (5) customs and border patrol officers (subject to the Federal Employees Retirement System, 5 U.S.C. § 8401 et seq. only).

Agencies are reminded that they are still required to apply suitability, occupational qualification standards, and medical qualification determinations when waiving the maximum entry-age requirements for preference eligible veterans.

Please contact the OPM Human Capital Officer that services your agency should you have questions concerning this policy change.

cc: Chief Human Capital Officers
Human Resources Directors

2/19 Dispatch

Having worked fire for the last 10 years in region 5, I'd certainly agree that *some* dispatch centers are a wreck.

We have GS-11 "dispatch center managers", GS-8/9 "assistant center managers", and GS-5/6/7 dispatchers with very limited or no fire experience handed the title "division" or "battalion" or "captain".

Overhead in dispatch centers with very limited or no fire experience from the area they service should never happen.

Dispatchers having to have 90 days of fire time is a step in the right direction, though I'd like to see these positions subject to the same standards as the rest of the fire program.

Start with Department of Labor "Wildland Fire Specialist" certification.

Please sign me,

Fundamentals

2/19 Conflicting direction:

Remember to ask your local Line Officer and Fire Manager about the 2011 Redbook chapter 11, page 11-21 that states:

“Firefighters will not take direct suppression action on structure, vehicle, dumpster, trash, or landfill fires.”

Ask them if chapter 11 conflicts with your 5100 manual which states:

“Do not undertake direct attack on vehicle or dump fires on National Forest System lands “unless” such action is absolutely necessary to protect life or “prevent” the spread of fire to the wildlands.”

It is unfortunate that we even need to ask this question, as we will probably get multiple interpretations. However, when the agency is saying two different things in two different references, its best to communicate and resolve the matter locally. The issue and questions will eventually work their way up to the National level where you usually get that deer-in-headlights look.

R-5 Capt

2/19 Annual Fireline Safety Refresher Training, 2011

Annual Fireline Safety Refresher Training

I understand it just came out today. Thanks GA Peach. Ab.

2/19 Question about Annual Fireline Safety Refresher Training, 2011:

AB,

First off, thanks for all the work you guys do with this site. I have been a long time lurker and find all types of needed information in here.

I am looking for information regarding any direction or changes to the RT 130 requirements for the 8/16/40 hour refresher. I work for the Forest Service and want to make sure I have the latest information for the Refresher Course this season. I have been tasked to provide this training to our "militia". I have provided this training for our fire personnel for years but the last official memo I have is from 2006, which is the last time I taught for the "militia". The NWCG website has new topics and all sorts of other great tools and topics, but what I need is the list of requirements for each level.

Any help would be great,

Conejo, BCS

2/19 re: Modoc IHC

Ab,

I feel compelled to write about the recent posts concerning the Modoc IHC, more specifically the post by “Faith in God”. I was also a member of the Modoc Hotshots during the period in reference, and to put it bluntly, I smell sour grapes. These charges were either leveled by the forest overhead that are the subject of the majority of these posts, or by a crewmember that was let go due to performance issues. (I happen to have a good idea who Mr. Faith is, and I suspect the latter). During the time I was with the crew (substantially more than Mr. Faith) I saw nothing but a fully functioning, highly efficient type one crew and I’m sure the posts by past crewmembers and/or other crews which will doubtlessly follow mine will say the same. To say that a crew that was run by Greg Keller or Bob Beebe (two well known and respected names to those in hotshot circles) was a highly dysfunctional organization is downright ridiculous. I would suggest that anyone who reads Mr. Faiths posts due so with a grain of salt, to balance out the bitterness of an employee who may feel inadequate for not meeting the high standards of the Modoc IHC.

I will not let the good name of the Modoc hotshots be slandered by nothing more than a sub-standard ex-employee with an axe to grind.

Sign me-

chain loop.

2/19 My good friend Joel Lane sent this to me in an mms text... It is a sign hanging in Val Lynch's (Kern County Firefighter and Air Attack officer) office. I took the liberty of retyping it.

I agree with Joel's caption "Too bad our principles have become so complex"...

Thanks Joel.. and Val...!!!!

yactac

Basic Principles

• Focus on the situation, issue or behavior, not on the person.

• Maintain the self-confidence and self-esteem of others.

• Maintain constructive relationships with your employees, peers and managers.

• Take initiative to make things better.

• Lead by example.

2/18 Ab,

Here is the official document sent to the R5 RF this week. Can't speak to the other correspondence referenced in the post.

This is the second time in less than 18 months that the crew has been stood down. Back in September 2009, the crew was stood down as the division chief and the old district ranger re-assigned the supt. to a BC position and a BC to the supt. position. Here we have an IHC stood down not once, but twice under the same division chief. That in itself, gives one pause to the thought that maybe the division chief can't provide what he is paid to do, program oversight and leadership.

The replacement supt. is a biker buddy of the division chief in question and was hand placed by the division chief. It should be noted this division chief is not a qualified DIVS, RXB2 or ICT3 and recently announced he will retire in about two years. With that in mind, that zone will remain without leadership and program oversight, which in turn should be a major safety concern for the employees. But hey, it's the gov. and with a new forest supt. at the helm, I'm sure it will be fixed in the next 5 years.

Jim Irvin was the old District Ranger and the current DR is Ray Torres.

Ship Jumper

2/18 Jumping,

I would like to help, however I am not really following you. I think the snips are making it tough for my small brain to pull this together. Please provide additional clarification. I understand you want us to call and email, we can make that happen, I just need to know what to inquire about and why.

ms
2/18 Greetings,

I am a little confused by your ending statement: "I am unbelievably saddened that men and women who put their lives on the line to protect public and private property are treated this way without second thought. Folks, this crew needs all the help it can get right now. I urge you to call the Modoc National Forest and let them know that this is unacceptable:" What is unacceptable, the treatment of the crew members or the disbanding of the crew?

I was a member of this crew for a short time during the four year period noted in your article. What I experienced was a highly dysfunctional organization rife with divisions between members of the crew overhead, poor relationships with forest overhead, poor fitness, experience and attitudes among crew members and an acute lack of cohesion between crew members. The behavior tolerated on the crew went far beyond the boundaries of fire line safety and common decency (even for hotshots). The vast bulk of the closest calls I've had in fire came from my brief tenure, and I can unequivocally state that my time with Modoc IHC was the single worst professional experience of my career. With the notable exception of my concern for the livelihoods of a handful of the overhead staff, I find the forest's decision both commendable and past-due.

Post this or don't.

Signed,
Happily Content in my Confirmed Faith in God
2/18 Problems on the Modoc NF:

Ab,

The following paragraph are not my words, but accurately sum up the situation faced by the Modoc Interagency Hotshot Crew at present:

"The Modoc National Forest handed out a death sentence to the Modoc Hotshots on Monday (Feb. 14) by in essence disbanding the crew. This gross miss management has been present for the last 4 years and finally reared its ugly head mid 2009 by removing the Superintendent. In 2010 the crew was allowed to operate with an ...unheard of, 1 supt, 2 captains, and 3 squad bosses. Culminating with the disbanding of the crew on Monday. Thank you all for your support over the years but the crew will no longer be operational. Feel free to contact the Modoc National Forest with any questions. (530) 233-5811."

The stand-down came about after two crewmembers were denied rehire rights based largely on fabricated information provided by an <snip>, <name snipped>, who has grievances filed against multiple members of the crew. During the 2010 season, this individual was told by many crewmembers that his actions and attitude were detrimental to the safety, cohesion, and morale of the crew. In the winter after the season, he was removed from the hotshot workcenter, and given a workspace shared with <snipped name>, a forest Division Chief. Shortly after, he filed the grievances.

The Forest Leadership Meeting, documented 2/10/2011, 0830, stated that no temporary employees were to be denied rehire eligibility. Four days later, the previously mentioned, two Modoc Hotshot employees were denied rehire rights. Realizing he had jumped the gun, circumventing Agency policy, <snipped name> made the move to stand down the crew "until further notice" in order to hide the unsubstantiated denial of rehire rights.

No statements were taken by the accused temporary employees; <snip>' allegations were taken at face value.

The above information is but a small part of the unfortunate story concerning the Modoc Hotshots and <snipped name>, a forest Division Chief. I am unbelievably saddened that men and women who put their lives on the line to protect public and private property are treated this way without second thought. Folks, this crew needs all the help it can get right now. I urge you to call the Modoc National Forest and let them know that this is unacceptable:

Kimberly Anderson, Forest Supervisor (530) 233-5811
Jim Irvin, District Ranger (530) 233-5811
Bob Crowder, Division (530) 233-8842

Sign me,

Jumping Ship

If you send an official doc with names, I'll post it. Ab.

2/18 Official announcement of Don Lam's passing:

Ab – If you would like to post either of these, that would be appreciated. No name this time. Thanks for all you do.

HOTLIST has record of official announcement of Don Lam's passing and link to a condolences thread. Ab.

2/18 Old Smokechaser

Way to stir it up! Nice to see a major change of topic now. Your posts have a great mix of truth, wishful thinking, and somewhat skewed bygone tales of the good ol' days. Those responding to your posts have their own versions as well. Its makes for entertaining reading!

A bloated green machine? Absolutely! Contractor buzzards? You bet! But right alongside them are those federal, state, fire service, and private firefighters and managers who do a hell of a great job under adverse conditions, under-recognized and under-appreciated! God Bless 'em! I wish we had a better way of recognizing them for the work they do!

So many comments, I don't know where to begin the fun...but you're right that the system "has gotten too big, too many stages, levels and regulations to do what is needed" . Can you imagine depending on the private sector now like we used to way back: "HEY! Got a big fire going, send our stakeside with a fire warden down to skid row; hit the bars to get us some firefighters..." oops can't do that anymore!

What about contract engine strike teams for thinning projects.. that was funny! Why would the taxpayers support that idea when we could get other reforestation contractors who could do it so much cheaper than an engine strike team.

The beauty of contractors is they aren't paid until they're working. By the same token, agency fire resources are just like contractors to another agency...except cheaper. Now, if you could get contractors just to hang out locally and be ready for fires all around the US and not travel out of their home state, that would be great and the local agencies could depend on them. Wishful thinking?

Anyway, thanks for the dialog you got revved up, I'll be checking "They Said" more often now.

NWRG

2/17 Re. Accountability and unintended consequence

Sringtown

I read your post and agree with most of it, However, If an individual has a position of control or leadership they have to be accountable for their actions. Case of point- this is from a recent season. Region 6 (as with a few others) has gone to a form of "self inspection" for contractors. Now those of us that have been around for many seasons had welcomed the annual "anal exam" of our equipment because we then knew that we were all safe and were able to provide what we were contracted to do so in a SAFE manner. Well, while on an extended incident we noticed a new contractor in camp operating a very large tender. (no big deal yet), except he was out as a Type 2 tender operating at "around 3500 gallons" This raised a flag with us old guys. It was an retired fuel truck and had a plate on the tank saying 5800 gallons and a manufacturing date. (When hauling water this put him just over 12,000 Lbs over GVW as fuel is lighter than water).

The operator was a nice guy, however when operating a truck 25% over GVW, it is not safe!!!! and nice guy or not, SAFETY is a priority. We called the CO who had us follow up with an email. The same was done by numerous people. All one had to do was follow the truck down any road and you would realize it was an accident waiting to happen!

Well, this communication with the CO went on for 19 days before there was finally a physical inspection of the truck, and upon inspection, it was discovered that the tank was not only incorrectly sized for a Type 2 Tender, it was also over GVW and had no baffles (it did have one internal divider to form 2 tanks). The gentleman was demobed (however it just happened to be demob day for 90% of the fire) When we asked the CO what took so long, the reason we where given was that "things where busy". Well as far as fires go, there where just 2 teams out in the whole region at the time, so we didn't really know what "busy" meant. It also left us with the feeling that one could lie and get away with it until caught and even then there are no negative consequences.

Ok, all of that to ask this. What would have happened if this Tender would have gotten in an accident? Would the CO be liable? The CO was informed in a very well documented manner. To all of us on the fire, it seemed like a simple phone call to the team would have worked to request a physical inspection and roll the Tender over some scales... On another point, because of this companies misrepresentations, someone else just below them on the DPL did not get work that season!!

I do realize the above may give ammo to those that toss us contractors around some, however we try to police ourselves and when we did notice something afoul this time and reported it...it seemed to fall upon deaf ears.

We would welcome having independent pre-season inspections ( we even paid for a large portion of the costs for them), but for some reason the COs said that since Region XX has self inspections, we must do the same so as to have a National Standard. To us, this means we lower the Standard to the lowest common denominator.

A saddened Contractor

2/17 Hi all,

I'm sorry to hear of Don Lam's death. I was sorrier to hear of his injury last September. We lose far too many good people to rolling trees/rocks and falling snags. Each loss hurts.

Does anyone have a photo of Don or stories to tell about him before he was hurt? What was Don like? How can we remember him? I hope someone shares.

Mellie

2/17 Don Lam of Kentucky Passed away

I know people were asking about his condition. He passed away this morning I was told by a friend
who works with the Division.

Keep his friends and family in your prayers

Matt

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is sad news.

Don was a Ranger in Western KY who was injured last September while fighting a fire in Livingston County. As a result of his injuries from a rolling log he was airlifted to an Evansville Indiana hospital where he underwent several brain surgeries. He and his family and friends have been in our thoughts and prayers. Condolences. Ab.

24-hr report

theysaid post from 1/8 that came into the Ab account;

Status of injured KY FF Don Lam, posted on 1/8/11:

Got this from GA Peach: It's making the rounds in R8 and beyond. This message from Hannah was sent on Jan 5th.

Update on Don Lam, KY Division of Forestry firefighter injured back in September.

Back in September, a friend of mine was injured while fighting fire in Livingston County, Kentucky. His condition has been steadily improving in the last few months and he had even began to eat on his own and was in good enough condition that his doctor's had released him to go home.

Regretfully, since just before Christmas his condition has deteriorated to the point where they had to airlift him back to the Evansville, Indiana hospital where he was taken just after the accident. Within the last few days, his family has been faced with the difficult decision of taking him home to make him comfortable in the care of Hospice. He should be arriving at home later today. The prognosis is not good and his family was told that he may not make it through the next couple of weeks.

Please lift his family and his work family up in prayer. This has been a very difficult time for all of them. I was also told that there was a burning ban in place when Don was injured and the responsible party is scheduled to be in court next week. Several of Don's co-workers were served with subpoenas and will be testifying in the case.

The message below contains an address if you would like to send a card.

Thanks in advance for your prayers,

Hannah

2/17 Escort for Gabe Pomona today at 1200 hrs

Hi Ab,

Sorry this is so late, I just found out that there will be an escort for Gabe Pomona at
noon today starting at
175 South Lena Rd. in
San Bernardino.

POVs only.

Thanks again for posting this so all of Gabe's friends get the info.

Thank You,
BG

We'll be thinking about all of you. Ab.

2/17 Dispatching:

Polo,

Amen to you for your support. Having been a dispatcher for the last 9+ years, I can definitely say that it seems we always get the blame when people don't get out, decisions are made by forces higher than us, etc. We are just doing our jobs following the guidelines that have been set forth for us by policy and procedure.. I can't say how many times there are people that know the process, how it all works and still attempt to go around the system. When things don't work out it seems that dispatch always does get the blame. It seems we are an easy target. What needs to be remembered also is alot of times there are other people pulling the strings and not just us. We always do our very best to get the folks on the line what they need to keep them safe and get the job done.

Once again AMEN to those who support us in dispatch!

Firegirly

2/17 RE: Dispatching and dispatcher quals

Old school dispatcher and darned proud of it,

I am the exception to the theory that the best dispatchers have firefighting background. I came from a background of 911 dispatching, but I have been working in an interagency dispatch center for over 20 years now. I firmly believe that the firefighting requirement for dispatchers is ludicrous. If you are trained well, you can be a good dispatcher without the firefighting background. Don’t get me wrong, the field experience can be helpful, but it doesn’t make or break someone of being a good dispatcher. That statement is even more true now that most of our dispatch systems are automated. If the FMO is going to make the decisions, a dispatcher only needs to know how to reach the FMO. It doesn’t take firefighting experience or a college degree to know how to operate a phone or a radio. Again, this is only true if you receive adequate dispatch training.

The reason so many dispatchers are being hired as “logistics” dispatchers should be obvious. There aren’t enough people with firefighting background to fill all the dispatcher vacancies. Someone should have seen this coming a long time ago. People apply for office jobs because they want to work in an office. People apply for firefighting jobs because they want to fight fire. IFPM requirements only complicate matters by limiting applicant pools especially in smaller communities. As a district dispatcher, you were required to do it all: flight following, intel reporting, IA dispatching, logistical support of crews by providing lodging and meals. To say that a logistics dispatcher should only do logistics and an IA dispatcher should only do IA dispatching is, again, ridiculous. Dispatchers do what they have to do to get the job done and take care of the folks in the field. Period.

I agree with your take on the old school way of doing things but, in every other area, I must respectfully disagree with your views. Again, I’ve been doing this a long time and have pretty much seen it all. So far, it’s working, even if it’s not as efficient. However, I see a big train wreck coming. Maybe I’ll be retired by then……

Sign me….

Another old school dispatcher (and don’t need a Pulaski to prove it)
2/17 Who drives an engine on IA?

Giz:

Yes, the Captain should not be driving the apparatus, IMO. But, with our configuration with Engine and Chase Truck, The Engineer drives the Engine and the Captain sits shotgun on the chase. Maybe sometimes the Captain is the only one with the certification to drive the Engine.

Quick Connect

2/17 Who drives an engine on IA?

Question. . . .What is the duty of an Engineer or Engine Operator? For those that aren’t up to date on the terminology. Is it not one of the duties as an Engineer to drive the engine especially to a fire? If it still is then why do we still have Captains driving engines to fires, especially I.A. In an engine that is a standard transmission, and the Captain is on the phone, taking on the radio while trying to shift gears.

Does this not warrant safety issues, of a distracted driver? Is it not the duties of the Captain to be in the captain’s seat, talking to disp, and other resources while en route etc; While his Engineer drives and pays attention to the road to get the crew to the fire or where ever safely.

I witness this time and time again year after year, when I did ask why; I was told by a Captain “I don’t like anybody driving but me.” Though not every engine crew does this, but yet I have and still see engine crews do this. If engine crews have a fully qualified Engineer there should be NO reason why safety risks are still occurring.

Giz

2/17 Cutting tours of duty for 13/13 and 18/8

ano and Anonymous,

I get how both of you feel due to the changes put forth by management. No one seems to likes or accepts change unless it is a direct benefit to them. Like you I have seen change in my unit and it's not always easy to swallow. My suggestion is to look out into the rest of the Forest Service and see how it looks. March 4th is the end of the continuing resolution, all those managers that are holding you to your tours may get furloughed as well. Maybe they are doing what they are doing because they have no choice.

As for the positions. I believe it was national directions that gave more permanents to the Shot crews so how can one blame a local manager for that? Also if I recall correctly, and tell me if I am wrong, the Boise has fuels FMOs to go with the Zone FMOs. Aren't those positions going away so in all reality you are only gaining one GS-11 to the organization? Don't get me wrong I think there may have been a better time to create a new organization than when the FS is in hard times. I still don't think your change in tour has anything to do with the new positions. Length of tours in a area are usually driven by funding and season length. Generally when you have 3 feet of snow on the ground you don't need a firefighter. I know there is office work but not that much.

We all need to look back before 2001 and how tight it was before the fire plan.

Old 13/13

2/17 Doug Campbell's Flammability Cards

Thanks AB!

I first saw one of these on my Sups desk in 2002. One of my cousins with CDF said they hand 'em out like candy at north zone.

I'm going to drop Mr. Campbell an email, and I do very much appreciate your personal help in locating these training tools. I believe the use of these, and other tools specifically like the NWCG stickers, really raise the bar for training on hand crews and work to increase understanding and information retention.

high hopes for 2011!

MTR

You're welcome. Ab.

2/17 Dispatching

I've been an Initial Attack Dispatcher for the USFS for over 18 years and worked as a firefighter (USFS) for 10 years before that. Over the years I've seen the dispatch centers become more and more "centralized" and the small dispatch offices that knew all their firefighters on a first name basis, have faded into the sunset. Now, everything is interagency and the dispatch centers are often located many miles away from the closest fire resources. Most of today's dispatchers only know the firefighters by their name on the radio and wouldn't have a clue who they were if they met them face to face. Dispatch is run more like big business with new sophisticated computer programs being developed each year. I can remember back when dispatch would receive a report of a fire, the dispatcher would take down all pertinent information in a call log, then go to the map on the wall and plot the location out themselves. They would then notify closest resources and get them headed to the fire, all the while knowing personally who they were talking to and actually making decisions themselves based on the information given, their own knowledge of the area and fuel types, etc. Now, everything is put into computer programs - many of the sophisticated ones even tell you who to send, plus the dispatchers now don't do things on their own in many of these large centers. Instead, they have to get the information from the reporting party, notify their Supervisor, then call the FMO or AFMO of that district and ask him who he wants to send. And you guys in the field wonder why it takes so long to get sent to a reported fire? There ya go.

I'm a real believer in keeping some things from the "old days". Technology isn't always better, and it isn't the answer to everything. It takes longer to enter all the information into the various computer screens of WildCad before dispatching resources, than it did to hand write it down as the caller was giving the information, walk up to the map and plot the fire location, then get on the radio and get resources started to the incident. The software programs are excellent for having the information in the computer to print out resource lists, maps, keeping a printed log, etc., but it is more of a program for support than Initial Attack.

There are some fantastic dispatchers out there - most of the best ones are those who have a firefighting background. The federal government has a hiring requirement now for "Fire Dispatchers" - the ones that are supposed to be doing the radio work. They are supposed to have at least 90 days of firefighting experience. However, if they are hired as a "Logistics" dispatchers, they do not need to have that requirement. BUT - I know many dispatch centers who have "Logistics" dispatchers working as IA dispatchers, even though, technically, they are not supposed to do that. It's just a way for many centers to get around the "90 day" firefighting requirement if they don't have people meeting the requirement.

Polo - you are correct in saying that dispatchers have to learn new software programs about every couple of years. It's getting ridiculous and it seems like they always wait until a month or so before fire season starts to make us learn these new programs. ROSS comes out every year with new "updates" and new versions. How are people supposed to get a program down well enough to be efficient at it when it changes constantly?

Give me my dispatch call log, a wall map, and the radio. I will get your resources to the fire faster than the time it is taking all of you "techno dispatchers" to type all your info into the various pages of your software programs and get the "ok" from your boss before you can send anyone to the fire. In my personal opinion, dispatch is getting too dependent on the latest and greatest software programs instead of increasing the fire knowledge and mapping skills of their dispatchers.

Dispatchers are crucial to the fire program and they really need to have fire knowledge to be at their best..

Just my 2 cents.

Old school dispatcher and darned proud of it

2/17 Paychecks and Dispatch

Brushfire,

I must state that every single person that works on fire , works for a paycheck! Please don't state that Contractors are the ONLY ones that work for one, otherwise we would not be seeing these discussions on retention, back fill pay, and benefits as they are all part of the paycheck. I believe, for the most part, that everyone wants to make a buck and go home and enjoy doing whatever they enjoy in their off time. Be it family, vacation, hobby or whatever. A great number of us fire personnel do this task for the paycheck AND to be blessed in working in the outdoors and with others that enjoy what we enjoy. Many take great pride in knowing that what they do day in and day out in difficult conditions does really make a difference.

Oldsmokechaser,

I understand your comments concerning dispatch. I also know, like you that they have a very difficult job. My beef is that many times ( not every time) they do not understand the equipment that they are dispatching. Numerous times we have been called by dispatch and been asked if we could draft. HELLO????! It is a requirement that our equipment be able to draft. Another example is not knowing to follow the DPL. There have been other issues too, and when I bring it up to a supervisor, I am told, well so and so is retired and brought in AD for working expanded dispatch. All I want is that if everyone one else working fire has to be qualified, then why not fill in people???

Robert

2/17 Doug Campbell's Flammability Cards

Hi MTR,

I see it's not on Doug Campbell's site for purchase but he says he has a bunch.

contact doug to order:
doug @ nospam dougsfire.com (takeout nospam and spaces)

Also sent him an email and just got this back:

We have the magnetic Flammability cards @ $2.00 each.
Cash or check or pay through Pay Pal. Watch out the magnet in the card does not erase the magnetic strip on other cards.

Regards
Doug

Ab.

2/17 Accountability, unintended consequences and HR4488:

Stringtown:

God love ya! All afternoon I've been struggling with our legislation's section on firefighter liability. Last year's HR 4488 included language I wrote that wasn't embraced too well even by some of our FWFSA members because it appeared that we were expanding an already bad law to the DOI agencies.

The mindset at the time I wrote that was to get the dialogue going again. It had been several years since the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee finally posed the question to the USDA Undersecretary of Ag Mark Rey about the unintended consequences of PL 107-203. It literally took this act of Congress to get the agency to acknowledge that the law had its problems. It took us probably two years of pestering Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico and his staff, the lead a gruff on the outside-teddy bear on the inside former wildland firefighter whose son is now a wildland firefighter, to get him to direct such a question to the agency because the Agency was refusing to take a position on the law and its consequences.

For years we darn near begged Tom Harbour to seek the Agency's acknowledgement that the law was bad for the future of management of wildfires. The official FS position was that it didn't want to interfere with the on-going investigation. That was translated by firefighters to mean "the agency isn't going to back us up."

I regress: while working on this section of the bill I had the same documentation out. I think we all had empathy for Mr. Weaver. Other families who lost loved ones on that fire channeled their sorrow and grieving into positive efforts. Mr. Weaver, as was his right, wanted to hold someone accountable.

Sadly, Sen. Cantwell & Rep. Hastings got caught up in the emotion and introduced legislation that was poorly thought out with no consideration as to how the law would impact the wildland firefighting community. As recently as last year, the newest staff contact I had at Cantwell's office reviewed PL 107-203 at my request and his own words were "huh, that's it? That's a very weak, poor bill." Unfortunately my greatest nemesis on Capitol Hill continues (staff turnover) and he is now gone.

We all know wildfires are not single family residential structure fires. All of you face an enemy that doesn't play by the rules. Yea, there are some Line Officers that don't like the analogy that wildland firefighting can be a war with Mother Nature but in my humble opinion, it is. Placing a burden on a firefighter of potential criminal liability for making split-second decisions in some of the most dangerous, inhospitable environments is criminal in itself and to have placed that burden on our firefighters to appease a grieving father just isn't right.

It would be easy to simply call for an outright repeal of the law, stating that it has not achieved its stated goals and objectives and in fact has had unintended adverse consequences for the FS wildland firefighting community. That is one option we will offer to those on the Hill who have offered to take the lead on our bill.

Another option is more complex but was crafted by former BDF FMO Mike Dietrich which calls for the development of Interagency Serious Accident Review Teams. The language calls for these investigations to focus on prevention of future accidents and obtaining lessons learned and would provide derivative immunity for actions taken within the scope of a firefighter's duties as part of the ISART thereby eliminated the current concerns of criminal liability.

The recent discussion and posts about PLI make it clear the issue has not been fixed and has not gone away. While in recent years there has been general discussions about how to address the liability issue among Congress, the Forest Service, NFFE and the FWFSA, no one has taken a leadership role in finally putting this monster to bed.

We will try with the language in our legislation and a renewed effort to bring common sense to this issue. It will take a renewed effort to educate those in congress blinded by emotions. No one in this business should go to work hindered by the potential for criminal liability for making tough decisions in tough situations.

No one in their right mind would consider holding NYFD Chief Officers criminally liable for sending firefighters into the Twin Towers. Why then are FS firefighters so special? Because they are an easy target and no one, including the Agency they work for, has the you-know-whats to stand up for them as they should.

Casey

2/17 need Campbell Prediction System magnets

Ab,

I would like to locate the small Campbell Prediction System magnets that were available 10 years ago? Maybe the folks at they said know where I can locate 20 magnets, for hand outs with fire behavior training this spring with my Hand Crew.

thanks!

MTR

2/17 Backfill:

I've been watching people take sides on the issue of backfill pay, and it appears perhaps not everyone is considering that there are several scenarios which are not equal, and greatly affect whether backfill might be appropriate. If firefighter Jones works for Anytown FD, he is paid for by the taxpayers of Anytown to protect them. If his department sends him to a far away fire, he is no longer protecting or working for his taxpayers, so the incident reimburses for his expenses. So far no one seems to have an issue with that. If he happens to work a job where his department can do without him for two weeks, they actually come out dollars ahead, because he is effectively off their payroll. My state agency likes when we go to other folks' fires for that reason. They save money when we're gone. However, if like most firefighters, Jones' shift has to be filled, so his chief get Smith to cover the shift, it MAY cost the department extra if Smith is on overtime and Jones wasn't. In that case, that extra cost should not be borne by the taxpayers of Anytown-and his chief should probably not send him if they have to absorb that extra cost for a fire that is not their responsibility. If Smith costs the same as Jones, it comes out even, and there is no need for backfill pay. The incident pays for Jones, and AFD pays for Smith instead. It's a wash.

Where it gets real shady is what some departments have reportedly been doing, and that is hiring folks that don't even work for them, for the sole purpose of dispatching to other agencies' fires. They don't fill a position at all, so no one is needed to backfill for them. However, some agencies reportedly still charge backfill for these non-existent positions, purely as a way to make money. THAT is a problem, and should absolutely not be the responsibility of the agency that has the fire. Add to that some FD's that reportedly pay these folks outrageous amounts of money, around the clock (after all, it's not coming out of the FD's pocket, they don't mind), and then charging that much a second time as backfill...that's a racket any way you look at it, and if that is really being done, it should certainly be closely scrutinized and stopped.

One agency's taxpayers should not bear the responsibility of responding far away to support someone else's fire, but likewise no "hosting" agency should have to pay exorbitant amounts to backfill a non-existent position just as a way for a local agency to make a pile of money.

KSENGB

2/16 Accountability and unintended consequences:

I was doing some research on the Thirtymile Fire, and just read a document from Ken Weaver, Devin Weaver's Father, (I had read it before, but it ha been a while). He starts out by describing the night he found out his son had died. I won't lie, there were tears while I read that part. Then he moves on to being angry... angry that his son was led down a box canyon to his death; and while this may be rightfully so on his part, his lack of understanding about wildland fire as whole is also apparent through this part.... then I got towards the end, and this paragraph really hit home for me:

“The remainder of the testimony hammered at the same theme, accountability. It was generally agreed that the rules in place are adequate, but there is epidemic lack of compliance. Everyone agreed, including Chief Bosworth, that some form of enforcement will be required. No one, however, agreed on exactly what form that enforcement should take. There was also general agreement on the need for better training and evaluation at all levels of supervision. One point that got little attention was how to retain qualified higher level personnel. Being a seasonal job, fire suppression makes a poor career. I feel that this point needs to be addressed in any long-term solution of the safety problem. Creating year-round jobs for professional wildland firefighters would be one possible solution, and while costly, I believe it would save forests and lives.”

So here we are, 10 years later... and we're talking about temps being held to their appointments, agency retention, and the gap is widening every year. The so-called leaders in the USFS will call you a firefighter when they speak at your memorial service, or testify before Congress- but the other 99% of the time you are still a Part-Time Forestry Technician. They say, "we will train you to respond to fires (without lights and sirens)...unless that fire is coming from a dumpster, vehicle or house, in which case please stand by and watch while we call the real firefighters."

We are talking about the Station Fire, and the missteps that may or not have led to this mega fire. The very issues surrounding the Station Fire all started with the 30 Mile fire 10 years ago. It all started with accountability, who is accountable? Someone has to be accountable for all things, right? So the Line Officers it is. Quite frankly, I'd second guess all the decisions being made below me if I was going to be held accountable for them too.

So while we're on the subject of accountability.

An “epidemic lack of compliance.... some form of enforcement is needed." This is the very idea that is currently hindering true doctrine of a Safety Culture. Firefighters are not out there saying "rule schmules, I'm gonna do whatever the @#%*!$ I feel like to put this fire out.” We are not an unruly mob in need of Police to take us off to jail. We are not non-complaint, we are just human... no enforcement needed. The blow-up of the Thirtymile Fire was an act of God (or mother nature, which ever you prefer)... the firefighters being there was an act of human infallibility, some might argue this is an also an act of God.

What we need is a different system. Why is that we have Senator Maria Cantwell, who will fight so hard to make changes in the wrong way, and no one who will stand up and say "We need to get it right"? We owe it to those who have given their lives doing it the wrong way to get it right.

How can we hold any one person accountable in a broken system? How do we hold the system accountable? Congress seems to think that money is the way to keep things accountable. I think any parent could tell you that money is not always the best way to hold people accountable.

Are we “more safe” than we were 10 years ago? Is accountability saving lives? Have we solved any of the problems addressed by Ken Weaver in his dissertation on the Thirtymile Fire and his son's death? I say the answer to all of these questions is NO. The problem keeps getting identified over and over again, but nobody seems to know how to fix it.

I looked up synonyms for accountable after I read that paragraph from Ken Weaver- in the notes section of my little virtual thesaurus, it says, "to be accountable is to be liable to being called to account or answerable; liable means legally obligated or responsible; and responsible is liable to be required to give account, as of one's actions or of the discharge of a duty or trust."

So who are we really holding accountable? The people on the ground, the ICs...the Division and Crew Supe's, and now IMT members...the one's buying up their liability insurance (boy I sure saw that word liable mentioned a lot in the last paragraph on accountability). What about the policy makers, who define safety? What about Congress, who sets our budgets and accompanying rules we play by? What about the public, who expects us to put the fire out ASAP every time, no matter where it is? This whole idea of accountability has led us in the wrong direction. We are not building a system upon a framework of trust. We seem to have gotten the idea of being “legally obligated or responsible” down. Duty... it seems as though the credo "Duty, Respect, Integrity" only applies to the "firefighters" these days.

All this stuff we're talking about right now, retention, budgets, appointments, Fed/Local/State fitting together to provide a framework of total fire protection... it's all related, and it's all part of an inadequate system... and certainly not inadequate people. The system just ain't workin, it's so bad that Old Smokechaser here honestly thinks we should just privatize fire completely- that's how bad it is.

We are attempting to fix the system one small part at a time, not taking into account how the other parts of the system fit into it. It's like deciding to renovate your house, replacing the drywall- and then a few months later deciding to replace all the electric work only to tear out the new drywall to get it accomplished. You could renovate your whole house this way, but it's gonna take a lot more time and money and quite possibly cause you to have a massive coronary in the process.

The name of Ken Weaver's document is "Why Were They There?" Why were they there that day in July? Why were they on Storm King Mountain on July, 6 1994? Why was Engine 57 on Gorgonio View Road on October 26? What were they doing out there in the middle of the Trinities on the Iron Complex in 2008? Why are we there, on any given fire? I believe Robert Palmer would concur on this one. This is where we start, not with accountability. Where it ends, I do not know....but Ken Weaver is right about one thing- while costly, it will save forests and lives.

stringtown

2/16 Re: Dispatchers

We really appreciate the dispatchers. It's not an easy job. Thanks for what you do!

Mellie

2/16 Re: Dispatchers

Old Smokechaser

Do us all a favor within the mobilization community. Don't generalize when referring to dispatch as a "wreck". Dispatch centers mobilize resources based on protocols shoved down their throats by management, whether it be initial or extended attack. If management and other wizards would quit developing "new and improved" programs every 2nd or 3rd year, I am sure the mobe process/costs would be more efficient. Seems all the negativity and blame goes to the dispatch centers.

Ya all, BACK OFF!

Polo

2/16 Re Cooperators and Contractors:

Old Smoke Chaser and AZfirefighter,

Lets try to put things in perspective...

AZfirfighter:
As you stated you are a municipal firefighter. Your mission and responsibility is to the tax payers of your respective "fire protection district". That is your primary function. As a federal wildland firefighter, my mission and primary function is to the tax payers in my "fire protection district", and that happens to be the federal lands designated by the federal government. It is not fiscally responsible for the federal government to pay me to fight a structure fire or go on a medical aid in your city or town. As well, is it not fiscally responsible for me to be backfilled by the federal government if I choose to do so. I understand that a lot of the large fires that I fight could not be effectively fought without some of our local cooperators. I am glad that your agencies play a role in helping us fight fires that burn on (or onto) federal lands.

Old Smoke Chaser:
I also am glad to have the private industry's help in fighting fires. There is a place for you too. But private industry is in the firefighting business for one reason. TO MAKE MONEY and I understand that. I have fought fire with a lot of my retired brothers and sisters that have gone on to work in private industry (The Mayor of Chilao comes to mind)! I am glad that you are continuing to spread your knowledge even after you have retired.

Lets keep this about the "WHAT" and not the "WHO". The Federal Government has a specific mission, and that mission has gone without support, or should I say without leadership for too long. We are all paid to do a specific job. We all need the right tools and leadership to accomplish that.

Casey:
It has been too long since we have been golfing. I think I have corrected my slice!

Yacktac:
When are we going to lunch?

-Brushfire

2/16 Reply regarding HR4488:

Dear AKFSS:

Thanks for your note. The only alternative to re-introducing legislation is to do nothing and quite frankly, our federal wildland firefighters deserve more than nothing. They already get that from the agencies.

I have no pixie dust to sprinkle on Congress. My heart attack and subsequent quadruple bypass open heart surgery two years ago was directly related to the stress of trying to educate Congress on these issues and trying to achieve these reforms.

There is a myth that the number of cosponsors on a bill make or break a bill. Some bills with one cosponsor get passed. Others with more than half the House members on board as cosponsors die in committee or fail to pass on a vote. The lead congressman on the Bill last session, Rep. Filner of California admitted his staffer "dropped the ball" with respect to working the bill amongst staff colleagues and offices on the Hill last session. It took pulling teeth to get the bill introduced in Dec. '09 which left us with only the 2nd half of the session to try to move the bill. The priority for all in Congress last session was self-preservation. Very little got done.

The stand-alone PTP bill in 2006 received significant bipartisan support. The House passed a classification bill also in 2006 which literally got lost on the Senate side the last day of the session. The comprehensive nature of last session's bill was the result of suggestions from congressional staff that now was the time to go for it all.

We realize last session's bill was referred to 4 committees because of its language. We're reworking some language so that hopefully it will go directly to Oversight & Gov't Reform and at the worse case scenario Agriculture will defer to Oversight. As I've mentioned, the new Chair of Oversight, Rep. Issa cosponsored our PTP bill in 2006.

It wasn't the fact that the bill didn't garner interest. It got the interest of many. One of the issues last session however was that the Chairs of the committees it was assigned to and the majority of members of those committees were from East of the Mississippi, most not having a clue what a federal wildland firefighter is, what they do, what the issues are etc. The first rule of trying to get Congress to support an issue is the recognition that it may take several, if not many sessions to get the educational awareness of the issues to a point where hearings are held, the bill is marked up and scheduled for a vote.

As I've mentioned on TheySaid several times, the top legislative priority of the International Association of Firefighters has been introduced and re-introduced through 7 (this will be the eighth) 2-year sessions (15+ years) of Congress despite the expenditure of millions of dollars in political contributions and a membership hovering around 3/4 of a million people.

We've made progress. The elimination of the OT pay cap, PTP was very close to getting done in 2006; the FS is actively working with OPM on classification etc. We're chipping away at granite with a toothpick but we are, and will continue to be persistent. If we weren't making an impact, i wouldn't have been on C-SPAN opposite Mark Rey in 2008 and wouldn't have been invited to testify before a number of House 7 Senate committees.

As an example, although we didn't get a bill introduced in the Senate, one of Senator Feinstein's (CA) staffers emailed me yesterday that he had met with members of the GAO Team investigating the FS response to the Station Fire and "referred to his inner Casey" to get the GAO folks to focus on the organizational structure of the organization and how that structure has had an adverse effect on our firefighters.

I wish it didn't have to take time and such persistence but that is the reality. That's why we rely on our members to communicate with their elected officials. I can yak & yak on Capitol Hill all day long but the influence I have is far less than that of voting constituents.

The contracting community will not be a factor this session. The IAFF publicly attacked that entire industry at the Station Fire hearings and I've explained to those representing contractors that with the freeze in federal employee pay, any empathy that existed for the possibility that some contract companies might not get as much work as before as a result of HR 4488 is gone.

It is supposed to be a good thing when we have slow fire seasons. However too many, including feds, have come to rely on heavy seasons for OT and making a lot of bucks. I think many have lost sight of what the federal wildfire program is all about. That being said, feds deserve to be compensated in an equitable manner as others when they are on incidents.

Yup, you'll have ignorant members of Congress... the same ones who think a freeze of federal pay is a good thing and whose thought process would lead them to amputate a finger because it had a hangnail or use a sledge hammer to cut a huge raw diamond, suggesting that the bill would increase federal spending.

If we can get a hearing in Oversight in front of Issa who cosponsored the '06 PTP bill that didn't have a funding mechanism and put the details on the table, then we can cast aside the ignorance of others. It is just a matter of time.

3 years ago, no one in the FS would have even uttered the term "portal to portal." Now at least one Regional Forester is advocating it. 3 years ago the FS would have cared less about whether it was important that their firefighters were classified as such. Now, since the passage of the Federal Wildland Firefighter Classification Act in 2006, the agency is actively participating in moving towards such a series. That doesn't mean we stop pursuing legislative remedies. We all know how long it takes for these agencies to change things.

That is one of the greatest frustrations I have. Regardless of Congress also being lied to, delayed with info from the agencies etc., Congress still wants to give the agencies the opportunity to identify their wayward ways and "self-correct" without the need for legislative mandates. Our question to Congress: How many more decades do we wait.

Passage of these reforms is not an if but a when. I wish it was 10 years ago. But we keep plugging away. It is the only course to take.

Casey

More often than not, like our effort in 2000 to eliminate the OT pay cap, language is added on to a "must pass" bill such as an appropriations bill. Ironically, it is a violation of House rules to "legislate" or change the law on an appropriations bill. However, all it takes is for Congress to "suspend the rules" and stuff that has no direct correlation with an appropriations bill finds its way onto it.

I'd love to see our bill get to the Floor of the House & Senate as a stand-alone bill but you've got to take what Congress, and the back room deal-making folks give you.

2/16 Question for Casey regarding HR4488

Casey-

I still think the re-introduction of HR4488 will stall out- especially in the current back and forth, hot and cold climate that is the House of Representatives right now. Just look at the House votes on FY11 spending today (2/16/2011). The freshman reps are voting all over the place, while the centrists are still pushing for less cuts. But I do have a few questions you might be able to answer right now and some observations:

HR 4488 had one sponsor and only three co-sponsors. Hardly what the average citizen would call "bi-partisan" support.  Do your see this increasing this time around?

HR 4488 seemed to be referred to a lot of committees and sub-committees without any forward progress or action- in fact it never made it out of any committee and to the House floor. While this is typical in our antiquated system of  government, there seemed to be a real lack of interest and/or support. What was the reason(s) behind this?

You stated that there is work being done this month at the staff level of the committees of jurisdiction. Are these the same committees as last time?

As a federal employee I do hope this new 2011 version is received with much more interest than it's predecessor. But as you can see from the response you are already getting from the contracting world, there is going to be a lot of negative posturing that will have to be overcome- I can already hear the committee member arguments that the bill increases federal government spending (even though it doesn't) and stifles the private business owner....

AKFSS

2/16 Contracted resources:

Steve LCES -

Your right about the loss of expertise. There is no doubt, but the problem brewing for the last 30 or 40 years of wildfire suppression under most Federal agencies is that it has gotten to be a huge lethargic unmanageable machine not to mention one of the best good ol boy retirement programs ever created . If you don't know someone or are sponsored; you are not going to work! Seen it, been there first hand and did the same thing - left the agency and moved to the private side of things. When you step outside the box and take off the green tinted glasses it is amazing what you see. I can count more than my fingers on both hands the times a state agency or private land owner had a fire hooked but merged onto Federal land only to be stopped from completing the suppression effort to get a Federal observer on scene and then 10,000 acres later a project fire is born and a camp has sprung into action. Got to justify those teams, equipment, and extra summer labor force to Congress and the need for more fire dollars, just sometimes it gets out of control.

Come on let all be honest everyone knows that. We all at some time have enjoyed that gravy train. Bought a new fishing boat because of the extra fire dollars. We have all made a good paycheck through the years on the guise that it was all needed to get the job done.. Its just because the system at federal level has gotten too big, too many stages, levels and regulations to do what is needed - operate quickly and effective react to the incident at hand. You just cannot go out and suppress and mange fire anymore. And therefore I jumped ship!

As in your example Steve; just a couple of examples from R3. Is it really necessary for a team to hire back a retired supply clerk from Montana to be on a SW team? The quals for ordering cannot be filled locally? or filling a finance section employee from New York for a R3 assignment. Or hiring some unqualified radio operator to get their card signed off. What do you think those costs are on the Taxpayer, while qualified people like you and I sit locally out of work. Remember going into fire camp and seeing the assigned personnel to count the personnel that are tracking the widgets that are tracking something else? Its become an unmanageable cluster of overhead that do anything to justify their existence so they can collect a paycheck to boost their retirement or upcoming nest egg. Now there are very prudent teams that do a great job in streamlined management techniques, but it is the program itself and the development of such things as permanent NIMO teams. For what purpose there is for someone full time to sit and wait for a need of a dedicated management team, I will never understand. Regardless of the size or project is that the best use of taxpayer dollars? Is there any significant past incidents that have made precedence for the use of these teams over the standard Type 1 or 2 "on call" teams? It seems they normally double up with a full team and add additional overhead costs to an incident.

Back fill pay may be a bit of an issue when you compare those additional costs to a private like resource without that overhead. But I cannot comment on your particular situation. I do know as in California, the additional costs to use Union firefighters and the back filling mechanism is cost prohibitive. It does not mean it is not used, it just means they continue to pay more for services than what is needed. Cronyism maybe? I don't think using structural trained personnel in wildfire is always best or any different than private except for the huge union price tag. But that is my own opinion. A single resource employee, who in your case or private sector may cost $18 per hour compared with union rates, OT after 8 and travel time, housing, 2 to 1 back fill easily surmounts for the same job you or a private firm fills at $18 costs the taxpayer over $100 per hour. That's a crime. And sadly a large profit center for many fire departments.

The studies and documents referenced below by DM, Misery Whip and AKFSS attempt to justify more government fire support is better than private. The supposed unqualified private resources cost more than government like resources on fire are the same people who need to justify there own positions, and the federal fire program itself. HMMMMM; Interesting!

I want to lay out a few things for those "that said" to think about.

  • How was fire fought in the early years, before huge cumbersome fleets of Federal vehicles and huge Federal Labor pools? With National Guard and private sector intervention and support. Cost off the books and backs of the taxpayer until needed. The planet and the US are still here and we made it this far
  • I do not dispute there is a need for the teams and for division /strike team qualified leaders filled by trained Government employees to oversee the private firefighting forces as well as viable initial attack forces such as Smoke Jumpers, but the majority of secondary support including "Hot Shots" , mechanized support, engines and the air fleet should be privatized and here is a small playbook to consider-
    • We all know historically when peak regional work requires staffing.
    • For the unknown early or one off incident needing initial attack - utilize the Reciprocity Act and use localized state, county and local resources while calling up the "Contracted" (and that is the key - contracted qualified not BPA holders ) private resources. Put locals to work!
    • Contract for private resources (engine and tender strike teams) to be activated and ready the same time frames that normally the Feds would call in seasonal fire employees. Utilize these private strike teams for thinning and project operations while in early or post season stand by modes.
    • The elimination of the current engine and tender Federal fleet saves in non-operational support and maintenance costs, Fuel and operational costs and the eventual replacement costs. The equipment sits an easy average 9 months of the year on the back of the taxpayers for an if and when needed incident. The private contracted fleet is competed, fills the technical specifications and is basically rented for a short period of time. The costs for the equipment and crews can be budgeted and managed to the penny because they are both flat rated by the day, week, month or seasonal contracted period.
    • The carrying cost, insurances, benefits, travel and mobilization of the Government owned equipment and employees are never considered by these studies for comparison; it is always like they fall from the sky and only have the operational daily costs. The argument "because they are already on the Federal payroll" we should ship them from R3 to R6 is cheaper than hiring private or local is insane. So instead of buying and building a truck with tax dollars, maintaining it for a possible 30 day average seasonal use, just rent it under strict contract and let the private sector carry the cost burden the other 335 days of the year. Hell if you need an occasional truck have someone else buy, build, and maintain that vehicle and rent a technically specified engine or tender just when needed or for just those 30 days. Fill it with an agency strike team leader if he needs to squirt water.
    • Same for Hot Shot Crews and Hand Crews. R3 has a private Hot Shot crew. Many regions have very qualified private Type 2 crews paid and waiting for work under contract today. Get rid of the crew carrier costs and contract it all out.
    • Air-fleet - Consider outsourcing the Smoke jumper aircraft and all aviation services.
    • Mechanized - sub it all out. even initial attack dozers with the right protocols and training can be achieved and there is no additional carrying costs on the taxpayer while not being used.

In other words with the proper contract language and training for like services it can be very well accomplished. SERCO is a different animal all together and was a failure due to the scope of the contract and the unknown variables and the awardee. If you remove the fleet,. SERCO type services or internal maintenance is not needed. The solicitation was well intended; the contract mechanism and winner was a failure. The services we are suggesting are very real and proven.

DM - We don't require the same physical qualifications on private crews to justify your argument. Just make it a requirement. A human being is the same whether they are wearing USFS green or a private label. We don't; I should say the Feds since I have moved on; choose to make like qualifications because it would be harder to justify the need for the agency crews. Same with engine and equipment specification and operators. When has wearing green made it truly better?

Robert you are on track!

The issue with travel time and resources? Come on DM; the Feds are the first to mobilize personnel from coast to coast especially Hot Shot crews. In most cases they spend days doing black lining / mop up and not much or any jobs you can call as initial attack First out local is in the play book- local agency and private fill for the first burn period is the regs and followed in most cases quite well. After the initial period, resources including private resources are suppose to be dispatched by DPL AND "date and time needed". You don't like your wait time fix the system. VIPR and ROSS for private equipment is a mess. Dispatch follows current agency protocol. If it doesn't work fix it . Don't blame the contractor on the other end waiting for the call. It is an internal issue as I mentioned in the Station Fire. Dispatch is a wreck, many under qualified have our lives and many others in their hands. I hope the OIG hearings will dig into the normally compete break down at that level. It was not the cause , but it did not help the outcome of Station. They had too many levels to jump through and too many triggering issues that created a multi-faceted cluster of equipment and manpower. And the ordering equipment from R4 over closer resources was just one example...

But the most important issue about Privatization that has to be addressed before any consideration of my challenge is to be considered - They have taken a very constructive report from OIG in 2005 and twisted best value into a low price only condition. Never the intent of recommendation. The intent was to ensure 3 things were met by competition.

1. Best price
2. Past performance or performance
3. Technically acceptable equipment.

VIPR and the contracting mechanism has created an illusory system; based initially on good intent; to create a qualified equipment list, but has turned into a low price "used car" list based on lowest price alone. Past performance, quality or technical acceptability has been given up for the cheapest price and therefore is the base of the problem today with private contracting. Don't blame the private contractor, blame the people writing the solicitations, the Washington Office and the FESSAA team and the qualifying factors those guys are writing and are requiring contractors to fill by the terms of the solicitation. Don't like the contracting spec and end product tell the WO or FESSAA team. The 87 plus million dollars for the VIPR system seems to have lined developers pockets well and left fire support, dispatching and resource of all type in worst shape than before they started tinkering with it .

Nuff said for today

Old Smokechaser

2/16 cutting length of tour for 13/13 and 18/8s:

Old 13/13,

Thanks for the input. Of course all of us are ecstatic to have a job. All we have to do is turn on the news or TV and see the hard times out there.

I would like to bring up a couple quick thoughts

  • Management is creating 5 new GS-11 DIV chiefs. One for each of our 5 districts (previously, there was 2 DIV chiefs for the entire forest)
  • Management is also creating 2 new perm GS-5 13/13’s, one for each of our two hotshot crews. This will have 8 perms on the hotshot crews.

So there are 5 new positions being created on the org chart.

Yes, everything is in an economic slump, yet the fearless leaders of the Boise NF are creating all these new positions. Some of these Districts have little more than a fire engine and a smoke chase crew, with an existing BC/AFMO.

So now all of us 13/13’s are held to our tours (begin one pay period before seasonal s show up). This includes burning A/L within tours. In the past, all of the 13/13s would “usually” be able to work 2-4 more periods doing fuels work or other projects.

So, if we are going to work only 6 months a year, that is tough. Gas isn’t .99 cents a gallon anymore, groceries aren’t cheap anymore, homes and cars are expensive. Believe it or not, several of the 13/13’s are married with kids and now being held to the tours is tough to put food on the table. That is the tough part for us. It is tough for morale around here when management does this. It seems like they don’t care about all the sweat that dripped down the crack of our buts when they made the above decisions. Like ano said, we need something to look forward to.

Also, sounds like they won’t be doing any RX burns this spring since there won’t be any 13/13 torch draggers around.

As far as moving to Cali for a 26/0, that would be great; however, most of the 13/13’s have families and lives that couldn’t go for the uprooting that goes along with a cross country move. That’s great that all Cali perms are 26/0.

Anonymous- due to the climate of this forest

2/16 Backfill:

ano:

Yes, I feel back-fill for the feds is acceptable. You have obligations to fulfill protection for your area. So if you send out an engine and crew, you should get it covered.

The only problem I see is that it seems typical to bring resources from other areas/regions and it seems many forests share this opportunity. Do you want to possibly lose those opportunities by using theoff duty personnel to cover, and then no longer have forest exchanges? It seems we often see crews from Montana or other northern areas down in the southwest boosting preparedness and then when our season dies down, our crews go up there. A little tit-for-tat. Would that go away f there was federal back-fill?

Casey and I have add some lengthy discussion on this. I think it is time to move on. We all have our opinions. If others want to continue, they can PM me.

AZfirefighter

2/16 cutting length of tour for 13/13 and 18/8s:

old 13/ 13

Thanks for the feedback. I expect to get wet but I just don't want to be soaked, I am happy and feel fortunate to have a job! I would just like to invest more in to my TSP than 6 months pay. Is Cali the only region with fire and fuels goals - we all should be 26/0. I feel that we should be able to work with a little snow on the ground. Things change, we haven't been able to keep up, I guess I did not explain myself very well before. We are just a little top heavy as an agency and it's getting worse. Has our management ever considered cutting their salary? Those of us who wish to work at home and live with their family should have more to look forward to.

to others

Amen to the Sting reply: our managers have never had to explain to the owner of a motor home SORRY THATS NOT WHAT I AM TRAINED FOR, or to a firefighter on the line who is injured that we will find an EMT for you soon. Our agency needs to see that we all should have the basic tools and training to address whatever issue we encounter, we do not have to respond to all incidents but when we are on scene and an incident within an incident occurs we are suddenly all bystanders. The can-do attitude of the firefighters has kept the agency out of trouble for the most part, we volunteer to keep up our own medical training and so on!

Last I would like AZ Firefighter to ask if the FS Engine crews would be able to receive backfill pay! If one of our engines is off district we go without, if we cannot afford to send them we don't, but we do have firefighters on days off begging to come in and make-do over time also.

ano

2/16 Re Contracting vs government:

Hi to all,

It is interesting to see the various posts on the pros and cons of contract vs government service for wildland fire. It’s all about money with the government, it’s all about safety with firefighters.

What is interesting is nobody has said much if anything of the loss of expertise across the board. The Forest Service has changed dramatically, going from a forest service agency to an administrative agency. In the process, personnel with expertise in wildland fire fighting have been retired, secluded and otherwise prevented from participating in suppression activities.

I tried the volunteer route to get assignments. It all depends on the FMO and dispatchers as to whether you get a call. And being on an IMT did do much either. During the ‘I-90’ Fire outside of Missoula, Montana, the dispatch center decided that they were going to use Fed personnel first, REGARDLESS of costs, rather than closest available resource. Their decision to bring a AD firefighter from FLORIDA to fight a fire I could see from my house, rather than call me, resulted in me moving over to the contracting side.

Then the anti-contracting bug hit. I wasn’t getting calls. I ‘cost too much’. My contracted rate was $200 a day LESS then had I been called out as a volunteer or AD. I had to seek other work.

The end result – I am unable to take even a regional assignment – making my expertise unavailable and taking my experience away from where it could do the most good.

The loss of experience has a direct impact on how things are done. Reinventing the wheel every season is costing us, as firefighters, a small bit of safety every year. It is only a matter of time before the need to CYA outweighs the desire to see the tough job done right.

So think about where you would be without the guidance of that old smoke-eatin’, dirt-throwin’, cranky fire boss. Maybe he retired or had to become a contractor or volunteer in order to make ends meet. Maybe he got tired of being second guessed about his government-paid-for qualifications and just walked away with tears in his eyes.

We all want enough money to have our family live a good and healthy life. And we want to be there with them to enjoy it.

Steve LCES

still carded – doing Type 3 IMT
RADO-ABRO-INCM-COMT-COML

2/15 Re Contracting vs government:

Old Smokechaser,

I just want to make sure I understand this theory you appeared to float at the end of your somewhat hard-to-follow post. The disastrous outcomes of the Station Fire and other mega-fires are the fault of the dispatchers because they filled resource orders with available agency engines and crews instead of contractors? Are you kidding?

I, for one, am not particularly sympathetic to your proposal to outsource the entire federal wildland fire workforce. Your arguments appear to be based on wishful thinking, shaky anecdotal evidence, and a strong vested interest in the outcome.

The link below is to a 2006 paper produced by the Rocky Mountain Research Center entitled "Factors Affecting Fire Suppression Costs as Identified by Incident Management Teams".

fire suppression costs (pdf)

The following two paragraphs are excerpted from the paper. Unlike your anecdotal offerings, this assessment was produced by a team of Forest Service research scientists:

"According to IMT members, escalated reliance on contracted suppression resources has resulted in cost increases chargeable to fires. Previously, most suppression resources, either personnel or equipment, were government owned or employed. The switch to contracted resources has occurred during the past 15 to 20 years as government agencies charged with suppressing wildfires have attempted to reduce overall costs. This has included downsizing the federal workforce and divesting of equipment this previous workforce would have used in emergency wildfire situations. To meet subsequent workload demands, the preceding government workers and equipment have been replaced with contracted services. Interviewees perceive the prices contractors charge for equipment and human resources to be very high (in many cases unreasonably so). IMTs have no jurisdiction over these contracts as they are locked in place by contracting guidelines beyond the team’s control.

Many IMT members state that work performed by contractors is substandard in too many cases. Training and experience requirements that apply to government employees are reduced or non-existent for contractors hired to do similar work. Interviewees also fault some contractors for lack of accountability when they fail to perform as expected. It is difficult to hold contractors accountable under the wildland fire conditions typified by short timeframes, too few contracting officers, and different standards for performance than what apply to the agency. Furthermore, returning unsatisfactory contracted resources to their home base (especially hand crews) increases transportation costs, necessitates additional time and expense to order replacements, and prolongs suppression activities".

I doubt you will find much support for your proposal among Forest Service firefighters. Jus sayin.

Misery Whip

2/15 Re Contracting vs government:

Old Smokechaser-

Your theory of "privatizing" the Federal wildland fire response and getting the same level of service has a lot of holes in it. Without getting too wordy, here's the largest errors in your theory:

Contractors have to "....pass the same prerequisite courses and training." Correct to a point. Yes, they do have to adhere to the minimum requirements, but most of the time they don't. Case in point: I teach S-230 locally every year, and about 30-50% of the class ends up being folks working for a contractor. Repeatedly, I've seen students in the class that don't even meet the minimum prerequisites to be in the class (fully qualified FFT1 and S-290). For some reason (probably to simply fill the class $$$$), training officers let them in.

Second, having a full time, 40 hour a week fire module is a much better suppression model than an on-call private crew. How is a wildland fire crew of any kind supposed to build team work, stay physically fit, or continue training, if they are simply on call and don't get paid to keep themselves ready at a moments notice? There is no consistency in an on-call suppression model.

Next, you talk about "best price and best value" through out. When it comes to actual suppression costs, several cost containment analysis have shown that contractor wildland fire modules are much more expensive than there federal counterparts. Beyond that, most of the cost of suppressing large fires is from the privately contracted "cottage industry" that has developed. See Casey's history of increasing fire costs for more information on that: wfwfsa history of-increased fire costs

And tagging onto DM: If you didn't have any federal fire modules around, who would complete the rest of the non-fire, project work? If the federal government contracted out project work, you would not save any money at all because contract crew daily rates are much higher than their federal counterparts.

Maximum Efficiency Level and the National Fire Plan was a great Federal pre-suppression/suppression model, until it was severely twisted by those in power from 2000-2008. Now, it's a broken model that needs to be amended (again, see Casey's history of increasing fire costs).

Plain and simple: Privately contracting all federal wildland fire response is not the answer.

AKFSS

2/15 This came in:

CAL FIRE Realignment (385 K pdf)

From the Legislative Analyst's Office

Thanks JBK for sending that in. Interesting it's getting pushed on down to local communities. What happens to the small, poor rural ones? Ab.

2/15 Re Contracting vs government:

AMEN Smokechaser!!!

One only has to look at the National Debt to know how well the government manages our money! If a private company tried the same practices, they would be bankrupt and out of business very quickly. Serco is a very public example highlighting fraud and criminal activity! How come the good and honorable contractors don't get the came amount of publicity? If the Government is so great at producing "stuff" how come we don't have Nationalized car and equipment manufactures? (opps , one could argue that Chevrolet is there now)

DM The current system with ROSS and VIPR is screwed up! The logic they use is that even though a piece of equipment costs $50 less per day is somehow a better value for the Government even though the government has to pay an extra half day for travel both coming to and going home from the incident. Sooo they saved $50 but it cost them $1500 to save it :/ Too many times I have witnessed the Forest Service bring in personnel from across the Country (read last minute air travel, rental car, hotel? and overtime) just because that person was already on the Forest Service payroll. Was this person not producing something back home?? (hence they could pack up and leave so quickly and not be missed) The worst abuse was in '08 when I saw them bring someone from the Atlantic coast to R6 and have her watch a road within the fire closer area. She was not LEO or anything along those lines and the area she was at was miles behind a HARD road closure. Don't tell me that the NIMO team could not have hired a local person (perhaps a local whose income was disrupted from the fire) to "watch" this road. One could even ask, why did this road need to be "watched"???

Robert

Road watching: I've observed that often watching happens so the pumps or other equipment doesn't "walk away". May also be why a local was not hired, as well. Not all people are so honest as you, Robert. It's hard for me to have "Contractors" all lumped in a category together. Most I know are fine people, hardworking and fine business people. Ab.

2/15 Backfill:

Old SmokeChaser:

You kind of helped make my point. My focus was on Casey's comments and the efforts to cut costs and doing it by possibly eliminating fire department "back fill" pay. I agree that there isn't some HUGE cash cow, but that we have many different elements in the fire suppression and support efforts. However, per R3, cooperators ARE last to get the call on extended incidents. Please read: (R3 Document Attachment)

Forest Service Dispatch Protocols for Engines and Water Tenders (27 K pdf)

Anyways, my intention was to stand up and protect fire department "back fill" pay as I feel it is VITAL to keeping fire departments as a resource to be used when needed. Having spoke with many brothers/sisters with departments near mine, they all concur that should back pay be eliminated, their department would undoubtedly cease out of area wildland response. Maybe that is what Casey wants. Where I am from, if our local departments followed suit, and I would bet they would at 100%, that would remove around 40 engines (Type 1, Type 3 and Type 6), several water tenders, and approximately 200 red carded fire fighters from the state/national response system.

Respectfully,
AZfirefighter

2/15 Re Contracting vs government:

Old Smokechaser

I have to say I completely agree with you on contracting out fire because everything we have contracted out in resent years has been such a great success and saved major money for the tax paying citizen. I mean how could you not count Serco as a great success with the maintenance of our fleet, they really cared about our vehicles. In fact they cared so much some never came back. Also how about this great VIPR system we are using, lowest cost equipment gets called first. Doesn't matter that we have someone getting the call that is six hours away and I have contract equipment here but they were fifty dollars more than the incoming equipment so we wait. And how about those cheaper contract crews that are more expensive than our shot crews and don't have the physical fitness level to keep up when cutting hotline. Yes let's keep them around and make that the new standard. Also why we are at it if we don't have the fire crews anymore then let's let the contract world do the trails work, roadside brushing, recreational work and everything else that our fire crews do now that will be cost effective.

Let's just keep it real when you say let's contract out fire because we all know it won't work and it will cost us all in the long run.

DM

2/15 From Casey on backfill costs, etc:

Dear AZ Firefighter;

I’m sure there are many who visit TheySaid and don’t want to spend the time scrolling through what I have to say so I’ve asked AB to create a link to my comments so folks can chose or not chose to read them without taking up a lot of space etc.

I wanted to address your concerns about “backwards steps” in eliminating back-fill costs and try and offer a historical perspective of why everything is being looked at. I have not advocated the elimination or reduction of such costs. Rather I have simply informed folks that Congress is taking a serious look at these associated costs and, since the feds have had their pay frozen, everything is fair game.

With respect to your department, given the fact you don’t get your wildland PPE paid for, you don’t get travel costs for IMT meetings or annual refresher courses would lead me to believe your department is relatively small. That being said, why would there ever be any consideration on the part of your department to send a crew to a wildfire in Idaho?

Fair, reimbursable costs are fine. But if those costs exceed that which would be paid for federal resources, than it doesn’t make economic sense to the taxpayer. Take a closer look at the federal versus non-federal costs of the Zaca Fire ($140 milion) and other $100 million+ fires and tell me nothing is out of whack with those pictures.

The federal land management agencies are in a position to have to expend these peripheral funds because of their continued refusal to take care of their own feds and their failure to recognize they need to manage their fire programs like fire departments. How did we get to this point?

As you may recall, earlier last decade the National Fire Plan was adopted. The fundamental principle of the NFP was

Read the rest: history of increasing fire costs

2/15 Re Contracting vs government:

Old Smokechaser,

It only takes one word to disprove your theory,

SERCO

NorCal FEO

If you can't tell, outsourcing engine maintenance to Serco was an abysmal failure. Check the Google results for responses since 2005. Ab.

2/15 Gabe Pomona's passing and memorial fund:

Ab,

I just came across this information on the Gabe Pomona Memorial Fund and Family Services. Would you be able to post it on They Said for all to see. I know Gabe had lots of close friends that would like some information. As I find out more information I will be sure to send it to you.

Thank You,
BG

Thanks. Ab.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Donations for the Gabe Pomona Memorial Fund can be sent to or taken to:

First Mountain Bank in Big Bear
40865 Big Bear Blvd.
P.O. Box 6868
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Phone 909-866-5861

First Mountain Bank in Running Springs
2625 Whispering Pines Dr.
P.O. Box 90
Running Springs, CA 92382

First Mountain Bank in Lucerne Valley
32946 D Highway 18
P.O. Box 2100
Lucerne Valley, CA 92356

Family Support Group
Contact: Julie DeAnda
Phone: 951-845-0210
Email: Julie_deanda@yahoo.com

2/15 Re Contracting vs government:

To old SmokeChaser.

My friend you have obviously never worked on a hotshot crew and spent the summer working 16 hour days for 14 or 21 days at a time, all summer long. I have worked with some good contractors but they seem like the exception not the rule, and as good as a crew might be, I always consider them a watchout on the hottest parts of the fire. When I was a young sawyer on a hotshot crew I often remember waking up at 6 in the morning, eating chow, doing buggy chores and being out of fire camp the minute briefing was over in the morning. We would work all day and into the night, get back at 9 in the night barely have enough energy to eat dinner and go to bed, then we'd wake up and repeat that process all summer long. Anyone that has cut line for 13 or 14 hours straight for a whole summer knows that there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. Hotshots are very competitive and the pack test is not the physical standard for most crews, ours was the mile and a half in under 10 mins but most the crew could do it in under 9 mins, thats a sub 6 min mile. We also had to do 7 pullups 45 pushups and 60 situps, this was the low water mark. I worked out all winter so that I could come in in the spring and represent for my crew, and every day be it in the station, out on project, or on the fire line was like a competition with the guys I worked with, and the larger competition of our hotshot crew against the others on our division.

I can't speak for all aspects of the Feds, but for the Hotshots I think I have insight. Now that I have moved up to ICing smaller fires I can say that I would rather have one good hotshot crew then three contract crews. The contract crews have line quotas, but what good is producing fast hand line if is not wide enough to hold.

How can you guarantee the physical standard of the crew if they don't PT together, I got paid 12 dollers an hour as a GS-4 sawyer, can you can pay a contractor less than that and still guarantee that they will be able to run up a steep hill when they have to. It's an irrational thing, but just as important as the money was the pride we took in being good, and I have worked with some bad hotshot crews, but the good ones far outweigh the bad ones.

You can't Contract a Hotshot.

2/14 Cuts, cooperators, contractors, DOT regulations, PLI and cronyism?

I'm a bit new to all of this and your website, but we have been reading to where the USDA is looking or slated by Congress to over $40 billion in cuts. I see the only way to continue to have a valid fire suppression workforce is to really cut deep and privatize it. They can do anything a Federal employee or a Federal piece of equipment with proper training can do. I've really seen no difference through the years and they have to compete for the work at least every 3 years or even annually as well as pass the same prerequisite courses and training. This bidding practice always makes sure we get as taxpayers the price price for the best product. It moves the equipment and operational costs to have the equipment ready onto the private industry. Eliminating reoccurring operational support costs, replacement cost, and daily labor costs on the tax payer . Suppression and readiness costs are only paid if and when needed by the Government, over hiring seasonal employees as I was in the past sitting on payroll and creating a huge federal fleet of equipment for the rare occasion it may be needed. Let private industry carry that burden. With the new what they call VIPR system it seem we all would get the best value and equipment for the best price. This single change would just about take care of that needed budget cut....

What does everyone else think?

AZfirefighter,

I have to let you know that "Cooperators" and rural departments in R3 do get ordered before contractors on most occasions. Look at the PUBLICLY TRADED company - NW Fire; a Cooperator. How they hold a cooperator status is beyond me. Private contract engines are almost a thing of the past in R3. The pain you feel and the concern about being out of business sounds like the same story we have heard from private contractors through the years.The Feds always want more for less while cranking up the regulations and restrictions on everyone else but themselves. let's consider by Federal regulation under US DOT 49 CFR 395 that all vehicles operated that are not specially designed for fire suppression services exclusively are regulated once they cross state line or out of state point of hire to follow the regulation for "hours of service". The Feds and States are exempt, but your rural and all private contractors are required to operate under it. The contracting officers are not even considering these restrictions in the solicitation, The Red book does not even mention this under "work/rest" guidelines but does mention FAA regulations for Pilots. Why? Because the CO's pass the responsibility and liability onto the IMTs and then just state the IMTs need to ensure they follow the regulations. All in an attempt to hold themselves harmless. I think at some point when someone else dies they are going to be held just as responsible. It will take a court to decide. I bet you not many IMT members even know of this regulation or the violations and costs associated.

Members of a current teams better make sure they have all the liability insurance they can get. The fines and damages are about $14k per occurrence of a violation. Add that adds up quickly for one engine and in a weeks time and ends up being $98k in fines per engine; almost the cap on the liability insurance available. You think you may have it bad, the contracting officers are throwing the IMTs "Under the Bus" on this issue and then you and the private sector are right behind. If you are smart; I'd document every violation of over hours on your time sheet or you personally could face $2400 in fines each day you work beyond the US DOT regulation. As long as you note it on your time sheet and get it signed off and never sign off "No Claims", then the burden and liability falls onto the IMT on any future audit of you or your organization by the US DOT..

I would also like to point out I am unsure of the "PROFITS" to be made by the private industry. That is always overstated. What I know is most private contractors dump hundred of thousands of dollars in specifications and equipment builds. They carry the cost for years of the replacement and maintenance, the ready labor force for a "IF and When Needed" term. I can give you many Contractors in R3 will tell you differently that there is this HUGE cash cow in contracting. Why don't you ask Northtree Fire International about these HUGE profits you state as this year they closed their doors forever on all contracted related fire service because of many things including the years of lack of profits! And because you have no clue on what the operational, carrying and or real time replacement costs are (as well as with my old employer; the Feds) it is unfair to say these companies that risk everything and build the entire FS toolbox full of toys that can be used with no carrying costs on the Government or Taxpayer until needed are somehow over paid for what they do. By burdening a few private sector companies who are willing to do so; they deserve like, same or a bit more pay if and when they are ever hired. You have no clue what it costs to operate a business. I have been out long enough to know the difference between working for the Feds and working for myself.

I think with the upcoming budget cuts the Feds give Cooperators, departments like yours and the private sector the lead and dump the expensive carrying costs of the Federal fire suppression fleet and personnel down to just the overhead support teams and that direct support structure for fire suppression. Let them all 3 compete for 'Best value" and cross train and let them all carry the costs and use them as they all rank on a DPL based on the best value.

Ab,

What you want to know? Pulling equipment from R4 over available local resources? Good Ol Boy Cronyism? Nothing knew; they just got caught is all this time. I have plenty on the Station Fire. There are documented accounts of this and many other issues. That blame game on private contracting for the loss.... The blame needs to go on the dispatching system and Feds hiring Friends over local available resources.

Old Smokechaser

2/14 Backfilling:

Casey,

First and foremost, I wholeheartedly agree in the need to compensate fairly for our brothers in the federal fire service. I have many friends who work on the fed side. They need to be paid fairly, and it needs to create the retention that makes the the services strong.

With that being said, I am disappointed in that you do not seem to think that elimination of "back-pay" for fire department and districts is not a step backwards!

My department does not get administrative fees. We dont get hazard pay. We dont get line spike pay. We do not get PTP, so like feds, we get 16 on and 8 off. We do not even get our wildland PPE paid for. We don't get travel costs covered to go to annual IMT meetings. We don't get paid for our annual refresher training or any other aspect, other than maybe the cost of a class here and there depending on the budget. We have not been assisting with statewide or national incidents for much more than ten years, but if you were to take away the back-fill, we would be OUT OF THE BUSINESS. I am sure we are not the only department. I would guess the large majority of departments would not be able to assist. Other than say maybe LA County, Kern County and the like. There is no way our fire chief, or our city council and mayor would support a program that sends us to Idaho to assist at a fire and the city bears the costs to send them, other than the rental for apparatus.

No agency can "do it all". That's been shown time and time again. In my state, the "cooperators" (i.e. fire departments) are the last to get the call per R3 policy. Feds first of course, which makes sense, followed by state -owned resources, followed by contractors and then us. Its actually a very good system and I feel the best use of the dollar for the tax payer. But on the large incidents there is a bit of all those resources. A balance if you will. You know this. The system leaves areas covered without stripping one area. Additionally, the personnel get real experience, whether it be engine crews or personnel working on an IMT. This all brings back excellent skills.

While I will always support the federal side being financially supported and the ideas you have promoted, I cannot fathom your support or lack of defense in preserving the "back-fill" issue. Administrative fees and the like I can understand.

Does it really make sense to support that, and find that in the end you just eliminated 90+% of fire departments who will no longer assist any large scale national emergency? This system is just that, a system that supports wildfires, hurricanes, terrorism, etc. I am sure I am not speaking for my department alone when I say we will not be able to assist without having back-pay covered. This is how we reduce safety to the public and firefighters, because now when large incidents do happen, even with a bolstered federal fire system, resources have to come from much farther away, taking longer times, as well as less staff for IMTs, less experienced gained, etc.

You stated "The federal wildland fire response was not designed to be a money making venture but for some it has turned into a very lucrative business." So I ask, then why is there so many different players in the service making a profit? Showers, food, hand washing, lights, tents, generators, office trailers, GISS systems, etc. These all make the job more professional and make the job easier and healthier for personnel. And they make a profit. Profit is not bad. Like I said, my departments makes some money on our equipment when we send it out. We don't get rich.

I guess since I have so many things going around in my head with this stance, I will just say this, of all the places to look for cuts, reductions etc in the fire fighting costs, "back fill" is not one of the best places or even costliest places to start or even consider yet. Remember, the billing for back-fill is on the 1/2 time of overtime. So if you are paying a fire fighter $30/hr for back-fill, the fire is only getting billed for $10/hr.

Likewise, should my department/city/region have large scale incident, we would possibly use a IMT or resources from the feds. Those costs will be covered and paid for, and if there was back-fill for those agencies, it should be paid for. Because the feds don't have back-fill, doesn't mean we shouldn't get our covered. We have laws that require we provide the coverages we do, this is called Standard of Coverage. We cannot just take an engine out of service so we can assist a fire in southern CA.

Anyways, I have nothing but respect for you and what you try to do for the federal fire side. I just think you are flat out wrong to go along with or support the removal of back-fill pay for ANY agency supporting a large incident.

Respectfully,
AZfirefighter

Could people please fill us in on the scams that were occurring that led to the investigations by OIG. Some of them were as brazen as a chromed pulaski. Ab.

2/14 Update on R5 Retention Bonus:

While this isn't the definitive, final word, Senate staff in DC informed me today that OPM is still looking into whether the bonus meets the "exception" criteria with respect to all the additional rules and gobbledygook that went along with the pay freeze.

It is the staff's understanding that the Forest Service is seeking to allow the exemption. Hopefully more info will be forthcoming.

If it is canceled, I would strongly [emphasis added] let the White House know as we recently did that the negative consequences of exempting the bonus would far outweigh the miniscule "chump change" savings.

More to follow.

Casey Judd
Executive Director, Governmental Affairs
FWFSA
2/14 A note came in from a BIA FMO with info on where to send relief supplies for White Swan families that lost everything on the rare February White Swan Fire in Washington. HOTLIST

If anyone wants the info to help out, please email It's still winter in that area. Ab.

2/14 Passing of Gabriel Pomona, where to send cards:

Pomona is survived by his wife, Summer, and multiple family members.

Flowers and cards can be sent in care of

Big Bear Ranger Station,
42300 North Shore Drive Highway 38,
P.O. Box 290,
Fawnskin, CA 92333.

All correspondence will be forwarded to the family.

2/14 ano & sting -

I agree with you whole-heartedly and have from the start. Maybe this will help enforce the issues being had with "resume checkers" wanting to see if they can make the cert or the ones having buyers-regret after they see the duty station. I know the smaller stations in out of the way places are having issues with retention. Hopefully this will help get more committed folks for the agency.

(Before I get torched, I do understand the other side of the coin that shitake happens and you can't move due to some life event/family/etc.)

wrench
2/14 To: Just Call Me Confused, need advice:

There are 2 things you need to look consider.
  1. Will you're #1 choice of jobs better your situation? More money, enhance your career, be a stepping stone to the next job upgrade, etc. You need to make the choice that is best for you, even if it means making a tough decision and turning down your first job offer.
  2. Any supervisor worth their salt will understand your situation, should you make the decision to go with the promotional job (should you get selected). Anyone who has been with the Federal Gov. for more than a few years knows how the hiring game is played and knows that promotions can be few and far between. Especially in regions that do all the hiring at once instead of when the jobs actually come open. This type of hiring creates more opportunity for situations such as yours to be frequent.

Will the folks who made the original offer be upset? Probably. Will they hold it against you? I would hope not, and if they did, do you really want to work for someone that gets upset when you try to better yourself?

I have been in this situation once myself. When I called the individual that selected me for the first job, I made sure I was very apologetic and just explained the reasons for my decision. He was a little upset (I am sure more because he had to start the selection process all over) but he understood my situation and even went as far as to say he didn't blame for making that decision.

So, bottom line is do what is going to be best for you. Just remember, that your decision will have effects on someone else and be very respectful and when you make that call (if you so decide) and make sure you explain your reasons and motivations for your decision. That will go over a lot better than a simple "thanks, but I got a different job offer."

R9 Engine Captain

2/14 cutting length of tour for 13/13 and 18/8s:

ano

I can see how you feel with having your length of season cut even by a little. Its hard enough to make a living now a'days let alone doing it on 6 or 9 months pay. I guess one thing you can look at is you fortunate enough to have a job.

You need to look at the fact that the entire nation is in a slump and that the forest budget is taking hits left and right. I really doubt the leadership on your unit is out to cut you folks unless they have no choice. The tour you have, 13/13 or 18/8 is your tour, unfortunately. From the sounds of it, most of the Regions are all doing the same for tours. If you truly want to work year around, Cali is always hiring 26/0 folks.

Just remember when you make waves you're always going to get wet even if you're still in the boat.

An old 13/13

2/14 An example of a Human factors & Just Culture argument for govt contractors but not for FS FF on other fires? Why is that?

roadrunner

No fine for big AZ wildfire

Winds as strong as 70 mph were reported in Flagstaff on the day last May when Kevin J. Casey Sr. and another Arizona Game and Fish employee set to work welding a water catchment tank for wildlife.

As the two men worked northwest of Timberline on the Coconino National Forest on May 6, 2010 a fire sparked by their welding torch started in the grass.

They stomped it out and resumed welding.

The welding sparked a second fire, but with gusts of wind fanning it, the two men couldn't suppress it, despite using rakes, shovels and fire extinguishers.

What later became known as the 89 Mesa fire grew to 523 acres and cost $345,000 in taxpayer funds to suppress.

(snip) But the U.S. Attorney's Office said the case was resolved without any fines or penalties being levied against Casey.

more

Fair Use Disclaimer

2/14 Finances and the Budget:

AZ Firefighter:

The federal land management agency fire programs have become a financial feeding frenzy for many... at the expense of federal wildland firefighters and the American taxpayer. The "language" that I spoke of about Admin fees, backfill costs etc., may not be included in the FWFSA's wildland firefighter legislation but I can tell you it is being looked at hard in Congress given the rising costs of suppression.

It doesn't seem to make sense for the Administration and Congress to freeze the pay of federal wildland firefighters without looking at the substantial peripheral costs of other resources. The federal wildland fire response was not designed to be a money making venture but for some it has turned into a very lucrative business. You're looking at some possible language for program reforms without looking at the entire context of what the reforms would create.

It is the FWFSA's intent to reform archaic pay & personnel policies that continue to adversely impact our Nation's federal wildland firefighters. The continued action by the federal land management agencies to "over compensate" many (not all) non-federal resources and "under compensate" their own resources has led to significant losses of federal firefighters to other agencies for better pay & benefits as well as losses from those who are not only reaching mandatory retirement age but retiring early because they are fed up with the way in which they are treated.

This "gap" between those retiring and those expected to rise through the ranks continues to widen. This gap was identified by the GAO as long ago as 1999 and will likely again be a part of their report on the Station Fire.

Add to that the fiscal mismanagement of PR money by Line Officers and the number of federal resources available drops even further. The only way the federal land management agencies can fill in the gaps is to rely on non-federal resources. As a result, the federal land management agencies have chosen to over rely on non-federal resources rather than strengthen their own inherently less expensive infrastructure.

With all due respect, I don't buy the argument that reducing or eliminating Admin Fees and backfill costs is going to increase the risks to lives, property and other firefighters. When many fire agencies face reductions in staffing etc., by Counties, cities etc., the first line of defense is always the fear factor..."it will increase risks" If non-federal resources become less available as a result of the federal government's reductions of said peripheral costs, then it will force the federal government to implement the reforms to strengthen the federal side of the house and ultimately save money pursuant to the National Fire Plan.

By reforming the fundamental pay & personnel policies for federal wildland firefighters, we

  1. retain many who would otherwise leave to other agencies for better pay & benefits
  2. retain those who are willing to retire early because they are "fed up" with being treated like 2nd class citizens
  3. re-strengthen the federal infrastructure pursuant to the expectations of the National Fire Plan
  4. reduce, NOT eliminate, the over-reliance on non-federal resources and
  5. save significant funds of taxpayer dollars while creating a more effective and efficient program.

We make even greater strides by reforming the organizational structure of the fire programs with respect to who manages them i.e. who develops and implements fire policy, who controls the FIRE dollar purse strings etc.

Again, with all due respect, I am of the firm belief that if the federal government is willing to continue to pay all these peripheral costs for non-federal resources, then it should also properly compensate their own firefighters. It should also provide their temps and term firefighters, who also risk their lives, with basic benefits. However given the fiscal hysteria in DC, I doubt that is likely. If feds are going to be hit with a pay freeze, then all costs associated with the escalating costs of suppression should be looked at.

As an example, one of the intents of the now infamous "memo" from the Forest Service Regional Forester in California issued just prior to the Station Fire was to instruct Forest Fire Chiefs to advise their 'cooperators" that their crews may be in camps perhaps 1-2 days instead of 3-5 days with the effort to bring in federal crews expedited... to save money.

You mention an agreement your department has with your state forestry department about backfill costs. Within the confines of state and local agencies, that seems reasonable. When you get to the federal level things are a bit different.

The very purpose of the fundamental language of the FWFSA's legislative proposals and any other possible changes to the status quo is to create more effective and efficient federal land management agency fire programs.

Neither I nor the FWFSA has ever suggested the wholesale elimination of non-federal resources from the federal wildfire response. No one is advocating the elimination of the wonderful national response that includes federal, state, local & private resources. We sincerely appreciate the support we've received from State & local government firefighters with respect to the inequity of compensation for our folks. Unfortunately the fiscal portions of the federal land management agency fire program pie are grossly out of balance.

Again, please understand a great deal of this discussion is coming from the Hill. If the federal government wants to continue paying all these costs AND provide their federal wildland firefighters with portal to portal pay; proper classification and an organizational structure that actually has some semblance of wildfire experience & expertise, that's fine with us. I don't think that is sustainable given the fiscal climate.

My personal opinion... not necessarily an FWFSA opinion... is that with respect to the deliverance of a federal wildfire response to the American taxpayer, federal dollars ought to go to feds first. Not all of it, but the balance is way out of whack now.

As always, if someone wants to criticize my loyalty to our Nation's federal wildland firefighters, whether they be FWFSA members or not, you know where to find me.

Respectfully,

Casey

2/14 Rhabdomyolysis:

Good morning Ab,

I recently read an article related to Rhabdo that I though would be of benefit to those in the wildland fire community. Whether it be line supervisors, safety officers, MEDL, or line EMS personnel, I believe it provides some very good information that needs put forth.

It is my understanding that we are seeing an increase in this diagnosis of patients especially within the wildland fire arena. Those who are working on the lines or those who preparing physically for highly-coveted positions.

As noted in the recent media, it seems even more prevalent within those who take supplements to enhance workouts.

Here is the article title and magazine that I got it from as well as the web-link.

Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS), Feb. 2011 edition, page 30
"Hanging out in Vegas"
assessing trauma patients prov

The key features I believe are important for everyone relate to some of the signs and symptoms associated with Rhabdo. This can truly be beneficial in knowing when it comes to the firefighter's chief compliant as well as general statements made by the firefighter throughout the shift.

Thank you

Bill Arsenault, FFTR/EMTP

Thanks Bill. Ab.

2/13 Re Failure to communicate:

Sting,

5130 is clear with direction on structures. However, 5130 offers the following for vehicles, dump(ster) fires;

3. Vehicle and Dump Fires.

Do not undertake direct attack on vehicle or dump fires on National Forest System lands unless such action is absolutely necessary to protect life or “prevent” the spread of fire to the wildlands.

2011 Redbook conflicts with our manual and it must be corrected.

The Forest Service proudly proclaims "Caring for the land and serving people"

The FS needs to stop with the dialog of concern about; 1) giving the appearance of jurisdictional responsibility for these events. 2) You had better not have a preplanned response to these events. WO, can you hear me now? How about this shocker, Many National Forests have planned responses to these activities (see Wildcad).

The father holding a son who is injured in the campground down the street from the Forest Service fire station could care less which firefighters show up, as long as someone shows up. The owner of a 36 ft motor home with an engine compartment fire along a forest highway with people trapped will not demand that the engine that shows up is from a Class 1 rated Fire Department. Green is a good thing.

WO, we understand the legal aspects. We understand the financial aspects. Do you understand human aspects of this? Do you understand the interagency cooperative operational dynamics of us “watching” these events occur right in front of us? Off the top of my head, I can think of 10 Forest Service fire stations where they respond (preplanned) to all risk incident activities as described on about a weekly basis, sometimes daily. What an eye-opener it would be for the Undersecretary, FS Chief, Holtrop, WO and RO agreement writers, policy writers, Line Officers and some Forest Service fire professionals that are not familiar with what really goes on during all-risk incidents to come out and see these men and women of the United States Forest Service in action. You would be proud. If you think they are standing there watching, think again!

Instead of coming out to see what really happens, you decided to throw them under the bus. You take the last few months of 2010 and go find a Hilton Hotel conference room with your ice water, coffee and pastries and edit the Redbook to a point that it conflicts with 5100. NICE FREAKING JOB!

The 2011 Redbook update for chapter 11 will be changed to comply with our 5100 manual. Save yourself all the trouble and commotion and start working on this today.

The 5100 manual and the mission will only fully change when the American people require us to live up to the words in our slogan. The American people expect us to do our part within the emergency management community. They do not expect us to be Supermen or Superwomen, they only expect us to do our part and work collaboratively with our cooperators during all-risk events, not watch. This includes planning responses, training for all-risk incidents, and participating within our capabilities at all-risk incidents without handcuffs or threats. The American people have an expectation that Forest Service Firefighters will receive clear, concise and common sense direction from our 5100.

"Caring for the land and serving people"

Primum non nocere

2/13 re budget and backfill costs:

Whoa Casey,

You're opening a huge can of worms here and I was stunned to see you "suggest" this:

"There may be language that reduces, if not eliminates "Admin fees" to local government agencies. There may be language that reduces or eliminates the obligation of the federal government to pay for back fill costs to non-federal agencies. In other words, if an order comes in to a local government agency and they can't afford to release a resource without needing that position to be back-filled, then the local government agency doesn't send their resource, simple as that."

My feelings is that this would do nothing more than increase threats to lives property and other fire fighters.

I work for a city department, not in CA. We have an agreement with our state forestry division. We do get back-fill coverage. This "allows" us to be able to respond when requested. This is the same for every fire department or district in Arizona. We make some money on our equipment, we do NOT have administrative fees. We would NEVER be allowed to "help", "assist" or whatever you want to call it if our coverage was not paid for, plain and simple. Our assistance, whether to a wildland fire, space shuttle recovery, if on an engine, or as we staff IMTs, CANNOT be subsidized by the cities who pay for our services through taxes.

I cannot speak for the other departments other than my own, but I think you just suggested a HUGE step backwards. I would think that almost every fire department that does respond to large scale incidents would no longer be able to do so, and to suggest otherwise is irresponsible and flat out dangerous. I have admired your efforts and watched and support your efforts for quite some time. I do not know your personally. I have voiced my support for your efforts to our IAFF union many times questioning our lack of support for your group. I have no clue what would make you go towards a suggestion such as this.

Certainly, everyone can see the benefit of our national response capabilities. The strength lies in the efforts of many, but clearly the costs must be paid for. And clearly, this effort is not possible in most cases without coverage for the responders and the back-fill to send them and continue the coverage of the citizens who sent them.

I sincerely hope that I have misunderstood your point here, but I am afraid I did not. I imagine we will see quite a response shortly, as more local fire department personnel see this statement. This would be detrimental to our great response system.

AZfirefighter

2/13 Advice needed

Ab, first thanks for the great web site. Casey, you're the man, enough said. I have a question related to having multiple applications out at the same time.

The Situation:
I applied for three jobs in late Nov. Also prioritizing them with my family as jobs of choice that would serve all of our needs. My second choice job gave me a tentative offer last week and I accepted but have not received formal paper work yet. This job is a lateral so no upgrade, albeit a great job none the less and i'm privileged to get a offer. I pulled my app on my third choice job after accepting the job offer.

Ironically the job I prioritized as my first choice just got in touch with me and wants to interview. This job is an upgrade for me and what I would call the "job of dreams" for me.

The Problem:
I'm not sure what to do as I certainly don't want to burn a bridge or put undue hardship on the fine folks that offered me a job. On the other hand, I have a shot at the job i've worked my career for with an upgrade to boot. I'm also not sure if there would be the need to re-fly the position if I backed out. I do have a hard time believing it's taken this long for these jobs to get to the hiring process, and its unfortunate for the overlapping time frames.

Does any one have any suggestions about the most tactful way to deal with the situation?

Just call me confused this time

2/13 re: budget

I see that the USFS fire budget is slated to be cut $35 Million, combine that with Cal Fire's proposed $250 Million cut, means that if California has a "normal" fire season, there are less resources, whether to commit to a large incident or for coverage behind in each unit/ forest. In regards to the USFS budget cuts, specifically in R5, have there been scenarios run of what the actual effect each forest will feel? I'm thinking of the places that rely of a combination of Local government / Cal Fire / USFS for successful daily initial attack, and how the Federal cuts will affect this? I have heard rumors of certain districts loosing engines or crews, but nothing too specific.

MiscFireGuy

2/13 re: budget & cuts - Reno FD:

Stay Safe's post to AKFSS,

Add to the list...

The City of Reno, NV Fire Department laid off 36 firefighters on Friday, on top of 22 that were laid off one year ago. Reno FD has had a large involvement in wildland fire with lots of engines and IMT members. This new loss will include closing an additional 3 stations. This could have a dramatic impact to initial attack fire suppression on the Sierra Front.

Stay Safe

I just wanted to post some details about the Reno Fire Dept. and the “Brown Outs” Effective 2-18-2011:
36 more line Firefighters laid off, for a total of 58 Firefighters laid off over a 12 month span
Station 10 N. Virginia -Closed Permanently ( Type 1 Engine, Type 3 Model 14, & 100’ Aerial)
Station 9 Stead - Closed Permanently (Type 1 Engine & Type 3 Model 14)
Station 7 Skyline – Closed Permanently (Type 1 Engine & Type 3 Model 14)
Station 15 Sun Valley – Truck Company that cross staffed Type 3 Model 14 moved to Station 10 last year, Station 10 closed
Station 19 Sommersette – Engine company with Type 1 Engine and Type 3 Model 14 reduced to 2 person rescue last year, will be “browned out” ie. shut down for daily staffing needs
Station 3 Moana – T 3 100’ Aerial Browned out for staffing
Station 1 Downtown - E 1 (6th busiest Engine in the Nation in 2009) browned out, leaving a 2 person rescue and 100’ Aerial
Station 21 Grand Sierra – Type 1 Engine, Type 3 Model 14 browned out for staffing , then E 1 comes back up.

So, when fire season hits the RFD will have up to 5 less Type 3s and 6-7 less Type 1s to respond to wildland fires. If things get hot and heavy this fire season on the Sierra Front it will be interesting.

Thanks – I choose to remain anonymous due to the current political climate at the RFD

anon-ymous

2/13 re: budget cuts & tour cuts:

Dear AKFSS & All:

While the concerns about fiscal re-prioritization are justified, the proposals coming from Washington, both from the Administration & Congress are born out of a lack of understanding & education and the assumption by elected officials that shooting from the hip and/or making proposals based on knee-jerk reactions is the easiest & most expedient way of fixing the fiscal ills they themselves created.

Frustrating to say the least but not a hurdle that can't be cleared. However all firefighters need to realize that they are the solution to the issue. Those in the Reno fire department, as posted, can't sit idly by and wait for the IAFF to fix everything. Federal wildland firefighters can't sit idly by and let NFFE and the FWFSA fix everything. Each of you has to get involved and articulate to those elected officials why their proposals do not make good economic sense. I can't address the solutions available to local government or even state government fire agencies. But I think I have an understanding as to what needs to be done on the federal side of the house.

AKFSS:

With respect to the R5 bonus: Unfortunately no communication from the RO allows everyone to come to the conclusion the bonus will not be renewed. That ultimately may be the case. However if that is the case, our response should be the same as it was which resulted in the original $25 million for retention in the first place. Remember, $25 million is pocket change. Our responsibility is to explain why a $25 million investment will reap greater benefits for the taxpayer than allowing Agencies to continue to mismanage the monies they do get from Congress.

13/13s 18/8s being held to tours:

A lot of the original $25 million for R5 retention went to converting folks to 26/0. Not sure if I would agree that was a "retention" tool but nonetheless that is what the majority of those funds were spent on. I'm not sure where the decision to hold the 13/13s & 18/8s to their tours might have come from but again, it involves chump change for the Agency. Again, a lot of these "hits" to FIRE are a result of non-fire folks running the FIRE program and who have no clue as to how to manage the largest fire organization in the world.

cutting 15-20% in each district on a forest. Perhaps a result of 2 slow fire seasons and Line Officers inability to "save" PR funds which they traditionally use to pay for many non-fire things. As many know, these last two slow seasons saw the PR account in R5 go into deficit because Line Officers continued to spend PR money on all sorts of non-fire stuff while "hoping" or relying upon heavy fire seasons to save PR money to cover those expenditures. That didn't happen.

The solution is to continue to educate Congress...and now GAO which is in the middle of its Station Fire report and looking closely at the "organizational structure" of the Agency program and how it is managed by Line Officers and the impact of that structure. Again, given the huge sums Congress already provides through the normal appropriations process for PR, SU and fuels reduction with the addition of FLAME Act funding, these "cuts" are superfluous fluff designed to show the Administration that the Agency(s) are in tune with "fiscal realities."

Big Blue was on point: fiscal mismanagement by Line Officers; the failure of the Agency leadership to explain to the Administration precisely what is needed financially to do the job as Congress and the Administration expects it to be done because Agency leadership is politically appointed.

The House appropriations committee's proposed cuts:

$35 million for the FS...that is a meaningless, ridiculously irrelevant amount of money in the context of the overall FS budget. And is that $35 million coming from the FIRE accounts? Questions should be asked " why $35 million" and how was that derived. Of course we could also suggest that the provisions of last year's HR 4488 would likely save far more than that...so why not continue to push for changes that not only benefit our firefighters but the taxpayer as well?

Look at those in Congress who are proposing the 2011 Spending Reduction Act and looking to extend the federal employee pay free to 5 years? Let's see, they come from Ohio, New Jersey, South Carolina. Does that explain things a bit? No clue about the issues facing wildland firefighters; no clue about the management of the federal FIRE programs; no clue about how the programs can become more effective & efficient if they listen to the firefighters etc., etc.

Of course finally I have to take exception to your suggestion that re-introduction of HR 4488 is slim to none. The facts:

We already have commitments from both sides of the aisle to lead the bill. What we are working on now is a decision whether to keep the same language or make some modifications. There are new rules in the House of Representatives that affect how a bill can be worded etc., so we are working to ensure that a final bill will meet those rules changes.

There will be meetings this month between congressional staff from the majority side (Republicans) and staff of the Chairmen of the committees of jurisdiction (also Republicans) on our bill to determine what, if any, alternatives to last year's language might make the bill move given the fiscal hysteria in DC.

There will be a bill. It will have bipartisan leadership. Last year private contract firefighters and groups that represent them were up in arms because of the language that was used in HR 4488 to pay for portal to portal i.e. reducing non-federal suppression resource costs incrementally over a 3 year pilot program. They suggested that such language would lead to putting them out of business. While that is clearly not the intent nor would it be a practical end result, I worked hard to explain this to those groups...few willing to listen.

We have looked at alternatives to that particular PTP language to appease as many folks as possible but I recently told the private contractor groups that with the federal employees now being the scapegoats for the government's fiscal mess via the 2 year pay freeze, any empathy towards the private contractor sector with respect to the impact PTP and paying for it would have on them is all but gone. In my opinion, its time for all, federal, state, local government & private contractors, who respond to wildfires to be compensated in a manner that is equitable for all.

That doesn't necessarily mean trying to provide true pay parity for federal wildland firefighters to the level of many local government FFs in CA, but it may mean re-working cooperative agreements to state that non-federal resources will be compensated at the same rate federal resources are compensated...individual for individual, crew for crew etc.

There may be language that reduces, if not eliminates "Admin fees" to local government agencies. There may be language that reduces or eliminates the obligation of the federal government to pay for back fill costs to non-federal agencies. In other words, if an order comes in to a local government agency and they can't afford to release a resource without needing that position to be back-filled, then the local government agency doesn't send their resource, simple as that.

If local government fire agencies balk at being compensated in an equal manner to that of their federal counterparts (taking into consideration PTP for feds) then that bodes well for the argument that the federal agencies must re-build their inherently less expensive infrastructure pursuant to the National Fire Plan.

Finally, there is continued discussion on the Hill about revamping the FMAG program. For instance reducing the percentage of firefighting costs local governments can be reimbursed by FEMA from 75% to a level commensurate with the current economic realities. Increasing the threshold for submitting an application from $1.5 million in costs to something higher.

So there are plenty of ways for us to educate the Administration and Congress as to how to be more effective and efficient in how they come up with measures that begin to restore some fiscal integrity to the government.

That takes time. However 3-4 years ago, no one in the Forest Service would utter the term "portal to portal" let alone endorse it. Same thing with classification.

There is also a move afloat to look at consolidation within the federal government. For years, many have considered the idea of taking FIRE away from the land management agencies and creating a separate & distinct federal wildfire agency run by...(now this is a very "out of the box" idea) those with wildfire experience and expertise. Some in Congress have also considered this idea. The fact that between FS regions fire policy is substantially different; between USDA & DOI fire policies differ dramatically, that can lead to nothing but a fiscal waste.

The only alternative to not taking responsibility to change things is to simply not make an effort. And in my opinion, that isn't a viable alternative at all.

Respectfully,

Casey

2/13 re: budget

Without supporting any political party, we can say a lot to our Senators and Congressmen to encourage real change in the federal budget without the smoke and mirrors of slashing the "bloated bureaucracy" of federal agencies.

Spending on federal agencies is dwarfed by debt, military and entitlement spending. No proposed budget has addressed this, even from those promising to slash the budget. We have a fighting war going, so the military isn't going to give up much. That means politicians need to take on the politically difficult task of curbing debt and entitlement spending. (Try a search on Medicare and fraud -- you could probably fund the world's finest fire service and a dozen other agencies with what's wasted now.) Nothing is going to happen overnight, but we should be demanding a plan to see how the debt, fraud and waste will be addressed over a number of years.

All the discussion about earmarks? Yes, this affects a seasonal firefighter. By funding pet projects, money is pulled away from agency budgets. In some cases, the land management agencies have faced years-long budget commitments because of a one-time earmark to build a monument to a senator. If you don't want your salary being spent this way speak up.

Within agency budgets, don't be so sure the WO or RO is sucking up your funding. Not a whole lot of funding comes through without strings attached. Rather than trying to fund a political goal or pet project "more with less" should be defined by how central the expenditure is to the agency's mission. Staffing an engine: critical to the Forest Service's mission. Spending big bucks on big wig travel? Not critical. Supplying the funding so the agency can meet existing law: critical or change the law. These kind of guidelines should be applied government-wide and not by singling out any particular agency.

Still Out There as an AD

2/13 re: budget & cuts:

AKFSS,

Add to the list...

The City of Reno, NV Fire Department laid off 36 firefighters on Friday, on top of 22 that were laid off one year ago. Reno FD has had a large involvement in wildland fire with lots of engines and IMT members. This new loss will include closing an additional 3 stations. This could have a dramatic impact to initial attack fire suppression on the Sierra Front.

Stay Safe

2/13 Passing of Gabriel Pomona:

Another good one gone. Prayers for his family. We won't forget him.

Be safe,

Todd

2/13 Passing of Gabriel Pomona:

Condolences to family and friends. What a shock. Gabe was a fine man and a fine firefighter. I will miss his level head and care for his "Fellas".

Rest in Peace, Gabe.

roadrunner

2/13 Passing of Gabriel Pomona:

My condolences to the Family and friends of Capt. Pomona. Another young man in his prime lost, I know he will be missed not only by his family and crew but by the Community he supported through is efforts.

Godspeed Sir.

Mod Green

2/13 Passing of Gabriel Pomona:

Godspeed Gabe, rest in peace brother. My condolences to your immediate and Forest Service family.

Sting

Hotlist thread

2/13 Passing of Gabriel Pomona:

Ab,

I was so sorry to hear the news of Gabe Pomona's accident. I have worked with Gabe for several years on Workers' Comp issues with his employees. He was always very professional and compassionate. My sincerest condolences go out to hisfamily and his coworkers.

WC Advocate

2/12 Passing of Gabriel Pomona:

Gabe Pomona, Captain on Big Bear Hotshots was killed when a truck pulled out in front of him on his motorcycle just after leaving work last night. Here is the article...big bear: forest service captain

A

2/12

Passing of Gabriel Pomona:

Press Release:

Forest Service Mourns the Death of a Fire Captain killed in Off-duty Motor Vehicle Collision

San Bernardino, Calif., February 12, 2011 – Family, friends and the Forest Service are mourning the death of Big Bear Hotshot Captain Gabriel Pomona who died as result of his injuries suffered in an off-duty motor vehicle collision.

Throughout his career, Gabriel has touched many lives and will be sadly missed. Gabriel is survived by his wife Summer and multiple family members.

Gabe started his career with the Forest Service in 1995 on the Sierra National Forest on a hand crew, then promoting to a firefighter on Sierra National Forest Engine 13. The following year Gabe followed his real passion and began working on the Sierra Hotshots, for the next three years.

Gabe came to the San Bernardino National Forest, Mountaintop Ranger District in 1999 as an apprentice, assigned to Engine 16 in Big Bear. In 2001, Gabe jumped at the opportunity to assist in the certification of the newly formed Big Bear hand crew and promoting to Squad Boss. He was one of many who contributed to the successful certification of the Big Bear Hotshots in 2003, as a type one interagency hotshot crew. In 2006, seeking further opportunities, Gabe headed back to the Sierra National Forest promoting to Captain on the Crane Valley Hotshots. Gabe always said he felt at home here on the San Bernardino National Forest especially in Big Bear. In 2008 came back to the Big Bear Hotshots as Crew Captain.

At age 36, Gabe leaves a legacy of professionalism and as a member of the Big Bear community, Gabe gave to the children of the Inland Empire through the numerous crew sponsored Christmas Bike drives.

Flowers and card’s can be sent in care of the Big Bear Ranger Station, 42300 North Shore Drive Hwy 38, P.O. Box 290 Fawnskin CA 92333, all correspondence will be forwarded to the family. Memorial Service and donation information will be forth coming.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the traffic collision.

###

Sad, sad news news. Ab.

2/12 Gabriel Pomona's has passed:

Gabriel Pomona Big Bear Hotshot Captain passed away last night after being involved in a motor vehicle accident. Throughout his career Gabriel has touched many lives and will be sadly missed. Gabriel is survived by his wife Summer and multiple family members. Flowers, cards etc. can be sent in care of: Big Bear Ranger Station, 42300 North Shore Drive Hwy 38 PO Box 290 Fawnskin CA 92333. All correspondence will be forwarded to the family.

Gabe started his career with the Forest Service in 1995 on the Sierra National Forest on a blue card hand crew where he then earned a position on SNF Engine 13. The following year Gabe followed his real passion and began working on the Sierra Hotshots. Gabe worked for Sierra Hotshots for the next three years. Gabe came to the San Bernardino National Forest, Mountaintop Ranger District in 1999 as an apprentice. Gabe was assigned to Engine 16. In 2001 Gabe jumped at the opportunity to assist in the certification of the newly formed Big Bear Crew. As a Squad Boss on Big Bear Hotshots he was one of many who contributed to the successful certification of the Big Bear Hotshots in 2003. Seeking further opportunities Gabe headed back to the Sierra National Forest in 2006 as a Captain on the Crane Valley Hotshots. Gabe always said he felt at home here on the San Bernardino National Forest especially here in Big Bear. When the door opened for him to come back in 2008, he once again found himself on the Big Bear Hotshots this time as a Crew Captain. Gabe leaves a legacy of professionalism and as a member of the community Gabriel gave to the children of the Inland Empire through the numerous Crew sponsored Christmas Bike drives.

Memorial Service and donation information will be forth coming.

JA

2/12 More budget cuts to come

No matter which agency you work for, or whether you drive a green, red, or white engine, or work an A/B/C or base 8 schedule, or have wildland / hazardous fuels as part of your duties, we all thought that the worst budget reductions and cuts had come in 2009 and 2010. Seems we are all wrong….

Just look at some of the posts here lately:

From SUBE: an expiring FS R5 retention bonus with nothing else in place.

From ano: all 13/13 and 18/8’s on the BOF being held to tours, while new FMO (GS-11) positions are created

From Quick Connect: “We learned the other day that each district on our forest would probably have to cut 15 to 20% of our costs. Which in turn means that we will be able to hire less seasonal employees, and not hire behind Permanent Employees who move on….”

From Big Blue: two decades, across several agencies, of watching appropriated funds being mismanaged and lack of communication between management and the legislatures that fund their agencies; And the reality of even less funding a bout to show up.

From Noname fire: R5 seems to be going about with business as usual, gearing up for Firehire, even though there isn’t a budget in place. Continuing to spend money that isn’t allocated? How does that make sense R5?

Additionally, if you haven’t seen it, click on the link below.

appropriations.house.gov

This press release from the GOP controlled House Appropriations Committee is going to attempt to push through a FY11 spending bill that asks the following agencies and sub-agencies to all take cuts from the President’s proposed budget (which were all flat, sustained FY10 levels or slight increases):

  • Forest Service: $35 million reduction
  • Fish and Wildlife Service: $72 million reduction
  • National Park Service: $51 million reduction
  • State and Local Law Force Assistance: $256 million reduction
  • (interesting to note that the BLM was not listed)

The cuts at the state and local level will be equally as harsh. For example: new CA governor Jerry Brown’s proposed $30 million reduction to the annual Cal Fire budget.

The stark reality is, no matter what agency you work for, these and other budget cuts will affect everyone in wildland fire, structure fire, and law enforcement. Every funding model at the federal, state, and local level has been broken for several years, and will take some serious time and legislative energy to fix.

The hope of HR 4488 being re-introduced is slim to none; the hope that your union will get you a “good deal” as huge cuts take affect at your agency is a pipe dream; the belief that you won’t get furloughed at some point is false.

It’s my hope that everyone, no matter who you work for, wakes up and takes a look at the harsh reality of the situation right now in February 2011. We all talk about and practice “Situational Awareness”, but several seem to not understand how deep the budget cuts could go before we start to cycle back up to increasing budgets. We’ve only seen the beginning—and as our legislatures at every level run out of money and management continues to mishandle allocated funds, the problem will only get worse before it gets better.

None of us will stop doing our job. But whether staff sizes are reduced, pay cuts are taken, or benefits eliminated, each one of us will be operating in an unfamiliar work environment. And all of us, once again, will be asked to do “more with less”.

AKFSS

2/12 Refusal to communicate topic:

After reading the "refusal to communicate" post and the .pdf of the new redbook I pray that it is right in regards to not having to engage in dumpster, vehicle and structure fires. I hope that it is a direct message from above (be it forest service or any other) that this is not the mission of the agency and there is no way we should have ever gotten this far... especially in region 5. I am a wildland firefighter... started as one with no intention, thought or glint that I would ever have to start wearing SCBAs and participate in things that I never felt were something I should be doing.

I could go off on all my personal issues I have with this topic but, I feel like my hot air and typing would be wasted on a few people who really seem to like the whole scene and identify themselves as firefighters over the term wildland firefighter. I can't fault the folks who want to do it all but, I don't want to do it all... didn't have to initially and joined the ranks of wildland fire to avoid the duties of a structure firefighter/volunteer so, I could be in the woods for project work or real life training all day and not forced to wait around a station because at any given second I am expected to respond to an incident I don't believe I have the proper amount of training to lead people into other than the safety aspect.

My opinion is that the amount and content of the training for scba and turnouts and what we do in them is poor and limited and barely fits in among the actual training we are actually required and expected to do. No matter how many times I go through it, it always still leaves me feeling inadequate.

It also requires seasonals to be brought on earlier than necessary wasting even more dollars on a mission that is not part of my agency. I just think of how much money could be saved or re-appropriated for gear and essential training or taking care of facilities in a proper fashion so, firefighters aren't doing another thing they shouldn't have to do or are also not properly trained in for the most part... facilities maintenance. They should really hold the managers who ok'd all the scba oriented/related expenditures accountable for those wasted dollars... I know they won't and I suppose I would hate to be held accountable for all the time it took for me to learn from my mistakes.

Will stop the rant for now... Praying for the relief of no more forced air and dealing with unnatural stuff on fire...

Mad Red Zeke

2/12 accept a job and change your mind, don't look to go back to your old one & FS direction inconsistencies (refusal to communicate)?

wrench,

I dont see the problem here. Dont apply for a job you are not willing to take. Indecision or waffling is weakness in our business.

I have called many people and offered them positions only to hear "I just wanted to see if I would get an offer", from then on they were never considered again because of indecision. Remember, when you send the application for the position, that is the DECISION, you have already made it, live with it.

SUBE,

Believe it or not the changes to Chapter 11 are consistent with FS manual direction.

There is no agency formal training or certification process for non-traditional responses (Vehicle TCs, structure and dumpster fires) . If you are referring to the SUBE class, that is "informational" not a certification class. SCBAs on FS engines were never intended to be used in an offensive manner and Medical 1st responder training was intended to be used within the unit or if you "just happen to come across a situation", same goes for Haz Mat FRO. I know it doesn't make much sense and is contradictory to what is really happening out there but that is it.

Just remember the Forest Service was never intended to be a Fire Department, it just morphed into one and the foresters have not kept pace with it.

This is way bigger than the changes to the red book, we are not even meeting our direction to comply with the National Response Framework.

sting

2/11 "A Refusal to Communicate"

It is the Friday before the start of pay period 4. No official -- or for that matter, no unofficial word -- has come from R5 about the current retention bonuses that are scheduled to expire this coming pay period. Additionally, no information yet on the R5 new retention proposal since it first become known in July 2010.

Back door deals........ In my opinion chapter 11 of the redbook has made a change in the working conditions of Forest Service Firefighters. I do not believe that this has been properly negotiated with NFFE ...........

Dear Honorable Congress Member and or Senator "You Fill in the Name"

Recently the USDA Forest Service has released the 2011 version of the Interagency Standards for Fire and Aviation Operations. Within chapter 11 of this document are new standards relating to the emergency response to vehicle, dumpster, trash and structure fires for Forest Service Firefighters. Please read pages 11-21 and 11-22 of this chapter and I ask the USDA Forest Service to provide clarification to you and to the 10,000 Wildland Firefighters within the Forest Service about this change. I am concerned about this significant change as it relates to the emergency services we have provided this nation for a few decades. I am concerned this change was not discussed first with our elected officials, Firefighters, Union and the American people. My Region and my National Forest spend thousands annually to train, purchase, maintain and update equipment used in the suppression of these types of fires.

I request you to please consider asking Forest Service leadership a few questions:
  1. Why was this significant change not discussed with Congress and your Firefighters?
  2. Provide immediately clarification to the Congress and your Firefighters about this significant change.
  3. Should your Firefighters remove all self-contained breathing apparatus equipment from fire engines and halt all training related to the suppression of these fires?
  4. Will you ensure that no Firefighter is held financially accountable for the purchase of equipment or attendance at training that provides instructions for these types of fires this fiscal year?
  5. Provide specific clarification to your Firefighters of what they can and cannot do while on scene of these type of fires?
  6. If your Firefighters are not permitted a preplanned response for medical emergencies for forest visitors, how will you ensure they will be notified of such emergencies? Would I be correct that Forest Service Firefighters in many cases would be the first emergency responders on scene to medical incidents within the National Forest?

We pride ourselves on being a partner within a larger national response to all-risk emergencies. To read that we are no longer permitted to suppress some types of fires or provide a level of medical aid commensurate with our training to the public concerns me. It will also concern the American people, especially the millions of American families that visit National Forests annually.

We have received no official communication of this change.

www.nifc.gov/ policies/ red_book/ 2011/ Ch11 (pdf)

Sincerely .........

It is time to get some answers. Which NIMO team helps draft the Redbook? We can no longer have the Forest Service slip in new standards through the backdoor and then run like roaches when someone turns on the lights.

Centralized Fire NOW!

SUBE

2/11 accept a job and change your mind, don't look to go back to your old one:

wrench,

It has been like that for years, if you don't want the job, don't accept (or don't apply), that easy. For the folks who accept, good luck you made it before the hiring freeze ;-)> hope you really wanted the job.

anonymous

2/11 cal fire patch:

Ab,

As a self-proclaimed historian of CDF now CALFIRE....I know the patch David A., is requesting. Although CDF had the "shield" patch for a while (and in fact still do but now says CALFIRE etc...) there were 3 or 4 patches of the "shield type" with the "California Dept. of Forestry", and as David A. alludes to....there was wording added or deleted. As well as the "tree" graphics having changes as well. Luckily, I have all of them.

Ab, You may post this message to the wall, and give David A. my email, or give me his, so I can get the correct patch for his jacket.

What a shame, that someone would steal his jacket. David A., thank you for your service to our country serving in the military, and thank you for helping us firefighters on the ground. God Bless, and I will get you the patch you need.

CDF Fire Captain (Ab, knows my name.....)

2/11 Looking for new generation shelter

Ab,

I'm currently getting ready to start assisting with some volunteer land management groups/associations here in the south east and will be doing some prescribed burns. As it turns out I'm the only guy running around that has the "old" shelter and I was wondering if there was somehow or someway I could get squared away with the new shelter design without having to shell out $300-400 bucks over the Internet. Wasn't sure if there was a way to get on GSA as a private citizen or if someone else has one they would be willing to sell.

Thanks for the help!

-Douglas

2/11 cutting length of the season for 13/13 and 18/8 firefighters

to all

Just found out that our management on the Forest is going to hold all 13/13's, 18/8's to their tours but we are hiring a pile of new FMOs. This is all rumor on the local level but what a way to start the year. I know that the budget has been mismanaged for years but now morale is going further down the pipes as well. Makes me want to find a new job where I can afford to make ends meet.

Does anyone have the same issues up and coming? Sounds like the budget and work plans are not final but I was told my start date and end dates. I guess I can plan ahead at least.

We have been working 18 or 19 pp as a 13/13 and been getting used to it I know that I should not bank on it (and don't) but this is a hit. None the less any advice on how to make waves with out getting kicked out the boat?

ano

2/11 Casey,

What blackliner said..... x 2.

Thanks Blackliner.

ms

2/11 Quite interesting letter regarding the fire hire. The one sentence that stands out to me is

"Applicants must understand that when they accept a new position, declining at a later date may not be an option; their vacated position may no longer be available."

Accept a slot, lose your old job. Look before you leap?

wrench

2/11 Casey-

You've got one hell of a chin and incredibly broad shoulders. Thank you and keep up your excellent efforts on our behalf.

blackliner
2/10 Hello Ab, I guess I need to identify myself first before asking.

David A
<snip>

I am a former USAFR MAFFS loadmaster. 1987, 88, 89. I flew alot of missions in CA. Lots of Complex fires. I even got to drop on Yellowstone '88. Pretty much all west states.

I recently had my patch flight jacket stolen, was desired by someone other than me. I'm trying to re-collect the patches to replace my patch jacket.

I'm obviously coming up short due to the many years past. I'm looking for a CDF patch before the patch says "and Fire Protection", any kind of MAFFS patches. (my unit was disbanded in 93). CA ANG has our old MAFFS tanks.

Do you have any idea where I can get some of the patches? I'm coming up short on-line.

Any Help would be appreciated immensely,

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

David A

If anyone has info for Dave, please let me know. Ab.

2/10 Ab, information on spring and fall hiring. Please post. Thanks

FS Correspondence on Spring/Fall Hiring (25 K pdf file)

Enclosure 1 R5 Firehire Timeline (9 K pdf file)

Enclosure 2 2011 OCRs for R5 pdf of excel spreadsheet (10 K pdf file)

Noname fire

2/10 AB, Re Olivia's Senior Paper

1)What do firefighters think about the funding running out each season?

A- It is bad. Bad for morale all the way up the chain, it is hard to have faith in your supervisors if fiscal mismanagement is occurring above you. It is bad for fire suppression, its hard to put out ragers if you can't afford retardant, fuel, or a few GS-4's in October. And its bad for infrastructure, the next time you go visit your local federal public lands and see shot up signs, broken bathrooms, and closures, think about where your tax dollar goes. For a Forest Supervisors 20 thousand dollar pay cut (or other appropriate cut), you could hire, or keep, 2 GS-4's for an entire 1039 hr season, or an entire Hot Shot Squad for fuels work for the Month of November.

2)Why is it that you don’t get more funding?

A- Federal Mismanagement and Poor Allocation of Tax Payer Dollars at the National Level. Irresponsible fiscal management at the Regional level.

3)And what is going to happen if the economy keeps growing and the houses keep being built more and more in the areas where fires occur?

A- Fuels is already the fastest growing area of the Fire Suppression Organization. More outreach will have to be done by land management agencies near public populations to diffuse the ease the discontent within the communities concerning Fuel Reduction to reduce the risk of wildfire in the Wildland Urban Interphase. Agencies will also have to execute Fuels plans safely, while including the populous in the planning phases. The alternative is an uneducated Public, resulting in more destroyed homes and damaged infrastructure.

MTR
2/10 Olivia, to answer your questions:

1. (What do firefighters think of funding running out each season?) In my opinion, people who are handling the firefighting budget, have very little understanding of how to handle a budget. One thing that AKFSS didn't mention is a bill that has been presented to Congress and seems to have been met with criticism. The bill is H.R.4488: The National Wildfire Infrastructure & Cost Containment Act. You can research this more here on Wildlandfire.com, or Google it. IMO, this would be a benefit to the US Government. It is frustrating year after year to learn that the budget may be cut, and this year it seems to be inevitable. We learned the other day that each district on our forest would probably have to cut 15 to 20% of our costs. Which in turn means that we will be able to hire less seasonal employees, and not hire behind Permanent Employees who move on. But, the term "do less with more" has been brought up a lot so far this year.

2. (Why is it that you don't get more funding?) I really don't know how to answer this question. Short term answer I guess, would lead us back to the Budget and the lack of it.

3. (And what is going to happen if the economy keeps growing and the houses keep being built more and more where fires occur?) The more houses that are built in areas of high fire danger, the more prone they are to be damaged by wildfire. We try and do our best with what we have to work with, and about 93-97% of the time, we are able to stop a fire before it gets to an unmanageable rate of spread. I think the organization has shifted its focus a little bit, so instead of trying to put out every wildfire that starts, we are letting fires that aren't threatening life or property burn as the natural process of fire calls for,,,but we are aggressively attacking those that are threatening life or property.

I hope this helps Olivia. I am in no way an expert on this, but I do have an opinion. Good Luck on your report.

Quick Connect
2/9 Yactak & KP:

Yactak, I know the stunning efforts KP made around the globe for the WFF and I'm still hoping you'll come back to the FWFSA like so many do but with all due respect, his post WAS the who... FEDS. Brenda shouldn't have to take the time to craft such a post as we did.

I think, and maybe I speak prematurely for others like Tony, (the FEDS Tony) Brenda, and even Vicki at the WFF and AB here at TheySaid, despite the kudos we get periodically from the community, we all get exhausted trying to give everything we have for others only to get beaten up once in a while.

Why on earth do I expose myself on TheySaid with my name rather than take the easy road and use a moniker? Why is everyone so afraid to be who they are and stand up for what they say and be willing to back up what they say?

How easy it would have been for me to simply send in my post using a moniker. Maybe I should blame AB for posting it in the first place.

For all the work KP does, he didn't spend countless months convincing Congress that PL 107-203 was leading to unintended consequences and few spent the same amount of time the FWFSA did collecting data from the field to illustrate the effects of the bill so Congress could find the credibility in what we were trying to say about the impact of the bill.

No one except the FWFSA was able to convince former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici to finally ask former Ag Undersecretary Mark Rey about the "unintended consequences" at a hearing of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee and finally get the Agency to acknowledge the law adversely impacted firefighters and had the potential for impacting the management of wildfires.

No one spent countless hours on Thirty Mile and Cramer like Tony (FEDS). I don't know of any other attorney who would field calls from those without PLI and answer their questions because of his dedication to federal wildland firefighters.

It's not Tony's fault that Congress placed this undue burden on FS firefighters. It's not his fault the agency refuses to back up their firefighters and reimburse the annual premiums 100%.

The "'insurance' part of FEDS" provides the traditional insurance component. But there is so much more. The legal guidance and the intimate understanding Tony has of how the federal laws impact federal employees and the guidance he can give folks to put them at ease AND his willingness to be there at the side of anyone who needs him is worth far more than the premium.

Just one trip across the US from Washington to California or some other West Coast destination by Tony and his staff to represent and stand beside a firefighter in need far exceeds the annual premium. The PLI protection isn't limited to fire line actions either.

So, I will apologize to KP & you and any others who felt I was out of line. I just hope folks out there realize that at times, those of us working our butts off for the federal wildland firefighting community get a bit weary from the criticisms of those who, by their comments, clearly don't understand all they need to about the subject they are complaining about.

Congress and the Agency have failed to follow up on the concerns about PL 107-203 and sadly there will always be overzealous federal prosecutors looking to make a name for themselves. Just try a bit of empathy towards Ellreese. The fact that you and other FS wildland firefighters are the only paid, professional firefighters in the Nation exposed to such potential criminal liability for doing the best job you can and making split second decisions in some of the most dangerous situations, demands that you recognize the potential.

If you choose not to protect yourself, that is your choice. I can't count the number of times firefighters have called on FEDS because they get themselves in a pickle on an incident or at work and want FEDS to cover them "retroactively." That's not the way it works.

So, again, I apologize.

Casey

Casey, thanks for speaking up.
This upcoming season when one of the numerous accidents occurs and community members text or email or call Ab or Casey or the WFF needing legal help or advice, please remember we're willing to try to help behind the scenes or on the board but our legal knowledge and power are limited. We have always helped, and numerous times per season. At the same time, please understand our frustration that you were informed here but have not protected yourselves: that you saw this message about the legal "brush buildup" and protecting yourself with PLI and didn't create defensible space around YOUR OWN houses.

Community, I very much appreciate the people that talk civilly here, provide good info, walk the talk and do it consistently year in and year out. Thanks Casey and Vicki for your dedication. Thanks Yactak for the clarification and civility. You're a bridge-builder. Brenda, thanks for the good info from FEDS and willingness to continue trying to act on my request for the PLI info for the "troops".

Anyone else got any questions or further comments, Casey and Brenda have posted their contact info. Please contact them directly.
My opinion, if you don't have PLI, please get it. Ab.

2/9 Olivia,

You will most definitely find that the funding for wildland firefighting is a very political in nature. I have been in this business for almost 2 decades and have served with several agencies including city, county, tribal/federal, and state government. The one thing that is the biggest funding problem is that management for the most part does not like to rock the boat and fails to actually convey the message to legislature of what it really takes financially to do this job effectively. When this message is not moved up to the decision makers and our agencies continue to take what legislation allocates knowing that is is not enough and tell them thank you we can make this work, we will continue on in a vicious circle.

And now in tough economic times, because the message coming from management is that we are doing the job effectively and efficiently with what has been historically given, the legislatures want to cut some back and have us move in a swift step backwards, knowing that we will give them the message that we can make it work.

So the short message is that we are under funded, most likely about to be even less funded and until there is a united message that can make it to Washington D.C. and the state capitols of what it really takes and that funding needs to be consistent, we will ride the fire funding rollercoaster. I hope that you find this helpful. Good luck to you and I wish you great success.

Big Blue

2/9 Casey,

FYI.. KP is certainly not ignorant. Re look at KP's post.. What KP said was that, in this country, the law says that the onus of proof of guilt is on the prosecution. Seems to me that KP is just saying that a firm should hold to a standard in its advertising, NOT that PLI is not needed by FS firefighters.

Casey I think you were way out of line with that post .. keep it about the what not the who, eh?

Brenda and AL I do believe you just missed Kens point. Nice post though, Brenda! Very respectful and full of information!

yactak
2/8 KP:

With all due respect to you, this will likely be one of my shortest posts ever on TheySaid as it relates to your comments about FEDS/PLI & ambulance chasing...

Ignorance is bliss.

Casey Judd
2/8 RE: Olivia

1. What do firefighters think about the funding running out each season? I don't like it.
2. Why is it that you don’t get more funding? Other federal priorities.
3. And what is going to happen if the economy keeps growing and the houses keep being built more and more in the areas where fires occur? More and more houses will burn.

Hope this helps:
Fuel Stick
2/7 Olivia-

Here are couple of good anchor points to start your research:

House Resolution 5541: FLAME Act 110-h5541

There's a lot of links to news pieces and Op-eds concerning this piece of legislation that answers part of your funding question.

Here's another report on funding through congress: RS21544.pdf

It's from 2006, but will give you good background information.

The link below will take you to a report on the growing Wildland Urban Interface issue. It will provide insight to question #3:

RL34517.pdf

The various reasons that the federal land management agencies tend to run out of money are pretty complicated, tied to politics, wrapped up in out-dated management policies, and don't make much sense. You will get a lot of opinions on this subject. However, I will say this: it doesn't make any sense that the federal land management agencies run out of money whether we have a busy season (look at the stats for 2000, 2007) or a not so busy season (2010). Basically, the funding model has been broken for years. But, like a lot of things in the Federal Government, we try and put band-aids over a gaping wound that requires surgery. In the last 10 years you've witnessed first hand with Iraq, health care, and the economic bail-outs how well Congress fixes broken items. So, after doing some research ask yourself as a taxpayer and future voter: what do you think about the funding running out each season?

AKFSS
2/7 Hi my name is Olivia,

I am in my senior year of high school and we are to write a senior research paper.

I am doing mine on Forest Firefighting and about the funding for firefighting. I was wanting to ask about some different areas:

  1. What do firefighters think about the funding running out each season?
  2. Why is it that you don’t get more funding?
  3. And what is going to happen if the economy keeps growing and the houses keep being built more and more in the areas where fires occur?

If anyone could answer these questions and add in any more information that you have for me, it would be a great help. I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you,

Olivia

Firefighters? Any answers for this young lady? Ab.

2/7 Q Fever Safety Advisory

A temporary Botanist on the Modoc NF became extremely ill immediately after leaving the job to return to school this past Fall. The symptoms were initially flu-like but fairly rapidly progressed into severe pneumonia which required lengthy hospitalization and follow-up care. The former employee was ultimately diagnosed with acute Q fever.

Q fever is caused by a bacterial pathogen, Coxiella burnetii, which commonly occurs in livestock. It can infect humans through direct contact with contaminated livestock bodily fluids, ingestion of unpasteurized milk products, and inhalation of contaminated dust in the vicinity of livestock. It is not believed to be spread by human to human contact. It is particularly dangerous to humans with immune deficiencies. The infected former employee performed months of botanical field work during dry dusty conditions in areas where cattle were present and believes that this period of work was the only time of potential exposure.

R5 Q Fever Safety Alert (pdf)

www.cdc.gov: Q fever

2/7 Thanks to Be Well for the note on the Chinese firefighter disaster posted 2/6.

I'm trying to contact the Chinese firefighters involved there to get more information for They Said. Fortunately, I started teaching myself Chinese in 2004 and am using the language daily now to talk with a variety of people throughout China who speak no English and tolerate my mutilated use of Chinese. If anyone has firefighter contacts in China, I'd be delighted if they would contact me at sedgehead :at: yahoo.com (no semicolons or spaces). The more we know about each others techniques the safer we can be.

Unrelated update: my book on firefighting is nearing completion of the first draft. I'm still learning how to write fiction, so I've also started a major revision. I hope to send it to a publisher this year. For those who contributed ideas (short incidents), thanks! For those who have ideas, send them to me! It is far from finished and I like fictionalizing a few things. A few sentences often works into a few paragraphs in the book. I'm an unpublished fiction author, so there's no guarantees it will ever see print. Contact me if you want a link to other writing I have on line.

Sedgehead

2/7 Hi All,

I was working on the South Canyon /Storm King Burnover portion of the Always Remember project. We learned a lot and have continued to learn a lot with the Tri-Data study, and implementing many kinds of changes and awareness that have resulted in changes in knowledge, skill, firefighting culture, risk management, Lessons Learned Center, etc.

I called Doug Campbell to bend his ear and asked him about what we learned at or following Storm King. Doug said there was tne thing we learned immediately that saved firefighter lives.

I got this from him after our conversation:

The Dillon fire was going after the South Canyon fatalities occurred. We say the Dillon "Fire Potential" in the slides I put together, and because of that knowledge from South Canyon, we avoided the same fate on the Dillon fire that the firefighters on the South Canyon fire suffered.

As a lesson learned or an always remember candidate I think it fits. The details are written in Pages 112 to 121, in the CPS book.

Love
Doug

Here are the slides Doug threw together for me. They incorporate the newest Bruce Schubert and Doug Campbell programming
--the union of BEHAVE and the Campbell Prediction System and are incorporating fuel types, alignments and time tags. Very
interesting. Although these are screen captures of their program, you can experiment with it for yourself.

Doug has been the driving force in organizing and teaching what the hotshot supes "knew" that made the hair on the back of their
necks stand up when they needed to move their troops to safety on the ground.

Thanks, Doug, Thanks Bruce, Thanks Willy for continuing this important work!

Love,
Mellie

Slide 1 Slide 2 Slide 3 Slide 4 Slide 5 Slide 6

2/7 Dear KP,

Thank you for your response. Federal Wildland Firefighters and the attorneys who have represented them during some of the most difficult and tragic times of their lives would have a very different response from the one you have provided. As a matter of fact, the founder of FEDS – Tony Vergnetti – is an attorney and prior to founding FEDS, provided the legal representation to several of the firefighters in the aftermath of the Thirtymile Fire, Cramer & Esperanza fires. It was after the Thirtymile tragedy that Congress enacted Public Law 107-203 – which I will discuss further shortly.

Getting back to the ad – it is very difficult to explain to people all of their exposures and all of the reasons coverage is necessary in an advertisement. This is just as complicated as it would be for you to explain in a few sentences how dangerous it is for you to do your job, how very unpredictable fire is, and that regardless of the safety tactics you employ, fatalities are going to occur.

You know fire – the unpredictability of it, the danger of it. We know the law, we know the unintended consequences of a lawmakers fight to pass legislation, we know the separate and simultaneous investigations that firefighters have been subjected to after the loss of life, we know how to defend firefighters against allegations of violating one of the 10 Standing Firefighting Orders, or violating a work/rest ratio violation, or not "appropriately addressing" one of the 18 Watchout Situations, we know how to defend federal wildland firefighters against criminal prosecution - because we’ve done it!

So if our ad scares you a bit, it should. There is so much miscommunication about liability exposures and insurance because people who don’t practice law or don’t provide professional liability insurance are often unaware of all the nuances of the law, the complicated federal investigative process, and how quickly legislation can have unintended consequences.

I urge you to either call us or read Tony Vergnetti’s Open Letter to Federal Wildland Firefighters for a complete understanding of how a criminal investigation may proceed, visit our website at fedsprotection.com for the administrative & disciplinary, civil and criminal exposures of federal wildland firefighters. Yes, wildland firefighters are exposed in all 3 areas of the professional liability policy.

One last thing – if you read this information you will understand that we don’t have to ambulance chase, and we we don’t have to use scare tactics because the investigative process and possibility of criminal prosecution is scary enough. And we don’t have to mis-represent the rule of law to get people to buy our product. What we do have to worry about is making it clear that if you don’t have the coverage – which costs $270 per year, $135 if eligible for reimbursement – you could pay tens of thousands of dollars for legal representation, and more like $100,000 for a criminal investigation and prosecution if there is an inquiry into a fire fatality due to entrapment or burnover.

Tony Vergnetti can be reached directly by calling FEDS at 866.955.FEDS. I can best be reached via mobile at 708.828.2909.

Brenda

2/7 KP,

If you had been the person accused on the Cramer burnover or involved in 30mile in any position, you would know how a little bit of insurance goes a long way. When anything like this happens everyone lawyers up even if they cant afford it or didnt think they needed to. then the bills hit them. If you think its innocent until proven guilty in the u s of a, think again or I have a bridge to sell you. Tony Vergnetti IS a lawyer and HAS PROTECTED wildland firefighters on Cramer and in other cases. Hes got my back for helping me legally and picking my experienced lawyer.

AL
sent from my iPhone

2/7 FEDS said:

...The onus is on you to prove your innocence in the complicated legal system of the 21st Century!..

No it's not. The burden is upon the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Which is why no one has gone to jail to date, since this law went into effect. Don't try to scare people into buying your insurance. You seem to me to be getting awfully close to Larry H. Parker and all of the other ambulance chaser law firms, and insurance companies that advertise during mid-afternoon, weekday television.

Do I think PLI is a good idea? Sure, I guess. But what my problem is, is that you are an insurance company and not legal representation. So please, sell your product as this is America, after all.... But don't use scare tactics, and mis-represent the rule of law to get people to buy your product.

KP

2/6 Abs,

I wanted to pass this along for They Said it if you hadn't gotten information elsewhere (or from the same list)  on the wildland fire deaths in China. Apologies if redundant.

6 wildland FF deaths in China (from New Year's fireworks lighting the forests)

Be well -

2/4 Ab,

I finally got time to edit the video footage of the GPS recon flight where we mapped debris in the Queensland flooded areas of Lockyer Valley and Murphy's Creek where several fatalities occurred. It's interesting to note that the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) first used this mobile mapping system to keep fire officials informed in the State Operations Coordination Center (SOCC) during the November 2008 Gap storms. This happened three months before Victoria Police transmitted real-time locational information of the deceased from the fire through the Melbourne Rescue Coordination Center ArcGIS Server during the 2009 bushfires.

Hotlist thread

Decision makers in the SOCC were able to flight follow and see edits to the database as we made them. We were running the ArcGIS Mobile software on both a handheld PDA and a Tablet PC. The PDA was synchronizing with a server located on the Amazon cloud somewhere in the US. Friends visiting FDNY were monitoring our progress on a wildland fire situational awareness viewer from New York City. What made it even more exciting was when we accessed the same common operational picture on the Internet (from the back seat of the helicopter) that everyone else was viewing to watch us and see the updates we were transmitting as they were displayed in TOM in Brisbane. You have to be a true geek to appreciate the full experience of something like that! It was so refreshing to work with QFRS. Nobody knew about their past geospatial accomplishments. It's time to set the record straight. They were the first emergency service agency in Australia to use the technology for real-time mapping.

Fire Geek

I added it to the IMWTK - GIS History. Ab.

2/4 Need for PLI:

Ab,

Not sure if you want to post but after reviewing the 2011 Redbook changes and some former documents, I thought reader and PLI providers might find this very interesting. Where would one stand if something went wrong?

I started with a all risk document dated 2006 (13 K) followed by foundational doctrine (385 K pdf file), the last three are out of the 2011 Standards for Fire and Aviation Handbook (443 K pdf file) specifically relating to non-wildland response, fires and medical response.

The Forest Service has given us the idea that we are an "all risk" agency with certain documents, but as Randy Moore said "if it's not covered in the Mission Statement and something goes wrong the Agency will not back you" and the 2011 Red Book states that "you will not respond".

Food for thought I guess. Just have to wait till something goes wrong and see where the Agency stands. Sad but only a matter of time.

No clear direction with mixed rules of engagement. The Agency has made it so complex that they can never be held liable when something goes wrong.

I know this question has been raised on socal forests about whether to respond and the reply was "they are within our mutual aid agreements" but the Red Book says they shouldn't. The Region has more horsepower than Forests like the ANF, the BDF, or the LPF.

Glad I retire soon, hate to see a firefighter or firefighter manager lose everything they worked for by making the wrong decision.

Even though I am short I still have a great deal of concern for my fellow firefighters.

Thanks,

JS

PLI can be a safety net to help with the complexity. I've been amazed at how Tony Vergnetti at FEDS can cut right through the confusing words to help you protect yourself. Ab.

2/4

Feds Are Human
And humans sometimes misremember, misspeak or make a mistake!

Consider performing this google search - attorneys representing federal employees.

There are many firms devoted solely to the representation of federal employees - so.if you still don't think you need a Professional Liability Insurance policy or don't know why you would ever have a legal problem as a result of your job duties as a federal employee, find out! Call us, visit our website, or call one of the legal firms that popped up in your search and ask them how litigious our society is today and how federal employees are held accountable for daily decisions and actions, misremembering, misspeaking or just making an honest mistake.

You can also ask them who can make an allegation against you resulting in an investigation or civil suit - most federal employees do not realize this could be any member of the public, a politically motivated elected official, a subordinate or co-worker, a special interest group, or a member of Congress or your agency - resulting in an investigation.

You do not have to be guilty of anything to be faced with a situation that you are required to hire legal counsel for - at a great expense to you and your family. The onus is on you to prove your innocence in the complicated legal system of the 21st Century! We have seen many federal employees in a situation where the costs associated with qualified and experienced legal defense was unaffordable and it is heartbreaking.

Our coverage is available starting at $11 per pay period and works much like your home and auto protection. You need to have the coverage in place prior to the claim, allegation or suit or coverage will not apply! If you had to hire one of these lawyers without a professional liability policy, you would pay $275 - $400 PER HOUR, our $1,000,000 policy cost is $270 PER YEAR ($135 if you are a managers/supervisor because agencies are required to reimburse up to half your costs - what does that tell you?)

Do your job and trust us to do ours! We are the experts in federal employee professional exposures - along with the experienced and qualified attorneys that represent federal employees - so don't think 'this could never happen to me' - because it can, it does, and we have the claims and consultations to prove it!

Federal Employee Defense Services, Inc.
www.fedsprotection.com
866.955.FEDS

2/3 Interesting Historic socal story I received. Had to retype it from newspaper image...

1933 Griffith Park Burnover and Doug Campbell & Bruce Schubert's fire behavior program.
FYI from Doug: Here's the lat/lon of the fire: lat 34.1371 and long -118.2933

Mellie

Thanks, I Posted it here: 1933-10-03 Griffith Park Story Ab.

2/3 72-hour report -

KS-Smoky Hills Wind Farm Burnover (42 K pdf)

Also posted it on the on the Hotlist thread: KS-KSX Smoky Hills burnover

Also an interesting variety of perspectives on Fire Shelter Use or non-use and a YouTube video lecture by an astronaut on "The Normalization of Deviance and Predictable Surprises": Hotlist

2/3 I have attached a flyer for a Wildland Firefighter Foundation fundraiser that we are doing, can you post this on they said?
Could you also post a link to our web site? eldoradohotshots.org

Thanks for your help

Brad
2/3 NWCG Incident Management Organization Succession Planning (IMOSP)

The NWCG Incident Management Organization Succession Planning (IMOSP) website is up and running. You can locate the website two ways:

1. From the NWCG website located at: www.nwcg.gov/ You'll see the tab on the left hand navigation bar for IMOSP

2. Go directly to the page at: contacts.php

Of interest are the three documents on the right side of the page, "Introduction, Overarching Principles, and Organizational Models."

The purpose of these models is to allow NWCG to start a conversation with key stakeholders to define the changing role and composition of IMTs to meet the future needs of the public, the agencies, the fire service and the team members themselves.

None of the proposed models are expected to be adopted as currently described. These ideas are a starting point in a process to move the evolution of IMTs into the future through engagement of team members and those that supervise and utilize IMTs.

Comments and suggestions to: IMsuccessionplanning@gmail.com

Please monitor this website, where additional information will be published as it becomes available.

Tony Doty

2/3 Hi Ab,

Just wondering if anyone has heard anything regarding 2011 AD rates and whether or not there will be any changes from 2010?

Thanks

still an AD'er
2/3 Hello,

I am trying to track down the firefighter who was injured during falling ops, who now speaks to crews about the hazards and dangers of falling ops. I believe his name was Cris, or at least I think that's how he spelled his name. I know he had website setup a few years ago, but I either can't find it now or it is no longer active. Im guessing I just can't find it. We are hoping to have him speak during our training.

Any info would be appreciated.

Thanks,

KB

That's KRS (Krstofer Evans), the former Plumas Hotshot. I'll send you his email as he's requested I do. Ab.

2/2 The new Open Continuous Announcements are different than last season's.

To locate the announcements, log into Avue. From the home page, on the red task bar, click on the Job Search tab. Then in the gray tabs find and click on "Search by Filters". Go into the second search area "Announcement Number" and type OCRT-462-3-FIRE-DT then click on the red add button. The announcement number will appear in the box in the top right corner. You can then click on the red "Find Jobs" button. Than will open a new page, scroll down to find the "Vacancy Search" area. Roll your cursor over the name job title "Forestry Aid (Fire)" and click on it. That will open the vacancy announcement. You can then go into the job application by clicking on the red "Apply Now" button on the right.

I hope this helps.

Rita Yates

2/2 I have had the occasion to call the Avue Help Desk and they have been very helpful. Good Luck! 1-800-407-0147

SRF_Firegirl
2/1 Needs help with AVUE:

When I enter the updated post numbers in the avue website under "apply for jobs" the search back with nothing. I need guidance please help.

My name is Alex by the way.

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