February, 2013

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2/28 Fire Hire

With all this Region 5 Fire Hire talk what the heck is going on with the Region 4 Fire Hire? Are they still at there timeline schedule or did they fall behind? Does anybody in the rumor mill have any insight on this?

Sent from my iPhone

2/28 Permanent Fire Positions


I got my perm about 10 years ago, after 4 years as a seasonal. The easiest way in will be to apply all over the place. Get someone with access to the outreach database to keep an eye out for you (or stop by your office if you can get on a computer and go there - the one on the fsweb.wo.fs.fed.us/ecenter for some reason has ten times the outreaches that make it on the gdcii.com publicly accessible page) and put in for everything you can 'til you get on. Waiting for that one permanent job on the district that you know is going to open up seems to work out with increasing rarity.

But be careful what you wish for. Once you get a couple years under your belt it's real hard to walk away, when you think about retiring in 15 more years or whatever number it is. Then you wind up one of those jaded old curmudgeons who's always going on about how the agency has changed. As long as I've been at it, I'm already one of them. It can be real hard to keep up your attitude when you see how the machine works. The old farts are right, things don't get better. But you read theysaid, so you know. Good luck wherever you go and whatever you do.

-No Regrets

2/28 AB,

Can you or any of the other folks please point me in the direction of the Safe Com that was filed on the Steep Corner Fire? I have looked on the Safe Com website, searched for the month of August in Idaho, and cannot find it.

Another questtarget="_blank" target="_blank" ion pertaining to the accident investigation….why are there names blacked out in the final report?

I appreciate any assistance/ insight…..



They're all here on Anne Veseth's Always Remember page. It's SafeNet, not SafeCom. Ab.

2/28 Thanks, Wondering, eloquently put!


2/28 MAFFS report:


You stated "I understand that the military insisted on handling all aspects of the fatal accident."

You are correct, the Air Force, by military law, has sole jurisdiction regarding Air Force accidents. This is by design. The military investigation offers the people they interview regarding any incident or accident "privilege". What that means is that what ever a person tells the military investigators cannot be used in a court of law. Any court of law, including military. In order to keep the investigation and interview of the involved individuals "privileged" the Air Force had to conduct the investigation into their aircraft accident as a sole entity.

The reason for this "privilege" is obvious.. to promote a learning organization. (I won't say it...)

The Forest Service conducted a separate investigation of the ASM / Lead IWP. There HAS to be lessons learned out there... WHY have we not seen them yet?? I do understand that the Region 5 RASM conducted at least two "briefings" on the incident, one to Cal Fire Aviation and one to R5 Forest Safety Officers.. And yet there is no final report out nor any Lessons Learned...

To put this in perspective, the folks at the Lessons Learned Center in Tucson (NAFRI) say they have been stymied by the Forest Service Aviation Branch before and this does not surprise them.


2/28 Permanent Fire Positions


Truth is a hard reality. First, only Long Term Temporary Employees (LTTE) get automatic rehire on a seasonal basis. Which leads to point two, veterans preference/diversity hire. A person can have LTTE status and never get a realistic chance of achieving a permanent position because that person is not a veteran or a diverse candidate. Here in R5 people with no fire experience are selected for permanent apprentice positions solely because they are a veteran or diverse. Meanwhile there are applicants with many seasons as a temporary employee being passed by. Now I am sure these points will be refuted by many of the all knowing on this site.. ie.. be willing to work in remote locations, be willing to work other less desirable positions.. yada yada yada. I say "malarkey" if the position is in your neighborhood and you have put in the time to serve our country as a protector of our nations natural resources then you should be given equal employment opportunities. Of course none of this is new on "They Said" I am just offering my pint of view.

My advice Mike. You still have 5-6 years of eligibility left. Go to college and get a Natural Resources degree or join the National Guard or figure out how to identify with a diverse class. Good Luck!!


2/28 Career in fire and 37 age cutoff...

I have been reading the posts on this website for a couple of years and find it extremely helpful in a number of ways.

One of those ways is the question and answer posts that hit on a number of topics from long term seasonal employment info., to what exactly is meant by diversity, to people finding old crew-mates...pretty cool. Love it, I think this site is great!

Now, my question for those of you who are interested in tackling is the following: 35 years of age is the cut-off for perm. fire positions with the USFS. Now, I started my USFS career somewhat late (27 years old) and spent (2) seasons in Trails/Recreation before I could land a gig on a fire crew. So, my first season in fire was at the age of 29. Is this too late in the game to land a perm. position by 35? I try and take the (1) season at a time approach, enjoy myself, work hard, have fun, and try and get as many quals as possible. But I cant help but to occasionally worry that my desire for benefits, some job security, and retirement plans have already passed me by. What do those of you with years of experience and first hand accounts think of this situation?


P.S. I am now 31 (entering my 3rd fire season and will be 32 in my 4th and so on...). Oh and I forgot, is it true they are thinking of upping the age cut-off to 37?

It is 37. I put that in the header. Ab.

2/28 David Schnepp Report vs FS on MAFFS report:


I know this isn't the focus of your question, but let me say it anyway. When info comes out in the heat of an incident, it may not be correct or complete in any way, not due to bad intent, but due to confusion.

Here's what appears on the USFA Memorial database until the circumstances of the firefighter's death are verified: Fatality status is provisional and may change as USFA contacts State Fire Marshals to verify fatality incident information.

Here's David's record which triggers a mailing to everyone who's enrolled to receive them, evidently including the Lessons Learned site: USFA Memorial Database: David Schnepp

Typically we do not post for publication on Always Remember until I can call or otherwise verify the circumstances of the incident. One of my friends on the hotlist gathers the potential articles. I make the info into an unpublished Always Remember file that may or may not be published in our wildland firefighter LODD database.

Please Remember David Schnepp is the file I started making for David 4 days ago. The story has changed and changed again through multiple UPDATEs as the media have gotten more and clearer information for the circumstances and their timeline. Our page is not yet published.

Often the media's speed is not always conducive to providing the truth or the Lessons Learned. Often mistakes can hurt the family... (as could this post. Condolences if David's family or friends are reading...)

In the case of the MAFFS accident and the Leadplane's near-miss Accident or "Incident With Potential", I too wonder why it's taken so long. I heard the military insisted on handling all aspects of the fatal incident. Aviation accidents investigated by NTSB also can take a long time, often more than a year. I'm not offering excuses but trying to understand. Federal jurisdiction? CYA? Since the lead plane experience could potentially save aviation lives immediately, it's surprising nothing was or has been said. Was a SAFECOM filed?

Always Remember Paul Mikeal, Joseph McCormick, Ryan David, and Robert Cannon -- MAFFS Incident


2/28 Sent out via FS email this am:

January 29, 2013 I shared temporary hiring direction for the xxxxxx NF for the upcoming this field season. Unfortunately, the direction changed last week. Effective February 25, 2013, xxxxx must approve recruit and fill SF-52’s for all temporary hire appointments. Please disregard the previous information and utilize the following:

  • xxxxx is delegated the authority for all temporary hire recruit and fill actions which cannot be further delegated. This means that all SF-52’s for temporary hires must be approved by xxxx. This includes Long-Term Temporary Seasonal Employees (LTSE) rehires, “regular” rehires, and new hire 1039 appointments. In order to facilitate this, xxxx and xxxx must be identified to “review & concur” all temporary hire recruit and fill actions. Refer to the attached and updated xxxx NF SF-52 Delegation Table.
  • Long-Term Temporary Seasonal Employees (LTSE) are to be offered a job if there is funding and we still have a need to accomplish the work. We have an obligation to accommodate long-term temporary employees first. The LTSE direction we received last year has not changed and is attached for reference. The LTSE eligible list has been updated and was provided to all DR’s, SO Staff Officers, DFMO’s, and TMO’s. If you are completing a SF-52 for an individual that meets the LTSE criteria, note their LTSE status in the remarks section.
  • New direction - personal interviews will be completed as part of the hiring process before making selections for temporary new hires. (This only applies to new hires, not LTSE rehires and “regular” rehires.) Attached are interview questions and guidelines that must be used for this purpose.
  • xxxxx’s expectation: I contend getting the job done is not the sole purpose of our temporary employment program. It should also provide opportunities for people interested in careers in resource management on-the-job experiences; introduce a broader spectrum of our fellow citizens to careers in natural resources and the Forest Service; and provide an avenue for future employees to gain an understanding of the Forest Service. Employees with rehire eligibility do provide us with a good way to bring trained people with a known work history back on board. Looking at our cadre of employees with rehire eligibility there is not a great deal of diversity. We need to work to increase our diversity so that, as a minimum, it better reflects the diversity of the workforce in this part of California. When using rehire authority you will consider the following: Does this action contribute to a diverse workforce? Will this action result in the temporary employee becoming a long-term temporary? Will this action provide the Forest with a workable mix of experienced and new temporary employees to safely and effectively implement our program of work? Are we using some of the recruitment tools developed by the Workforce Recruitment Team?
  • The attached Guides identify the necessary steps to recruit and fill 1039 new hire appointments (updated 2/15/13) and 1039 rehire appointments. They are the most current versions and contain the correct information to work through the temporary hiring process. Temporary hire live meetings should occur in the future.


What is the diversity of the workforce in this part of California? Where can we find that to compare?

Definition of Diversity :

di•ver•si•ty/d'v3rs|ti, da|-/ Show Spelled [dih-vur-si-tee, dahy-] Show IPA noun, plural di•ver•si•ties.

  1. the state or fact of being diverse; difference; unlikeness: diversity of opinion.
  2. variety; multiformity.
  3. a point of difference.

Definition of Diverse:

di•verse/d'v3rs, da|-, 'da|v3rs/ Show Spelled [dih-vurs, dahy-, dahy-vurs] Show IPA, adjective

  1. of a different kind, form, character, etc.; unlike: a wide range of diverse opinions.
  2. of various kinds or forms; multiform

In the short 8 years I have been with this agency, I have NEVER worked with two people that are the same. There are a variety of personalities, variety of characters, and every single person is unlike any other in some way or form. Is there a different kind of Diversity we should be looking for?

AB, Thank you for letting me vent here on this website before I just hit reply all


I think this was bigger than your reply all! Ab.

2/28 Not a rumor:

Well, If i'm uninformed, my bubble is at Mc Clellan, where i am this week working on hiring.

At least my forest got thru Temp hiring without interviews, as did the Mendo, and some other NZ forests...


2/28 Today, less than four days after a fire fatality, a paper describing the incident is on the Lessons Learned website through the US Fire Administration.

wildlfirelessons.net: Schnepp Fatality Notification (pdf)

It is one day shy of 8 months since the July 1, 2012 MAFFS 7 fatalities and the Bravo 5 IWP and still no "official" paper, report or lessons learned from the Forest Service. The United States Air Force released their 50 page "Aircraft Accident Investigation Board Report" with a cover letter dated November 1st, 2012. Shortly thereafter the Air Force posted a link to the 2500 page report of the accident.

Why is the Forest Service Aviation Branch not talking?? What is the lessons learned hold up?? One more indication of organizational failure and how not to conduct business as a learning organization or for that matter, how to manage fire and aviation.


2/28 Milepost 66 serious injury incident and FLA (aka MP 66)

Good news that there is follow-up going for the MP66 fire! I had been getting news from an old fire buddy on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest which is just north of the area where the incident happened, but he says that mum has been the word about it and that their forest is in a weird leadership situation and people probably aren’t comfortable in talking about it. How does THAT fit into the safety journey culture? He said that there is a lot of other stuff that has gone on there, but they seem to always get away with it.

Can we assume that the line officer or someone would at least let the fire community know how the person who was hurt is doing?

I think it’s strange that this accident and everything around it has sort of gone away. I am also very happy to see a union rep who is supporting the safety guidelines we already have in place, even if certain line officers aren’t. I am proud of the Flathead IHC crew and am proud that I was able to spend a pay period at the end of a season on that crew years ago (80’s), even if it was only to stack sticks.

Awesome letter Ron Angel! THANK YOU for bringing up the 2 1/2 tree length safety zone, it’s another policy that was established for a reason and the reasons you gave are spot on. For years I felt there was a need for a policy telling us increase our safety zone.

I have a few questions racing around in my mind about MP66,

  • How come the Union didn’t speak out about the MP 66 incident?
  • Could we borrow Ron Angel to help us get a grip on some things on our district? (kidding)
  • How does someone go about changing a FLA? And why would they do it? Doesn’t it discredit the FLA process and make it untrustworthy? It's apparently not the final, honest or complete summary of this situation.
  • HOw can the line officer that allowed all this to happen show her/his face at their next safety journey meeting? I mean seriously!
  • Does anyone know how the injured firefighter is doing?

We learn from what we hear and see, we call it networking. Not hearing anything is bad for the agency, the wildland fire community and just about any situation where you are trying to learn. I guess we’d have heard something if the person was in a bad way, right?


2/28 Not a rumor:

MJ is once again uninformed as to what is going on except in his bubble.

The R5 Regional Forester is asking the Forest Supervisors to interview all of the recommended applicants in the temporary hiring.

long-time theysaider observing a number of different bubbles

2/27 Rumors:

Don't believe everything you hear about Forest Supervisors interviewing everybody for Temp jobs. Most R5 Forests are already well into temp hiring, and are starting to get Forest Supervisors to recommend hires. Without interviews.

What IS going on:

SME work at McClellan, and we are waiting for Supervisors to return reference checks either by phone or e-mail. Lots of Supervisors have been e-mailed. If you applied for an Apprentice thru GS-9 job, get your supervisor to check their e-mail for ref check forms...



2/27 May 2013: Target for Reintroduction of Wildland Firefighter Legislation

Ho to all:

The FWFSA is currently completing work on its "discussion draft" which will be sent to Capitol Hill this week and placed on our web site in the Member's Area for review and comment. We have been contacted by congressional staff looking to have the bill introduced in May.

With the current crisis in DC being the sequester, it is imperative that we continue to impress upon Congress that the reforms outlined in our legislation will lead to a more effective and efficient federal wildfire response and ultimately save taxpayers significant sums.

A "discussion draft" is just that. It allows for dialogue between those involved to ensure the language meets the intent of what we're trying to accomplish and does so within the confines of the law and rules set forth by Congress each session. There are no major surprises from legislation in recent years. However we are enlisting some "help" in navigating through the nutty world back there. More to follow. Should you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call us any time or email me directly at cjudd@fwfsa.org.


Casey Judd
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association

Thanks Casey for fighting the good fight! Ab.

2/27 Phase out of Phos-Chek P-100:



2/27 Reception following Don Buyak's Memorial Service


We overlooked the location of the reception. The reception will be held right after the memorial service at the Moose Lodge in Mentone. The lodge is on Mentone Blvd between Crafton Avenue and Sapphire Avenue on the north side of the street.

Mentone Moose Lodge
2139 Mentone Blvd.
Mentone, CA 92374
(909) 794-1632

Location of Mentone Moose Lodge

John Miller

2/26 Rumor...

Just heard that the R5 Regional Forester is asking the Forest Supervisors to interview all of the recommended applicants in the temporary hiring.

This ought to be good to watch. When I was picked up many years ago if a forest supervisor had called me, I would have had no clue who they were or why they were calling. I'm not sure if all of our crew members even know who or what the Forest Supervisor is.

I wish they'd record the phone calls, because they could be priceless. There are many, many of our employees who should not be on the phone with our Forest Supervisor. And there are many Forest Supervisors who should not talk to our folks either.

Not surprised in R5

Sent from my iPhone

2/26 FOIA Request; Milepost 66:

For those of you following the MP 66 incident as well as the editing and misuse of the FLA by R6 RO personnel, the process for a FOIA request has been initiated. Resulting information will be made available. This request has been prompted by the fact that because of alterations made to the FLA by someone from the RO it has been learned that there is a great deal more to the situation which is not being presented. In the current Safety Journey climate we consider this information as important for future wildland firefighters and their safety.

Initial questions we are pursuing:

  • Why the line officer approved the training and implementation of an unapproved activity and what the thought process was to make this decision?
  • How funding for gear to support an unapproved program was approved?
  • How this program passed OSHA inspections?
  • Why the FLA was altered by the regional office?
  • Why the line officer made the decision to not follow FLA guidelines?
  • On what basis did the Oregon Dept. of Forestry IC make the decision to approve the activity?

A complete and accurate narrative of the reporting procedures related to the incident (Law Enforcement, SHIPS, Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, etc)

To Ron Angel,

Excellent work! I am very impressed with your letter and fact that as a representative of the NFFE you are speaking clearly and openly. Sadly, union support in this manner is not common in other regions. Thank you for your clear and open support for the firefighters (Flathead Shots) and the adherence to the policies we have in place. Sadly, you point out a critical point with regards to the Safety Journey, namely that it (through the Safety Card) was used properly by the Flatheads but not supported by the agency through the serious accident investigation. Again, as with the MP 66 incident, a lack of accountability rears its ugly head.


2/26 Subject: Memorial Service for Don Buyak
Date: February 26, 2013

The San Bernardino National Forest and the Forest Service have lost an important member of their family, Workforce Development Specialist, former U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer, Firefighter and former soldier in the Army 82nd airborne Don Buyak. On February 22, 2013 Don passed away as a result of a stroke at his home. His passing was sudden and his family is still in shock.

Throughout his career Don was a mentor and friend to many coworkers and benefited the agency through countless work contributions. He will be greatly missed. Don is survived by his wife Linda and daughters Pam, Paula, Becky and Mandy along with several grandchildren. A memorial service has been scheduled Saturday, March 2nd, at 11:00 a.m. at Wildwood Calvary Chapel Church in Yucaipa. The address is 35145 Oak Glen, Rd., Yucaipa, CA 92399.

On behalf of the Buyak Family, the Forest Service Family Support Volunteer Group is soliciting donated funds for the memorial service, reception and ultimately Don’s family. The purpose of the Family Support Group is to provide, assure, and educate families needing support during times of need. Linda Buyak & family are in a time of need and do not have the funds to support all of the costs that readily await them.

In lieu of flowers, the Buyak family is requesting these donations and/or a potluck item in anticipation of a potentially large service. It’s all to appease the hearts and minds of family, friends, and co-workers that will make it out to honor and respect Don Buyak’ s life.

There is also a website available to offer more assistance directly to the family. This link is set up to sign up and provide food to the family through the date of the memorial service.

Each district has an appointed representative that will collect donations on behalf of the Forest Service Family Support Group.

Front Country: Marlene Rhynes (909) 382-2973
San Jacinto: Katie Holldber (909) 382-2942
Mountain Top: Gina Richmond (909) 382-2762
Denny Branda (909) 382-2756
Forest Service Family Support Group Member:
Julie De Anda (909) 557-8470

Please make checks payable to: Don Buyak Memorial Fund

Checks can be mailed to:
Linda Buyak
C/O Becky Buyak
1314 Sapphire Avenue
Mentone, CA 92359

We appreciate your support of the Forest Service Family Support Group and welcome any donations you can provide. Thank you for your time and consideration.

If you require additional information, please contact me and I will be happy to answer any questions by email at Julie_deanda@ nospam yahoo.com.

Julie De Anda, Melissa Chumley, and Teresa Juarez.
Forest Service Family Support Group Members

2/26 End of March is the 5th annual Del Rosa Hotshot Alumni Golf Tournament (18 Hole scramble tournament format) to benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

Here's the direct link: Del Rosa Golf Tournament Event Website

Thanks, Amanda! Ab.

2/26 Re Fire Help Needed:

Sorry, here is the FORM with contact info for those applying that need to add a Supervisor for FireHire.

The Fire Hire inbox is r5firehire@fs.fed.us.


For some reason I can't get that to open on our server without a password. If you want the form, please email me and I'll attach it to a reply. Ab.

2/26 In response to MJ on 2/26 regarding fire hire.

Who would you like the contacts sent to? Does Fire Hire have an email?


2/26 Fire Hire help needed:

SME work is going on now for R5 at Mc Clellan. We are finding out that USA Jobs did not ask supervisor names or numbers, so unless someone put it on a resume, that info is not here. Please figure out a way to get Supervisor contact name and number to Fire Hire if you put in for something. A mass e-mail is going out to all applicants today asking for this info. Please answer it to speed the process along.



2/25 Bo, DP-

No disrespect intended with regards to running a saw on a crew. In the context of a 30+ year career I stand by my statement that it would be worthwhile to think about where you want to be when you are 5 to 10 years down the line. Lots of options out there to participate in wildland fire management and not everyone is cut out to be a lead saw as you well know.

If that is the aspiration L has for his/her career I am sure he/she will be able to accomplish it if they come up with a plan and work hard for it.


2/25 National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) response to the Steep Corner Serious accident Investigation (SAI)
Ron Angel Vice President Region 1 NFFE

I believe the SAI report used the Firefighting Doctrinal approach to justify putting employees in unsafe situations. This was never the intent of the Doctrine. Yes, firefighters often find themselves in dangerous situations, but as in the case of the Flathead IHC they should evaluate the situation and demand as complete of mitigation of any known hazards as possible. In the Forest Service we are told that no resources are as valuable as the safety of our employees. We are at this time in the middle of an exercise called the Safety Journey. How does this event fit that journey? The Flatheads pulled the Safety card (read the SAFENET they published 8/14/12 about Steep Canyon and C-PTPA).

The reality of being part of an interagency firefighting organization is we often find ourselves in situations that we would never accept on federal fires. We accept the standards or objectives of our partners from timber values to felling standards. This is evidenced by the statement in the SAI; “Clearly the strategy of minimizing loss of timber resources was in direct alignment with the values of C-PTPA; they cannot “protect Idaho’s timber” by using indirect tactics and allowing large timbered areas to burn. Given the organizational values of C-PTPA, use of direct tactics was the only available strategy for managing this fire. No other approach was ever considered.” It is time that the Forest Service and other Federal firefighting organizations and their cooperators work from the same value system.

Had this been federal land indirect attack would have been one of the first hazard mitigation tools considered. The SAI makes a point of stating that federal firefighters know the work is hazardous and they get “hazard pay” which state employees and employees of C-PTPA don’t get. This fact is irrelevant to the investigation. This pay was negotiated by the Union for the employees because they are working in a hazardous environment, not to justify putting employees in hazardous situations. The OSHA laws still require the agency to create as safe a workplace as is possible, as does our Safety Journey.

Another situation that I see mentioned in the SAI that doesn’t seem to be addressed is when it’s leading up to the fatal occurrence it says on page 12, Kerry and Anne stand together with other firefighters uphill, approximately 30’ to 40’ behind the faller as he works on the third tree.

This is a direct violation of both our S-212 which says they will be 2 ˝ tree lengths away and OSHA where it says 2 tree lengths. Although this wasn’t found to be a causal factor, how do we really know if the other trees that were fallen didn’t cause the ground around this tree to shake? How do we know if they had been the required distance from the work area they wouldn’t have been safe? The Forest Service has been cited before for this. We’ve had fatalities before from this practice, but other agencies, and some of our own crews seem lackadaisical about abiding by these requirements.

There’s a rumor that the medical plan was so inadequate that it was next to nonexistent. The radio traffic after the accident was chaotic and as in the Dutch Creek fatality accident it would have been difficult to medevac her even if the accident had been less serious.

If other agencies or cooperators put the value of resources over the value of our employees should we continue to assist on their fires? The Doctrine was created to protect employees that do everything correctly in a hazardous environment and still have things go wrong, not to justify putting our employees in harms way.

Ron Angel NFFE R1 C.V.P.

2/25 RE.. to Burn

Times are hard in to fire world. I agree 100 % on the thought that when you start fire you MUST answer the question of where do I want to be in 5/10 years. {Think bigger than running a saw on a shot crew.}

This sentence KILLS me . IF the country club of DC had 2 days on the saw (any hand crew) they might get sh*t done.


2/25 Burn,

You said in your post, "Think bigger than running a saw on a shot crew." I disagree. What is wrong with being the point of the spear? I would bet you never were. More resource/fire managers need that kind of EXPERIENCE. Only so much can learned in the classroom and by behave runs and wind ninja. Being there, and feeling the pain goes a long way in future decisions to be made.

L, Don't sweat it. The USFS and other land management agencies will always need temps, no matter how much they are jerked around. taxifolia is right, budget roller-coasters are just that. Apply, call , and talk to supervisors. There will be plenty of temp jobs. Enjoy it while it lasts, you will find yourself making tough decisions soon enough. I am hiring and AB has permission to send you my personal email if you are really having trouble landing a temp job. Of course you will have to work your a#s off, as I expect from all my employees. College papers will only get you wooden handled tool in my organization. The rest you have to earn.


2/25 L,

In the context of your career choice ask yourself these questions:

  • What level in the organization do I want to be at in 5 years? 10 years? (Seek out mentors to figure out how to get to there.)
  • Do I believe the USFS (or any other wildland fire agency) will be hiring Senior Firefighter level positions in the near term? (I don't personally believe that we are going to stop fighting fires, but the competition for these positions and higher position will be more difficult potentially.)
  • If I am able to obtain a entry level permanent position, do they prospects of advancement look good? (Everyone has an opinion on this, what matters is yours.)
  • Am I willing to move to where the jobs are? (You are young, I suggest you look everywhere for positions. California has a big chunk of the USFS budget and fire positions.)
  • Am I willing to do other work for the USFS with my Natural Resources Management degree? The USFS does more than fire and someone with your degree can do well if they are willing to be flexible. It can also be a foot in the door if you still want to go the wildland fire route.

And those just skim the surface. You have a BA or BS in Natural Resource Management. Think bigger than running a saw on a shot crew. Find a place to work that values training and advancing their employees. Find a supervisor who will collaboratively work with you to accomplish their goals, the units goals and your goals.

I personally doubt you will see completely unstaffed fire crews, but you will likely see a delayed start and a shorter season as a seasonal.

Solution: If you want a "career", stop being a seasonal and obtain a position with a guaranteed tour. Get in the apprenticeship, move to the most remote duty station in Idaho for a season, work in dispatch, whatever it takes.

Good luck,


2/25 L

From a longer term perspective. My first seasonal position was in 1973, I retired in 2007 and am now AD, there have been more "we are going to" downsize, reorganize, combine, cut you job etc. than I can remember or count,.. and most of them came to nothing, or much less than the original hype.

I was actually only downsized once for all the times it was proposed.. and later did find another position. And yes this is probably a little more serious, and maybe not good for a position for you this summer. I am sorry for that, but please keep in mind that these "ideas of the day" come and go. You need to look at you long term goals and opportunities. Fires will still burn and firefighters will be still be needed. find someone else to work for this summer if that is what you need to do.


2/25 Mellie’s question on 2/24 about Johnson Flying Service,

I searched around and found this information on the crash in ’57 in Montana. Terry W Green, the son of Geoffrey E Green (district ranger at the time) , only identifies that the two pilots were from Texas and as stated earlier, they were spraying sage brush for the Forest Service: Link.

The site was near the dirt road to Indian Creek, a short distance from the highway between Townsend and Helena. The (contract) pilots (from Texas) had been spraying sagebrush on the Townsend District of the Helena National Forest.

Additionally, Johnson Flying Service lost a number of tri motors at the Moose Creek strip in Idaho near Lowell in the 50’s from a Google search of that strip.


2/24 Sequestration and scared for the future,

I have some questions for those of you out there who are getting first hand accounts to what these sequestration cuts will look like. I am a recent graduate in Natural Resource Management, have worked as a seasonal employee with the USFS for (4) seasons, and am trying to make a career with the USFS (or possibly BLM or NPS if things work out that way). But lately I have been really worried about all these cuts and sequestration stuff thats going on. I guess my question is this, what is going to happen to seasonal fire fighters? Are we no longer going to be employed? If so, how will fire modules run without seasonals? In my experience there are usually only about 2-3 permanents at a district and the vast majority are seasonals. Whats going to happen when fires blow up in the summer (which they inevitably will) and you have crews of 1, 2, or 3 people? And lastly, am I being paranoid for thinking that my pursuit of a career in wildland firefighting is doomed due to this government craziness? I have a lot of worries about this stuff and am starting to worry that my career (that I am pursuing) is in jeopardy. I have even started thinking about alternative careers, although I have no idea what they would be, especially since my resume is built around working with the USFS--- from my education to my work experience ---I just dont know what to think. Thanks in advance to everyone who cares to give their advice and/or feelings on the subject.

What do you guys think out there???


2/24 Hi Jessica,

I created the page, based on my knowledge and loosely based on notes from a presentation Dave Grossman did in San Francisco in the mid 1990s. He offered some ballpark numbers to illustrate general responses. I broke them down to illustrate different cognitive, physical, performance and behavioral categories of reactions because there had been some discussion of those from the wildland firefighters' perspective.

There are people who have dedicated their whole lives and research careers to the question(s) you ask. Some of the researchers are listed on that page. Bob Sapolsky used to be at Stanford. Dave can be reached through his website. Don't know if he's still researching and presenting. He's retired from the military. I'm retired from academia, too, but not from this website.

I don't know what to tell you about where to go next. I haven't been following that kind of research lately and I don't know what's developed. There's probably been lots of good stuff because the measuring and brain imaging technologies have advanced so much.

A couple of 3 or 4 things:

  1. Brain hormone responses to things in the environment, real or imagined, are a cascade and every human response is different due to genetics, early experiences, life-long learning, "slides of experience in your slide carousel" and confrontation with positively and negatively-reinforcing life joys and stresses, etc; sleep deprivation, smoke inhalation; conditioning, nutrition, exhaustion...  There is not one direct linear effect, more like an almost instantaneous tide or surge of electrical activity and neuro-hormonal release. Often your brain is "hijacked" before you're aware of it in an experience carrying high emotional valence. Some people don't ever become aware of it but jump from one reaction to another.
  2. Let's take the negative trigger: The neural path from experiencing a life-threatening incident to the fight-or-flight response with increased heart rate is 10-15 sec faster than the neural path to the thinking or reasoning brain (prefrontal cortex) response. The faster a person can regain their reasoning processes in a life-threatening situation, the more likely they are to survive. In leadership training it's represented as a triangular graph of diminishing options for survival with options on the y-axis and time on the x-axis.

    (Sometimes the positive triggers can be life-threatening or life-altering as well <grin>. Attraction followed by sex can lead to a baby and a lot of honey-do's. A snowmobile ride up an avalanche slope focused on the thrill of riding down can lead to dying in the avalanche. A dip in a cool, inviting fast-moving stream on a 110 degree day in the smoke on a fire assignment can lead to drowning if there's a keeper whirlpool.)
  3. When threat occurs or is perceived to exist like a fire blowup, firefighters fall back on their most practiced response if they're not able to bring their reasoning processes to bear on the incident. Often that fallback is their training, which is why the military and firefighters train so hard. No training, I hope you chose to run in the right direction...
  4. Conscious breathing can often help you regain control of your brain, as it helps regulate a big nerve that innervates all your organs and that feeds back to your brain. Ted Putnam advocates Mindfulness Training using the breath. (Also called Vipassina Meditation.) I think Ted got smokejumpers to use that mindfulness practice to become more aware of their thoughts (and might be thought to help increase situational awareness, although I don't know of any studies). Dave Grossman had his tri-athlete soldiers and others breathe in on the count of 3, count to 3 and breathe out on the count of 3 to reduce the adrenalin and heart rate effects.

Good luck in your research. The heart rate numbers are generalizations. There are huge individual differences from person to person.


2/24 Hi,

I am a senior in Advertising and Graphic Design at Columbus College of Art and Design. I am doing my thesis project on adrenaline. I want to visually show the different levels of adrenaline. I came across Stress Reaction and Heart Rate on your website and it was a nice chart to break down the levels. I don't know if you are the right resource to be contacting but I thought I would reach out and see if I could find any help.

One thing I'm finding hard to find in my research is the difference between the adrenaline that is produced in our body in a scary situation such as your being shot at, that gives us the "fight or flight" reaction compared to the adrenaline that people want to produce to get a rush of energy and excitement, like going sky diving or something that is a little risky but not the same as being shot at. I know the same chemicals are being released in the brain but I'm trying to find why people have 2 different feelings of fear and excitement when the same chemical is being released in our brain. Is there excitement at low levels of epinephrine and than that turns into stress flight or flight at higher levels?

I'm also finding in my research that people that have high risk jobs such as fire fighters, men in combat, etc. can have an addictive reaction to the adrenaline that our body produces just like people in extreme sports. Are extreme sports and people that partake in high risk jobs even comparable, or even people that do illegal drugs to get a high off dopamine relatable. If you have any feedback or suggestions of where I can find more about the levels of adrenaline that would be great.

Thanks for your time,

Jessica A

2/24 Mellie's question on 2/24 about Johnson Flying Service

From Steve Smith "Fly the Biggest Piece Back" Missoula Press Publishing Company, 1979 ( A history of Johnson Flying Service):

On August 14, 1956, pilot Frank W. Small dropped dead after an emergency landing at Elk City, Idaho, after carrying two jumpers to a fire in the Nez Perce NF. He felt ill after the jumpers were off and told the spotter to keep his chute on and be prepared to jump if anything happened. He made it to the strip about 40 miles east of Grangeville then collapsed after stepping out of the plane.

On the crash near Townsend, MT. The writer references a summer 1957 Missoulian (Missoula newspaper - still publishing) that said the plane was spraying sagebrush. No other details except the pilot's name: W. Penn Stohr.

Anyway hope this helps,

Gordon in R1

Looks like the book is out of print. Gordon, it sounds like Frank Small deserves a page on Always Remember. He was on a wildland fire assignment. Ab.

2/24 I have a historical question, 1957 and Forest Service practices in Montana and Idaho...

I found this article about a 1957 Montana Trimotor crash while researching some early firefighter fatalities: ARTICLE. (fair use disclaimer)

Montana Death Certificate date, June 19, 1957: W. Penn Stohr | Robert Vallance (location of deaths Broadwater, MT about 5 mi SSE of Townsend, MT)

My question is, what was the treatment the inflammable spray oil meant for? Was spraying chaparral an early form of fuel treatment that was being tried? Maybe to open up range or reduce fire threat? Does anyone know if there are historical records from Johnson Flying Service in Missoula?

Someone mentioned there could have been a 1957 or 1958 trimotor crash on a cargo run for an Idaho fire on the Nez Perce NF (Moose Creek RD)? Does anyone have a firm original or media record of that or any way I could find out?

Here's the screensave google earth geographic relationship between the Nez Perce NF office, ID, Missoula, MT and Broadwater MT for reference. Here's a picture of the McCall smokejumper trimotor from 1948.


2/24 To: All DOI Employees
From: Secretary /s/
Subject: Update on Preparations for Potential Sequestration

I write this memorandum with a heavy heart as we prepare to implement sequestration reductions on March 1, 2013. I maintain hope that Congress will act and reach agreement on a balanced deficit reduction plan that avoids these senseless cuts. However, with the deadline only days away, we are finalizing our plans and have started taking immediate actions to prepare for the devastating impacts.

The President has stated that the sequester is bad policy and I agree. The sequester is an across-the-board reduction that slashes activities without discretion and will reduce the level of direct services we provide to the American public across the country. It will have a wide range of long-term destructive consequences for our mission and programs – negatively impacting our entire workforce. I promised you that we would share what we knew as soon as information was available. Although we are still finalizing our implementation plans, we expect the following:

All of our 76,000 employees will face challenges in performing their mission. We are facing incredibly difficult choices in how to implement the sequester. I want to be clear that there are no good choices – all of the choices we make have negative long-term consequences on our ability to perform our mission. All of the tools that we are using to mitigate impacts of this indiscriminate reduction will nonetheless have impacts on your ability to perform your mission and serve the American public. We are implementing hiring freezes, reducing overtime, reducing travel, eliminating conferences, reducing training, reducing contracts, reducing cooperative agreements, and reducing grants – each of these has a negative impact on mission delivery.

Thousands of permanent employees will be furloughed. While we are still finalizing our implementation plans, we expect that thousands of permanent employees will be furloughed for periods of time up to 22 work days. The specific numbers of employees and the duration will vary from bureau to bureau and program to program. You can expect to hear more next week from your bureau and office leadership about potential impacts within your organization. Let me assure you that all affected employees will be provided at least 30 days notice prior to executing a furlough or in accordance with the designated representative collective bargaining agreement as appropriate. We will also continue to engage in discussions with employee unions as appropriate, to ensure that any furloughs are applied in an appropriate manner meeting agency mission requirements. If you have questions on this issue, I would encourage you to go to the Office of Personnel Management website, which has helpful information and answers to frequently asked questions regarding furloughs (found at opm.gov/furlough, under the “administrative furlough” section).

Many seasonal employees will be furloughed, have delayed starts, shortened employment periods, or will not be hired at all. Our seasonal workforce is an essential part of our workforce. Many of our seasonal employees come back year after year to perform our mission. They fight fires, provide visitor services to millions of Americans, and perform vital field and scientific work. Many of our seasonal employees will be furloughed, have delayed starts, or face shortened employment periods. In some cases, we will not have the financial resources to hire seasonal employees at all. All seasonal employees that are furloughed will be provided at least 30 days notice prior to execution of the furlough.

We will be unable to hire the number of students that we had planned – halting the progress on youth hiring of the last 4 years. Our students are a vital part of our workforce today and integral to the Interior workforce of tomorrow. We will be unable to meet our youth hiring goals. We also expect significant reductions to our cooperative agreements with our partners that fund youth work crews and are the foundation for our vision of a 21st Century Conservation Corps. Our inability to hire students and enter into cooperative agreements will have lasting impacts as these young people are forced to find work elsewhere and ultimately make different long-term employment choices.
I want to be clear that the sequester’s impacts will be felt long beyond the next 7 months. Indeed it threatens the long-term viability and execution of our mission. The sequester will compromise our ability to implement the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy due to reductions in oil, gas, and coal development programs. Middle-class Americans who expected to spend their summer vacations at our 398 national parks, 561 refuges, and over 258 public land units will encounter reduced hours and services or even closures. Local communities and businesses that rely on these great outdoor places to support their livelihoods will face a loss of income from reduced visitation to national parks, refuges, and public lands. Basic community services supported by the grants and payments we make to states and counties throughout the country will be cut. We also anticipate reductions in the level of support services to Tribes, which again translates into reductions in basic services to millions of tribal members. Given our large footprint on the American landscape and the diverse constituency our programs support, we expect that impacts to the public will be felt in hundreds of communities around the Nation.

Over the last 4 years we have made great progress by working together to deliver on a bold agenda that is generating significant results and includes reforms of the oil and gas programs, creation of a renewable energy frontier, renewed commitments to conservation through America’s Great Outdoors, a focus on job creation through greater support of the conservation economy, stronger relationships with Native Americans, and high employment levels of youth. The sequester will roll back many of these advances and reduce the capacity we so diligently constructed.

It is my earnest hope that this senseless but avoidable crisis will be averted. Please know that I am working around-the-clock, tirelessly advocating on your behalf and on the behalf of the millions of Americans who rely upon our services. Thank you for your service and perseverance in this most difficult time.

Visit oneINTERIOR for employee news and events - oneinterior.doi.net.

2/23 USFS Hiring 2013:

Yes, as folks here are asking, Temp hiring is going slower than usual. Many reasons for this, not the least of them the new E-Recruit system all the hiring Managers have to get used to. (this makes the Certs for us, and tracks them thru the system).

Another thing is that there were no limits on how many locations folks could put in for, so some folks clicked on "all of Ca', or 'all of US". These slow the system down by adding applications by the thousands to the system. So, someone who wants to work on the Angeles N.F., that clicked one of those, has to be looked at by hundreds of other locations first (since all other Regions hire before us here in R5) . Please don't apply to places you aren't interested in, it slows down the system for all who apply.

Locations that would usually get 20-30 apps now have 300-400 applications to go thru. And yes, we have to read EVERY application on a cert. So that is slowing us down. Some popular locations have thousands of applications for 25 jobs.

This all has to be gone thru. So, please be patient. Long Term temps get priority, as direction says. Bear with the hiring folks as we get thru this many apps.

Also, PERM FireHire SME week starts Monday, Feb. 24th. If you have a permanent application in, you can help speed the process along by MAKING SURE YOUR REFERENCES ARE AVAILABLE BY PHONE, Nothing slows hiring down more than Supervisors that won't call or e-mail Fire Hire back on an applicant. The same location issues as Temp hiring are going to be going on at Perm FireHire as well, so be patient with us on these as well.

Good luck to all applying,


2/22 Ray Rizor - USFS

My dad, Ray Rizor, passed away on January 25, 2013 following a battle with lung cancer. Following three years in the U.S. Marine Corp and attending college, he began his career with the USFS in 1970 in Southern California on the Angeles N.F. He worked as an engine crewman at Little Tejunga and Elizabeth Lake Ranger Stations, and he was the engine foreman at Texas Canyon and spent time with the T.C. Hotshots.

In 1978 he transferred to the Custer N.F. in SE Montana and moved our family to Ft. Howes Ranger Station near Ashland, MT where he was the helitak foreman. In 1991 he retired from the USFS as the FMO on the Custer N.F.

Following retirement he and my mom lived in a log home our family and friends built, and they raised registered Appaloosa horses. My dad had many friends in the Ashland, MT community, in the firefighting community, and through raising horses. He is survived by my mom, Kaaren, my sister, Lisa, and four granddaughters.

Mike Rizor

Sorry Ray's gone. Our best to you and your family. Ab.

2/22 Seasonal Hiring Standstill

Hello Fire World,

Is it me or is seasonal hiring taking an abnormally long time this year? It seems that I should have a job offer or two by now, but instead nada! Is it due to the new hiring system just implemented this year by the USFS? Or are things really so bad that seasonals who dont qualify as "long time seasonals" wont be asked back? If the latter is the case then what the heck are people going to do when fires start to blow up this summer? Are Module leaders going to hit the bars like in the old days and put together a crew ---the not so hot-but had a lot of shots-crews? Just want to know whats going on out there as nobody I talk to seems to know.

Much appreciated,
Region 4 Seasonal

2/21 R5 Grunt;

Like I said, competitively I don’t think there are limits. You may even be able to do that within the same series. As long as it is competitively outreached, and your District and Supervisor are ok with it, I believe you should be able to do it. But, that is why I say to contact HRM.


2/20 -Forest Service Temporary Promotions / Details-


Thanks for the insight. I read that portion in the Master Agreement (pg. 50-51) (pdf) however, I didn’t pick up on the wording you pointed out…. good call. I guess the key word is competitive vs. non-competitive. I’ll do some checking with HRM to see what they say.

However, I am still curious about that whole Job series thing that I mentioned earlier. Does it matter if the Temporary Promotions or Detail is in a different series given the competitive process is considered and frequency with in a 12 month period is taken into account or is this irrelevant at this point?

Thanks for the insight,

R5 Grunt

2/20 -Forest Service Temporary Promotions / Details-

R5 Grunt:

I think wording is key here. Temporary Promotions and Details are different. Temp Promotions are for employees going to a higher graded position. Details are where you are lateraling within the same pay grade. So, as a matter of semantics, there really is no such thing as a promotional detail.

So, that being said, you can’t be noncompetitively promoted for more than 120 days in a 12 month period. But, I believe competitively you can. You may want to validate that with HRM.


2/20 Forest Service Promotional Details

I was wondering if anyone out there could clarify the ruling on Promotional Details. What I am wondering is if it is possible to have two 120 day promotional details with in a 12 month period given that one of those details was in a different series? I am a Forest Service employee and I have always heard that “you are only allowed one promotional detail with in a 12 month period.” To verify this I did some of my own snooping and found information validating this in the Forest Service Master Agreement (NFFE). However, after speaking with a former FS guy turned BLM, he said that he believed that this rule applies only if the promotional detail was in the same series.

For example: a forest Service employee(462 series GS-7) does a promotional detail as a 401 series GS-9 for 120 days, 11 months later this individual has the opportunity to do a 120 day detail as a 462 series GS-8. Is this possible because it is a different series or is this just a ruling that applies to BLM.

Does anyone know if it is possible for a FS employee to have two promotional details within a 12 month period given they are under a different series?

Thanks for the help,

R5 Grunt

2/20 Timesheets to National Finance Center:

This is why the government has budget issues:

This is a from a message floating around FS email:

The Forest Service averages charges of about $7.5 million per year for late timesheets getting to the National Finance Center (NFC). When are timesheets defined as being late? Timesheets turned in by noon on Tuesday after the pay period are still at base cost. From noon on Tuesday through noon on Wednesday, there is a charge of $50 per late timesheet. From noon on Wednesday to noon on Thursday, there is a charge of $125 per late timesheet. After noon on Thursday, the charge is over $600 per late timesheet! So, it adds up quickly. Let's do our part and get timesheets in to NFC before late charges take effect and put the $7.5 million back into our Agency's budget for better use… such as science.

Seriously?? The government charges itself for being late? Anybody else find this ridiculous? The pay systems (at least for the USFS0 are all computerized now. All it takes to process a time sheet is a push of a button, or maybe a few buttons. I am sure a select number actually get looked at and audited, but I can only assume the vast majority just get processed without so much as a second glance by whomever does the processing at NFC. And who agreed to the $125 and $600 late fees? Does it really cost that much more to push the button(s) to process times on Wednesday or Thursday?

Please tell me there is some justifiable reason for these type of fees charged by us to us and there is some explanation as to why it would cost $600 to process a paycheck one day but cost nothing a few days earlier when it is all computerized.

Maybe these figures are just rumors, but this was supposedly taken from a Rocky Mountain Research Station newsletter. Hopefully, someone who works at RMRS can verify this as fact or fiction. If it is true, than it really epitomizes the budgeting and financial issues of the federal government.

R9 Engine Captain

2/20 This link does not work on FireFox but does work on Internet Explorer:

USDA's Forest Service taking different approach to mobility; Federal News Radio 2/19/2013

The Agriculture Department's Forest Service is considering a bit of a different tact to going mobile. Many agencies talk about using a virtual desktop interface (VDI) to enable employees to securely connect back to the network and applications through the cloud. But Doug Nash, the Forest Service's chief information officer, is testing the PC-on-a-stick concept for its mobile workforce. (more at the link...)

2/19 regarding the status of SAFE-Net

I've gotten a message that the old SAFENET server that was having problems will be replaced by a new one that's coming online soon.


2/19 We lost another one.

Ted McBride of El Aero Aviation was killed doing aerial seeding following the Pinto wildfire in the Ely, Nevada area.

Through the years, he has dropped thousands of buckets of water on fires around the Great Basin. He will be missed.

Helicopter pilot ID'd in fatal crash near Ely

and another one from Ted McBride's hometown paper...

Lamoille pilot killed in crash near Ely


Sad news. Please let us know about services. Any photos of Ted? Some answers on Always Remember Ted McBride. Ab.

2/18 Accountable,

I'll try to answer your questions, but first I want to share another interesting fact about federal OWCP. Did you know that should you get compensation for a permanent impairment it is calculated from your pay grade. An example would be i.e. We hire a GS4 temp on their way to college who just happens to be a world class athlete and heaven forbid they get their leg cut off. Their compensation would be calculated on $13.41 an hour X 40 hours X 288 weeks X 66%= $101,958.91. An office bound, overweight, GS 13 step 1 would be based on $39.21 an hour X 40 X 288 X 66% =$298,121

Would you be covered for an unapproved activity during work hours? For the most part yes, but you might have to prove that it a violation of regs., law, etc.. Get into the DOL website and find federal OWCP. Look at, I think it's OWCP book 850 and it explains a lot of this. If you're talking about the recent posts from the rock rappelling accident, I don't know. I asked our director of FAM if that practice was ever acceptable and she said no. In that case they might have been out of the scope of their job. I'd hate to predict.

No it wouldn't be based on the FLA or be made by people in the regional office. Once your CA 1 kicks in with OWCP and you get a case number, then you're dealing with DOL. That's where the nightmare begins. It's a different agency and often even if the FS is on your side, they can't help. It's completely up to the claims examiner you get and they change them regularly so you don't get friendly with the one you have. The system is very adversarial. I've been dealing with them non-stop since 1998 when I blew my knee out taking the WCT. It was just winding down when I injured my neck on a fire in Alaska. They fused three levels and that rated out at 0% impairment, but because of the nerve damage to my right arm I got 23% for the impairment. In this case the rating system actually went pretty smooth, but getting then operation approved was a nightmare and i almost committed suicide because of the pain. If Blueshield hadn't agreed to pay for the surgery and wait for OWCP to reimburse them i would have. This happened after a month of pain where the Demerol wasn't helping any more. The surgery happened on 8-9-2001. OWCP didn't accept my injury and authorize the surgery until 10-16-2001. I would have been dead.

It's getting better and i was really hoping that the creation of an OWCP section in ASC would help, but it really hasn't that much. When i started getting hurt because of cutbacks unless you were on a hotshot crew or a jumper there was really no one in the agency to help. It was just me dealing with another agency, not knowing the system, in pain and on medication. It was tough. Most of the people in ASC are trying to help, but i have run into a couple that went out of their way to be adversarial. I've also had two occurrences where the ASC person told the employee that they were denying their claim. They don't have the authority to deny anything. Only the claims examiner for DOL has that authority.

Last year I was trying to help a firefighter that had been run over by a bulldozer in Texas and lived. He of course had multiple injuries one of which is he lost the sight in one of his eyes. OWCP rated him at 25% impaired for that eye. I found three places in the FECA law that said he should have been rated at 100% for the eye. The difference would be that he would get paid for 160 weeks instead of the 40 weeks he did.

Once you get your claim accepted that claim number is supposed to assure you of treatment for life. Keep that claim number. They may close your case, but it's not hard to contact DOL and get it opened again.


2/17 Steep Corner Fatality Serious Accident Investigation (1,440 K pdf)

Unbelievable that no human error was found in the FS Report.



Thank you, and I'm not alone, for the background information on your situation. I'm guessing that quite a few people had no idea about some of these facts. You are clearly someone who no possesses very valuable information for people in related situations. I am curious as to whether or not you learned most of this from an informative OWCP caseworker, or if you learned it through trial and error and a lot of self-imposed research?

This is a lesson for a lot of people in fire. And a valuable one for people just starting out their careers. Oh if we only knew certain things when we started out...

If an injury occurs on an unapproved activity during work hours does OWCP still have to support the injured firefighter? How would this be determined? Would a decision be made on information? Like the FLA for instance? And what if the FLA is not accurate due to its being altered by people at the regional office? I realize that you may not have the final and definitive answers to these questions, but what do you think? Do you recommend that injured firefighters get an attorney just as a matter of course? Or would it depend on how the situation is going? Also, what happens when an injured person (and I've seen this situation many many times over my career) thinks she or he is fine and recovered and severs the tie with the doctor? Does that end the OWCP relationship? If it does, how do you get it back?

Also, can we all assume that the agency (FS specifically) won't be very supportive? Have they been for you?

Thanks for opening up!


2/16 I think the Safenet site was only down for maintenance. It's fine now with a note that it will be unavailable on Feb 23 for about an hour.  Friday or Saturday evenings seem to be preferred time for maintenance.


2/16 Hiring


I have a referral list with over 300 applicants as well. I see nothing to be fearful of, or disdain for a referral list with a large number of applicants. Work the list, the top 10 will float to the top, make your recommendation(s) and move on. An application system that allows for applicants to apply to as many duty locations possible, helps both the applicant and the hiring manager.

Some caution in all this.

1) Temp Firefighters. After committing to a firefighting module, should think real hard before changing your mind and taking another position (unless its a higher grade). Going back and doing temp hiring all over again will be a reality for a few, always has been, however once a position is "offered and accepted", I hope that will eliminate the applicant from consideration for the season.

2) Hiring Managers and recommending officials. You should think long and hard during Temp hiring before taking a temp away with another offer who has already "accepted" a position.

If one and two above are not considered, this will end up with one big mess.

3) So far, mostly positive info has been coming out about the e-recruit program from those in HR. However a few issues have been raised about the accuracy of the referral list and trust that all applicants have been referred. When you deal with hiring on the scale of what the Forest Service does, it's inevitable that some issues will develop. The Forest Service needs to make sure this improves.

Some issues? Yes. Fewer that AVUE? Yes.


2/15 I was checking the links page for safety links.

Does anyone know where the Safenet website went? Did they decide to discontinue that for some reason?

The Safety Advisory: SAFENET System Update (pdf file) link on the Links page times out. The pdf said it was being updated on October 17, 2012. Maybe it moved to the Lessons Learned site? Even the link on the NIFC site (left side) doesn't work.


2/15 Dear Ab,
I was wondering if you were going to put up John Maclean's new book, "the Esperanza Fire" on your site. Just wanting to know what the firefighters think of it.

Bonnie McKay, Mother of Jason McKay
(E-57 mom)

OWCP and denial of benefits:


Here's my latest story and keep in mind that I'm not a lucky person so I've had multiple injuries over the years from work. This latest one with my lower back involved five discs and three vertebrae. I blew it out in late 2005 training for the WCT. They operated on it 1-19-2006 and it fixed about 75% of the problem, but it left my left leg with some pain, weakness, and loss of mobility. I could have taken disability retirement, but I loved firefighting so I returned to work with restrictions. I could still carry the 25 lb pack and have the quals, so I did the moderate and was the OSC2/ SOF2 on an IMT.

All was fine until 4/2009 when I reinjured my back again training for the WCT. Since then I can't walk more than 1/4 mile before the pain or numbness makes me stop. My leg goes dead after 15 minutes if I'm standing in one place. Again I could have put in for disability retirement since I can't do any job in the FS, but wanting to be productive, I went full time union to stay working. At this time I put in for a settlement (scheduled award). The doctors that rate you have to have a certification to rate you under the AMA. I went to a local Orthopedic surgeon and he rated me at 13% which I thought was ridiculously low, but OWCP thought it was way too high so they brought an orthopedic surgeon from California to Spokane to rate me. He rated me at 4%. They must have thought it was still too high, because they sent me to Missoula, Montana to see a neurosurgeon. He rated me at 0%. Because of the range difference of the ratings, they sent me to Seattle to see two doctors (an orthopedist and a neurosurgeon) and they again rated me at 0%, but they went a step further and said that the re injury from 2009 had healed within three months after it happened so basically there's nothing wrong with me! ...I still have the symptoms.

My recourse is there are three paths I can take: I can appeal either orally or in writing, ask for reconsideration or submit it to the ECAB for their consideration. Under federal OWCP unlike all of the other systems, there's no process to get this to a court or before an unbiased group of peers. You can hire an attorney, but under the FECA law you can't do it on a contingency basis like all of the other systems allow. You have to pay them and hope to get reimbursed if you get DOL to find in your favor.

I also have a claim going for hearing loss after all the years of running a chainsaw. the test showed a 70% loss in the range that comes from working in a noisy environment. I thought I won when they bought me hearing aids, but then the doctor they brought from Olympia WA to Spokane to rate me rated me at 0%. He said hearing function doesn't really affect my functions of daily living. This was fine until two weeks ago when there was an article in the Spokane paper that talked about the veterans from the wars that worked in noisy computer rooms over there and have noise-induced hearing loss. Sound familiar? Well 148,000 of them are getting disability for it. The two I know of are getting 20% from the VA.

I blew out my knee in 1998 doing the WCT and had it operated on. They rated it at 2% and I got $2100 in a one-time payment. My son had the same injury from playing racquetball in the Army and he was rated at 30% and gets $450 a month for life.

Any suggestions how we can approach this to get it fixed? The ironic thing is I've helped dozens of employee with their cases and have been fairly successful, but I can't get anything done with my own case.


2/15 Hiring Temps

Holy Heck, after getting my certs for temps I can't believe how messed up this is going to be. Another great program bought by the Forest Service and never tested, again. Oh how I miss AVUE. What do our GS Fantastics in Washington get paid for?


2/15 Abs, this just came out for public viewing…

Steep Corner Fatality Serious Accident Investigation (1,440 K pdf)

Followup: Here's the wildfirelessons.net link to the Report.

Thanks for that. Ab.

2/15 Roadrunner,

There are not standards in the FS for using ropes to go after fire, or more specifically there are not standards for rappelling as was performed in the Milepost 66 incident. Although you wouldn't have been able to figure that out from the altered FLA (it was altered by someone in the PNWCG Safety Committee). And I have a feeling, don't know this for sure, that there would need to be some sign-off by MTDC on all of the equipment and procedures before a JHA could be created. Everything else we do in the FS is performed using equipment which is approved by MTDC first, and then we build a use plan around it. Or am I wrong? Of course, as many of you know Region 6 seems to support the circumvention of this sort of safety procedure - which is why we have accidents here resulting in TBI and other serious accidents. However there is little or no accountability, so look for this to continue unabated.

OSHA does have standards for evaluating the helicopter rappel program. There are standards for the rappel portion (not including the aircraft part of things) which have been well developed, all equipment and procedures have been well tested by people trained for just this type of work, SMEs have been involved with it at all levels and it is constantly being re-evaluated specifically for safety.

If you want to see the extremely well established standards for rappelling for those of us involved with the helicopter rappel program check this link. Proudly, you won't find many discussions related to unclear or inconsistent policy or procedures in our program. Nor will you find unapproved activities being performed without accountability.  www.nifc.gov/aviation/av_ref_ihrg.phpl

I would find it hard to believe that OSHA wouldn't have looked into this situation. I will contact the OSHA office to see if there are any related investigation records. There is also a group of us who are looking into a FOIA request to see what we can learn.

It is also critical to remember that the NPS is not the USFS, and although we would love to, we can't compare the two without doing some homework on the history of the two agencies and their firefighting practices.

I had no idea that OWCP did not include brain injuries. That's huge! For other medical experts on here, can I assume that a TBI could result from a rock to the head? I would be interested in hearing more of your situation. How have you managed? Did you get legal help?

Accountable in R6

2/15 Traumatic Brain injury

Do the readers know that federal OWCP does not recognize brain, heart or back injuries? What this means is they will pay for medical procedures to try to fix the problem up to a point, but you can never receive a settlement (scheduled award) for the injury. No matter how badly it affects your career or life. Right now I just received notice that OWCP denied any compensation for damage to my leg from my third back injury. This one was bad enough that I can't even walk a mile to pass the light pack test for fire support. It's cost me over $40,000 in lost supplemental pay in the past four years from fire fighting.

The military accepts these injuries, social security accepts these injuries, state agencies and private injury insurance accept these injuries. Only the federal OWCP doesn't. There's even a chapter in the guide book they use to rate out our injuries to rate them, but the feds don't use this chapter.
I'm from a red state so my congressmen won't help, but if anyone out there has a suggestion of how we can get the FECA law changed to fix this travesty I'd be glad to help.

Be safe and don't get hurt.


2/15 Is there standards in the Forest Service and other federal agencies for using ropes to go after fire as the Milepost 66 firefighters did? I think someone said the NPS used ropes routinely. They must have guidelines and a Job Hazard Analysis for use.

Maybe OSHA could require development of standards to mitigate the risks if they do investigate.


2/15 Traumatic Brain Injury

Will do Michelle.  Actually just finishing an article for someone to publish regarding TBI in WILDLAND fire


2/15 Traumatic Brain Injury

This is a very good question. I would like to suggest submitting an article to the Journal of Special Operations Medicine to answer these questions and share them with your peers. The JSOM is the only academic journal that is devoted to operational medicine in the austere environment.

Michelle Landers, BSN, MBA, RN
Lt Col USAFR NC (Ret)
Publisher & Executive Editor
Journal of Special Operations Medicine

2/15 Asteroid fly-by this afternoon: NASA links for watching are on the Hotlist -Shift Briefing

Meteorite hits central Russia; 500 injured  (story posted several hours ago) Story and Video are on the Hotlist - International News

2/14 Very good reading Bill, thanks

Frank Abel
Operations Commander
Bradley Co EMS

2/14 Great topic Bill. Hope you don't mind if i add my " two cents" of thought on the matter.

The Milepost 66 Facilitated Learning Analysis should also be reviewed. Had the person injured in this incident had a traumatic brain injury, ask yourself:

1) How would you identify, access, assess, and package a patient on a low-angle rappel?

2) Prior to work involving potential of falling or rolling objects, has a suitable risk analysis been completed to answer the "What ifs" of potential traumatic injuries.

3) Herniation syndrome can have delayed onset. It is important to continually reassess your patients. Even minor impacts from falling objects, impacts, ground level falls can cause herniation. A patient suffering from a ground level fall without loss of consciousness or c-spine deficits can evolve signs and symptoms hours to days later. Err on the side of caution during these events.

Chris Graves
Training Captain / Paramedic
Reno Fire Department
MEDL Great Basin Team #3

2/14 Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) of Wildland Firefighters

As we all know, wildland firefighting is dangerous. Cold coffee, stinky feet, and period of boredom can all lead to moments of...potential Darwinism's that end up on you-tube or ridiculousness.

But aside from the joking around, wildland firefighters are exposed to the dangers of falling trees each and everyday.

I have found a recent article that everyone should read in relation to those individuals who experience or treat those who have been hit by a tree, rock, or other heavy object that lands squarely on their head.

Traumatic Brain Injury (JEMS)

I also suggest for additional reading, going to the Lessons Learned Center, Incident Reviews, under incident name: Banner Fire, Idaho, 2010. I would suggest another (East Fork Fire, Evanston, WY, 2002), but nothing was written that I am aware of from that fire.

After reading the web-link article from Journal of EMS (JEMS) and reading the Banner Fire FLA, what is your conclusion?

For what it's worth, just my two cents.

Bill Arsenault
Wildland Firefighter/Paramedic
Wildland Fire EMS Development Specialist
"Risk Management is Self-Preservation and, It Starts With You."

2/14 Mile Post 66 FLA

wildfirelessons.net: Milepost 66 FLA (pdf)

Does anyone know if OSHA was called in to investigate the MP 66 incident? It seems like from a few of the letters here that it's a perfect situation for OSHA to know about and investigate. Since it's clear the USFS won't be doing anything (surprise surprise) and the leadership on that Oregon unit doesn't seem to be assuming any accountability, maybe OSHA should be alerted before someone gets seriously hurt.

I'm still wondering what actually happened to the firefighter that was hurt. I never saw an accident report. And I'm assuming that since I haven't heard otherwise the firefighter is recovered. Could someone from the unit give the firefighting world an update? It's sort of strange to not hear a peep from a FS unit about an incident, since that's not what we are being fed from the Safety Journey.

All the Facilitated Learning Analysis did was to make me more curious, saw lots of fluff and holes in it.


I don't know the status of any action by OSHA. At the very least an OSHA Investigation and Report would seem warranted. OSHA is not able to levy fines against other federal agencies nor can they levy fines or take other action against individuals, but they can issue a notice of  Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions against the Forest Service if they deem the Forest Service allowed or encouraged the conditions that led to the accident. Ab.

2/14 Anne Veseth, everyone's dream of a valentine.

The OSHA findings, citations, fines, mitigations for unsafe working conditions etc are out.

Always Remember Anne Veseth

Hotlist Incident within an Incident thread for the Safenet.




2/13 Kiwi,

Pease express our condolences to the firefighters' families, coworkers and friends if you get an opportunity. We are a worldwide brother and sisterhood.


2/13 Two Firefighters Killed in Australia

Ab et al,

Our thoughts today are with our wildfire brothers and sisters in Australia who have lost two of their own yesterday when a tree fell on their vehicle fatally injuring them both. The incident occurred in Victoria where they have been experiencing a very difficult fire season with a number of large wildfires continuing to burn throughout the State.

Australia - Firefighters killed at Harrietville fire

Coincidently, a contingent of 40 Kiwis experienced in felling and high country fire fighting leave New Zealand today to assist the Victorians.

Kiwi Firefighter

2/13 A recent graduate,

Yes I believe the pathways program would apply to fire positions as well. Follow this link for more info on that.

NFFE Forest Service Council : Temp Hire


All I can say is hang in there brother. You may be right about your situation, but here at my station, last season, we hired a couple of guys that had less than 24 months. Hopefully you will be able to grab one.

J, thanks for the link. The Q and A on that letter is very informative.


2/13 Jim Cox has passed on

I wanted to pass on that Jim Cox who just retired after 32 years of fire service on the Caribou Targee NF died Saturday in a snowmobiling accident. Emails are circulating but I wanted folks on this site to know as well. Good bye Jim. Prayers for the family, his friends, co workers and members of his IMT.

Terry Tilford

Sad news indeed. Ab.

2/13 Mile Post 66 FLA

In the 90’s in Southern California at certain National Parks we used to train for over-the-side fire line rescue.  Eagle gear even made line packs with harnesses built in. We had fire helmets that were also climbing helmets.  Some readers will know right away who we were, and thankfully still are.  But we didn’t use this training and equipment for mop up operations.


2/13 Sequestration:

immediate follow up from the Chief of the Forest Service about Sec of Agriculture email. ms

All Forest Service employees received a message from the Secretary of Agriculture on the spending cuts known as “sequestration”, and I know there are concerns about the prospects for potential furloughs. While we at the Forest Service will receive the same cuts as other agencies across government, because of the way we manage our budget we have flexibility and should be able to avoid furlough if sequestration occurs. We will use a combination of efforts including cutting back on contracts and purchasing, delaying filling vacancies, and reducing our seasonal employment in order to manage the budget reduction. As the Secretary said in his note, “In planning how to implement a possible sequestration, our guiding principle is to protect our ability to perform our mission on behalf of the American people. As public servants, this is our first and foremost responsibility.” It is our plan to do that to the best of our ability without resorting to furloughing employees.

Thank you for all you do and be safe out there.


2/13 Hi Ab,

I’ve been reading a lot of posts regarding long term seasonal employees and hiring, so I thought that I would share this letter with you in case you’re interested in sharing it with the group. It seems pretty straight-forward.

Long Term Seasonal Employment Letter (238 K pdf)


Date: January 24,2012
Subject: Interim Direction for Rehire of Long-Term Temporary Seasonal Employees
To: Regional Foresters, Station Directors, Area Director, IITF Director, Deputy Chiefs and WO Directors

On May 17, 2011, I issued a letter expressing appreciation for the work and contributions of “1039” temporary employees and reported that the Forest Service had, in partnership with the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), adopted the issue of temporary employment as part of the Forest Service’s Cultural Transformation Plan. As part of this initiative, the Forest Service Partnership Council (FSPC) was tasked to develop a hiring policy to be implemented for the fiscal year 2012 field season. This work is now complete. The enclosed interim direction shall be used for the 2012-2014 field seasons, after which time it will be reassessed by the FSPC.

Note that the interim direction does not affect decisions about which positions will be created and filled. These decisions will continue to be made through the normal budget and workforce planning process.

The interim direction does not affect decisions about use of rehire authority for former temporary seasonal employees who do not meet the stated criteria. All former temporary employees will continue to have their existing rehire eligibility; however, it will remain up to individual hiring officials to decide whether they will use rehire authority or a different authority to fill positions for which there are no long-term temporary employees who meet these criteria.

Finally, the interim direction does not apply to temporary employees whose appointments were made to the excepted service pursuant to 5 CFR 213.104. Each season, we employ thousands of students in Schedule B excepted service positions. Returning students have rehire eligibility; however, the manner in which it may be used is not affected by this direction.

These efforts are consistent with recruitment and retention objectives of the Cultural Transformation Plan. We appreciate your continued support as we move the Forest Service forward in its cultural transformation. If you have any questions, please contact Averiel Wolff at (505) 563-9224 or aawolff@ nospam fs.fed.us.

/s/ Mary Wagner (for)


Thanks, J. Ab.

2/12 To Recent Graduate,

I know a bit about this from what I am being told by fire folks with the USFS (I dont know about the NPS or BLM). Some forests are actually having to wait on hiring their seasonals because they are being told they have to hire "pathways" folks first. This has created some confusion as nobody is yet to know exactly when these pathways jobs will be announced, what exactly will be needed for applying, how this whole thing works, and even when they will be readily available for people like yourself to apply to. I am hearing from some fire sups. that they will go up on USAjobs in late February, and they will be up for a very short time. This is all stressing me out! Almost everybody I talk to says they dont envy me for trying to get a seasonal fire job this year---apparently lots of confusion from the top down across multiple regions and forests! I hope all this crap doesnt cost me a job this coming season.

Good luck,
Seasonal Sam (and yes still stressed)

P.S. thanks  Widhalm for answering my previous post. And if anyone else could add to this pathways information it would be much appreciated! Also, what is going on with seasonal hiring? Are folks like myself who have 3 seasons under our belts but not enough to meet the 24 month rule in jeopardy of not getting a fire job this season? Sure is feeling that way, but it could just be me in my current state. thanks again.

2/12 THANKS!

A big thanks goes out to Brian Burbridge, Steve Barker, and Bill Roach who organized another successful fundraiser for the WFF- the Fire and Ice Fishing Derby at Panguitch Lake, UT! Thank you for putting together the event and thank you to all that attended. This crew sure does know how to cool down all that fiery hotness during the winter months up here, brrrrrrr!

Thanks Silver City Hotshots!

We are thankful to have another contributor to this year's Contractor Campaign! Courtney Aviation - We appreciate your support, inside and outside of fire season. Thank you!

Amanda DeShazo
for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation

Brrrrrrrr is right! Thanks All! Ab.

2/12 This came into our email system today from the Department. The Forest Service reported last month in a mass email that furloughs will not be needed if the sequester occurs. However, it might be time to make a little noise. ms


USDA Employees,

As you are likely aware, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 delayed until March 1, 2013 the across-the-board spending cuts (also known as “sequestration”) that face all Federal agencies. The Administration remains focused on working with Congress to reach agreement on a balanced deficit reduction plan that avoids these cuts. Should these cuts occur, they would be harmful not only to our agency, but to critical domestic and defense priorities across the government and across the country.

However, given that less than one month remains until these cuts would take effect and given that the delay enacted by Congress would give us less time in which to make the required cuts, our senior leadership team is engaged in extensive planning efforts to determine how we would deal with sequestration. I know many of you have questions, so I wanted to take this opportunity to provide some additional details.

In planning how to implement a possible sequestration, our guiding principle is to protect our ability to perform our mission on behalf of the American people. As public servants, this is our first and foremost responsibility.

To this end, we are carefully considering how to use the various tools at our disposal to reduce costs in order to mitigate as much as possible the disruption to our operations, our programs, and all of you.

In anticipation of a leaner budget environment, USDA has taken great strides in achieving savings and efficiencies through the Administrative Solutions Project, under the Blueprint for Stronger Service, the savings of which helps avoid the need for furloughs and reductions-in-force. The Department is pursuing cost reduction efforts in several areas such as implementing a “Shared First” acquisition policy to consolidate IT related acquisitions, consolidating cell phone contracts and land-lines, sourcing uniforms from the AbilityOne Strategic Alliance, and standardizing of bulk mail processes at the National Finance Center.

Related to these efforts, the Department has taken measures to reduce spending in travel, printing, supplies, and other expenditures. These actions and others have generated millions of dollars in efficiencies. By becoming more efficient, we have to date diminished the need for more severe actions that interfere with your life and the ability for USDA to deliver important services. We will continue to use any and all flexibilities we have to protect our core operations and mission.

However, our ability to do so will be limited by the rigid nature of the cuts imposed by Congress. As a result, we are closely examining contracts, grants, and other forms of expenditures across the Department to determine where we can reduce costs. In many cases, this could mean making cuts to vital programs or curtailing spending on contracts. We will also take steps, wherever possible, to cut operational or administrative costs in areas such as travel, training, facilities, and supplies.

We may also have to consider placing employees on temporary furlough, or taking other personnel actions, should sequestration occur. With respect to furloughs, should we have to pursue this unfortunate course of action, let me assure you that all affected employees will be provided at least 30 days’ notice prior to executing a furlough. USDA will ensure that employees who are contractually entitled to more than 30 days notice will receive the appropriate amount of notice as outlined within their respective contracts.

We will also continue to engage in discussions with employee unions as appropriate, to ensure that any furloughs are applied in a fair and appropriate manner. If you have questions on this issue, I would encourage you to go to the Office of Personnel Management website, which has helpful information and answers to frequently asked questions regarding furloughs (found at opm.gov/furlough, under the “administrative furlough” section).

You will receive follow-up information in the near term regarding our initial plans for implementation of sequestration, and how these plans will affect the day-to-day operations of our agency.

Thank you for your patience as we navigate these difficult issues, and for all that you do for our agency and the American people.

Tom Vilsack

2/11 Hey Ab,

Does anybody know if the Pathways/ Recent graduate program will be used for any fire positions by USFS, BLM, NPS etc?


A recent graduate
Sent from my iPhone

2/11 Re Hiring:

DP, Yactac, and PYG,

I agree with you about what really happens doesn't always go the way we are supposed to do it as an Agency.

I'm sure anyone that has been in Government service for a couple of years can come up with a couple of examples.

I just try to inform folks about how Outreach and Recruitment activities are supposed to be, and hope that once enough folks know how it should be, they do things the proper way, to be fair to all.

I am just surprised by the amount of folks that, especially in Supervisory or Management positions, that don't know why or how we are supposed to conduct Outreach, Recruitment, and Hiring.


2/11 MJ,

Yes I have been to McClellan for Fire Hire. I am not talking about permanent jobs, I am talking about seasonal hiring. Where did I get this info you ask? I visited my friend's station and physically watched this event taking place. There were individuals reluctant to do this and knew it was illegal. It was passed down from the top. I even called the union and asked them some general questions about this practice. They wanted to know who was doing this. I kept my mouth shut.


2/11 Thanks to those who tried to find the memorial plaque and to Russell for stopping, finding and photographing it. It's pictured here: Kings Canyon Fire Always Remember from 1926.

Thanks to those providing the clues to dates and locations that allow us to piece together the 1978 CDF Air Attack accident that killed Joe Holstine and Paul Belveal. Paul, who was Air Attack Officer from CDF, must be listed on the memorial wall in Sacramento. I'll check. The two names are listed  on the Airtanker Pilots Board memorial with different spellings and under year 1977. The accident was not investigated by the NTSB. I went through multiple years of reports checking. Must have been handled internally by CDF. Hopefully someone has the report and can share it.


2/10 Mellie,

I bet Eddy is glad to hear he is still out there also!!


2/10 As our members know, the FWFSA works closely with and supports the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Although there hasn't been much discussion about it on TheySaid, the Foundation is holding a fundraiser at the McClellan site (my former employer for 20 years), more specifically the Lions Gate Restaurant Club Ballroom on April 23rd at 5:30pm. More information can be found at wffoundation.org.

The admission cost is $50.00. In an effort to continue our organization's support of the Foundation, I'd like to offer up to 10 of our members the opportunity to attend at our expense (cost of admission, not travel etc.) If you are interested, please contact me directly at cjudd@fwfsa.org or by phone at 208-775-4577. Since I am also planning a trip to DC in the coming months, time is of the essence so its the proverbial "first come, first served."

Also in just a tidbit of legislative/political news, a former Republican member of Congress (one of our staunchest supporters since the founding of the FWFSA) has graciously offered to assist us in navigating that side of the aisle during this session. Needless to say, such an ally can often cut through the layers of staff which act like concentric rings of protection around a member of Congress and might make things happen a little sooner.

The fact that Dept. of Interior Secretary Salazar is leaving and may be replaced by someone with no federal government employment experience means the need for us, along with our DOI members to prepare to do some educating. We are close to finalizing some strategies with respect to this session and will have that information posted in our member's Area on our web site as soon as possible.

Again, please let me know about the April 23rd event as soon as possible.

Warmest Regards,
Casey Judd
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association

2/9 Re: Eddy --

Glad to hear he's still out there and kickin!


2/9 DP,

If they have a legitimate reason why they didn't get the quals signed off by Oct. 1, 2013 then they can put in for a one year waiver to get it signed off. They can do this twice if they have a valid reason. NFFE negotiated this in to help employees who for whatever reason didn't get the trainee assignments.


2/9 Regarding hiring,

I am going to have to weigh in here with DP... absolutely correct regarding what is going on across the nation with regards to hiring.. and it has been that way since the mid '80's.


2/9 hiring


It sounds like you might be one of the few who try to do it right. I am not attempting to anger you further, but I must say supervisors are directed to select by the sound of a name, and it is illegal. If you ask that question, " Is what you are asking me to do legal?" you will be punished. Maybe not directly and told so, but more covertly. When you ask for something or need support on some issue you will not get it. District Rangers, FFMOs, and DFMOs can and do make life miserable for AFMOs and Captains who don't play the game.

Despite what our annual fire refreshers teach us, "If you see something say something" and "Ask if you don't know" , sometimes it is much better for your career and happiness to do as you are told and hire Gonzales whether or not he is diverse or speaks Spanish, and pass up Smith with more quals and experience.

The local forest here (R-6) flew a GS-7 Fuels Tech and they passed up a male who not only had, but exceeded all the FSIFPM quals and hired a female who does not meet the basic quals. Now that female gets preferential treatment on training assignments so she can meet FSIFPM before the deadline. Folks would have understood if the male had performance or conduct issues, but that was not the case. In fact he was/is a stellar employee. He was smart enough to not cry foul If he had, here comes the retribution. It happens all the time, and anyone who says it does not, is a liar or is not looking.

By the way, that FSIFPM deadline is approaching. Does anyone know what happens to the folks that do not meet the quals by the deadline?


2/9 seeking contact info:

TeamGreen, are you certain he's still alive?

Eddy Padilla is on the list of the R5 smokejumpers in 1970-1972, and before that in 1968, 40+ years ago.

Not to be morbid, but are you certain he's still alive? He is not on the National Smokejumper Association Obituary list... but they don't have everybody.

I often use familysearch.org to search for death dates when I research for Always Remember.

Here's the familysearch.org link for all the people with that name or variations of it who died between 1975 and 2012. If you knew his age at the time he was jumping, you could estimate his date of birth (within a range) and eliminate all who are too old or too young... It's a fairly common name, though.

Hope this helps in your search. I don't mean to make a faux pas or show any disrespect. Just trying to preserve the history. Maybe a fire friend or family member will be reading here.


2/9 seeking contact info for Eddy Padilla

Hello Ab,

I am trying to locate and get in touch with Eddy Padilla. Eddy worked on the Los Padres in the 60's and 70's. He was also a Smokejumper in Redding for a few years and Foreman on Rose Valley Helitack. I am trying to collect some info on the Ozena Hotshots and believe he was the foreman in 67' & 68'. If anybody has a phone number, email, or address that would be great. Also if there's someone out there that has any info or old pics of the Ozena Hotshots please pass on my info. Thanks for the help


2/9 RE: WLF posting on 2/7/13

'And There I Was' points out some very revealing issues as they apply to the Forest Service CIO makeup, that include elevated GS grades and use of the GS-2210 series (pro-pay). There is no longer a shortage of IT professionals to justify the pro-pay assigned this job series as when it was first establish nearly 20
years ago.

What was also not pointed out is that the top heavy management grades go through the GS-15 and SES levels. Interestingly enough, none of these employees are line officers, yet District Rangers who are, remain at the GM-13 level.


2/9 hiring


You make the hiring sound so good and ethical when we all know that's not the case. Our hiring discriminates all the time, even in R5. How about the case on a norcal Forest not to long ago. A person was hired whose name sounded diverse and when he showed up he was white as white can be and the FOREST SUPERVISOR tried to have him removed because of it. Luckily the FMO stood up to him and with enough threats the person stayed an apprentice and is still working. Our system is broke but the unfortunate part is our is our leaders don't have the guts to stand up for what's right because they may fail that part of their end of year eval. So until we end the quota, oh sorry our goals system, nothing is ever going to improve in our agency.

Just my thoughts


2/8 Perpetually Stressed Seasonal Sam-

I will try to answer your questions.

1. “My first question pertains to this relatively new (as I understand it) 24 month rule -- by which seasonals who have a minimum of 24 months in (say with the USFS) no longer have to re-compete each year for their position. Is this true????”

Response: Yes, but as of now, all seasons have to be in Fire.

2. “Oh, and lastly, can you switch forests, say you worked a few seasons on a forest in Washington and then re-located to a forest in New Mexico.”

Response: Yes you can switch Forests. All temp Fire time counts towards your long term seasonal status, As I understand it. Plus the seasons don’t have to be consecutive. If you worked the season of 2004 and 2005, took some time off, then came back and worked 2009 and 2010, you would still qualify to be a long term seasonal. Seeing as you did in fact work 24 months and have successful performance evals.

3. “P.S. what does it take to get an end-of-season performance eval that meets "EXCEEDS" and "OUTSTANDING", I feel like I do this but every year sups always just give me "Meets fully successful".

Response: Your Sup isn’t really doing you any justice by meeting the status quo. If you want, politely ask your Sup if they can give you a set of guidelines at the beginning of your tour of duty, outlining what it would take for you to meet exceeds or outstanding. Then meet with him/her at the end of your tour and go over the guidelines. This will at least hold them somewhat accountable.

On a side note, and I realize diversity is a hot topic in this forum, we all need to remember that as long as a certain individual is on a hiring cert and is qualified to do the job, that person can be hired. Granted the best person for the job should be the one chosen, that doesn’t always happen. Now, where the agency could get into some hot water is when they hire someone not qualified for a specific job. Just my 2 cents. Thanks.

Sam, I hope I helped you out a bit. You can contact me with more Q’s if you like.

Brad Widhalm
Union Steward Local 376
Fire Engineer Tonto National Forest.

2/8 More education on diversity hiring


In 2000 R1 tried a regional fire hiring, but there were so many problems with games played in the name of diversity hiring that they haven't done it since. I just heard that we are going to start using it again soon. I appreciate the information that you have already shared. It lets me know that I need to get more educated. The collateral recruiter positions i mentioned in my previous post were not just for fire. They are something that the RF said they are creating to help with diversity recruiting for all FS jobs and yes i know what collateral means. I would supposed they mean changing their PDs or using the other duties as assigned clause.

I want to share couple of stories on hiring that I have witnessed in the past. We were hiring our summer temps and of course we were given the talk about diversity before we chose our selections. After going over the applications we chose the top ten. We were surprised when we were given the names to call and make offers. Two of them were brothers that had no experience, but their address was from a reservation in eastern Washington. Ironically you couldn't tell from their names what their ethnic back ground might be. They declined.

The next story is further back in time and yes diversity was an issue even back then. A supervisor was told to look for diversity for the permanent job he was filling. He went from the apps and picked what he thought was a highly qualified female. When the person showed up for work the first day it turned out he was a big strapping young man that just happened to have one of those names that could be either gender. He turned out to be an exceptional employee.

You used an example in your P.S. that brought up a couple of questions. Years ago I applied for a GS9 fire position under demo. I was a GS 5 temporary, but I was an OSC2, RXB1 and at that time had higher quals than my FMO. I was told by personnel that even though it was demo because i worked for the FS I couldn't be considered because you can't go from 5 to a 9. During the same same time they hired a guy I knew from the state agency who had had ten years less experience as a GS 8 assistant helitack manager. From a GS 0 to a GS8.

This was before ASC, but it would be nice to know if this was proper in case someone comes for help that runs into the same situation.


2/8 Re: Diversity Hiring

MJ stated “What if, a Caucasian kid named Smith, had a step-dad who legally adopted him as a child and he took the last name Gonzales? if you went by name, you would think the guy was diverse. So, names are not used.”

MJ may be factually correct, but a high level of PC shows to me. A white dude named Gonzales is not Hispanic, BUT may be the most diverse person applying for the job. Neither of us know of the true diversity of this fictions person. Let’s just be clear, a single ethnic minority person does not equal a diverse person. We have to drop the PC to have a true open and honest discussion about diversity and the so called Cultural Transformation.


2/8 Re: Diversity Hiring


I don't know where you got the info about the " R5 was told to pick diverse sounding names" and hire them.

Have you ever been to Fire Hire in Sac? Ever? Because the first part of the first day, EVERY ROUND, is devoted to what is legal and what is not.

I have been to every round of perm hiring for over 6 years, and have been told every time that using names to determine diversity is ILLEGAL. It doesnt' happen that way.

What if, a Caucasian kid named Smith, had a step-dad who legally adopted him as a child and he took the last name Gonzales? if you went by name, you would think the guy was diverse. So, names are not used.

And, I can't believe you wrote " I don't care about your factual info ". So you don't care about the facts? Or the Truth of how hiring is done? You just want to keep believing the rumor mill? I have been in Fire in the USFS for 32 years now, and still am in Fire. If you know someone more qualified to ask hiring questions to, go find them.

I have just tried to explain how it all works on here. Some folks, like MT and others, have replied in a very respectful and intelligent way, and I agree. I didn't make this system. I just go down and rate applications. I don't select.

But, it's angry answers like yours that make me not want to waste my time trying to explain to folks. I'm done here. Figure it out on your own.


One last answer for someone<

to Chuck in WY, We hire Demo GS-6 folks here in R5 all the time. Come from Contract Fire companies; BLM; CDF, etc. If you apply to a DEMO perm job, actual duties are what you are rated on, not pay grade.

MJ, we certainly appreciate your clear, persistent efforts at educating. Thanks!

2/8 Getting hired,


The vet pref goes through all levels of seasonal GS ratings. Also, where are you reading that you can apply for any demo ("as a permanent") GS 6 position with time in grade as a seasonal?

Chuck, Wy

2/7 Help needed finding documentation on former USFS Engine for YAP Island (Micronesia) Fire Department

Hotlist Question on documentation

2/7 Here is some FS CIO (Chief Information Office) hiring info that might burn Mj and others' butts that have spent years to get hired permanent and money spent that could have gone elsewhere.
The Forest Service Chief Information Office youtube.com (15 min) is going thru the 3rd or 4th re-alignment since starting after the A76 outsourcing study for Computer/Network/Radio/Phone services. Included is an Org Chart without names, and examples of how to place an order for services. Note the types of positions, GS levels and processes that did not exist before the CIO, check to see what a GS-2210 series make on USAJobs.
One big problem is that almost all management has no real experience in the Forest, coming in from DoD or other Federal Agencies into the dysfunctional FS. Also there are no lower grades to actually do work, so there is a large contract work force. This has resulted in hard-to-follow bureaucratic procedures, stress and low morale.

And There I Was

2/7 Forest Service doesn't renew contract, loses as many as 40,000 job descriptions

Last September, the United States Forest Service decided not to renew a longstanding contract with Avue Digital Services, a privately held firm in Tacoma that had been hosting the agency’s online jobs database since 2005. The Avue license cost the Forest Service more than $34 million in the past seven years. But the data created from that pricey partnership is now lost to the federal government; under contract, Avue retains proprietary ownership of the position descriptions it generated for the Forest Service. Now the agency faces the incredible task of rewriting potentially 40,000 position descriptions from scratch.

more at the link...

2/6 RE: USFS Medical Direction Post on 1/20/13

Response to Centrifugal Pump

I agree completely. This is something I have been saying for years. Specifically every time someone begins a discussion on "Duty to Act." As I understand it, I have no Duty to Act if I am not employed and identified as an EMT. I know this depends somewhat on local EMS direction. As an Agency we have none, so I default to my certifying agency.

As you stated I took the initiative to obtain my EMT license and did so on my own time and my own dime. I did this so that I could be a more complete leader, and better treat my fellow Firefighters when we are in remote areas. It was not a condition of employment, and it is not covered anywhere in my employment documentation or any USFS Agency policy that I can find. Our module has to spend its dwindling supply budget to purchase and replace medical equipment that has short term expiration dates and one-time use, which is at odds with our primary mission: Suppressing Wildfire.

Anyway I just wanted to voice support for your post, and the inherent message: If we as an Agency are going to respond to medical calls, and advertise that we offer medical response, we need to do it 100%. This means Medical Direction, hiring Firefighter/EMTs and paying them appropriately.

AED are a great tool, and we should have them available. But it begs the question of who will foot the bill for initial purchase, upkeep, training, etc. And whether we will be for public EMS response...

NorCal Firefighter

2/6 Diversity

Diversity is not the color of skin, what sex you are, or ‘special’ interest groups. Diversity is what you can bring to the table, like a Thanksgiving meal. And if the US Forest Service says that you are to hire diversity people then this is what it should be: You hire a person from Campton, New Hampshire that has worked on a trail crew for three seasons and two seasons on an engine crew (they have diversity), a person from Columbia Falls, Montana that worked on an engine crew for one season and one season on helitack (they have diversity), a person from Bakersfield, California who worked on a hotshot crew for five seasons and has worked as a plumber (they have diversity), and a person from Silver City, New Mexico who worked on a helitack crew for four seasons and is a mechanic (they have diversity).

This is the true meaning of diversity and that is who we should be hiring. We should not be told who to hire because of their skin color, sex, “under-represented groups”, this would be discrimination. If we were told or suggested this is the way we need to hire, this would be wrong and it would put those mangers in the same group that gives trophies to the kids that just showed up.

Triple Nickle

2/6 Hiring


The PMS 310-1 Wildland Fire Qualification System Guide will tell you what fitness rating is needed for each specific qualification.

pms 310-1 (pdf download)


2/6 Hiring

For Elkski,

The most up-to-date list of position requirements is at pms 310-1 (pdf download), the Wildland Fire Qualification System Guide. It doesn’t have a chart for just fitness per se, but lists every nationally-recognized position, and its fitness requirements (along with training, experience, etc., required and how to remain current in that qual). Near the end is a flow-chart with each section and its positions that includes fitness level, so it’s quick to find if you don’t want to wade through almost 200 pages. It is updated regularly, and this link takes you to the October, 2012 update which specifically mentions it has changed fitness requirements on some positions (page 8). It also allows for individual agencies to use something other than the pack test to evaluate fitness, though that is what most use.

Best wishes,


2/5 Found this on a wall outside a HR office, the word "performance" is mentioned three times, "fair or fairly" twice. No where do I see "CFL" tables or "Under-represented" or "Diversity" for that matter. Lets start off by getting #1 dialed - "advance on merit"


Merit System Principles

2/5 arduous pack test requirements?

Hi Ab,

Is there a list of which fire positions require arduous pack tests? and which require the field test?
I have tried to find such a list with google searches with no luck.

Thanks for the help, and keeping the great website going!


2/5 diversity

Diversity is not evil. It is equality. Given that most things are equal and driven by clear core values. Everyone brings home some sort of 'bacon' to their table, how its prepared and what its final taste will be like is as diverse as the divergent recipes that make up the meal. Kind of like NY pizza, pizza in Venice or pizza in Nacogdoches, TX.

However, Diversity combined with clear Core Values is like adding a bottle of fine wine to the mix.

This is why core values are so critical; bites can be measured with integrity, pizzas cooked with innovation, and cooks with the discipline to ensure it is cooked and can be safely served - then we all can have our "equal" share of the pie..

What's in a name. When a Caucasian male cannot find the option to proclaim on form: "I'm Italian, or Irish, or black-Irish, (whatever) - then the present goals of attaining the true meaning of diversity will not work in all areas of the rough.


2/5 diversity hiring


First off, thanks for posting and offering your perspective on the discussion of diversity as well as information from your end of things. However, I respectfully must take issue with the way the process is being handled and in the way diversity is being defined. I understand that you are acting within the framework of the law. That being said, civil rights law at the constitutional level does not make distinction to a particular race or gender being more or less protected when it comes to discrimination.

To begin with, "under represented" applies only to specific protected groups. This is a distinction between race and gender when it comes to determining who is protected in the first place. Also, "over represented" is not applied to any of the same groups when they surpass parity to Civilian Labor Force (CLF). From a standpoint of trying to reflect local communities or the national CLF this appears to be a simple and substantial conflict. Referring back to constitutional law, similar inconsistent valuation of race when assigning "protected" and "unprotected" status have gone to the supreme court, these cases were at the city government level but there's still a relevant legal precedent established and the cases I'm thinking of as I write this involved fire departments.

There also exists a lot of opportunity for error in general using the CLF comparison approach. The ultimate risk in this particular context is the possibility for false negatives being generated. The very broad definition of qualifying factors to inclusion in CLF do not address a multitude of other factors that would need to be addressed when determining the realistic demographics base for comparison to specific positions in the federal government. Speaking from a fire perspective, you could write off a lot of people over age 37 for any primary fire jobs besides vets. I'm not sure if you would get a false negative but you would get different numbers. Then, if you compared the requirements for specialized positions with "able to work" in the CLF pool (kind of how the Cato folks engineered their damning and inaccurate review of fed salaries in general) you might find some other variables that would alter your data even more and then if you got data on how many people in the CLF pool were able to perform in positions classified as arduous, coupled with an analysis of specific private sector job CLF composition relative to the federal sector counterparts and so on and so on, you might find a lot of areas where the current use of limited data might be tailored specifically to a more subjective political end.

The term diversity itself is described as something we need more of, this is sort of measurable because it implies we don't have enough. Unfortunately, we have measurable and immeasurable values within the scope of what we're calling diversity, so we're not really sure where we sit on our immeasurable components when it comes to quantifying if we are meeting our goals in the first place. Bearing in mind that values such as "richness of applicant pool", "life experiences" and "culture" are part of what we're calling diversity components, how are we reconciling this with the measurable values of race and gender. I have a good friend who is A) Hispanic and B) very much like me, we grew up together and we both enjoy the same activities and our families both share the same political views and social values (which, if you're forming a bias yet, "unconsciously", are pretty liberal and progressive). It almost seems racist to assume that we would contribute individual diversity to a group if both of us were hired because he's Hispanic and I'm Caucasian (although I've been telling people lately that I'm likely Mesopotamian since I'm not even sure what all my ancestors were). I'm also really good friends with his sisters and out of 3 of them, I find myself quite similar to one of them although she has a much different taste in music than I do and one more X chromosome.

Point is, it seems like you are doing your job with the tools you were given and you are dedicated to it and I can relate to that 100% and I respect you for it but I think that the process you are using was tailored by someone to meet exclusive political goals made even more unsavory by the transparent, silly, archaic and irrelevant corporate lingo they are patronizingly shellacked with. The end state isn't anymore tangible or realistic than it has ever been in a contemporary bureaucracy and it definitely isn't meeting the staffing needs and goals of a dedicated emergency response organization in an increasingly dynamic environment. Perhaps applying some of this analysis and increasingly tepid entry level hiring process to the SES level applicants would help Cultural Transformation really supercharge its engine.


2/4 Diversity, fire and a voice in Congress

Hi to all:

Looks like a lot to catch up on as I have sequestered myself for the last week and a half re-crafting legislative language that I hope will reach into the deepest recesses of the brain-dead in Congress (with all due respect of course) I deal with on a daily basis.

The hiring issue

Perhaps all Agencies should utilize the hiring practices of R-5 in the early '90s...before you got a job offer you signed a membership application to the FWFSA :)

The oft discussed impact of diversity hiring and its pros and cons, is sadly a real issue that is having real consequences in the workplace which many of you can attest to. The FWFSA is humbled and fortunate to have as diverse a membership as can be imagined, and while the dynamics of membership with the FWFSA and employment with the federal government are obviously different, I hear the concerns from "both sides" of the debate.

Since the Forest Service is the largest employer of federal wildland firefighters among the 5 land management agencies, I'll pick on it. Let's be candid. We all recognize wildland firefighting is an inherently dangerous profession admirably performed by those of both genders and many ethnicities. Since I have the luxury of hearing from our diverse membership, I will tell you that the overwhelming position expressed is that experience & expertise, regardless of who possesses it, must trump diversity for the sake of diversity.

With its perpetual ranking near the bottom of "places to work surveys" and with questionable morale, I think it imperative for the Forest Service, and in fact all agencies to communicate with its employees on the subject. Not just pass down memos from the Chief or cite legal requirements, but have frank discussions to discuss and listen to employees about real feelings regarding real issues and the consequences for those who risk their lives in this profession. This isn't a matter of making widgets. Its often split-second, life & death decisions and so maybe a "one size fits all" policy might not be the best solution.

The issue of experience & expertise in this line of work is firmly on the minds of those in Congress representing areas prone to wildfires. So too is the issue of fire policy that has been debated on Theysaid recently. I realize that it is practically impossible for me to offer a "personal opinion" and it not be considered a position of the FWFSA. However a recurring theme in conversations with our members as well as members of Congress is an ever-increasing concern of a land management agency managing what is arguably the largest 21st century fire department in the world. More precisely, the role of Line Officers, many with little to no wildfire experience or expertise not only managing the fire program but managing the dollars appropriated for preparedness, suppression and fuels treatment. While this organizational structure may have been appropriate 30-40 years ago, its use in dealing with the complexities of 21st century wildfires is questionable.

More & more in Congress are becoming aware and concerned over the "management" of fire dollars, i.e. where the money is, or isn't going. While I'm sure it is subject to debate, many believe there is a nexus between the management of those fire dollars by Line Officers and the escalating costs of suppression.

Too many of you in the field are told of budget issues and concerns when in fact there will always be money for fire. Historically, Congress has provided ample funding for FIRE. It is the management, or mismanagement of those dollars that has caused annual requests for supplemental appropriations. While there is continued talk of sequestration in March, the potential for across the board budget cuts is relatively slim. That said, even if said cuts were implemented, FIRE is going to get paid for.

As I've said before, there is always talk on Capitol Hill about taking fire away from the land management agencies; creating a separate & distinct federal wildfire agency... all as a result of questions about the management of a fire program by a land management agency. Its a reality that politics plays a significant role in fire policy. That's why it is incredibly important for those of you in the field to have a voice and have it heard in Washington.


Casey Judd

2/4 MJ,

Explain to me why Forest in California were directed to sort apps with "diverse" sounding last names and were told to hire a percentage out of that pile. I don't care about your factual info or cadre this and i wrote that. What ever you think is happening, is not. Maybe you need to physically visit the hiring managers and straighten this up.



See his post below. Ab.

2/4 Getting hired:


No, you misunderstand me. I am pointing out that, by LAW, (and not new law, this has been the law for years), that the USFS and other Fed Agencies have to look at under-represented groups before hiring. based on the Census, not self-reporting on applications.

This is just to Outreach the job, so everyone has an equal chance to see the job, to know it's out there, and apply if they wish.

Shouldn't everyone interested at least get to know the job exists?

Fire jobs, except for entry-level, all have additional specific Fire experience requirements. So, If a diverse candidate is trying to apply for anything other than entry level, they must meet the quals, too.

It's like folks complaining that unqualified Vets are taking all the GS-3 jobs in R-5.

The ONLY requirement to be FULLY QUALIFIED for a GS-3 is 6-months general work experience, in any job.

So, any Vet applying for a GS-3 job is fully qualified. Then once they have Fire experience, they are the same as every other applicant.

Remember, one way around the Apprentice program is if you get enough time to qualify for a GS-6 position, even acting, for a 90-day period, you can apply for a perm demo GS-6 without ever being perm before, unless it is a IFPM position, then you still need certain quals. (those vary by the position)

It's only at the entry level, (GS-2/3) that the Vet hiring is directed at. Remember, a few vets might have a season or 2 prior fire experience before they went into the military, and that would qualify them higher.

I was a temp for 12 years before I got my perm appointment, then had to come up thru Apprenticeship to where I am today, so I know how this all is frustrating. I applied over, and over, and over during the Consent decree. ( a court order the USFS had to act on, which is now gone) but eventually, quietly, built up my quals and training, and got hired perm.

What you can do:

Take time to prepare a killer application, have someone else review it, spell check it, and apply for vacancies where they are not that popular.

Popular places like Hawaii get many, many, apps.

Even forests like the Angeles get hundreds of apps for each job available.

Remember, you are now applying against many unemployed and underemployed folks.

There are less perm jobs, and many more applicants then ever before.

But, every round of Fire Hire, many folks get hired. And not everybody hired is a Vet or Diverse. Try Forests with less applicants, and go from there.

Then after you get the POSITION you want, then you can lateral into the LOCATION you want. It's easy to get discouraged and give up, but the folks who persevere get the jobs.

Good luck and don't give up,


2/4 Iron 44 indictments

Carson Helicopter officials indicted in fraud case related to crash that killed seven firefighters

Two Carson Helicopter Inc. officials have been indicted on federal charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. Forest Service by falsifying information about the weight, balance and performance of firefighting helicopters. <snip>

Steven Metheny, 42, of Central Point, and Levi Phillips, 45, of Grants Pass, were indicted last week by a federal grand jury sitting in Medford. Metheny, a former vice president of Carson Helicopters Inc. in Grants Pass, was also charged in 22 other counts of mail and wire fraud, making false statements to the Forest Service, endangering the safety of aircraft in flight, and theft from an interstate shipment. Phillips was the company's director of maintenance, reporting directly to Metheny.

Oregon men falsified weight, takeoff power of helicopter in deadly Iron 44 crash, indictment alleges

A federal grand jury in Medford indicted Steven Metheny, the 42-year-old former vice president of West Coast operations for Carson Helicopters, then based in Grants Pass, and Levi Phillips, 45, his former maintenance director. The charge carries a potential 20-year prison term.

Always Remember our Iron 44 fallen. Good thoughts for their families and friends. Ab.

2/4 Another example of a fire whirl / fire tornado : Aug 8, 1990 Idaho

from Jim R

2/4 Diversity hiring


I get the info because I am on the cadre that wrote the Fire Recruiter Class. I am one of the Fire folks working with CR on this.

You said, "There is is training coming up for recruiting but that's for new jobs that are full time collateral duty recruiters for diversity hiring"

No, that's not correct, "Collateral duty" means you do Recruiting and Outreach along with your regular job.

We wrote this class specifically for FCROs, Fire Managers, Fire Supervisors, and others that don't understand how it's really supposed to work.

You are right about EPP defaulting if you don't go in and put your own race info in, but that does not get seen by SME during hiring, it's just for statistics.

Sounds like you might have some upper level Supervisors that need this class to get the right info to them

Good luck,


2/4 Would someone who travels NV Hwy 50, Toiyabe National Forest, stop at the memorial described in this Kings Canyon Fire Always Remember from 1926 and take a picture of the plaque with the words visible for the A/R page.

THANKS! You could send it in and I'll get it.


2/3 Firewhirls:

I've been working on updating the theysaid archives from 2010 and I came across this 2008 CA firewhirl paper Firewhirls in CA by Royal Burnett. I put it into pdf format for faster download and ease of sharing for training. I found it as interesting today as I did then. Some of you contributed photos that I think were included in the paper. The firewhirl on the Fletcher Fire, Lakeview, OR on July 16, 2007 provoked a great deal of dialog as it was unfolding. I also discovered a video we had linked to then that was no longer available so I posted it. (If someone objects, please let me know.) OMG! the sheer power at work to leave that destruction!

I know Marty Alexander -- who is presenting at the Feb 18-22, 2013  IAWF Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference -- has been interested in and writing about firewhirls; and there are probably others like me who are still fascinated by this extreme fire behavior. You'll recall Marty's recent request for an original of the 1964 Polo Firewhirl newspaper photo. Makes me wonder if any of the fatality fires listed in Always Remember or the FLA database that occurred in the CA areas Royal puts in red on his map demonstrated this kind of extreme fire behavior.

Here are some links about firewhirls for those who are interested in a review or some viewing enjoyment:

Firewhirl on the Polo Fire, 1964 - Marty's request and the newspaper picture he's looking for

Fletcher Fire photos 2007 and description

Video: Post-Fletcher Fire Tornado-like destruction- 40 second video clip (9,767 K MOV file)

Destruction on the 7 Oak Burnover 2007

Firewhirl photos:

Stream Fire, between 7/25 and 8/1/01 burning out pockets of fuel create firewhirls, near Antelope Lake in the Plumas NF, CA.
Fish Firewhirl, near Doyle CA, 8/2001 from Dennis R5
Fish Firewhirl 2, Fire whirl inside primary thermal column. 8/2001, Fish Fire on the California/Nevada border near Doyle, California. Photo by Nick Wright. Eddie Wright adds, Since this photo was taken more than five miles from the fire, it appears the whirl is more than 1,000 feet high, biggest one he's seen.
Firewhirl, from Garrett early 2000s
Daley convection, 2001 or 2002, Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation Crew, Kansas
Ponil Cplx Firewhirl, tornado-like behavior 6/2002. northern NM, topped out at about 20K feet and ran around for about 20-30 minutes, from SB315
Pines Firewhirl, Julian CA, 8/2002, from DanP
Winslow Firewhirl, Division Y, Winslow Fire, Targhee National Forest, August 2003, Eddie Wright
French Gulch Fire Convection IA 8/14/04 and a number of other photos on Fire 24 photo page. Andrew H, Meko 9 and others.
Fletcher Firewwhirls, on the Fire 34 photo page, 2007, credit: Driftsmoke, Kellie Carlson, Don Smith

There was one video of a firewhirl we linked to sometime in this last season, maybe in NV... It moved around for quite a while.

Royal's paper: Firewhirls in CA from a fireman's perspective


2/3 Diversity hiring 2/1 post from MJ:

I was interested in reading your explanation of how the diversity hiring works, because it's not what I've encountered. Where do you get your information? This is a hot subject and no matter how it's done people aren't going to be happy. Here's what I've seen. When I talked to the two guys from the W.O. that are in charge of it, I think their names are Rob and Juan, I brought up that it was based on faulty statistics from the voluntary form that is included in your packet when you get hired where you claim your ethnicity. If one doesn't chose to fill it out it defaults to Caucasian. They said it used to default to Caucasian male, but it doesn't now. They said that's all they have and they are moving forward based on this info. I went into the EPP page and sure enough it had me listed as Caucasian and no disability. I'm Native American and have a back injury so I changed it. It's easy to do.

I don't know about a census of the local workforce, but when I've seen management questioned about local hiring they are told it is based on the big picture nationwide and not the local area. The last time I saw it questioned was from an AFMO in R1. He used the example that in R3 some districts are 75% hispanic, so why why would Hispanics be given preference in rural Montana or North Idaho when the civilian workforce is 99% Caucasian? He was told that nationwide they are underrepresented.

You are correct that there is training coming up for recruiting but that's for new jobs that are full time collateral duty recruiters for diversity hiring.

Please let me know where I can go to see what you have learned? It's not what I'm seeing on the ground. Diversity is a good thing in the workplace, but it has to be reached without trampling on others or it causes a tough situation for all involved.


2/2 Fire policy

No Misery Whip- I don't think it was too harsh at all. I'm a tough girl. ;)

My specific statements about viejo were referring to discussions we've had on the hotlist before regarding the SQF-Lion fire and then again about the Reading fire. I think klamathman and I share similar sentiments in that I tire of hearing the same suppression oriented mentality from viejo, and his condescending attitude towards "zealous" land managers who are well intentioned, and might just have a sound scientific basis for allowing fires to burn. I've presented lots of scientific information to viejo and it has always been discounted by him.

I don't think that sociological imperatives trump the ecological ones in the long run. And here's why:

The thing about my position is that assumes there is intrinsic value in the ecosystem itself to give us the things we need to survive. I have a deep sense of evolutionary processes and understand what rapid, drastic changes in the ecosystem mean for life. We can't survive without the land and all the parts of the ecosystem work together to provide us with a suitable habitat. In the words of Aldo Leopold, "It assumes, falsely, I think, that the economic parts of the biotic clock will function without the uneconomic parts." My position relies on the premise that biodiversity is the key to our survival as a species on this planet. Ecology is an area of study that is tangible, verifiable evidence of that cultural knowledge I was talking about and I feel that it is vitally important to give it its due credit. Sometimes I find it sort of ridiculous that we have to spend time and money to study and justify ecological concepts that indigenous peoples knew all along.

As a geologist I study Earth systems and look at things from a systematic and broad perspective which challenges the short term problem solving mentality of our modern society. What we have the here is the classic anthropocentric vs ecocentric viewpoint. viejo takes the extreme anthropocentric viewpoint which I vehemently disagree with because I understand the cycle of extinction of life on Earth. History tells me that ecological imperatives rule the life of all species on this planet- including us. You can view that however you choose, but I humbly accept my place in space and time.

The debate is between fire as an urban safety issue and ecological importance of fire and finding a balance between the two. Al makes a very good point about fire and remineralization and Zombie forests that will require fire sooner or later. Fire is a biochemical process that is necessary for soil because the geochemical process is too slow. Every biota on Earth has evolved with fire and adapted to it, and many are dependent on it. Fire itself has had an integral role in the biodiversity that has developed since the last Ice Age, and for us to remove it has very dire implications. If we do not address many our current environmental problems, it will result in serious sociological problems in the not to distant future, and I firmly believe we can address both.

Most of my research on the history of fire suppression comes from Stephen J. Pyne and he lines out a lot of historical events in the first part of his book "Fire in America." He looks at fire from a wide perspective, having a background in a variety of areas including geology, anthropology, biology and working as firefighter on the North Rim of Grand Canyon for many years. Pyne's Cycle of Fire series is a collection of scholarly works he did after he got his PhD and he has meticulously documented every detail of human fire history he has come across. I went back and read many of the original sources myself and was often surprised by the information that I found.

Many of the large conflagration fires of the late 19th Century including Miramichi, Peshtigo, Hinkley and others were fueled by expansive areas of logging slash (a detail that I notice has been left out in those sources) under extreme fall wind events. The problem with logging is that removes all of the larger trees that produce a healthy forest and leaves only the fine fuel. It can be done in limited areas, but is not good for the landscape and sustainable on a large scale. Whether these fires burned due to fuel and weather conditions in which they were not possibly controllable in the first place, or were “allowed to establish themselves” is debatable. Fire suppression began to be pushed hard by the timber industry with cries of timber famine amid rapid western expansion. Ironically, the devastating fires that the timber industry were protesting was largely caused by their own practices. By the time the 1910 fires occurred, they had been lobbying for fire suppression for over 50 years- it was merely the nail in the coffin under the guise of public and firefighter safety. The driving factor in fire suppression was always the politics of timber. The Forest Service was flawed from the beginning because it was designed to do nothing more than manage timber as commodity.

The Federal government really began pushing the 10 AM Policy post World War II with war type propaganda where fire was akin to the red commies. Ever see an old Smokey Bear poster? Do a google search... you will not find the same cheery Smokey Bear that we know so well today. Pyne talks about how in the first part of the 20th Century that people in all parts of the US were very much against the type of fire suppression policies being proposed by the USFS. This was also contrary to mounting scientific evidence at the time that regular burning was both beneficial and necessary. The FS actually hired psychologists to go around the country and find out why- they received answers such as, "everyone just knows fire is good for the forest." You might try looking into the “Light Burning Controversy” of CA in the late 1800's and early 1900's as a resistance movement. Enter post WWII propaganda to change people's perception of fire. I would say this tactic has worked quite well for the Federal government. I do support the lasting message of prevention though. If a good percentage of fires are human caused then many fires can simply be prevented in the first place.

Our various fire suppression policies are executed with little rhyme or reason to the natural fire regime for any particular landscape. The public wants NO fire, including any amount of prescribed burning, because they still have this idea of the Dragon Devastation. The hardest part of doing any sort of prescribed burning is getting local residents to deal with the impacts, namely smoke. Iron 44 was the direct result of public pressure on local politicians about the smoke. They never should have been there. I perhaps might support sending FF's out into remote areas if they were being sent for viable tactical reasons, not political ones; and the FS would address its lack of medical support for firefighters put out in those situations.

I agree that putting remote fires out when they're small reduces some firefighter exposure. It solves a short term immediate problem- but merely delays the inevitable (fire) and increases overall exposure to both firefighters and the public in the long run. Firefighters are less likely to put themselves into unsafe situations when they know the public is not solely relying on suppression. I know lots of firefighters who do not agree with their mission of being sent out into remote areas where they know fire is the best thing we could do for those unhealthy forests. I think this whole Milepost 66 debacle is perfect example of putting firefighters at unnecessary risk because of various pressures to contain fires.

My point with the Oakland/Berkley Hills fire is that we can do everything "right" and fires will still escape our control, and that societal complacency will eventually result in great loss of life. Most of the large conflagration fires happen under fuel and weather conditions completely beyond our control. Community preparedness for fires is ultimately going to reduce costs and exposure, and we should be focusing more of our efforts here than on that of suppression.

I've read the Conflagration document many times and I don't read it and think that the wisdom is in stopping those conflagration fires from ever happening again. I read it and think the lesson is that we damn well be better be prepared because they will happen happen again despite our best efforts to stop them.

Social and ecological issues are not separate but are inexorably intertwined and currently each is just as important as the other. We adapt to change, not change the environment to fit our current needs. If you would like to read about the downfall of the sociological and political imperative philosophies then check out "The Collapse of Complex Societies," which I think is relevant to fire and land management in multiple ways. It outlines familiar patterns in complexity and sustainability that lead to systems breakdown which result in civilization collapse; and environmental degradation is one of those repeating patterns.

Our shift from a nomadic society to a stationary society is a game changer- but fires, floods and earthquakes don't care where we've built our homes and cities. They're going to happen all the same and as far as nature is concerned we are still in the 18th Century; on an evolutionary scale the last 200 years were a blink of an eye. Taking your analogy of bears and wolves, yes bears and wolves running around our city streets poses a danger. I also might argue that it used to be common knowledge on how to deal with such an encounter- not really the case now. So who is the problem us, or the bears? We also have to keep in mind that wolves are a very important part of the food web as keystone predators; you can't just simply remove them either. It has negative consequences and we have to leave a place where they can live and contribute to their place in the ecosystem.

We can adapt and overcome... or not.

I've spent countless hours doing research for Always Remember and I've read more fatality reports than I care to remember. I am literally sick of reading about people who gave their life for a mission perpetrated by a system riddled with latent failures and topped with Swiss cheese. I'm just thankful I haven't had to read a report about any of my friends, or my father, or my husband. Our attitude towards fire is a systematic problem that needs to be addressed in my opinion.

I totally agree with your last statement. GREAT! I think that sounds like a fantastic plan!! I would more readily get behind reasonable, aggressive fire suppression at times if we has some resemblance of a balanced landscape, and pervasive systematic issues were addressed. Good luck getting the public and Congress on board with that...


Thanks for your input string, both here and on researching and posting the Always Remember LODDs. Same to other contributors inputting on this thread. You know me, I like excellent, educational dialog. Ab.

2/2 Milepost 66

Am I the only person who’s not just a little baffled about the MP 66 Incident? It seems to be contrary to so many of the recent policy statements and forced safety trainings being pushed on us these days. This is looking more and more like a good example of a Swiss Cheese model. I hear from the chief to the regional forester, to the forest supervisor, to my line officer about how we need to feel free and safe to talk and let others know about unsafe situations. I even have a little card called the “Safety Empowerment Authority” card which I used to take seriously.

Is this type of situation and the way it’s not being handled something unique to that particular forest (Columbia River Gorge)? Or is it more unique to their region? (that’s what I'm being told) Is it being dealt with and we just aren’t being told? And does anyone really believe that this is the first time something like this has happened on this unit?

Me neither.

So a group of us have been making some calls and getting in touch with people we know in the fire world.

I talked to three people in fire on forests to the south and north of this unit and after what I heard, it sort of lit a fire underneath me. I’m probably not the only person that realized there is more to this than either meets the eye or that the very weak FLA attempted to explain. There is a long history of this sort of thing on this unit. Apparently there was even an engine burn over that no one outside of a few people seem to have heard about, but it was verified that stickers and striping were replaced. How do you get away with this sort of thing? My desk is next to our fleet manager’s cubicle and he makes us follow all reporting procedures when even minor things happen, if our engine was burned, you’d see an FLA - but it would be a good one that wasn’t altered.

I asked why no one on the unit had said anything and I am being told that they tried to. Nothing firm on this, but I’m still talking to people, so stay tuned.

I also heard from multiple sources and then learned that the FLA was altered by someone at the regional level, someone not associated with Lessons Learned. Can anyone out there tell me more about this? I’ve heard this from several people and they are all concerned for a variety of reasons, first and foremost the fact that it damages the integrity and professional nature of the FLA and second because it’s just not honest and hides things. And isn’t the primary purpose of the FLA to communicate? Is it proper for someone at the regional level to be altering a FLA?

I’m also curious about why the FLA doesn’t show us any evidence of a JHA specifically for rappelling down steep slopes on a wildland fire? And everyone I talked to told me that there isn’t one. Someone in a previous letter talked about how they couldn’t even buy the rappelling gear without being scrutinized, well we couldn’t either. I’m wondering how I’ll get our cache up to par before next year.

And what about not following the guidelines for creating a guideline by using the SMEs that were friends and former employees? The directions are there to be followed and it just seems like the line officer ignored them. Is this what we should be doing with this process?

Everyone I asked (8 people so far) whether or not the region would step up and do something gave me a big “NO!” So it’s pretty darn clear that people feel there is no support from the region, except maybe to “help” with editing of the FLA. I’m wondering how scary it is to not have anyone to go to for help and what it’s like to work in an unsafe situation and to have a line officer that doesn’t stick up for you. Someone in a previous letter had a really good statement about what the line officer chose to ignore when she approved the rappelling. The line officer came from a forest to the north, a lot of history. Maybe the most sad thing of all is that everyone I’ve talked to has said it was going to happen and not a surprise for this to happen on the unit. And everyone knew it.

I also asked about whether or not anyone had gone to the union, but was told that earlier attempts had been useless and there was basically no support. Heard this from everyone, how sad, not surprising though.

And most importantly what about the accident victim? Is he ok? I wasn’t able to get any information on him except that he’s been seen on the local mountain snowboarding. Hopefully he’s fine, although with head injuries, as we all know, you just never know. If you’re reading this, my advice is to NOT CLOSE YOUR OWCP CLAIM! I’ve worked with head injured adults and they aren’t simple open and closed situations. If you need help and don’t feel like you’re getting it, go to your local congress person. Actually the more I think about it, this entire situation needs to be heard by a congress person. I’ll keep digging into this shameful situation. Key people have jumped ship so there is more to learn after they are tracked down. Hopefully this will prevent someone else from getting hurt.

2/2 Discussion of what is meant by the fire behavior term "Sheeting" (on the hotlist)


2/1 Diversity Hiring


I feel like you're missing the point on what has been said in the past. You point out that we do try and hire based off of "numbers" and "percentages" instead of the most qualified individual for the job. There are a lot of individuals out there who are well qualified for the positions they apply for, it shouldn't matter what the next forest over has for diversity. It should matter if the individuals being hired are the most qualified individuals for the position. Unfortunately, that's not the case these days.

I have worked with numerous seasonal employees that have no chance at truly getting a permanent job in say R5 because they do fire hire where entry level employees are having to go through the apprenticeship to get a job, and even if you have put in the years and have the qual's you won't get hired unless you're a vet or diversity candidate. I know that sounds harsh, but that is the truth. I'm not saying we shouldn't hire vets or diversity candidates, but we are alienating those individuals who have put in the time and energy in trying to work their way up the ranks.

Let's be honest, the hiring system is broken and it needs to be fixed. Gone are the days where someone could put in an application and a good résumé and get hired. Instead we have a system where people in Albuquerque rate individuals and SMEs do the sorting and forest officials do the "hiring" based on some convoluted point system. In the "real" world, individuals are hired for what they know, their experience and what qualifications they have for the job. If you're good at your job then you get promoted and if you're not then you don't.

Just my two cents.

Sent from my iPad

2/1 PLEASE install a like button on "they said"!  :)


Thanks, cb. Ab.

2/1 Diversity Hiring


I, too, feel compelled to write. I went to school, put my time in as a engine crew member, hotshot superintendent and now a fuels planner. I am one of those "diverse candidates".

I have applied for jobs and did not get hired. Non-diverse candidates were hired instead. I was not happy I didn't get hired but that's the way it goes sometimes. I just keep on sending out those resumes.

So, not every candidate gets hired based on their skin color . There should be some parity in the agencies.

I am usually the only person in the room with dark skin and have heard your complaint from others who share the same issues as you.

I have no sympathy for those who complain about diversity. If you look around at a fire managers meeting, I bet it would look like a " Republican Convention".

So in short the number of diverse candidates are actually small compared to the actual population statistics.

Signed ndn guy

2/1 Seasonal re-Hiring?

Hello again fire folks,

I have a few questions that nobody I talk to seems to have the answers to. My first question pertains to this relatively new (as I understand it) 24 month rule -- by which seasonals who have a minimum of 24 months in (say with the USFS) no longer have to re-compete each year for their position. Is this true???? And a follow-up to this, how does it work?? Does the 24 months have to be in the same position (say a GS-4 Fire) or can you have say (2) seasons in trails/recreation and a couple in fire??  I have heard a wide-array of answers from USFS folks and nobody seems to know. Oh, and lastly, can you switch forests, say you worked a few seasons on a forest in Washington and then re-located to a forest in New Mexico. I just would like some clarification 'cause I am sick and tired of stressing out in the off-season as to whether or not I will have a job come May. It's tough when you work your butt off -- do a good job season after season -- and are still full of anxiety each winter due to stories you constantly hear like the one below from GT.

Thanks all,

Perpetually Stressed Seasonal Sam

P.S. what does it take to get an end-of-season performance eval that meets "EXCEEDS" and "OUTSTANDING", I feel like I do this but every year sups always just give me "Meets fully successful". Is this what most sups. mark down for people? I feel like this stuff is arbitrarily holding me back some.

**Feedback would be much appreciated and I am sure I not the only one who would appreciate it**

2/1 Diversity Hiring

GT: someone is not giving you the right info on diversity hiring.

The way it works is: the local Forest Civil Rights Officer, (FCRO) enters in local census info into something called a CLF. (Civilian labor Force) tables. the current info is from the 2010 census.

These show in each specific area, how many folks of each race are avaialble to work in the civilian workforce. So, no infants, elderly, prison inmates, illegal aliens, current military, or mental hospital residents. They must be 18-65 and able to work. These tables are then divided up by race, and compared to the local Forest, not the entire Region.

These are available for everyone to look at from the R5 CR site.

So, if Riverside had 30 percent African Americans available in their CLF for that area, and the BDF, (closest Forest) had only 17 percent African Americans employed, then that group, in THAT AREA, would be considered under-represented.

But, if up in Ravendale, (Near the Modoc) , had only 3 percent African American in their local CLF, but has hired 5 percent African American folksin the USFS there already, then that group of people WOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED UNDER-REPRESENTED THERE.

The USFS, by law, uses the CLF tables. They try to mirror the Civilian labor Force for THE SPECIFIC LOCAL community. Once a group is not under-represented, then you can hire from other groups.

There are SO many folks in the USFS who don't understand how this works, even in management. I recommend that as many folk as possible attend the new "Collateral Duty Fire Recruiter" class. One is coming up very soon in Redding. The first one was last year in San Bernadino. It really opend up some eyes. the cadre is Civil Right folks, recruiters, and Fire folks together.

That class explains all this and much more, such as pathways hiring; Vet hiring; and other ways and rules and regs about Outreach, recruitment, and hiring. Hope this helps you understand some of this, and hope to see you at one of these classes.


2/1 Lane Lamoreaux (MYC 09) critical accident

Lane has been a hotshot and is currently a smokejumper.

On Monday he was in a paragliding accident and is in critical but stable condition.
Someone set up an online fundraiser page for him.


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