Wildland Firefighter Foundation
Wildland Firefighter Foundation
  • 06/14/2016
  • ofg

Agency has changed. At start employed skilled outdoors people wanting a lifetime career. Expected to “do it all”, timber, range, recreation, wildlife and of course, fire.  Today employees represent a diversity of cultures, and values. Many are looking not to serve the agency, but to get what they can for themselves.  They are interested in only their own programs, not the total mission.  Agency is dying from within , cause of death will be rightfully attributed to failed leadership, and elitist employees.

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  1. Soupsandwich
    June 15, 2016 Reply

    If read you correctly, the agency would blossom once again if it would remove cultural diversity and anyone who wasnt a “skilled outdoors person looking for a lifelong career?” Welcome back to the turn of the century, maybe we can start hiring hand crew members directly out of bars again and hold them at gunpoint if they didn’t follow instructions of their crew boss, only to be hailed as a hero and have a hand tool named after you. I am all about it. Put that in next year’s civil treatment and the dude shall abide. In your other post you mentioned our support of social programs. These very programs have created the diverse culture we see today. They have taken inter city people from all different backgrounds and introduced them to the great outdoors. They have provided a first job and source of income for thousands. The agency isn’t for everyone forever. It actually used to be that most of the workforce was temps, many of them students who had no ambition of staying for a career. In fact many of the only “skilled outdoorsman” who had these career ambitions were the pinchot era rangers who were in fact ivy league elitists who were stationed on a district and taught the ropes by the locals and subordinates. The agency as a whole has lost its identity. The firefighters are attempting to define our identity within the agency. We will still do “other duties as necessary,” but there is no need to starve a workhorse as strong as the wildland firefighter, and there is no need to downplay the profession in which firefighting has become all but a year round full time job with fuels and district work to keep us busy in our “off season.”. The demand for the workhorse is great, but we can only do so much in 40 hours a week. Not to mention admin, training, cadres, family, use or lose, PT, posh, civil treatment, ag learn, emails, mandatory conference calls, facilities maintenance, fire preparedness, and covering modules for staffing, I’d be glad to trade alot of that for “timber, range, recreation, wildlife and of course fire.”.

    1. Yasss.
      August 13, 2016 Reply

      Exactly right.

  2. ofg
    June 15, 2016 Reply

    Not saying that at all. Diversity is a great value to the agency and the foundation of our society. We can not and should not attempt to turn back the clock. But the agency and its employees are better when careers include
    experiencing and participating in all programs. And yes, all employees need to have a role in supporting the fire program.

  3. angel
    June 15, 2016 Reply

    Both ofg and Soup are correct. When Soup says most crews use to be mostly temps that’s what I encountered. Only the FMO & AFMO had appointments when I started. Even the crew foremen were temps and many on the crew were engine boss qualified. There was no saw training required and the FMO put your level by DBH of the tree on your red card. I think he’s talking about R5 when he says fire season is year round, because the other regions lay most of their fire org. off even their shot crews. In other regions it wasn’t only college kids that took these jobs. In many areas they were come of the higher paying jobs available and many supported familys from them. I do agree with ofg in the back then we did it all. We started in April tree planting, helping with road clearing, surveying, what ever needed done until spring burning. That usually ran into fire season or we traveled to help other regions with fires. Fire season would run into fall burning, winterizing, equipment and facilities, burning landings in the snow. We used to work until Thanksgiving before the 1039 kicked in. We used to be able to count on eight months work. Back then it was everyone’s hope to get an appointment eventually, although it rarely happened for most. People back then were loyal to the agency even though the agency didn’t care at all about them.Studies show that young people change their career five times during their lives. Thing started changing with NEPA. The agency started to hire more specialists and for some reason thought that nobody else could be trained to do the work we had been doing for years. Since much of it is classified as professional the agency doesn’t think a tech can do it. I found over the years that none of it is that complicated, hell it’s not rocket science. The first thing to orbit the earth was a chimp. On our district we had one GS 11 in charge of Hydro, Trails, and Wildlife. The field work was done mostly by temps.. Since the change to specialists it now takes two GS 11, three GS 9, and three GS 7 besides the temps. that still do the field work. Many of the younger employees are much better educated than we were, but lack the common sense to make snap decisions. After the fire org got all the money in 2000 all of a sudden it became a science. Before that we were told the only reason we were in fire was because we weren’t smart enough to do any of the other work. We use to accomplish the same as the BEHAVE program by breaking sticks on site, throwing dirt in the air, and hanging flagging on bushes. It’s better now if a person wants an appointment in fire. I was a Divs, OSC2 trainee, SOF2 trainee as a temporary GS 5. As a union President I fought management many times when they wanted to contract out jobs jut because someone retired or moved on. My last job in the FS was regional vice president for the union, fleet mechanic, facilities manger, and I was a Safety Officer on a type 2 team. The change to specialists was the worst thing I saw in the FS. In many private sector companies they moved the other way and want employees to know all the facets of getting a job accomplished.

  4. Fruition
    June 15, 2016 Reply

    Amen brother, unfortunately most of the folks that read this site are too young to relate to your era. I do however agree with you whole heartily in the fact that the job of most specialist is a common since task that a GS-4 temp can do without a hitch. Most temps have way more experience than the specialist do in their own field, they just don’t have the degree. I guess you can say the same for most line officers, running a fire program of high complexity that they know absolutely nothing about, no fire experience, no fire qualifications, no IFPM/FS-FPM requirements that all fire people are tied to, no nothing, just a college degree. What a crazy work environment we all work in, who can explain it, not me. So answer me this; why does every fire position from GS-5 to GS 13 require IFPM/FS-FPM related qualifications when a district ranger position DOES NOT? Seems to me that if you’re in charge of a whole entire fire program that it should be tied to having certain fire qualifications. This is where it all starts and ends. I try to explain this to cooperators all the time and they don’t understand. I’ve been working for the USFS for decades and I still don’t understand.

    July 4, 2016 Reply

    The problem is it’s supervisors like you guys that aren’t doing thier jobs in leading your subordinates. Show them the future. Enlighten them to the greatness of the FS.

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