August, 2011

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8/31 Surreal

Just a note to say I was flipping channels in a hotel in West Africa last night and there was a show on about Wildland Fire, dubbed in French (of course). Tanker 64 (you know it is old if they were still flying) was dropping retardant and then pretty soon, on comes Kenny Franz talking about spotting and Smokejumpers.

Surreal, is the only way I could describe it! Small world.

Stay safe,

Kibble free
Sent from my iPad

Hope you're having a very interesting time!. Ab.

8/31 Great questions!

Why would anything change just because the employees are now under the Master Agreement? Nothing changed in their duties. As a matter of fact I would bet that the employees wouldn't even know this happened if they hadn't been told, so they would know that they are now in the BU.
  • Article 1 - They are supervisors as defined on pg 8 # 18 of the MA. It quotes the exclusion from the Statute (5 U.S.C. 7103 (a) (10). They will continue to do the it the same as they did before, reward, evaluate performance, assign and direct work.
  • Article 4 - They are still supervisors, as such they will continue to deal with performance issues as they did before.
  • Article 15 - They are supervisors so they will have the supervisor elements in their rating. As the supervisor they will continue to do the ratings for the employees on their module.
  • Article 18 - Yes these rules on credit hours apply to all employees, they always have. You can't be forced to earn credit hours.

No this doesn't change anything with their status under FLSA of exempt and non exempt. They are still supervisors.

This must be my second correction that we've been looking for- This is not an MOU. There were petitions filed with FLRA to decide this. After discussions with management we all decided that it didn't make sense to waste all of the time and money that it would take for two agencies to make a decision on a win/ win issue. Then there is the fact that this battle has been fought before as the 13 case files that I found were evidence to. That is why this is a "Settlement Agreement".

This is a great forum to get the word out to many, but if you have any specific questions or you just want to talk, give me a call.

Ronald C. Angel
Cell 208-290-7188

FLRA = Federal Labor Relations Authority (if interested, check flra.gov)
FLSA = Fair Labor Standards Act

8/31 Abs.

While sitting back relaxing, listening to the folks i know handling all of our lightning strikes, now incident numbers, i reflected back in time when we were all complaining of routines without any fire to practice on...never wish for dry lightning, or say we are the asbestos forest, hole in the donut, etc. It always amazes me that we (they) can keep the fires so small, so few are extended, and that lookouts and dispatchers can keep up . I guess we are blessed with incredibly talented fine young folks who can do this every year...borrowing a phrase from car culture, firefighting here feels like a Bugatti Veyron going from zero to sixty in under 3 seconds...An amazing group of firefighters in central oregon...

To Al in Fire Behavior, thanks for the lesson about the "dryline", i'd never heard of that or a Heat Front...Really enjoyed the bantering of Warthog & Misery Whip about the Coal Fire FLA and that related discussion...it's what keeps me interested and coming back...


8/31 Thanks Ron.

You mentioned:
"The simple answer is none of this changes"
"is now in the BU and covered by the Master Agreement"

Here are some questions.

If these employees are now covered by the Master Agreement, how can items such as performance elements, ratings, OT, pay, travel, PAYCHECK approvals not change?

Article 1 - pg 7 and 8 - Definitions. Are these GS 8 and 9 employees still supervisors or are they now employees as defined by the Master Agreement? If your answer is employees, can they still reward, evaluate performance and assign and direct work?

Article 4 - pg 12, #13 first paragraph talks about private discussions with employees about conduct, disapproval, unacceptable performance. Are these GS-8 and 9's still permitted to to perform this work this type of work?

Article 15 - Performance management, does everything in this article apply to these GS8 and 9's? Do these GS8 and 9's receive "employee" performance elements (3) or "supervisor/management" performance elements (5)? Who completes the performance ratings for the lower grade employees assigned to the module?

Article 18 - Do all the requirements of this article apply to the GS8 and 9 employees?
Specifically this one: (d) Employees cannot be forced to earn credit hours.

Does this MOU change exempt or non-exempt status for GS8 and 9's?

That's about it for now. Thanks for your insights.

8/30 Station Fire, Fallen Brothers, 2 lives lost, 8/29/09

Fire Captain Ted Hall, Superintendent 16
Fire Fighter Specialist Arnie Quinones, Foreman Crew 16-3

I left the Big Meadow fire for the Station fire that morning, excited the team had ordered the "Klump-Pumps" for the high country above Azusa. I heard about Arnie and Ted while listening to talk radio enroute. Can't believe it's been 2 years now. Can't forget the look in everyone's eyes at the base camp that nite.

Wearing my shirt the WFF had at the camp with pride today.

Always Remember !

Rick Calkins, Paso Robles, CA.

Thanks for reminding us, Rick. Ab.

8/30 Fire Hire dDeadline?

I was doing what I thought was last minute touch ups on my applications for R5 fire hire and saw that the closing date had changed to the 23rd or so of September from the 1st... Was curious if the date actually changed or is the shut off still the 1st?


The announcement of changing the deadline to the 1st of August was posted on 8/10. Was there anything later?
Fire Hire as described on 8/10.
Apprentice Fire Hire was described on 8/18.
You might read through the whole month and call someone "in the know". Or perhaps someone will clarify this here...

8/30 Re Settlement Agreement for fire positions


Thanks for a civil response where we can both gain through questions and answers. You hit the nail right on the head with your statement that there needs to be answers to questions about real world issues like performance elements, ratings, OT, pay, travel, PAYCHECK approvals. For some reason this has been the most confusing part of this agreement and it should be the easiest to explain to people. I don't know why it hasn't been done yet.

The simple answer is none of this changes. If you did it before the agreement you do it now exactly as you did before. The only change that happened because of this agreement was that a group of employees that by law should have been in the BU for years, is now in the BU and covered by the Master Agreement. There were no other changes to the duties performed or the way they are performed. As I told Tom Harbour this is one of those rare win/ win situations.

The definition of supervisor in the Statute ( Law ) has an exclusion in it that allows firefighters and nurses to be both supervisors and in the BU if they don't spend over 50% of their time actually doing the duties of a supervisor.

What's the downside? They can join the union if they want or not if they don't want. I would think that with the attack on not only the fire organization, but our agency as a whole we would work together in any way that we can to stop the onslaught.

Ronald C. Angel

BU = Bargaining Unit

8/30 Re Settlement Agreement for fire positions

Response to Ron

Ron said:

First of all I agree with (curious) him that for some reason R5 is having some difficultly implementing the agreement.

Response from Curious – Thanks for agreeing with me.

Ron Said:

I do agree that something needs to come out from the W.O. confirming it,

Response from Curious – Thanks for agreeing with me again. I don’t need a WO response to confirm this MOU has been signed. I read the MOU signed by you and Tom. I need something from the WO or RO and or NFFE to tell me how to implement it. Implement it not in a courtroom or in the halls of ASC, but how to implement it in the real world. Answer questions such; 1) which performance rating elements do we use. 2) Who does the performance rating. 3) OT, pay, travel and PAYCHECK approvals and does this affect exempt/ non-exempt status, etc. And many more…

Ron said:

but in reality the settlement agreement went into effect the day it was signed, July 19 -

Response from Curious - That’s not a correction. Never said it didn’t.

Ron said:

I heard that one R5 Forest Supervisor said she won't allow her GS 8 or 9s to be in the BU. I think an agreement signed by Tom Harbour trumps her wishes.

Response from Curious – We agree yet again, she is acting inappropriately. We must follow the agreement signed by the Forest Service. I never suggested we don’t.

Ron said:

I know that the letter from the W.O. is slow in coming, but I also know that the person from HRM that I negotiated this with has spoken with HR in R5 and they know how this is going to work.

Response from Curious – Thanks again for agreeing with me that more details are urgently needed. However, confidence is not high that when the letter comes out it will be an all encompassing letter. I hope community can count on you for follow up questions. Repeating, I don’t need a letter from the WO announcing the MOU. Just need them to Q and A implementation.

Ron said:

Curious: 1) ask the W.O.

- My reply: I know your FAM Director already has.

Curious: 2) lay low and hope everyone forgets about it.

- My reply: To late. It's already implemented and moving along.

Response from Curious – These were not questions they were commentary. Please re-read this section of the post.

Ron said:

We looked at all of the PDs when we started this and BC/ AFMO PDs said from 25% to 40%. If you look at case
law from the past investigations even structure Chiefs have a hard time reaching 25% of their time actually doing
the duties. We agree to disagree. This is a mistake.

Response from Curious – We agree to disagree. I stand by my post, this is a mistake.

Ron thanks for your post. You mentioned you have a couple things to correct me on. Was the second correction coming in your next post? We seem to be agreeing more than disagreeing.

40 days since the signing and no details. What I am hearing is the the Forest Service and NFFE are not in agreement on how to implement this.

Reading Ron and Dan's R5 letter,

As part of our discussion, we recognized the need for better communication on this matter, but also concurred that
any further guidance would need to come from the Washington Office.

The Partnership Council came together to discuss and they could not come to agreement on how to implement and are asking for further guidance. They have the MOU as well and R5 Management and NFFE seem to not be able to answer questions or not agreeing to the answers.


8/30 Cal Fire Aircraft Response Guidelines:

In reference to Kim Zagaris, State Fire and Rescue Chief and the Cal Fire Aircraft Response Guidelines on federal incidents (after the aero union contract cancellation) the Chief should perhaps recall that virtually every aircraft in the CalFire fleet has a little metal plate attached that states "Property of the US Forest Service" and are on loan to the State of California from the feds under the FEPP program and the state can be required to be returned them without cause on a 60 day notice should the feds need them back for a higher priority, hmmm say firefighting?

signed RPP (Retired Paper Pusher)

8/30 AD problem:

Ab please post my problem:

Please send thoughts and recommendations for dealing with this situation?

I am an AD (former government employee) with overhead qualifications for 8 years. All my evals have been very positive, with mostly exceptional ratings. The manager at my dispatch has changed and the new officer is anti-AD. He's refused to initiate three taskbooks in new areas, even with the local IC request. He denied any training this last spring with the comment that he is not there to promote ADs in the ICS system. Luckily, name requests are honored and so I've had work !

What are some positive ways I can get taskbooks initiated from other sources? Or am I forced to leave this area to move to a less hostile dispatch center?

Thanks for any suggestions.


8/29 AP is reporting the Lateral West Fire is still smoking after 10-15 inches of rain.

"Bearer said officials conducting a flyover Sunday spotted at least 30 areas where smoke is still billowing. Bearer said that the question now is whether the rain soaked deep enough to extinguish the fire, which has been burning 4 feet to 5 feet deep in the peat since Aug. 4.

The fire was considered 35 percent contained Friday before the storm"

Irene Soaks Great Dismal Swamp Fire, Arkansas

We just spent 14 days down there before Irene hit, not really looking forward to another 14.

8/29 Re Curious/Settlement Agreement for fire positions

As Reagan said, "here we go again". I want to correct a couple of things in the post from Curious on 8/27 concerning the Settlement Agreement for fire positions. First of all I agree with him that for some reason R5 is having some difficultly implementing the agreement. None of the other regions are.

I do agree that something needs to come out from the W.O. confirming it, and they have assured me that there is, but in reality the settlement agreement went into effect the day it was signed, July 19. All of the other dates in the agreement are for completion of administrative tasks. Proof of this is that there have already been GS 9s, both Battalion Chiefs and AFMOs, from regions 1, 6 and 5 that have joined the union. They couldn't have done this if they weren't in the BU.

I heard that one R5 Forest Supervisor said she won't allow her GS 8 or 9s to be in the BU. I think an agreement signed by Tom Harbour trumps her wishes.

I know that the letter from the W.O. is slow in coming, but I also know that the person from HRM that I negotiated this with has spoken with HR in R5 and they know how this is going to work. I don't know where the confusion is.

Curious: 1) ask the W.O.
- My reply: I know your FAM Director already has.

Curious: 2)  lay low and hope everyone forgets about it.
- My reply:  To late. It's already implemented and moving along.

I know that there are some like Curious that can't understand this, but to those that really want to learn go to FLRA . gov. Look under definitions in the Statute where it lists specific tasks of a supervisor. The law has the investigator look at how much employment time is actually spent performing these duties, not what your PD says.

We looked at all of the PDs when we started this and BC/ AFMO PDs said from 25% to 40%. If you look at case law from the past investigations even structure Chiefs have a hard time reaching 25% of their time actually doing the duties.

Hope this helps.

Ronald C. Angel

BU = Bargaining Unit

8/28 Here's a great website to start making our voices known in DC. Please check it out .


Diamondback Dave

8/27 Settlement Agreement for GS 8/9 Fire Employees

In other words. The Region has no clue how to implement the settlement agreement and will do one of two things

  1. Ask the WO.
  2. Lay low and hope everyone forgets about it. Maybe both.

How can anyone think that a GS8 Engine or Crew Captain, or a GS9 Batt Chief or Supt don't supervise the preponderance of their time?


File Code: 1020
Date: August 26, 2011
Route To:
Subject: Settlement Agreement for GS 8/9 Fire Employees
To: All Region 5 Employees

Region 5's Partnership Council met on August 10th and shared information regarding the recent national settlement agreement related to making GS 8/9s in fire bargaining unit employees. As part of our discussion, we recognized the need for better communication on this matter, but also concurred that any further guidance would need to come from the Washington Office. We expect this guidance to be issued soon. Meanwhile, Region 5 Partnership Council members wanted to ensure that the settlement agreement was shared widely.

Enclosed to this letter is a copy of the settlement agreement. Although this settlement agreement doesn't directly affect all employees, we thought it best to send it to all so we didn't miss anyone

/s/ Ronald G. Ketter
Deputy Regional Forester

/s/ Dan Duefrene
Regional Vice President for Region 5


8/26 I wish to have this added concerning TJ:

Who among the fire service (Lassen or anywhere else) that was on duty and at the site of TJ's accident were the first on scene and what specifically did you do to try and save his life. I would like a list of names and what each of you did.. You needn't be graphic,

Also by name, who talked to the coroner.

Note that nothing will bring him home to me.

Finally as part of critique, what could have been done different or better,

Thomas D. Marovich, Sr.

Thinking of you Tom. We lost a good one when we lost your son. Those personal stories count for a lot. I'm happy to pass anonymous messages. Ab.

8/26 Misery Whip,
Well said, I don't think I could have stated it any better. When we always have a preoccupation with failure that is utilizing retrospect before it even happens allowing us to plug that whole in the Swiss cheese, so to speak. As long as we use the FLA as intended and not pick and choose the parts we like and disregard what we don't like we will just be sugar coating it. I will leave it at that.

t fielden
8/25 Misery Whip,

I agree that the goal is the search for just culture, and that it is permeating upwards rather than trickling down. As long as people with passion, and you are among them, reach for that, our organization will improve.


8/25 Everyone,

Austin is being released today. We are in the process of upgrading the rental car so he is comfortable on their trip back home. We have been in close contact with his family.

Thank you to our 52 Club Members and donors for your support. Your support makes it possible for us to help. Thank you.

Wildland Firefighter Foundation

Good news. 52 Club. If you haven't signed up, please do so. We need our safety net. Ab.

8/25 Can anyone update us on how Austin the firefighter from South Dakota is doing?



He's doing well. Vicki (WFF) was in SD helping out as she always does -- as our safety net. Perhaps Vicki or Melissa has more info on his release from the hospital. Ab.

8/25 Urgent Fire Behavior & Weather Advisory:


I think some clarification is needed to frame the context of my email that has circulated so widely.

My instructions were perfectly clear when I said to forward to your "all everybody" lists. Some of your email lists are much more extensive than mine. My intent was to get this to all the firefighters in the Black Hills and perhaps in the Rocky Mtn Area. At least I started a widespread discussion that's not about the USFS vs. CALFIRE.

To make this perfectly clear, this was NOT about the weather the day of Coal Canyon fire fatality or relating to the 320 Road Entrapment Avoidance FLA. Others are working/have worked on those issues. It is also NOT a scientific technical paper but should be viewed along the lines of an operational briefing directed to local firefighters. This is about the weather forecasted by my IMET and observed by both of us along with several hundred firefighters on the line at the Coal Canyon fire on Sunday 8/14/11. It also relates specifically to southwestern South Dakota, but judging from my responses nationwide similar things happen elsewhere. Raising awareness about local weather is a very good thing for all of us.

I am a Fire Behavior Analyst. I am not a Meteorologist, I just work with them a lot. My job is to paint a picture in the minds of the firefighters on the ground about what the expected fire behavior will be. When we were preparing our forecasts for the IAP Saturday night, my IMET told me about a thermal trough that would be in the fire area. I'll admit it, I just was not getting what he was talking about when he used proper meteorological terminology. So he started to paint me a picture which he is very good at. He said do you know what a dryline is? Sure, I've watched Stormchasers and asked if we are going to get severe weather out east of the Black Hills. Then he said think of it as a "Heat Front" instead of a cold front. Bingo! I now had a perfectly clear picture of the fire weather he was forecasting and I'm thinking the firefighters can really relate to this description. We can use it during briefing. Every firefighter and their grandmother knows what will happen when a cold front is forecast. Now it's my turn to relate the fire behavior to the troops. Now I don't remember the exact wording I used, but it was somewhere along the lines of this: When the winds kick over to the west/northwest the dryline is here, the fire will get up and run like a scalded dog, don't be anywhere in front of it when it happens. Now this assessment really is not using Rothermel's Surface Fire Spread Model properly and I'm quite sure that the Fire Lab has not measured the speed of canines exposed to a variety of thermally induced trauma. I did paint a picture of what will happen to everybody at briefing. I could have started my briefing with "I did some BehavePlus runs on the computer.....", but I would have lost my effectiveness right away and they would have not been prepared for the day. That could have lead to more unfortunate things happening on the fire.

One other thing I discovered: The current Watchout Situation #14 "Weather is getting hotter and dryer" lost its context in the translation to the 18 Watchouts from the original 13 Watchout Situations. It used to be Watchout Situation #4 "You feel the weather getting hotter and dryer". If you Feel It you are experiencing a rapid change and that's what is dangerous. The weather getting hotter and dryer from morning to afternoon, day to day or season to season is easily predictable and expected. Probably something we should look into, similar to returning the 10 Standard to their original format.

If I came off acting like a mother grizzly bear protecting her cubs, I apologize. I was just........ well I think I've painted that picture with the big, fat crayon I used to draw my nomogram. I'm a Fire Behavior Analyst, that's what I do. Attached is the weather observations from a nearby RAWS station to illustrate the rapid change. Note the wind direction/RH in the afternoon and the dewpoints between 16:75-18:57.

Stay safe and make sure all your firefighters fully understand the implications of what the weather/fire behavior can do.

(See attached file: Red Canyon (65 K pdf))

Al Stover
Assistant Fire Management Officer
Northern Great Plains Fire Management
National Park Service

Thanks Al. Ab.

8/25 Warthog,

I am also a fan of Weick, Sutcliffe, Reason, Dekker, etc. I have participated on past entrapment and fatality investigation teams, but not FLAs. I am very familiar with the concept though.

I agree with some of what you said, but I don't agree that hindsight bias is our greatest challenge to developing a learning culture, and probably not even one of the top 3. According to Reason, a just culture must be established before a learning culture will flourish, and we don't have anything remotely like a just culture yet. PL 107-203, and a general lack of honesty from our senior managers about the appalling state of the Forest Service Fire and Aviation program prevent us from having a just culture.

I remember hearing Dr. Weick say several years ago that he felt the term High Reliability Organizing better expressed the intent of HRO as opposed to High Reliability Organization, the distinction being that HRO is not a goal that you reach or a label that you get to wear. To paraphrase what Dr. Weick said, HRO is best expressed as a never-ending introspective process to weed out and eliminate latent failures within the system. We're not very good at that yet, either.

I think our senior managers want to wear the HRO label without doing the hard work it takes to achieve a very high level of reliability. I hear them talk the talk all the time, but I don't see them walking the walk. I think they have latched on to FLAs as the flavor of the month in a bid for credibility.

I respect the people who put themselves out there to facilitate FLAs, but it will take a hell of a lot more than good intentions to fix our fire organization's many latent failures. I have said on this site before that what we really need is a highly trained and skilled investigative arm of the Forest Service similar to the NTSB system before we will learn all of the lessons we should from our accidents and near misses. Until our FLAs have a management component, they will still just be focusing on those at "the sharp end of the spear," which helps somewhat but does not cure the larger problems like our dysfunctional and frequently dishonest senior management caste.


Misery Whip
8/24 H,

I don't believe we have a community full of bigots and those opposed to a diverse work environment, just the opposite.
Diversity brings strength; I firmly believe this, always have and always will.
  • What I am opposed to is targeted hiring for target jobs, while excluding the best applicant, fire or non-fire.
  • What I am opposed to is secretive plans for hiring and the WO's move away from the President's open government initiative.
  • What I am opposed to is the Forest Service bringing in a NIMO team who are paid for by suppression funds to go behind closed doors and do the work, which will  likely be perceived as "dirty work" because of the lack of transparency.
  • What I am opposed to is not having a full accounting of what is going on back in DC during this so called "hiring pause" and the 100 positions set aside for the 100 Hire Club.

Try calling a HR Specialist and ask them about the status of a job you applied to. They have no answers other than it's back in DC for determination for selection.

What I do agree with you about and share your concern is how we treat those hired. White, black, brown, blue or purple, we must all commit to welcome them as they are now part of the team. Employees have methods to seek justice when discriminated against during a hiring process. These same employees must rise above the discrimination and support the new hire. If you were wronged and if you fight, this will be where you can place your anger, in front of an arbitrator or judge, not the employee who was hired.

This is a tough subject. However please don't label the community. Many in this community have spent a good part of their lives supporting a progressive agenda. An agenda of inclusiveness, understanding and openness to multiple groups and lifestyles of all Americans. An agenda supportive of union representation for workers, affordable health care and opposition to corporate greed.



Two examples of posts found in our community that show our support for an inclusive work environment:

Read 7/26 post

We sincerely hope that the current agency approach will not impede progress toward the worthy goals of cultural transformation. We share the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr., that "children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." However, we also subscribe to Dr. King's warning, that "in the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds."

Read 7/21 post

What the Chief is outlining is disgraceful. Whether this is for fire or non-fire positions, it is going backwards 50 years. I will fight this, I will educate someone tonight about his memo.

They have been dancing around this subject for the past 6 months. This memo outlines the 100 Hire Club.

When I was a kid, I remember my mom telling me stories about Doctor Martin Luther King. She loved him dearly and she always told me to remember the importance of his messages. As a country we have come so far, and many of us work hard to build and embrace a diverse work environment. But we can't embrace violations of merit promotion, we can't embrace quotas.

This will not be allowed to continue. I ask for your help with backing down our Chief and have him explain in detail how the 100 Hire Club works.

8/24 ***URGENT CWCG Safety Alert*** California Radio Communication System Changes with attachments

Share widely with any resource that may engage in Wildland Fire Suppression Activities in California.

Note mitigation to hold Tailgate Safety Session to discuss the communication changes.

Peter Tolosano
Chair CWCG Wildland Fire Safety Officers Committee

CAL FIRE Radio Communication Changes 2011 (36 K pdf)
CALEMA White Fire VFire Channels Operations Bulletin #28 2-18-11 (27 K pdf)
CWCG_Safety Alert 8222011 (253 K pdf)
Narrowbanding Safety Bulletin May 2011 (82 K pdf)

8/24 RE: 320 Road Entrapment Avoidance FLA

Having participated on FLA teams, buried myself in Weick, Dekker and others, I believe the most difficult endeavor we, as a learning organization face, is guarding against hindsight bias. In a reporting culture, the goal is gaining the confidence of the players in the incident so they feel free in sharing what happened. We cannot say "you should have seen this, or done that" but search for the answer to "what did they see that led them down the path they took?" Answering that question opens the door for learning, both at the individual and corporate level.

FLAs are not and will not become another management methodology to put blame "…at the sharp end of the spear." Most of our Risk Management and Fire leadership senior managers understand and support the concepts of just culture, realizing that everyone makes mistakes. Systemic problems may very well be an outcome of the learning analysis and an avenue to correct the larger picture, which may lead to identification of latent failures at the managerial levels. But for this to occur, everyone must feel comfortable with a reporting culture.

"Generative or high reliability organizations encourage upward flow of safety-related information. Bureaucratic or calculative organizations don't necessarily shoot the messenger, but they do not welcome the feedback either. (J.Reason - The Human Contribution)" FLAs rest with the former. We should support all at any level attempting to make a reporting culture a safe culture.

While I somewhat agree with Recognition Primed Decision making, it is but a component of the total picture. Each individual has to call on the slides they've cataloged to reach an outcome. Focusing on ongoing operations is challenging, and the fireline supervisor needs not only RPD, but the confidence to locate and defer to centers of expertise; to build that tray of slides; to learn from mistakes, i.e the errors we all make. You know, be willing to share issues and respect the feed back that may be generated.



8/24 Dear Ab,

This is very important and I wanted to give it a wide audience....can it be posted please?

Thanks so much!


Subject: Urgent Fire Behavior & Weather Advisory

Please forward to your "all everybody" lists. Duplication is encouraged.

Share with all your fire personnel. I will be making a more formal version soon but this is important enough to get out now. As in the aviation world if you see something say something. Well, the Incident Meteorologist Darren Clabo and myself as Fire Behavior Analyst saw something on the Coal Canyon fire so I'm going to say something.

There is a very dangerous fire weather pattern that occurred twice during the Coal Canyon fire. It is called a Dryline. While it is commonly tracked in the southern plains (the NWS Amarillo, TX newsletter is called The Dryline), it is not routinely tracked in the northern plains. I have discussed this morning with the NWS Rapid City of the need to highlight in their fire weather forecast discussion when this pattern sets up. We know that it can at least effect the Edgemont area.

When it occurs, expect a rapid increase in temperature and corresponding rapid decrease in relative humidity. While technically incorrect it is easiest for firefighters to understand it's effects by calling it a "Heat Front". It can happen with the speed of a cold front but without the easily recognized visual indicators. There will be a dramatic increase in potential fire behavior when this happens. Here are the signs to look for:

You feel the weather getting hotter and dryer, improved visibility, smoldering fires picking up, and the key indicator is a westerly/northwesterly wind shift. This weather condition can be forecast in advance by an Incident Meteorologist or the National Weather Service, but it is unlikely to be recognized in time by a firefighter on the ground without prior knowledge that this will occur.

Fine Fuel loading in the Black Hills is very high area wide from 3 consecutive years of above normal grass growth. In the area from Newcastle to Edgemont this grass is mostly cured and will contribute considerably to increased fire behavior. Fuel conditions can be characterized as grassy meadows, open closed/canopy Ponderosa pine with some jackpots of heavy dead down fuel intermixed and a “brush-like” timber combination of short Ponderosa pine mixed with Juniper/pine regeneration. This fuel combination which reacts more like a brush model (chaparral) than a timber model is the most volatile fuel in the area. In addition, the heavy dead downed/grassy fuels in the old burn scars can be characterized as having the heat of a timber fire with the speed of a grass fire. Spotting risk is extreme in the old dead down fuel. The trigger to increased fire behavior on the Coal Canyon fire (torching, spotting problems) was a RH 30% and unshaded fuels.

In summary, dangerous weather, fuel conditions and fire behavior has happened in southwestern South Dakota. The speed of the change in weather can create a situation where a fire burning under moderate conditions will transition to extreme fire behavior with little warning. If you are on a fire in the Southern Black Hills, you better have your game face on.

Al Stover
Assistant Fire Management Officer
Northern Great Plains Fire Management
National Park Service

8/24 making the rounds:

Subject: September Apprentice Fire Hire - Postponed Until FY12.

Based on the FY11 Regional Travel Ceiling, the Apprentice Fire Hire session will be delayed until next fiscal year.

We are developing a proposed timeline that will complete the Apprentice Hiring and 6-9 Fire Hire by November 10th, 2011.

We will provide you with the approved timeline and other updates as we get them. However, for planning purposes we tentatively are looking at the Apprentices SME work starting on October 10th and Recommendations on October 31st. Apprentice Selections will be combined with the Perm GS6-9 Selections.

Again, we will inform you as additional information is received. If you have any questions, please contact Liz Wright at (619) 445-6235, Ext 3429.

Elizabeth Wright
Regional Fire Planner, Fire and Aviation Mgmt
Region 5, Forest Service

8/24 Congratulations to Vicki Minor!

A well deserved congratulations goes out to Vicki Minor, winner of the Emergency Services division of the Idaho Health Care Heroes. I can't think of a person more deserving of this honor than Vicki. She is always there for the firefighters, families, friends and co-workers during the best of times and the worst of times.

We love you Vicki!! You will always be our hero.


Hear Hear! Ab.

8/24 why wildfires are getting bigger:


Couple of thoughts about your question as to why wildfires are getting bigger:

The fire history that most people look at is the stuff of the last 50-75 years. There are large fires in this state previous to that but not all are on the state fire history layer and not all of them were mapped. If you read some of Alan Taylor's and Carl Skinner's fire history reports there was alot of fire in the state of California before we ever started to put them out, more fire in the past than currently happens. The change that has happened is the severity of some of the fires.

We have changed how we fight fire. When I started my career, large fires where project fires and your red bag was a war bag and we flanked fires. We would chase them up hills, side hill etc, but we stayed on the flank till we pinched off the head. The indirect tactic that is used so much now was reserved for the big bad fires that we could not get around any other way. We also used the night to our advantage and worked night shift. Some places it was never done due to safety, but many other places it was done successfully and we caught fires.

The urban/interface: many times when house are too close to a starting fire, we drop back and put our resources on the houses instead of using those resources to catch the fire.

An almost old timer

8/23 Helirappel:

I am from Nor Cal so all I can tell you is I know R5-KNF has a rappel ship and Merlin up in Oregon has one. Since I am only in the CWN world I get the info, but my only concern is who is the closest when we get a lightning bust, which has not been an issue this year. I do know they have one in So Cal and some scattered throughout the Regions and the plan is to add more progressively each year. Go to the hot list and ask under questions, I know the total amount answer is out there. Good Luck.

t fielden

8/23 Re: Salty

Google Search---> Census Bureau 2010 Diversity =

Census Bureau 2010 Diversity

8/23 320 Road Entrapment Avoidance FLA:

Abs & All,
After reading the 320 Road Entrapment Avoidance FLA, I have to say I'm very disappointed. I know two of the folks on the FLA team, they are good people with a lot of fire experience, but I think they tried too hard to make it seem like a "feel-good" experience for the participants at the expense of what actually happened. Here is the link:
320 Road Entrapment Avoidance (pdf)
I know that Monday morning quarterbacking can be deceptive, but I can't help but think that this burnover occurred on the same fire that resulted in a fatality and burn injuries just one day before this event. I noticed factors such as the crew boss was heads down dragging a drip torch just before the event instead of heads up focusing on overall safety. From what was presented in the FLA, time of day, fire whirls, spot fires, and heavy fuels in the bowl below the saddle probably should have stimulated the crew boss to quit being a burner and start focusing on the big picture. This is a failure no matter how you portray it.
I also wonder how much fire experience the crew boss and other participants had, undoubtedly they made the best decisions they could given the "slides" in their memory trays but it certainly appears that their collective experience failed them on this occasion. This was a serious, dangerous event that could have easily resulted in more injuries or fatalities, and that reality should not be sugarcoated. I think the people conducting the FLA might have quit asking "why" too soon so as to spare the participants more unpleasantness after their traumatic experience, which it undoubtedly was.
I am concerned that FLAs are becoming just another way for Forest Service senior managers to shirk their responsibilities and pin the blame on the people at the "sharp end of the spear." The Forest Service is right for wanting to learn from these events, but we need to learn all of the lessons, including management failures all the way up to the Chief, if we are going to really benefit from similar incidents. Near misses are more than just "learning experiences" for firefighters, they are (nearly) free lessons that should require senior managers to plug known holes in the "swiss cheese" of their organization's defenses.
I feel it is way past time for the Forest Service to invest heavily in methods that improve situational awareness for firefighters with less experience. There are a number of ways to improve the ability of firefighters to predict when and where dangerous fire behavior might occur, and to react accordingly. Firefighters use Recognition Primed Decisionmaking to keep themselves safe; the deeper and richer their knowledge of fire behavior, the less likely they are to put themselves or others in dangerous situations. We don't do a very good job of insuring that fire supervisors are RPD-proficient today, and this is a clear Forest Service management failure.
I deeply apologize if I have offended any of the event participants or incorrectly portrayed what occurred during this incident. But I still feel that this is yet another organizational failure that should, but probably won't, cause our most senior Forest Service managers to take a hard look at themselves.
Misery Whip

8/23 Helirappel:

What is the status of the helirappel programs, both Federal and State? Are any of them actively operating this year?

Gale D

8/23 Dedication of the California Wildland Firefighter Memorial, October 8, 2011


You are invited to an interagency formal dedication of the California Wildland Firefighter Memorial, October 8, 2011, 10am. The Memorial recognizes all FF’s who have died in the line of duty at wildland fires. The Memorial was completed and the dedication is being hosted by the California Wildland Firefighter Memorial committee. A full explanation and the history of theMemorial is available at: cwfm.info/. The Memorial is located near El Cariso about 8 miles west of Lake Elsinore south of SR 74 on the South Main Divide Truck Trail.

Additionally, the State Legislature has adopted SR 74 as the California Wildland Firefighter Memorial Highway. Please attend if possible. Please RSVP Dreena Brethorst at (951) 940-6917 if you can attend. Thank you.

Unit & County Fire Chief John R. Hawkins
Riverside County Fire Department

8/23 What are the Federal Wildland Fire Agencies doing for this? We have been called the largest Fire Department in the US, but we are well behind the times when it comes to taking care of our own. Thank God for Vicki Minor, and her mighty heroes behind the scenes at the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

September 11th Remembrance Ceremony


8/23 Diversity:

Mr. Cracker,

While I think your stats are suspect, your overall premise is correct. The non-Hispanic white population is getting smaller in proportion and the minority population is getting larger. That reality is undeniable and creating your own facts won't change it.

Ab's, I know you filter posts because you have filtered a few of mine. I wish you would have held on to this one until Mr. Cracker could substantiate his take on reality.

My main complaint though is on how the word diversity has become a negative to so many of the posters on They Said. It has become a dog whistle word that incites an emotional reaction, arousing frustration and anger. It in effect, prevents rational thought on the subject. Think about it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not laying any support behind the Chiefs, USDA's or the President's plan for diversity in the federal government just yet. I have seen plans, court rulings, Consent Decrees, Executive Orders and laws come and go with no real change. As a "Greenie" I have scars from all of these events and I am justifiably a skeptic. However, I am not angry and I don't react negatively to the notion of diversity.

Instead, I think about the people been who have been unjustly maligned for being perceived as a diversity hire. I think about how any minority hire is falsely perceived as not on merit and thus not qualified. I disturbs me to see many of them still under heightened scrutiny and subtle hostility. I think with dismay that even the notion of increasing diversity is a perceived a compromise on quality. Why have we become so self defeating? How have these destructive perceptions helped us become better firefighters?

I don't see how we get better without being open to new ideas and new points of view. We do that by bringing in new blood. Wildland firefighters don't come fully trained and ready to go. We train them and groom them and make them good firefighters. I don't see a negative with that kind of diversity. There was a time when we had bottle necks at many levels. But the days of engine captains as OPS Chiefs are long gone. People are going to have to learn the jobs they are going into and they would do a lot better if they were supported. It is a fact of circumstance. We can't get trapped by trying to judge solely on merit because judgment is subjective. Sure we can judge an overall sense of accomplishment and qualification, but what you and I value at a particular time may be very different. It is a judgment call.


Thanks h. You make good points. We're still waiting for link documentation on Salty's post. Ab.

8/22 TFS Prelim 24-Hour Report Bowles Creek Bottom Fire:

Texas Forest Service 24-Hour Report Bowles Creek Bottom Fire (22 K pdf)

text below:

Texas Forest Service Letterhead
Preliminary (24 Hour) Report
The following information is preliminary and subject to change
Location: Fire # 384 (Rusk County), Texas; Approx. 10 miles west of Henderson
Aka: Bowles Creek Bottom Fire
Date of Occurrence: Thursday, August 18th 2011
Time of Occurrence: Approx. 1650
Accident Team Leader: Brad Moore SOF2
Mission: Providing support for initial attack operations
Activity: Supporting/Constructing Fireline
Number of injuries: 0
Property Damage: Total loss of Type-6 engine

Narrative: While supporting fireline construction on a wildfire near Henderson, Texas, a USFS Ford F-550 Brush Truck Unit, consisting of an Engine Captain and two operators, were cut off from their safety zone due to the brush unit becoming stuck in marshy soil conditions. Fuels consisted of heavy grass and brush. The unit was near the rear of the fire when the truck became stuck. A significant wind direction change and speed increase, produced by thunderstorm activity, occurred at approximately 1630hrs which caused the fire to move toward the vehicle. The Engine Captain determined the safest course of action was to relocate their vehicle. He was unable to free the unit because it had become bogged down while crew was working spots. A JD-450 dozer unit was in the vicinity and tried to pull the unit to safety but was unable to free the vehicle. The crew attempted to re-start the pump but the smoke was too thick and the unit would not crank. The only alternative was to leave the unit and reach a safety zone by foot. The three members of E-5187 were unharmed but the brush truck is a total loss.

Cc: Frank Wofford, Frank Bruno, Garry Parton, investigative team members;
Mark Stanford, FRP Associate Director - Texas Forest Service

8/22 I was doing some web research on Dispatch and came across this.

Forest Service Dispatch Optimization Pilot Project Charter (1,311 K pdf)

Does anyone know what this is about? It's dated January this year but based on something from 2008.

R2 Dispatcher

8/22 Photos from JS:

Clarks Butte fire in Vale Oregon: tankers 152 and 155

Thanks, nice. I put them on the Airtankers 36 photo page. Ab.

8/21 I maybe missing something but since the death of Kimberly Marinelli (Rick Marinelli's wife) in Dec of 2008 I have not seen any more mention and was wondering why this is??? Is this a matter of not remembering the loss of a firefighter soon after they are gone ??? In my heart the saying is

GONE But N E V E R forgotten...

A Dear Family Friend

I'm glad you've written in remembering Kim. She was special. Sorry for her loss.
Remembrances occur on this forum when people write in. Perhaps someone reading this will have a story to share. Ab.

8/21 Diversity and Census:

Well, I could be wrong, but I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.

In regards to hiring
A report by the U.S. Census Bureau projects

  • a decrease in the ratio of Whites between 2010 and 2050, from 79.5% to 74.0%.
  • At the same time, Non-Hispanic Whites are projected to no longer make up the majority of the population by 2042, but will remain the largest single race. In 2050 they will compose 46.3% of the population. Non-Hispanic whites made up 85% of the population in 1960.

The report foresees

  • the Hispanic or Latino population rising from 16% today to 30% by 2050,
  • the African American percentage barely rising from 12.9% to 13.0%, and
  • Asian Americans upping their 4.6% share to 7.8%.

The U.S. has 310 million people as of October 2010, and is projected to reach 400 million by 2039 and 439 million in 2050. It is further projected that 82% of the increase in population from 2005 to 2050 will be due to immigrants and their children.

Race Number Percentage
White alone (of which 26.7 million are White Hispanic and Latino Americans, see table below: 
Excluding these, this category comprises 63.7% or 196.8 million)
Black or African American alone
Some other race alone
(Mestizo, Mulatto...)
Asian alone
Two or more races
American Indian or Alaska Native alone
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander alone





According to the Census Bureau we're right on target with diversity.

Thanks For Listening.

Salty Cracker

Note: I put this in table form, although I received it from Salty as a copy and paste. Please send a link to this report so viewers can check it out themselves. Thanks. Ab.

8/21 Viejo-

Spot on! Keep after it even after the team is ordered and leave them with nothing to do but organizing the mop up and feeding! Use the local talent that has spent the time to learn the ground. Usually they don’t so, get after it the first night before they get set up and transition.

Proud to have served for you! You were one of the very best and know of what you speak. You have walked the walk. With respect….

“Another CDF BC”
8/21 Abercrombie --

The Lateral West Fire in Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina is @ 6071 acres and 15% contained, transitioning from Southern Area Type 1 Blue Team (IC Quesinberry) to Southern Area Type 2 Team (IC Dueitt) today. Started by lightning on 8/4 and a loooooooong term event - burning (both surface and ground fire) in organic peat soils and partially within the fire scar of 2008 South One Fire. Major smoke impacts to some major metropolitan areas. Needs a major infusion of water -- both from extensive high-volume water handling work by firefighters and hopefully also from a tropical rain event.......

Some good pictures on a Flickr site that show some of the work in fighting this different type of fire than many of us are used to, and a dandy shot of a fire whorl. Can access the pix through the InciWeb site for the fire, or at:


As always, Abs, THANKS for Wildlandfire.com.


You're welcome. This community makes this what it is. Ab.

8/21 confusion over the new diversity mandate

Hi Ab and all,

Trying to wrap my brain around the diversity hiring mandate and what it means and what is used as a model. I've been obsessed with it for awhile because I'm not entirely sure what the fuss is about and I'm wondering if I'm missing something. If anyone is knowledgeable on this I would appreciate their input because I'm posting as an amateur researcher and I'm a firefighter and not an HR person.

So, one link at OPM: feorp2010  (pdf)

This is OPM's analysis from 2010 that displays demographical analysis of the Federal Workforce (dark green bars FW) as compared to the Civilian Labor workforce (light green bars CLF). I've heard that we are trying to hire at levels commensurate with the CLF. Is this accurate? If we're trying to match the CLF, we've actually exceeded noticeably in some demographics, while Hispanics are a notable exception to this rule along with whites being more slightly underrepresented in the FW.

One obvious issue displayed at the top of the report is that the senior pay level representation levels are slanted towards white males heavily.... but it goes on to say that "senior" pay level refers to individuals above Grade 15, step 10.

I realize the report is from 2010 so things might have changed a bit, I also included a link to census data from 2010 2010 census data  I haven't seen the OPM report for 2011 or I would have posted it.

I guess I don't get what the crisis is about other than the GS superoopers not being diverse enough. Are there other instances of underrepresentation specific to the USDA? What is going on? Tidwell won't tell me anything.

-confused GS 6

8/21 The answer to, "Why have wildfires gotten larger?" is simple. Through better and more accurate mapping, of course!

Fire Geek

haw haw. Ab.

8/21 To disappointed and disgusted

All I can say is I have faced a similar situation with a supervisor who had an ax to grind because he took a job in a different region just for the upgrade. He was a captain and I a lowly AFEO who knew far more about engine operations than he, that didn't go over well, so I used my FEO, my Fuels Officer and DFMO as references which is legal (see personal reference's section) because I did not trust my direct supervisor to give me a good recommendation, and a good performance evaluation, and I had worked directly for all of them at one time or another while burning and they knew my work ethic. If there is no other supervisor between you and your supervisor then check the button that says you MUST NOT contact current supervisor; that should not be held against you because we all have faced the same situation where a supervisor says my way or the highway. Furthermore if they do contact your current supervisor and he gave a bad reference they are obliged to get a second reference to identify a pattern.

On the other hand I have had supervisors give me glowing recommendations just to get rid of a problem employee, I do not think that is the case with you but since you are anonymous I do not know your work ethic. If you have the outstanding record on paper scan it and upload into Avue or whatever your Dept. uses and let your record speak for itself.

Good Luck.

t fielden

8/20 Hi Ab,
I need some advice so please post.

I am applying for jobs during this upcoming firehire and I was wondering if anyone could explain the extent or limitations of a supervisory reference check.
My situation is that I have been in my current position for 4 months and my direct supervisor, the AFMO, is grinding an axe against me. I have no disciplinary measures against me and my previous performance evals have all been fully or exceeds fully successful. I have only been working with the district folks for a couple of months since I spent the better part of 2 months on the BAER team working on a fire locally (on which I received superior incident performance ratings from the Ops chief and one of my contractors). The AFMO and I have agreed we don't like each other or how we operate so I'll be moving on of my own volition. The problem is he has created issues and has deemed, at this time, my teamwork and partnerships performance element is failing. He has outlined some ways for me to improve it to a fully successful level. Without going into the details, his documentation was so poorly done and his bias and hostility towards me so blatant that other professionals have commented on it, and while I am not facing any kind of disciplinary actions, my reputation is being slandered. What are my options for keeping this hostile AFMO away from my reference checks, and barring that, what can or can't this person say.

disappointed and disgusted
8/20 Why have wildfires gotten larger?

This is an interesting topic and the standard answer is usually that suppression has gotten so effective that the fuels are too dense and when a fire DOES get going it burns way hotter and is harder to stop. But firefighters have better training and equipment now, plus way better communications. Safety is emphasized more too. That's a good thing. I know some old timers who can't believe that typically on a major fire (didn't they used to be called campaign fires?) there is seldom a working night shift. That is when a lot of fires used to get stopped by hand crews. I think this is mostly true with USFS fires, I'm not sure about CalFire policy on night shifts. I'm not sure if there even is an official policy on night shifts but I've been told by a current firefighter (I haven't done it in a long time) that there is seldom a night shift working on a major USFS fire in R-5. First I would like to know if that is true and if it IS true then maybe it was for safety issues and so be it. I'm not criticizing anybody nor am I criticizing the policy if in fact it is official policy. Maybe it depends on things like fire conditions and steepness of terrain. However, it COULD be a factor in fires getting larger now.

Brother Cub

9/20 2011 FWFSA Membership Conference


Well done.


8/20 2011 FWFSA Membership Conference

Well said Casey. I have corresponded with my local federal Congressman before and I believe you have also spoken with them. This is a highly dangerous job and budget cuts and pay freezes will just cost us our most experienced employees, which does not equal to a safer organization.

Thank you for your efforts and I will continue to lend support and correspond with my Senators and Congressmen.

t fielden

8/20 2011 FWFSA Membership Conference

To All:

I am pleased to announce that Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has approved Fire & Aviation Management Director Tom Harbour's acceptance to attend our 2011 Membership Conference in Reno December 1-3rd.

It is my hope (ever the optimist) that this finally represents an acknowledgement by the Forest Service that the FWFSA is a viable component of the federal wildland firefighting community and a recognition that the members of the FWFSA, regardless of Agency, are the "cream of the crop" of each Agency's firefighters and that the voices we harness and direct towards those who can create positive change for our firefighters are worth listening too.

That said, with the anti-federal employee sentiment in DC; the Diversity Directives from the Administration; the "Cultural transformation" (whatever that really means) directives and the budget reduction directives from the Administration we must all play an active role in educating Agency leadership and our elected officials that, when it comes to the federal land management agency fire programs and Agency leadership's stated goals of safety, the " one size fits all" approach is a poor fit.

I think we all can agree that diversity is an admirable goal. However when an Agency provides little incentive to anyone to join or stay in the federal system in the 21st Century, diversity, for the sake of diversity, could have tragic consequences. I believe the FWFSA and NFFE are on the same page when we say that merit, experience & expertise absolutely must trump diversity for the sake of diversity. Crew cohesion, in an occupation where split second decisions must be made is of paramount importance. Fortunately everyone I have spoken to on Capitol Hill agree.

When at FIREHIREs folks are told to reach down to level 3 candidates on the very first day, it is clear that the pool of qualified candidates, regardless of whether they are white, black, purple or green, is sorely lacking. Failing to provide adequate incentives in this day and age is a crime. Long gone are the days of attracting employees by offering them the opportunity to "work in the trees and watch the sunsets."

We must all play an active role in educating our elected officials as to the adverse impact pay freezes, hiring freezes and many of the proposed "anti-federal employee" proposals in Congress will have on the fire programs and will in fact have the opposite effect of that intended by leading to increased reliance on expensive, non-federal resources and increased costs. We can't just complain like so many do, we have to offer clear, sensible alternative to the radical ideas floating around DC.

We have to actively stay ahead of the rhetoric in DC and constantly ensure our marketing strategies for improving things for our firefighters plays into the budget reduction hysteria in DC. It is possible to improve things for our firefighters in the current atmosphere in Congress but it is going to take more than just me to convince folks on the Hill that our objectives will help to create a more efficient & effective federal wildfire response & save taxpayers serious sums each year.

Remember, whether Democrat or Tea Partier, the priority on Capitol Hill is re-election and control of the Administration, House & Senate. I have grown weary of rhetoric from both sides of the aisle stating "we need to" or "we are" listening to the American people...

Last I checked, federal employees were "American People" yet no one is listening to those federal employees who are asked to risk their lives and who are found at or near the bottom of the federal pay scale. The FWFSA ha made some significant strides in establishing its credibility on the Hill in the past 5-6 years. However it is going to take a lot more voices to tackle the "meat cleaver" & "slash & burn" mentalities of some in Congress.

It's your future. Help us make it more rewarding.

Casey Judd
Executive Director, Governmental Affairs
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association

8/20 Why have wildfires gotten larger?

In response to Viejo

The statement "Out of area fire teams for both agencies, CalFire and USFS often demonstrate no sense of ownership, little or no empathy for local problems and quite often no knowledge of local burning conditions." might indicate that Viejo has either never been to a transition briefing or read a delegation of authority to a Team, or wasn't paying attention. If the issues mentioned are not addressed by the team, it indicates a weak line officer or agency administrator, perhaps not an overbearing team.

I think on its face the premise is inaccurate. If you go back further than 1950 to when records began to be kept and look at fire size, and control for population (population=ignitions), I think it would show fires have not gotten bigger. There were some tremendously large fires in Southern California in the early years of fire suppression. Just in my area there were the Green River, Steward, and a few monsters that history has not recalled the name topping 60,000 acres.

Use the Fire Planning and Mapping Tools viewer and pick any decade prior to 1970, and look at the gigantic fires that occurred in California. I think you might be surprised.

from wildfire.cr.usgs.gov  Fire Planning

click on Viewer, go to the Fuels layers in the table of contents and scroll down to get fire history back to 1900.


8/20 Subject: Cal Fire Aircraft Response Guidelines
California Emergency Management Agency
Fire and Rescue Division


Daryl Osby, Region I Coordinator
Sheldon Gilbert, Region II Coordinator
Doug Wenham, Region III Coordinator
Mark D’Ambrogi, Region IV Coordinator
Keith Larkin, Region V Coordinator
Dale Hutchinson, Region VI Coordinator
Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE

FROM Kim Zagaris, State Fire and Rescue Chief
DATE: August 19, 2011
SUBJECT: Cal Fire Aircraft Response Guidelines


Please forward and distribute to the CAL EMA (OES) Fire and Rescue Regional Coordinator and CAL EMA (OES) Fire and Rescue Operational Area Coordinators within your region.

Please insure that the CAL EMA (OES) Fire and Rescue Operational Area Coordinators forward and distribute to local Fire Agencies within their Operational Areas.

In light of the recent Federal air tanker reduction CAL FIRE has developed the attached guidelines for use of CAL FIRE aircraft within California and adjoining States. Please give this memo wide distribution amongst as many of your state, federal, and local partners as possible who might have an interest in this subject.

Thank you,

Ken Pimlott, Director CAL FIRE

CAL FIRE Aircraft Response Guidelines (936 K pdf)

9/20 Why our Wildfires have gotten larger in the last 50 years


I too found the map of California wildfires interesting. Viejo did a pretty thorough job of hitting the reasons and I do agree with nearly all of them. While we have been busy putting out every fire the forest has become far too over grown and the situation is totally out of control.

In my opinion, during the same time frame many areas have been added to the wilderness system which has eliminated logging and actively fighting those fires that occur. It is not just homes being built into the forests but new wilderness areas being formed adjacent to already developed areas. A good example of this is on the Angeles where the Magic Mtn. Wilderness was formed adjacent to areas that have had homes in Sand Canyon for better than 45 years. Just look at the map of dozer lines constructed in that area during the Station Fire. Another example is right here on the Sierra. A group has been working on making a wilderness in Signal Peak/Devils Gulch area. This is adjacent to areas, within the forest, that have had homes since the 70’s. I’m sure if we looked around we would have found more examples. This prohibits thinning the forest and aggressive firefighting.

To avoid law suits the Forest Service is busy studying each and every possible environmental concern while promoting, without regard to fire qualifications or experience, employees into supervisory fire positions. Hmm – lets see – No logging, no aggressive firefighting, always worrying about the environment lobby, the spotted owl, yellow legged frog – it’s no wonder we keep having larger and larger fires.

It would seem to me that we have but two choices. Either accept mega fires or work to change how we are managing our wildland areas.

Kudos to Viejo


9/20 Abs...I'd like to start a thread on Why our Wildfires have gotten larger in the last 50 years. I've written a few comments to kick off the discussion. viejo

Why have wildfires gotten larger in the last 50 years ?

The recent SacBee posting of this interactive map of wildfires in California shows a trend of increasing larger wildfires.

interactive map of wildfires in California

This is a disturbing trend, since the amount of money spent on fire suppression forces has also increased exponentially.

In the last 3 or 4 decades, communications have improved , we’ve developed Firescope, and ICS. We have increased the number of Conservation Camps, developed a CalFire Helitack program and the State of California has developed its own airtanker program . We now have weather satellites, improved weather prediction and fire modeling. Many of the Counties in California have implemented County Fire Departments with mutual aid and the number of private contractors is greater than ever.

One would think with all of these improvements acreage would be down, but its not.

The obvious answers postulated by some segments of the fire community are climate change and increased fuel loading on forest lands. I agree with both premises, but the improvements in the Fire Control Programs of all Agencies should offset that.

I think the reasons for the larger fires are many, but most of them go unsaid.

The USFS and CalFire are responsible for the greater percentage of wildfires in California, Contract Counties, BLM and NPS take care of most of the rest.

The USFS has a huge impact on how fires are fought in every jurisdiction.

They provide InterAgency training, they hire local forces on their fires, and many local Fire Departments provide members to their Incident Management Teams. In the last 30 years or so there has been a dramatic change in how the USFS fights fires.

There has been a huge emphasis put on Safety. Since South Canyon in 1994, the USFS has changed its tactics to provide more protection for the crewman on the ground. More indirect firelines make for larger fires. If the lead Agency regularly practices disengagement all other agencies will follow.

Many fire managers fear litigation. The 30 Mile Fire in July of 2001 and the Cramer Fire in July of 2003 held fireline supervisors responsible for the deaths of their firefighters. The USFS seemed to cut its employees loose…instead of protecting them, it seemed to me they turned the prosecution of them to those employees to the Office of the Inspector General. They now advise their fire managers to provide their own liability insurance.

The Team Concept has flourished. Both USFS and CalFire embraced the Incident Command Team concept. What has evolved is the home unit of the fire in both Agencies have in many cases simply abdicated their responsibility once a team is ordered. Once a team order is placed it seems the organization on the fire ceases to grow, waiting for the team to set the strategy and place the orders.

Unit takes no responsibility for the Team’s actions. There is no effective way to critique a Team’s tactics. USFS teams rotate every 2 weeks and the fires drag on for months. How do you effectively criticize an organization like that ? Once a Unit has turned a fire over to the Team, the Teams are likewise protected. Who can criticize the supposed best in the organization ?

Out of area fire teams for both agencies, CalFire and USFS often demonstrate no sense of ownership, little or no empathy for local problems and quite often no knowledge of local burning conditions.

The USFS has changed. The Forest Service has changed from a Multiple Use Agency to a land management agency that seems more bent on Sierra Club ideals. The old motto of “Land of Many Uses” has been replaced by “Caring for the Land”. The Agency now resembles the National Park Service more than the BLM.

Wilderness areas have increased. Dramatic inclusions to the Wilderness areas have removed huge areas of wildland from vehicle access and The Forests have imposed severe restrictions on how and why a fire should be fought. USFS fire managers are reluctant to use bulldozers on any of their fires, even those fires on private land under direct Forest Service Protection.

There is an agenda in the Forest Service to restore fire to the wildlands. Wilderness plans are written to allow “natural” fires to burn, even if they are damaging to the environment. We will never be able to recreate the National Forest to the pre White man condition, yet we are trying to do that in a time of climate change. The resulting wild fires are huge.

Increased urbanization. More homes and cabins are built in the wildland.

Creating urban interface where it never existed. More fire units are required to protect these improvements.

Big fires make big budgets. On a smaller scale, big fires make big paychecks for employees and contractors. Since the Spotted Owl and other endangered species shut down the logging industry, most Forests have very few timber sales. We used to fight fire to protect a revenue source, but that is gone. Forest now seem to regard fires as a chance to clean up the Forest without preparing an Environmental Impact Statement even though in many cases the fires create more available fuel. CalFire is not immune from this issue. Fires that have fire teams drag on longer than a similar fire in similar fuels without a team. Premium overtime is huge reason for staying another day or through a weekend.

I’m sure I am not the only one who is frustrated with the current state of Fire Protection in California. I’m not one of those who believes mega fires are inevitable, but if we continue on the current course we will only see bigger fires that happen more frequently. What can we do to change the trend ?

8/20 Obama orders new plan to diversify federal workers
By Suzanne Gamboa, Associated Press
Published: Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011 - 2:06 pm

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has signed an executive order directing the federal government to design a new strategy for hiring, promoting and keeping workers of diverse backgrounds.

The three-page order released Thursday directs the head of the Office of Personnel Management, a deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget and two other agencies to develop the strategy within 90 days. Agencies then have 120 days to implement it.

An Office of Personnel Management report says that in fiscal year 2010, the federal workforce was 66.2 percent white, 17.7 percent black, 8 percent Hispanic, 5.6 percent Asian/ Pacific Islander, 1.8 percent Native American. It was 56.1 percent male.

Read more 

fair use disclaimer

8/19 Crew Carrier Safety Alert (131 K pdf)

(FS Shield)

Date: August 24, 2011

SUBJECT: Crew Carrier Safety Alert

- Seat belt use
- Seat belt retrofit
- Securing cargo
- Headlight lens inspection and cleaning


DISCUSSION: There have been four crew carrier vehicles that have been involved in serious accidents in the last 7 years; the Bitterroot National Forest crew carrier accident (2004), the San Bernardino National Forest Helitak crew carrier accident (2007), the Klamath National Forest (KNF) crew carrier accident (2009) and the Angeles National Forest crew carrier accident (2011).

Although the circumstances leading to each accident were different, serious injuries occurred and seat belts were not being worn in some cases. Seat belts save lives and help reduce the severity of injury. Seat belts should be worn low and snug along the hips. After the KNF accident, it was noted that many existing crew carriers were equipped with a ratcheting style seat belt that tightens during use and can be uncomfortable; this may reduce seat belt compliance. The upcoming national standard crew carrier specifications include a manually-adjustable seat belt that does not tighten during use and will assist with seat belt use compliance. Some existing crew carriers may still be equipped with ratcheting style seat belts which can be easily retrofitted with seat belts that meet the upcoming National Standard Crew Carrier specifications. The specifications are as follows:  (download the flyer... link above; more on securing cargo and headlight lenses...)

8/19 Human Performance Improvement

Just a quick thanks for posting the link to the Cougar Fire Human Performance Improvement. That was the best explanation I have come across addressing the issue of safety on the fireline. Especially since WO is pushing so hard on transforming to some obscure safety culture.


8/19 The troops who harp about line officers just don't understand the political pressure they are under at all levels. 'glad I'm retired.


White House orders increase in diversity hiring
8/18 New document posted at Wildfirelessons.net

Title: Cougar Fire Human Performance Improvement (from wildfirelessons.net)

Cougar Fire Safety Officer


8/18 Thanks for the copies of the FS Chief's "End of the Summer Message" to all employees. I clarified the message HERE. Ab.
8/18 Hardhats and DEET,


In 1998 I spent almost 40 days in Alberta on two different hitches and we had hardhat issues like you are describing which we figured to be from contact with high octane bug stuff that we acquired up there. Nothing like the delamination issues you are having but we did have a couple that turned extremely brittle and eventually fractured when dropped on a hard surface. The two that became brittle had been sprayed with the same stuff but in an aerosol form. They would have provided absolutely no impact protection for the people wearing them and were disposed of when we got home. Also had issues with tool paint, structural failure of designer sunglasses and eyeglass frames (plastics would melt and adhere to skin,) and damage to tent materials, line gear, non-cotton garments, etc.

The stuff we were using was in excess of 90% DEET and was the only repellant effective. By the time we made our second trip to N. Alberta the really tenacious bugs had hatched out. Any risks from exposure to the bug stuff far outweighed the misery of getting bit on any exposed flesh. I still have a few bottles of the stuff we got up there but haven't been in a situation where I needed to use it since then. I have never seen it available in the states, at least not in the DEET concentrations that these products are.


8/17 AB:

Does anyone have the full text of the "end of summer" memo from the Chief they could send me?


Casey Judd
Executive Director, Governmental Affairs
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association
8/17 End of Summer... maybe, maybe not...

Big Bar Complex (Megram, Onion, Fawn, Dees- lightning - started August 23 in the Trinity wilderness and ran until November 7, 1999. The Kirk Complex down near Big Sur began after the Big Bar. I heard that by the time the weather changing event occurred in Nov every team had been on one or the other or both and most resources were tapped out.


8/17 "End of Summer"? Huge lightning bust in Southern Oregon/Northern Oregon started on August 30th and some of the fires were active into November. Remember "Silver"?

8/17 Hard Hat Failure

Hi All,

Just trying to track down an issue we are having with our Bullard Hardhats. Want to see if anyone else is having the same issues.

Out of twenty hard hats on my crew 8 are showing signs of hairline fractures along the bill (we have full brims) and another 4 are delaminating along the ridges. Our sister crew had the same issues and Bullard had no clue what was causing it.

One theory I have is the use of bug repellent with DEET in it. Both crews spent a 21 up there. It could also be faulty plastics being used by Bullard themselves.

So please everyone have their folks double check their hats. Some of the cracks do not appear till you flex the hard hat. If anyone has any answers let me know

Brian Bush La Grande Hotshots

8/17 End of Summer Message

Misery Whip,

Yep it seems a little funny that in the middle of "Dirty August" as the grass yellows and hardly any real fires, or tests have happened in Pac(k)- Northwest--- yet our Big Cheese (respectfully) has declared an end of summer message... Just a typo of thought perhaps - yeah, it is attention to detail that we must shine on or ignore... I've done a tour @ Wallow in New Mexico/Arizona but now stay home on type 3 teams waiting... I suppose he means well, but it is so alarmingly funny as to... not be funny... if you know what I mean?

Camp Sherman

8/17 Regarding - Direction from the Chief of the FS:

"Make sure your Line Officers and Forest Fire Chiefs know that at this time, reductions of any firefighting capability within R5 Forest Service is a violation of Randy Moore's current direction. Violators of Randy Moore's direction are subject to disciplinary action and will be reported to Congressional Representatives. We suggest that Line Officers and Forest Fire Chiefs be very careful with any premature planning to decrease a units firefighting organization."

umm. the premature planning has already started..

I would like to see this direction and when it was given. Randy must have changed his mind as for at least the past year, Los Padres line officers have asked their fire management officers " if you had to reduce any firefighting resources, which ones would you consider?" and other questions related to "right sizing" the fire organization to meet the current budget. In discussions with my ranger, these questions started with the regional forester. For the sake of rank and file morale, I didn't share it with the troops.

Of course my response was to start at the Washington Office, move to the R.O.'s, S.O.'s and eliminate the rake off of preparedness dollars to fund non-fire employee salaries and related resource projects. Another suggestion, especially on the LP, was to put fuels management back under fire management professionals where the dollars will actually get to implementation where they are desperately needed. Instead of it being the forests private bag of gold to cover unfunded specialists. You would be amazed at the fuzzy math used to meet treatment targets.

Hopefully some of these issues will be addressed since last week the Regional Office did a Fire and Fuels Program Review of the Los Padres.

nuff said for now

8/17 Actually, some of us who have just endured the Safety Journey are wondering about the Chief's statement of:

"The safety journey continues to expand and evolve and I know it is making a difference in changing our workplace."

How does he know that it is making a difference? It just started, does he have some data we aren't privy to?

In fire and aviation we are producing extremely good safety results when you take into consideration the large numbers of people on the ground and in the air fighting fires, the number of years (and lack thereof) of experience, the terrain, the temperature extremes, the nature of dealing with - to a degree - unpredictable wildland fires in wild lands throughout our country, the type and age of the mechanized equipment which we use on a regular basis, the hours we keep, the constant multi-tasking required for almost all jobs related to wildland fire, etc.

When I listen to a non-fire line officer leading the Safety Journey session explain how we are going to reduce and improve our safety record, I take a bit of offense to this claim. We in fire and aviation have been making a difference, improving our safety record, learning from our mistakes and actually living a safety focused climate for decades. And although I would rather not see a single death or even a single scraped arm, and although my heart felt heavy as I watched the video footage of the engine memorial procession in Hot Springs for Trampus, we will learn from that situation and be better for it. And in fact we (in fire and aviation) were doing this long before the Safety Journey was ever a thought in someone's mind.

I always wonder if certain people in high places allow others to review their documents prior to sending them off, seems like more of them should.
It would help give a sense that the person in charge is actually aware of what is going on at lower levels. I know from experience that the safest situations I have ever been in - both in fire and aviation, were situations where the supervisor had a close relationship and understanding of what was going on at the other levels - and respected it.

Signed: Safer on a fire than on the 405 during rush hour
8/17 A message from the Chief of the Forest Service. All need to take note of this statement. Hold your Chief, your local Line Officer and Forest Fire Chief to this statement:

While decreases in our budget are likely, we have positioned ourselves to absorb them through attrition, without the need for large-scale workforce reduction efforts.

Make sure your Line Officers and Forest Fire Chiefs know that at this time, reductions of any firefighting capability within R5 Forest Service is a violation of Randy Moore's current direction. Violators of Randy Moore's direction are subject to disciplinary action and will be reported to Congressional Representatives. We suggest that Line Officers and Forest Fire Chiefs be very careful with any premature planning to decrease a units firefighting organization. If you wish to test this community's resolve to protect our fire organization, we are ready.

From: Chief of the Forest Service
Sent: Monday, August 15, 2011 9:12 AM

I wanted to check in with everyone as we move through the summer season. I really want you to know how much I appreciate the great work you are doing. We have the best mission in the country, and I know you are working every day to fulfill that mission.

For my part, and with your help, I'm focusing on safety, restoring our natural landscapes, fire, providing jobs in our local communities, and creating a fully inclusive organization. We have a lot of work to do together.

The safety journey continues to expand and evolve and I know it is making a difference in changing our workplace. We have an extremely good safety record this year. However, I know how difficult it is to deal when any organization loses an employee. And it is also difficult when our employees are recovering from serious accidents. You have my promise that we will learn everything we can from these accidents. Keep your awareness up and make sure that you and your co-workers go home safely every single day. There is nothing more important than that.

You may be feeling anxiety stemming from uncertainty about the country's financial future. While decreases in our budget are likely, we have positioned ourselves to absorb them through attrition, without the need for large-scale workforce reduction efforts. By maintaining a lean, flexible workforce, we will continue to be able to provide the priority services the public expects us to deliver.

Thank you for your hard work. It's important. And I'm proud to be your Chief.


8/16 Misery Whip,

Yes... We have been discussing the timing of the Chief's "end of summer" message in our fire shop. It seems as if the main question that surfaced repeatedly was why it wasn't sent out at the actual end of the summer? Just asking...

It also continues to send a message of being out of touch with the realities of the workforce. After all, how difficult is it to wait until the summer fire season is over to send an end of summer message?

Not quite the end of summer
8/16 Did anyone else think it was incredibly lame that the Chief of the Forest Service sent out an "end of summer" letter which boasted about the Forest Service's "extremely good" safety record just 4 days after one firefighter died and four other firefighters were burned on a Forest Service fire? I tried to think of a reasonable explanation but I just can't imagine one.

Misery Whip
8/16 AB and all

Just an FYI for everyone.
The funeral for Trampus Haskvitz will be available on a live webcast provided by the Rapid City Journal. rapidcityjournal.com
The service is at 2:00 PM 8/16 (1:00 Pacific time)

If you could provide this to folks on the website I would appreciate it. I am the Battalion chief at the Hot Springs SDWFS field office where Tramp worked. He will be sorely missed by all and was a great kid with an extremely bright future.

Also Austin Whitney who was injured on the fire underwent surgery for skin grafting this morning at the Western States Burn Center in Greely Colorado this morning and is doing well.

Thanks for everything.

Steve Esser
Battalion Chief
South Dakota Department of Agriculture
Wildland Fire Suppression Division

8/16 The Coal Canyon Fire 72 hour Expanded Report is one of the most poorly written documents of its times.

There is a Forest Service SAIT assigned.. This is the death of a State employee. Should this not be an Interagency SAIT?

There is a still standing policy that the Forest Service Law Enforcement has the lead on the Investigation. It was dated 6 months or so after the Andrew Palmer fatality on the Shasta Trinity NF in CA. What is up with this? Who is the FS LE lead?

What is a Type 4 Incident organization? And what is a Type 3 Incident Organization? There are qualifications for a Type 3 IC in the 5109.17. Where are the quals for a Type 3 OPS, PSC etc?

What are the qualifications of the Team Leader for the USFS to lead a SAIT?

Last, and most importantly, does the Type 4 IC, District FMO, Forest FMO have Professional Liability Insurance? (Line Officers seem to be exempt from responsibility for some reason, even though accountable on paper).

If anyone has spoken with the SAIT without legal representation, you are are on your own. If you did not insist on the Kalkines Warning prior to giving a statement, you are on your own. Kalkines protects you against self-incrimination protected under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. The case history comes with the 30 Mile, Cramer and Esperanza Fires.

8/16 Activate the FWFSA Short Team.  aka, The Dream Team.


8/15 Wildfire within 5 miles of FWFSA HQ

OK, 5 miles as the crow flies but a wildfire has broken out a few miles south of Pocatello Idaho and has already appeared to have destroyed 3-6 homes. No containment as I can tell but at least one tanker in the air and I'd assume BLM is running the show.

The season is a bit late in arriving here with the wet Spring but as many of you know, especially those who have traveled to Idaho for fire assignments, we've had some nasty fatal fires here. This is relatively small and hopefully it won't get over the ridge that it is working itself towards.

Anyway, to our Idaho BLM folks, thanks and stay safe.


Thanks, Casey. I put it on the Fire 46 photo page. Ab.

8/15 Passing of Aaron Pittario

It is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you all that an employee from the Mendocino NF passed away over the weekend. Aaron Pittario a firefighter on an engine in Upper Lake was found deceased in his home in Southern CA. He was home recuperating from a head injury he suffered while swimming. This is a difficult time for all who knew him. Please be treat each other with respect, patience and understanding as we go through the grieving associated with Aaron's loss.

Also take a few moments to consider Aaron and his family; and to consider your own families and lives. Remember to always be safe in both your personal and professional lives.


8/15 Well, it's fire season here :)

Fires prompt busiest response in Boise BLM district this season

Big Hill fire near Bruneau approaching 40,000 acres


8/15 SD-Coal Canyon Fire Burnover that killed Trampus Haskvitz and injured 4 other firefighters:

Serious Accident Investigation Team: Expanded 72 Hour Report (18 K pdf)


8/15 Trampus Haskvitz and the injured firefighters:

An account has been opened for donations to be made for Trampus at Wells Fargo, Account #: 2860071428.

Also, a big thank you to the Greeley Fire Department for their hands-on care of the wildland firefighters currently in the burn unit at Northern Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colorado.

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation


Note from Original Ab (Steve) that he updated the WildWeb links, including links to the Angeles and Shasta-Trinity National Forests. Occasionally an ECC will change their notification number which breaks links that people have bookmarked. The old sites will then look like no new info is being posted. All fixed now. If you go to the GACC and click on Recent Incidents, they should be up to date. Ab.


8/15 Scott go to Wildcad.net and find CA-ANF. Our dispatch changed to the new Cad. Hope this helps

ANF Capt

Thanks very much, ANF Capt. We're investigating for a more permanent fix to our links. Ab.

8/14 Hello,

Many visitors to the Angeles National Forest depend on the WCANF online incident site, and we are wondering why it has not been updated since August fifth.

Would you please let me know so that I can post the information on Facebook.

The URL to the site that we have is: www.wildcad.net/ WCANF.php

Thank you in advance for your anticipated response.

Scott Stalnaker

Scott, some firefighters have wondered that as well. See above.

8/14 Letterman,

Wondering if you forgot about the Fish agency also in your letter? I heard their budgets will be down also. And frankly, it kinda tickles me to hear about the Senator from La. who is again blocking an Interior nomination because of the mucketty muck game the interior is playing again w/oil and drilling. For a reality check, the nation must remember that the Interior's "firefighters" are not classified as such and are considered "park and refuge employees, not a national resource for the "agency". So given that mentality, know that budgets being cut for fire may seem like a big deal if the Agency regards them as such, but back in this corner of the world it matters little. Those forestry technicians are basically the blue collar labor pool/maintenance workers for the parks and refuges. Management views their fire "skills" as useful when it serves management's needs. And that is always briefly as firefighters and constantly as maintenance workers. I personally know of an email and statement of "refuge policy" limiting forestry technicians (and yes i wish we were called what we are) to TWO details per year.... "because there is a lot of work to do here!" ...which includes things like weeding the gardens, cutting stumps, painting posts, cleaning the gutters, cleaning the bathrooms of the rec areas, spraying herbicide, and a never ending lists of menial tasks that always fall on the same group..... And that "we've done our share so let others help out (per mgmt)" (which speaks volumes to the UTF list and when Ops is asking if folks can extend and your home unit is always denying you).

Letters like yours are a pipedream of reality that we will never know. In our hearts we know the truth of what we do and the pride we take in our jobs.. when we can do it.

Living in the Cursed Lands of R8

8/14 Funeral services for Trampus Haskvitz have been set for Tuesday August 16 in Hot Springs.

The public is invited to a visitation from 
6-9 p.m. on Monday, August 15
McColley's Chapel of the Hills,
Hot Springs, SD

The funeral service will be held
2 p.m. on Tuesday, August 16
Mueller Center
Hot Springs, SD

Following the service, there will be a procession from the Mueller Center to the gravesite. 
Additional procession details to be released later.
8/13 Good news. Update on firefighter's condition from a PIO:

9:50 a.m. update: As of Saturday morning, firefighter Austin Whitney, 20, of Hot Springs is no longer listed in critical condition at Western States Burn Center at Northern Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colo. He remains stable in his improved condition.

Whitney was listed in critical but stable condition Friday afternoon. He suffered burns to his arms, legs and received third-degree burns to his hands and neck.

More at: rapidcityjournal.com


Governor Dennis Daugaard requests that all flags in South Dakota be flown at half-staff on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 8 a.m. to sunset in honor of state forest firefighter Trampus Haskvitz.

8/13 R.I.P. Aero Union

Yesterday, all employees were given their walking papers. Aero Union is officially closed.


Thanks, T, that is fitting. Our best to those pilots, mechanics, engineers and management. I added the photo to the Airtankers 36 photo page. Ab.

Hotlist thread

8/13 Budget and presenting ourselves:

Starting October 1, 2011 is the beginning of the new fiscal year for the federal government. Nobody knows what the Forest Service, BLM, BIA or NPS fire budget numbers will look like at this time. However, we have many fire managers speculating, raising red flags and threatening reductions. The fire budget is balanced by funding for preparedness and roughly 1/2 billion dollars of funding for wildland fire suppression activities.

The numbers are not as bad as currently being reported. Recently due to reduced spending of preparedness funds because of out of region commitment of firefighting resources, R5 fire is projecting to balance the fire budget.

It is important to that everyone within our community follow the advice recently from Casey Judd to make sure you communicate with your federal elected officials on the importance of the work you do.

Be professional, respectful and outline for them the work you do not only protects communities and our national natural resources. The work you do statistically maintains an effective initial attack response limiting the number of large fire events.

"You either pay now for a strong effective initial attack, or you pay a lot more later to manage an increased number of large fires."

  • This community has come through before in the past.
  • This community is now stronger because of what we did during the retention fight of 2005-2009.
  • This community has the truth on our side.


Rest in Peace Sal. Godspeed.

8/13 Book review of Fire at Peshtigo

This is a great book! I feel that this could be the first Urban Interface Incident. I highly recommend that you visit the Museum. Please study the history. I rate this book five Saws!

Dan Collins

Thanks, Dan, I added it to the book reviews page. If you let us know the location of the museum, I ca add it to your post. Readers, if anyone has other books to recommend, please let me know. Be sure you put the name of the book you're recommending in the email subject line. Thanks, Ab.

8/13 Remembering Ernie:

I can't believe it has been six years since we lost Ernie Johnson. His loss still echoes throughout the agency, the peninsula and with his family and friends.

You never know when you will be facing loss. It was just a "normal" fire assignment for an airspace coordinator. Ernie was young, enjoying an early retirement. I found some pictures today of his first assignment as an Airspace Coordinator in Missoula. There he was sitting in front of a computer and aviation sectionals in quiet analysis of the airspace and temporary flight restrictions. He didn't even know his picture was being taken.

What struck me about Ernie was that he was 100% no matter what he did. As an pilot, he threw himself completely into airspace. He was an inventor (the flying drip torch and the "R5 hose roller"). The firefighting companies sent him blueprints for review when they were developing equipment. He was an incredible Ops Chief and the most loved Incident Commander I have ever seen. His team knew their mission - it was all about "supporting those on the line". Period.... the firefighters came first whether it was the chow line or the shower line.

When it was time to enjoy life, party or tell a few stories... there was no one finer. With a twinkle in his eye, he could spin a story or build a fire to sit by.
And then there was the car racing.... his garage was amazing. If Ernie didn't have a tool, he simply made one.

I can't believe how big Ernie's grandchildren have grown in the past six years. They share his passion for fishing. The boys even look like him. His family copes and grieves.... for their loss is the hardest of all to bear.

So on this day in August, please take a moment to remember those you love, those you like and those you work with. Pause and give someone an extra hug...
or a smile, or tell a tall tale. Be thankful that you work with some of the best people in the world. Built on trust and honed by fire, there are no friendships like what we have in the fire and aviation community. I will always be grateful for the friendship I had with Ernie Johnson.

Julie J. Stewart.....
Ernie's Friend

Julie, send in a few photos and we can add them to his Always Remember page. Ab.

8/12 Passing of Sal Elizondo:


I worked with Sal in June of 1973 on the old Monterey. We stayed in the redwood cabin on Plaskett Creek at PV and drove to the trailhead and met Sal. His donkeys, dogs and us four rookies!! We packed in several days at a time and worked trail. Sal carried the old yellow bag two channel radio pack set. He was maybe 40-42 then and tough as nails. Always ready for a laugh. And quite the dancer at Jolon.


8/12 Passing of Sal Elizondo:

Attached is a short bio of Sal Elizondo; please post. Sal died Saturday, Aug. 6th.

I first met Sal in 1972 and worked with him for 30+ years. He was one of the last "Horseback Rangers" in California. Anyone who visited Fire School at Fort Hunter Liggett surely met Sal, heard one of his stories or jokes, or gained invaluable insight and appreciation of the Ventana Wilderness.

Thanks abercrombie!

Signed "Keeper of the Coyote's secrets".


Sal Elizondo long time employee and volunteer passed away Saturday, August 6th after a short battle with cancer.

Sal was born on October 6th 1927 in Santa Barbara into a family of 10 brothers and sisters. He served in the Navy from 1946 to 1955 and was stationed for some time in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor.

Sal started his career with the Forest Service on the Ojai Ranger District on the Los Padres National Forest as a Laborer 3 in 1961. In February 1962 he became a Fire Control Aid and stayed on the Ojai District until his promotion to the Santa Barbara District as a TTO (Tank Truck Operator).

Sal reassigned to the Monterey Ranger District in 1970 as the Strawberry backcountry patrolman, working out of the Big Sur Station. Sal then moved to the Indians area of the Monterey Ranger District as the San Antonio backcountry patrol in 1973. During this time, Sal’s primary mode of transportation was horse and mule. He patrolled the area during the “Hippy days” when the Pine Ridge Trail along with all the backcountry camps became a major hang out for the hordes of “foot loose and free spirits”, especially Sykes Hot Springs and Barlow Falts. Sal and his mules along with his Cocker Spaniels, Snoopy and Hombre, became known to many hikers and backpackers as the “THE RANGER”. Stalwarts of the local hiking community still remember Sal and his dogs.

Sal promoted to the Indian’s FPT (Fire Prevention Technician) in 1974 and remained in that position until his retirement in June 1986. Sal quickly became a fixture in the Indians area and was a friend to many of the regular forest visitors.

In his career, Sal worked on many of the major fires in California and many other noteworthy projects on the Forest, namely the Black Cone Trail construction.

After retirement, Sal was employed on Rancho Rio Escondido in the Indians area as a care-taker and ranch hand. The Trust for Public Lands purchased the ranch in 1991 and then gave it to the Los Padres National Forest. Sal stayed on as the care-taker and as a National Forest Volunteer until his death. During this time Sal was once again reunited with the Forest Service Pack Stock when in 1992 the stock was moved from Big Sur to the ranch.

Sal is remembers for his love of the backcountry, horses and mules, his Cocker Spaniels, and his quick and sharp wit. He was a tireless walker and always had a new joke to tell. Sal enjoyed the simple life, living for the most part of his life without electricity or modern conveniences; and he liked that. He two indulgences, 49er football and right wing radio talk shows.

Sal is survived by six sisters and one brother. He was preceded in death by two brothers and one sister.

Services pending.

Thanks. What a life he had. Ab.

8/12 Question regarding R5 Very Pistol injury...

Hi Ab,

Out of curiosity, I searched the R5 Safety site and found the attached item.

I didn't find the answer to the original question….
Region 5 (FY11 to date 081011) Injury Description (364 K doc)

just amazed at the amount and type listed!


R5 has had a very good and thorough safety person for the last 5 or 6 years that has exerted due diligence in acquiring the kind of stats you see here. She once asked me and said:

How do you know if your safety program is working and that things are getting better unless you have good baseline data to begin with and track these incidents by year? What are the highest frequency accidents/injuries? We could work on those first.

This is the stuff of transparency and a learning and just culture.

Kudos to Michelle Reugebrink, a visionary, a downright hard worker and a great person! Funny as heck! What would this region do without her??? It's my loss that our paths don't cross as much as they used to back in the day. If you have a chance to say hi to her, give her a hug or a handshake and tell her "Job Well Done!" She's a gift to this planet! Ab.

Please let us know about services for Trampus.


8/12 South Dakota injured firefighters

Here is an update from 12:10 today;

12:10 p.m. update Austin Whitney, a 20-year-old wildland firefighter injured in a wildfire Thursday, is in critical, but stable condition in Western States Burn Center at the Northern Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colo.

Whitney suffered second and third-degree burns on his legs, arms and neck, according to Joe Lowe, director of the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division.

Whitney was flown to the burn center Thursday evening after a group of firefighters was trapped in the Coal Canyon Fire about nine miles northwest of Edgemont Thursday afternoon.

Hot Springs Firefighter Killed in Coal Canyon Fire
Mike Bournazian
Fire Training Specialist
Wyoming State Forestry Division

Thanks, Mike.

(Informative 5 min video briefing by Joe Lowe, Division Director for South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression; and Dennis Jaeger, Deputy Forest Supervisor for the Black Hills National Forest)
Ab copy and paste from the keloland link: www.keloland.com

RAPID CITY, SD - A firefighter has died and four others were injured while battling the Coal Canyon Fire Thursday afternoon.

Fire officials say it happened on U.S. Forest Service land nine miles north of Edgemont.

South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division Director Joe Lowe said the men came in on a mid-slope road and the fire was
up the hill from them on the initial attack. He says it was windy and an ember went up in the air and started a fire downhill from the
men. The flames then grew to two large fires and surrounded them by fire and blocked their exit. More at the link...

Fair Use Disclaimer

8/11 Anyone hear about a verey pistol malfunction or a flare malfunction recently in Region-5 that caused an injury?

So Cal Ridges
8/11 Sad news: one LODD and several burned in South Dakota:

I just got a call that 2 engines were burned over in South Dakota. The PIO providing info to the person who called me is from the Black Hills National Forest. I'm uncertain if that's where the burnover occurred.

Four firefighters were burned, a South Dakota state firefighter was critically burned and died. Four firefighters were burned, a South Dakota state firefighter was critically burned and died. Two firefighters were life flighted to a Rapid City Hospital. One was life flighted on to a burn center in Denver Colorado. Two Forest Service Firefighters were treated and released. The families of the injured and dead have been notified. The SD governor will be making a statement very soon, and no doubt, the name of the fallen will be released then.

Condolences to all. Thoughts and prayers for family, co-workers, friends and all of those involved and performing the notifications.



Office of Gov. Dennis Daugaard
500 E. Capitol Ave.
Pierre, S.D. 57501
(605) 773-3212

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011
CONTACT: Tony Venhuizen or Joe Kafka at 605-773-3212

One Forest Firefighter Killed, Two Injured While Fighting Coal Canyon Fire

PIERRE, S.D. – One state forest firefighter was killed and two others were injured late this afternoon while fighting the Coal Canyon Fire on U.S. Forest Service land nine miles north of Edgemont.

The three firefighters, all from Hot Springs, were seasonal firefighting employees of the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division.

Trampus Haskvitz, 23, died as a result of injuries he suffered when the Type 6 fire engine he was working on was burned over by the blaze.

Two other firefighters, Austin Whitney and Kevin Fees, were injured and transported by Life Flight to Rapid City Regional Hospital. Whitney is being transferred tonight to a certified burn center in Greeley, Colorado. Fees is in stable condition at Rapid City Regional Hospital.

“This is very sad news,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “Linda and I are praying for Trampus’ loved ones, and for the firefighters who were injured. Too many times in recent weeks, South Dakotans have been reminded just how much we owe to the firefighters, law enforcement, and others who risk their lives to protect us all.””

“This is a tragic day for the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division,” said Division Director Joe Lowe. “Trampus died a hero doing what he loved to do, and he will be sorely missed by the Black Hills firefighting community.”

8/11 Sending out ADs has been a no-win for many dispatch offices for years. Having a good "fill" rate can only go so far as compensation. Virtually everything for ADs is hard copy due to data and system security issues. Add to that the yearly work created because somebody, somewhere thinks we may have become illegal aliens or criminals over the winter.

I've seen a collision coming between fire personal/budgets and ADs for years and have tried to raise the issue whenever possible -- if we're less of a burden on local personnel, we'll be more likely to continue to get work. It's a systemic problem. Local b*tching will only alienate local fire personnel, especially if they haven't been around long enough to see months-long resource shortages.

On some level, it makes sense that a forest would only want to deal with the resources that give them a direct return on investment. Work on changing the big picture.

Still Out There as an AD
8/11 The Serious Accident Investigation (SAI) into the death of Caleb Hamm is well underway and expected to be completed "sometime in September", as always, as soon as possible, which usually seems very slow...

The BLM News Release stated today that "the cause of death for a 23-year old firefighter last month was “hyperthermia,” or the uncontrolled overheating of the body."

Such investigations (SAIs) are always done in the  instance of a fatality or other serious accident, because wildland firefighters are driven to determine if there are lessons to be learned to prevent future deaths. This is one way we can honor our fallen... by learning whatever we can from them or their passing... so that other similar potential deaths can be avoided. It's horrible enough that we've lost our "fire family" friend. We do not want our "fire family" friend to have died in vain.


8/11 Dear Ab:

Thought your readership might be interested in the attached paper entitled "What Are the Safety Implications of Crown Fires?" that was presented at the 11th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit held in Missoula back in early April.

The full proceedings will soon be available. Contact the International Association of Wildland Fire for details.


Marty Alexander, PhD, RPF
Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada

Alexander & Cruz (2011) wlf Safety Summit Paper (696 K pdf)

Thanks Marty. Ab.

8/10 IMPORTANT - Fire Hire Info. All OCR's in AVUE will be closing on 9/1/2011

FS employees:

Employees - if you plan on applying for a fire position during the next round of fire hire (GS-6 thru GS-9 positions) you will need to apply by September 1

an earlier part of the message trail:

Region 5 Fire Hire

On Monday 8/8/2011 we received notice from Policy that the OCR's in AVUE will have to close on 9/1/2011. Originally we were told 9/30/2011. Since the referral lists for the R5 Fire Hire were to be pulled on 9/18/2011, this is a problem. You will have to get the word out to the field ASAP on the new closing date. All of the vacancies in AVUE and USAjobs now show 9/1/2011 as the closing date.

Applicants will not be able to apply after the 9/1 closing date, but we can still pull the referral lists from these OCR's after 9/1 for Fire Hire.

This does not affect the Apprentice hiring since the referral lists will be pulled on 8/18/2011. (snipped some extraneous info. Ab.)

Lynda Kinney
Supervisory Human Resource Specialist
National FIRE TEAM

8/9 "It's not the same agency" comments

I feel the need to respond to something that the person that posted his reply to Modoc Apprentice on 8/ 5. He inferred that he hadn't had good luck with the union and maybe that's true, but then he went on to say that he hadn't received any useful advice from NFFE and that none of us have any true understanding of the fire world. That upset me a little.

I have over 30 years of fighting fires and my red card says OSC2 and SOF2. The president of the local on the district that I sit is a OSC2 and a SOF2 and was a jumper for ten years in Alaska. We're both GS 7s and for a long time had higher quals than the FMO, so we know a little about the fire world.

I don't want this to turn into one of those never ending war of words that I see on Theysaid at times so this will be the last that I say on this issue, but I do want to take the opportunity to make an offer. I am the chairman of the national Fire Committee for NFFE. We are always looking for new blood and knowledge. Join up, volunteer for the committee, be heard nationally, or sit back, whine and make derogatory/ false statements about the people that are at least trying to fix things. This same offer goes to all of the fire positions that we recently got into the bargaining unit. We're always looking for good help.

Ronald C. Angel
Region 1 Council Vice President

8/9 ADs

This is a request to hear from any firefighters who have either been denied AD (Administratively Determined pay grade) firefighting status by the US Forest Service or who have been dropped as an AD by USFS.

This year, the Lolo National Forest dropped approximately 45 of their AD firefighters from sponsorship. Their reason? Sponsoring ADs involves too much administrative paperwork, so they are only going to sponsor ADs who are critical to their local needs. As most of you know, ADs are critical to our national firefighting capability. No IMT1s and few IMT2s could be fully staffed without ADs. ADs also fill irreplaceable support positions on nearly every incident. No local agency office (e.g. a National Forest) should have the ability to unilaterally make decisions that adversely affect national firefighting capability.

A group of former Lolo ADs are challenging this decision, but we could use your help. Information about similar experiences on other National Forests would be useful in this challenge and could help to ultimately produce a consistent national policy recognizing the importance of AD firefighters. If this decision is not reversed and a meaningful national policy is not developed, the Lolo's actions are likely to spread throughout the country during these times of tight budgets and personnel cutbacks. A significant loss of AD resources nationally would be catastrophic to our firefighting capability.

If you have been denied AD status or have been dropped as an AD, we'd like to hear your story.

Please email bsummerf(at) gmail.com

8/9 A very Happy 65th Birthday to our favorite firefighter,

Smokey Bear!!


8/9 A Perry, Oklahoma firefighter died Sunday following his collapse on a brush fire in the heat on July 29, 2011.

Here's the USFA report on his passing: Kyle King

Here's the hotlist link where we've been following this: Kyle King's passing

Condolences, Ab.

Always Remember Kyle King


Fortuna CCC Crew 22:

This crew is a partnership between the Six Rivers National Forest Fire Organization and the California Conservation Corps. Fortuna Crew 22 went available on Wednesday August 3rd. 

Lead 51.

Thanks, Lead 51. Sure are some nice strong young faces in that bunch. I can sense their excitement. I put the photo on the Handcrews 29 photo page. Ab.

8/8 Wildland Firefighter Foundation - Combined Federal Campaign:

Hi Ab,

Just wanted to share and remind folks that the Wildland Firefighter Foundation is a Combined Federal Campaign charity eligible for donations through the CFC; our agency number is 12544.

As agencies begin to kick-off their giving campaigns, please remember the Foundation! We have folks who join the 52 Club through their CFC campaign. All CFC donors who designate the WFF as their organization of choice as long as their contribution is $52 or more, will be listed as a 52 Club member. Just let us know that you are contributing through your CFC and that your donation is $52 or more. For federal employees who join the CFC this is like getting a double bonus. You can be credited for contributing to the CFC effort and become a member of WFF's 52 club at the same time!

Melissa Brandt
Wildland Firefighter Foundation


Modoc apprentice:

First of all, thank you for having the backbone to address this issue. Second, pay close attention to what "Not the same agency" said, it is good advice, unfortunately there is a similar situation on the Stanislaus. I have watched this kind of thing go on for over 30 years now and can only attribute it to having non-fire managers (rangers) and too-heavy- a- hand by HR, not to mention a very active good-ol-boy/girl network.

It seems that when it comes to fire quals, what is good for grunts isn't good for the overhead.

There are many forests this would not be tolerated, ever think of moving?

Something I've learned over the years is to find quality-minded coworkers and keep in close touch with them, don't go it alone. Also, keep your SA up and learn all you can to stay safe 'cause, bottom line, you are looking out for yourself.


8/7 Yactak, Mellie and others 

Those are all good points, unless you're the Forest Supt. or Ranger on the Modoc.  Remember they didn't know that they are required to know something about fire.  To clear any confusion here, it's not a matter of being pack tested on my side (eastside) of the Modoc.  It's a matter of that not one chief officer is qualified as a division group/supervisor, incident commander type 3, and to boot, a prescribed fire burn boss type 2.  The westside chiefs are qualified.  Our Ranger thinks this is ok and ok to have captains more qualified then the chiefs.  I'm glad the captains can at least provide that safety oversight and run their program as these chiefs have no clue.  

As stated in my email to Chief Tidwell, safety is job none and without detailed type 3 ICs we would literally have STENs to look to for oversight on emerging fires.  Not to mention our recruitment is embarrassing and we are one of 9 forests whose civil rights officers from the WO decided to visit a couple of months ago. Do yourself a favor and avoid this forest at all costs until they fire the Forest Supt and Ranger.

Modoc Apprentice

8/7 Studebaker. Every day of the week and twice on Sunday's.


8/6 Mellie,

I would chose the Duty Officer qualified person. Lots of variables here. A position should be filled with an individual that is current, meeting all the prerequisites and qualifications. Ideally you would have the Type one IC and or Forest FMO (Studebaker) as the mentor. Reasoning here is that if we have rules, we should follow them. If one does not like the rules, get them changed.


"Hope resides in the future, perspective and wisdom are found by looking to the past"

8/6 If folks are talking about the issue relating to the discrepancy between requirements for Forest (or District) FMO and DIVS (redcarded Division Supe on a fire or duty officer on a forest), this issue has been around and under discussion for some time.

I remember one discussion in the R5 BOD after the 2003 firestorm when Ray was Chief. Question boiled down to this:

If both Studebaker (FMO and Type 1 IC, but no longer pack tested) and the less-experienced Duty Officer on Studebaker's forest could potentially act as IC, which would you choose?

I don't know what the requirements are now for either position with IFPM thrown in the mix, but I'd like to know.


8/6 Hello,

I am a wildlife veterinarian in Africa. We are catching animals in Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi. I want to start using infinity gps mics out of the helicopter and on the ground crew vehicles. Do you know someone who has worked with this stuff that can get me advice? especially with the in the helicopter/plane side. 



8/6 Apprentice, 

Your situation is not unique. Unfortunately this is happening on other Forests too. For example there is a DFMO on my Forest who has not passed a pack test in several years (needed to maintain currency for front line fire positions listed below). Yet he acts as a Duty Officer on a weekly scheduled rotation. There are standard qualifications (IFPM) that are mandatory for a fire manager/firefighter. I have attached the requirements for a District Fire Management Officer (DFMO or ZFMO) - FS-FPM. This was revised 7/15/2011. Here is the web address for information on requirements for fire positions. www.fs.fed.us/fire/management/ifpm 

Currency: Once hired, CURRENCY IS REQUIRED FOR DZFMO POSITIONS, however applicants do not need to be “Current” in their NWCG qualifications to be eligible for the position, but must attain “currency” within one year of hire. See Wildland Fire Qualifications System Guide (PMS 310-1) for definition of “currency” and how “currency” can be maintained. PMS 310-1 is the parent NWCG qualification document that defines “currency” and is supported by the FSH 5109.17. 


Unsigned “playing it safe”

IFPM Requirements for DFMO

8/6 Modoc Apprentice,

Thank you so much for being the voice for the Modoc. I just don’t get how they can put another un-qualified person onto the DIV job when that has been the issue here (on theysaid a month ago). How can we safely work in these conditions? When will we actually get a Chief officer that is qualified instead of shuffling even more unqualified people into that position?

I know a bunch of us are afraid to say anything because the reprisal here is a big thing. We have seen what happens to fellow co-workers when they have brought up the issues that you have brought forward here on theysaid. I know I am afraid to bring up anything because it feels like we work under a mafia and if you question the line officers you might as well be looking for another job.

I do hope the Washington Office actually cares and does something about this. I know I'm not the only one sick and tired of the way we get treated here.

looking for a safe work environment
8/5 Modoc Apprentice,

I applaud your efforts to get the word out about your situation. Whereas some might call it whining or complaining, most of us who have been around for a while in fire will not call it that, and instead we will support you. Recently a similar situation (although not identical) and means of getting the word out was attempted here in R6 and here are some things that we have learned (and continue to learn) throughout the entire process.

- Network with other more experienced people in the agency as much as possible. This site, Casey, etc. All incredible resources.
- STAY IN CONTACT with your congress-persons. Follow-up your letter with a phone call ASAP. That highlights the fact that you and the situation are serious.
- Review and practice your letters and phone calls on someone else before you send and make them to ensure professionalism in the delivery. "One time for a first impression..."
- Document, document, document!
- Be aware of retribution and did I mention... DOCUMENT??! Retribution is alive and well in the agency. Not openly expressed, but as you know there are other delivery methods.
- Be aware that when someone, even a line officer, makes a promise to you, it may or may not be held to. In other words there might not be any accountability.
- Sadly, don't assume that a district, forest or regional Safety Officer will support you. I wish I could say that you could rely on this person, but I can no longer say this is true.
- Link everything you can to the topic of safety, shouldn't be hard to do and sounds like you have already done it.

We have learned that accountability from line officers and others up to the regional forester are frequently talked about, although seldom seen at our level. However without an advocate you can basically assume you'll lose any discussion you have with a higher up. And yes, I meant to use the word "lose." It will be you against them. And people can deny that this happens, but you will likely and unfortunately see first-hand that they are wrong.

I wish I could say that you can get help from the union, however we have not experienced much support or understanding from the NFFE. Almost no useful advice and none with any true understanding of the fire world.

Be strong, be proud of what you are fighting for, realize that you are at the ground level building the calluses on your hands from the hard work and that many (most) of the people you are talking to are very very far removed from it (and some have never experienced it).

Remember what a retired FMO of mine recently told me (and he was one of the good ones), the only time you are guaranteed to get immediate action is immediately after there is an incident. Any other time it's directly proportional to your efforts.


It's not the same agency, but some of us are still striving for it!

8/5 Greetings, the third update from the Western Region effort for the Cohesive Strategy,

please share with folks… closing in on the Phase 2 products…

Thanks for the input and efforts to date…


WRSC-Update (213 K pdf)

Nice. Ab.

8/5 From around noontime

Boise District BLM
* Bigfoot, 2500+ acres - 6 miles east of Swan Falls
* Alky, 1300+ acres - 9 miles north of Glenns Ferry
* Jakes, 426 acres - 15 miles north of Emmett
* Jupiter, 600 acres - 36 miles southeast of Jordan Valley
* Sunk, 1 acre - 1 mile west of Swan Falls (***Controlled***)
* Rattles, 1 acre - 2 miles northeast of Mountain Home Reservoir (***Controlled***)
* Biggy, 1acre - 14 miles south of Bruneau (***Controlled***)
* Sugar, 1 acre - 14 miles south of Bruneau (***Controlled***)
* Spice, 1/4 acre - 14 miles south of Bruneau (***Controlled***)
* Elephant, 8 acres - 9 miles south of Marsing (***Controlled***)

Twin Falls District BLM
* Pole Creek, 1294 acres - 6 miles south of Three Creek Road
* Sailor Creek, 2500 acres - 9 miles west of Roseworth
* Nat Soo Pah, 8.7 acres - just north of Nat Soo Pah Hot Springs

Boise National Forest
24 small fires, all less than 1/2 acre in size, in the Emmett, Cascade, and Lowman Ranger Districts. Fire crews are working on 14 of them. None of the fires are threatening structures.

Payette National Forest
5 small fires, all less than 1/4 acre in size, scattered throughout the Payette National Forest. No control issues.


8/5 Chief Tom Tidwell,

I am an apprentice on the Modoc National Forest and writing you on behalf of myself and other fire employees who are being exposed to an exceedingly unsafe work environment. We were informed at a recent meeting that our respective division chief would be out on a medical issue for a year. The ranger stated that one of the current battalion chiefs will be detailing in over the next 2-3 months until a 1 year NTE could be filled. The division chief mentioned has not been qualified for his position and the battalion chief the ranger is placing in the detail is not even qualified for his current position. Not one chief officer under this ranger is a qualified Incident Commander Type 3 (ICT3) or Division/Group Supervisor (DIVS). In fact, we have not had a qualified ICT3 or DIVS since fire season 2009.

While we are very concerned for the safety and welfare of the public and ourselves in light of this grave management decision, we are not dazed at the vagrant disregard that the forest supervisor and ranger have for fire fighter and public safety. Chief Tidwell, you have stated tirelessly that safety is job one. It’s job none under the current forest supervisor and ranger. Taking the easy route of detailing a non-qualified employee into this position out of convenience is much like engaging in fire suppression without taking the time to establish LCES. It’s totally appalling. We employees deserve top notch leadership and when it comes to operational oversight, the agency has no room to error.

This complete disrespect for the safety of all is more then we can bear. We simply can not rely on ICT3 detailers and line officers' dismal excuses to cover for the lack of operational oversight anymore. Line officers need to be held accountable for their lack of providing a safe and reprisal free work environment. As stated in Chapter 5 of the 2011 Red Book “Line officers with fire management responsibilities will have knowledge and understanding of fire program management”. Both the forest supervisor and ranger are hazardous and oblivious. Chief Tidwell, it’s also about these line officers enabling an unfriendly/unsafe workplace which is creating a forest that many are leaving. Many fire employees are looking elsewhere at forests that will provide a safe work environment. I wish all of us could speak without fear of reprisal but on this forest, reprisal is much like Aglearn, it’s here to stay and not going away. That is why I have to use an alias name.

Thank you for your time.

This will be sent to Theysaid, congressional reps, OSHA, OIG and others to ensure this is not swept under the rug and dismal excuses are made by line to cover up their issues.
8/5 Iron 44

August 5, 2011

Three years ago today, on August 5, 2008, we lost our very dear friends and brothers in one of the worst aviation disasters in the history of Wildland Firefighting. Please join with me in remembering those who perished that night on helispot 44 of the Iron Complex...now known as Iron 44.

Tom Bagwell
Iron Air Attack

Always Remember Iron 44

8/4 To Casey:

What you have done for Federal Firefighters and the entire Wildland Fire Community is phenomenal! Your devotion to your values and beliefs is obvious to all and you must have tremendous Family support to be able to devote so much energy to the cause of your constituency. I have always been very sad when folks who may not agree with your position don’t recognize your devotion to what you (and I nearly all the time) believe is right. Your unwavering efforts for such minimal compensation gives great insight into your character. As important as your are to this debate, please put yourself at the top of your priority list. I am sure everyone hopes wishes and prays your upcoming medical procedures produce the best results possible and will give you all the time you need.

Best Wishes,

North Bay FC
8/4 Lurking...


Love this site.

Started with USFS in 1971 on the Sequoia NF, transferred in '73 to Stanislaus to work on the Granite Fire burn, then to the Sierras in '76 as assistant Hot Shot Foreman. 8 yrs later (at the same pay grade) I quit in 1984 and with my degree in Forest and Park Tech., I started selling real estate and have still continued to sell to present.

Can’t seem to get fire out of my blood so here I lurk.


Glad you're here. Chime in any time you have a story or few words of wisdom. Ab.

8/4 Ab,

Too many to list, but here's what's happening around here:

Lightning caused fires spark around valley, one firefighter injured

FYI, Bigfoot fire is at 800 acres according to BLM reports.


Ab note: May be larger than 800 acres now. This post came in early afternoon.

8/3 Hi to all:

Next week representatives from the FWFSA will be in California to meet with a California member of Congress in the hope of finalizing the re-introduction of legislation seeking significant pay & personnel policy reforms as well as organizational structure reforms we believe will lead to a more efficient & effective federal wildfire response. I have attached our latest draft for your review. We have worked hard to address the few concerns raised from last session's bill by the IAFF (despite the fact they don't represent any federal wildland firefighters in any capacity) and the private contracting community who felt our requirements to reduce non-federal resource suppression costs over a specific period of time by specific, targeted amounts would have led to their demise. In fact during my last trip to DC in March all offices commented on our efforts to address the concerns. That being said, it is clear with the anti-federal employee and "meat-cleaver/slash & burn" proposals to reduce the federal deficit floating around Congress, we have to articulate meaningful ways to pay for the costs associated with any improvements to pay & benefits such as portal to portal pay. Draft Legislation (141 K doc)

Not only is our bill aimed at addressing long standing issues facing our Nation's federal wildland firefighters, but it is designed to create a more efficient & effective federal wildfire response and save America's taxpayers from continuing to waste hundreds of millions of dollars each season on un-needed and significantly higher-priced non-federal resources.

The federal wildfire response was not designed to be a profit-driven program but it in fact has turned into a financial feeding frenzy for some, much to the detriment of our inherently less-expensive federal wildland firefighters and the taxpayers of America. A similar situation comes to mind when we have gone to war in Iraq and elsewhere. American service men & women continue to get paid like crap while defense contractors get filthy rich.

I apologize for the "secretive" nature of not naming the individual we are meeting with but as we've all experienced in the last few months, politics can be a very nasty business to navigate through. I will say however that we do have commitments from a bipartisan group of folks in Congress to be what are called "original cosponsors" to the bill once it is introduced.

I will also be perfectly candid that we have solicited the support of NFFE and other organizations for our legislation. If you are both an FWFSA member and a NFFE member I would encourage you to contact NFFE's Forest Service Council to urge them to support the bill. If you aren't sure how to contact them, I'm sure they would be thrilled with me providing you with their contact info :)

As I've said before, I am very humbled and honored to have spent considerable time over the last few years developing a close working relationship with NFFE on a number of firefighter issues and given the great news that their bargaining unit has expanded upwards, more of our members will be able to take advantage of the services a Union offers under Title 5 of the USC.

Finally, to all FWFSA members, I had hoped to have registration packages out this week for our membership conference in Reno in December. However a routing error by UPS on an element of the package has delayed the date of our mailings until next Tuesday or Wednesday.

We will post all the documents included in the package on our website inside the member's area but we are doing a mass mailing to ensure all members get packages. Additionally, the package includes postage-paid return envelopes for the registration card which we will need sent in with registration payment.

For those "on the fence" with respect to joining the FWFSA or wondering if the investment is worthwhile, joining now affords you the opportunity to attend the conference and not only celebrate our past but also plan for our future. With our increased growth to having members in 29 states now, issues may change over time and it is imperative our members set the course for our organization.

Finally, in 2009 when I underwent quadruple bypass open heart surgery, I was on Capitol Hill 5 weeks after major surgery. In hindsight probably a mistake but the point is on August 29th I am undergoing rotator cuff surgery with an expected recovery/rehab period that will take me right up to the membership conference. I'm asking you all allow me a little extra time to respond to emails, phone calls etc., during this time.


Casey Judd

Good work. Ab.

8/3 SAR Dog named after our boy, Caleb HAMM

Would it be possible to get in touch or have AD Texas get in touch with us? I loved the named rescue dog, Caleb, that was named after our Son! It was something small, but touched our hearts greatly. I don't how to leave a message on your site yet, but I will figure it out. Caleb, had a beloved Basset hound that is also mourning his loss! They say dogs don't know, but His dog has been by his side since she was 8 weeks old. I would also love a picture of this little blessing of a dog from AD Texas. If you could get him/her to contact me at my other email address I would appreciate it. We will be coming to Texas to see where our son lost his life later this fall and would like to meet both AD and Caleb.

Please do all you can to make this happen for us. I would appreciate it greatly!!

Thank YOU AD and Ab!

Caleb's Dad!

P.S. Thanks to all other notes made in memory of our Son! It is a loss we will never totally recover from, but little things like this and the memories we have of our son LIVE ON!!

Dave, so sorry for your loss and ours. Take a look at this page as well. Always Remember Caleb Hamm. I'll get in touch with AD Texas. Ab.

8/3 Making the "rounds" ... Beware of Marijuana Growing Sites in the Woods

The links don't work...

Here's the text info below:

Beware of Marijuana Growing Sites in the Woods

Release Date: Jun 27, 2011 Wenatchee, WA
Contact(s): Public Affairs Officer - Roland Giller, (509) 664-9314, Robin DeMario, (509) 664-9292

Snow has melted off most lower and mid-elevation roads making access to national forest lands easier for recreationists and also illegal marijuana growers.

Marijuana operations pose significant threats to forest visitors, so it is very important for all national forest users to be aware of their surroundings and any suspicious activities that may be occurring.

If you encounter a drug operation, back out immediately! Leave the way you came in, and make as little noise as possible. Never engage the growers as these are extremely dangerous people. If you can identify a landmark or record a GPS coordinate, that’s very helpful. The growers may be present and may or may not know that you have found their operation. Get to a safe place and report the encounter to any uniformed member of the Forest Service or to your local law enforcement agency. Report as much detail about the location and incident as you can recall.

Forest visitors are urged to pay attention to their surroundings and also watch for possible signs of marijuana growing activity including:

  • The smell of marijuana, especially on hot days, is like a skunk.
  • Hoses or drip lines located in unusual or unexpected places.
  • A well-used trail where there shouldn’t be one.
  • Voices coming from an unusual place.
  • People standing along roads without vehicles present, or in areas where loitering appears unusual.
  • Grow sites are usually found in isolated locations, in rough steep terrain (typically between 500 to 5,500 feet elevation.)
  • Camps containing cooking and sleeping areas with food, fertilizer, weapons, garbage, rat poison, and/or dead animals.
  • Small propane bottles (so that the grower avoids detection of wood smoke.)
  • Individuals armed with rifles out of hunting season.
8/3 Safest ratio of supervisors to footsoldiers is 1:5 in high reliability organizations. (example- Military research has shown the safest ratio of supervisors to soldiers is 1:5.). Our high-risk firefighting organization follows this model. Ab.

Request for Variance to United States Department of Agriculture Target Ratio of 1:9, Fire and Aviation Management 

File Codes: 1220-Position Management
Through: Name: Charles L. Myers, Title: Deputy Chief for Business Operations
From: Name: Ronald J. Banegas, Title: Acting Human Resources Director
cc: Tom Harbour/WO/USDAFS, Patricia Hirami/WO/USDAFS, Sue A Jacks/HCM/USDAFS, Diana E Ganley/HCM/USDAFS, Lisa Renken/HCM/USDAFS
Subject: Request for Variance to United States Department of Agriculture Target Ratio of 1:9, Fire and Aviation Management Categories: WO-ASC
Finalized Signatures: MARY WAGNER
Co-authors: MaryJane Bergener/HCM/USDAFS, Elizabeth K Caban/HCM/USDAFS, Cecilia Black/WO/USDAFS

Letter: Request-for-Variance-to-USDA-Target-Ratio-for1-9forFAM_07062011.pdf (85 K pdf)
FAM Final Variance Request.doc (56 K doc)
FAM Variance List of Positions.xls (34 K xls -excel spreadsheet)

8/2 FIREFIGHTERS Beware “one-pot” methamphetamine cookers - HAZMAT

Hotlist thread

8/2 Abs. 

We've had some great exchange of ideas on the General Discussion thread of "Should we manage fires for Resource Benefit?

I want to call everyone's attention to a newly published paper regarding the pretreatment of fuels in a buffer zone around some houses in the path of the Wallow Fire.

My compliments to Judy Palmer and the Fuels Staff on the Apache Sitgraves National Forest for a job well done.

This is the way its supposed to work.

Wallow Fuel Treatment Effectiveness (pdf)


8/2 JC and Ab's,

Quick correction, the photo of the Corona and Cleveland engines posted on the web site is incorrect. The photo is of the last day of training at the first SUBE class that the BDF and Rancho Cucamonga Fire Protection District put on. Excellent class thanks to the excellent instruction and participation from Rancho Fire, and the BDF folks. Great example of cohesion and professionalism between a City Dept. and the Feds.

Thanks Again for the change,

The SUBE class video is posted on wildfire tube, nice job Crowder, sorry about your camera.

SUBE Operations

Fixed it on the photo and photo descriptions pages. Thanks a lot SUBE. Ab.

8/2 OWCP question:

... or, after COP for 45 days - and you are declared unable to perform the duties you were hired for - they COULD put you on the OWCP roles for the required recoup and recovery time. Be very careful. Work with your doctors to make sure every issue is covered. If you cannot return to the position you were hired for "wildland firefighting" - then this opens up a new can of worms. Go with the system - make yourself whole first.

Been there

8/2 Some posts yesterday from the Hotlist:

For those of you wondering why NWS fire weather forecasts sometimes differ from GACC Wx, here's one explanation from WxGuy: Hotlist thread 

Apparently the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico that swept up into parts of the SW and West TX drought area did not reach Oklahoma. According to 2 media reports in Shift Briefing, Oklahoma is still burning pretty fiercely. Be safe out there.

Interesting summary post on Canadian airtankers and comments on the contract termination of Aero Union ships by Skim da Lake: Hotlist thread 

8/2 Re DD's post:

Congrats to Mark Jr.  
A big "get on the mend" to Mark Sr.

Gene Rogers

8/1 Corona FD training photo and engine crews photo.

Last day of training.

Also, FS Cleveland NF.


Thanks, I put them on the Engines 28 photo page. Ab.

8/1 Ab, a quick note to post if you would.

Dozer Operator John Saunders from Santa Barbara County retired last week! Went to a nice gathering in Los Alamos for him, good time had by all.

Mark Linane Jr. is the new Lead Operator for SBC now, and wish him well on his new job. Mark also said his dad had surgery to repair a torn retina in his eye recently, and is on the mend, but having to lay low. Want to wish him a speedy recovery!


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