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+

USFS firefighters file harassment and sexual abuse complaint

Seven former and current female wildland firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service have filed a complaint against the Department of Agriculture alleging that they suffered job discrimination, harassment and sexual abuse at the hands of male co-workers and that top agency officials failed to stop it.

Below are excerpts from an article in the New York Times:

…The women said the complaint, the first step in a potential class-action lawsuit, was filed late last month on behalf of hundreds of women who worked in the Forest Service’s Region 5, which encompasses more than 20 million acres in 18 national forests in California. The seven women who are the lead complainants said they faced retaliation when they reported the offenses to superiors.

The complaint was the latest in a number of race and gender disputes in the Agriculture Department, the parent agency of the Forest Service. In recent years the department has settled a class-action suit brought by Native American farmers, offered payments to Hispanic and female farmers who alleged discrimination and approved a $1.15 billion settlement with black farmers, decades after the farmers said that they were denied loans and subject to racial discrimination in agriculture programs.

In response to the firefighters, a Forest Service official said the agency would review the complaint and was focused on correcting any problems. “The Forest Service takes these and all allegations of civil rights violations very seriously and is committed to providing a work environment that is free of harassment and discrimination,” said Lenise Lago, the Forest Service’s deputy chief of business operations.

[...]

[One of the current complainants, Alicia] Dabney said that her supervisor, who is still employed by the Forest Service, put her in a chokehold and tried to rape her in 2012. In another instance, she said, fliers with the words “Alicia Dabney is a whore” were left on the floor of the fire station.

She said that after she reported the harassment, the Forest Service fired her in 2012, citing what her superiors said was her failure to disclose her past criminal record on her job application. Ms. Dabney said that the agency had long known about her record and that “this was dredged up after I complained.”

 

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Man charged with arson for starting the King Fire

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s office has arrested a man for intentionally starting what has become the 73,184-acre King Fire west of Lake Tahoe, California. Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, of Pollock Pines was charged Thursday morning with a single count of arson of forest land. The charges include a special allegation — arson with aggravating factors. The complaint said those factors are:

A firefighter, peace officer, or other emergency personnel suffered great bodily injury as a result of the offense.

Wayne Allen Huntsman

Wayne Allen Huntsman

The criminal complaint, below, shows four past felonies, including three 1997 convictions in Santa Cruz County which include assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft and auto theft.

CAL FIRE and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers, in conjunction with the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office cooperated to bring the charges against Mr. Huntsman.

Several media outlets are reporting that he is being held in lieu of $10-million bail.

DA Announces Filing of Criminal Complaint Against Wayne Allen Huntsman

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Fire retardant paint saved a structure? Nope.

I received an email that listed some fire-related news articles, and one of the headlines got my attention:

Fire Retardant Paint Saved Calif. Timber Mill Building

The link took me to an article at Firehouse.com that the website lifted from the Associated Press, and sure enough, there was that headline. I had never heard of paint saving a building from a wildfire, so I was quite curious. I quickly scanned the article looking for how a building was saved by paint, and didn’t see it, so I read the whole thing more carefully.

It was referring to the Boles Fire that burned 150 structures in Weed, California. Much of the story covered the impacts to the damaged lumber mill and the 170 workers. Here is what the headline writer saw that resulted in the misleading headline:

With a maintenance shed reduced to twisted sheet-metal and the main manufacturing facility suffering structural damage, but still standing with a new coat of pink fire retardant, the Roseburg Forest Products veneer mill on the outskirts of Weed was out of commission Tuesday while workers began assessing the damage, said Kellye Wise, vice president for human resources of the company based in Dillard, Oregon.

There was no indication in the article of how much damage was done to the facility, including if it was “saved”, or not, by air tankers dropping retardant, or house paint. The mill has their own fire crew responsible for fighting fires within the facility, and air tankers were not mentioned in the article, except indirectly: “pink fire retardant”.

The same AP story published at the Daily Mail, a UK paper in a country having little experience with large wildfires, had a different headline:

Fire damage to mill another blow to timber town

Often the person that writes the headline is not the author of the story, and this is not the first time that a headline has been misleading.

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Three accident reports: two heavy equipment rollovers and a bucking incident

Rollovers

The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center has posted three Rapid Lesson Sharing reports. The photos above are from two rollovers of heavy equipment, a forwarder and a hydro ax. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The photo below is from a report on a serious bucking accident in which two people were injured. Both were transported to a hospital, one in an ambulance and the other in a helicopter.

Bucking accidentAs Sgt. Phil Esterhaus said, “Let’s be careful out there.”

 

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