US Fire Administration seeks to share command of fires with Forest Service

Earnest Mitchell, USFA

Earnest Mitchell. USFA

In an interview with the NFPA Journal, the new Administrator of the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), Ernest (Ernie) Mitchell Jr., said the agency is exploring ways to “share” command of “certain wildfire events with the U.S. Forest Service….when the incident is more structural”.

It is an interesting comment, in that the USFS is one of many agencies that manage large fires, and most if not all Type 1 and 2 Incident Management Teams (IMT) are interagency. A delegation of authority from the responsible jurisdiction is usually required when an IMT assumes command. FEMA, the USFA’s parent organization, already has some all-hazard teams that respond to floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, haz-mat, and oil spills, but I am not aware of a FEMA team previously managing a large, complex wildland-urban interface fire.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

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“What are you learning in your new job?

I’d been in and around the fire service for about 40 years and I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the fire administration did, but I’m becoming more aware of its potential role within FEMA. With our increased awareness of the need to be prepared to respond to all hazards, and with FEMA being as active as it is, USFA is developing a larger role in this area.

In what way?

For instance, we’re exploring the idea of the fire administration and some of our partners getting together to establish cadres of firefighting personnel to be deployed to large disasters as needed. It’s been done in the past, but there hasn’t been an organized effort to plan for it in advance. Similarly, we’re looking at sharing the command function for certain wildland fire events with the U.S. Forest Service, which has typically held command itself. We’re looking at sharing that when the incident is more structural. In some cases we might be in command. It’s about coordinating efforts with other fire service partners.”
Thanks go out to Dick

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About Bill Gabbert

Wildland fire has been a major part of Bill Gabbert’s life for several decades. After growing up in the south, he migrated to southern California where he lived for 20 years, working as a wildland firefighter. Later he took his affinity for firefighting to Indiana and eventually the Black Hills of South Dakota where he was the Fire Management Officer for a group of seven national parks. Today he is the creator and owner of WildfireToday.com and Sagacity Wildfire Services and serves as an expert witness in wildland fire. If you are interested in wildland fire, welcome… grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Google+