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Home / WLF TheySaid / Night Call

  • 05/25/2015
  • Fruition

Sounds like the night call issue is getting interesting on the four southern forest in R5 for the Forest Service chief officers.Chief vehicles were taken away but chiefs are still expected to take on the night call duties without a vehicle to respond in.Just wondering why the chiefs are fighting it. Trying to explain why vehicles are important to line officers is the wrong approach. The best way to explain the complexities of vehicle home storage and night call duties is to let district rangers and forest supervisors take the night call. It will not take long before they understand what fire chiefs have been talking about all along. From someone outside the FS I have to ask the following question? Why do federal agencies have so called line officers in charge of the fire program???? As far as I know they do not hold IFPM or FS-FPM requirements that the chiefs need but they are in charge of the chiefs. I know I’m not a college graduate but does this make any since at all or is it just me? Wildland firefighting is a high complex and very dynamic occupation, especially in Southern California. One would think the FS would want fire program managers to actually be experienced and hold qualifications above the ones they supervise. Doesn’t the FS have a responsibility to provide a proper response after hours in the agreements they sign? This is a disaster waiting to happen. Has anyone went to the media with this? Does Cal Fire and other cooperators know the increase in DPA they have at night and how long it will take to get federal assistance? Every day we watch the news and listen to water restrictions and cut backs and how we are in a mega drought and then we hear that the federal fire programs have a delayed night time response. As a tax payer that lives inside of federal DPA I’m really disappointed and concerned about having less available federal resources at night because a non fire line officer has made a uneducated decision to take vehicles away.

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  1. fish01
    May 25, 2015 Reply

    There has to be more to this story. If all 4 FS supes are doing this; there is something up and they must feel they are on solid ground about their decision. However if this is just being stupid and arbitrary it won’t take long for a good investigative reporter to get wind of it, make a good story out of it, and public pressure could make the FS supes looks pretty bad. If they are being arbitrary, maybe should review an incident on the SQF awhile back and adjust.
    But then again, god forbid another Station Fire type fiasco, lives and property suffer, then maybe they spend the rest of their careers in exile.

  2. The Dude
    May 25, 2015 Reply

    This is comical. I have had this argument for years. I think the term line officer is total bravo sierra. Your so right. These so called “Line Officers” do not even know how to operate as a Fire Fighter Type 2. Now this is not completely true for some did come up in the fire ranks and are well versed. It would make more sense to just go ahead and remove them from the chain of command in the fire field. Should we keep them up to date with what is going on with an incident? Yes. Should they be able to dictate how the Division and the Battalion want to handle the incident? No. The old idea of creating the Federal Fire Service and consolidating would get rid of this ridiculous collateral duty for Forest and District Rangers. No offence to you Rangers, but its just a hard truth. So back in the ball park here; vehicle storage for the duty’s, that’s a no brainer. This privilege should be simply written into the PD and the duty officer’s should be briefed on the do’s and don’ts of what is acceptable with storing a vehicle at their primary residence. I am sure there is an ag learn class for that. HA. Everyone have a safe season. Could be a busy one.

  3. Lamjam
    May 25, 2015 Reply

    It happens all the time. When I was still with the green machine we had a hydrologist telling the fire managers what to do.

  4. Mortyscastle
    May 25, 2015 Reply

    We must remember that the “Fire Chiefs” and all other wildland firefighters in the Forest Service, BLM, BIA, etc., are not classified as firefighters. That is why the “Fire Chiefs, Divisions, and Battalions” work for a line officer.

  5. DZ
    May 26, 2015 Reply

    What incident on the SQF? Any insights may help educate those who need to know.
    More importantly, its easy to point out the failings of Line to see the situation as it exists. But – what are you doing to help FS Chief Officers perform their duties effectively and profesionally? Are you writing your elected leaders? Are you contacting the media? If you are not, then you are simply on this website preaching to the choir. Help your green brothers and sisters out and take the initiative.
    The Supervisors will most certainly not be taking the night call. They dont care about the input and concern from their fire staff. But they do care about politics and media attention.

    1. fish01
      May 26, 2015 Reply

      something to do with the large AD crew program, largely hispanic, all I heard was it did not go well big media fuss and the FS supe was reassigned.

  6. Backburn
    June 1, 2015 Reply

    When Line officers used to have fire experience, it made sense for them to make fire decisions; but now “Fire” is a four lettered word that starts with an “f” and sounds like a swear word when the current crop of line officers are saying it. The answer has been to tear down anything that smacks of a “fire department” mentality; rip away anything that looks like a “privilege”; and import folks from others regions so that California can finally learn what it means to be subservient. What is really happening is pulling away, in a slow, but methodical fashion, the very foundation that led California USFS to avoid fatalities for 33 years. It’s increasing the gulf between line and the field fire fighter. Its increasing the amount of civil disturbance in the fire ranks.

  7. Fruition
    June 2, 2015 Reply

    I always wondered how a line office can be hired right off the streets without an ounce of fire experience and be placed in charge of a entire fire program. Everyone else has to work their way up the ladder with years of experience and qualifications to even make a referral list. You ever wonder why fire employees don’t have to hand out delegations of authority like line officers do? Maybe because fire employees are qualified for the job and don’t need to delegate it.

  8. yactak
    June 2, 2015 Reply

    The Forest Service (as well as the other “land management agencies) have NO business managing Emergency Services, which is what Fire and Aviation is in this day and age…

  9. DZ
    June 2, 2015 Reply

    Over 1,400 views now on this thread. Recycled complaints being aired.
    I ask again – what have you done to change any of this? Have you contacted your local or national media? Have you written your elected leaders about the OP’s concerns? Have you discussed with anyone in power that the R5 USFS leadership is transfering risk to cooperators, due to their decisions about how they ‘manage’ the fire management staff? Can you back up your statements with facts?
    Educate yourself and others you can influence. Embrace your bias for action.

  10. Dan
    June 5, 2015 Reply

    I like most of DZ’s post. You have too fight for what’s right. It takes a large scale and sustained attack to get these beaurocrats to do something. Go read the wlf archives starting back in late 2007 through 2009. An overwhelming numbers if chief officers need to fight back, be heard, get organized. An overwhelming number of fed firefighters need to be organized and have a unified message if you want pay reform.

    Without us standing together, with the same sustained messages, we will continue to be the employer of last resort.

  11. Mrs logical
    June 7, 2015 Reply

    Maybe this is over reacting but if you want to get a voice and show some backbone…. You have to sacrifice. Take everything off your red card except what is needed to perform your job. You may not be able to strike against the GOV. But you can do this.

  12. Fruition
    June 12, 2015 Reply

    With all the Safety Journeys the agency has had in the last four years it seems it would be eager to change a policy to allow it’s fire employees to be safer but that’s not the case. Maybe a little negative media pressure will sway the line officer group back in alignment with practices that have allowed 98% of fires to be picked up the past 30 years. I hope the FWFSA has also been briefed on this latest news clip, Casey, maybe you could chime in. I find it ironic that the four other land management agencies in the nation allow their chiefs to drive their vehicles home but the FS doesn’t. FS law enforcement officers also drive their vehicles home but chief officers can’t. The FS changes and amends policies every day so why not change this one? There must be another reason why the agencies line officers are so reluctant to change it, could it be just plain old simple jealousy???? Shame on them if it is, putting the public in jeopardy for their own personal reasons is not serving the people like the FS slogan states.

  13. Martin
    June 12, 2015 Reply

    Most of CalFire is well aware that they handle the USFS business at night since we have been all along. I have been on plenty of incidents in Federal DPA and have been told the Feds will respond in the AM.

  14. DZ
    June 13, 2015 Reply

    This is a link to the Chief’s 2015 Letter of Intent.

    The fourth bullet states that we will not transfer risk to our cooperators. How does that line up with allowing CalFire to manage our incidents during the night hours? Is it because it is convenient for R5 leadership to let that happen, because they happen to have a 24-hour wildland fire response agency to use as a crutch?
    Does the FS in Nevada use NDF as a surrogate? Does the FS in Oregon use ODF as one, or in Washington, or Montana, or Arizona?
    Do they “show up in the morning?”
    No, they don’t, and neither should business practices that have existed for decades in R5 be changed now, seemingly on the whim of Forest and Regional leadership. For years we have risen to our obligation to protect the federal lands, at all hours. Maybe it wasn’t 100% in line with USFS policy, but it made sense because of the complex and dynamic nature of Southern California. For decades both line and fire management agreed that perhaps the greater good, for staff and the public, was to do what was right in spite of whatever vague policy existed. Now, in the midst of drought, public scrutiny, reemergence of retention issues, increased demands on staff, and a fire season with high potential, arbitrary decisions are being made that lessen the USFS presence, effectiveness, and morale.
    Is that what you wanted? Is that your Leader’s Intent?

  15. Fruition
    June 14, 2015 Reply

    R5 line officers now have a chance to do the right thing and allow chief officers to take their vehicles home as they have for the last 30 years. I’m sure there will be some heavy discussions regarding this topic at the next RLT. I wonder how many fire employees represent the RLT or is it mainly line officers? Seems to me that any decision that delays FS night time fire response at any degree is the wrong decision in a mega drought. It’s just a matter of time before the next station fire or other that brings this to the surface and then all the media will be saying I told you so to the FS.

  16. Fruition
    June 19, 2015 Reply

    There’s been a lot of media attention on the chief vehicle issue down south lately, quite honestly it’s really making the agency look like a bunch of amateurs and it’s really embarrassing for those of us who still bleed green. Diane Jacobs among several others including Casey Judd have chimed in on local news stations calling this a public safety issue that needs to change. It’s nice to have the support of local elected officials that have public safety as a high priority, I only wish the FS felt the same way. There’s a lot of momentum established on the issue and now is the time for everyone to jump on board and contact your congress men and women and let them know that the home to work policy needs to change. I don’t think that R5 leadership at the RLT level will do it unless they have to. Right now fires are burning throughout California and this is a hot topic that needs to be changed ASAP. Chief officers need to have their vehicles at their house when on call to provide for a safe, timely and efficient after hours response. If the line officers want to do the same they can get their qualifications up to the FS-FPM level and take the call. Fire programs in the federal agencies such as the USFS need to be proactive in times of mega drought instead of taking steps backwards. The agency needs to look at their own slogan; “caring for the land and serving the people” which in my opinion means a 24 hours 7 days a week response without any ridiculous delays after hours. Keeping fires a small as possible ultimately saves tax payers millions of dollars and any firefighter out there will tell that minutes count, even the slightest delay can make a difference between a fire of two acres turning into a large incident where homes are lost and even life. With all the teleworking that is allowed in federal agencies these days why not just make the chiefs duty station their residence and the agency wouldn’t even have to change the policy? If you’re not on a fire right now get on the phone and contact your elected officials, now’s the time.

  17. Fruition
    July 8, 2015 Reply

    Looks like this issue has lost all of its momentum that it had gained with the media releases and vanished in the wind just like numerous other USFS issues that start to gain traction and then fizzle out. It’s disheartening to know that R5 line officers just cant listen to sound reasoning from their fire program leaders on the ground. Unfortunately this issue will show itself again in the face of a disaster and then maybe it will be addresses to some point. Whatever happened to line and fire working together for a common goal? Whatever happened to “Safety First”? Whatever happened to the “Greatest Good? Whatever happened to “Caring for the land and serving the people”? I guess that is all just fancy talk that looks good on paper. If R5 is serious about being pro-active and being on the forefront of sound leadership and addressing a growing fire problem they will come together for some common ground on this issue and form a compromise instead of putting their heads in the sand and waiting for the next catastrophic event to happen.

  18. Your name...
    July 16, 2015 Reply

    I am disappointed that the LA media never got ahold of this. Why does the ANF get to do business as normal, but the BDF and CNF have restrictions. I think Jody and Will are working together. Why else aren’t the 3 southern forest together? It is time to tip off the LA media, the sooner the better.

  19. Fruition
    July 22, 2015 Reply

    Whatever happened to transparency of policies? We always hear upper management talk about how we need to be transparent but I still haven’t had any line officer in region 5 tell me or anyone else where the agency was out of policy on home to work vehicle storage with taking their vehicles home. The ANF interprets the policy one way and the BDF and CNF interpret it another way. All three of these Southern California Forest are very similar in fuel type, topography and WUI issues so why are they operating different at night? Why not get all three forest supervisors together in one room with all three forest fire chiefs and district rangers and hash this out so we are consistent a crossed the board on night time responses. This issue is not going away and will eventually blow up in the agencies face and make them look bad. Now is the time to fix it for transparency and consistency reasons. Now I’m hearing rumors that the agency is actually drafting a letter of direction to send to all chief officers that makes them take the night call after hours. So basically the agency is directing off-duty chiefs to work after hours without compensation. Is that not Ordered Standby? Seems like a good lawyer would have a field day with that letter. Maybe that’s what it will take to get the ship turned around and headed back in the right direction.

  20. hobycat11
    July 27, 2015 Reply

    I think your last post was beginning to get on the right track. I am not familiar with all the details of this issue, but it reeks of “liability/financial responsibility avoidance.” The FS already walks a very fine line with their treatment and compensation of employees when it comes to after-hours calls. The agency frequently violates the CFRs pertaining to this. The only thing keeping major lawsuits and reform from happening has been their delicate policy writing and having a workforce that is hungry for action, OT, and also willing to do the right thing with or without the support of their agency.

    I’m guessing they see this writing on the wall and this issue goes far beyond the Forest Sup. level…

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